'Fake speech': Trump fumes at Obama


Welcome to our live coverage of the US presidential election campaign.

We are exactly one week away from the votes being counted, and both sides are making their last-minute appeals to Americans.

For President Donald Trump, that means holding a bunch of political rallies in the battleground states, hoping to further enthuse his loyal base of voters.

For Joe Biden's campaign, it means wheeling out Barack Obama. The former president appeared at a drive-in rally in Florida today, where he issued a withering condemnation of Mr Trump's first term in office.

The President was clearly watching. As Mr Obama spoke, Mr Trump complained that Fox News was playing his remarks for its viewers, labelling it a "no crowd, fake speech".

According to reporters on the ground, there were about 270 vehicles at the rally. The Biden campaign has been holding relatively small events, in accordance with local health guidelines, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Trump's rallies, by contrast, draw thousands of attendees, who stand in close proximity to one another as the President speaks.

Trump campaign deceptively edits Biden clip

Joe Biden gave a speech in Georgia a short time ago, the content of which I'll get to in a minute.

The Trump campaign has cut a very specific quote from the speech into a video and posted it online, in some pretty blatant skullduggery.

As presented by the campaign, without any context, it sounds as though Mr Biden was wondering why the hell he's running for president.

He was actually quoting an encyclical (papal letter) written by Pope Francis earlier this month.

"Politics is something more noble than posturing, marketing and media spin. These sow nothing but division, conflict and a bleak cynicism incapable of mobilising people to pursue a common goal," the Pope said.

"At times, in thinking of the future, we do well to ask ourselves, 'Why am I doing this? What is my real aim?' For as time goes on, reflecting on the past, the questions will not be, 'How many people endorsed me? How many people voted for me?'

"The real, and potentially painful, questions will be, 'How much love did I put into my work? What did I do for the progress of our people? What mark did I leave on the life of society? What real bonds did I create? What positive forces did I unleash? How much social peace did I sow? What good did I achieve in the position that was entrusted to me?'"

So yeah. Mr Biden was quoting the Pope's slapdown of shallow political spin, and the Trump campaign thought it was a great opportunity to do some shallow political spin of its own. Quite ironic

Trump says long vote count would be 'inappropriate'

Donald Trump has left the White House and is now en route to the first of three campaign rallies he's holding today.

He briefly spoke to reporters on his way out, and seemed to suggest it would be inappropriate for officials to keep counting votes after election night?

"It would be very, very proper and nice if a winner were declared on November 3, instead of counting ballots for two weeks, which is totally inappropriate, and I don't believe that that's by our laws. I don't believe that," the President said.

If you're wondering where the hell that's come from, there are concerns that a huge surge in the number of people voting by mail will cause delays in the count.

Federal Election Commissioner Ellen Weintraub was warning months ago that Americans should be prepared for no winner to be declared on election night.

To be clear about this, though, there would be nothing remotely unusual about the vote count continuing for a couple of weeks after the polls close. That always happens, to ensure that all valid votes are counted and that the final results are accurately reported.

The states have until December 8 to report their final tallies.

So the thing Mr Trump just described as not being "by our laws" is literally what the law says should happen.

Trump 'thinks Lesley Stahl is a bully'

There is one last part of Barack Obama's speech worth mentioning.

The former president used Donald Trump's complaints about his 60 Minutes interview with Lesley Stahl to suggest he was incapable of standing up to foreign dictators.

"Our current President, he whines that 60 Minutes is too tough. Do you think he's going to stand up to dictators? He thinks Lesley Stahl's a bully," Mr Obama asked.

"Just yesterday, he said that Putin of Russia, Xi of China and Kim Jong-un of North Korea want him to win. We know! We know, because you've been giving them whatever they want for the last four years. Of course they want you to win! That's not a good thing!

"You shouldn't brag about the fact that some of our greatest adversaries think they'd be better off with you in office. Of course they do! What does that say about you?

"Why are you bragging about that? Come on."

I went and checked Mr Trump's transcripts for the quote Mr Obama was referring to. This is what the President said at his rally in Allentown, Pennsylvania yesterday.

"The only thing I can tell you for sure, President Xi from China, President Putin from Russia, Kim Jong-Un from North Korea, and I could name 40 others - they're sharp as a tack," he said.

"They don't want to deal with Sleepy Joe. One of them said to me, one of the leaders said, 'Well, I hope you win because we don't want to deal with somebody that sleeps all the time.'"

Mr Trump also mentioned the three authoritarian leaders at his rally in Lititz, Pennsylvania.

"President Xi is a hundred percent charm. Putin, a hundred percent charm. Kim Jong-un, North Korea, a hundred percent charm," he said.

I honestly have no idea what he meant by that, and the context of the remark doesn't help shed any light.

'He's jealous': Obama mocks Trump

Most of Barack Obama's speech covered the same ground as his previous campaign appearances.

Among the smattering of new lines was a dig at Donald Trump's recent recurring complaint about the media's coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

The President has been telling his crowds that the news will stop covering the pandemic so much on November 4, the day after the election, when it will no longer have any impact on his political fortunes.

"What's his closing argument? That people are too focused on COVID. He said this at one of rallies. 'COVID, COVID, COVID!' He's complaining. He's jealous of COVID's media coverage!" Mr Obama said.

"If he had been focused on COVID from the beginning, cases wouldn't be reaching new record highs across the country this week. If we were focused on COVID now, the White House wouldn't be having its second outbreak in a month. The White House!

"Let me say this, I lived in the White House for a while. It's a controlled environment. You can take some preventative measures in the White House to avoid getting sick. Except this guy can't seem to do it. He's turned the White House into a hot zone.

"Some of the places he holds rallies have seen new spikes right after he leaves town. And over the weekend, his chief of staff said - and I'm quoting here, I'm not making this up, his chief of staff on a news program says, 'We're not going to control the pandemic.'

"Winter is coming. They're waving the white flag of surrender. Florida, we can't afford four more years of this."

That is a real quote from White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. He said it during an interview on CNN over the weekend.

Mr Meadows stressed that the Trump administration was focusing on developing a vaccine and various treatments for the virus, rather than stopping its spread.

There is evidence to support Mr Obama's assertion that Mr Trump's rallies have been followed by spikes in infections.

Yesterday the Centre for American Progress published analysis showing 11 of the 22 rallies the President held between June and September had been followed by increases in cases at the county level.

To be clear, that shows correlation, not necessarily causation.

'Fake speech': Trump fumes at Obama

Let's start today's coverage with former president Barack Obama's speech in Florida, which as I'm sure you know, is a critical swing state.

The polls there are tight (they show Joe Biden leading by a tick over 1 per cent), and Donald Trump probably can't win the election without it.

Mr Trump appears to have been watching his predecessor's drive-in rally live on Fox News, as he complained about the network's decision to broadcast it.

He tweeted a couple of potshots at Mr Obama, mocking the size of his crowd and his decision to stay neutral during the Democratic primaries, when Mr Biden was fighting for his party's nomination.

Reporters on the ground said there were about 270 vehicles at Mr Obama's rally. The Biden campaign has been holding relatively small events, in accordance with local health guidelines, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

By contrast, Mr Trump's rallies draw thousands of people, who stand in close proximity to one another, often without wearing masks.

The President frequently boasts about the size of his crowds, and during his recent interview with 60 Minutes, bristled at the suggestion they were smaller than in 2016.

I bring up all this background because Mr Obama mocked Mr Trump's obsession with crowd sizes during his appearance in Florida.

"This week, with everything that's happening, you know what he brought up? He was fussing about the crowd size at the inauguration again, saying his was bigger," Mr Obama said.

"Who is thinking about that right now!? Nobody, except him."

I actually wasn't aware Mr Trump had brought up his inauguration crowd recently, so I went back and checked the President's transcripts to make sure Mr Obama wasn't telling a furphy.

He wasn't. These quotes are from a Trump rally in North Carolina about a week ago, on October 21.

"You remember when we had the inauguration. I said, 'We had the biggest crowd.' And then they show empty space and they show Barack Hussein Obama's crowd," Mr Trump told his supporters.

"And I said, I think the word we used was 'audience', and that included all of the new things, all of the different things that we have coming out. Every week, there's a new form of information coming out. So I think we had the largest audience anywhere in the world.

"But they show this field. Now, when I was speaking, it was full. But when they show the field, it was all empty. I said, 'Wait a minute. I was speaking. It was full.' Well, they took the pictures about five or six hours early. They had everything roped off.

"And I said to my people, 'We ought to bring that up every once in a while.' 'Oh sir, nobody cares about it.' I care about it. I care about it.

"No, they took the pictures way early, and when I was speaking, I'm looking at this thing all the way back. It was so beautiful. I guess, the largest audience, and I think it was the largest audience. And we suffered.

"That was the first week. This was just the beginning. This was just the beginning."

We debunked all these claims almost four years ago. Mr Obama's inauguration crowds (both of them) were bigger than Mr Trump's, and I have no idea why that would matter to anyone.

Anyway, Mr Trump has been going after Mr Obama at his own rallies in recent weeks. Crowd size is a frequent topic.

"You know how many people he's drawing at these rallies? He's drawing flies. Flies. Twenty, thirty, forty. Not quite this crowd," the President said at an event in Pennsylvania yesterday.

"He gets up and they say, 'Ohhh, he was so rhetorically good.' I never thought he was a good speaker, personally. I really never did.

"Then they say, 'He's so handsome. He's so handsome.' Oh, OK. But you know what they don't want to show? They don't want to show his crowd. They don't want to show the crowd.

"And you know, they don't want to show this crowd, for the exact opposite reason. Because this is amazing."

For the record, I'm not aware of any coverage of Mr Obama's recent speeches that has called him "handsome".

Originally published as 'Fake speech': Trump fumes at Obama