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Donald Trump insisted on Thursday he was ready to resume campaign rallies and felt “perfect” only one week after his Covid-19 diagnosis.

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Sidelined from the trail because of his bout with coronavirus, President Donald Trump is planning to hold a campaign event at the White House this weekend, a person with knowledge of the event told USA TODAY.

Trump expects to speak from a balcony at the White House on Saturday, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Details were not immediately clear.

Planning for the event comes as the White House has been criticized for hosting an official ceremony last weekend on the South Lawn from which many attendees later tested positive for the virus. Dr. Anthony Fauci described that event, to mark the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, as a “super spreader.”

Trump has also faced criticism for using the White House for political events. The president delivered his formal acceptance speech to the Republican National Convention this summer from the South Lawn.

Trump has recently floated several possible returns to the campaign trail, including the possibility of rallies this weekend in Florida and Pennsylvania that have not come to fruition. The White House has so far declined to say if Trump has tested negative for the virus since he returned to the White House on Monday after a three day stay at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

An official said precautions would be taken to maintain the safety of the crowd but the details of those measures were not immediately clear.

— David Jackson and John Fritze

The latest: 

  • Pence trip canceled: On Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence canceled a planned appearance the next day in Indianapolis. His office did not explain why, but did say “nobody’s sick. There’s no positive tests.”
  • Mitch McConnell: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he hasn’t been to the White House since August because of the executive office’s lax coronavirus precautions. 
  • Trump campaign: The Trump campaign is exploring the prospect of an event on Monday in Pittsburgh, an aide said. The aide did not elaborate, saying only it would be an “event” and not a “rally” for the COVID-stricken president.

📆 25 days until Election Day, six days until the second presidential debate, 103 days until Inauguration Day, 85 days left in 2020.

🗳️ Voting: See USA TODAY’s Voter Guide for information on registering to vote, when your state begins voting and what the candidates think about the issues. 

We will update this article throughout the day. You can follow all of USA TODAY’s politics reporters on Twitter or subscribe to our daily On Politics newsletter. 

Trump says he may hold rallies this weekend

President Donald Trump said Thursday he may hold campaign rallies this weekend in Florida and Pennsylvania, an announcement that comes a week after he tested positive for COVID-19 as part of a larger White House coronavirus outbreak.

Hours before he told Fox News his plans, White House physician Sean Conley cleared the president to resume public events, saying he had completed his therapy of COVID-19. Trump and the administration have repeatedly declined to say to when the president last received a negative test. That continued Thursday.

“There’s no reason to test all the time, but they found very little infection or virus, if any,” Trump told Fox. “I don’t know that they found any, I didn’t go into it greatly with the doctors.”

Meanwhile, the next presidential debate appears up-in-the-air after Trump said he wouldn’t participate because organizers changed the Miami event to a virtual platform over COVID-19 concerns. The Commission on Presidential Debates said it wouldn’t hold the debate Thursday with just Biden. Trump’s team now wants each of the remaining debates moved back a week, an idea the Biden campaign rejected. 

Trump gets lowest rating yet on COVID response in poll

Americans’ approval of President Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has reached its lowest point in a Reuters/Ipsos tracking poll since the outbreak first began to hit the U.S. 

The poll was conducted from Oct. 6-8, after the president left the hospital where he had been treated for COVID-19 and returned to the White House, where a coronavirus outbreak has infected more than 20 people including first lady Melania Trump.

The poll found 38% approve and 59% disapprove of Trump’s handling of the public health crisis. The negative 22-percentage point rating is the biggest deficit Trump has had on the issue in a Reuters/Ipsos survey since early March.

And it is 11 points worse than it was in a Reuters/Ipsos poll taken Sept. 30-Oct. 1, before Trump announced he had tested positive for the virus. 

– William Cummings

COVID stimulus update: White House to offer $1.8 trillion relief plan, reports say

 The White House is set to offer Democrats a $1.8 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package as President Donald Trump reversed course on stimulus negotiations and said he wanted to “Go Big,” according to multiple reports.

The proposal, a $1.8 trillion offer according to the Wall Street Journal and CNBC, is about $200 billion more than the White House’s $1.6 trillion proposal last week. It is still smaller than the $2.2 trillion Democrats most recently offered and which Trump rejected on Tuesday.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is set to talk Friday with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Director of the National Economic Council Larry Kudlow told reporters Friday that President Donald Trump had approved a “revised” stimulus package, though he declined to provide details. Kudlow has not been part of negotiations so far, which have largely involved Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, and Mnuchin.

Shortly after, Trump tweeted, “Covid Relief Negotiations are moving along. Go Big!”

Stimulus latest: White House to offer $1.8 trillion COVID-19 stimulus plan as Pelosi and Mnuchin negotiate, reports say

Pelosi said on MSNBC Friday she would talk more with Mnuchin as they worked through differences on funding amounts and on policy in the bill. Negotiations have deadlocked over provisions like funding for state and local governments and the dollar amount for a federal unemployment benefit boost. “I do hope we will have an agreement soon,” she said.

The optimism comes three days after Trump abruptly rejected a recent Democratic proposal and saying he wanted to postpone any negotiations until after the November election. Since then, Trump has reversed course, saying he wanted standalone bills to send out stimulus checks and provide relief to airlines.

Any negotiated deal, however, will have to pass through the Republican-controlled Senate, where members have expressed hesitancy at spending trillions of dollars on COVID-19 relief.

At an event in Kentucky Friday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said it was “unlikely” a stimulus deal would occur before the election.

– NIcholas Wu

25th Amendment: Dems. pitch bill on POTUS succession, citing Trump’s COVID diagnosis

House Democrats unveiled legislation Friday to establish rules for presidential succession, citing President Donald Trump’s recent COVID-19 diagnosis and the outbreak among top administration officials. 

The legislation would set up a 16-member bipartisan commission comprised of doctors and former administration officials to conduct a medical exam of the president and evaluate the fitness of the president for office. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters the process was not directed at Trump and was intended to clarify the procedure for future presidents. 

The Democrats’ legislation would address a provision of the 25th Amendment to determine that the president is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” Congress has never acted on the provision.  

The 25th Amendment, ratified in 1967, lays out a legal mechanism for designating a head of state if the president is disabled or dead and also formalized the line of succession for the vice president to take over if the president dies or resigns. 

25th Amendment: Democrats pitch bill on commission on presidential succession, citing Trump’s COVID test

– Nicholas Wu

COVID stimulus update: McConnell says deal ‘unlikely’ before election

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Friday he thinks it’s unlikely Congress will “rise above” and pass any kind of coronavirus stimulus legislation before the Nov. 3 election.

Congressional leaders in the Republican-controlled Senate and the Democrat-run House of Representatives both say another stimulus package is needed as Americans grapple with the health and economic fallout from the ongoing pandemic, but they’ve failed to reach a compromise. 

But McConnell, while at an event in Kentucky, expressed doubt Congress could reach an agreement before the election. 

“I just think the situation’s kind of murky, and I think the murkiness is a result of the proximity to the election and everybody kind of trying to elbow for political advantage,” he said. “I’d like to see us rise above that like we did back in March and April, but I think that’s unlikely in the next three weeks.”

– Morgan Watkins (Louisville Courier Journal)

Mitch McConnell: A COVID-19 relief deal is ‘unlikely’ before Election Day

Trump says he’s considering rallies this weekend

President Donald Trump said Thursday he may hold rallies this weekend in Florida and Pennsylvania, hours after his physicians said he would be cleared to return to the campaign trail on Saturday.

“I think I’m going to try doing a rally on Saturday night, probably in Florida on Saturday,” the president told Fox News, breaking his answer at one point to clear his throat. “Pennsylvania the following night.”

White House physician Sean Conley said Thursday the president had completed his course of therapy for COVID-19 “as prescribed by his team of physicians” and cleared the president to return to public life on Saturday, 10 days since his diagnosis.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines say patients are supposed to quarantine for at least 10 days after the onset of symptoms – in Trump’s case, last Thursday.

Earlier on Thursday Trump said he would bow out of the second presidential debate, scheduled for Oct. 15, after the Commission on Presidential Debates said they would hold a virtual debate out of coronavirus safety concerns.

– John Fritze and Courtney Subramanian

Republican New York state Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, left, talks to President Donald Trump supporter Jill Keane while drumming up votes on the Staten Island borough of New York on Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020. Malliotakis is seeking to unseat U.S. Rep. Max Rose, D-N.Y., a 33 year-old Army veteran who served in Afghanistan, in New York’s 11th Congressional District, a swing district, in the Nov. 3 general election. (Photo: Kathy Willens, AP)

6 charged in plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Whitmer

A team of militia operatives is charged with conspiring to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in a plot in which they considered storming the state Capitol in a commando raid that would use Molotov cocktails to keep police cars at bay, according to newly unsealed court records.

Members of the group bought weapons, conducted surveillance, held training and planning meetings, but they were foiled in part because the FBI infiltrated the group with informants, according to a criminal complaint. Six were charged with federal kidnapping offenses and at least seven others face state charges.

The FBI became aware early in 2020, through social media, that a militia group was “discussing the violent overthrow of certain government and law enforcement components” and “agreed to take violent action,” according to a sworn affidavit.

– Paul Egan and Tresa Baldas (Detroit Free Press)

‘Deeply disturbing’: Feds charge 6 militia members in domestic terror plot to kidnap Whitmer

McConnell says he hasn’t visited White House because of lax COVID rules

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday said he hasn’t visited the White House in two months because of what he saw as lax coronavirus practices.

“My impression was their approach to how to handle this (pandemic) was different from mine and what I insisted we do in the Senate, which was to wear a mask and practice social distancing,” McConnell said during an appearance in Northern Kentucky.

McConnell said he maintains regular phone contact with Trump and that the president “seems perfectly fine.”

But McConnell said he doesn’t have first-hand knowledge of the president’s health condition because he hasn’t visited the White House since Aug. 6. McConnell was not at the Sept.  26 event in the Rose Garden announcing Trump’s Supreme Court nominee – which may have become a “superspreader” event.

– Randy Tucker (Cincinnati Enquirer)

Mitch McConnell:: Senator says he hasn’t visited White House since August because of lax COVID rules

Trump says he won’t do next debate after it goes virtual

President Donald Trump said Thursday he would not take part in the next presidential debate Oct. 15 with former Vice President Joe Biden after it was moved to a virtual format because of COVID-19 safety concerns. 

“I’m not going to waste my time doing a virtual debate,” he told Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo, calling it a “joke” and an effort “to protect Biden.” 

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President Donald Trump told Fox Business that he won’t “waste my time” on a virtual presidential debate.

USA TODAY

The Commission on Presidential Debates announced Thursday morning the next debate would be remote to “protect the health and safety of all involved” after Trump’s positive COVID-19 diagnosis and the subsequent White House outbreak. 

Co-chairman Frank Fahrenkopf said the commission would not host a debate with Biden alone if Trump doesn’t budge. He said the future of the debate rests with Trump: “The ball’s in his court.”

The Trump campaign later said they want to push the remaining two debates back one week each, an idea Biden’s team rejected. 

– Nicholas Wu and Joey Garrison

Trump: Trump won’t do next debate after it goes virtual; Biden schedules solo town hall in its place

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