The latest on the 2020 election

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 8:00 p.m. ET, October 9, 2020
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11:37 a.m. ET, October 9, 2020

Another White House official, asked at least six times, can't say when Trump tested negative

From CNN's Betsy Klein

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

White House deputy press secretary Brian Morgenstern became the latest official to fail to provide an answer to the critical question of when the President last tested negative for coronavirus in a stunning and at times contentious exchange where he was asked at least six different ways and gave at least six non-answers.

Asked when the President last tested negative, he said, “We don’t have that, but we’re looking at this from a public health perspective in that when there's an indication of a positive test or symptoms showing, then you go back to 48 hours, you do your contact tracing.”

Asked during an appearance on MSNBC whether there wasn’t a negative test or if he just didn’t have the information, after he previously said he’d look into it, he said, “We don’t have that – I don’t personally know.”

Asked once more, he said, “The President doesn’t check all his HIPAA rights at the door when he becomes president… Just because he’s president doesn’t mean he shares every single detail of his entire life.”

And on whether Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act was the reason they would not provide the answer to that question, he said, “That is one reason. The fact of the matter is, there's a reason to share certain information, it’s to prevent further transmission of the virus, it’s public health purposes and that's what we're doing.”

He claimed an answer on the last negative test “is not something that has the public health value.”

He attempted to suggest that in the days before he tested positive, “The president was socially distanced from people,” to which the host responded, “We have eyeballs.”

Asked if the President complied with the Cleveland Clinic debate requirements to be negative tested within 72 hours, he said, “You are very focused on looking backwards.”

Pressed again, he did not answer the question. Pressed once more, he criticized the host for not talking about other issues like stimulus.

Morgenstern also echoed White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany’s doubt on a Saturday event: “We’re looking at it and the doctors will be doing advance diagnostics… he won’t be out there unless it’s medically cleared,” he said, adding that there are “logistical considerations.”

He suggested Trump’s doctors “will certainly prove with medical evidence that there is no transmissibility of the virus,” but declined to provide specifics.

11:35 a.m. ET, October 9, 2020

Pelosi refuses to say whether she thinks 25th Amendment should be invoked for Trump

From CNN's Clare Foran, Haley Byrd, Manu Raju and Lauren Fox 

J. Scott Applewhite/AP
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday refused to say whether she believes the 25th amendment should be invoked in President Trump’s case.

"That’s not for us to decide,” she said in response to a question from CNN’s Manu Raju.

Her comments came at a news conference where she and Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin discussed legislation that would codify how Congress could play a role in potentially removing a President under the 25th amendment. 

Here are key parts of the legislation:

  • The proposal would create a commission of 17 people — 8 appointed by Republicans and 8 appointed by Democrats — as well as a chair selected by the entire body.
  • That commission could study the President’s health as well as request an exam of the President. If the President refused, the commission could make a judgement on the President’s condition with the information they already had.
  • A majority of the commission could vote to remove the President, but only with the support of the Vice President.
  • Members of the commission would be made up of physicians as well as former executive office holders, and they could include people like past Presidents, Vice Presidents, and Secretaries of State.

Pelosi insisted repeatedly that the legislation is not specifically about President Trump and would instead apply to future Presidents.

“This is not about President Trump. He will face the judgment of the voters, but he shows the need for us to create a process for future presidents,” she said.

Pelosi said there should be a process in place in the event of an incapacitating event like a stroke, or if a president needs to be put on a ventilator.

“This legislation applies to future presidents, but we are reminded of the necessity of action by the health of the current president,” she said.

Pelosi downplayed her own public remarks in recent days about the President’s mental state while he is taking steroids. On Thursday she said Trump is in “an altered state right now.” On Friday, she said she doesn’t know all of the facts.

“What I said about the President and the drugs was there are those who believe that taking certain medications can affect your judgment. I don’t know. Let’s say what I actually said. I don’t know. That’s what I said on a call with my members,” she said.

She also said the legislation is not political. 

“It’s not about the election at all,” Pelosi told reporters.

During the news conference, Raskin said the measure “is really only for the most extreme situations where you have a president who cannot fulfill the functions of the office.”

“I wish that Congress had set up this permanent body 50 years ago, it did not do it, but we do need to do this, certainly in the next Congress,” Raskin said.

11:19 a.m. ET, October 9, 2020

New York governor: No matter your religion, "you have to follow the rules"

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said protests by members of the Orthodox Jewish community in New York City in response to strict new coronavirus-related restrictions is "not a matter of religious freedom” and that the community has to “follow the rule.”

"I don't care if you're a Roman Catholic, you're Jewish, you're Muslim, you're an atheist. You have to follow the rules of state, the laws of the state," he said.

New York neighborhoods with large Orthodox Jewish communities have seen startling rises in Covid-19 cases and test positivity rate in recent weeks, alarming officials concerned about a new outbreak.

Cuomo acknowledged that with religious communities, it can become a “complicated” matter.

“The truth is, if you don't follow the rules, the infection rate spreads, people get sick and then you make others sick. We're talking about Brooklyn. We're not talking about a hermetically sealed community in a rural area. This is in the middle of Brooklyn. They will make other people sick.”

Watch more from Cuomo:

11:30 a.m. ET, October 9, 2020

Two more White House staffers tested positive weeks ago

From CNN's Jim Acosta and Kate Bennett

J. Scott Applewhite/AP
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Two additional members of the White House residence staff previously tested positive for coronavirus approximately three weeks ago, two White House officials confirmed to CNN.

The two cases were not related to the current White House outbreak, the officials said, and the staff members were not believed to have been in contact with the President or first lady. They both wore masks in the White House, per the officials.

The two infected staff went on leave to quarantine at their homes for two weeks, one official said.

A source familiar with residence protocols tells CNN the first lady “was informed of their conditions,” per working chain of command. The official did not comment as to whether the positive Covid-19 results of the residence employees was communicated to Melania Trump, who oversees all of the household staff as first lady. Nor did the official discuss whether contact tracing was conducted.

The two additional staff bring the number of residence staff who tested positive within the last 30 days to four. A source familiar also told CNN the two staffers who tested positive are now back at work in the residence, as are the other two cases who tested positive in what appears to have been an outbreak among residence staff approximately three weeks ago.

There have been cases at the White House during the pandemic that were not made public, the other official said, for privacy reasons.

This was first reported by the New York Times.

In the more recent White House outbreak, 20 people in President Trump’s orbit, himself included, have tested positive for coronavirus.

The President and first lady, nine White House staffers, three advisers who helped with debate preparations, four people who attended the potential “super spreader” Rose Garden event, and a military official who was at the White House on September 27 have all recently tested positive for coronavirus.

10:53 a.m. ET, October 9, 2020

Here's what is on Trump and Biden's campaign schedules today 

Getty Images
Getty Images

As President Trump continues to recover from Covid-19 and the next presidential debate remains in limbo, both Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden have campaign events slated on their schedules today.

  • Biden travels to Las Vegas, Nevada, today, where he will hold a drive-in event and deliver remarks to supporters in their cars at 5:15 p.m. ET. Yesterday, Biden and running mate Kamala Harris traveled to Arizona and kicked off a “Soul of the Nation” bus tour.
  • Trump joins radio host Rush Limbaugh's show at 12:00 p.m. ET for what is being dubbed as a "virtual radio rally." According to a statement from the Trump campaign, the President is "taking to the airwaves to speak directly to the American people about the Trump Administration's record of Promises Made, Promises Kept."

Meanwhile, the future of the next presidential debate is still unknown. The Biden campaign rejected Trump's demand yesterday to delay each of the next two debates a week after the President said he would not participate in a virtual debate.

The Biden campaign then booked a town hall with ABC News on Oct. 15, the night of what would have been the town hall debate against Trump.

10:32 a.m. ET, October 9, 2020

Judge denies Florida voter registration extension

From CNN's Curt Devine

A federal judge denied a motion to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline after the state’s online system crashed Monday.

Following that crash, a coalition of voting rights groups filed a lawsuit that called for at least a two-day extension, but US District Court Judge Mark E. Walker wrote in an order Friday that extending the deadline could cause confusion. He said he did not see evidence that extending the deadline and putting further strain on the state’s supervisors of elections would be in the public interest.

“This is an incredibly close call, but Florida’s interest in preventing chaos in its already precarious—and perennially chaotic—election outweighs the substantial burden imposed on the right to vote,” Walker wrote, adding the state “failed its citizens.”

Florida’s secretary of state, Laurel Lee, had already extended the deadline to register to vote through Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET, but Walker criticized her office for not notifying the public of the extension until Tuesday afternoon. He wrote that the state could have extended the deadline through midnight that day. 

More broadly, he chastised the state for failing to adequately prepare for election season.

“In so ruling, this Court notes that every man who has stepped foot on the Moon launched from the Kennedy Space Center, in Florida. Yet, Florida has failed to figure out how to run an election properly—a task simpler than rocket science,” Walker wrote.

10:45 a.m. ET, October 9, 2020

Pelosi is pushing a bill to determine whether a president is capable of serving in office. Here are key details.

From CNN's Lauren Fox

Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images
Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Democrat who has introduced legislation in the past codifying how Congress could play a role in potentially removing a President under the 25th Amendment, provided more details to CNN this morning on what his bill with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would do. The bill will be introduced shortly.

Raskin tells CNN that his proposal would create a commission of 17 people — 8 appointed by Republicans and 8 appointed by Democrats as well as a chair selected by the entire body.

That commission could study the President’s health as well as request an exam of the President. If the President refused, the commission could make a judgement on the President’s condition with the information they already had. 

A majority of the commission could vote to remove the President, but only with the Vice President.

That commission would be made up of physicians as well as former executive office holders, and could include past presidents, vice presidents, secretaries of state, or other former executive branch office holders.

Raskin said the thinking is that those individuals would be best equipped to understand the duties of the Presidency and make a determination about whether a President was fit for office.

Asked about why the bill is being introduced now, Raskin said that there are any “number of contingencies” that could be on the horizon or could present themselves in the future that could make it essential to have a process in place to remove the President from office.

Some context: Right now, the 25th Amendment lays out that a majority of the cabinet and the vice president can play that role, but it also alludes to the fact that Congress also can play a role. Raskin said this bill simply codifies that role. He said that Covid-19 is only one of those unknown situations. He also noted that the 25th Amendment could become crucial if Trump or any future president refused to leave office.

The legislation is similar to that which he introduced in 2017. This bill, however, expands the commission from 11 people to 17.

9:46 a.m. ET, October 9, 2020

Karen Pence didn't break the rules when she took off her mask on debate stage, her spokesperson says

From CNN's Betsy Klein

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images

A spokesperson for second lady Karen Pence is defending her failure to wear a mask on the debate stage Wednesday night, suggesting that the campaigns “agreed” that their spouses could do so and that she was not in violation of the rules.

“Second Lady Karen followed an agreement established between both campaigns prior to the debate. Both sides agreed that the spouses would remove their masks when they walked onto the stage at the end of the debate,” her communications director Kara Brooks told CNN in a statement.

Some background: In the aftermath of the first presidential debate, where some audience members, including the first lady and other Trump family members, removed their masks, the Commission on Presidential Debates mandated that everyone in the audience, with the only exceptions of the candidates and the moderator, wear a mask during future debates.

After the last questions were answered, Pence joined her husband, Vice President Mike Pence, on stage. Douglas Emhoff joined his wife, Sen. Kamala Harris. Emhoff wore a mask as he stood by Harris. Karen Pence removed her mask.

Pence’s action was another example of the administration flouting its own guidelines on best public health practices and shirking the opportunity to lead on mask wearing. Like her husband, she was present 11 days ago in the White House Rose Garden for an event nominating Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. At least 12 attendees have since tested positive for Covid-19.

Pence also, curiously, removed her mask on Monday when the vice president walked across the tarmac at Joint Base Andrews to address reporters. Both removed their masks as they approached reporters, the rest of their family members keeping masks on as they boarded the plane. Then the Vice President gave a brief statement, but the second lady did not speak.

CNN is reaching out to Commission on Presidential Debates for comment.  

9:44 a.m. ET, October 9, 2020

White House casts doubt on Saturday rally

From CNN's Betsy Klein 

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany appeared to cast some doubt on President Trump traveling as soon as Saturday, as he suggested on Fox News Thursday night.

She repeatedly declined to provide specifics when pressed on what bar Trump would need to pass in order to travel, yet told viewers to “rest assured” that he would somehow “not be able to transmit the virus.”

“He wants to be out there and logistically whether tomorrow is possible, it would be tough. It would be a decision for the campaign, but logistically, we're just trying to keep up with the president who's ready to go, ready to be out there as soon as he gets the okay from his doctor,” she said during an appearance on Fox News from her home.

McEnany reiterated Dr. Sean Conley told her he believes Trump will be “clear to go” by Saturday.

“I'll leave that to him as to how that works medically, but he assured me that there are medical tests underway that will ensure that when the President's back out there, he will not be able to transmit the virus,” she said.

McEnany continued, “So Dr. Conley will lay out exactly how that looks medically speaking, but rest assured, we will make sure that he's in a good spot before he's out there.”

On Trump's testing: Pressed again on whether Trump would need to test negative for Covid-19, she remained vague: “I'll leave it to Dr. Conley, because he has all the granular details of the testing and as to what medical bar needs to be met to show that you're not transmissible but yes, there will be a test in place and rest assured that tests will show that it's not transmissible, he won't be out there if he could transmit virus.”

She said she spoke by phone with Trump “three or four times” on Thursday.

McEnany also, bizarrely, suggested that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is holding a news conference on legislation to give Congress a say in the 25th Amendment today, needs to be looking at it for herself.

“Maybe she's projecting here because the 25th Amendment, no reason for it to be considered with regard to the President of the United States but maybe for Nancy Pelosi herself,” she said, citing a recent ABC interview where she said “Good morning” after being asked a question.

On debates: She reiterated that Trump “has no interest in a virtual debate” and again criticized the Commission on Presidential Debates – “More like a commission to re-elect Joe Biden.”

McEnany said she continues to feel “great” with “no symptoms” and the hardest part has been being isolated from her 10 month-old daughter.