Trump On Lebanon, Tropical Storm Isaias, COVID-19 Response, Mail-In Ballots

President Trump updates Americans on the state of multiple ongoing tragedies in a short press conference. Ava DeSantis writes what we learned from the President’s statement.

Photo by Shealah Craighead

In Beirut, Lebanon, a warehouse explosion killed 70 people and injured at least 4,000 today. Trump opened his press conference, offering “America’s deepest sympathies to the people of Lebanon.” He said the United States is prepared to assist Lebanon immediately, before moving on to discuss ongoing tragedies within the US. 

On Tropical Storm Isais

Tropical Storm Isais decimated the East Coast of the U.S. It made landfall as a hurricane in North Carolina, causing floods and fires, and displacing dozens of people. Two North Carolinians were killed when a twister hit a mobile home park. The National Hurricane Center warned of “potentially life-threatening urban flooding” as the storm moved towards D.C., Baltimore, and further north.

“I spoke to Governor Cuomo, I spoke to Governor DeSantis, and I spoke to all of the people at FEMA, and they’re working very hard,” said Trump. “Coastal areas in the storm’s path can expect to see the storm surge and recurrence, while inland areas could see flooding and very, very high winds.”

Hurricane specialist Robbie Berg told the Associated Press, he does not expect “a whole lot of weakening, we still think there’s going to be very strong and gusty winds that will affect much of the mid-Atlantic and the Northeast over the next day or two.” The National Weather Service confirmed tornadoes in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey. More than 600,000 customers lost electricity according to PowerOutage.US

On COVID-19 response

Trump lauded what he views as the country’s COVID-19 successes. The economy, he believes, is in a state of recovery, as evidenced by the manufacturing index rising “nearly two points in July” and the measure of production rising “35 points from its April low.” During July, however, the U.S. lost 274,000 manufacturing jobs, reflecting an economic downturn resulting from the COVID-19 crisis.

The President also claimed “thanks to our major advances in treatment we’ve seen vast improvements in recovery rates across all age groups. Compared to April, mortality rates are 85% lower among individuals aged 18 to 69, and 70% lower among individuals over 70 years old.” The CDC reported declining weekly hospitalization rates and mortality due to COVID-19 near the end of July, the last available data.

“We’re also mass producing all of the most promising vaccine candidates and we’re determined to have a vaccine,” Trump announced. “We’re going to have something very soon.”

He promised continued cooperation with state and local government to control virus outbreaks as they occur. “We’ll continue to work with the governors and local authorities to help them, ensure significant hospital capacity, protective equipment, supplies, and medicine,” he said. “I’m more confident than ever that we will get a vaccine very soon and we will defeat the virus.”

In nearly all areas in the country, according to the CDC, new cases of COVID-19 are in decline or stabilized. However, in some states, numbers rise exponentially. Hawaii, for example, reported 737 new cases in the last 7 days.

In continued response to the pandemic, the Trump administration plans to lower drug prices by demanding pharmaceutical companies match the prices they offer to other countries. “Under the system of matching that we have, if Germany has a pill for 10 cents and ours is $2, we’re allowed to say we want...the pill for the same as the lowest country in the world,” he explained. 

The President, notably, replied ‘yes’ when asked if he considered taking executive action to extend enhanced unemployment benefits if Congress is unable to come to an agreement on COVID-19 relief by the end of the week. 

Congressional leaders currently engage in debate over the second COVID-19 relief package. The main issue dividing the two parties is the continuation of the $600 unemployment benefits, which the CARES Act included. House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries said, “the $600 unemployment insurance benefit is essential because there are no jobs to go back to. We’ve got to help out everyday Americans. That’s a line in the sand. ” House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi echoed this sentiment, saying, “the $600 is essential. It’s essential for America’s working families.” 

Trump said his administration also considers taking executive action through a payroll tax suspension. A member of the White House economic recovery task force, Stephen Moore, encouraged the President to suspend payroll taxes in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, writing, “[Trump] should declare a national economic emergency and announce that the Internal Revenue Service will immediately stop collecting the payroll tax.”

President Trump also repeated promises to “take care of the eviction problem.” 

On mail-in ballots

Trump was asked to clarify his position on mail-in ballots, referring to his tweet this afternoon; “whether you call it Vote by Mail or Absentee Voting, in Florida the election system is Safe and Secure, Tried and True. Florida’s Voting system has been cleaned up (we defeated Democrats attempts at change), so in Florida, I encourage all to request a Ballot & Vote by Mail.” The journalist asked, “why does that apply to Florida and it doesn’t apply to [mail-in ballots] across the country?”

Trump contrasted Florida’s “great Republican governor” with Nevada’s governor, who, in his words, “said ‘let’s just send out millions of ballots’ and the post office cannot be prepared. I haven’t spoken to the post office about it, but I don’t know how they could possibly be prepared.” In the case of Nevada, he claimed, “they’re gonna be voting in a matter of weeks and you can’t do that.”

 


 

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