Trump news: President cancels Alabama rally over coronavirus fears as criticism mounts over Russian bounty controversy

REUTERS

Donald Trump has been accused of using Oval Office phone calls to “humiliate and bully” world leaders including German chancellor Angela Merkel and ex-British prime minister Theresa May while pandering to authoritarians like Russian president Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

A damning article by veteran reporter Carl Bernstein quotes sources describing Trump as “delusional” and jeopardising America’s national security and place on the global stage by surrendering political advantage to Putin, who is likened to “a chess grandmaster” making short work of “an occasional player of checkers”.

The Trump administration is also facing increasing pressure to come clean about a reported Russian plot to pay bounties to the Taliban for assassinating US troops in Afghanistan as the coronavirus rages in southern states. Mr Trump’s campaign meanwhile cancelled a rally for next weekend in Alabama amid concerns of rising coronavirus infections in multiple states across the country.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany blamed “rogue intelligence officers” for leaking classified information that led to media reports about the president’s alleged failure to read or respond to the Russian scheme, though she didn’t provide any evidence that there exists an internal plot to go after Mr Trump.

Administration officials have not denied that the intelligence reports exist but have blamed news outlets for covering information that the White House says has not been verified. But as the scandal nears its fifth days, US officials warned that the administration was receiving reports as early as last year.

Ms McEnany said that “the president was never briefed on this” but “has been briefed about what’s in the public domain,” suggesting a gap between US intelligence and the Oval Office.

Joe Biden meanwhile held his first press conference since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic to condemn the president’s response to the crisis.

He said called the president’s handling of the bounty scandal as a “dereliction of duty” if he had been briefed and refused to act. If the allegations based on media reports are true, Mr Trump is “unfit to be president,” he said.

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