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White House secretary Kayleigh McEnany has defended Donald Trump over the well wishes he sent publicly to Ghislaine Maxwell, who has been charged with the sexual trafficking of young girls, while sharing a video of protestors described by critics as “propaganda” as the president threatens to send federal law enforcement to nationwide cities dealing with major demonstrations.

Ms McEnany said that the president instead wanted “justice to be served for victims in this case”. The United Nations has pleaded with the US to halt the use of force against journalists, at least 70 of which have been placed in custody during Black Lives Matter demonstrations.

The administration has defended pushing for schools to reopen in the coming weeks, following the release of Centres for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines that downplay the agency’s own findings about the risks of infections among school-aged children.

During a Friday briefing, Ms McEnany said: “Even if there is transmission … we believe that students should be going back to school because the effect on a child we know scientifically they are not affected the same way as an adult.”

Mr Trump meanwhile sat for a softball interview with Barstool Sports in which he admitted regretting some late-night posts on Twitter and boasted about being in rap songs while calling the Covid-19 outbreak a “downer”.

“We were doing a great job,” he said. “We were sailing. George Washington would’ve had a hard time beating us … And then when the China virus came in. It’s a dampener, it’s a downer.”

The president has also signed a series of orders in an effort to lower prescription drug costs, despite pushback from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell over similar legislative efforts from Democrats.

Without any deal in sight, Congress has failed to extend federal unemployment benefits, which expire for most Americans this week. More than 30 million people – or roughly one in five workers – are unemployment amid the pandemic.

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