Washington in grip of Covid disarray as Trump campaign struggles

While US President Donald Trump’s campaign was struggling to get on track as he recovers from Covid-19, his senior adviser Stephen Miller tested positive and the nation’s top military leadership has quarantined itself.

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley and some service chiefs were self-quarantining themselves on Tuesday after having been in contact with Coast Guard Vice Commandant Charles Ray, who tested positive for Covid-19, a Pentagon spokesperson said.

Although not directly connected to Trump, the quarantining of Pentagon’s top tier reflects the disarray in the nation’s capital.

Miller is one of about 20 people in the White House or who have advisory roles with Trump to have come down with the coronavirus. Many others were isolating themselves as a precaution.

“Clearly the White House is in complete disarray,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, said.

Politico reported that Trump, who returned from a military hospital on Monday, spent Tuesday “sealed off in the second-floor residence with a downsized staff around him. He only met in person with a few PPE-clad top aides, including Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Assistant to the President Dan Scavino.”

With Trump’s participation in the presidential debate scheduled for October 15 up in the air, the spotlight on Wednesday will be on Vice President Mike Pence as he faces off Democratic nominee Kamala Harris in vice-presidential debate.

Pence has tested negative so far for Covid-19 despite contacts with Trump and the debate will take place under extraordinary precautions like having a Plexiglass partition — a glaring reminder of the Covid-19 pandemic overshadowing the debate.

The Trump-Pence campaign has yet to reveal clear plans for continuing its electioneering with Trump unable to travel.

Democratic Party’s presidential nominee Joe Biden said that the debate should be called off if Trump still had the Covid-19.

Biden told reporters, “If he still has Covid, we shouldn’t have a debate.”

He added, “Too many people have been infected. It’s a very serious problem.”

While Trump can’t campaign, Biden spoke to supporters on Tuesday at Gettysburg, a spot hallowed for the stirring address by Abraham Lincoln during a crucial moment in the Civil War.

Reprising Lincoln, he said, “Today, once again, we are a house divided,” and followed up his theme of uniting the nation and upholding democracy.

Biden avoided direct personal attacks on Trump but made his message clear: “Too many Americans seek not to overcome our divisions, but to deepen them. We must seek not to build walls, but bridges.”

In another echo of Lincoln, he said, “It cannot be that here and now in 2020 we will allow the government of the people, by the people and for the people to perish on this Earth.”

In a sign of the nation divided, Trump called off negotiations with Pelosi on a stimulus package for a nation reeling from the pandemic.

He abruptly rejected the Covid-19 package crucial to the election that Pelosi was negotiating with his administration, accusing her of not negotiating in good faith.

“Nancy Pelosi is asking for $2.4 trillion to bail out poorly run, high crime, Democrat States, money that is in no way related to Covid-19. We made a very generous offer of $1.6 Trillion ,” he tweeted.

With elections 27 days away from Wednesday and the withholding of personal stimulus $1,200 cheques hurting voters, he offered a compromise of agreeing to only that and a package for small businesses.

Trump has not been directly negotiating with Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has been the pointperson on the talks for the relief package to help individuals, businesses and state and local governments cope with the crisis.

Pelosi said, “Today, once again, President Trump showed his true colours: putting himself first at the expense of the country.”

Trump asked Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader of the majority in the Senate, to pursue the approval of his conservative Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett before the election. That hangs by a slender thread with two Republican senators on the Judicial Committee, which must first take up the nomination, down with Covid-19.