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NY Charges Johnson & Johnson With Insurance Fraud Over Opioid Claims

opioid epidemic

New York State filed civil charges on Thursday accusing Johnson & Johnson of insurance fraud for downplaying the risks of opioid painkillers, including to doctors and elderly patients.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the charges by New York‘s Department of Financial Services in that regulator’s opioid industry probe follow charges against Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd, Allergan Plc, Endo International Plc, and Mallinckrodt Plc.

Johnson & Johnson and its Janssen Pharmaceuticals affiliate were accused of specifically targeting elderly patients for opioid treatment despite the risks, and in marketing materials characterizing opioid addiction as a myth.

“Misrepresentation of opioids to consumers for profit is inexcusable,” Cuomo said in a statement.

Johnson & Johnson did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

New York said Johnson & Johnson manufactured opioid products in the state such as the fentanyl patch Duragesic and drug Nucynta, and said its “Norman Poppy” was once responsible for as much as 80 percent of the global supply for oxycodone raw materials.

The New Brunswick, New Jersey-based company was charged with violating two New York insurance laws, with civil penalties of up to $5,000 per violation.

Related Story: U.S. Appeals Court Revives NY Tax on Opioid Makers 

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Broad U.S. Rollout of COVID-19 Vaccine Could Happen Mid-2021, CDC Says

A scientist prepares samples during the research and development of a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a laboratory of BIOCAD biotechnology company in Saint Petersburg, Russia June 11, 2020. (REUTERS/Anton Vaganov/File Photo)

By Manas Mishra and Carl O’Donnell

A COVID-19 vaccine could be broadly rolled out in the United states by the middle of next year or a little later, the head of the federal government’s disease control agency said on Wednesday.

General availability of a vaccine could come by “late second quarter, third quarter 2021,” Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told a U.S. Congress panel.

A vaccine could be ready as soon as this November or December, Redfield said, adding that limited first doses could go to those who were most vulnerable.

“As soon as (a) vaccine gets approved or cleared, we want to be in a position to distribute it within 24 hours,” he told the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies.

But “in order to have enough of us immunized to have immunity, I think it’s going to take six-nine months,” he added.

Several companies are in late-stage trials and have expressed optimism, but none of the vaccines are yet proven to be effective and safe.

The federal government will allocate vaccines for each state based on the critical populations recommended first for vaccination by the U.S. CDC.

Testing also is accelerating and U.S. capacity could reach 3 million per day this month, Admiral Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, told the same hearing.

The capacity could scale up to as high as 135 million tests a month by October, Giroir added.

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U.S. Appeals Court Revives NY Tax on Opioid Makers

opioid epidemic

By Nate Raymond

A federal appeals court on Monday cleared the way for New York State to collect about $200 million from drug manufacturers and distributors by imposing a surcharge on them to defray the costs of combating the opioid addiction epidemic.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled a lower-court judge lacked authority to strike down the requirement that the companies collectively pay $100 million annually because it was tax rather than a regulatory fee or a punitive fine.

Industry trade group Healthcare Distribution Alliance, which along with the Association for Accessible Medicines and drugmaker Mallinckrodt Plc challenged the law in court, called the ruling disappointing. AAM said it was reviewing it.

The payments were owed under the Opioid Stewardship Act, which Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law in 2018 to address the costs the U.S. opioid addiction epidemic imposed on the state.

The law marked the first time a state had sought to impose a tax or fee related to the epidemic on opioid manufacturers and distributors. Delaware and Minnesota have since adopted their own taxes and other states have considered similar legislation.

The New York law envisioned collecting $100 million annually from manufacturers and distributors of prescription painkillers based on their market share. Distributor AmerisourceBergen Corp, for example, has set aside $22 million to cover potential payments.

A federal judge in 2018 ruled that a provision barring the companies from passing on the costs of making the payments to consumers was unconstitutional and could not be severed from the rest of the law.

Following that ruling, New York enacted a new tax law that did not include the pass-through prohibition. The state consequently only revived the rest of the law, allowing it to collect $200 million based on 2017 and 2018 market shares.

Related Story: Coronavirus Causing Spike in ODs on Long Island

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Trump’s Ex-Lawyer From Long Island Michael Cohen Links Falwell’s 2016 Endorsement To Suppression of Racy Photos

Michael Cohen, former personal lawyer for U.S. President Donald Trump, arrives at his Manhattan apartment after being released from federal prison to serve the remainder of his sentence under home confinement in New York City, New York U.S. July 24, 2020. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

By Aram Roston

In his book released Tuesday, Michael Cohen, the former fixer for U.S. President Donald Trump, ties for the first time the 2016 presidential endorsement of Trump by American evangelical leader Jerry Falwell Jr to Cohen’s own role in helping to keep racy “personal” photographs of the Falwells from becoming public.

As Reuters reported last year, the Falwells enlisted Cohen, who’s originally from Lawrence, to keep “a bunch of photographs, personal photographs” from becoming public, Cohen said in a recording, made surreptitiously by comedian Tom Arnold. “I actually have one of the photos,” he said, without going into specifics. “It’s terrible.”

In Disloyal: The Memoir, Cohen describes thinking that his involvement in the Falwell photo matter would be a “catch and kill” the practice of American tabloids to obtain and then suppress unfavorable stories about celebrities “but in this case it was just going to be kill.”

He later writes: “In good time, I would call in this favor, not for me, but for the Boss, at a crucial moment on his journey to the presidency.”

Cohen has said that he helped persuade Falwell to endorse Trump just before Republican voters gathered in Iowa in February 2016 to nominate a presidential candidate. Falwell not only publicly vouched for Trump’s Christian virtues but also barnstormed with the candidate. His backing of Trump a twice-divorced candidate who had talked about grabbing women’s genitals and engaged in extramarital affairs was one of the major surprises of the 2016 campaign.

In the book, Cohen doesn’t explicitly say that the endorsement was the favor he sought in return for his help in having kept the Falwell photos from getting out. But his account marks the first time he has linked the two issues.

Earlier this year, Cohen was quoted by CNN saying “there is absolutely no connection between the photos and my personal request to the Falwells to assist the Trump campaign.” How that comment jibes with what he’s written in his book is unclear. Cohen did not immediately respond to efforts by Reuters to reach him.

After this story was published, Jerry Falwell spoke by phone with Reuters. He said that “someone stole some pictures I took of my wife in the back yard. Topless. Big deal. OK?” But he said his endorsement of Trump had nothing to do with Cohen’s role in suppressing the racy photographs.

“It was no quid pro quo,” Falwell said. “There was no me supporting Trump because of whatever Michael was doing.”

Falwell said he endorsed Trump, at Cohen’s behest, because Falwell “believed that a businessman needed to run this country.”

Toward the end of the call, Becki Falwell, who has not commented on the Cohen book or the photographs, could be heard urging her husband to cut short the conversation with Reuters. “Hang up the goddamn phone,” she told her husband. “Hang up the phone, Jerry!”

The White House dismissed Cohen’s account.

“Michael Cohen is a disgraced felon and disbarred lawyer, who lied to Congress. He has lost all credibility, and it’s unsurprising to see his latest attempt to profit off of lies,” press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told Reuters.

Cohen, who was convicted of campaign finance violations and other crimes, is serving the remainder of his three-year term in home confinement.

Falwell, who at the time of the 2016 endorsement ran Liberty University, stepped down as president of Liberty late last month after Reuters reported that a business associate alleged a years-long affair with Jerry and Becki Falwell.

That associate, Giancarlo Granda, told Reuters the relationship involved him having sex with Becki Falwell while Jerry Falwell watched. Jerry Falwell has denied involvement, saying the sexual relationship was between his wife and Granda only.

Falwell’s departure from Liberty marked a dramatic fall for one of the most powerful figures in America’s evangelical Christian movement. He was widely credited with helping persuade many Christians concerned about Trump’s past to accept him as a repentant sinner.

In his book, Cohen writes that he had become close to the Falwells in 2011, once securing tickets for one of their daughters to see Justin Bieber perform. He calls the Falwells “dear friends, more like family to me.”

But he also makes clear that, as in the smaller assistance in securing the Bieber tickets, he saw the help he offered the Falwells in the photo matter as transactional and enormously significant.

“Like the Bieber favor a few years earlier, this would have a huge impact on the 2016 election, evangelicals, the Supreme Court and the fate of the nation,” Cohen writes.

“If Becki Falwell was seen half-naked by the students of Liberty University, let alone evangelicals all over the country, it would be an unmitigated disaster,” he writes.

After succeeding at keeping the photos from being released, Cohen writes that he “called Becki and reassured her that the pictures wouldn’t get out, but I could hear the fear and sadness in her voice. I reassured her I wouldn’t let her down, and I didn’t.”

“There it was: my second chit with the Falwells,” he writes. “In good time, I would call in this favor, not for me, but for the Boss, at a crucial moment on his journey to the presidency.”

Related Story: Trump’s Ex-lawyer From Long Island Michael Cohen: President Disparaged Black Leaders And Voters, Report Says

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NY May Move State Colleges With COVID-19 Spikes To Remote Learning, Cuomo Says

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks in front of stacks of medical protective supplies during a news conference at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center which will be partially converted into a temporary hospital during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York City, New York, U.S., March 24, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Tuesday the state’s health department would require colleges to report when they have more than 100 COVID-19 cases and that colleges above that threshold may be forced to switch to remote learning.

“Colleges across the country are seeing outbreaks,” Cuomo said at a news conference, noting that Cornell University and Hofstra University were among schools in the state that have had outbreaks. “This is going to be a problem.”

Hofstra called the governor’s characterization misleading and said the university is following necessary guidelines.

“The governor’s directive monitors positive results as of August 28, and we have had a total of 34 positive cases out of a total on-campus population of 9,200 since that date,” the university said. “In every instance, appropriate protocols have been followed, with immediate isolation and quarantine in coordination with the Department of Health. Unlike some schools, we have conducted thousands of initial tests, have begun surveillance testing and offer on-site symptomatic and other testing as advised by clinicians.”

The governor’s spokesman Jack Sterne shot back, saying Hofstra’s cases are concerning.

“Governor Cuomo has been clear that COVID can easily spread on college campuses and must be monitored closely,” Sterne said. “Seventy-four confirmed cases among the student body, there is obviously cause for concern at Hofstra and the Department of Health will continue to treat this like what it is: an outbreak that must be watched.”

Cuomo, a Democrat, also accused Republican President Donald Trump of “trying to kill New York City” by not advocating for additional federal aid to help states deal with the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, including funds to clean schools and trains.

Earlier on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Republican leaders of the U.S. Senate will introduce a proposal for additional coronavirus relief on Tuesday and could schedule a vote as soon as this week.

McConnell said the proposal – expected to have a far smaller scope than a bill passed in the Democratic-led House of Representatives – would focus on “some of the very most urgent healthcare, education and economic issues.”

Cuomo, who has repeatedly blamed the Trump administration for not acting more quickly and aggressively to prevent spread of the virus, said the president and the Republican-majority Senate would court economic disaster if they did not provide significant federal aid to the states.

“If they don’t provide a response the national economy will suffer for years,” he said.

A separate coronavirus tracker for colleges and universities can be found at suny.edu/covid19-tracker

-With Timothy Bolger

Related Story: NY Adding Cases in Schools To Coronavirus Tracker

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Trump’s Ex-lawyer From Long Island Michael Cohen: President Disparaged Black Leaders And Voters, Report Says

Michael Cohen, former personal lawyer for U.S. President Donald Trump, arrives at his Manhattan apartment after being released from federal prison to serve the remainder of his sentence under home confinement in New York City, New York U.S. July 24, 2020. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

By Jason Lange

Michael Cohen, U.S. President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, is alleging in a new book that Trump made disparaging remarks about Black world leaders including former South African President Nelson Mandela, as well as about U.S. minorities in general, the Washington Post reported on Saturday.

Cohen, a Lawrence native, worked closely with Trump for years before turning against him, most publicly in testimony to Congress last year prior to Trump’s impeachment.

Now Cohen is serving a three-year sentence for, among other things, making false statements to Congress. In a book due to be published next week, Cohen alleges that Trump described Mandela as a poor leader, according to the Washington Post, which reported it obtained a copy of the book.

According to the newspaper, Cohen wrote that following Mandela’s death in 2013, Trump said: “Mandela f—ed the whole country up. Now it’s a s—hole. F— Mandela. He was no leader.”

Cohen also alleged that Trump said: “Tell me one country run by a black person that isn’t a s—hole. They are all complete f—ing toilets.”

White House Spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany responded by attacking Cohen’s credibility.

“Michael Cohen is a disgraced felon and disbarred lawyer, who lied to Congress. He has lost all credibility, and it’s unsurprising to see his latest attempt to profit off of lies,” McEnany said in a statement.

Trump has called Cohen “a rat,” and a liar, and Cohen has said he faced repeated death threats from Trump supporters.

Trump, a Republican, is seeking re-election and will face Democrat Joe Biden at the polls on Nov. 3. At the Republican convention in August where Trump was formally nominated to appear on the ballot, speakers defended Trump against past accusations of racism.

Cohen alleged that Trump was dismissive of minorities, and that Trump said during his 2016 presidential campaign that he would not win the Hispanic vote, the Washington Post reported. According to Cohen, Trump said: “Like the blacks, they’re too stupid to vote for Trump.”

Cohen is serving time for tax evasion, false statements and campaign finance violations, the last related to payments to silence women who alleged affairs with Trump before the 2016 presidential election.

He was released to home confinement in May given the risks of catching COVID-19 in prison, but then was briefly imprisoned again in July. A federal judge then ruled Cohen had been subjected to retaliation for planning to publish his book, and ordered him released again.

Related Story: Trump’s Ex-Lawyer and Lawrence Native Michael Cohen Says He’ll Reveal Presidents’s ‘Skeletons’ in Upcoming Book

Related Story: Trump Tweets Support For Long Island Pizzeria Amid Flag Controversy  

Related Story: Montauk Key To Trump Taking Over Family Empire, Niece Writes

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Hedge Fund Founder From Roslyn Charged With Fraud Over Neiman Marcus Bankruptcy

The signage outside the Neiman Marcus store is seen during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York City, U.S., April 19, 2020. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon

By Jonathan Stempel and Lawrence Delevingne

A Roslyn man who founded a New York hedge fund was criminally charged on Thursday with pressuring a rival not to bid for assets related to Neiman Marcus’ bankruptcy so he could buy them at a lower price, the U.S. Department of Justice said on Thursday.

Daniel Kamensky, whose Marble Ridge Capital LP specialized in “distressed” investing and is liquidating its assets, was charged with securities fraud, wire fraud, extortion and bribery related to bankruptcy, and obstruction of justice.

Kamensky appeared briefly in Manhattan federal court, where bail was set at $250,000. His lawyers did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Prosecutors said Kamensky’s scheme began on July 31, when he learned an investment bank bid around 30 cents per share for securities tied to Neiman’s bankruptcy, above the 20 cents he hoped to pay.

Kamensky, 47, allegedly threatened to use his role as co-chair of the retailer’s official committee of unsecured creditors to block the higher bid, and stop doing business with the bank unless it backed off.

Prosecutors said after the bank withdrew its bid, Kamensky tried to cover his tracks by asking an employee there in a recorded call to tell the committee and law enforcement he suggested the bank bid only if it were serious.

“Do you understand … I can go to jail,” Kamensky was quoted as saying.

“I honestly … don’t want anything to do with this,” the employee responded.

“My position … is going to be look, this was a huge misunderstanding,” Kamensky said. “They’re going to say that I abused my position as a fiduciary, which I probably did, right?”

In a voluntary interview taken later under oath, Kamensky called his conversations with the employee a “terrible mistake” and “profound errors in lapses of judgment,” prosecutors said.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed related civil charges.

Marble Ridge had $1.2 billion of assets as of Dec. 31. It announced the liquidation on Aug. 20 after Kamensky’s conduct began falling under scrutiny.

Kamensky founded Marble Ridge in 2015 after working as a bankruptcy lawyer and a partner for the hedge fund firm Paulson & Co.

Neiman filed for Chapter 11 protection in May.

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Most States Reject Trump Administration’s New COVID-19 Testing Guidance

President Donald Trump gestures during a tour of the Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies' Innovation Center, a pharmaceutical manufacturing plant where components for a potential coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine candidate are being developed, in Morrrisville, North Carolina, U.S., July 27, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

By Carl O’Donnell, Vishwadha Chander and Manojna Maddipatla

A majority of U.S. states have rejected new Trump administration COVID-19 testing guidance in an extraordinary rebuke of the nation’s top agency for disease prevention, according to officials at state health agencies and public statements reviewed by Reuters.

At least 33 states continue to recommend testing people who have been exposed to COVID-19 and have no symptoms, spurning guidance published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this week that said testing may be unnecessary. Sixteen states did not immediately respond to requests for comment and North Dakota said it had not made a decision.

Among the states breaking with the federal government are conservative-leaning Texas, Oklahoma and Arizona.

Public health experts said a rupture of this magnitude with the CDC may be unprecedented and shows deepening distrust of the Trump administration and its response to the pandemic.

“This is states almost all-out rebelling against the new guidelines,” said Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The CDC said on Monday that people exposed to COVID-19 but not symptomatic “do not necessarily need a test unless you are a vulnerable individual or your health care provider or State or local public health officials recommend you take one.”

The CDC had previously recommended testing of all people who had close contact with someone who was diagnosed with COVID-19. That remains the policy of at least 30 states. Some that have not changed policy said they were studying the CDC guidance.

Admiral Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary for health at HHS, said in a statement to Reuters that the guidance “has been updated to reflect current evidence and best public health practices, and to further emphasize using CDC-approved prevention strategies.”

He said it places emphasis on testing individuals with symptoms of COVID-19, those with significant exposure, and vulnerable populations, which includes asymptomatic individuals that local public health officials choose to prioritize for testing.

Some state leaders and public health experts accuse the administration of using politics rather than science to guide its response to the pandemic.

“This 180-degree reversal of COVID-19 testing guidelines is reckless, and not based on science and has the potential to do long-term damage to the (CDC’s) reputation,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and the governors of New Jersey and Connecticut said in a statement, rejecting the new CDC guidance.

Giroir said on a Wednesday press call there was no political pressure from the administration. He said testing asymptomatic patients too early could produce false negatives and contribute to the virus’s spread.

“It’s pointless to be tested for the five to seven days (after infection) because you’re not going to be positive,” said David Battinelli, chief medical officer at Northwell Health, acknowledging concerns over testing too early. “There is an enormous amount of unnecessary testing going on.”

Idaho recommends that people exposed to COVID-19 contact their doctor to determine if they need testing. It was among the states that did not respond to a request for comment on the CDC guidance.

Public health officials believe the United States needs to test more frequently, that it is crucial to find asymptomatic COVID-19 carriers to slow the spread, and that the CDC’s comments could risk discouraging necessary testing.

Even before the CDC guidance, the number of coronavirus tests being conducted was on a decline. The United States tested on average 675,000 people a day last week, down from a peak of more than 800,000 people a day in late July.

Nationally, cases have fallen for five weeks in a row but infections are surging again in the U.S. Midwest with four states reporting record one-day increases in cases on Thursday as the U.S. death toll climbed above 180,000.

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Long Island Native Billionaire Steve Cohen Enters Talks To Buy Mets

New York Mets Citi Field

Billionaire hedge fund manager and Great Neck native Steve Cohen has entered exclusive negotiations to buy the New York Mets, CNBC reported on Friday, citing numerous unnamed sources.

Cohen, who lives in Connecticut, fended off a bid from a consortium led by Alex Rodriguez and singer-producer Jennifer Lopez, and another by private equity billionaires Josh Harris and David Blitzer, CNBC reported.

Cohen, who almost sealed a deal to buy an 80% stake in the Major League Baseball team for around $2.6 billion late in 2019, had not reached a definitive agreement but was expected to do so within days, the report added.

Cohen, who already has a 4% stake in the Mets, had ended the earlier talks with owners, the Wilpon family, in February reportedly due to issues related to closing costs.

Cohen’s Point72 Asset Management and the Mets were not immediately available for comment.

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Trump Blasts Biden in White House Speech Accepting Nomination

U.S. President Donald Trump delivers his acceptance speech as the 2020 Republican presidential nominee during the final event of the Republican National Convention on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S., August 27, 2020. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

By Jeff Mason and Joseph Ax

A defiant President Donald Trump accepted the Republican nomination for a second term on Thursday with a scathing attack on rival Joe Biden, asserting that a Democratic victory in November would only exacerbate the racial strife and coronavirus pandemic besieging the nation.

Speaking from the White House South Lawn despite criticism he was using the executive residence as a political prop, Trump portrayed Biden, a career politician with a long record as a moderate, as a far-left extremist who would usher in a lawless, dangerous America.

“This election will decide whether we protect law-abiding Americans, or whether we give free rein to violent anarchic agitators and criminals who threaten our citizens,” Trump said on the fourth and final night of the Republican National Convention in a speech that lasted more than an hour.

“No one will be safe in Biden’s America.”

Despite the pandemic that has killed more than 180,000 Americans, Trump delivered his remarks before a crowd of more than 1,000 people, standing in front of dozens of American flags and basking in chants of “Four more years!” and “U.S.A.!”

His language was evocative of his 2016 convention acceptance speech, which also came at a time of racial tension after eight police officers were killed in Texas and Louisiana amid protests following shootings of Black men.

“Americans watching this address tonight have seen the recent images of violence in our streets and the chaos in our communities,” he said then, vowing to end the turmoil.

But Trump, who ran successfully as an insurgent four years ago, is now in control at the White House, complicating his assertion once again that only he can solve the problem.

Republicans on Thursday sought to advance that message after days of civil unrest and violence in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where on Sunday police shot a Black man, Jacob Blake. They inaccurately asserted that Biden would “defund the police.” Biden has rejected that position.

As the night unfolded, Biden struck back on Twitter, writing, “When Donald Trump says tonight you won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America, look around and ask yourself: How safe do you feel in Donald Trump’s America?”

In trying to paint Biden as a tool of the “radical left,” Trump also distorted the Democrat’s policy positions on a host of other issues, including immigration, guns, law enforcement, abortion and energy production.

“If given the chance, he will be the destroyer of American greatness,” Trump warned.

The made-for-television scene befitting the first reality TV host to serve as president stood in marked contrast to Biden’s acceptance speech last week, which was broadcast live from a largely empty arena in a nod to the disease.

Following the speech, fireworks exploded over the nearby Washington Monument as the president and his family looked on, giving Trump and the convention a powerful closing image.

The crowd, seated in white chairs inches apart, showed little evidence of social distancing or face masks despite health experts’ recommendations. But the Trump campaign said it had taken appropriate health precautions in arranging the South Lawn event.

In a reminder of the country’s divisions, attendees could hear anti-Trump protesters sounding horns near the White House as he spoke, a noise that occasionally was audible on the live broadcast.

SHIFTING BLAME

Trump, a former New York real estate developer, is seeking to turn around a re-election campaign that has been largely overshadowed by a health crisis that has put millions of Americans out of work and killed more people than in any other country, according to a Reuters tally.

His campaign comes against the backdrop of a fresh wave of protests over the latest high-profile police shooting of a Black American. In Kenosha, relative calm returned after three nights of civil strife ending on Tuesday, including arson, vandalism and deadly shootings.

In his speech on Thursday, Trump again blamed China for the pandemic and promised in his second term to levy tariffs on any company that left America to create jobs overseas, one of the rare concrete policy proposals of the night.

He also promised to rebuild what Republicans have called the “greatest economy” in history and attacked Biden for saying he would shut down the country if necessary to slow the spread of the disease. Many health experts blame a resurgence of coronavirus cases on states that reopened businesses too soon.

“Joe Biden’s plan is not a solution to the virus, but rather a surrender,” Trump said.

While Trump’s popularity among Republican voters remains high, dissent is mounting within the party.

In three open letters published on Thursday and Friday, Biden won endorsements from more than 160 people who worked for Republican former President George W. Bush or for past Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and John McCain, The New York Times and Politico reported.

Thursday’s program aimed to counterbalance those defections with a video showcasing former Democratic voters who say they now support Trump and remarks from U.S. Representative Jeff Van Drew, who abandoned the Democratic Party to join the Republicans.

Trump kicked off the week on Monday by accusing Democrats of seeking to steal the election by advocating for mail-in voting. His previous high-profile speeches have also emphasized grim themes, including his inaugural address in January 2017 that described “American carnage.”

With both parties’ conventions now complete, the campaign enters a final, frenetic stretch. Biden, who has largely eschewed in-person events since March because of the pandemic, said at a Thursday fundraiser he expects to travel to several battleground states after early September, albeit in a manner he described as responsible.

Trump, who has visited several battleground states during the pandemic, also plans to increase his campaign travel.

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