President Donald Trump traveled to Lumberton, North Carolina, on Saturday for what the White House billed as remarks in honor of the Lumbee Tribe, the largest Native American tribe in North Carolina and the largest one east of the Mississippi River.
Members of the tribe were among supporters and some in the audience held red "Lumbees for Trump" signs as the crowd cheered and a drum was beaten at the rally-like event.
But Trump spent little time talking about his work for Native American communities and instead leveled attacks against his Democratic challenger Joe Biden, whom he mocked for holding a drive-in rally earlier on Saturday. Trump, who recovered from COVID-19 earlier this month, appeared to again downplay a new nationwide wave of COVID-19 infections after the U.S. broke a single-day record for new cases.
"We're rounding the turn," Trump said even as 12 states set new case records over the last week. "We're doing great, our numbers are incredible."
The U.S. reported more than 83,000 new confirmed cases on Friday, shattering the previous record of more than 77,000 cases in July, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The surge has led to more than 8.4 million cases and pushed the death toll to more than 223,000 people.
Trump railed against media coverage of the coronavirus pandemic: "That's all I hear about now. Turn on the TV, 'Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid."
The president also complained about national polling, which has shown him consistently trailing Joe Biden two weeks before Election Day.
"You know, when I get them in my favor, I like them. When they come in my favor, I repeat them all the time. I say they're great. When they're not in my favor, I don't discuss that."
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Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, said Friday that Trump has not attended a coronavirus task force meeting in "several months" and the meetings themselves have greatly "diminished".
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Pence chief of staff Marc Short tests positive for COVID-19
WASHINGTON – Marc Short, chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, tested positive for COVID-19 Saturday, Pence's spokesman said in a statement Saturday night after reports that another senior adviser had also tested positive.
Short began quarantining Saturday and assisting in the contact tracing process, Pence spokesman Devin O'Malley said in a statement.
Both Pence and his wife, Karen, tested negative Saturday and Pence is not curtailing his schedule despite having been in close contact with Short, according to the statement.
Pence was in the middle of his second campaign rally in Florida Saturday when Bloomberg reported that Marty Obst, his senior political adviser, had tested positive.
Bloomberg said it wasn't immediately clear whether Obst had developed symptoms of COVID-19.
– Maureen Groppe
Reports: Top Pence adviser Marty Obst tests positive for coronavirus
WASHINGTON – One of Vice President Mike Pence closest advisers had tested positive for the novel coronavirus earlier this week, Bloomberg reported Saturday.
Bloomberg said it wasn't immediately clear whether Marty Obst, Pence's senior political adviser, had developed symptoms of COVID-19.
CNN reported that Obst tested positive earlier this week.
Obst and Pence's office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Obst, who often travels with the vice president, is not the first Pence aide who has tested positive. Katie Miller, Pence's communications director, contracted the virus in May.
– Maureen Groppe
Pence speaks to crowd of Trump supporters in Florida
LAKELAND, Fla. — Roughly a thousand Trump supporters greeted Vice President Mike Pence under a hot October sun at Lakeland Linder International Airport on Saturday afternoon.
“Here in Florida you believe we could be strong again, you believe we could be prosperous again,” Pence said at the rally. “You said yes to President Donald Trump in 2016 and I know that Florida will say yes to Florida resident President Donald Trump in 2020.”
The vice president spoke on a variety of subjects, including how Trump created “the most prosperous economy in history.”
– Sara-Megan Walsh, The Lakeland Ledger
First lady Melania Trump will vote in person
President Donald Trump voted early during a visit to Florida on Saturday but first lady Melania Trump is taking a more traditional route: She’ll cast her ballot in person on Nov. 3.
The first lady, who is registered to vote in Florida, did not accompany the president to the West Palm Beach library near his private Mar-a-Lago club where he voted on Saturday.
Instead, she’ll vote on Election Day, spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said. Trump moved his official address from New York to battleground Florida last year.
Trump told reporters after leaving the voting location on Saturday that it was "an honor" to be voting and that he cast a "very secure vote."
"I voted for a guy named Trump," he said.
– John Fritze
She still thinks it should wait, but Murkowski will vote to confirm Barrett
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who had previously said she opposed the Senate’s consideration of a Supreme Court nominee before Election Day, announced on the Senate floor Saturday she would continue her opposition to moving forward on Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination, but would ultimately vote to confirm her.
The Alaska Republican drew a distinction between her opposition to the process and her support for Barrett’s confirmation, saying she was following the "precedent that I have set for myself" after Republicans opposed President Barack Obama’s 2016 nomination of Judge Merrick Garland by calling for the nomination to wait until after the voters cast their ballots on Nov. 3.
But the decision to confirm or reject Barrett was different, Murkowski said.
"At the end of the process is the substantive question of whether Judge Barrett should be categorically rejected," she said.
And Murkowski concluded Barrett was in fact "the sort of person that we want on the Supreme Court," citing her writing, her "intellectual curiosity," and conversations with Barrett.
Murkowski’s decision means Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, will likely be the only Senate Republican to vote against Barrett’s nomination when it comes up for a final vote.
The 53-47 partisan split of the Senate means that the decisions of Collins and Murkowski would not have affected the final outcome. Both a key procedural vote to limit debate on Sunday and the final confirmation vote on Monday only require a simple majority.
– Nicholas Wu
Biden tells supporters he’s 'not banning fracking' during Pa. Rally
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden clarified his position on fracking Saturday during a drive-in rally in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
"I’m not banning fracking in Pennsylvania or anywhere else," Biden told supporters in Bristol, a suburb of Philadelphia. "I can protect Pennsylvania jobs, period."
Biden's declaration comes after President Donald Trump accused Biden of wanting to ban fracking during the presidential debate on Thursday. Biden denied Trump’s comments, saying that he never said he opposed fracking.
Biden added that he would "transition" from the oil industry and replace it with "renewable energy over time," a comment the Trump campaign and its surrogates criticized, saying that it could cost him several swing states.
“This probably will put the nail in the coffin for Joe Biden in Pennsylvania," senior Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller claimed.
During his rally, Biden also mentioned that he misses up-close campaigning but doesn’t want to have "superspreader" events, which seems to be a reference to Trump’s campaign events.
"I don’t like the idea of all this distance, but it’s necessary," Biden said. "We don’t want to become superspreaders."
– Sarah Elbeshbishi
Senate debates Barrett confirmation in Saturday session
The Senate convened Saturday for a rare weekend session to debate Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell lined up a Monday confirmation vote over Democratic objections.
McConnell opened the session by responding to Democrats’ arguments about the process.
"Judge Barrett’s confirmation process has followed every rule," he said. "It’s followed the Constitution in every respect. We have abided by the norms and traditions dictated by our history."
Democrats lack the votes to block her nomination and instead have voiced concerns over holding the confirmation process amid the COVID-19 pandemic and about the timing of the confirmation.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer responded to McConnell, denouncing Republicans’ "shameful lockstep subservience to President Trump" and called Barrett’s nomination process a "stain" on McConnell and on the Senate.
Democratic senators, attempting to slow Barrett’s nomination, tried Saturday to force the Senate to consider COVID-19 relief legislation, a bill granting some undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship, and other legislation.
But they were blocked by Republicans.
"This isn’t serious," said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., after Schumer tried to bring up COVID-19 relief legislation, noting Schumer earlier in the week had tried to force the Senate to adjourn until after Election Day.
– Nicholas Wu
Trump casts 'very secure vote' for himself in Florida
President Donald Trump took advantage of early voting while in Florida Saturday morning before taking off for a trio of campaign rallies in North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin.
Trump cast his ballot at the West Palm Beach library near his private Mar-a-Lago club. The president told reporters after leaving the library it was "an honor" to be voting and that he cast a "very secure vote."
"I voted for a guy named Trump," he said.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the president used a paper ballot and no one was inside voting at the same time as Trump.
The president, who changed his official residency from New York to Florida earlier this year, cast absentee ballots in the March presidential primary and in the Aug. 18 primary election.
Trump told supporters at a campaign rally on Friday that he liked voting in-person.
"I'm old fashioned, I guess," he said.
Trump is staging a campaign rally spree in the final 10-day stretch of the election with six rallies planned over the next three days. The president will travel to Lumberton, North Carolina, Circleville, Ohio, and Waukesha, Wisconsin, on Saturday to deliver remarks despite warnings from health officials that such mass events are likely to add to the surge in coronavirus cases across the country.
Several states set records this week for COVID-19 cases and the U.S. recorded more than 71,000 new cases on Thursday for the first time since the end of July when cases were surging, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, cast their ballots Friday in Indianapolis. They used the absentee ballots they had requested in early September.
– Courtney Subramanian
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump touts 'incredible' COVID numbers as cases soar: election updates