President Donald Trump will hold a news conference Sunday night, on the eve of the opening night of the Republican National Convention. In excerpts of an interview with Fox News’s Steve Hilton, the president described the convention as “uplifting and positive” but said he still has to “defend himself.”
Former vice president Joe Biden’s campaign, meanwhile, continued to hammer Trump over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, with deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield saying Sunday that Americans “need to be confident that the process of getting to a vaccine is not politically manipulated.”
In an interview on ABC News’s “This Week,” Bedingfield also asserted that Biden has not contracted covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, although she added that he has not yet been tested.
“He has not had the virus,” Bedingfield said on ABC News’s “This Week,” adding: “We put in place incredibly strict protocols to ensure that everybody involved who is around Vice President Biden, who’s around Senator Harris, is undergoing the appropriate testing.”
Host George Stephanopoulos interjected: “Has he been tested?”
“He has not been tested,” Bedingfield replied. “However, we have put the strictest protocols in place, and, moving forward, should he need to be tested, he certainly would be.”
It was not immediately clear how the campaign knew that Biden had not contracted the virus if he had not been tested. Those who have contracted it sometimes do not exhibit any symptoms. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, for instance, learned last month that he had covid-19 only when he underwent testing at the White House the morning he was due to travel with Trump aboard Air Force One to Texas. Gohmert said he did not have any symptoms at the time.
The White House regularly tests Trump, some staffers and all journalists who attend White House briefings.
Bedingfield on Sunday also took aim at the Trump administration’s handling of the pandemic, one day after the president claimed, without evidence, that the Food and Drug Administration is trying to delay the approval of a potential vaccine until after the November election.
“Look, the American people need to be confident that the process of getting to a vaccine is not being politically manipulated,” she said. “And, right now, we’re not getting a whole lot of reason to believe that.”
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on Sunday declined to disavow the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory, saying he didn’t know much about it and suggesting that the FBI would be better off focusing on other issues.
Days earlier, Trump gave a boost to the online movement, which the FBI has identified as a potential domestic terrorist threat. The president said at a White House news briefing that he appreciated the support of QAnon followers, calling them “people that love our country.”
Asked by ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos why the president won’t condemn the group, Meadows replied, “I had to Google it to figure out what it is.”
“You’ve talked about it more, George, than anybody in the White House has talked about it,” Meadows said on ABC News’s “This Week.”
He argued that “there are a number of conspiracies that we ought to be talking about,” such as Trump’s claim that the FBI spied on his 2016 campaign. “That was a conspiracy that was real and one we started to look at,” Meadows said, even though the claim has not been proven.
Biden’s campaign last week criticized Trump for seeking “to legitimize a conspiracy theory that the FBI has identified as a domestic terrorism threat.” But Meadows maintained Sunday that QAnon should not be a major concern for federal law enforcement officials.
“I don’t see that this is a central debate that anybody’s going to decide who the next president of the United States might be or where we need to deploy the FBI,” Meadows said.
“Where we need to deploy the FBI is to Portland and other areas like that where we see in real time what is happening, not something that may be an internet conspiracy,” he added.
Trump kicked off his Sunday morning by tweeting two familiar lines of attack – one against mail-in voting and another against some Democrats at last week’s convention who omitted the word “God” when saying the Pledge of Allegiance.
“So now the Democrats are using Mail Drop Boxes, which are a voter security disaster. Among other things, they make it possible for a person to vote multiple times,” Trump tweeted. “Also, who controls them, are they placed in Republican or Democrat areas? They are not Covid sanitized. A big fraud!”
Despite the claim, states and localities check ballots against voter rolls, making it difficult for one person to “vote multiple times.” Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, can be spread by exposure to surfaces but is more often spread by person-to-person contact, according to experts.
George Conway, a conservative lawyer and frequent critic of the president, responded to Trump’s tweet by noting his own recent experience dropping off a ballot for his wife, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway.
“Recently I dropped my wife’s primary ballot off in a dropbox in front of the Bergen County, NJ municipal building,” he tweeted. “There were security officers there. The dropbox was clean, but I didn’t have to touch it because there was a narrow, clearly marked slot to put the ballot in!”
Trump on Sunday also noted a few participants in breakout caucus meetings during last week’s Democratic National Convention removed the word “God” from the Pledge of Allegiance.
“Two Democrat Caucus Meetings removed ‘UNDER GOD’ from the Pledge of Allegiance,” he tweeted. “It sounded not only strange, but terrible. That’s where they’re coming from!”
On Saturday, Trump falsely claimed “The Democrats” had removed the line from the pledge. During the prime-time, televised events, DNC attendees recited the full Pledge of Allegiance, including the phrase “one nation under God.”
In his first joint interview with Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Biden left open the possibility that he would serve two terms in office if elected to the White House in November.
“Absolutely,” Biden told ABC News’s David Muir when asked whether he would be open to serving eight years.
Biden would be 78 years old by Inauguration Day, which would make him the oldest president in U.S. history. At a virtual fundraiser earlier this year, he said he considers himself “a transition candidate,” although he has since clarified that he did not necessarily mean he would serve only one term.
Biden also responded to Trump’s attacks on his mental fitness.
“I think it’s a legitimate question to ask anybody over 70 years old whether or not they’re fit and whether they’re ready,” Biden said. “But I just, only thing I can say to the American people, it’s a legitimate question to ask anybody. Watch me.”
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The Washington Post’s Philip Bump contributed to this report.