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Suzanne Lynch's US Election Diary: Trump picks fight with Fauci as he returns to campaign trail

Confirmation hearing for supreme court nominee Amy Coney Barrett to begin in US Senate this afternoon

With election day just over three weeks away, US president Donald Trump returns to the campaign trail later today when he holds a rally near Orlando, Florida. Technically it's his first rally since leaving hospital a week ago, though the event he hosted on Saturday on the South Lawn of the White House had all the trappings of a campaign rally.

The president returned to the balcony of the White House for a reprise of last Monday’s grand return from hospital. This time he addressed hundreds of red-hatted supporters who cheered “Four More Years” and “We Love You” as Trump denigrated Democrats and called for law and order.

Ahead of his trip to Florida, Trump told Fox News yesterday that he was cured and may be "immune" from the disease, though a memo released by the White House physician Sean Conley on Saturday left many unanswered questions, including when the president last tested negative for coronavirus.

Mr Trump also risked picking a fight with one of the most popular figures in the US – Dr Anthony Fauci. The infectious disease expert objected to his inclusion in a Trump campaign ad.

The other main event today in Washington is the confirmation hearing for Amy Coney Barrett, Trump's pick to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the US supreme court.

Her appointment is highly controversial, coming so close to an election. Mitch McConnell, the top Senate Republican, controversially refused to even consider Barack Obama's nominee for the court in 2016 because it was election year. How things have changed.

The 22-member senate judiciary committee will begin questioning Ms Barrett this morning at 9am ET (2pm Irish time), the first of four days of testimony. Focus will not only be on Ms Barrett, whose personal conservative values worry Democrats concerned about the implications for abortion rights in the US, but also on the committee’s chairman, Lindsey Graham.

One of Trump’s staunchest defenders, Graham has refused to take a coronavirus test directly ahead of the hearing, no doubt aware that a positive test could throw the confirmation hearing’s already tight timetable into disarray. Two of the Republican senators on the committee have already tested positive.

Graham is also facing the fight of his political life in the South Carolina senate race – one of 33 Senate seats on the ballot on November 3rd. His Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison raised a staggering $57 million in the third quarter, the highest quarterly fundraising total for any senate candidate in US history.

Also in focus today will be Democratic vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris, who sits on the judiciary committee. The Californian senator's questioning of Brett Kavanaugh in 2018 helped elevate her national profile. The next four days could generate some equally TV-friendly stand-out moments.

On the campaign trail today

Donald Trump is due to leave the White House for the first time in a week, departing in the afternoon for a campaign rally just outside Orlando, Florida. Vice-president Mike Pence will be in Columbus, Ohio, while Democratic candidate Joe Biden will also visit the state on Monday, with events scheduled in Toledo and Cincinnati.

No Republican candidate has ever reached the White House without winning Ohio, but its status as a swing-state had come into question in recent years as it has become more reliably Republican. However, recent polling shows that Biden is gaining strength in the mid-western state, and Democrats are upping their TV advertisement spend there. (See this recent piece by our man in Ohio, Stephen Starr, on the stakes in the electorally-important state.

Meanwhile, the political spouses are also hitting the campaign trail today. Jill Biden is due to visit Georgia, a traditionally Republican state where Democrats are hoping to make gains. After a stop at an early voting site in Atlanta, she will travel on to Columbus to meet with military and veteran families.

With his wife sequestered in Washington to attend the Amy Coney Barrett hearings, Kamala Harris' husband Doug Emhoff will be campaigning in Michigan. He is due to hold a voter mobilisation event with Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who was the subject of a foiled kidnapping plot uncovered by the FBI last week.

Quote of the Day

By currently recognised standards, he is no longer considered a transmission risk to others

White House physician Sean Conley with the latest update on President Donald Trump’s health following his hospitalisation for coronavirus

Recommended reads

The latest on Trump's Covid-19 diagnosis as the president heads to Florida.

Maureen Dowd on how Senate Majority Leader Mitch Mc Connell is distancing himself from Donald Trump as the polls suggest that the election could be a wipe-out.

My dispatch from Texas in this weekend's Irish Times, one of a series of articles from across the country ahead of the election.

As supreme court nominee Amy Coney Barrett begins her confirmation hearings in the Senate, Stephen Starr has a revealing piece on People of God, a Christian movement with similar structures to People of Praise, which counts Barrett as a member. Both emerged from the Catholic charismatic renewal movement of the 1960s.

The Washington Post reveals Barrett's role in the famous Florida recount that decided the election in favour of George W Bush over Al Gore 20 years ago. supreme court justice Brett Kavanaugh and chief justice John Roberts were also involved. This means that, if confirmed, three of the nine justices on the supreme court will have participated in litigation related to the landmark case – an intriguing fact given that the court could have to weigh-in if this year's election is contested as Donald Trump has suggested it might be …

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