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President Trump on Tuesday defended his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, telling a woman in the audience at an ABC News town hall in Philadelphia that he did not “downplay” COVID-19 but instead “up-played” it.

“Why would you downplay a pandemic that is known to disproportionately harm low income families and minority communities?” the woman asked the commander in chief in response to his comment to author Bob Woodward.

“Well I didn’t downplay it, I actually, in many ways, I up-played it in terms of action. My action was very strong,” Trump told her.

She responded, “Did you not admit to it yourself?”

The president continued to defend his performance without recognizing her interruption at the event, which featured undecided swing-state voters.

“What I did was, with China, I put a ban on, with Europe I put a ban on, and we would have lost thousands of more people had I not put the ban on. So that was called action, not with the mouth but in actual fact,” Trump said.

“We did a very very good job when we put that ban on. Whether you call it talent or luck, it was very important, so we saved a lot of lives when we did that.”

Trump told Woodward in March, “I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down. Because I don’t want to create a panic.” A recording of the remark was recently published.

Trump defended himself at a recent White House press briefing, saying that he felt it was his responsibility to avoid stoking panic. His press secretary Kayleigh McEnany cited a run on grocery stores at the beginning of the pandemic.

“There was no lie here,” Trump said last week. “What we’re doing is we’re leading, and we’re leading in a proper way… You don’t want me jumping up and down screaming, ‘There’s going to be great death!’ ”

ABC News town hall host George Stephanopoulos, a former White House adviser to President Bill Clinton, told Trump on Tuesday there were “holes” in the coronavirus travel bans.

“I mean the holes in where if you have somebody in China that’s an American citizen we had to let them in,” Trump said, referring to the court-established right for Americans to return to the US.

The clip was released ahead of the full town hall, which will be broadcast at 9 p.m.

Vice President Joe Biden declined an invitation to appear for an ABC News town hall, the network said. But Biden will participate in a CNN town hall on Thursday.

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This Democratic senator is *already* hedging his stance on getting rid of the legislative filibuster

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Frustrated Australian Climate Activist Juggles School and a Lawsuit

By Jill Gralow

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian school student Ambrose Hayes, 15, rode on a protest barge in Sydney Harbour on Friday holding a huge yellow banner demanding "No Gas" as part of a global climate rally calling for greater action from world leaders.

"I am here because I am fed up with the Australian government's inaction on the climate crisis. We need to act now before it's too late," climate activist Hayes told Reuters TV.

Hayes protest is part of some 500 climate events planned across Australia as part of "Fridays for Future" movement that was made famous by Swedish student Greta Thunberg.

Hayes is one of eight students who have launched a class action to stop the environment minister approving an expansion of a coal mine arguing it will endanger their futures.

The students argue the Environment Minister Susan Ley has a duty of care to protect them from climate change and the expansion of Whitehaven Coal's Vickery coal mine in New South Wales state will contribute to climate change and endanger their future.

"If we don't take action now we're going to face more intense droughts, more intense fires... these are just going to happen more and more and we're not going to stop it if we don't take action now," Hayes said.

Less than two years ago, Hayes was at school frustrated by what he perceived as inaction to lower carbon emissions. Now, he is a leading climate activist in Australia.

"I shouldn't have to be doing this. I should be a 'normal kid' going to school and not having to worry about this. But the government has left us no choice. The last generations have left us not choice. We need to stand up," Hayes told Reuters. Climate change has been a divisive topic in Australia, one of the world's largest per capita carbon emitters. The country's conservative government has won successive elections on a platform of supporting Australia's dominant fossil fuel sectors. But massive bushfires earlier this year, which experts said were stoked by a drought exacerbated by climate change, have elevated climate change as an issue for many, especially with fires expected in a few months when Australia's summer returns.

About 300,000 Australian school children and climate activist last year took to the streets demanding urgent action to lower carbon emissions, protests criticised by several senior Australian government ministers.

(Writing by Colin Packham and Swati Pandey; Editing by Michael Perry)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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