The campaigns of President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden traded recriminations and proposals Thursday over the timing of a second presidential debate after Trump rejected a decision by a nonpartisan panel to hold a town-hall-style event on Oct. 15 virtually instead of in person.

Meanwhile, both campaigns are focusing on Western battleground states. Biden joined his running mate, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), for events in Arizona. Vice President Pence touched down in the state after an appearance in Nevada. Trump was in D.C. as he continued to recover from the coronavirus, working from the Oval Office in the afternoon. Trump’s physician said he expected Trump to return to “public engagements” by Saturday.

With 26 days until the election …
  • Vulnerable Republicans are beginning to distance themselves from Trump’s response to the coronavirus and his termination of negotiations with Democrats over federal economic relief.
  • Down in the polls and yearning for an October surprise, Trump lashed out at his loyal allies in a television interview.
  • Biden and Pence tested negative for the coronavirus Thursday, aides said.
  • The vice-presidential nominees clashed Wednesday over Trump’s leadership and Biden’s policy plans in a debate held under extraordinary circumstances.
  • Biden leads Trump by 11 percentage points nationally, 53 percent to 42 percent, according to an average of national polls since Sept. 16. Biden’s margin is smaller in key states: eight points in Pennsylvania, seven in Wisconsin and Michigan, and three in Arizona and Florida.
October 8, 2020 at 10:22 PM EDT
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Trump wants to hold rally on Saturday, declines to say whether he’s tested negative

By Colby Itkowitz

Trump told Fox News’s Sean Hannity that he’s hoping to hold a campaign rally on Saturday, and dodged questions about whether he’s tested negative for the coronavirus since his positive diagnosis and hospitalization.

“I just saw the doctor, I’m in great shape,” Trump said.

The president said he would like to hold a rally Saturday night in Florida and then one in Pennsylvania, two states crucial to his reelection.

Pressed again on the coronavirus test question, Trump seemed to say he hadn’t taken one yet, but said he would probably get one on Friday. “Well, what we’re doing, probably the test will be tomorrow, the actual test,” Trump said, adding that he has “very little infection or virus.”

Throughout the 20-minute interview, the president at times sounded hoarse and at one point paused while speaking.

October 8, 2020 at 9:04 PM EDT
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Trump’s video prompts green screen speculation, online skepticism

By Rachel Lerman

SAN FRANCISCO — The speculation started popping up on social media almost as soon as President Trump posted a video Thursday afternoon to his Twitter feed showing him on the south lawn of the White House.

“Trump faked this video released today," one Twitter user posted. “It’s shot in front of a green screen, the background is fake & on 3-second loop.”

“This is in front of a green screen,” actor George Takei tweeted, in a message that has more than 3,000 retweets.

Video experts say that’s unlikely. Instead, the odd elements people are pointing out — the focus of the grass, the background that looks like it’s on a loop, the shadows — are more likely a result of standard compression that gets applied to videos when they are posted on Twitter.

“I don’t see clear visual evidence that the video is shot with a green screen, the crisp shadows appear to be consistent with the sun as the light source, and the reverberation in the audio does not sound like it is indoors,” said Hany Farid, a professor at the University of California Berkeley who researches digital forensics.

October 8, 2020 at 8:46 PM EDT
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Trump team urging in-person debate on Oct. 15, says Trump doesn’t pose a health risk

By Colby Itkowitz

Trump’s campaign called on the Commission on Presidential Debates to reverse its decision to hold the next contest between Trump and Biden virtually, claiming there is no public health threat to doing it in person.

Earlier in the day, the commission announced that because of Trump’s coronavirus infection it would be holding a virtual town hall-style debate on Oct. 15 with the candidates rather than the in-person event in Miami that was planned.

Trump’s campaign manager, Bill Stepien, who also tested positive for the coronavirus, pointed to a memo from Trump’s physician saying the president probably would be safe to resume public engagements by Saturday.

Stepien baselessly accused the commission of making the change to protect Biden — not from the virus, but from facing off with Trump again.

“The American people can see through this obvious attempt to shield Biden from another shellacking like he got two weeks ago in Cleveland and the CPD must reverse course and let the debate proceed,” Stepien said in a statement.

Biden’s team has agreed that if deemed safe to do so he would participate in the third scheduled debate with Trump on Oct. 22.

After Trump announced he wouldn’t do the Oct. 15 debate if it were virtual, Biden teamed up with ABC News to hold his own town hall event that night.

October 8, 2020 at 7:39 PM EDT
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Trump doing conservative media swing — first Hannity, then Limbaugh

By Colby Itkowitz

Trump will return to Sean Hannity’s Fox News show Thursday night, exactly one week after phoning into the show before revealing hours later that he had tested positive for the coronavirus.

The conversation with Hannity bookends a day that began with the president calling into Maria Bartiromo’s Fox Business show, his first live interview since becoming ill.

Then Friday, conservative talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh is handing over his show to Trump for the “largest virtual rally in radio history” on the nationally syndicated program, Limbaugh announced. Listeners are encouraged to send questions for the president to answer during the show.

“It will be a great honor to speak with President Donald Trump live for the Largest Radio Rally in history!” Limbaugh said on his website. “Do you have a special question for our Commander-in-Chief? I can’t promise that your question will be selected, but you never know. This audience is filled with the most informed listeners and patriots of all time. I know you will flood this inbox with sheer brilliance!”

Trump, who has dispatched his surrogates to do in-person events while he recovers, is expected to get back out in the public soon, as early as Saturday, the president’s physician, Sean Conley, said in a memo Thursday night.

October 8, 2020 at 7:37 PM EDT
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Little talk of ‘court-packing’ at Pence’s Arizona stop

By David Weigel

PEORIA, Ariz. — Shortly before Vice President Pence arrived at TYR Tactical, a body armor manufacturer here, Biden tossed him a lifeline. The Democratic nominee, arriving in Phoenix and taking questions from reporters, responded to a question about expanding the size of the Supreme Court by saying he wouldn’t answer it at all.

“You’ll know my opinion on court-packing when the election is over,” Biden said.

Republicans were quick on the attack, but Pence mentioned it only briefly at the top of a half-hour speech. “They’ll pack the Supreme Court and defund the police,” Pence said. (Biden has said he doesn’t back defunding the police.) That was the only mention of “court-packing,” which the Democratic Party’s left has advocated doing in 2021 if Republicans succeed in confirming Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court this year. Pence repeatedly returned to the topics of supporting law enforcement and confirming Barrett, but not to court expansion.

In interviews around the event, Trump voters were only occasionally aware of the court-packing topic, which Pence focused on for part of Wednesday night’s debate. Biden’s comment drew quick condemnation from the Republican National Committee and from the Judicial Crisis Network, which advocated for blocking the confirmation of Obama nominee Merrick Garland in 2016 and is running ads in favor of confirming Barrett now. But the topic, which Biden has evaded for weeks, was still seen as an unworkable curiosity.

“Are they going do that every time a different party wins an election?” asked Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.), who represents Peoria in Congress. “Soon we’re going to have 50 people on the Supreme Court, and it will go back and forth. There’s supposed to be separation of powers between the judiciary and the executive branch.”

October 8, 2020 at 7:31 PM EDT
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Trump expected to return to public engagements by Saturday, doctor says

By Colby Itkowitz

In the latest update on Trump’s health from the White House physician, Sean Conley predicted that the president will be able to resume “public engagements” by Saturday, the 10th day since Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis.

Conley said in a memo released by the White House that the president’s condition has been stable since leaving the hospital, that he has completed his prescribed treatment without any problems and that there are no signs that he will get worse.

“Since returning home, his physical exam has remained stable and devoid of any indications to suggest progression of illness,” Conley wrote. “Overall he’s responded well to treatment, without evidence on examination of adverse therapeutic effects. Saturday will be day 10 since Thursday’s diagnosis, and based on the trajectory of advanced diagnostics the team has been conducting, I fully anticipate the President’s safe return to public engagements at that time.”

October 8, 2020 at 6:41 PM EDT
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Both parties prepare for possibility of contested election

By Amy Gardner, Rachael Bade and Elise Viebeck

Even as a coronavirus outbreak has upended the White House, Democrats and Republicans have been gaming out another potential crisis experts agree could plunge the country into unprecedented turmoil — a contested election in the weeks after Nov. 3.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has recently spoken in multiple meetings about preparing for a situation in which neither candidate attains the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency, according to multiple Democrats familiar with her remarks — a historic development that would throw the outcome to the new Congress in January.

She has also directed some of her members to be ready if GOP legislatures in states with narrow margins or unfinished counts seek to appoint their own electors, a situation Democrats hope to head off with an obscure law from the 19th century that allows Congress to intervene.

The internal talks are among a number of strategy sessions taking place in political and legal circles in anticipation of a post-Election Day fight. The campaigns of President Trump and former vice president Joe Biden are preparing for all scenarios, each amassing robust legal teams to prepare for post-Nov. 3 disputes, in addition to monitoring Election Day activity and ballot counting.

An uncharted battle over who the next president will be, after a campaign that has roiled and exhausted Americans, could severely test the nation’s faith in its election system — and undermine the principle that the president should be selected by voters rather than Congress or the courts, experts said.

“These are all terrible scenarios to contemplate,” said Richard H. Pildes, a professor of constitutional law at New York University. “Nothing is more explosive in a democratic system than a disputed election for the chief executive, because so much turns on who holds that office.”

October 8, 2020 at 5:49 PM EDT
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Cindy McCain makes her first in-person appearance with Biden and Harris since endorsing the Democrats

By Amy B Wang

Cindy McCain, the widow of Republican Sen. John McCain, joined Biden and Harris in Arizona on Thursday, marking her first in-person appearance with the Democratic candidates she crossed party lines to endorse in the 2020 race.

Cindy McCain’s support of Biden is not new: The longtime Republican spoke of her late husband’s close friendship with Biden in a video shown during the Democratic National Convention in August. Last month, she formally endorsed Biden, acknowledging that her speaking out could help other Republicans and independents do the same.

“My husband John lived by a code: country first. We are Republicans, yes, but Americans foremost,” McCain tweeted then. “There’s only one candidate in this race who stands up for our values as a nation, and that is @JoeBiden.”

Trump, who was not invited to McCain’s funeral, responded to the endorsement by saying he hardly knew Cindy McCain and attacking Biden as “John McCain’s lap dog.”

On Thursday, Cindy McCain, Biden and Harris visited a memorial to American Indian veterans at Phoenix’s Heard Museum. There, they stood briefly in silence, before Biden and Harris touched the base of the statue in a sign of respect, according to a pool report. They also greeted several tribal leaders and veterans. At one point, Biden could be heard saying, “We owe you so much."

October 8, 2020 at 5:24 PM EDT
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‘I’m speaking’: Experts break down the tension in Kamala Harris’s quest for equal time

By Lateshia Beachum

Harris left a few zingers on the vice-presidential debate stage last night that have already become chum for comedic social media users.

“Mr. Vice President, I’m speaking” and “I’m speaking, okay” have found their ways into meme culture and will exist long after the next president is decided. While people gleefully share the Democratic vice-presidential nominee’s now-famous side-eye, Harris reminded viewers that women in leadership roles walk a tightrope wound with societal expectations of decorum for women, experts say.

Pence made double the number of interruptions and slightly more insults than Harris did in the debate, but her insistence that moderator and journalist Susan Page provide her time to respond to Pence’s statements nearly leveled out their actual speaking time, according to NBC News data.

October 8, 2020 at 5:00 PM EDT
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Health officials urge attendees of White House event to get tested for coronavirus

By Lola Fadulu and Erin Cox

D.C.-area health officials sent an open letter Thursday urging people connected to a Sept. 26 event at the White House to get tested for the coronavirus and to connect with their local health departments.

D.C. Health Director LaQuandra Nesbitt and health directors from Arlington, Fairfax and Montgomery counties were among the 10 officials who co-signed the letter.

The health officials urged people who worked in the White House in the past two weeks, attended the Supreme Court announcement in the Rose Garden or have had close contact with people who did, to get tested and to use their local health departments as a resource. The letter contains contact information for the departments.

October 8, 2020 at 4:58 PM EDT
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Citing 25th Amendment, Pelosi, Raskin move to create panel that could rule on president’s fitness for office

By Felicia Sonmez

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.) plan to introduce legislation Friday that would create a commission to “help ensure effective and uninterrupted leadership” in the presidency.

The panel would be called the Commission on Presidential Capacity to Discharge the Powers and Duties of Office, “the body and process called for in the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” the offices of Pelosi and Raskin said in a statement announcing the move.

The 25th Amendment formalizes that the vice president takes over the duties of the presidency in the event of a president’s death, removal or resignation from office. It also lays out a process by which a sitting president may be removed from office.

Pelosi previewed the move Thursday, telling reporters that she would discuss the 25th Amendment on Friday. She did not elaborate.

“Tomorrow, by the way, tomorrow, come here tomorrow,” Pelosi abruptly told reporters at her weekly news conference, during which she mainly spoke about the need for a new round of coronavirus relief. “We’re going to be talking about the 25th Amendment.”

Asked toward the end of her news conference whether she could give more details, Pelosi only reiterated her call for reporters to return Friday.

Raskin introduced a similar measure in 2017. At the time, the Maryland Democrat said the move was necessary because Trump had “thrown our country into chaos at every turn” since his inauguration that January.

“For the security of our people and the safety of the Republic, we need to set up the ‘body’ called for in the 25th Amendment,” Raskin said in 2017. “The President can fire his entire Cabinet for asking the same question tens of millions of Americans are asking at their dinner tables, but he cannot fire Congress or the expert body we set up under the Constitution.”

Since Trump’s discharge Monday from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, some Democrats have voiced concern about the potential side effects of his medical treatment.

During an interview Wednesday on ABC News’s “The View,” Pelosi suggested that Trump’s covid-19 medications, which include steroids, may be having an effect on his mental capabilities.

“I said yesterday to my colleagues, I said there are those who say that the steroids had an impact on people’s thinking. I don’t know, but there are those health-care providers who say that,” Pelosi said. “Also, if you have the coronavirus, it has an impact, as well.”

October 8, 2020 at 4:57 PM EDT
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Biden and Harris campaign together in Arizona for first joint appearance since convention

By Amy B Wang

Biden and Harris are campaigning together in Arizona on Thursday, their first joint appearance since Harris was announced as the vice-presidential nominee at the Democratic National Convention.

Both Biden and Harris said they had spoken to Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) since it emerged that the FBI had charged six people who it said had plotted to kidnap her.

Biden reiterated the threat that white supremacists pose and cast some blame on President Trump’s rhetoric.

“The words he utters matter,” Biden told reporters at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Asked whether he thought Trump’s tweets encouraged militia groups like the one whose members were charged, he said, “Yes, I do.”

“Why won’t the president just say ‘Stop, stop, stop, stop. And we will pursue you if you don’t,’ ” Biden said.

Biden once again sidestepped questions on whether he would support “packing” the Supreme Court in the event that Republicans confirm Trump nominee Amy Coney Barrett in the coming weeks.

“You will know my opinion on court-packing when the election is over,” the Democratic nominee said. “The moment I answer that question, the headline in every one of your papers will be about that rather than focusing on what’s happening now. This election has begun. There’s never been a court appointment once the election has begun.”

Cindy McCain, the widow of Republican Sen. John McCain, will also appear alongside Biden and Harris at a memorial for American Indian veterans at Phoenix’s Heard Museum today, marking her first in-person appearance for them since she crossed party lines to endorse the Democratic ticket.

Cindy McCain’s support of Biden is not new: The longtime Republican spoke of her late husband’s close friendship with Biden in a video shown during the Democratic National Convention in August. Last month, she formally endorsed Biden, acknowledging that her speaking out could help other reticent Republicans and independents to do the same.

“My husband John lived by a code: country first. We are Republicans, yes, but Americans foremost,” McCain tweeted then. “There’s only one candidate in this race who stands up for our values as a nation, and that is @JoeBiden.”

Trump, who was not invited to McCain’s funeral, responded to the endorsement by saying he hardly knew Cindy McCain and attacking Biden as “John McCain’s lapdog.”

October 8, 2020 at 4:38 PM EDT
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Pence cancels Indiana trip due to scheduling issue

By Felicia Sonmez and Josh Dawsey

Pence has canceled a planned trip to Indiana on Friday due to a scheduling issue, the vice president’s chief of staff, Marc Short, said Thursday.

The Pences had been scheduled to travel to Indianapolis, where they were to cast their early ballots for the November election in person.

Short said the cancellation “has nothing to do with covid” and that Pence will be traveling on Saturday and Monday as planned.

October 8, 2020 at 4:34 PM EDT
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Biden town hall scheduled in lieu of second debate

By Colby Itkowitz

With President Trump refusing to participate in a virtual town-hall-style debate with Joe Biden next week, the former vice president booked a solo town hall with ABC News for Oct. 15.

The second presidential debate was scheduled for that date in Miami, but Trump balked at the Commission on Presidential Debates’ decision to have the two candidates participate remotely rather than onstage together in light of the president’s recent coronavirus infection.

The ABC News event will be moderated by anchor George Stephanopoulos and will take place in Philadelphia, where Biden’s campaign headquarters are located. The event will remain a town hall format, in which Biden will take questions from voters — a forum that plays to his strengths.

As of now, Trump and Biden are still scheduled to debate in person on Oct. 22 in Nashville.