The Note: Trump changes course as COVID-19 response faces critical tests

Trump is looking to resume task-force briefings with himself as the focal point

July 21, 2020, 5:50 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

You don't have to believe in pivots to see the big moments piling up.

President Donald Trump is looking to resume task-force briefings with himself as the focal point on Tuesday. But the biggest moment of the day could come earlier in the afternoon, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi meets with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, to talk about the next COVID-19 package.

That's almost certainly the last major piece of coronavirus legislation that can pass before the election. Other big moments could take place elsewhere on Capitol Hill, when a House subcommittee hears from major pharmaceutical companies on the latest in vaccine production.

PHOTO: President Donald Trump talks to reporters while hosting Republican Congressional leaders and members of his cabinet in the Oval Office at the White House July 20, 2020.
President Donald Trump talks to reporters while hosting Republican Congressional leaders and members of his cabinet in the Oval Office at the White House July 20, 2020.
Doug Mills/Pool/Getty Images

Politically critical choices are confronting the White House and Congress at a key moment in the crisis. The race against time matters for tackling the virus and so many impacted, as schools finalize plans for the fall and unemployment insurance extensions start to run out for millions.

The president is displaying a new tone and a new level of engagement, after aides and allies have pleaded with him to recognize the gravity of the moment. His tweet of himself wearing a mask came just a day after another interview aired where he said people should have "freedom" and that "masks cause problems, too."

The latest course correction may not last, and may not matter. But political survival is a strong motivating force, and the window for positioning appears to be closing even as the big choices mount.

The RUNDOWN with Alisa Wiersema

Five weeks out from the Republican National Convention, questions still remain about whether the event is even happening after the sheriff of Jacksonville, Florida, expressed "significant concerns" with the convention's "viability."

"With a growing list of challenges -- be it financial, with communication, with the timeline -- I cannot say with confidence that this event or our community will not be at risk," Sheriff Mike Williams said during a press conference Monday.

In June, the convention was abruptly moved from its original location of Charlotte, North Carolina, after Trump engaged in a standoff with the state's Democratic governor over pandemic safety restrictions. Still, the ripple effects of the pandemic appear to be following the president to friendlier political territory.

Despite Florida being one of four states to recently hit a record number of current hospitalizations, the Republican-affiliated sheriff did not base his concerns about the convention directly on the health impact of COVID-19, but rather cited the virus as a partial reason for why it has been difficult to gather enough "manpower" to cover the event.

PHOTO: Republican nominee Donald Trump celebrates after the Republican Convention, July 21, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.
Republican nominee Donald Trump celebrates after the Republican Convention, July 21, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.
Brooks Kraft/Getty Images

"The communication required to make the critical steps come together, just never really seem to gel and still (have not) today," Williams said.

His comments come just days after GOP Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel sent a letter to party members informing them of scaled-back plans for next month's convention. As of Monday night, the RNC said they are continuing to "work closely with local leadership" on planning for the convention, which includes "health and security measures," as well as a safety grant from the Justice Department.

"Jacksonville has accommodated upwards of 70,000 people for football games and other events, and we are confident in state, local and federal officials to be able to ensure a safe event for our attendees," RNC spokesperson Mandi Merritt said in a statement.

The TIP with Molly Nagle

Former Vice President Joe Biden is launching the next pillar of his economic policy in Delaware Tuesday, but he's also ratcheting up the veepstakes speculation as his self-imposed early August deadline looms.

While Biden has consistently declined to commit to choosing a woman of color as his running mate, in an interview on Monday night he confirmed that there are four African American women still in consideration for the position he once held. Several African American women who were thought to be under consideration for the position include: Sen. Kamala Harris, Reps. Val Demings and Karen Bass, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottom and former national security adviser Susan Rice.

"When I get all the vetting done of all the candidates then I'm going to narrow the list. And then we'll see -- and then I'm going to have personal discussions with each of the candidates who are left," Biden said of his vice presidential search.

PHOTO: Democratic U.S. presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., July 14, 2020.
Democratic U.S. presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., July 14, 2020.
Leah Millis/Reuters

He also pushed back against suggestions that given the pivotal role the African American community played in reviving his primary campaign in South Carolina, he needed to choose a Black woman to fill the spot.

"Black women supported me my entire career. You all act like all of a sudden there's an epiphany in South Carolina," Biden said. "They're the ones, as that old saying goes, that brought me to the dance. I have been loyal, they've been loyal to me."

ONE MORE THING

Sixty-three percent of Americans support the Black Lives Matter movement and a record 69% -- the most by far in 32 years of polling -- say Black people and other minorities are denied equal treatment in the criminal justice system, two of several signs of deep changes in public attitudes on racial discrimination. These views don't necessarily translate into majority preferences on policy -- 55% oppose reducing police funding in favor of more social services, for instance, with 40% in favor. Nonetheless, this ABC News/Washington Post poll finds substantial shifts in how Americans view underlying issues of racial justice.

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. Tuesday morning's episode features Harvard Medical School professor and ABC News contributor Dr. John Brownstein, who gives us an update on the coronavirus vaccine development as Oxford University announces promising early results. ABC News Senior Investigative reporter Aaron Katersky explains why the shooting at the home of federal judge in New Jersey is part of a concerning trend of violence against law enforcement. And, ABC News Medical Unit contributor Dr. Yalda Safai separates fact from fiction when it comes to medical mask exemptions. http://apple.co/2HPocUL

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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 tomorrow for the latest.

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