Trump struggles to project a sense of normalcy after canceled debate

“I want you to get the same care that I got,” Trump said in a video message to senior citizens released Thursday afternoon on Twitter. “You’re going to get the same medicine — you’re going to get it free, no charge.”

But the president’s attempts to depict a back-to-normal presidency were punctured when the Commission on Presidential Debates announced Thursday morning that next week’s scheduled town hall meeting with Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden would take place virtually rather than in person.

The commission’s move came amid uncertainty over Trump’s infectiousness, given his recent diagnosis and hospitalization with the deadly virus. Trump immediately lashed out, telling Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo that he would not participate in a “ridiculous” virtual debate.

The commission’s decision seemed to spark a frenzy of aggressive acrimony from Trump, and claims that were notable even by the president’s standards.

During his hourlong interview with Bartiromo, Trump twice called Democratic vice-presidential nominee Kamala D. Harris a “monster,” made baseless spying accusations against his predecessor and attacked several members of his own Cabinet.

He claimed that federal law enforcement was “watching” the Nevada governor and an unidentified New Mexico official for potential voter fraud as he continued to assail voting by mail as inherently corrupt.

He also continued to downplay the pandemic, describing that the virus that has killed more than 212,000 Americans as little more than an inconvenience.

“And, remember this, when you catch it, you get better. And then you’re immune, you know?” Trump said, adding that he believed he could have recovered from his sickness without the cocktail of multiple drugs he received.

By the end of Trump’s tour-de-force, Vice President Pence’s performance at his debate the night before had become little more than an afterthought and, for many Republicans, a fleeting memory of normalcy in a presidential campaign.

Biden, meanwhile, continued to campaign across the country, traveling to Phoenix after receiving another negative test for the virus that has kept Trump sidelined for a week.

Though he was just released from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Monday, Trump is eager to do campaign events, according to four advisers, who, like others interviewed for this report, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. The president would like to be back on the road starting Monday, advisers said.

But even as he has asserted that he’s “clean” and does not believe he is contagious, his doctors have offered only limited information about his condition. It remains unclear when the president last tested negative for the virus — a question White House officials dodged for a fifth consecutive day Thursday. White House doctors have also declined to release information about the viral load detected within the president.

White House physician Sean Conley, who has released only brief memos describing Trump’s status since Monday, said earlier this week that he would like to monitor the president through this coming weekend to ensure his health does not relapse. On Thursday, Conley

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Trump’s efforts to project normalcy run into reality as virus courses through the White House, the Capitol and the Pentagon.

President Trump’s efforts to project normalcy after being hospitalized with Covid-19 a month before Election Day ran into a major stumbling block on Tuesday: the reality on the ground in Washington, where the coronavirus outbreak has upended the federal government.

  • The White House, the leading coronavirus hot spot in the nation’s capital, resembled a ghost town, with its most famous inhabitant convalescing in the residence, as a number of advisers and other officials stayed home, either because they had contracted the coronavirus or had been near people who did, including the press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, who announced on Monday that she had tested positive.

  • The Capitol, a beehive workplace for 535 legislators and thousands of staff, was eerily empty on Tuesday after Senate leaders agreed to adjourn for two weeks beginning Monday, even as Republicans are trying to fast-track Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court. More than 40 senators, along with more than a dozen congressional aides and reporters, have been tested for the coronavirus since late last week, officials said on Tuesday. Three Republican senators — Mike Lee of Utah, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin — have tested positive in recent days.

  • Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, along with several of the Pentagon’s most senior uniformed leaders, was quarantining after being exposed to the coronavirus, a Defense Department official said on Tuesday. The official said almost the entirety of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, including Gen. James C. McConville, the Army chief of staff, are quarantining after Adm. Charles Ray, the vice commandant of the Coast Guard, tested positive for coronavirus.

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