Matt Stieb writes for New York Magazine this morning about two of the more curious insults that president Donald Trump lobbed at Joe Biden at his rallies over the weekend – that he listens to scientists.
At a rally in Carson City, Nevada, he told a crowd of unmasked supporters that Joe Biden will “listen to the scientists,” in a rigid tone and posture that suggested that only a sucker or loser would do such a thing.
The insult may not be as barbed as the president thinks it is. In the midst of a pandemic which has killed almost 220,000 Americans, voters still fear the threat of the virus and wish for a more competent and robust federal response. Two out of three Americans are concerned that they or someone close to them will contract the virus, while a similar number (65 percent) agreed that “Trump has not taken the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. seriously enough,” according to a poll taken shortly after the outbreak in the White House was made public.
Trump also sought to make out Biden as the Grinch.
While the president has long trafficked in the conservative fable that Democrats are out to ruin Christmas, he directly blamed his opponent for any holiday interruptions this year. “The Christmas season will be canceled,” Trump said, describing a Biden win — without accounting for the fact that he will still be president either way come December 25.
Joe Biden endorsed for President by Rolling Stone magazine
He’s not perhaps the most rock’n’roll figure to have ever run for president in the US, but this morning Joe Biden has been endorsed by Rolling Stone magazine. Warning that “the American experiment hangs in the balance in the November election”, their editorial board writes:
We’ve lived for the past four years under a man categorically unfit to be president. Fortunately for America, Joe Biden is Donald Trump’s opposite in nearly every category: The Democratic presidential nominee evinces competence, compassion, steadiness, integrity, and restraint. Perhaps most important in this moment, Biden holds a profound respect for the institutions of American democracy, as well as a deep knowledge about how our government — and our system of checks and balances — is meant to work; he aspires to lead the nation as its president, not its dictator. The 2020 election, then, offers the nation a chance to reboot and rebuild from the racist, authoritarian, know-nothing wreckage wrought by the 45th president. And there are few Americans better suited to the challenge than Joe Biden.
They argue strongly against giving the current president four more years in power.
As much as any specific policy, this election is a referendum on character — the character of the president and the character of the nation. America doesn’t need a saint in the Oval Office. But the country has been reeling with a broken man at the Resolute Desk. Trump is a narcissist and an egotist, a shameless liar and an open bigot, a man who simply cannot understand the notion of sacrifice for the greater good, even as he demands unthinking fealty from those in his service.
Read more here: Rolling Stone – Joe Biden for President: Biden’s platform offers progressive solutions to every major problem facing the country, and he has the experience to put those principles into practice
Crucial state of Florida begins in-person early voting today
Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris takes part in an early vote launch drive-in rally in Orlando, Florida in the morning, then travels to Jacksonville, Florida for voter mobilisation event in the afternoon. That’s because Florida begins in-person early voting today.
It’s one of the crucial states to look out for on election night – a Florida loss would make it nearly impossible for Trump to reach the 270 electoral votes needed to retain the White House.
Associated Press report that about 2.5 million mail-in ballots have already been cast, with Democrats returning 1.2 million and Republicans about 755,000 as of Sunday. Non-affiliated voters and third-party members make up the rest. The number of mail-in votes is already approaching the 2.7 million cast in 2016. Trump ultimately defeated Hillary Clinton in the state by about 113,000 votes.
Florida Republicans have said they aren’t worried about the mail-in gap, believing any advantage Biden gets will be swamped by Trump supporters casting in-person ballots starting this week and on Election Day. They believe Democrats are “cannibalizing” their own votes moving in-person voters to mail-in without increasing their overall support.
Long lines have plagued early voting sites in Georgia and other states, but Florida county elections supervisors have said they expect lines to move smoothly.
Elections officials are predicting that between mail-in ballots and early voting, about 70% of the ballots expected will be cast before Election Day. The state allows those ballots to be processed, but the actual count remains secret until after the polls close 3 November. Counties must end early voting by 1 November, and mail-in ballots, with few exceptions, must be received by 7pm on election day.
The last couple of polls in Florida showed it as a very tight race ahead, with The Hill/HarrisX poll on Friday putting it as a tie, and the Mason-Dixon giving Biden a three point lead.
If you fancy trying your own hand at predicting how election night will play out, you can plot either a Trump or Biden path to victory with our ‘build your own’ US election interactive.
Over at Politico, Natasha Bertran and Kyle Cheney have this look at how Biden’s advisers say that intel has become a political weapon under Trump, and how a Biden presidency would revamp the fraying intel community. They write:
What initially seemed like [Trump’s] mere boredom — which demoralized intelligence officials but could potentially be managed by including pictures and charts in briefings to hold the president’s attention — later morphed into something the officials saw as more sinister: an interest in wielding intelligence as a political cudgel. Whether selectively declassified by spy chiefs he installed for their loyalty, or obscured from congressional and public scrutiny if it conflicted with his preferred narrative, intelligence became just another weapon in the president’s arsenal. Trump’s actions, and the endless partisan battles over the Russia probe and impeachment, have left the intelligence community bruised and battered.
They quote Tony Blinken, who served as deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser under Obama and is an adviser to the Biden campaign:
This will be among the most important things a President Biden would need to do—and that he’ll want to do—immediately. I know from several conversations with him about this that he has deep concern about what has been done to the IC these last several years in terms of the politicization, and repairing that starts at the top with the president.
Bertran and Cheney go on to say:
The Biden campaign has been considering a couple of veteran national security hands who could serve in senior intelligence roles in a Biden administration and hit the ground running to repair what they see as the damage Trump has done to the intelligence community over the last four years. “There is no question that Biden and his team will have an urgent task in restoring faith, trust, competence, and morale in the intelligence community,” said former NSA general counsel Glenn Gerstell, who retired earlier this year. “It’s going to be a huge effort.”
Read more here: Politico – Biden would revamp fraying intel community
Charlie Kirk is the latest conservative voice to have their Twitter account locked for spreading misinformation. Jason Murdock reports for Newsweek:
The Twitter account of conservative activist and author Charlie Kirk was locked over the weekend for spreading misinformation.
Kirk, founder and president of Turning Point USA, a student-focused right-wing activism organization, confirmed on Sunday that he did not have access to his profile, telling Fox News he was in a “hostage situation” with the social networking platform.
Twitter said in a lock notification to Kirk that one of his posts had violated rules “against posting misleading information about voting.” Elaborating, Twitter warned: “You may not post content providing false information about voting or registering to vote.”
Kirk’s Twitter account was locked after he falsely asserted it was 370,000 mail-in ballots that were rejected by Pennsylvania state officials, not ballot applications.
We’ve been running a series looking at the environmental impact of a potential second Trump term and the scheduled US withdrawal from the Paris accord on 4 November. This morning Nat Herz has this piece for us about Big Oil’s answer to the melting Arctic – cooling the ground so it can keep drilling:
The oil company ConocoPhillips had a problem. It wanted to pump 160,000 more barrels of oil each day from a new project on Alaska’s North Slope. But the fossil fuels it and others produce are leading to global heating, and the Arctic is melting. The firm’s drilling infrastructure could be at risk atop thawing and unstable permafrost.
A recent environmental review of the project describes the company’s solution: cooling devices that will chill the ground beneath its structures, insulating them from the effects of the climate crisis.
The oil development that is fueling climate change continues to expand in the far north, with companies moving into new areas even as they are paying for special measures to protect equipment from the dangers of thawing permafrost and increasing rainfall – both expected outcomes as Arctic temperatures rise three times as fast as those elsewhere.
Under Donald Trump’s administration, Alaska has emerged as a hotbed of Arctic oil extraction, with big projects moving forward and millions of acres proposed to be opened to leasing. The administration recently finalized its plan to open a piece of the Arctic national wildlife refuge to the oil industry. And drilling is expanding at an Indiana-sized region next door: the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, which, despite its name, also contains treasured subsistence areas for locals.
During this US election cycle the unique characteristics of the Trump campaign have tended to obscure detailed policy debate. Indeed the Republican convention decided on a platform of simply supporting Trump, and his detailed list of policy objectives for a second term came out in August as a bullet point list.
Joe Biden’s plans have faced rather more traditional scrutiny. This morning Pete Schroeder and Katanga Johnson from Reuters have had a look at what his policies might look like for the financial sector. They singled out these areas as one which his administration and agency picks would likely focus on.
Community Reinvestment act – the pandemic has shone a harsh spotlight on America’s racial and wealth inequalities, galvanizing Democrats to use a range of policy levers to address the problems. Those include the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act, a fair lending law giving banks regulatory points for lending to low-income communities. Biden has pledged in campaign materials to expand the rules to other sectors, including mortgage and insurance companies.
Housing finance – addressing the country’s affordable housing crisis is a priority. A Biden administration would likely halt the Trump plan to release housing finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from government control, a move Democrats worry would increase the cost of mortgages for middle and lower-income Americans. Biden has also pledged to review rules by Trump’s housing regulator, which are meant to guard against lending behaviors which disproportionately adversely impact racial minorities or other protected groups.
Consumer protections – Biden has called for a robust Consumer Financial Protection Bureau which was created following the 2009 financial crisis to ensure banks did not take advantage of consumers. The agency has been less aggressive under Trump. Among Biden’s most eye-catching policy proposals is creation of a public credit reporting agency to compete against the likes of Equifax and TransUnion. According to Biden’s campaign materials, the new agency would aim to “minimize racial disparities” in credit reporting after some studies found the current system disadvantages and excludes minorities.
Climate change risks – Democratic lawmakers and policy experts are pushing hard for public corporations to be required to disclose climate change risks to their businesses and for such risks to be incorporated into the financial regulatory system.
Bankruptcy reform – Biden has adopted a bankruptcy reform plan pushed by consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren which he previously opposed. The proposal would make it easier for Americans to pursue bankruptcy and shield assets like houses and cars from debtors during the process.
Postal banking – Biden has expressed support for a long-held progressive policy to get the US Postal Service to provide basic banking services. The banking industry opposes creation of a taxpayer funded competitor and would fight the plan.
“All these rules exist, we’re told, to ensure a free and fair election. Yet there is no widespread voter fraud in America. The real risk is that your vote will be thrown out on technicalities that were designed to disenfranchise left-leaning voters” – so says the New York Times today in an interactive designed to educate you about how to make sure your mail-in ballot gets counted.
Whether it is signatures not matching precisely, incorrect details filled in on forms that are designed to act more like a literacy test than a ballot paper, or just a failure to completely color in the bubble where you express your preference, the ways your vote can be discounted in a US election are myriad.
Space news! I don’t often get to write about space news on the US politics blog, but Finland’s Nokia have just announced that they have been selected by Nasa to build the first cellular phone network on the moon. Presumably Huawei were not in the running.
Reuters add that the lunar network will be part of the US space agency’s efforts to return humans to the moon by 2024, and to build a long-term human presence and settlements there under its Artemis programme.
James Downie wrote for the Washington Post last night his view that one of the top priorities for a Biden presidency would be to get to grips with ‘the filibuster’, even if the Democratic party have taken control of the Senate.
Currently it takes 60 votes in the Senate to guarantee that you can end debate and move legislation forward – a threshold that the Democratic party are unlikely to reach on 3 November even with a Biden landslide in the main event. Downie suggests:
Before the election, Biden should say he will ask Senate Democrats to end the filibuster if Senate Republicans block pandemic relief. If the former vice president is squeamish about being that specific, he should at least promise Americans he’ll do whatever it takes to get them the economic stimulus they desperately need. That way, next year Democrats can say that they’re executing the will of the voters.
He reminds us that:
The night of Barack Obama’s inauguration, congressional Republicans committed to block every bill — including desperately needed economic aid. In a Biden administration, we’ll see the same. We’ll hear wails about the national debt, fake fury about small programs that right-wing outlets have turned into scandals, and nonsense about balancing the budget like a family checkbook, all amplified by credulous media. Never mind that Republicans blew hundreds of billions on ineffective tax cuts for the wealthiest and ran a $3.1 trillion deficit. Without stimulus, Americans will continue to suffer, and Republicans want to benefit politically from that. How a Biden administration deals with this depends on whether Democrats also retake the Senate. If McConnell remains majority leader, Biden’s presidency will be in trouble even before Inauguration Day.
President Donald Trump is appearing today in both Prescott and Tucson in Arizona. Reid Wilson last night for the Hill previewed the trip, saying that undecided voters in the state are wary of Trump and craving stablility. Wilson writes:
The few Arizona voters still struggling to make up their minds between Trump and Biden are weighing a conservative agenda they generally favor led by a candidate they do not like against a more liberal agenda they do not entirely support led by a candidate who comes across as far more empathetic.
In interviews with undecided and late-deciding voters here, many said they had supported Trump four years ago, but that his behavior had either disqualified him in their minds or raised serious questions about whether he is fit for another term in office.
“I actually voted for Trump last time around because I thought he’d be a good change. But he has been a tremendous disappointment. To me, he’s an embarrassment to the presidency,” said Claire Powers, 66, a registered independent in Scottsdale.
Joanna Albertson feels similarly conflicted. She has yet to decide which candidate to support this year. She sees a Republican Party that disdains working class Americans, and a Democratic Party that favors abortion rights she opposes.
“I’m inclined now to go with the one who I think may rock the boat the least because we’re already so unsettled. But it’s really hard to figure that out because I think that Trump has rocked the boat so much as president, and I think that Biden would be rocking the boat just because he would be new,” she said. “I think everybody is wondering, ‘How can I vote in this election and feel like I’m doing any good?’ ”
A lawsuit seeking to prevent Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam from removing an enormous statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Richmond is scheduled to go to trial Monday.
The plaintiffs, a group of Richmond residents who live near the monument, filed suit after Northam ordered the removal of the statue in June amid the outcry caused by the police killing of George Floyd.
They argue that the Democratic governor does not have the authority to remove the statue in this former capital of the Confederacy, and that doing so would violate restrictive covenants in deeds that transferred the statue, its pedestal and the land they sit on to the state. The statue was erected twenty-five years after the Confederacy was ended.
The state has argued it cannot be forced in perpetuity to maintain a statue Attorney General Mark Herring has called a “divisive, antiquated relic.”
It was not immediately clear when Richmond Circuit Court Judge W. Reilly Marchant might rule from the bench. But no matter Marchant’s decision, the case could take more time to unwind it is widely expected to be appealed to the Supreme Court of Virginia, report the Associated Press.
Monument Avenue, which once contained one of the nation’s most prominent tributes to the Confederacy, was dramatically transformed over the summer. The avenue’s other large Confederate statues, which all sat on city property, were either toppled by protesters or hauled off by contractors working for the city. Amid weeks of nightly protests, Mayor Levar Stoney ordered the statues removed, invoking his authority under a local emergency order.
The Lee statue, meanwhile, which stands on state-owned land, was transformed into a bustling hub of activity for demonstrators protesting police brutality and racism.
Here’s a reminder of the moment yesterday which Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says saw the president “inspiring and incentivising domestic terrorism”.
“You’ve got to get your governor to open up your state okay”, Donald Trump said as the thousands gathered began chanting “lock her up”. “Hopefully you’ll be sending her packing pretty soon,” Trump said, prompting the crowd to yell back “lock her up!”. ‘Lock them all up’, added the president.
Whitmer responded on Twitter to the chants: “This is exactly the rhetoric that has put me, my family, and other government officials’ lives in danger while we try to save the lives of our fellow American”.
Claudia Lauer reports for the Associated Press that police unions nationwide have largely supported Trump’s reelection, amid mass demonstrations over police brutality and accusations of systemic racism. A number of Black law enforcement officers, though, are speaking out against these endorsements, saying their concerns over entering the 2020 political fray were ignored.
Trump has touted his support from the law enforcement community, which include from some unions which publicly endorsed a political candidate for the first time. He’s running on what he calls a “law and order” platform and tapping into a strain of anger and frustration felt by law enforcement who believe they are being unfairly accused of racial discrimination.
The number of minority officers in policing has more than doubled in the last three decades, but many departments still have a smaller percentage of Black and Hispanic officers compared to the percentage of the general population those communities make up.
Many fraternal Black police organizations were formed to advocate for equality within police departments but also to focus on how law enforcement affects the wider Black community. There have often been tensions between minority organizations and larger unions, like in August, when the National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers issued a letter condemning use of deadly force, police misconduct and abuse in communities of color.
While support for the Republican incumbent does not strictly fall along racial lines, many Black officers say the endorsements for Trump don’t fairly represent all dues-paying members.
“We are members of these unions, and they don’t take into consideration our feelings about Donald J. Trump, then they don’t care about us and … they don’t care about our dues,” said Rochelle Bilal, the recent past president of the Guardian Civic League of Philadelphia, calling the National Fraternal Order of Police’s Trump endorsement an “outrage.”
Bilal, who was elected as Philadelphia’s first Black female sheriff last year, spoke at news conference on Friday with other Black law enforcement groups in Philadelphia to condemn Trump endorsements and the process they say ignored their concerns over what they perceived to be racist remarks, support for white supremacist groups and a lack of respect for women from Trump.
But national union leaders say the process is designed to give everyone a voice and the endorsement represents the majority of officers. The Fraternal Order of Police represents close to 350,000 officers nationally, but does not track racial demographics.
“I am a Black American and a Black law enforcement officer,” said Rob Pride, the National Fraternal Order of Police chair of trustees. “It’s been emotionally a rollercoaster ride for me since the George Floyd incident. It was horrific.”
Pride, who oversees the vote that leads to the organization’s presidential endorsement, says the 25 May police killing of Floyd in Minneapolis and the political climate “is tearing America apart” and having a similar effect on the FOP.
“We could probably have an hourlong conversation about why some folks feel President Trump is racist and why others disagree,” he said. “But there are a lot of officers of all races of all backgrounds who feel he best represents and supports the interests of law enforcement.”
Stephen Collinson and Caitlin Hu for CNN’s Meanwhile in America newsletter this morning have outlined where the network sees the current state of play with the nine states that will decide November’s election. They have it as:
- Michigan. 16 electoral votes. Trump won in 2016, now leans Biden.
- Wisconsin. 10 electoral votes. Trump won in 2016, now leans Biden.
- Iowa. 6 electoral votes. Trump won in 2016, now a toss-up.
- Ohio. 18 electoral votes. Trump won in 2016, now a toss-up.
- Pennsylvania. 20 electoral votes. Trump won in 2016, now leans Biden.
- North Carolina. 15 electoral votes. Trump won in 2016. Toss-up.
- Georgia. 16 electoral votes. Trump won in 2016. Toss-up.
- Arizona. 11 electoral votes. Trump won in 2016, now leans Biden.
- Florida. 29 electoral votes. Trump won in 2016. Toss-up.
Florida is the big prize on that list. They say “Florida is almost always decided by less than a couple of percentage points. We have no idea who will win the Sunshine State. But we know it will be close.”
You can have a look at what the polls have been saying about the key swing states on our US elections polls tracker.
On 6 October Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of homeland security, released his department’s annual assessment of violent threats to the nation. Analysts didn’t have to dig deep into the assessment to discover its alarming content.
In a foreword, Wolf wrote that he was “particularly concerned about white supremacist violent extremists who have been exceptionally lethal in their abhorrent, targeted attacks in recent years. [They] seek to force ideological change in the United States through violence, death, and destruction.”
Two days later, the FBI swooped. It arrested 13 rightwing extremists who had allegedly been plotting to carry out a range of attacks in Michigan, including the kidnapping of Democratic governor Gretchen Whitmer.
Later revelations revealed that a group of anti-government paramilitaries that included some of those arrested had also discussed kidnapping the governor of Virginia.
The double strike, just days apart, of the threat assessment and the Michigan plot arrests marked an important moment in America’s tortured history of racist terrorism. US authorities appeared not only to have woken up finally to the extent of the white supremacist threat but were actually doing something about it.
As the FBI director Christopher Wray told Congress in February, “racially and ethnically motivated violent extremists” have become the “primary source of ideologically-motivated lethal incidents” in the US. The danger overshadowed the jihadist threat that has dominated the security debate since 9/11.
Read more of Ed’s report here: ‘It is serious and intense’: white supremacist domestic terror threat looms large in US
One of the president’s engagements yesterday was at the International Church of Las Vegas in Nevada. Carlos Barría from Reuters took this photo as president Donald Trump received a blessing from the congregation. It went viral on social media last night.
Good morning and welcome to our live coverage of US politics. Here’s a quick catch up on what has been happening overnight, and what we might expect to see today…
- Trump is attempting to save himself in battleground states as Covid cases surge. He has little more than two weeks to reverse his dismal standing in the polls.
- Gretchen Whitmer says Trump was ‘inciting domestic terrorism’ with ‘Lock her up!’ rally chant.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Sunday reported 53,157 new coronavirus cases, taking the total to 8,081,489. The number of deaths has risen by 593 to 218,511, the health protection agency said.
- Dr Anthony Fauci said he was “absolutely not” surprised that Donald Trump contracted coronavirus. “I was worried that he was going to get sick when I saw him in a completely precarious situation of crowded, no separation between people, and almost nobody wearing a mask.”
- Trump claimed that the US was “rounding the turn” of the pandemic despite the weekly case average rising in 48 of the 50 states.
- The president will be attending two rallies in Arizona today.
- We’re hosting an online discussion panel on the US election on Tuesday 20 October, featuring senior political reporter Daniel Strauss, political correspondent Lauren Gambino, columnist Richard Wolffe, chaired by Jonathan Freedland. There’s more details and tickets here.