Trump news: Top Democrat compares president to Mussolini as White House admits it is 'very concerned' over coronavirus deaths rising

Kate Ng, Alex Woodward
President Donald Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence arrive to participate in a roundtable with stakeholders positively impacted by law enforcement, in the East Room of the White House: AFP via Getty Images

The White House coronavirus task force has warned that deaths will continue to spike within the next several weeks as the nation responds to a "new phase" of the pandemic that has gripped both rural and urban areas despite scrutiny from health experts that the administration failed to respond to the crisis at its onset.

Donald Trump has meanwhile issued a rare direct rebuke of the nation's leading infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci, whom the president said is "wrong" to blame the surging public health crisis on the nation's failure to shut down its economy.

Assistant health secretary Brett Giroir pushed back against claims promoted by president and his allies suggesting that hydroxychloroquine can treat Covid-19 patients.

The president has recently defended a controversial doctor who called it a "cure" despite no evidence supporting that.

"I think most physicians and prescribers are evidence-based and they're not influenced by Twitter," Admiral Giroir told NBC on Sunday. "The evidence does not show that hydroxychloroquine is effective right now ... We need to move on from that and talk about what is effective."

Democrats also raised alarms following the president's threats to the general election, with House Majority Whip James Clyburn declaring the president the "Mussolini" to Russian president Vladimir Putin's
Hitler".

"I don't think he plans to leave the White House," he told CNN on Sunday. "He doesn't plan to have fair and unfettered elections. I believe that he plans to instal himself in some kind of emergency way to continue to hold onto office."

Stacey Abrams, a contender for Joe Biden's running mate, said the president's threats are "trying to distract us from his oversight and leadership, or failed leadership" amid the pandemic.

A vote to secure the president's nomination for his re-election could be held privately without members of the press later this month, for the first time in modern history, though GOP officials have disputed reports that would leave journalists out of the process.

A spokesperson for the Republican National Convention (RNC) said the decision was due to “health restrictions and limitations in place within the state of North Carolina”, where 336 delegates were scheduled to gather in Charlotte on 24 August to formally vote to make Mr Trump the party’s standard-bearer once again.

GOP officials said on Sunday that organisers are still determining logistics to accommodate the press.

Such nominating conventions are traditionally designed to be in the media’s spotlight so political parties can draw attention to the events and amplify their platforms.

The news comes as Tropical Storm Isaias, which was downgraded from a hurricane, is set to brush the east coast of Florida as it heads northwest with top sustained winds of 70 miles per hour. The National Hurricane Centre has said the storm will move near or along the state’s east coast on Sunday. Florida’s central and northern east coast could be hit by a storm surge of as much as four feet (1.22m) as the storm pushes tidal levels above normal.

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