Trump praises experimental COVID drugs in video update; Pence and Harris face off tonight: Live updates

President Donald Trump returned to the Oval Office on Wednesday, breaking quarantine by returning to the offices where the president and more than a dozen employees have tested positive for COVID-19.

Trump left the White House residence just two days after returning from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he was treated for the deadly virus that has killed more than 200,000 Americans. 

He filmed a nearly five-minute video praising experimental drugs he took as part of his recovery, saying that catching the virus was like a "blessing from God" so he could understand firsthand the benefits of one treatment in particular, Regeneron's experimental drug cocktail.

His video came just hours before Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, face each other in one of the most anticipated vice presidential debates in years.

Trump also got more bad news regarding his tax returns on Wednesday when the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the president's claims that a grand jury subpoena of his returns was overly broad and issued in bad faith.

Trump’s accountant must turn over his tax records to Manhattan prosecutors, the court ruled. However, the court said a stay of the lower court's decision will remain in effect so Trump's attorneys can appeal to the Supreme Court. The matter may not be fully resolved before the November election.

The latest: 

📊 What the polls are saying: A startling poll of roughly 2,000 U.S. voters found 56% expect violence after the election. In the battleground state of Wisconsin, Biden leads Trump by 46% to 41%, according to Wednesday's Marquette University Law School Poll.  

📆 27 days until Election Day, zero days until the vice presidential debate, eight days until the second presidential debate, 105 days until Inauguration Day, 86 days left in 2020.

🗳️ Voting: See USA TODAY's Voter Guide for information on registering to votewhen your state begins voting and what the candidates think about the issues

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Marine Corps assistant commandant tests positive for COVID-19

The assistant commandant of the Marine Corps has tested positive for COVID-19, the second officer to contract the disease days after a meeting of the military's most senior commanders at the Pentagon.

Marine Gen. Gary Thomas, the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, has been quarantined since Tuesday along with most of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and several other officers who had been in a meeting last week with Coast Guard's No. 2 officer, Adm. Charles Ray. 

Thomas is experiencing mild symptoms, but otherwise is feeling well, according to a statement from the Marine Corps.

The military's top two officers, Army Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Air Force Gen. John Hyten, the vice chairman, are among those senior commanders in quarantine. 

"We are aware of General Thomas’ positive test for COVID-19," Jonathan Hoffman, the chief spokesman for the Pentagon, said in a statement Wednesday night. "At this time we have no additional senior leader positive test results to report. We will continue to follow CDC guidance for self-quarantining and contact tracing."

– Tom Vanden Brook

Trump praises experimental COVID drugs in latest video message

President Donald Trump released a nearly five-minute video Wednesday evening on Twitter to update supporters on his condition as he continues to battle COVID-19. 

Trump, who was dressed in a suit and not wearing a mask, said the "key" to his recovery from the virus was the experimental antibody cocktail by drugmaker Regeneron that he was given on Friday before he was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. 

"Immediately I felt as good three days ago as I do now," Trump said in a video shot Wednesday outside the White House, according to his chief of staff Mark Meadows. . 

The president also said his administration was working to make the drug free for Americans. 

"I want everybody to be given the same treatment as your president, because I feel great. I feel like perfect," Trump said

The drug remains under development and is not yet approved for use in the United States or anywhere else.

Trump was able to get it under a "compassionate use" exemption, which the company said it has granted to fewer than 10 people so far, after requests from their doctors and approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a process that typically takes days to weeks.

The president said his administration had asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve emergency use authorization of the Regeneron drug. Pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, Regeneron's competitor, has requested emergency use authorization from the FDA for a similar drug.

– Courtney Subramanian

Trump says catching COVID was a 'blessing from God'

President Donald Trump's positive COVID-19 test was part of a broader White House outbreak that included his wife first lady Melania Trump, his press secretary and top aids.

But he described catching the virus as a "blessing from God" in a video message Wednesday.

"I think this was a blessing from God that I caught it." he said, adding that it was a "blessing in disguise" so he could understand firsthand the benefits of Regeneron's experimental drug cocktail, which he has taken as part of his treatment.

"I want to get for you what I got and I'm going to make it free. You're not going to pay for it," he vowed. 

Trump previously reported he earned capital gains from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and Gilead Sciences Inc., both manufacturers of two medicines he's taken as part of his COVID-19 treatment.

Trump's doctors said the president continues to take the steroid dexamethasone and he completed a five-day course of the antiviral drug Remdesivir on Tuesday. He has also taken zinc, vitamin D, famotidine, melatonin and a daily aspirin, doctors said.

– Courtney Subramanian

Amy Coney Barrett speaks with 4 Democratic senators

Four Democratic senators spoke with President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett on Wednesday.

Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.; Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.; and Chris Coons, D-Del., spoke with Barrett over the phone, rather than holding in-person meetings like Republican senators did last week. 

All four Democrats are members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the panel overseeing judicial nominations. Feinstein is the top Democrat on the panel, and Leahy is its former chair.

Coons told reporters he told Barrett her confirmation was “divisive” given it is so close to Election Day. He asked her about cases related to the Affordable Care Act because of  Democrats’ concerns that the Supreme Court could overturn the law, but she declined to comment on cases that could come before the court, he said. The Delaware Democrat said Barrett had qualifications “appropriate” for that of a Supreme Court justice, but he still had concerns about “her judicial philosophy and her views.”

At least seven Democrats have met with Barrett so far. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., a moderate Democrat, met with her on Thursday. In a statement released later Wednesday, White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere said two other senators had also met with Barrett – Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J. Klobuchar spoke with Barrett Wednesday, and Booker spoke with her "last week." Klobuchar and Booker are also on the Judiciary Committee.

Two members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, both tested positive for COVID-19 last week and have gone into quarantine. Hearings are scheduled to start Monday and Republicans aim to confirm Barrett before Election Day.

– Nicholas Wu

Pence tests negative for COVID-19 ahead of debate with Harris

Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen tested negative for COVID-19 Wednesday, according to his spokesman.

Mike Pence faces off against Sen. Kamala Harris in the vice presidential debate Wednesday evening. 

- Maureen Groppe

Trump leaves White House residence, heads to Oval Office

President Donald Trump remained out of the public eye midday Wednesday, but it appears he did get back to the Oval Office.

A Marine guard posted himself outside the door of the West Wing shortly after 3 p.m. EST; the Marine's presence has long been the traditional signal that the president, any president, is in the Oval.

An administration official confirmed that Trump worked out of the Oval Office, but declined to say whether this constituted breaking quarantine.

Aides said Trump continues to speak with aides and congressional leaders, and to do the job as needed.

The president is also talking about the possibility of some kind of national address, or perhaps another video.

“He wants to speak to the American people and he will do so soon," said White House spokesperson Brian Morgenstern. "I don't have an exact time or a definite way he'll do that."

– David Jackson

A Marine is posted outside the West Wing of the White House, signifying the president is in the Oval Office on Wednesday.

Doctor says Donald Trump says he feels 'great!'

In his daily written summation, presidential physician Sean Conley quoted Donald Trump himself providing his own prognosis.

"The President this morning says 'I feel great!" Conley wrote in a brief memo released by the White House. "His physical exam and vital signs, including oxygen saturation and respiratory rate, all remain stable and in normal range."

Conley also reported that Trump – who has not been seen in public since he returned to the White House on Monday night – has been fever-free for more than four days and symptom-free for more than 24 hours.

The president also "has not needed nor received any supplemental oxygen since initial hospitalization," the doctor said. Conley had been criticized for being evasive on Trump's oxygen and the question remains of when he last tested negative.

Conley also reported that Trump's bloodwork showed "detectable levels" of antibodies.

Trump received an experimental drug that is not yet FDA approved. Other than that, the drugs he received are normal for COVID-19 patients, although delivered much more quickly to him as president.

 – David Jackson

White House COVID outbreak may have exposed thousands from Atlanta to Minnesota

Trump and other White House insiders infected with COVID-19 carried the virus across the country in a matter of days, potentially exposing hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people as they went about their business, a USA TODAY investigation found. 

From a religious summit outside of Atlanta to a campaign rally at a Pennsylvania airport and a private fundraiser in Minnesota, Trump, his aides and his political allies attended events with thousands of people, often without masks and little regard for social distancing.

Trump, first lady Melania Trump, senior adviser Hope Hicks and press secretary Kayleigh McEnany are among more than 20 to test positive for COVID-19 from an outbreak tied to the White House. USA TODAY reporters examined hundreds of photos and videos from news coverage and social media posts and scoured attendance logs to identify people who came in contact with those individuals.

At least 6,000 people attended meetings, rallies and other gatherings with them within a week of the Sept. 26 Supreme Court nomination ceremony in the White House Rose Garden, now pegged as a potential “superspreader” event. 

– Josh Salman and Dinah Voyles Pulver

White House outbreak:White House coronavirus outbreak may have exposed thousands from Atlanta to Minnesota

Biden's Gettysburg address

On Tuesday, Biden was in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the site of the defining Civil War battle in 1863 that ended up saving the Union, to make a point about the need to heal the country's political chasms.

 "Today again, we are a house divided," he said.

"As I look across America today, I'm concerned the country is in a dangerous place," the former vice president said. "Our trust in each other is ebbing. Hope seems elusive. Too many American see our public life not as an arena for mediation of our differences, but rather they see it as an occasion for total, unrelenting partisan warfare. Instead of treating each other's party as the opposition, we treat them as the enemy. This must end."

Pelosi on 'The View': Trump needs an 'intervention'

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., lambasted Trump during a Wednesday interview on ABC’s “The View,” calling for White House staff to stage an "intervention" on President Donald Trump, who is back at the White House recovering from COVID-19.

Asked about her level of concern for President Donald Trump's health given her role as second in the line of succession behind Vice President Mike Pence, Pelosi said she was very concerned for both herself and others around the country suffering amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

"That's why I think that there has to be an intervention in terms of people around him," she said, citing the need for a national plan to combat the pandemic. 

She also said Trump made a “terrible mistake" by opposing any further discussion of a coronavirus stimulus package, she said.

Trump put an end to months of negotiations over a COVID-19 stimulus package Tuesday, rejecting the Democrats' latest offer. 

The president's rejection and insistence on restarting negotiations means both parties head into a crucial election without more relief for Americans struggling as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to unprecedented levels of unemployment and caused businesses to suffer. 

But then at 10:18 p.m. he tweeted that he would approve a standalone bill for $1,200 stimulus checks. How stocks are reacting.

– Matthew Brown and Nicholas Wu

Pelosi on 'The View':White House should stage a Trump 'intervention'

Harris vs. Pence

Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris get their turn in the spotlight at the vice presidential debate at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City on Wednesday at 9 EDT/6 PDT.

And there's already been disagreement -- over Plexiglass.

The debate will be especially high stakes. With Trump's COVID-19 diagnosis, the age of both presidential candidates and the much-disputed first presidential debate, voters may view the contest as an important chance to understand the issues.

Sitting vice president, Mike Pence, will debate Democratic candidate Sen. Kamala Harris Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020.

Susan Page, USA TODAY's Washington Bureau chief who has interviewed nine presidents, will moderate the 90-minute debate.

Viewers can stream the match-up live at debate2020.usatoday.com with real-time facts and context from USA TODAY's team of experts showing on-screen during the debate. The debate also will be aired on most major networks and cable news channels, including Fox News, CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, PBS and C-SPAN.

- Anne Godlasky

Is it safe to debate? The Plexiglass dispute

Harris will have plexiglass on her side of the debate stage, but Pence's team says he won't. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a memo said he's concluded it is safe for Pence to participate in the debate.

However, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, chief of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital, speaking on a call this morning sponsored by the Infectious Disease Society of America, said Vice President Pence should be at home quarantining, not traveling around the country.

As far as is known from published reports, less than 14 days ago he was in extended, close contact with people known to have come down with COVID-19, she said. CDC guidelines explicitly state that anyone who has been closer than 6 feet for more than 15 minutes with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 needs to quarantine for 14 days.

The guidelines do not provide an option for “testing out” of this situation, she said. Because of a lack of transparency by the White House, which she condemned, she said it’s not exactly clear what his exposure was, but at the Rose Garden ceremony on September 26, he was within 6 feet of several people later diagnosed with COVID-19.

(By the way, want to get in on reporting? Help us ID people in this photo.)

Vice President Mike Pence and first lady Melania Trump, with Kellyanne Conway immediately behind her, on Sept. 26, 2020, at the White House ceremony for a Supreme Court nominee.

“In my mind, I believe he meets the CDC definition for quarantine,” she said. “There are no guidances for how you should behave if you’re not going to quarantine, because you’re not supposed to do that.” But she noted that to go to the debate he would have to come into contact with many people, including drivers, hotel workers and servers. “All those people will be exposed, not just vice presidential candidate Harris through this,” she said. “This is where I really find it very important that we follow CDC guidance.”

- Karen Weintraub

One aide says Trump was in Oval Office; others say not

White House officials continue to say different things about President Donald Trump's situation, including whether or not he dropped by the Oval Office on Tuesday.

While doctors want to confine Trump to the White House residence as he recovers from an attack of COVID-19, one aide claimed he did wander over to the Oval Office on Tuesday – though others said he had only planned to go there.

"The president actually showed up in the Oval Office yesterday with extra precautions," economic adviser Larry Kudlow told CNBC.

White House spokesman Ben Williamson, however, said it didn't happen.

"While the President wanted to be in the Oval Office yesterday, he was not there," Williamson said. "He stayed back in the residence working from there. Safety preparations have been underway in the event he moves to working out of the Oval in the coming days."

Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told reporters that Trump's schedule is "fluid."

“He wanted to go to the Oval yesterday. If he decided to go to the Oval, we’ve got safety protocols there," Meadows said.

Aides are in concert with claims that Trump continues to act as president despite his illness.

One thing for sure: The president is still tweeting. He tweeted or re-tweeted at least 40 items before 10 a.m.  Wednesday, many of them attacking Democrats and presidential nominee Joe Biden.

– David Jackson

Trump and staff defied CDC guidelines 2 dozen times since 9/1

Since Sept. 1, Trump and key Oval Office figures have violated Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance on the coronavirus at least 27 times, ignoring recommendations on mask wearing, social distancing, quarantining and more.

  • Trump hosted rallies with large, unmasked crowds 15 times. 
  • No masks were worn during Trump's debate prep -- now several who were there have COVID, including former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and White House adviser Stephen Miller. And Trump's family didn't wear masks during the debate.
  • At the large Rose Garden nomination of Amy Coney Barrett few wore masks and many hugged. Now, many who attended have COVID.
  • Even despite being exposed to the president and others who tested positive for COVID, numerous officials did not start quarantining as recommended -- and later tested positive themselves -- such as White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany. 

- Grace Hauck, Josh Bote

Stephen Miller has COVID

Senior White House adviser Stephen Miller has tested positive for the coronavirus, adding to a growing list of White House officials who have tested positive since Trump was diagnosed last week.

Miller was one of several involved in Trump's debate preparation who have since tested positive for the virus.

Miller is known as one of Trump’s main influences on immigration policies, including restrictions on travel from Muslim-majority countries and family separation policies at the southern border. 

- Savannah Behrmann

Dr. Redfield: Fall on your sword?

Dr. William Foege, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, asked the current CDC leader Dr. Robert Redfield to expose the failed U.S. response to COVID-19, calling on him to orchestrate his own firing to protest White House interference.

In a private letter, Foege, who has not previously been a vocal critic of the agency's handling of the novel coronavirus, called on Redfield to openly address the White House’s meddling in the agency’s efforts to manage the COVID-19 crisis and then accept the political sacrifice that would follow. He recommended that Redfield commit to writing the administration's failures — and his own — so there was a record that could not be dismissed.

“Don’t shy away from the fact this has been an unacceptable toll on our country. It is a slaughter and not just a political dispute,” he said.