A member of a Latino election outreach group registers a voter in Florida for the 2020 election [File: Chris O’Meara/The Associated Press]
Tuesday, September 15
11:30 ET – Trump says he wanted to assassinate Syrian president
Amid the wide randing Fox & Friends interview early Tuesday, Trump also revealed he had wanted to assasinate Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad in 2017, but then defense secretary Jim Mattis prevented it.
“I would’ve rather taken him out,” Trump said. “I had him all set. Mattis didn’t want to do it. Mattis was a highly overrated general.”
Trump, according to the Washington Post, had roundly denied he had ever wanted to assassinate Assad.
rump says Woodward book ‘boring’
Trump, in an interview with Fox & Friends, said he read a new book by journalist Bob Woodward that contains revelations that Trump intentionally played down the threat of the coronavirus in the early days of the pandemic.
“I actually got to read it last night. I read it very quickly, and it was very boring,” Trump said of the book, which features recorded interviews in which Trump tells Woodward he knew the coronavirus posed a deadly risk, and was more dangerous than the “strenuous flu”. Trump made the statements as he was publicly saying the coronavirus posed no greater threat than the seasonal flu.When asked if the book was accurate, Trump replied: It’s okay. I mean, it’s fine.”
Trump says vaccine could be approved ‘in a matter of weeks’
Trump, in an interview with the Fox & Friends programme, has said a coronavirus vaccine could be approved “in a matter of weeks”.
The president also denied that his push for a vaccine, which he has repeatedly touted on the campaign trail, is politically motivated. Health experts have voiced concern that Trump could try to fast track a vaccine before November 3, despite it being unrealistic that such a vaccine could properly undergo needed safety tests in that timeframe.
Fueling concerns have been Trump’s attacks on the agency that oversees the safety of US medications. Trump has accused “deep state” actors at the Food and Drug Administration of intentionally slowing approvals to hurt him politically.
“I’m not doing it for political reasons, I want the vaccine fast,” Trump said. “You wouldn’t have a vaccine for years.
“I speeded up the process with the FDA… We’re going to have a vaccine in a matter of weeks, it could be four weeks it could be eight weeks … we have a lot of great companies,” he said.
10:30 ET – Uber to provide in-app voter registration, mail ballot requests
Eligible US voters will soon be able to register to vote and request mail ballots from the Uber ridesharing app, the company has announced.
In the partnership with TurboVote, Uber says it will help “riders, eaters, drivers and delivery people” take part in the election.
“We hope that by giving people the ability to easily register to vote and request an absentee ballot via the Uber and Uber Eats apps, independent workers—and everyone who uses our platform—will have a stronger voice in our democracy,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said in a statement.
The company also said it will offer discounted rides to polling sites on election day.
10:00 ET – Delaware holds primary vote
Biden’s home state Delaware is holding primary voting for US House and Senate seats, as well as for the state’s governor.
Biden on Monday cast an early ballot for Senator Chris Coons, who faces a progressive challenger in 34-year-old Jessica Scarane in the solidly blue state.
Republicans vying for their party’s nomination to run for the seat are 62-year-old former Marine Jim DeMartino, who has the backing of the party’s establishment, and 32-year-old Lauren Witzke, who has been vocal on far-right channels and has voiced support for the QAnon conspiracy theories.
Incumbent Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester is running unopposed, while actor Lee Murphy and furniture sales manager Matthew Morris face-off to be the Republican nominee for the seat.
09:30 ET – Biden promises to ‘work like the Devil’ to win back Latino support in Florida
Biden is set to make his first trip Florida as his party’s official candidate on Tuesday, as his campaign acknowledges concerns about his appeal with Latinos in the state.
On Tuesday, the former vice president will hold a roundtable with veterans in Tampa before marking Hispanic Heritage Month with an event in Kissimmee near Orlando. The visit comes after a batch of new polls showed Trump slightly leading Biden in Latino support in the state. In 2016, Clinton carried the demographic, which makes up 20 percent of the electorate in the influential state, by a 59 percent to 36 percent margin.
“I will talk about how I am going to work like the devil to make sure I turn every Latino and Hispanic vote,” Biden said after a Monday speech on climate change in Delaware.
Biden does not need to win Florida’s 29 electoral votes to capture the White House as long as he reclaims the northern battleground states that Trump flipped in 2016. Meanwhile, Trump’s re-election is considered extremely unlikely if he loses Florida.
09:00 ET – Trump set to host UAE, Bahrain agreements with Israel
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain will become the first Gulf states to sign agreements towards normalising relations with Israel in a US-brokered deal that has been portrayed as an election season coup for Trump.
Trump will host the White House ceremony at 16:00 GMT, capping a dramatic month when first the UAE and then Bahrain agreed to reverse decades of ill will without a resolution of Israel’s decades-old dispute with the Palestinians.
On Tuesday, Trump also said he would have “no problem” selling F-35 stealth fighter jets to the UAE, a prospect Israel has pushed back on in attempts to maintain its overwhelming military advantage against its Arab neighbours.
Analysts have said the UAE likely used its desire for the advanced aircraft as a bargaining chip in the negotiations over the normalisation agreement.
The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain on Tuesday will become the latest Arab states to break a long-standing taboo when they sign agreements towards normalising relations with Israel in a strategic realignment of Middle Eastern countries against Iran.
United States President Donald Trump will host a White House ceremony at 12 noon local time (16:00 GMT), capping a dramatic month when first the UAE and then Bahrain agreed to reverse decades of ill will without a resolution of Israel’s decades-old dispute with the Palestinians.
At the US-brokered event, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will sign agreements with Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani.
The deals make them the third and fourth Arab states to take such steps to normalise ties since Israel signed peace treaties with Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.
The UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, said on Tuesday his country’s decision to normalise relations with Israel had “broken the psychological barrier” and was “the way forward” for the region.
The back-to-back agreements, which have drawn bitter condemnation from the Palestinians, mark an improbable diplomatic victory for Trump. He has spent his presidency forecasting deals on such intractable problems as North Korea’s nuclear programme only to find actual achievements elusive.
Bringing Israel, the UAE and Bahrain together may be their shared concern about Iran’s rising influence in the region and development of ballistic missiles. Iran has been critical of both deals. Fellow Gulf state Qatar has ruled out normalising ties with Israel until the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved.
With Trump up for re-election on November 3, the accords could help shore up support among pro-Israel Christian evangelical voters in the US, an important part of his political base.
Speaking to Fox News hours before the ceremony, Trump said he expected more Arab countries to normalise ties with Israel and predicted the Palestinians would eventually join as well or else be “left out in the cold”.
One target of White House appeals is Saudi Arabia, the biggest Gulf Arab power. So far, the Saudis, whose king is custodian of Islam’s holiest sites and rules the world’s largest oil exporter, have signalled they are not ready.
Another target is Oman, whose leader spoke with Trump last week. Oman was expected to send its ambassador to Tuesday’s ceremony, a senior US official said. But there was no word on whether the Saudis would attend.
Qatar’s foreign ministry spokeswoman, Lolwah al-Khater, told Bloomberg on Monday that normalising relations with Isreal “can’t be the answer” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Netanyahu under domestic pressure
Although a diplomatic win for Netanyahu, the ceremony takes place while he faces criticism at home of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and a corruption trial on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust that have led to frequent street protests.
Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing and describes his trial as a left-wing political witch-hunt aimed at unseating a popular right-wing leader.
A senior Trump administration official said that Israel would sign separate agreements with each of the Gulf states and that then the US would join all three in signing a common document known as the Abraham Accords.
The official declined to provide specifics.
In a nod to the coronavirus that has hit the US and the world, the White House is encouraging but not requiring the participants to wear masks. Though the mood of the ceremony is expected to be warm, it will be up to the leaders whether they want to shake hands, the official told reporters.
Some differences remain despite warming ties. Trump said on Tuesday he would have no problem selling advanced stealth F-35 fighter jets to the UAE, which has long sought to obtain them. But Israel, which has the F-35, has made clear it still objects to such a sale.
Frustrated by the Palestinians’ refusal to take part in Trump’s Middle East peace initiative, the White House has sought to bypass them in hopes they will see the deals with the UAE and Bahrain as incentives, even leverage, for peace talks.
Prompted by the “normalisation” of ties between Arab states and Israel, fractured Palestinian political factions are working diligently in multilateral talks to restore unity and mend the division between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank in negotiations far more promising than previous efforts.
The Palestinian leadership, which has long accused Trump of pro-Israel bias, has denounced the Arab rapprochement with Israel as a betrayal of their cause, even though Netanyahu agreed, in return for normalisation with the UAE, to suspend a plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.
Palestinians view the new agreements as weakening a long-standing pan-Arab position that calls for Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories and acceptance of Palestinian statehood in return for normal relations with Arab countries.
Though negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians last broke down in 2014, some Gulf Arab states and several other Arab countries have long had quiet, informal contacts with Israel.