The latest on the 2020 election

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Mahtani, Melissa Gray, Melissa Macaya and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 0219 GMT (1019 HKT) October 9, 2020
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8:01 p.m. ET, October 8, 2020

Pence cancels trip to Indianapolis and heads back to DC

From CNN's Jim Acosta, Kaitlan Collins, Ryan Nobles, Betsy Klein and Jason Hoffman

Vice President Mike Pence speaks at a campaign rally at TYR Tactical Thursday, October 8, in Peoria, Arizona.
Vice President Mike Pence speaks at a campaign rally at TYR Tactical Thursday, October 8, in Peoria, Arizona. Ross D. Franklin/AP

Vice President Mike Pence is en route back to Washington, DC, tonight after canceling plans at the last minute to travel to Indianapolis where he was set to cast his ballot for the 2020 election on Friday.

In Washington, President Trump has remained behind closed doors since his return to the White House from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Monday. Aides have gone to great pains to describe him as back to his old self, and fully carrying out the duties of the office — despite having been hospitalized for the virus. They say he has shown up to work in the Oval Office both Wednesday and Thursday, but reporters have not laid eyes on him since his return on Monday.

Trump did, however, phone in to a FOX show Thursday morning, and discussed a myriad of issues. On his health, he said he does not have diabetes, and lied about not having heart problems. CNN has reported that Trump has a medical history of heart disease.

“I'm back because I’m a perfect physical specimen and I'm extremely young,” he deadpanned.

Trump continued, “And so I'm lucky in that way. And I don't have any — I don't have heart problems, I don't have diabetes, I don't have any of the problems that you read about, perhaps a couple of pounds, we could lose here or there, but, you know, there's a lot of people in that category. But now I'm in good health.”

In a series of videos released by the White House, Trump sounded upbeat but seemed at moments to have strained breathing. He also wore heavy makeup but no mask. The videos, taped Wednesday, appeared lightly edited.

Thursday evening the White House released a memo from Trump’s physician Dr. Sean Conley who wrote that Trump “has completed his course of therapy for COVID-19 as prescribed by his team of physicians.” 

Conley writes that the President’s physical exams have “remained stable and devoid of any indications to suggest progression of illness.”

“Overall he’s responded extremely well to treatment, without evidence on examination of adverse therapeutic effects,” the memo states. 

Conley also notes that Saturday will be 10 days since Trump’s diagnosis and based on the trajectory of diagnostics the team of physicians has run on the President, he fully anticipates Trump’s “safe return to public engagements at that time.”

Of note, the memo still does not say when the President’s last negative test before the positive test occurred. It also does not say if he has tested negative since or if he’s still considered contagious.

The White House has held no formal briefings on the President's condition since his return to the White House, and his doctors have not appeared before reporters since Monday at Walter Reed before his discharge. 

The vice president’s spokesperson Devin O’Malley told reporters in Arizona before leaving that Pence's sudden schedule change had nothing to do with Covid-19 or anyone in the VP’s travel party getting sick. He said there are “no positive” tests and the vice president plans to pick back travel on Saturday with a trip to Florida, and then in earnest at the start of next week.

“Nobody’s sick. There’s no positive tests. The VP is planning on traveling on Saturday and Monday. We’ll have more information on the vice president’s schedule next week soon.” However, O'Malley would not specifically say why Pence decided to change his plans.

Trump is also scheduled to phone in to another friendly TV show host Thursday evening — "Hannity."

7:08 p.m. ET, October 8, 2020

White House doctor says Trump has completed his course of therapy for Covid-19

From CNN's Jim Acosta and Jason Hoffman 

The White House released a memo from President Trump’s physician Dr. Sean Conley who writes that Trump “has completed his course of therapy for COVID-19 as prescribed by his team of physicians.”

Conley writes that the President’s physical exams have “remained stable and devoid of any indications to suggest progression of illness.”

“Overall he’s responded extremely well to treatment, without evidence on examination of adverse therapeutic effects,” the memo states.

Conley also notes that Saturday will be 10 days since Trump’s diagnosis and based on the trajectory of diagnostics the team of physicians has run on the President, he fully anticipates Trump’s “safe return to public engagements at that time.”

Of note, the memo still does not say when the President’s last negative test before his positive test occurred.

6:22 p.m. ET, October 8, 2020

White House Correspondents' Association says another journalist has tested positive for Covid-19

From CNN's Jim Acosta 

In a note to members, the White House Correspondents' Association said a "member of our press corps has received a preliminary positive result for Covid-19 today after undergoing a rapid test."

"The individual is awaiting the results of the more accurate PCR test and is currently asymptomatic," WHCA said.

The note said the member was "last at the White House on Thursday Oct. 1." 

If the preliminary test turns out to be accurate, this would be the fourth journalist who covers the President to test positive for the virus. 

5:41 p.m. ET, October 8, 2020

Biden campaign manager says Trump doesn't want to "face voters" after refusing virtual debate

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

CNN
CNN

Kate Bedingfield, deputy campaign manager and communications director for the Biden campaign, said President Trump “clearly doesn’t want to have to face voters” after he said he would not do a virtual debate. 

“He’s trying to rewrite the rules at the last minute. We're not going to allow that,” Bedingfield told CNN’s Jake Tapper.

Earlier today, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced the second presidential debate on Oct. 15 will be held virtually. However, Trump said he wouldn’t do a virtual debate. The Biden campaign then announced a town hall on ABC on Oct. 15.

“Donald Trump is choosing not to show up, [so] we’re going to go do a town hall and have Joe Biden talk directly to the American people,” she said. 

The Biden campaign is urging the commission to make the debate scheduled on Oct. 22 a town hall format.

“Assuming we move forward in person, we will demand that President Trump and the Trump team demonstrate that they are not infectious. We'll demand that the commission enforce those rules and that everybody who attends that debate is kept safe,” Bedingfield said. 

Watch more:

4:30 p.m. ET, October 8, 2020

Trump’s Covid-19 diagnosis a national security "problem" and "open wound," top intelligence official says

From CNN's Alex Marquardt

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump’s infection with Covid-19 is a problem “on a national security level” and provides another divisive “wound” for enemies to exploit, the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center says.

“I think it's an open wound for our adversaries to utilize,” Bill Evanina told Hearst Television in a lengthy interview. “But now that the president has been diagnosed, it provides them an opportunity, to again, not only enhance, exacerbate and amplify messages on both sides.”

“We'll see adversaries use both sides of those questions to cause more turmoil in the news cycle for sure.”

Evanina stopped short of calling it a national security threat but said it impacts the presidential election because the three main adversaries trying to influence the 2020 vote – Russia, China and Iran – have also been carrying out influence operations when it comes to the coronavirus.

“This only exacerbates their ability to do so at scale,” Evanina said. “And we do expect, and we have seen, we'll continue to see more aggressive activity from our adversaries on the President with respect to his COVID situation. So that is a problem for us on a national security level.”

Trump, his staff and chief White House doctor have come under fire since the President was admitted to Walter Reed hospital over the weekend for failing to disclose more details about the presidents testing and condition.

“I think corralling the information, providing the American people the truthful scenario is critical so that our foreign adversaries don't extrapolate wrong information,” Evanina said. 

Foreign intelligence services are also working to steal, disrupt and prevent an American Covid-19 vaccine, according to Evanina.

“But once we do [get it], they're going to surely prevent us from trying to get it into your arm,” he said. “for sure, China, Russia and Iran, same three actors, are trying to prevent us from getting the vaccine.”

“At the end of the day, once we create it, we obtain it, protect the supply chain of that until we get all the way to your arm and my arm,” he added.

3:56 p.m. ET, October 8, 2020

More than 200 creators launch TikTokers for Biden

Fom CNN's Rachel Janfaza

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Creators with the Democratic Hype House, a space for liberal political discourse on the popular social media app, launched TikTokers for Biden Wednesday, a coalition of youth support for the Democratic presidential nominee. 

Aidan Kohn-Murphy, Matthew Rein, and a number of other Democratic Hype House members have convened a group of more than 220 creators with a combined audience of over 80 million followers, which, they note, is more people than voted for either President Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton in 2016. 

While the group’s primary goal is to elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in the presidential election, they also hope to build community Rein told CNN.

“Ultimately, we want to bring the TikTok community together in support for Biden, as we know how important this election is. The vast majority of our members are Gen-Z, and this election is of utmost importance to our generation specifically,” Rein said. 

Since their launch less than 24 hours ago, the @tiktokforbiden account already has over 100,000 followers. 

TikTokers for Biden is unaffiliated with the Biden campaign, and joins a number of youth-focused groups mobilizing on the app. 

In addition to the TikTok account, the group is selling merchandise including shirts with slogans such as "Gen Z for Biden," and "voting is cool." Proceeds will go to the Biden campaign and other liberal causes. 

And, organizers say they hope to harness the power of young people by hosting phone banks for Biden in addition to getting the word out about Biden via TikTok.

3:52 p.m. ET, October 8, 2020

Supreme Court Justice Kagan clears the way for sending mail-in ballots to Montana voters

From CNN's Ariane De Vogue

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan denied a request from Republicans to block a directive issued by Montana Gov. Stephen Bullock last month that allows counties to send mail-in ballots to all registered voters during the pandemic.

Kagan, who has jurisdiction over the lower court involved in the case, turned down the request without referring the petition to her colleagues or asking the other side for its views. 

The suit was brought by Joe Lamm of the Ravalli County Republican Central Committee as well as several voters. 

“While Covid is a national tragedy, it posed no emergency,” lawyer James Bopp wrote in court papers. Bopp noted that the Montana legislature already allowed any qualified voter to obtain a no-excuse absentee ballot by merely applying. 

Lower courts have upheld Montana’s directive. Bopp asked for emergency relief by Thursday. 

Gov. Bullock, a Democrat, issued a similar directive in the primary, and all of the state’s counties opted to send out mail-in ballots to voters. Bullock will appear on the ballot as a candidate for Senate.

3:59 p.m. ET, October 8, 2020

Biden will participate in town hall next Thursday, the initial date of second debate

From CNN's Arlette Saenz

Joe Biden will participate in a town hall with ABC News on Oct. 15 – the initial date of the second presidential debate.

“As we said —one way or another, Joe Biden is taking questions from voters on October 15th!” Kate Bedingfield, deputy campaign manager for Joe Biden, wrote as she retweeted the announcement from ABC News.

The town hall will be held in Philadelphia and moderated by ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos.

The announcement comes after President Trump said he would not participate in a virtual debate on Oct. 15, which had been proposed by the Commission on Presidential Debates earlier this morning.

During the back-and-forth on the debate earlier today, Bedingfield said Biden “will find an appropriate place to take questions from voters directly on Oct. 15, as has done on several occasions in recent weeks." 

Stephanopoulos moderated a town hall with President Trump at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia last month.

Watch more:

3:53 p.m. ET, October 8, 2020

White House: Date of Trump's last negative test has not been revealed because it is "private medical history"

From CNN's Jason Hoffman

White House director of communications Alyssa Farah talks to reporters outside the White House, Thursday, October 8.
White House director of communications Alyssa Farah talks to reporters outside the White House, Thursday, October 8. Evan Vucci/AP

White House communications director Alyssa Farah again refused to tell reporters the date President Trump last tested negative for coronavirus before he tested positive, citing Trump’s “private medical history.” 

“I can’t reveal that at this time, the doctors would like to keep it private since it’s his private…” Farah told reporters at the White House Thursday. “My understanding is that it’s his private medical history.”

When asked why certain private medical history has been revealed but not this fact, Farah said “I’m happy to raise that to the doctors but my understanding is we’re not making it public at this time.” She added “we’re happy to try to get you an answer on that.”

The White House and President Trump’s physicians have so far refused to tell the American Public when Trump last tested negative for coronavirus before his positive test last Thursday. 

Farah added that she expects there will be some sort of update from Trump’s physician Dr. Sean Conley at some point today.

She said that Trump doesn’t blame Gold Star families for possibly infecting him with coronavirus.

“His point was merely that in the timeframe that he was potentially exposed, there were a number of different venues that he’d been at and individual’s he’d interacted with that it could have come from. We by no means are blaming anyone who was present,” Farah said.

In an interview with Fox earlier Thursday, Trump seemed to blame the Gold Star family event for how he contracted coronavirus.

 “I got a lot of things doing. And again, when I want to say hello to Gold Star families, what I— I'm not going to be in a basement saying, ‘Hey I can’t see you as you traveled in from California and all the different places.’ It's okay,” Trump said.

She added that there were a lot of precautions taken before the Gold Star event at the White House and based on contact tracing they’ve conducted and the data they have, they don’t think the coronavirus outbreak came from that event. She said everyone at the Gold Star event was tested.

On debates, Farah said she anticipates there will be a second debate, but they want to do it in person, not a virtual debate. “It’s not going to be virtual if the President will participate,” She said.