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Israel, UAE agree to normalize ties in what Trump calls ‘historic’ agreement

President Donald Trump said in a surprise announcement Thursday that Israel and the United Arab Emirates had agreed to normalize relations and that, as part of the deal, Israel would not annex parts of the West Bank it currently occupies.

“Israel and the United Arab Emirates will fully normalize their diplomatic relations,” Trump said, surrounded by aides in the Oval Office. “They will exchange embassies and ambassadors and begin cooperation across the board and on a broad range of areas including tourism, education, healthcare, trade and security.”

In a joint statement, Trump, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the UAE’s ruler, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, said that the “historic diplomatic breakthrough will advance peace in the Middle East region.”

PHOTO: This combination of pictures shows Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed. (AFP via Getty Images)

Delegations from Israel and the UAE “will meet in the coming weeks to sign bilateral agreements regarding investment, tourism, direct flights, security, telecommunications, technology, energy, healthcare, culture, the environment, the establishment of reciprocal embassies, and other areas of mutual benefit,” the leaders said in the statement, released Thursday morning.

“Now that the ice has been broken, I expect more Arab and Muslim countries will follow the United Arab Emirates’ lead,” Trump said.

While the president lauded the deal as a “peace agreement,” the UAE stopped short of using that terminology and instead emphasized the fact that Israel had committed to not annex parts of the West Bank. Netanyahu had been contemplating doing so in recent months, using a peace proposal released by the White House earlier this year to support the move — which had drawn condemnation across the world.

MORE: President Trump unveils Middle East peace plan embraced by Israel, rejected by Palestinians

In his first comment on the agreement, Prince Mohammed wrote on Twitter that “an agreement was reached to stop further Israeli annexation of Palestinian territories.”

“The UAE and Israel also agreed to cooperation and setting a roadmap towards establishing a bilateral relationship,” the crown prince added.

PHOTO: President Donald Trump smiles in the Oval Office at the White House, Aug. 13, 2020. (Andrew Harnik/AP)
PHOTO: President Donald Trump smiles in the Oval Office at the White House, Aug. 13, 2020. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

But later Thursday, Netanyahu referred to Israel’s annexation plans as temporarily paused. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner declined to say what “temporary” meant.

“Somewhere between a long time and a short time,” Kushner, whom the president had tasked with solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, said, when asked by a reporter at the White House.

Israel has formal diplomatic ties with just two other Arab countries, Egypt and Jordan, with which it signed peace treaties in 1979 and 1994, respectively.

But it has also come to cooperate in recent years with Gulf Arab states, including the UAE — unofficially — in large part on security matters related to what they view as a shared enemy in Iran.

Palestinian leaders, meanwhile, have pushed Arab and Muslim states to hold off normalizing ties with Israel until the Jewish state resolves its conflict with the Palestinian people. They called Thursday’s announcement a “betrayal” by the UAE.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called an emergency meeting to discuss the announcement, according to the Palestinian news agency Wafa.

PHOTO: President Donald Trump welcomes Crown Prince Shaikh Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan of United Arab Emirates, for a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House, on May 15, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images, FILE)
PHOTO: President Donald Trump welcomes Crown Prince Shaikh Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan of United Arab Emirates, for a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House, on May 15, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images, FILE)

A spokesman for Abbas, Nabil Abu Rdeneh, said that the agreement amounted to “treason” and that it should be retracted, according to the Associated Press. Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, said the deal was a “stabbing in the back of our people,” according to the AP.

Trump’s top national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, said the president “has not forgotten” the Palestinians, but Kushner said “a lot of people in the region are seeing that we can’t wait for the Palestinian leadership to try and resolve this.”

“Every country is going to do what’s in their best interest, what’s in the region’s best interest, and we have big problems in the world and we can’t be stuck in the past,” Kushner said. “We have to be moving forward.”

In their joint statement Thursday, Trump, Netanyahu and Prince Mohammed said Israel and the UAE would “immediately expand and accelerate cooperation regarding the treatment of and the development of a vaccine for the coronavirus.”

MORE: Timing of Mideast peace plan rollout appears designed to contrast with impeachment trial: ANALYSIS

At the White House, Trump called the agreement “historic” and said it would be called the Abraham Accord, which the U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, explained was intended to signal “the potential for unity” among Muslims, Jews and Christians.

“I wanted it to be called the Donald J. Trump Accord, but I didn’t think the press would understand that,” Trump said to laughter from his aides. “So, I didn’t do that.”

Asked if he supported Israel annexing Palestinian land, Trump said “we’re talking to Israel about that right now,” without elaborating. Later, asked during a news conference how long Israel would suspend its annexation plan, Trump deferred to Friedman, who was sitting nearby.

“How long that takes, I can’t tell you, but that’s — we prioritize peace over the sovereignty movement,” he said. “But it’s not off the table, it’s just something that will be deferred until we give peace every single chance.

Trump promised “an official signing at the White House over the next few weeks,” later saying he thought it would happen within three weeks.

Such a ceremony, if it happened, would come just a couple months before the Nov. 3 vote in which Americans render a verdict on whether Trump should have a second term as president.

Trump has long pitched himself as a dealmaker, but in three and a half years as president has overseen few major international agreements.

His proposal for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, which he unveiled in January, was immediately rejected by the Palestinians and has yet to produce any movement.

On Thursday, Kushner, who oversaw the development of that plan, said he did not know when such a deal could be reached.

“I don’t know if it will happen tomorrow,” Kushner said. “I don’t know if it’ll happen next month. I don’t know if it’ll happen next year. But at some point, we always learn with deals that there’s a thing called gravity.”

But announcing the Israel-UAE agreement, Trump’s aides lavished him with praise.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if the President is eventually nominated for a Nobel Prize,” the president’s top national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, told reporters Thursday. “Today’s work is an example of why he would be rightly considered and should be a front-runner for the Nobel Peace Prize.”

ABC News’ Nasser Atta contributed reporting from Jerusalem.

Israel, UAE agree to normalize ties in what Trump calls ‘historic’ agreement originally appeared on abcnews.go.com

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How Donald Trump has already handed Joe Biden a debate win

“Joe Biden is slipping. Now at the age of 77 years old and running for president for the third time, Biden is clearly diminished. Joe Biden does not have the strength, stamina and mental fortitude required to lead this country.”

And then there’s the Instagram and other social media feeds of people like Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, the president’s two oldest sons, which are filled with memes painting Biden as clueless — or worse.

The message is relentless and clear: The presumptive Democratic nominee is not mentally fit to be president. He’s not up to the job he is seeking.

All of which brings me to the three scheduled general election debates between Biden and Trump on September 29, October 15 and October 22.

As Axios’ Jonathan Swan — yes, the face meme guy — reported on Sunday, the Trump campaign sees the debates as increasingly important as the incumbent seeks a change in the operating dynamic of the race. Here’s what Swan reported:

“Among President Trump’s closest aides, these debates have taken on outsized importance to close the polling gap and get Trump within striking distance by Election Day. The Trump campaign views the debates as the crucial inflection points left before Nov. 3.

“‘I don’t think he [Trump] sees the debates as the last inflection points, but potentially the most important,’ said a source familiar with the results of the planning meeting. ‘I think he always thinks he can create an inflection point.'”

Which is true! There’s nothing obvious — short of some ahistorical VP pick by Biden that proves to be a cataclysm — that will change the race’s trajectory between now and the debates.

And now for the problem for Trump: Having spent months attacking Biden as barely there mentally, he has drastically lowered the expectations for the former vice president when it comes to debate performance.

Think about it: The image of Biden pushed by Trump is a guy who is totally out of it. Who is being controlled by forces he is unaware of. Who can’t stand on his own two feet (figuratively speaking). If Biden simply sounds moderately credible and conversant in the debates, that image is going to be upended. And at least some people who bought the Trump idea that Biden isn’t up to the job will be forced to reckon with the fact that, well, the former VP is someone who appears to a) be able to put two sentences together and b) knows where he is.

Those remarkably low expectations for Biden’s performance in the general election debates are a godsend for him. During the Democratic primary process — and its monthly debates — it became clear that the former Delaware senator was, at best, a mediocre debater. He tried to stuff 10 minutes of facts into a two-minute answer. He would change thoughts — and lines of argument — in the middle of a sentence. He would simply stop talking when his allotted time ran out. He would occasionally fade into the background, despite being the race’s front-runner.

In short: Joe Biden isn’t a terribly good debater. He may have his moments, but it’s just not his strong suit. Never has been.

Which makes Trump’s attempts to portray Biden as utterly out of it all the more confounding strategically. And why the Trump campaign is trying to reshape its messaging on Biden — and quickly.

“Joe Biden is actually a very good debater,” Trump White House aide Stephen Miller told The Washington Post over the weekend. “He doesn’t have as many gaffes as he does in his everyday interviews. I would make the argument that Joe Biden would even be the favorite in the debates since he’s been doing them for 47 years.”

You get the idea. Joe Biden can’t be both of those things. Either he is barely holding on or he is a gifted debater. Not both.

If Biden walks away from this trio of general election debates as the perceived victor, he should send Trump a “thank you” note. Seriously.

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Trump advisers hesitated to give military options and warned adversaries over fears he might start a war

“We used to only think of Kim Jong Un as unpredictable. Now we had Trump as unpredictable,” Joseph Yun, who served as President Trump’s special representative for North Korea policy until 2018, told me. “And I would communicate that.”

Yun recalled that during the worsening standoff with North Korea in 2017, the Pentagon hesitated to give the President a broad range of military options, concerned that he might indeed order a major military attack on the North.

“You had to be careful what options you gave him,” he said. “We were being very cautious, because any options you put out there, he could use them.”

That frustrated the White House. “The White House viewed it as ‘Goddamnit! The President is looking for all options!'” Yun recalled. But the Pentagon, under Defense Secretary James Mattis at least, didn’t budge.

Later Trump decided diplomacy was the way forward and met for two historic summits with Kim, even telling a 2018 rally in West Virginia that the “two fell in love.”

A senior White House official told CNN that on North Korea “it was the President who at every turn has encouraged diplomacy over escalation. He took the historic step of meeting with KJU in person to encourage de-escalation.”

‘Is this a joke?’ Pentagon dumbfounded by Iran military options request

Again in 2019, as the President and his team were considering military options against Iran in response to escalating attacks in the Persian Gulf, senior Pentagon officials made clear both to US partners in the region and to Tehran that they could not predict how and where Trump would respond, or if he would respond at all.

“We told allies that we did not know what the President would be willing to do against Iran,” Mick Mulroy, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East until 2019, recalled. “It was possible he could make a decision that would lead to an escalation of the conflict, and that escalation could lead to war, so they needed to relay that to Iran so they realized not even his staff knew what would happen if they attacked another oil facility, for instance.”

These warnings were part of a longer-term effort to contain some of the President’s worst impulses when confronted with military action abroad. Earlier, in September 2018, when a handful of mortar shells struck near the US Embassy in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone causing no casualties or serious damage, Pentagon officials were surprised when they received a call from a senior official on the National Security Council demanding military options for the President to retaliate against Iran. That NSC official said the President wanted to know immediately how and when the United States could respond.

“The NSC called us in on a Sunday,” a former senior US official told me. “[The NSC official] was basically telling us we had to have military options against Iran, today, on that day.”

Pentagon officials were dumbfounded. On a conference call with the White House, which included the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Paul Selva, and Undersecretary of Defense for Policy John Rood, Selva muted the line on the Pentagon’s end and turned to his colleagues in disbelief.

“He said, ‘Is this a joke? They really want us to propose direct military action into Iran, against Iran, based on this?'” the same former senior US official told me.” And I said, ‘No, we’ve been dealing with this all morning. Have they spent any time in Iraq?’ This is a constant thing.”

When they got off the call, General Selva and Secretary Rood made it clear to their colleagues they would not be providing the White House with any military options unless directed explicitly by the President himself.

“There’s no way we’re going to provide the NSC military options for this,” the former senior US official recalled their saying. “It just doesn’t make sense.”

Saudi Crown Prince accused of assassination plot against senior exiled official

That “urgent” request from the White House did not last. “It just died after that,” the official remembered.

A handful of mortars. One forceful demand for military options. Then silence. It was just the first of many times the NSC would reach out to the Pentagon for military options against Iran, without warning and without the normal interagency process to determine if a military response was warranted or wise.

The aftermath of those wayward mortars in September 2018 began a months-long policy-making seesaw with Trump and Iran, alternating between urgency and inaction, threat and retreat. On which side would Trump emerge? And did he have a strategy?

In June 2019, President Trump would balk at retaliation for Iran’s shootdown of a US drone over international airspace, calling off military action with US warplanes already in the air. That September, he also decided against retaliation after an Iranian attack on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia which temporarily shut down half of Saudi oil production.

“‘Well, [the President] didn’t want to do it, so we’re done,'” Mulroy recalled. “The first time that happened, I think there was kind of a sigh of relief. The second time, I think there was shock. So it’s like ‘What do you mean, we’re not doing anything? I mean, we’ve got to do something.'”

Chuck Hagel, a former Republican senator who served as Defense Secretary under President Barack Obama said the situation was unprecedented.

“In all my years dealing with national security and intelligence and foreign policy I’ve never heard any senior military leaders express concern about a president’s decision-making,” Hagel said.

“When I was Secretary of Defense my Pentagon colleagues and I always knew that President Obama had studied the issues, was well informed and wanted our opinions and recommendations. He listened to those charged with national security experience,” he added.

NFL owner and Trump ambassador to UK sparks watchdog inquiry over allegations of racist and sexist remarks and push to promote Trump business

“The President’s foreign policy — particularly in the Middle East, has been defined by taking strong action when necessary (see strikes in Syria in 2018), deescalating to avoid protracted conflicts (draw down in Afghanistan, taking a lesser response to Iran.) However, make no mistake — the President will take decisive action when it warrants to protect US interests,” the senior White House official said.

Trump did eventually take military action against Iran, ordering the killing of the country’s most senior General Qasem Solemaini in a drone strike on Baghdad airport in January of this year. Iran retaliated by striking a US base in Iraq, injuring dozens of US service members, but at least up until now tensions have alleviated. Had the US launched an attack on Iranian soil, many feared an all-out war was possible.

‘It wasn’t a ploy’

Trump’s unpredictability is something that permeated official US interactions with the leaders of countries across the globe—from Iran to Syria to North Korea to Canada and Mexico to NATO allies.

“The general concept was discussed, not as a strategy we deliberately adopted, but rather as something we pointed out as a matter of fact,” said Mulroy. “The thing is, it wasn’t a ploy,” he explained. “I think both allies and enemies realize that his decision process was unpredictable even to those advising him up to and including the secretary of defense and national security adviser.”

Trump’s capriciousness left the advisers responsible for virtually every corner of the globe guessing.

“I had many meetings where my counterparts would ask, ‘Can we really believe what you’re saying? On whose behalf are you speaking?'” said Fiona Hill, President Trump’s former senior director for European and Russian affairs on the National Security Council and key witness during the impeachment investigation of the President in November 2019. “This makes the US a capricious partner for anyone who is interacting with us as a collective.”

Trump’s unpredictability was not a national secret. US adversaries were keenly aware that his own advisers and the institutions and agencies they lead were often in the dark about the President’s intentions and therefore sought to take advantage, said Susan Gordon, who served as the United States’ second-highest-ranking intelligence official as principal deputy director of national intelligence.

“Our partners, adversaries, and competitors know we don’t know the next play,” Gordon said.

With any other president or any other administration, such deliberate unpredictability might be seen as a flaw, identifying it as a criticism. But in the view of Trump and his most devout supporters, his unpredictability is a keen negotiator’s strength to be lauded.

“For him, the unpredictability is a card that he liked having,” said Yun.

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A Desperate Trump Might Be Willing to Ditch Mitch McConnell’s Top Stimulus Priority

WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has one, big, top priority for the next coronavirus rescue package: stopping sick people from suing their bosses.

But President Trump might throw Mitch’s cherished proposal out the window. 

Trump is willing to cut a deal with Democrats without any so-called “liability shield” in the next pandemic response bill, The Washington Post reported Friday, citing two unnamed people with knowledge of internal White House planning. 

Ditching Mitch’s top goal would be a slap in the face to the wily Senate majority leader, who protected Trump during his impeachment trial last winter. McConnell has declared his radical plan to shield companies from most legal challenges over COVID-19 to be his “red line.” He says companies need special protections to avoid getting hammered under a hailstorm of lawsuits by workers claiming they were put in risky situations. 

“We’re not negotiating over liability protection,” McConnell insisted Tuesday.

But Trump’s waffling is just the latest sign of chaos among top-level Republicans over what to do next about the pandemic. And it’s a new point of friction between Trump and GOP members of Congress as Trump’s approval ratings for handling the pandemic slip in the polls. 

Some companies have already been sued over allegations like gross negligence or wrongful death, including Walmart, Safeway and Tyson Foods. But legal experts say they suspect far more litigation might still be looming on the horizon. 

GOP senators made the “liability shield” a centerpiece of the plan they unveiled Monday, in a proposal that would make it all but impossible for employees to sue companies that recklessly expose them to the novel coronavirus. 

But Republican senators expressed concern and confusion over their own draft plan. Then they skipped town for a long weekend, at a moment when existing federal crisis programs — including $600-weekly unemployment insurance payments and a moratorium on evictions — have just expired, with no plan for a near-term fix.  

McConnell has cards left to play. He still controls the Senate floor, and he could block a vote on the bill. 

But he’d face pressure from both Democrats and, possibly, the White House, if he becomes the lone holdout blocking an agreement between Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over ways to extend unemployment insurance payments and keep people who’ve lost their jobs during the pandemic from being kicked out of their homes. 

Now, the White House signaling it wants to reach a deal as soon as possible, perhaps out of concern over what might happen to Trump in the 2020 election if they don’t roll out a new plan soon. 

If McConnell’s red line gets smudged, the White House suggested on Friday, that would be McConnell’s problem. 

“That’s a question for Mitch McConnell,” spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany said when asked about the liability shield during a briefing Friday morning. “That’s his priority.”

Cover: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., listens to questions during a news conference following a GOP policy meeting on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, June 30, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

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Elizabeth Warren calls on agency chiefs to commit to not deploying federal forces on Americans should Trump not leave office

“You are each responsible for the command of military or civilian troops and domestic law,” the Massachusetts Democrat wrote in a letter Tuesday to Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Attorney General Bill Barr, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf.

Warren pointed to Trump’s threats to send federal authorities to more US cities — after deploying forces in Portland, Seattle and Chicago, “despite clear opposition from governors, mayors, and citizens who are exercising their First Amendment rights in the communities in which these federal personnel have been deployed.”

And she raised concerns over whether Trump will use federal forces against civilians should he lose reelection and deny a peaceful transition of power — a scenario Democrats have raised and Trump has stoked by refusing to say he will accept the election results.

She requested the secretaries’ commitments, as well as information on any federal requests to activate their agencies’ forces by August 3.

“I urge you not to allow these personnel under your command or supervision to be used in any future domestic actions against people exercising their right to protest,” Warren wrote.

Warren also expressed concern over “the potential for President Trump to activate domestic forces as his ‘personal militia’ (as former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge put it),” “given his ongoing refusal” to say he will accept the presidential election results and peacefully leave office.

“I therefore write to seek your assurances that you will not allow the military or civilian forces under your control to be used by the President to suppress dissent and democracy,” she added.

In an interview earlier this month, Trump repeatedly refused to affirm that he would accept the results of the election in November, claiming falsely that mail-in ballots could rig the outcome.”I have to see. No, I’m not going to just say yes,” Trump said when pressed on “Fox News Sunday” about whether he would accept the results. “I’m not going to say no, and I didn’t last time either.”

Prior to Warren’s letter, Barr addressed such issues during his testimony Tuesday before the House Judiciary Committee, where he said that federal officers had been sent to protect federal buildings “under attack” and combat violence crime in cities. Barr said that he has made clear to the Trump administration that he “would like to pick the cities” where federal law enforcement officers are deployed under a Justice Department crime-fighting program “based on law enforcement need.”

Asked what he would do if Trump lost the election but refused to leave office, Barr caveated his answer: “If the results are clear, I would leave office.”

CNN’s David Shortell and Jeremy Herb contributed to this report.

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Joe Biden leads in three key states Trump won in 2016 in new CNN polls

In Florida (51% Biden to 46% for President Donald Trump) and Arizona (49% Biden to 45% Trump), registered voters break in Biden’s favor by single-digit margins, while in Michigan, Biden’s lead stands at 52% to 40%, matching the national average for the presidential race per the most recent CNN Poll of Polls.

Trump carried all three states in 2016, with his narrowest win in any state coming from Michigan, which he carried by only 10,704 votes. The poll results are among registered voters, but when looking only at those who say they are most likely to vote in this fall’s election, support for the two candidates remains about the same.

Nearly all recent high-quality polling out of Florida and Michigan has shown Biden with an edge there, while in Arizona, there has been a mix of Biden leads and results within each poll’s margin of error. The new CNN poll in Arizona shows Biden narrowly outside the poll’s error margin. Quinnipiac University’s poll in Florida, released late last week, showed Biden with a double-digit lead there, larger than most other surveys have found.

But it is worth noting that recent Florida polls have been fairly consistent about Biden’s level of support in the state (Quinnipiac pegged it at 51%, same as the new CNN poll, while CBS News landed at 48%, and Fox News placed it 49%), with greater variation in support for the President (46% in the new CNN poll, 42% in CBS News, 40% in Fox News and 38% in the Quinnipiac poll).

Across all three states, Trump’s approval ratings generally, for handling the coronavirus outbreak and for handling racial inequality in the US are underwater. There is some variation in the President’s overall approval rating, with disapproval at 57% in Michigan, 54% in Arizona and 51% in Florida.

But on coronavirus and racial inequality, two issues which have dominated the national conversation in the last few months, Trump’s disapproval stands around 60% across all three states. On the coronavirus outbreak, 60% disapprove in Arizona, 59% in Michigan and 57% in Florida. On racial inequality in the US, 59% disapprove in both Arizona and Michigan, 57% do so in Florida.

The results suggest the President could be on better ground in all three states should the country’s focus shift to the economy: In Arizona and Florida, majorities rate the President positively for his handling of the economy (52% approve in each state). Michiganders are about evenly divided (47% approve to 49% disapprove).

But there is little to suggest such a shift is in the immediate future. In Arizona and Florida, both areas where coronavirus infections have spread rapidly in recent weeks, majorities (57% in Arizona, 64% in Florida) believe the worst of the outbreak is yet to come. In both states, more than 7 in 10 voters who say the worst is ahead back Biden for president. In Michigan, a narrow majority says the worst is behind them (51%).

Michigan’s Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who has publicly clashed with Trump over her response to the coronavirus, earns high marks from residents of her state for her handling of the virus, with 69% saying they feel she is doing everything she can to fight it. The Republican governors of Arizona and Florida are not seen that way by their constituents: 66% say Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey could be doing more to fight the outbreak, and 63% say the same about Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Both Biden and Trump have made arguments that they are the better choice for Americans’ safety, with Trump’s campaign focusing on a law-and-order message and Biden’s campaign arguing that Trump has dropped the ball on coronavirus, costing Americans’ lives. Asked which candidate would “keep Americans safe from harm,” voters in Michigan choose Biden, 52% to 43%. In Arizona, they are evenly divided, 47% for each. And in Florida, they choose Trump, 51% to 46%.

Across all three states, Biden is more often seen as honest and trustworthy than is Trump, but just under 1 in 10 in each state say that description applies to neither candidate.

Biden’s advantage in all three states is largely attributable to his edge among women. He earns the support of 61% of women in Michigan, 56% in Arizona and 53% in Florida. The differences in how women vote across states are largely due to differences in support among White women. In Michigan, Biden holds 57% among White women to Trump’s 36%. In Arizona, they split more evenly, 50% for Biden to 46% for Trump. And in Florida, Trump leads among White women, 55% to Biden’s 42%. Biden holds wide leads among women of color across all three states.

That difference among White women in Michigan versus those in Arizona and Florida also emerges quite strongly on the question of which candidate would keep Americans safe. While White women are more likely than White men in all three states to say that Biden would keep them safe, in Michigan, they are 18 points more likely to do so, while that gap is five points in Florida and six points in Arizona.

With the pandemic raging, voters’ views on how they would prefer to cast a ballot in the fall are divided by party, with Democrats more likely to prefer voting by mail or early and Republicans more often in favor of in-person Election Day voting.

That means that preferences for voting by-mail rather than in-person are stronger among Biden’s supporters than Trump’s supporters. In Arizona, 78% of Biden backers say they would rather vote by mail, compared with 43% of Trump supporters. In Florida, 59% of Biden supporters would rather cast mail ballots vs.19% of Trump supporters. And in Michigan, 67% of Biden supporters say they’d rather vote by mail vs. 22% of Trump backers.

While most votes in Arizona and Florida in recent elections have been cast early or absentee, the poll suggests that in Michigan, where about a quarter of votes have typically been cast absentee in recent years, mail-in ballots could spike significantly. Almost half of voters in Michigan, 47%, say they would prefer to vote by-mail using an absentee ballot, and another 6% would like the option to vote early in-person.

The Democratic candidates hold leads in the Senate races in both Arizona and Michigan, according to the polls. In Michigan, incumbent Democrat Gary Peters tops Republican John James 54% to 38%. In Arizona, Democratic challenger Mark Kelly leads Republican Sen. Martha McSally by 50% to 43%.

These CNN Polls were conducted by SSRS by telephone from July 18 through 24 among random samples of adults living in Arizona, Florida in Michigan. In each state, results for the sample of adults have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points, it is 3.8 points for the subsets of registered voters in each state. Interviews were conducted with 1,002 adults, including 873 registered voters, in Arizona, 1,005 adults, including 880 registered voters in Florida, and 1,003 adults, including 927 registered voters, in Michigan.

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Coronavirus: The week when everything changed for Trump

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It’s as though in January 2017, Donald Trump was given a shiny, new car. The best, most beautiful car the world has ever seen. And in July 2020, the president made an important discovery about it.

It has a reverse gear.

It was an extra on the car he never thought he’d need – and certainly never intended to use. But on Monday, he put the car into reverse, and wrestle as he might with the gearstick and clutch, he now can’t stop the blasted thing from going backwards.

Or to change the metaphor – and borrow the language used this week by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to describe his Labour opponent – from the president this week there have been more flip-flops than Bournemouth beach.

Just to recap, masks – which the president used to deride as “politically correct” – are now an act of patriotism, and should always be worn when social distancing is impossible. Coronavirus, which until recently was being described in most instances as a bad case of the sniffles, is now something altogether more serious – and it is going to get worse before it gets better.

Two weeks ago the president was insisting that all schools had to reopen, or he would take away their funding. He’s now saying that, for some of the worst hit cities, that wouldn’t be appropriate – and appears much more empathetic towards parents wrestling with the decision about whether to allow their children resume in school education.

And the really big U-turn came last night on the Republican Convention in Jacksonville, Florida.

The president loves a crowd. A raucous, adoring crowd. The original plan had been to hold the event in Charlotte, North Carolina. But when the governor of that state said there would have to be social distancing, the president went ballistic, went after the governor, and announced huffily that the Republicans would go somewhere else. Jacksonville would be the venue for the tickertape and hoopla, and thousands of cheering and whooping Republicans.

Except it won’t be now.

It was a stunning and painful reverse, and one the president made with the heaviest of hearts.

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Media captionTrump pivots on masks: ‘I’m getting used to the mask’

The announcements have come on three consecutive nights of revitalised White House coronavirus briefings. In this iteration with the president flying solo, and not flanked by his medical advisers. But they have also been much more disciplined than when the president would spend a couple of hours at the lectern, musing on anything and everything – most memorably on whether disinfectant and sunlight should be injected into the body to treat coronavirus.

I was at that memorable briefing with the president, and I was back again for his briefing this Wednesday. This time around he was in and out in less than half an hour, stuck to the messages he wanted to deliver (OK, no-one had anticipated the bizarre foray into the legal difficulties facing Ghislaine Maxwell), and answered a handful of questions. He didn’t get riled. He didn’t get into fights. He did what he came to do. And then off.

All I would say is that Season 2 is nothing like as much fun as Season 1 – though the episodes are much shorter.

I sat discussing this one evening this week in the garden of someone closely involved in the doings of the administration. It was an insufferably humid evening and the thunder rolled around the city. We spent a time discussing the psychology of the president (yes, a common topic). And this person was making the point that he has an old-fashioned macho need never to appear weak. Even though he knows at times it would be smart to give ground and concede, that is unconscionable.

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Media captionThe lost six weeks when the US failed to control the virus

But if we are still playing pop psychology with the president’s brain – whose cognitive strengths we now all know: person, man, woman, camera, TV – there is one thing worse than being weak, and that is being a loser.

And though in public – for fear of looking weak – the president insists his campaign is winning, and the American people love him, and polls that show him sinking underwater are fake news, the reality is altogether more uncomfortable.

Let’s just take Florida, where Trump was to have made his Convention acceptance speech. It is the epicentre at the moment of the appalling surge in coronavirus cases. With its population of 21 million, last week it was diagnosing more new cases per day than the whole of the European Union (population 460 million). But Florida is also ground zero for US presidential elections. Just think Bush versus Gore in 2000.

It was a state Trump won comfortably in 2016. It was a state he thought he would breeze in November. But the latest Quinnipiac University poll has Democratic nominee Joe Biden 13 points ahead. Thirteen. That is massive. And there is a whole pile of other key swing states which show President Trump lagging behind.

What hasn’t changed in the past week is the science. You can be sure that his long-suffering public health advisors have been banging on about the same things like a broken gramophone. Masks, distancing, avoiding crowds. It may be that the president has had a Damascene conversion to listening to his doctors. Possible, but I have to say unlikely.

If we’re looking for a significant “thing” it is this. Last week, Trump fired his 2020 campaign manager, Brad Parscale, and installed a new one. And it appears Bill Stepien has sat the president down and given him the ice cold bucket of water. That the polls are awful, and going in the wrong direction; that all is not lost but quickly could spin out of control. That a change of direction and tone is urgently needed. Particularly when it comes to anything and everything to do with Covid-19.

It is worth inserting one proviso here. I don’t know Bill Stepien – although he gets very good reviews. But brilliant though he maybe, there is a bit of a pattern of the president making a new appointment, and then for the next two or three weeks he does what he is told – but then reverts to going with his gut; going with his instinct. The things that he will tell you have served him best throughout his long and colourful career. But we are in new territory.

For three and a half years the president has been able to define his own reality; to bend and fashion facts to suit his own narrative. The coronavirus has been unimpressed by his efforts. This has been a foe like none that Donald Trump has faced. And he has had to bend to its will. Not the other way round.

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Reuters

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With the latest White House coronavirus briefings, President Trump has been flying solo

What has happened this week is that what the polls are showing and what his scientists have been repeatedly calling for are totally aligned. And he really doesn’t want to be a loser in November.

The spectre of these 180s has brought much guffawing from liberal commentators. The man who only knows how to double down, now doubled up in the pain of these very public reverses. Oh happy days.

But they should be more cautious. The conversion may be insincere; may well be borne of polling necessity – but what a lot of Americans will see is their president behaving rationally and normally; making decisions consistent with the scale of the threat the American people are facing – and Americans are fearing. But, I hear you say, surely they won’t forget about all those things the president said in March and April when he played the pandemic down and urged the reopening of the US economy prematurely?

Well, all I would say is that the circus moves on quickly; everyone seems to have incredibly short memories. Who talks any more about Mueller? Or Russia? Or impeachment? The beam of the lighthouse doesn’t stay long in any one place. With our impatience for new developments, for new story lines, for plot twists, we seem to suffer collectively from attention deficit disorder. And this president understands that better than anyone.

Some will no doubt write that this has been the president’s worst week ever. If he wins in November it will come to be seen as his best.

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