The Note: A campaign on pause, with new questions about Trump’s own behavior

There is no roadmap for what happens next.

October 2, 2020, 6:00 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

This marks a moment bigger than politics: The 74-year-old president of the United States has tested positive for a disease that has killed more than 207,000 Americans.

There is no roadmap for what happens next. This will rock markets, test national-security relationships and place the campaign in an uncertain and tense kind of pause.

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump will be isolating at the White House, with upcoming rallies, fundraisers and official events called off for at least the immediate future. It’s hard to imagine that former Vice President Joe Biden campaigns while his rival isolates, and harder than ever to see another debate taking place.

PHOTO: President Trump, en route to Cleveland for the first televised debate with opponent Joe Biden, departs the White House with First Lady Melania, Sept. 29, 2020.
President Trump, en route to Cleveland for the first televised debate with opponent Joe Biden, departs the White House with First Lady Melania, Sept. 29, 2020.
Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The news resets just about everything that seemed urgent about this already scary moment in the nation, just 32 days before Election Day and with more than 2 million Americans having already voted.

It also puts what Trump has done and said about COVID-19 in a new light. He has played the threat down; bragged that he helped tame it; promoted dubious treatments; misled the public about its severity; quarreled with his own administration’s experts on how best to control it; and suggested – as recently as in a video he recorded for an event Thursday night – that “the end of the pandemic is in sight.”

Trump has also, repeatedly and undeniably, used COVID-19 as a political weapon. He has threatened and cajoled state and local leaders around reopening schools and businesses, held massive events in defiance of his administration’s guidelines and mocked political opponents even for the personal precautions they have taken.

PHOTO: President Donald Trump walks from Marine One as he returns from Bedminster, N.J., on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Oct. 1, 2020.
President Donald Trump walks from Marine One as he returns from Bedminster, N.J., on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Oct. 1, 2020.
Joshua Roberts/Reuters

“I don't wear masks like him,” Trump said about Biden at Tuesday night’s debate. “Every time you see him, he's got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away from me, and he shows up with the biggest mask I've ever seen.”

Trump has banked his reelection on the perception that he tamed COVID-19 and has the economy roaring back. A president who has wanted to look tough during a moment of crisis is himself more vulnerable than ever.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

The news overnight could change the tone of the ongoing negotiations on Capitol Hill over relief spending too. Republicans and the Trump administration could feel more pressure to compromise or tamp down the rhetoric about the nation rounding a corner in this pandemic and economic recession.

House Democrats passed their own $2.2 trillion pandemic relief bill late Thursday night though the details and price tag so far have been rejected by Senate Republicans and this White House.

The Democrats' bill in the House would restore the $600 supplemental federal unemployment benefits that expired for millions in July and include another round of direct checks to Americans at $1,200 per taxpayer and $500 per dependent, should Republicans pick it up and the president sign it into law.

PHOTO: Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, D-California, holds her weekly press briefing on Capitol Hill, Oct. 1, 2020.
Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, D-California, holds her weekly press briefing on Capitol Hill, Oct. 1, 2020.
Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

Democrats say more federal funds are needed with airlines and other large employers beginning new rounds of layoff this fall.

Their bill would also extend the Paycheck Protection Program to help small businesses keep staff on payroll, a benefit which expired in early August.

Another 837,000 Americans applied for new unemployment help last week, according to government data -- the 28th straight week of historically high unemployment claims. The weekly report showed that in total over 26 million Americans are currently receiving unemployment benefits under state and federal programs.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin negotiated all week and will likely continue to in the coming days, but so far have failed to reach a compromise.

The TIP with Quinn Scanlan

Just days after Trump first suggested that supporters try to vote twice -- first by mail and then in person on Nov. 3 -- in order to "test the system," Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger alleged that there were up to 1,000 instances of potential doubling voting during elections over the summer. Now, his office has released preliminary data backing it up.

"The purpose of releasing this report is to emphasize to campaigns and voters that double voting is a felony," Jordan Fuchs, deputy secretary of state, told ABC News Thursday. "Through our findings, it is clear that some people believe voting in person twice is OK -- it's not."

PHOTO:People wait in line to vote in Georgia's Primary Election in Atlanta, June 9, 2020.
People wait in line to vote in Georgia's primary election in Atlanta, June 9, 2020.
Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images, FILE

According to the data, 1,042 people may have voted twice across 119 of Georgia's 159 counties during the June 9 primary: 85% mailed in ballots and were also issued one on Election Day, lending credence to the argument that many voters were unsure if their absentee ballots would actually be counted.

But the data for the Aug. 11 runoff paints a very different picture -- one where that argument wouldn't hold up. Nearly 95% of the 294 potential double voters were issued ballots both during in-person early voting and on Election Day.

Gabriel Sterling, the voting system implementation manager in Raffensperger's office, said those instances are still being investigated but the main fix -- besides people not showing up to vote twice -- is county election officials following the processes in place, which require them to issue voters a "credit" in the registration system once they're given a ballot at the polls: "Obviously that did not happen a couple of hundred times -- at a minimum."


President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump have tested positive for COVID-19. In a statement, White House Dr. Sean Conley said the Trumps "are both well" and that they planned to "remain home at the White House during their convalescence." A short time later, the White House sent out an updated public schedule that removed the president's campaign rally in Florida on Friday. The announcement came only hours after it was revealed that one of the president's closest advisers, Hope Hicks, had tested positive.


ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. Friday morning's episode features ABC News Senior Editorial producer John Santucci, who explains why the White House is telling the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to slow the release of new COVID-19 guidance. Georgetown Law professor Mary McCord games out how things could get ugly at polling places on Election Day. And ABC News' Stephanie Wash brings us up to speed on the fight over grand jury recordings in the Breonna Taylor case.

FiveThirtyEight's Politics podcast. In this episode of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, law professor Daniel Epps talks to Galen Druke about some Democrats' suggestion that the Supreme Court be expanded.


  • On Friday, South Carolina Democratic Senate nominee Jaime Harrison, who is running against Sen. Lindsey Graham, will appear on ABC's "The View."
  • President Donald Trump hosts a call on providing COVID-19 support to seniors at 12:15 p.m.
  • The House Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis task force holds a hybrid hearing with Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex M. Azar at 9 a.m.
  • The House Intelligence Committee holds an open hearing with a DHS whistleblower at 10 a.m.
  • Sen. Kamala Harris travels to Las Vegas.
  • Vice President Mike Pence will travel to Council Bluffs, Iowa, for a campaign event at noon CDT.
  • Dr. Jill Biden travels to New Hampshire on Friday. She begins at a Granite State Women for Biden Get Out the Vote Kickoff even in Manchester at 2:30 p.m. Afterward, she tours Fox Point Oysters in Durham at 4:30 p.m. She will also travel virtually to Texas. On Saturday, she travels to Minneapolis.
  • On Saturday, Trump delivers remarks at a "Make America Great Again" event in La Crosse, Wisconsin.
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden travels to Grand Rapids, Michigan, to discuss building back the economy.
  • Doug Emhoff, Harris' husband, travels to Greensboro, North Carolina. He will join a Working Women Listening Session at 12:30 p.m., and later he will attend a Jewish Community Meet and Greet at 2 p.m. Afterward, he will stop by a campaign hub at 3:45 p.m
  • Sunday on ABC's "This Week": The Powerhouse Roundtable discusses all the week's politics with former New Jersey governor and ABC News Contributor Chris Christie, former Chicago mayor and ABC News Contributor Rahm Emanuel, former DNC Chair and Fox News Contributor Donna Brazile and Republican strategist and CNN political commentator Alice Stewart.

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The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the key political moments of the day ahead. Please check back Monday for the latest.

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