Happy Scribe
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Hello and welcome to The Stand with Aymond on the stand is proudly supported by Tesco, Tesco, our exclusive house for over Sixty Five's family carers and extremely medically vulnerable customers are every weekday, Monday to Friday, up to nine AM. Health care and emergency services have priority access at all other times now, more than ever, every little helps. Now the biggest shock of the US presidential race happened at one a.m. Friday morning American time, when the president, Donald Trump, tweeted that both he and his wife, the first lady, and Melania had contracted the coronavirus.

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And it is a big shock. And we're joined now by Nan Stanage to talk about it. And, of course, the associate editor of The Hill newspaper and newspapers, White House columnist. Now, this is a stunning development and given any circumstances, but given the scorn that Trump poured on Joe Biden in the debate on Tuesday night for him obsessively wearing masks as Trump potted more than a little irony here, there is first of all, I mean, this is massive news.

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This has been an election campaign and under a presidency in which we have gotten used to some extent to big controversies, unusual twists and events. But this is really of a different order now. To your point, I mean, Donald Trump has, as you say, disparaged Joe Biden for the frequency of his mask wearing, but also, broadly speaking, I think sought to downplay the coronavirus from the time that it first emerged. And so for him himself to now be suffering from covid-19 is really quite a quite a turn of events.

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One of those things that if you put it in a novel or a movie, people would accuse you of being a bit too unrealistic.

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Yes. And we should say that the implications could be very serious. Of course, at Hope Hicks, one of his closest confidants who works in his office directly to him, is the person who first got the virus. And we understand she tested positive. Perhaps you'll know exactly when that was. But subsequent early on Wednesday, they went to a campaign event and Trump's people, his closest allies and advisers were with him, Jared Kushner, his daughter Vinka, and a number of others.

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Mike Pompeo, I think, may well have been on that journey and nobody was wearing masks. And this is a very much central to this story. And the machismo, if you like, of not wearing masks is part of the Trump culture, isn't it?

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Yeah, it's definitely part of the whole story of this. And there have been reports from reputable outlets that people have been reluctant to wear masks around him in the White House, for example, for fear of sort of incurring his wrath or at least irritation at the mask wearing practices. The timeline, as far as CapEx is concerned, is still a little bit unclear. Who picks traveled both to the debate in Cleveland on Tuesday and to the rally that you're referring to on Wednesday, certainly by Thursday.

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She had apparently tested positive. No, there's some lack of clarity as to whether that test happened on Wednesday night or Thursday morning. But the important point I think, given is that by the time the Trump team were returning from this rally on Wednesday night, optics was firstly showing some comparatively mild symptoms, but symptoms nonetheless of the coronavirus. And secondly, those symptoms were significant enough that she actually disembarked from the rear of Air Force One on like everyone else, having apparently been in some form of Kwesi quarantine on the journey back.

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We should also say that despite all of that, the president went ahead with a fundraiser in New Jersey on Thursday, a roundtable with supporters and.

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The decision to go ahead with that event in the wake of OPEC's apparent suffering from covid-19 is obviously not under much greater scrutiny.

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Yes, and it's worth noting, Hope Hicks has been with Donald Trump from the very first day he embarked on his quest for the presidency when he was a no hoper. She has been his personal assistant and in the early days was the only person who was on the team, the team consisting of Donald Trump and whole picks. So she's a very trusted aide. She's a woman, 31 years of age. She left the White House last year but came back and but she is an interesting and important figure and very close to Donald Trump.

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Yes, very much so.

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I mean, I hope Hicks has, as you say, been with the campaign since the beginning. Her association with the Trump family actually predates that. Around 2012, she began working in a public relations capacity for a firm that was doing some work with the president's daughter, Ivanka Trump. That was her entree, as it were, into the Trump world. She then joined the Trump organization before there even was a Trump campaign and was very central in the early stages of that.

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I mean, I remember emailing OpEx in the very early stages of the campaign, and she was responsive to journalists because at the time Trump himself was considered such a sort of almost third long shot for the nomination. She then went on to be ultimately White House communications director at one stage before leaving for a while, going to Fox and now coming back on board for the campaign.

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Now, of course, it goes without saying, I'm sure for all of our listeners as well, that we wish the president and his wife Melania get well and survive this experience. And it is so important to point out that with one month away from the election, which is on November the 3rd, this is an extraordinary development. And Donald Trump is 74. His body mass index is poor, he's overweight and his diet so on. He has a heart condition.

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He takes statins, but many people do not. But it could be said without fear of contradiction that at that age and being obese, clinically obese, this is this could be very, very serious.

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It could absolutely. Firstly, and I endorse what you said about not wishing anyone ill health or worse. And so obviously, one hopes for good health for the president and the first lady and everyone else.

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And the point, though, about his, as they're technically termed comorbidities, is an important one. Donald Trump was about two hundred and seventy pounds or so, which is, as you say, clinically obese for a man of his height, 74 years old, which puts him in something of a danger zone any way. We will see how things develop over the next few days. I mean, obviously, there's a lot we don't know about covid-19 overall, much would appear to depend on how quickly and seriously symptoms develop, if at all.

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There are a number of people who remain asymptomatic. But, you know, Donald Trump is in a high risk group because of his age and because of his weight. Not not a young man, not a particularly healthy man. So, you know, this could be a serious thing for him, for sure. Yes.

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And it gets in terms of the politics of this, the next debate that that Stu is on the 15th of October and I think it's in Miami. And then there's a debate due on the 22nd of October, the 15th of October. And it seems highly unlikely now because he will have to self isolate for some time. And I think that would put the 15 probably out of play.

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Yeah, I think that's right. Or certainly that's my understanding of the timing here. Even if Donald Trump's condition does not worsen or become a graver the. A year of debate on the 15th, which would be less than two weeks from the original diagnosis, seems to me unlikely. Now it is possible that if he comes through Healthways very strongly, he would like to show, as you put it, the machismo of wanting to go ahead with the debate, wanting to get back in the ring, so to speak, with Joe Biden.

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But whether Joe Biden would be inclined to do that is a whole other story. Biden three years older than Trump. Biden's campaign having taken much more serious and aggressive measures to lower the risk of him contracting covid-19. I can see an argument for for Biden's team not wanting to do that debate, irrespective of what Trump wants to do.

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Yes. And of course, there is the issue of Biden's health as a result of Tuesday's debate. I mean, he was for 90 minutes plus. He was in reasonably close proximity in the setting. And to a man who may well have been infected at that point and probably was. Yes.

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And I think that is one of the most dramatic elements in all of this. I mean, again, to reiterate that one hopes for good health care for everybody, which also includes Mr. Biden.

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But I mean, look, they were fairly close together. There's an argument that they didn't, at least apart from the very start, maybe come within the six feet distance. On the other hand, as you and I talked about the morning after him and Donald Trump spent much of that debate shouting and yes, you know, all of that which can itself transmit aerosols at that point, we had no thought really of either man actually contracting covid-19. But it seems very plausible that Trump was already infected at that point.

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And that has to be worrying from the perspective of the Biden team as well, I would have thought.

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Now, the constitutional position, if something bad happens to the president, the vice president, Mike Pence, is next in line and would assume the office and where he to test positive. We could have an interim president, Nancy Pelosi, which I'm sure will hasten the Donald on his way to fitness. It'll certainly give him an incentive, but that's the way the cookie crumbles. And we we have had, as you said, the beginning of this conversation, a surreal presidential year.

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So don't rule out Nancy, though, and certainly don't reload, reload pens.

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I mean, it is a bizarre thing that in both Donald Trump's presidential campaigns, we have to consider what would happen if he were somehow dumped off the Republican ticket. Not in this. I don't want to make light of his health situation, which is a serious one. Almost exactly four years ago, people were talking about whether the Republican Party would try to shunt Trump off the ticket in the aftermath of the infamous Access Hollywood tape.

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Yes, no, he's obviously in power, which makes things somewhat different. He could if he believed that he was incapable of carrying out his duties, he can sign over his power on a temporary basis to the vice president. Past presidents have done that, including George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan have done so when they were going into hospital surgery. It's a quite rarely invoked measure, but it can be done. The bigger issue or the more the graver constitutional crisis, in my view, would be if Trump's situation worsened to the point where it appeared that he really couldn't run for a second term, then you would be into a pretty chaotic scenario, although there are ways throughout.

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But it would be another massive shock to the American political system.

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And, of course, coronaviruses now firmly back on at the agenda when President Trump was doing everything he possibly could to get it off the agenda. And that's to take the political considerations and how they may play out in the next few weeks. He's hardly going to be possible now to keep the virus and its. Appearances on the radar, and it does and probably will raise a question in America's mind, this man has downplayed this virus. He has not taken precautions.

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He has given bad leadership and a bad example to people by his own personal behavior. Now he's got the damn thing. Boris Johnson got some sympathy when he contracted the virus and was hospitalized. In fact, he was in intensive care, but that was an entirely different situation. And Tom is unlikely at the hoist on his own petard as he is to get that sympathy.

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Yeah, I think that's a good analysis. I mean, I was interested in the Boris Johnson example, which is probably the closest parallel, but still quite a different one. Know Johnson's approval rating did jump up, but then not that faded fairly fast. But even though I understand that Johnson, of course, is a divisive figure himself, but Trump is more polarizing and Trump's poll ratings have been stable, but not in a good way to a greater extent than Johnson's.

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I mean, all of the controversies that Trump has undergone, his approval ratings have been generally bad by historical measures. There are a large number of Americans who just live with them and will never, I think, be particularly sympathetic to them. But even among those people in the middle ground, there are quite understandable questions about his conduct in response to the pandemic. He has got among his worst marks on the pandemic compared to any other issue.

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The Bob Woodward book that you and I have spoken about before really displayed an appalling disjointedness between what he knew and was willing to acknowledge in private and what he was willing to acknowledge in public, realizing the gravity of the coronavirus in private while playing it down in public, all of those things you would think would weigh negatively on him politically. And just one final point on this issue. And I do wonder, Donald Trump's supporters take him at his word to an almost cult like degree at times.

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Yes. And there has certainly been polling evidence suggesting that his supporters are, for example, more skeptical about Maheswaran.

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I do wonder no, not that his base will collapse after this news, but how much does that cause even quite eager Trump supporters to wonder, are they placing their loyalty in in a in a reckless vessel in this respect?

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Yes. And two hundred and four thousand people and rising by about a thousand a day have already died. It's the worst toll in the world by far, 20 percent of the deaths in the world for a country with four percent of the population of the world. It doesn't need to be stressed. But at the same time, it's an inescapable fact, is it not, that so many people have perished, so much hurt and grief has been inflicted by this virus that there is a big kind of charge hanging over Donald Trump.

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And the way, as Bob Woodward's book proves, that as far back as February 7th, Donald Trump described this as a deadly virus that you can get not by touching on anything, but by breathing in. So he knew exactly where he was on February seven. So all of that may well be part of the narrative for the next four weeks, although we're not sure.

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Yes, I think it is very probable that it will be, obviously, to get back to a point you raised a couple of minutes ago, Donald Trump has been seeking to get off this topic onto other topics like law and order, for example, or like alleging that Biden, if elected, would be beholden to the very far left, know it's going to be all coronavirus all the time. Again, that has been an issue in which there can be quite a damning indictment.

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Read of Donald Trump. As you have just pointed out, the death toll in the United States is so large. As most of your listeners will know, the coronavirus could have been its impact, could have been greatly reduced, had action being taken earlier because of the exponential nature of its spread. Another point, Aymond just on this, is that the economic impact of the coronavirus here in the US has recently reasserted itself.

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There were big layoffs this week from the airline industry and other places which are, frankly, either running out of money or running out of bailout funds or some other factors that are really deepening the economic strife caused by this pandemic.

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A final question now, and it's a constitutional question. There's no president that I know of for an election date being deferred and postponed. What happens? Do we know if Donald Trump is very sick, which is, you know, given his weight and his age, it's not inconceivable at does the election have to take place on November the 3rd? And does his act have to be the name on the ballot? And should Joe Biden contract the virus as a result of his encounter with Mr.

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Trump tonight? And do the Democrats? But what happens to the Democrats is it familiarised so the election does have to happen on November the 3rd.

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That is a provision that is enshrined and cannot be moved. President Trump had, for different reasons earlier this year, implied it could be moved and was swiftly rebuffed by virtually everyone, including some Republicans. The question of whether Trump himself is on the ballot, where his situation to worsen a well, for the start, some ballots have already been cast. But I know what you're really asking is, is Trump the candidate? Come what may not necessarily there?

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If his situation got really grave, he could actually, of course, resign the presidency, at which point one would assume, well, Mike Pence would become president and one would assume Pence would become the person seeking a second term. In Biden's case, if Biden were to be in some fashion incapacitated, one would assume it would go to higher ups.

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But the decision in both Republican and Democratic cases, oddly enough, rests with the party committees, the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee. I would assume they would go to the deputy and each cases, each case, and that person would then become the party nominee. And any votes already cast for the person who is currently on top of the ticket, Donald Trump or Joe Biden, would accrue to whoever had become the nominee following their incapacitation.

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OK, now we're very grateful to you. We know you've had a long and busy night. Like all the journalists in America. It may be took his revenge on the journalists by tweeting at 1:00 a.m. in the morning, but thank you so much.

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Have a nice peaceful. We can get some rest. And we're grateful to you. We're grateful to all of you who listen as well.

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And very grateful to Tasco, our sponsors. That's all we have time for now. We'll talk to you soon.