10 things you need to know today: October 26, 2020

1.

Vice President Mike Pence plans to continue traveling as scheduled despite a coronavirus outbreak among at least three members of his staff, including his closest aide, Chief of Staff Marc Short, Pence Press Secretary Devin O’Malley said Sunday. Pence and second lady Karen Pence tested negative Sunday morning and “remain in good health,” O’Malley said. President Trump tested positive in early October, and a total of 34 people were associated with that outbreak. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows defended an effort to limit information on the latest burst of infections, portraying information among staff members as a matter of medical privacy. “Sharing personal information is not something that we should do,” Meadows said on CNN’s State of the Union. [Axios, The New York Times]

2.

The Senate voted Sunday along party lines to advance Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to fill the Supreme Court seat of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, clearing the way for a Monday night confirmation vote. The Senate met in a rare Sunday session to move the process forward with the 51 to 48 vote. Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) were the only Republicans to join Democrats in opposition. Confirming President Trump’s nominee to fill the seat of Ginsburg, a liberal icon, will increase conservatives’ majority on the court to 6-3. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Barrett is a “stellar nominee” and moving her forward “made an important contribution to the future of this country.” Democrats said it was wrong to confirm Barrett in the middle of a presidential election, and that her confirmation threatens ObamaCare, abortion rights, gay rights, and other key issues coming before the court. [The Washington Post]

3.

As of Sunday morning, nearly 60 million Americans had cast their ballots in the presidential election. The U.S. Elections Project, an independent data analysis project by the University of Florida, reports that of the 59,399,395 ballots cast, 39,909,913 are from mail-in voting and 19,489,482 are in-person votes. More than one-third of those votes are from California, Texas, and Florida, the three most populous states. The early votes amount to more than 42 percent of all votes cast in 2016. “People really have bought into the understanding that if this isn’t the most important election we’ve ever had, it’s one of several,” Dr. Larry Sabato, founder and director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, told The Guardian. “People are determined to express themselves and we all know why: Donald Trump.” [The Guardian]

4.

President Trump’s campaign on Sunday appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to block North Carolina’s plan to extend the counting of absentee ballots. Election officials in North Carolina, a battleground state that could tip the election, have called for counting ballots that arrive before Nov. 12, provided they are postmarked by Election Day, Nov. 3. The Trump campaign, the state Republican Party, and other conservative groups filed a lawsuit arguing that the plan violated the state’s election code. In a 12-3 decision last week, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling denying the request to halt the North Carolina State Board of Elections’ plan. Trump has argued without evidence that an increase in mail-in ballots due to the coronavirus pandemic will lead to fraud. [Reuters]

5.

President Trump declared Sunday that the coronavirus crisis is “ending,” even though single-day infection levels have just hit their highest point since the pandemic began. Trump, speaking at a campaign rally in New Hampshire, said a potential coronavirus vaccine is “going to be delivered fast.” “That will quickly end the pandemic — it’s ending anyway,” Trump said. “We’re rounding the turn, but the vaccine will get it down fast, because we want normal life to resume.” Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden seized on White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows’ statement that the Trump administration is “not going to control the pandemic.” “This wasn’t a slip by Meadows,” Biden said. “It was a candid acknowledgment of what President Trump’s strategy has clearly been from the beginning of this crisis: to wave the white flag of defeat.” [The Washington Post]

6.

President Trump plans to fire FBI Director Christopher Wray if he wins re-election, Axios reported Sunday, citing two people who have discussed the matter with the president. Trump also is expected to quickly replace CIA Director Gina Haspel and Defense Secretary Mark Esper, among others. Wray reportedly angered Trump by testifying to Congress that there were no signs of widespread election fraud, contradicting repeated claims Trump had made without providing evidence. Trump also has privately complained about Attorney General William Barr, although he has no formal plan to remove him, Axios reported. In a statement, White House spokesman Judd Deere said, “We have no personnel announcements at this time nor would it be appropriate to speculate about changes after the election or in a second term.” [Axios]

7.

Italy on Sunday announced new restrictions to fight the spread of the coronavirus, becoming the latest European government to respond to surging new infections across the continent. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced that starting Monday the country’s bars and restaurants would have to close by 6 p.m., and gyms, pools, and movie theaters must simply shut down. The news came as Italy confirmed 21,273 new cases, a single-day record. France set its fourth straight daily record with more than 50,000 new cases. Germany also reported a surge. Poland’s cases have doubled in less than three weeks, and Spain just imposed an overnight curfew. “The pandemic is spreading rapidly again, even faster than at the start of it more than half a year ago,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said. The U.S. reported a record 84,244 new cases on Friday. [The Washington Post]

8.

Delta Air Lines says in a new memo that it has barred more than 400 people from its airliners because they have refused to comply with the airline’s requirement for passengers to wear masks during flights. “As of this week, we’ve added 460 people to our no-fly list for refusing to comply with our mask requirement,” Delta CEO Ed Bastian said in a message to employees. The airline started requiring passengers to wear masks May 4. It said in August that it had banned about 270 passengers. All major U.S. airlines now require face coverings during flights. The federal government has not imposed regulations to prevent infections during air travel, although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it “strongly recommends” wearing masks on flights. [CNN]

9.

The State Department said Sunday that it had halted employee diversity and inclusion training programs. Reuters reported over the weekend that an internal State Department cable indicated that the programs had been paused after President Trump last month issued an executive order ending such programs, which the White House has called “divisive,” including any teaching by federal agencies that the United States is “fundamentally racist or sexist.” Despite the change, the State Department said it remained committed to increasing diversity in the workplace. “As an Executive Branch Agency, the Department of State complies with all Executive Orders,” a department said in an email, Reuters reported. [Reuters]

10.

The Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Tampa Bay Rays 4-2 on Sunday in Game 5 of the World Series. The Dodgers now have a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series, putting them within a game of their first championship since 1988. The Dodgers snapped back from a crushing Game 4 loss a day earlier that tied the series. Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw delivered another strong performance, retiring the last seven batters in a row — eight if you count throwing out Manuel Margot as he tried to become the first player to steal home in a World Series game since 2002. It was probably Kershaw’s last appearance in baseball’s first neutral-field World Series after posting four wins in the postseason. Game 6 is Tuesday. [ESPN, USA Today]

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