As the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 nears 100,000, President Donald Trump on Wednesday traveled to the battleground state of Florida to witness the first takeoff of American astronauts from U.S. soil in nine years — before the launch was scrubbed due to bad weather.
Trump began his day on Twitter, claiming Democrats and the news media are trying to make him look “slow” in responding to the pandemic and shifting focus to what he called a milestone — on testing.
Notably, despite the U.S. having completed the highest number of tests, there are several countries with higher levels of testing per capita.
He met Wednesday morning in the Oval Office with New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who was photographed entering the White House wearing a mask, something Trump has declined to do before cameras and has questioned why his political opponent Joe Biden has done so.
As he continues his push to reopen the country, when asked at an afternoon Rose Garden news conference on Tuesday what message he had for those flouting restrictions, Trump replied, “Be safe,” saying nothing more, declining to criticize them.
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Here are Wednesday’s most significant developments in Washington:
With Trump in attendance, SpaceX launch postponed due to weather
After President Trump and Vice President Pence made the trip to Florida to witness the historic launch of a SpaceX rocket carrying NASA astronauts, the mission was scrubbed due to inclement weather.
When Trump arrived at the Kennedy Center he was asked if he had a message for the astronauts, the president said, “good luck.”
“God be with you. It’s dangerous business, but they are the best there is. So we just want them to be safe,” he said.
After it was announced that the launch is being pushed to Saturday, Trump’s motorcade departed for the airport, without the president having made any remarks, as planned.
It’s unclear if the president and vice president will return to Florida for the next scheduled attempt.
Cuomo slams GOP after White House meeting: ‘There’s no good government concept anymore’
Although Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York, a Democrat, claimed his Wednesday meeting with President Donald Trump was not politically driven, he didn’t mince words in his criticism afterwards against some of Trump’s allies on Capitol Hill, declaring that “good government” is gone from America.
“There is no good government concept anymore. It’s politics 365 days a year, from the moment they’re elected to the moment they run again, it’s all politics — and that is poison,” Cuomo said.
The governor said transportation and infrastructure funds, along with relief resources for the state and local governments, were the topics of his meeting with the president — but he mainly using his daily news conference, this one from Washington, to attack Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Congressional Republicans on partisan politics.
“Nobody elected anyone to engage in partisan politics. There was a time when as a nation we were smart enough to say, you want to play politics? That’s what a campaign is for,” Cuomo said. “Don’t play your politics at the expense of the citizens you represent.”
As he has previously, Cuomo attacked McConnell for his previous comments against “blue state bailouts” and suggested its hypocrisy.
“Why do they have their hand out every year? They’re against redistribution of wealth. That’s what they all say,” Cuomo said, pointing out, as he has before, that McConnell’s home state of Kentucky gets more federal funding annually than blue states like New York.
“Kentucky takes out $138 billion more than they put in,” Cuomo said last month when McConnell suggested states should declare bankruptcy instead of receiving federal assistance. “Your state is getting bailed out — not my state.”
While he acknowledged disagreements with Trump, Cuomo said after their meeting Wednesday he believes the president is interested in stimulating the economy through large-scale infrastructure projects and said their conversation stayed focused on “supercharging” the country’s reopening.
“There are political differences between myself and the president. You could go a google search and find 400 nasty tweets about political differences. Personally, I don’t have a political agenda. I said to the president when this first started was put the politics aside. At the meeting we just had it was the same way. It was about how do we supercharge the reopening especially in New York which was hardest hit,” Cuomo said.
Notably, the governor and his aides were spotted entering the White House Wednesday morning wearing masks — an act the president continues to resist doing, in public at least.
Fauci says there is a good chance a COVID-19 vaccine would be deployable by the end of 2020
The government’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, appearing on CNN Wednesday morning, said that there is a good chance that a vaccine for coronavirus would be deployable by the end of the year.
“I still think that we have a good chance — if all the things fall in the right place — that we might have a vaccine that would be deployable by the end of the year,” Fauci said.
He underscored that the process to develop a vaccine is not a smooth one.
“There are a lot of landmines and hiccups that occur,” Fauci said.
The infectious disease expert also emphasized that the rapid development of a vaccine would not come “at the expense of safety nor scientific integrity.”
Asked about France’s ban of hydroxychloroquine for coronavirus treatment, Fauci said he’s “not so sure” it should be banned, “but clearly the scientific data is really quite evident now about the lack of efficacy.”
He pointed out that recent studies had shown that dangerous side effects from hydroxychloroquine “might be rare, but you’d see it, adverse events, particularly with regard to cardiovascular.”
— ABC News’ Elizabeth Thomas