Trump news: President gets defensive over plummeting polls as Pence, Pelosi, Biden and others pay respects to John Lewis

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AFP via Getty Images
AFP via Getty Images

Asked at a coronavirus briefing about mounting criticism over the federal government’s response to the pandemic and his plunging polls, Donald Trump noted that he created the Space Force, telling a reporter: “What we’ve done has never been done.”

A round of polls over the weekend show his Democratic rival Joe Biden ahead in three key battle ground states that the president won in 2016.

The president also refused to answer whether he addressed the Russian bounty scandal with Vladimir Putin during a short briefing in North Carolina on Monday before returning to the White House, which confirmed in a statement to The Independent that National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien has tested positive for coronavirus. The president claimed he had not recently met with the key official – whose office is positioned close to the Oval Office.

Herman Cain, a Trump ally and former presidential candidate, remains in a hospital three weeks after he tested positive on 29 June. He attended the president's Tulsa rally on 20 June and was hospitalised 11 days later. He is "being treated with oxygen for his lungs," according to a statement.

The president claimed on Monday that advancements towards a vaccine are "substantially ahead of schedule" as he urged states to reopen after a spike in new infections over the last month has thrust nationwide infections to more than 4 million.

"A lot of the governors should be opening up states that they're not opening, and we'll see what happens with them," he said.

More officers from a swath of federal agencies are expected to be deployed to Portland, Oregon amid a crackdown on protests in the city. The "surge" of federal agents across the US has been met with widespread blowback from city and state officials.

Portland protest groups including members from the Wall of Moms have sued the administration over allegations that federal agents tear-gassed, pepper-sprayed and injured peaceful demonstrators.

The body of civil rights giant and congressman John Lewis entered the US Capitol, where he will lie in state. The president told reporters he would not join other Washington officials to pay respects.

A group of senators on Monday also urged Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Judiciary Committee chair Lindsey Graham to take up a vote on a measure that now bears Mr Lewis's name.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act seeks to restore key provisions in the landmark anti-discrimination law that were struck down by the US Supreme Court in 2013. Mr Lewis fought for full enfranchisement throughout his activism and career.

Senate Republicans meanwhile unveiled a $1 trillion coronavirus relief package as federal unemployment relief expires across the US for millions of out-of-work Americans. Democrats say the legislation does not go far enough, falling short of the threats to people facing evictions amid mass unemployment and rising infections. US Covid-19-related deaths are nearing 150,000.

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