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The Daily 202: Trump runs against Washington from the White House, as he tries to reclaim outsider mantle


Convention planners quickly dispatched with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). He had three minutes right after the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of the convention’s final night. The only other lawmakers given speaking slots during Thursday’s three-plus hour program were Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-N.J.), who switched parties last year when Democrats impeached Trump, and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who was assigned to attack Joe Biden’s foreign policy record.

Staffers do not normally speak during political conventions. But six White House aides got as much camera time this week as the six senators who were invited to speak. It would be significantly more if you counted members of the Cabinet or White House senior adviser Ivanka Trump, who spent 18 minutes introducing her father before a crowd of 1,500 on the South Lawn. Her remarks, and the president’s 70-minute acceptance speech that followed, illuminated why members of Congress and the GOP’s old guard got such short shrift during the convention.

“I’ve seen that, in Washington, it’s easy for politicians to survive if they silence their convictions and skip the hard fights,” she said. “But Donald Trump did not come to Washington to win praise from the Beltway elites. For the first time in a long time, we have a president who has called out Washington’s hypocrisy, and they hate him for it. Washington has not changed Donald Trump. Donald Trump has changed Washington.”

Yes, this week was the Trump show. But, more than that, the president wants to reclaim the outsider mantle that worked so well for him in 2016. Advisers say he plans to focus the next two months on portraying his Democratic challenger, who currently resides in Delaware, as not just the consummate insider but the ultimate swamp creature.

“We have spent the last four years reversing the damage Joe Biden inflicted over the last 47 years,” Trump said in his speech. “Biden’s record is a shameful roll call of the most catastrophic betrayals and blunders in our lifetime. He has spent his entire career on the wrong side of history.”

Biden, elected to the Senate in 1972, served 36 years there before eight years as vice president.

Reincarnating his I-alone-can-fix-it rhetoric from his acceptance speech in Cleveland four years ago, Trump criticized Biden by name 41 times. Biden avoided saying Trump’s name during his much shorter acceptance speech last week in Wilmington, Del.

The sitting president said the country should “turn the page” away from “the failed political class.” He said the “establishment” is out to get him because he broke “the cardinal rule of politics” by trying to keep his “promises.”

Trump nodded only a little bit to the irony of making this case as an incumbent while speaking against the backdrop of the White House’s grand portico. Motioning toward the house where every president since John Adams has lived, Trump told his supporters: “We’re here, and they’re not.” When the president finished, a fireworks show over the Mall spelled out the letters of his name: T-R-U-M-P.

The reality is that Washington remains deeply unpopular with most Americans. Significant majorities see the country as on the wrong track. Even McConnell tried to paint himself as an outsider during his short video greeting, which he recorded on a grassy field in Louisville. The senator, elected in 1984, has been the leader of the GOP conference longer than anyone ever before.

“As the only leader in Washington not from either New York or California, I consider it my responsibility to look out for middle America,” McConnell said during the convention. “Today’s Democrat Party doesn’t want to improve life for middle America. They prefer that all of us in flyover country keep quiet and let them decide how we should live our lives.”

The White House staffers who spoke this week each tried to soften Trump’s image in their own way. Ja’Ron Smith, who is Black, recounted his journey from a 1.9 grade point average at Howard University to landing a job in his 30s as a deputy assistant to the president. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the president checked in on her following a preventive double mastectomy and breast reconstruction surgery. Counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway talked about the opioid crisis. National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow spoke in the past tense about the pandemic. Vice President Pence’s national security adviser Keith Kellogg tried to rebut recent criticisms of Trump by former national security adviser John Bolton. “I have been in the room where it happened,” Kellogg said, an allusion to the title of Bolton’s memoir.

Several other dynamics were also at play in minimizing the legislative branch’s role. It reflected the degree to which Trump has often sidelined Congress throughout his tenure in office. Trump likes to claim that Article II of the Constitution lets him do whatever he wants. It does not, of course, but the president has been emboldened by leaders of his own party, including McConnell and McCarthy, looking the other way as he ignored congressional subpoenas and diverted money appropriated for the military toward a wall project that appropriators would not fund.

Trump has also taken over the GOP, and he clearly did not want any of his intraparty critics to speak. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), the 2012 presidential nominee, was not invited to appear because he voted to convict the president for abuse of power after his Senate impeachment trial earlier this year. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), who declined to offer a full-throated endorsement of Trump during the 2016 convention, was also snubbed.

Moreover, politicians tend to be boring. Trump is the first president in American history to get this job with no prior governing or military experience. He became a household name as a reality television star. As a showman, he knows what makes for compelling television – and that it is usually not senators.

Several vulnerable GOP senators facing tough reelection fights in purple states, such as Cory Gardner in Colorado and Susan Collins in Maine, have strong incentives to stay away.

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), who spoke on Wednesday, is facing a tough reelection fight in a state where Trump is probably more popular than she. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), one of Trump’s rivals in 2016 for the GOP nomination, has become a golfing partner and retains a following among libertarians. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), one of the most outspoken Trump loyalists in the Senate, was thrilled to decry what the right calls “cancel culture” during Wednesday’s program. Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.), the lone Black Republican in the Senate, shared his inspiring personal story on Monday night. “Our family went from cotton to Congress in one lifetime, and that’s why I believe the next American century can be better than the last,” he said. 

In his speech, Cotton said Biden has “aided and abetted China’s rise for 50 years.” Trump went even farther. “For 47 years, Joe Biden took the donations of blue-collar workers, gave them hugs and even kisses,” the president said, emphasizing “kisses” and pausing for several seconds. “Told them he felt their pain and then he flew back to Washington and voted to ship their jobs to China and many other distant lands.”

The “kisses” line appeared to be a reference to Biden’s reputation for touching and hugging people. The former vice president has apologized for making some women uncomfortable, and he denied an accusation of sexual misconduct by a former junior staffer. Trump has been accused by more than two dozen women of sexual assault or sexual harassment. He always denies wrongdoing.

Trump was asked during an interview with the New York Times this week how he’s changed since taking office. “I think I’ve just become more guarded than I was four years ago,” the president told Peter Baker. “I think I really am a little bit more circumspect.” Asked how he would be different if he secures a second term, Trump answered: “I think I’d be similar.”

Programming note: The Daily 202 will be on hiatus next week and return after Labor Day.

More convention highlights

Hundreds of protesters chanted, marched and played music outside the White House.

“The protest continued long after the speech ended and later turned physical at times. A group of demonstrators shouted at supporters of the president as they left the White House, including Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who had to be escorted to a nearby hotel by police. Officers sprayed a chemical irritant at the protesters,” Antonio Olivo, Fenit Nirappil, Justin Moyer and Joe Heim report. “Paul was confronted at the corner of 14th and F streets NW, with protesters shouting ‘Say her name — Breonna Taylor!’ and ‘You are a degenerate!’ At one point, Paul almost fell as a police officer collided into him after a protester appeared to collide with the officer. Police whisked Paul into the hotel, and the group of protesters who had been following him dispersed. … Minor scuffles also broke out as a white man wearing blackface walked through Black Lives Matter Plaza and was slapped by a black protester who was then apprehended by police. The unruly conclusion to the protest followed what had been a mostly peaceful, if passionate, night of demonstrations.”

The daughters of David Dorn, who was killed after interrupting the looting of a pawn shop during protests following the death of George Floyd, said their father did not support Trump and would not have wanted his name or image to be used to further Trump’s political agenda. They’re angry that their father’s widow, St. Louis Police Sgt. Ann Dorn, spoke on the final night of the GOP convention. The women said they know his father’s widow is a Trump supporter, but they said “he would not want his legacy to be for his death to be used to further Trump’s law-and-order agenda.” (St. Louis American

Additional team coverage:

  • Glenn Kessler, Sal Rizzo and Meg Kelly fact-check 25 of Trump’s claims in a speech they describe as “a tidal wave of tall tales, false claims and revisionist history.”
  • Robin Givhan: “Trump’s convention speech was selling a fantasy version of himself.”
  • Toluse Olorunnipa: “GOP convention spins alternate reality with torrent of falsehoods aimed at rebooting Trump’s flagging campaign.”
  • David Nakamura and Josh Dawsey: “Few masks, little distancing: Trump celebrates at crowded White House party largely devoid of coronavirus precautions.”
  • Michael Scherer and Dawsey: “Republicans try to change President Trump’s image for skeptical voters.”
  • Matt Viser: “Biden blames Trump for unrest and violence.”
  • Philip Bump: “The White House makes it clear that it sees chaos in the streets as politically useful.”
  • Samantha Schmidt: “Trump is wooing suburban women with ‘law and order.’ A Minneapolis mom is tuning him out.”

Commentary from the opinion page:

  • The Post’s Editorial Board: “Global freedom would suffer grievous harm in a second Trump term.”
  • Dana Milbank: “Trump presented the mother of all fabrications on the White House lawn.”
  • Jen Rubin: “Trump will endanger American lives if it helps him get reelected.”
  • Catherine Rampell: “The ‘missing’ immigrant voters whose absence might swing the election.”
  • Gary Abernathy: “To everyone who thinks Trump is a goner: He’s just getting started.”

Biden said he wants to hit the campaign trail again after Labor Day.

During a Thursday fundraiser, he specifically mentioned four states: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Arizona. But he said he will continue to be more cautious than Trump about traveling: “We’re going to do it in a way that is totally consistent with being responsible, unlike what this guy’s doing,” Biden told donors on Zoom. “I’m a tactile politician. I really miss being able to, you know, grab hands, shake hands.”

Quote of the day

“We are focusing on the science, the facts and the data,” Trump told a crowd not practicing social distancing and, mostly, not wearing masks. 

The father of a Navy SEAL who died during a raid ordered by Trump says the president cannot be trusted. 

“William Owens’ son, Chief Petty Officer William ‘Ryan’ Owens, was the first person to die in combat during the Trump presidency following a Jan. 29, 2017, raid in Yemen,” Missy Ryan reports. “The younger Owens, 36, was shot in a counterattack by al-Qaeda militants as he and other members of an elite military team entered a remote village in Yemen’s Bayda governate. ‘Just five days into his presidency, Trump ordered Ryan’s SEAL team into Yemen, not in the situation room with all the intelligence assembled, but sitting across a dinner table from Steve Bannon,’ Owens said, referring to the former White House adviser and campaign strategist, in the 84-second online ad, which was paid for by a PAC linked to the progressive veterans’ group VoteVets. ‘There was no vital interest at play, just Donald Trump playing big man going to war,’ Owens said.

“The ill-fated raid came under scrutiny not just because of the SEAL’s death but also because of the way it came together. Officials said that Trump and the White House short-circuited the typical process for approving such high-risk operations … A number of Yemeni civilians were also killed in the operation. … The ad also [includes] a clip of late Sen. John McCain saying the operation, contrary to Trump’s depiction, had not been a success.”

  • The chief of staff to then-U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May says that Trump exploded with anger at his then-national security advisor Michael Flynn after missing a phone call from Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump’s rant about missing Putin’s call (“he really shouted”) happened “right in front” of May during a dinner in Washington, according to Nick Timothy. (Independent)

The USPS keeps telling people their mail is being held “at the request of the customer.” That’s not true.

“Customers who are receiving these notifications never requested that their mail be held,” Julie Zauzmer reports. “The packages are delayed because of broad changes Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has implemented to the nation’s mail delivery operations, including policies that slow down package delivery. When a mail carrier cannot deliver a package on the day it was scheduled because their shift is ending, postal workers say, the system sometimes generates a misleading ‘held at the request of the customer’ message. Although the reality is that the mail carrier will deliver the package, sometimes the next day, customers say the message has prompted them to visit the post office to claim their items … and has undermined their faith in mail delivery leading up to the 2020 election.”

Hurricane season

Laura devastated a narrow path north of the Gulf Coast, sparing some population centers.

The hurricane killed at least four and left hundreds of thousands of people without power while dumping massive amounts of rain on the region. “Trump said during a visit to the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Thursday that he plans to tour areas hit by Laura this weekend,” Ashley Cusick, Maria Sacchetti, Marisa Iati and Brady Dennis report. “In the town of Sulphur, La., gas station canopies lay toppled or shredded. Tractor-trailers sat overturned both on the highway and in parking lots. Restaurants were missing their windows. … A 14-year-old girl was killed when a tree fell on her family’s home during the storm.” 

The hurricane destroyed everything for some at the Jesse James Mobile Home Park in Lake Charles, La. “Laura’s lashing winds and heavy rains turned homes filled with fish tanks, photo albums, bookshelves and televisions into a heap of mangled metal and debris Thursday, in one of the fiercest storms to barrel through this city of 78,000 people in decades,” Sacchetti reports. “‘Everything I own is in that house. And I lost half of it,’ said Carl Webb, 62, vice president of the Cajun Navy in Lake Charles, his eyes wet as he leaned on a pole and surveyed his yellow trailer, for which he said he did not have insurance because he is on a fixed income. … Thousands remained without electricity, and many were left homeless at a time that already has been so terrifying because of the coronavirus.” 

Fire raged Thursday at a Louisiana chemical plant damaged by Hurricane Laura, pumping dark smoke carrying chlorine gas into the sky, raising public health alarms and prompting the governor to warn residents to turn off their air conditioners, seal their homes and stay indoors,” Steven Mufson and Darryl Fears report. “Chlorine gas can be toxic and cause blistering of the skin, burning sensations in the nose and throat and respiratory distress.”

Leonard Harrison, 49, hit the road toward Cameron Parish, the coastal region that bore the brunt of the hurricane’s damage. He’s a member of the “Cajun Navy,” arriving from Mebane, N.C., in his high-water truck — nicknamed “Goliath” — to help anyone he could find. “The road south was littered with debris, and he encountered several people who needed his help,” Cusick reports. “Harrison, a veteran of three hurricanes who lends his services to those in need, spent Wednesday night in his 10,000-pound truck, awaiting the chance to get out and help first thing. Laura stood out to him as ‘absolutely’ the worst storm he’s experienced. ‘I’ve never had my truck lifted or moved before,’ he said. ‘Last night, it moved six inches, twice. That was the fastest-moving storm I’ve seen, and it had to be the most destructive.’”

Scientists warned that the storm’s rapid intensification is a sign of a warming climate. Laura, which went from a Category 1 to Category 4 in 24 hours, had one of the fastest transformations ever in the Gulf of Mexico. This is happening more frequently, thanks in part to rising ocean temperatures. “The speed with which these storms morph can complicate both weather forecasting and emergency responses,” Chris Mooney and Andrew Freedman report.

Local officials had refused to remove a 105-year-old Confederate statue outside the Lake Charles courthouse. The hurricane did what they would not. “‘It is a blessing, a small blessing, in a very devastating situation,’ said Davante Lewis, who grew up in Lake Charles and supported the monument’s removal,” the Times reports. “The debate over what to do about the South’s Defenders Memorial Monument, which depicted a Confederate soldier on a marble pedestal, had been the ‘hottest thing in the city’ in recent months, Mr. Lewis said on Thursday, until residents turned their attention to preparing for one of the strongest hurricanes ever to hit the region.”

Divided America

The suspect in the Kenosha, Wis., shooting idolized police. 

“Growing up in Chicago’s far northern suburbs, the 17-year-old shadowed local law enforcement, filling his social media feeds with posts declaring that ‘Blue Lives Matter’ and photos of himself posing with guns,” Teo Armus, Mark Berman and Griff Witte report. “Now the teen is in custody, suspected of shooting three people, two of whom died. Instead of helping to keep the peace, authorities say, [Kyle] Rittenhouse turned an already chaotic situation into a murder scene. Tuesday night’s killings were the most violent fallout to date from the Sunday wounding of 29-year-old Jacob Blake … Rittenhouse was charged Thursday with six counts — including two homicide charges — in a criminal complaint accusing him of killing Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26 … 

“He had attempted to join the Marine Corps in January, but was disqualified from serving after discussing his options with recruiters, said service spokeswoman Yvonne Carlock. She declined to specify why he was disqualified, citing the service’s privacy guidelines. … Accounts from neighbors and local institutions paint the picture of a high school dropout who viewed law enforcement officers as his personal heroes.” 

Blake’s father said his son is handcuffed to his hospital bed, despite being paralyzed from the waist down. 

“‘I hate it that he was laying in that bed with the handcuff onto the bed,’ his father, also named Jacob Blake, said Thursday. ‘He can’t go anywhere. Why do you have him cuffed to the bed?’ Asked why his son was handcuffed, Blake’s father replied ‘he’s under arrest.’ The father also said it was unclear what charge or charges his son might be facing, explaining ‘right now, we don’t know. We’re playing it by ear,’” the Chicago Sun-Times reports. “In the hospital, the younger Blake told his father he thought he could feel pain in his legs, but his father isn’t sure if the pain is actually coming from his legs. … Jacob Blake’s father said he hasn’t heard from the police department or Mayor John Antaramian, though Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers has reached out, he said.” At a news conference, the Democrat said he’s concerned that Blake is handcuffed.

Activists in Kenosha were arrested by officers who jumped out of an unmarked vehicle. 

“A Seattle-based nonprofit group that serves food to protesters said Thursday that several of its members were still in police custody in Kenosha, Wis., after law enforcement officers sprang from unmarked cars and arrested them ahead of Wednesday night’s demonstrations in the city,” Derek Hawkins reports. “The arrests were recorded by a bystander and shared widely on social media, renewing concerns that unidentified officers could be shielded in crackdowns on demonstrators. The organization, known as Riot Kitchen, was a fixture at protests in Seattle this summer. … Off-camera, officers arrested a half-dozen other members, Riot Kitchen board member Jennifer Scheurle told The Post. … The Kenosha Police Department later acknowledged that its officers led the operation, [saying] that they started tracking the group after receiving a tip about ‘suspicious vehicles’ meeting on the edge of town. Assisted by U.S. marshals, they followed the group to a gas station in the northern part of Kenosha. … Police said they recovered helmets, gas masks, protective vests, illegal fireworks and suspected controlled substances from the vehicles. … Scheurle, the Riot Kitchen board member, said the group was putting gas in the organization’s bus and food truck when officers stormed them.”

The Kenosha sheriff once called for Black shoplifters to be “warehoused” and kept from having children. 

“After five young, Black people allegedly stole about $5,000 of clothing, sped away from police and then crashed into a teenage driver in 2018, Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth had a harsh message. Although no one was seriously injured, the maximum sentences the suspects could face were not long enough for the sheriff,” Katie Shepherd reports. “‘These people have to be warehoused,’ Beth, who is White, said … The three men involved in the crime should be removed from society so that they could not father children, he suggested, adding that all five suspects, whose ages ranged from 16 to 23, should go to prison for life. … Although Beth swiftly apologized, his inflammatory comments resurfaced on Thursday as the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin called for his resignation.” 

Vice President Pence was uninvited from delivering a commencement speech at Wisconsin Lutheran College. 

“Pence had been slated to give the address Saturday to the Christian college in Milwaukee, less than an hour northeast of Kenosha, which his office announced in a press release Monday. The college cited ‘escalating events’ as the reason a different speaker would be presented,” CNN reports. “The decision comes amid some vocal opposition from alumni and current students who penned a letter earlier this week, updated Wednesday night, renouncing Pence’s participation and claims from the college that the event was not political.” 

Trump dismissed the athlete protests of Blake’s shooting. 

“They’ve become like a political organization, and that’s not a good thing,” the president told reporters. “Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, called NBA players ‘very fortunate’ to be ‘able to take a night off from work,’” Cindy Boren reports. “Kushner also said he planned to try to contact LeBron James, one of the league’s foremost advocates for social justice reform as well as one of its harshest critics of Trump. … Without mentioning Kushner by name, James later tweeted by mentioning his More Than a Vote initiative. ‘Change doesn’t happen with just talk!!’”

  • NBA players decided to resume playoff games, though the three games scheduled for Thursday were postponed. (Ben Golliver)
  • The NHL postponed Thursday and Friday Stanley Cup playoff games, a day after it played on as other leagues protested. (Samantha Pell and Boren
  • Several NFL teams canceled practice as part of these protests. (Mark Maske)
  • Bill Russell led an NBA boycott in 1961, pulling himself out of a game as a demonstration against racist behavior while he was a Boston Celtics player. He’s saluting today’s players for “standing up for what is right.” (Des Bieler)

The man shot by the Secret Service outside the White House apparently was holding a comb. 

“Myron Berryman, 51, was charged with one count of assault on a police officer in the incident and has been hospitalized since the Aug. 10 shooting. Berryman’s first hearing on the misdemeanor charge was held Thursday afternoon in D.C. Superior Court. His lawyer said he has been moved to a psychiatric hospital,” Keith Alexander reports. “According to initial charging documents and Secret Service officials, Berryman walked up to the uniformed officer and said he was armed. Charging papers say Berryman reached along the right side of his body as if to retrieve an object, clasped his hands together and pointed his arms toward the officer. The officer then shot Berryman once in the torso. No weapon was found. … The officer who shot Berryman, according to the charging documents, realized ‘after the shooting that the item was not a gun, but rather a comb.’”

The coronavirus

Six feet may not be enough. 

“A team of infectious-disease experts argues in a new analysis, published this week in the BMJ, that six-feet protocols are too rigid and are based on outmoded science and observations of different viruses. Other researchers say six feet is a start — but only a start, warning that more space is almost always better, especially in poorly ventilated areas indoors,” Ben Guarino reports. “Factors such as air circulation, ventilation, exposure time, crowd density, whether people are wearing face masks and whether they are silent, speaking, shouting or singing should all be part of assessing whether six feet is sufficient, experts say.”

  • The University of Arizona said it caught a dorm’s outbreak before it started thanks to studying poop. The university is regularly screening the sewage from every dorm, searching for traces of the virus. The technique worked, officials said, and possibly prevented an epidemic on campus. When a wastewater sample from a dorm came back positive, the school quickly tested all 311 people who lived there and found two asymptomatic students who tested positive. (Jaclyn Peiser)
  • Maine revoked the health license of an inn that hosted a wedding linked to 87 cases and one death. (Antonia Farzan)
  • Four days before the school year begins in most parts of Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced the state’s 24 school systems are “fully authorized to begin safely reopening” for in-person classes. Hogan doesn’t have the power to order schools to open, and every public school system in the state has already committed to an all-virtual reopening. (Donna St. George)
  • A poultry plant in California’s Central Valley where 358 workers tested positive and eight have died has been ordered to close. (Farzan)
  • Mothers who said they have lost sons to police brutality were among the first to get their temperatures checked this morning before entering the “Get Your Knees Off Our Necks” demonstration in Washington. Volunteers through the National Action Network passed out gloves, hand sanitizer, masks and neon green wristbands to participants as they entered the rally. (Lola Fadulu)

Congress left town as jobless benefits lapsed. Unemployed Americans say they won’t forget it. 

“Shawn Gabriel, a single father of two in Parma, Ohio, has learned what it means to struggle since he lost his construction job in March. His landlord sent him an eviction notice after he was a few days late on August rent. Gabriel keeps looking for work, but for now his family is living off of $189 a week that he gets in unemployment benefits, which is not enough to cover his $950 rent, let alone food, electric, Internet and other expenses. But the bulk of his frustration has been reserved for one place: Congress, whose members left town in August after letting the $600-a-week unemployment bonus that millions of people like Gabriel have been relying on expire,” Eli Rosenberg and Heather Long report. “‘Most of them are rich. They don’t struggle. They get paid,’ Gabriel said. ‘I think they should have come to an agreement.’ … Similar stories are playing out nationwide. Millions of desperate Americans, many of whom have never relied on emergency government assistance before, are flabbergasted and furious, believing they have been cut loose by a Washington political structure that doesn’t care about their predicament during the pandemic.”

The White House announced a deal with Abbott Laboratories to produce 150 million rapid tests. 

The $760 million deal for the tests, which allow users to obtain results in 15 minutes from a small card, “is the federal government’s biggest step into testing for the virus that has killed more than 177,000 Americans and infected more than 5.8 million,” Lenny Bernstein and Seung Min Kim report. “‘We want as much rapid testing as we can get,’ said Carl Bergstrom, a biologist at the University of Washington and an infectious-disease expert. … Bergstrom said a key question will be how the administration distributes the tests and ensures they reach the places where they are needed most. … Though antigen tests like this one are largely used to screen large numbers of people to find those who may be infected, the FDA said the Abbott test ‘has been authorized for use in patients suspected of COVID-19 by their healthcare provider within seven days of symptom onset.’” 

Large U.S. vaccine trials are halfway enrolled, but there’s a lag on participant diversity. 

“Moderna and Pfizer, the companies leading the U.S. race for a coronavirus vaccine, disclosed this week they have enrolled more than half the people needed for the 30,000-person trials that represent the final phase of testing. But only about a fifth of participants are from Black and Hispanic communities, which have been hit hardest by the virus — lagging what several experts said should be the bare minimum of diversity,” Carolyn Johnson reports. “An online registry that people can use to express interest in the vaccine trials — a list of about 350,000 volunteers — had only about 10 to 11 percent Black and Hispanic people as of late last week, according to James Kublin, executive director of the federal HIV Vaccine Trials Network … Leaders from both companies have said they are committed to trials that reflect the people at highest risk. Scientists say diversity matters critically for understanding how a vaccine is likely to perform in the real world.”

Senators called for a federal investigation into the use of hydroxychloroquine in nursing homes. 

“In a letter sent Thursday to the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), Robert P. Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) pointed to state inspection reports that cited nursing homes for treating residents with the antimalarial drug without the consent of patients or their family members,” Debbie Cenziper reports. “Among other things, they want the inspector general to investigate the level of oversight from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.”

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe resigned for health reasons. 

“Abe told reporters that he had been ‘struggling’ with his health, which had begun to deteriorate in mid-July, and he was ready to call time on his leadership of the world’s third-largest economy,” Simon Denyer and David Crawshaw report. “‘My poor health should not lead to wrong political decisions,’ he said. … Abe is known to have battled chronic ulcerative colitis, and public broadcaster NHK reported that medical tests conducted Aug. 17 showed that his condition had worsened. … Abe had hoped to signal Japan’s revitalization by hosting and presiding over the Olympics in Tokyo this summer, before the coronavirus pandemic forced officials to defer the Games until 2021. The prime minister has faced criticism for his handling of the health crisis, and his support slipped to near record lows in recent months.”

Social media speed read

From the former chief of the Office of Government Ethics: 

The husband of Joe Biden’s campaign manager joked about the fireworks show:

While introducing her father, Ivanka Trump shared an anecdote about her child that was very similar to one she used to tell about herself, which was made up:

Videos of the day

In about three minutes, CNN’s fact-checker tried to run through a list of false claims Trump made during his speech: 

MLB players took a moment of silence in support of the Black Lives Matter movement before leaving the field without playing: 

And Stephen Colbert was uncomfortable with Trump’s unmasked, undistanced crowd:



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The Finance 202: Fed, in major shift, announces it will prioritize getting people back to work


Central bankers traditionally have treated the two goals, commonly referred to as the Fed’s dual mandate, as in tension with each other, as falling unemployment was thought to drive up inflation.

Yet that relationship between employment and inflation has broken down in recent years. And going forward, Powell announced, the Fed will prioritize getting joblessness as low as possible. To do so, central bank policymakers won’t raise interest rates as soon as inflation tops the Fed’s target rate of 2 percent. Instead, the Fed “is adopting a form of average inflation targeting, which essentially means that the Fed will allow for some overshoot of the 2 percent target to balance out periods when inflation skirted below,” Rachel Siegel writes.

As Powell put it in his speech, “This change may appear subtle, but it reflects our view that a robust job market can be sustained without causing an outbreak of inflation.”

Don’t expect a dramatic shift in Fed policy.

Powell’s speech indicated the Fed won’t be raising interest rates from near-zero any time soon. “The key point for investors is that the Fed has turned its previous view of the labor market on its head, implying looser policy over the next cycle,” Pantheon Macroeconomics chief economist Ian Shepherdson wrote in a note. Oxford Economics projects the Fed will keep interests rates near zero until mid-2024. Stocks rallied on the announcement, with the Dow Jones industrial average briefly entering positive territory for the year.

Yet the Fed chair has already made clear monetary policymakers “aren’t even thinking about thinking about thinking about” raising rates, as he put it in a news conference last month. So, “what does the revised statement imply for near-term changes in monetary policy? Really not much,” Larry Meyer, a former Fed governor and founder of Washington-based research firm LH Meyer, writes in a note. 

One challenge facing the Fed: Its toolbox is limited.

The latest weekly report on jobless claims, released Thursday, highlighted the severity of the ongoing unemployment crisis: Another one million people applied for aid, meaning some 27 million Americans are receiving jobless benefits. Against that grim backdrop, consumer confidence just hit a more than six-year low amid new signs Americans are cutting back spending on essentials. Employment testing its lower bounds and surging prices remain remote possibilities.

But the Fed doesn’t wield the power to single-handedly guide the economy back to its pre-pandemic state, when joblessness hit 3.5 percent, a 50-year low.

The central bank has pulled out the stops in recent months, “flooding the markets with liquidity and rolling out emergency lending programs for struggling local governments and midsize businesses,” Siegel notes. 

That effort “largely serves to support financial markets by making it cheap for large companies to borrow and pushing investors into riskier, higher-yielding assets,” Bloomberg Opinion’s Brian Chappatta notes. “The Fed can’t so easily reach the small businesses and service workers most impacted by this economic slowdown.”

So Powell and other Fed officials have stressed the need for Congress to step in and provide more support for a faltering recovery. As Powell said Thursday, “We’re going to keep doing what we can do. We really need it to be broader than just the Fed.”

PROGRAMMING NOTE: We’re taking next week off, but we’ll be back in your inbox Tuesday, Sept. 8. Here’s hoping you enjoy the last days of summer. 

Market movers

BREAKING OVERNIGHT: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe resigns. “Abe said Friday he has decided to resign because of illness, after weeks of speculation about his health following two visits to a hospital and just days after setting a record as the country’s longest-serving leader,” Simon Denyer and David Crawshaw report

“In a news conference in Tokyo, Abe told reporters that he has been ‘struggling’ with his health, which began to deteriorate in mid-July, and that he was ready to end his leadership of the world’s third-largest economy — as soon as his party chooses a successor.”

  • In his own words: “As I’m no longer able to meet the expectation of the mandate of the people of Japan, I have decided that I should not stay in the position as prime minister anymore. So I have decided to step down,” Abe said. 
  • Japanese stocks sink, yen strengthens. The news left investors uncertain “over the future of his signature stimulus policy,” Bloomberg reports.

Unemployment claims remain at 1 million.

The labor market continues to feel the pain of the coronavirus: “The initial weekly jobless claims have mostly declined since the highs in late March but remain well above historic highs,” Eli Rosenberg reports.

“Another 607,806 people applied for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, the program for self-employed and gig workers. In total, roughly 27 million people are receiving some form of unemployment insurance, the Department of Labor said.”

  • The Labor Department changed its jobless claims methodology: “The department said in a statement that starting next Thursday, it would use additive factors to seasonally adjust the initial claims and continued claims data instead of multiplicative factors … The department said in the presence of a large shift in the claims series, the multiplicative seasonal adjustment factors could result in systematic over-or under-adjustment of the data,” Reuters’s Lucia Mutikani reports.

Mortgage rates drop again: “Mortgage rates reversed course, falling for the first time in two weeks as the federal government delayed implementation of the adverse market refinance fee,” Kathy Orton reports.

Federal pandemic response

Unemployed Americans say they won’t forget Congress left town as benefits lapsed.

The frustration is boiling over: “Millions of desperate Americans, many of whom have never relied on emergency government assistance before, are flabbergasted and furious, believing they have been cut loose by a Washington political structure that doesn’t care about their predicament during the pandemic. The stock market has snapped back, but the labor market remains in really bad shape,” Eli Rosenberg and Heather Long report.

“The Post spoke to 20 people who have lost their livelihoods in recent months, and all said they felt immense pressure to stay afloat without the extra $600, which expired at the end of July … Often, the anger was directed at Republicans, who control the White House and the Senate, although a few credited President Trump for at least trying to take action on his own.”

  • Key quote: “Most of them are rich. They don’t struggle. They get paid,” Shawn Gabriel, a single father of two in Parma, Ohio, told my colleagues. “I think they should have come to an agreement.”
  • Grocery shoppers are cutting back on spending. And states with higher unemployment are seeing a steeper drop-off, the Wall Street Journal reports

White House announces deal to provide 150 million rapid coronavirus tests: “The announcement of the $760 million agreement with Abbot Labs came just hours before [Trump] was scheduled to deliver his nomination acceptance speech at the close of the Republican National Convention,” Lenny Bernstein and Seung Min Kim report.

“Though antigen tests like this one are largely used to screen large numbers of people to find those who may be infected, the FDA said the Abbott test ‘has been authorized for use in patients suspected of covid-19 by their healthcare provider within seven days of symptom onset.’ The antigen test has a greater chance of a false negative result than the more reliable PCR test. The FDA said users may need a second test to confirm a negative result.”

Coronavirus fallout

From the U.S.:

  • Large vaccine trails are underway but lack diversity: “Moderna and Pfizer, the companies leading the U.S. race for a coronavirus vaccine, disclosed this week they have enrolled more than half the people needed for the 30,000-person trials that represent the final phase of testing. But only about a fifth of participants are from Black and Hispanic communities, which have been hit hardest by the virus — lagging what several experts said should be the bare minimum of diversity,” Carolyn Y. Johnson reports.
  • Six feet might not be enough distance: “A team of infectious-disease experts argues in a new analysis, published this week in the BMJ, that six-feet protocols are too rigid and are based on outmoded science and observations of different viruses. Other researchers say six feet is a start — but only a start, warning that more space is almost always better, especially in poorly ventilated areas indoors,” Ben Guarino reports.
  • Senators call for an investigation of hydroxychloroquine use in nursing homes: “Fearing the experimental use of hydroxychloroquine went ‘unchecked’ in nursing homes struck by the coronavirus, three U.S. senators are calling on federal authorities to determine whether providers improperly treated patients, failed to disclose serious side effects or faced any repercussions from regulators responsible for oversight of the industry,” Debbie Cenziper reports of efforts by Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass), Robert P. Casey Jr. (Pa.) and Ron Wyden (Ore.).

From the corporate front:

  • United Airlines announces biggest pilot job cut in its history: The airline said it “would need to cut 2,850 pilot jobs this year, or about 21 percent of the total, without further U.S. government aid,” Reuters’s Tracy Rucinski reports.
  • Americans spend less on groceries: “Fewer trips to grocery stores, along with smaller receipts per visit, are typical patterns during a recession. As consumers gravitate toward value, food companies and retailers say they’re preparing to offer discounts that can eat into margins and intensify competition,” the Wall Street Journal’s Annie Gasparro and Jaewon Kang report.
  • Gap sold $130 million worth of masks during Q2: “Mask sales have turned out to be a bright spot in a challenging retail climate. Like many mall brands, Gap — which also owns Banana Republic, Old Navy and Athleta — has struggled during the pandemic. The company said that net sales were down 18 percent from May to July, compared with the same period in 2019,”  Antonia Farzan reports.

Trump tracker

Trump unleashes a firehose of false claims in his acceptance speech. They extended to his economic record, as Trump repeated the falsehood that before the pandemic, he presided over the strongest economy in U.S. history. “By just about any important measure, the economy under Trump did not do as well as it did under Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson or Bill Clinton,” the Fact Checker team notes. “The gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of 2.3 percent in 2019, slipping from 2.9 percent in 2018 and 2.4 percent in 2017. But in 1997, 1998 and 1999, the GDP grew 4.5 percent, 4.5 percent and 4.7 percent, respectively. 

“Yet even that period paled in comparison against the 1950s and 1960s. Growth between 1962 and 1966 ranged from 4.4 percent to 6.6 percent. In postwar 1950 and 1951, it was 8.7 percent and 8 percent, respectively.”

Trump’s company charged the U.S. government more than $900,000.

The Post sued for documents to find out what’s happening with your tax dollars: “Trump has now visited his own properties 271 times as president, according to a Washington Post tally — including a visit Thursday, when he met with GOP donors at his D.C. hotel,” David A. Fahrenthold, Josh Dawsey and Joshua Partlow report.

“Through these trips, Trump has brought the Trump Organization a stream of private revenue from federal agencies and GOP campaign groups. Federal spending records show that taxpayers have paid Trump’s businesses more than $900,000 since he took office. At least $570,000 came as a result of the president’s travel, according to a Post analysis.”

Campaign 2020

Stephen Ross says he hasn’t determined who he will vote for.

The New York billionaire says his fundraiser for Trump was to get political favors: “I’ve known President Trump for a long time. I’ve known him and I’ve liked him. I don’t agree with a lot of his policies. I believe there’s a lot of good, and I believe there’s a lot of bad,” Ross told the New York Times. “At that point there was a fund-raiser at my house I was looking for certain things to benefit New York.”

Rich Democrats pump $38 million into get-out-the-vote efforts. “A new group of donor funds backed by Wall Street executive Mike Novogratz and his allies has raised $38 million from prominent Democratic donors to support organizations that aim to get out the vote this fall,” CNBC’s Brian Schwartz reports. “The group, One for Democracy, has multiple funds. Donors are encouraged to pledge 1% of their net worth or total assets toward the organization, which then sends those contributions to nonprofits across the country.”

Pocket change

Walmart leaps into the TikTok acquisition fray.

The nation’s largest retailer is joining Microsoft’s bid: “That news, along with the resignation of the head of TikTok’s U.S. business, has led to speculation that the company’s parent, ByteDance, may soon announce that it’s entered into formal negotiations to sell operations in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand,” Jay Greene and Abha Bhattarai report.

“Analysts say the deal could give Walmart an inroad to a coveted demographic that it has long struggled to attract: younger shoppers. Walmart, which makes about half of its annual revenue from grocery sales, has aggressively bought up online apparel companies and other specialty brands, including Moosejaw and Bonobos, in recent years, in hopes of building up its online presence. The company posted $514 billion in revenue last year, nearly double Amazon’s $281 billion.” (Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

  • TikTok’s founder wonders how we got here: “He is different from an earlier generation of Chinese tech-company founders who sought favor from China’s ruling Communist Party establishment. [ByteDance CEO Zhang Yiming] skews more California than Great Hall of the People,” the WSJ’s Liza Lin and Eva Xiao report of the leader of TikTok’s parent company. “Besides being the first consumer app from China to make it big in the West, TikTok, unlike many of China’s past successes, can’t be accused of copying Western technology rather than innovating.”

Ex-Bank of America employees say they faced “extreme pressure” to sell credit cards. Even as the bank’s sales practices faced tighter regulatory scrutiny in the wake of the Wells Fargo fake accounts scandal, “company executives in one state were putting increased pressure on branch-based employees to sell more credit cards, according to interviews with former BofA employees, a wrongful termination lawsuit filed by one of those ex-employees and documents reviewed by American Banker,” Kevin Wack of the American Banker reports

The interviews, documents and lawsuit raise questions about how much the sales culture at the nation’s second-largest bank has really changed, notwithstanding broad pronouncements by regulators about industry-wide improvements. They open a window into BofA’s sales practices in the wake of the Wells Fargo scandal — and suggest that the company has found ways to continue its focus on aggressive sales even within the confines of new regulatory expectations.”

The funnies

Bull session



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The Energy 202: Republican pitch to elect Trump in 2020 mostly ignores coal miners


Instead, this year President Trump and other Republicans are touting growth in gas and oil production under his watch — at least until the coronavirus pandemic hit. 

Over the nights of convention speeches, only a handful of Republicans made any reference to coal.

“Biden has promised to abolish the production of American oil, coal, shale and natural gas, laying waste to the economies of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Colorado and New Mexico — destroying those states, absolutely destroying those states, and others,” Trump said. “Millions of jobs will be lost, and energy prices will soar.” 

Earlier in the week, Eric Trump, the president’s son, gave a shout-out to “our coal miners” as he listed supporters for which his father would advocate if given a second term. “To our farmers who work dawn to dust to keep our plates full, my father will fight for you,” he said. “To every single mother and father, to our veterans, our coal miners, and to the American worker, my father will fight for you.”

But that’s about it. By contrast, other sorts of blue-collar workers — a Minnesota logger, a Maine lobsterman and a Wisconsin dairy farmer, among others — spoke during this year’s convention to extol Trump’s efforts to reduce environmental regulations on them. 

It’s a far cry from the GOP messaging last time. 

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of the coal-producing state of West Virginia spent much her speech four years ago making an impassioned plea to stop then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton from taking office because of her “anti-coal agenda.” While she and others spoke, delegates waved black-and-yellow “Trump Digs Coal” signs.

“She wants to put thousands more Americans out of work,” Capito said. “She has promised to devastate communities and families across coal country.” 

“I weep for the fabric of my state,” she added.

On the campaign trail, Trump excoriated Clinton for promising to put coal companies out of business. “It is the last shot for the miners,” Trump said that August. “Hillary will be a horror show, and I’ll be an unbelievable positive,” he continued. “The miners will be gone if she’s elected.”

If anything, Biden has an even more aggressive plan than Clinton for shutting down coal-fired power plants and replacing them with cleaner forms of energy to combat climate change.

Trump has followed through on some pledges – but coal is still faltering in the face of cheaper energy.

The 2016 Republican platform called coal “clean” and vowed to end President Barack Obama’s “war on coal” by repealing the Clean Power Plan and rejecting the Paris climate agreement — both of which Trump did after taking office. The Trump administration also rolled back a rule meant to protect streams from mining pollution and exempted more industrial activities from environmental review that coal companies say unnecessarily delays projects.

But coal-fired power has been in decline since the Obama administration as it has been replaced by gas, solar and wind power. An estimated 39,000 megawatts of coal-fired power plant capacity has shut down during Trump’s first three years in office, according to an analysis from Reuters.

In turn, the number of U.S. coal jobs dropped by 7,100, or about 14 percent, between May 2017 and May 2020, according to federal data.

With coal jobs still not coming back, it is unclear what new steps Trump would take with four more years in office to help the coal business. In June, the GOP punted on writing a new party platform and simply adopted the 2016 one. 

Trump’s own speech focused more on oil and gas. 

The president chose to tout his revival of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines early in 2017, though both projects have faced legal challenges more recently. He also noted how low fuel prices currently are, though a big reason for that recently is the drop in energy demand during the pandemic. “For those of you that still drive a car, look how low your gasoline bill is,” Trump said. “You haven’t seen that in a long time.” 

Trump also touted how he successfully pressured the Tennessee Valley Authority to rehire American tech workers that the federally owned utility has sought to outsource abroad.

Until the pandemic crippled driving and flying, petroleum production grew under Trump’s watch to the point last year where the United States became a net energy exporter — a frequent talking point of Trump and other Republicans this week.

“Where this president achieved energy independence for the United States,” Vice President Pence said during his acceptance speech Wednesday, “Joe Biden would abolish fossil fuels, end fracking and impose a regime of climate change regulations that would dramatically change the cost of living for working families.” 

This appears part of a pattern of fewer coal mentions during Trump’s last few years. 

In 2018, Trump appointees on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rejected a plan from then-Energy Secretary Rick Perry to subsidize financially struggling coal and nuclear plants. 

Since then, Trump has talked up coal less during major speeches. While Trump declared “we have ended the war on clean coal” during his 2018 State of the Union address, the president didn’t mention it at all during his next two addresses to Congress.  

Josh Freed, head of the climate and energy program at the center-left think tank Third Way, said Republicans at this point would have a hard time turning coal into a winning talking point. 

“They are not talking about coal for the same reason they are not talking about covid, for the same reason they are not talking about unemployment,” he said. “Coal miners are worse off today than they were four year ago.”

The coal industry says it cares a lot more about what Trump does than what he says.

Conor Bernstein, spokesman for the National Mining Association, which represents mining companies in Washington, said his organization is happy to see the Trump administration quietly get rid of “punitive regulations” without any accompanying rhetorical bluster. 

“Our focus is less on political rhetoric from either party and more on common-sense action that supports reliable, affordable energy for all Americans,” he said.

Myron Ebell, the director of the Center for Energy and Environment who led Trump’s transition team at the Environmental Protection Agency, said that speeches aside, the president and his deputies have done nothing in office to alienate the coal business.

“I have seen nothing that President Trump or his administration have done that is anti-coal,” he said, adding, “What coal miners and the industry want is to be treated fairly, and I think President Trump has done that.”

Latest on Hurricane Laura

Hurricane Laura slammed into southern Louisiana in the early hours of Thursday morning as a Category 4 storm.

Packing winds of 150 mph, it was the strongest hurricane by wind speed to ever hit southwestern Louisiana and ranked in the top 10 of all hurricanes to make landfall in the continental United States, my colleague Jason Samenow reports.

The hurricane destroyed entire neighborhoods and left 900,000 homes and businesses without power. As of Thursday evening, officials had connected six deaths to the storm, although that number could rise.

During the RNC, Trump said he would visit communities hit by the storm over the weekend. 

He also credited state and federal authorities for the fact that casualties fell short of some predictions.

“While the hurricane was fierce, one of the strongest to make landfall in 150 years, the casualties and damage were far less than thought possible, only 24 hours ago,” Trump said. “And this is due to the great work of FEMA, law enforcement, and the individual states.”

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards (D) similarly said on Thursday that the destruction of the storm fell short of some of the worst-case scenarios, but pointed out that the damage from the storm was massive.

“We have sustained a tremendous amount of damage.” Edwards said.

Storm surges may have been lower than some forecasters predicted, although scientists still do not have complete data. Officials had warned of “unsurvivable” flooding.

“Preliminary storm-surge data indicate that seas rose at least nine feet above normally dry land. Although that number is lower than the projected 15 to 20 feet, observing stations are few along the Louisiana coast, so the true height of the maximum surge is not yet known,” Samenow writes.

Laura weakened to a tropical storm as it made its way inland but maintained wind speeds of more than 65 mph as it headed toward Arkansas on Thursday evening.

Laura barreled through a region home to petrochemical plants, half the nation’s refineries, and oil and gas wells.

Near Lake Charles, La., a city of about 78,000 that was particularly hard-hit, an industrial plant caught fire, billowing toxic smoke through the area and triggering a shelter-in-place order.

“Trouble began early Thursday at a BioLab plant that manufacturers chlorine for swimming pools and disinfectants. An unknown amount of chlorine began to decompose sometime during the storm, generating heat and sparking a fire,” my colleagues Steven Mufson and Darryl Fears report, based on comments from the Louisiana state police. 

The smoke from the plant carried an unknown amount of chlorine gas, which can cause blistering of the skin and respiratory distress.

“It was the most vivid example of environmental damage resulting from Hurricane Laura,” Mufson and Fears write. 

Many oil and gas companies shut down or slowed production in advance of the storm, and some were still assessing damage as of late Thursday.

But the oil markets seemed largely undisturbed, Mufson and Fears write. 

“The market is really shrugging this off,” Jeff Mower of S&P Global told The Post. Mower said between Friday and Tuesday, prices of gas to be delivered in September climbed by 11 cents; since Tuesday they’ve dropped 10 cents.

Environmentalists are less sanguine since in the lead up to the storm, many oil refineries said they released gases at levels exceeding regulations as they shut down in preparation.

Motiva Enterprises in Port Arthur was one such plant. In a filing to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality it said that it released benzene, hydrogen sulfide and volatile organic compounds in excess of legal limits. 

Marathon Petroleum, for its part, “reported that as many as 14 contaminants were flared at nine different parts of its Galveston Bay refinery as it prepared for the hurricane,” Mufson and Fears write.

Scientists say Hurricane Laura’s rapid intensification is a sign of a warming planet.

Hurricane Laura tied the record for the fastest intensification of any hurricane. The transformation was one of the fastest on record in the Gulf of Mexico, matched only by 2010’s Hurricane Karl.

“Surveying the Gulf of Mexico late Tuesday afternoon, National Hurricane Center experts saw a Category 1 hurricane — dangerous, but not likely to cause major damage,” my colleagues Chris Mooney and Andrew Freedman write. “Twenty-four hours later, Hurricane Laura was unrecognizable. It had rocketed into a high-end Category 4 storm, with wind speeds of nearly 145 mph.”

While there may be several factors behind the rapidly intensifying storms, including atmospheric and oceanic cycles, scientists are increasingly seeing evidence that climate change and warming waters may be driving the change.

Storms have also become more frequent with this year being particularly active.

Meteorologist Philip Klozbach:

“As the planet heats up, warm tropical ocean water from the surface down to a depth of tens of meters or more provides energy for hurricanes. With more energy, the storm strengthens faster than it typically would,” Mooney and Freedman report.

Climate activist Bill McKibben:

While the intensification of Hurricane Laura was hard to predict, the National Hurricane Center nailed predictions on the storm’s path.

“Three and a half days before Hurricane Laura made landfall near Cameron, La., the National Hurricane Center predicted where it would come ashore within 0.6 miles. Not only did it peg the location near the Texas-Louisiana border but it forecast the exact hour it would cross the coastline: 2 a.m. Eastern,” my colleague Jason Samenow reports.

This precision can be crucial for saving lives and for many reinforced confidence in the National Hurricane Center.



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The Health 202: Trump gave his pandemic pitch to voters at the White House


In his long speech, the president rattled through a list of ways he has responded to the pandemic, claiming his administration “launched the largest mobilization since World War II” and even promising a vaccine before the end of the year “or maybe even sooner.”

“We are marshaling America’s scientific genius to produce a vaccine in record time,” Trump said. “We have a safe and effective vaccine this year, and together we will crush the virus. ”

Yet in front of him, on the White House South Lawn, sat 1,500 mostly maskless people close together.

They were in clear violation of social distancing and mask rules set by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D), who has banned groups of more than 50 people from assembling and required the use of masks when keeping six feet apart is impossible. 

Brett Samuels, White House reporter for The Hill:

Alexander Nazaryan, national correspondent for Yahoo News:

Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics:

“The Trump campaign told reporters the Republican National Committee worked with Patronus Medical, a medical, safety and health company, to institute ‘proper protocols’ in compliance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines to ensure the safety of attendees,” my Post colleagues report.

“But an overwhelming majority of the attendees were not expected to be tested for the novel coronavirus, and chairs were placed only inches apart in defiance of distancing guidelines.”

At the end of the night, an opera singer invited attendees to join him in singing “God Bless America” – even though group singing is a prime scenario in which the virus can spread.

Post columnist Megan McArdle:

The final night of the Republican National Convention was an effort to portray a country that has moved past the crisis – a play to Trump’s base, where there are high levels of distrust in how the media have covered the pandemic and a tendency to spread conspiracy theories about public health officials (recall the “Plandemic” video).

Yet the nation is just now seeing an unexpected summer surge in infections and deaths start to subside. Around 1,000 people are still dying every day in the United States from the highly infectious virus. Millions of adults remain unemployed and millions of kids at kept home from school.

Trump also ignored his failure to replace the Affordable Care Act.

The president spent much of the 2016 election attacking former president Barack Obama and then-vice president Joe Biden for the sweeping 2010 health-care law – and promising to write his own health law.

“We will repeal and replace disastrous Obamacare,” Trump said during his 2016 speech at the RNC. “You will be able to choose your own doctor again.”

But in a series of dramatic episodes on Capitol Hill in 2017, the GOP-led Congress failed to agree on a replacement and ultimately abandoned the effort. To this day Trump keeps insisting there will be a replacement bill, but it has never materialized.

Sarah Kliff, investigative reporter for the New York Times:

Instead Trump has launched a different health-care attack on Biden in the covid era.

He painted his Democratic rival’s stated approach to the crisis as simultaneously too heavy-handed and too cavalier.

The Democratic presidential nominee wants to “surrender to the virus,” Trump insisted, a reference to Biden’s recent statement he’d shut the country down again to avoid another wave of infections if that’s what scientists recommended.

“Instead of following the science, Joe Biden wants to inflict a painful shutdown on the entire country,” Trump said. “His shutdown would inflict unthinkable and lasting harm on our nation’s children’s, families and citizens of all backgrounds.”

Trump predicted more drug overdoses, depression, alcohol addiction, suicides, heart attacks, economic devastation and job loss should Biden take the White House in January – although at that point a vaccine would be ready, should Trump’s promises come to fruition.

Trump also slammed Biden for criticizing his China travel ban at the pandemic’s outset earlier this year.

“When I took bold action to issue a travel ban on China — very early indeed — Joe called it hysterical and xenophobic. And then I introduced a ban on Europe, very early again. If we had listened to Joe, hundreds of thousands more Americans would have died.

Yet Biden has laid out his own, relatively detailed road map for responding to the pandemic.

His pandemic response plan promises to create a testing board to guarantee free testing, double the number of drive-through testing sites, build a national contact-tracing workforce and create a national pandemic dashboard where people can gauge transmission in their own Zip codes.

Biden has also pledged daily briefings with medical experts — something Trump is now allowing only sporadically. And he wants to restore the U.S. relationship with the World Health Organization, after the president broke ties.

Campaign surrogates, scientific advisers to Biden’s campaign, and former U.S. health policy officials told Stat News that the weeks leading up to Biden’s potential inauguration “would set off a mad dash to reverse the country’s pandemic misfortunes.”

“They described in detail a de facto Covid-19 war room,” Lev Facher writes in this look at how Biden might respond to the pandemic.

For all the Trump administration’s setbacks, there are some positive developments.

A few hours before Trump took the stage, his administration announced a pact to produce 150 million rapid coronavirus tests.

The White House has struck a $760 million deal with Abbott Laboratories to provide the tests, which allow users to obtain results in 15 minutes from a small card. It’s the federal government’s biggest step into testing, which Trump has insisted is mainly the job of state and local authorities, The Post’s Lenny Bernstein and Seung Min Kim report.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany:

“Though antigen tests like this one are largely used to screen large numbers of people to find those who may be infected, the FDA said the Abbott test ‘has been authorized for use in patients suspected of COVID-19 by their healthcare provider within seven days of symptom onset,’” Lenny and Seung Min write.

“The antigen test has a greater chance of a false negative result than the more reliable PCR test,” they add. “The FDA said users may need a second test to confirm a negative result.”

Ahh, oof and ouch

AHH: Some scientists are betting on a second wave of new, experimental vaccines.

“Seven months into the coronavirus crisis, with more than 30 vaccines rapidly advancing through the rigorous stages of clinical trials, a surprising number of research groups are placing bets on some that have not yet been given to a single person,” the New York Times’s Carl Zimmer reports.

At least 88 vaccine candidates are under preclinical investigation, many of which are unlikely to begin clinical trials until well after other vaccines are approved and distributed. But the scientists behind these later candidates are betting that different designs could let them win out in terms of effectiveness or price.

Some companies are hoping that newer experimental vaccine models could provoke a stronger immune system response, while others are banking on designs that could be cheaper and faster to produce on a mass scale. A few are working on developing a “universal” coronavirus vaccine that could protect people from an array of viruses, including those that are still lurking in other wild animals and haven’t made the jump to humans yet.

“The first vaccines may not be the most effective,” Ted Ross, the director of the Center for Vaccines and Immunology at the University of Georgia, told the New York Times. He is working on an experimental vaccine he hopes will go to clinical trials in 2021.

OOF: The World Health Organization says countries should try to test people exposed to the virus, even if they’re asymptomatic.

The organization waded into a firestrom caused after the Centers for Disease Control changed its guidance this week to no longer recommend testing asymptomatic people. The change came as thousands of people return to schools and businesses where broad testing is central to reopening plans. 

Late Wednesday, CDC Director Robert Redfield appeared to qualify the agency’s recommendations, saying that “all close contacts of confirmed or probable COVID-19 patients” may consider testing. The advice on the agency’s website, however, has not changed.

Then, yesterday, the WHO said that when feasible, countries should try to test people who have been exposed to the virus even if they don’t show symptoms.

Maria Van Kerkhove, a WHO epidemiologist, said in a news briefing that the organization’s recommendations “are to test suspect cases” and that contacts of infected people “if feasible, should be tested regardless of the development of symptoms.” But she added that the focus was on those who developed symptoms.

OUCH: Evacuations triggered by Hurricane Laura could spark new covid-19 outbreaks.

“Texas and Louisiana were already struggling to contain the spread of the coronavirus when Hurricane Laura hit on Wednesday night, and now some experts are warning mass evacuations could be responsible for a new wave of infections,” NPR reports.

More than half a million people were ordered to evacuate before the storm hit. Officials housed people in hotel rooms or urged them to sleep in their cars, only using larger shelters as a last resort to avoid the spread of the virus.

But even with these precautions, health officials worry that displacement from the pandemic could spark new outbreaks.

A recent study from Columbia University, which is still under peer review, found that a hurricane evacuation could spark thousands of new virus cases.

Increasingly powerful natural disasters, like Hurricane Laura, could also drive a long-term mental health crisis.

“Mental-health experts worry the psychological toll from these increasingly common cataclysms — with a pandemic now overlaid on top — could be unprecedented,” Public Integrity’s Jamie Smith Hopkins and CJI’s Dean Russell report.

In a survey of hundreds of people who been affected by hurricanes, floods, and wildfires, Hopkins and Russell found that many had flashbacks and lingering anxiety.

Another recent study from Columbia University found that more than half of Houston-area residents have struggled with emotional distress in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, which hit the city in 2017

FEMA’s Crisis Counseling Program, however, only reaches a small fraction of survivors, and the funds only last for a year after the disaster, even though psychological effects often last much longer.

The U.S. is detaining migrant children in hotels before quickly deporting them.

The Trump administration has defended the practice as necessary during the pandemic.

“Most children who cross the border without permission are supposed to go to Health and Human Services shelters that are licensed by states, offer schooling and legal services, and eventually place children with family sponsors,” the Associated Press’s Nomaan Merchant and Evens Sanon report. “Instead, the Trump administration is holding children in hotels or Border Patrol facilities for days, sometimes weeks, before expelling them.”

Authorities detained 577 unaccompanied children, some as young as age one, in hotels through the end up July, up from 240 in April, May and June. Keeping kids in hotels violates anti-trafficking laws and a court settlement meant to protect migrant children.

The AP also found that some contractors in hotel were skirting public health guidance. Several immigrants told the news service that government contractors instructed them to place ice under their tongues to pass a temperature check before a deportation flight.

Large covid-19 clinical trials are lacking in diversity.

“Moderna and Pfizer, the companies leading the U.S. race for a coronavirus vaccine, disclosed this week they have enrolled more than half the people needed for the 30,000-person trials that represent the final phase of testing. But only about a fifth of participants are from Black and Hispanic communities, which have been hit hardest by the virus — lagging what several experts said should be the bare minimum of diversity,” Carolyn Y. Johnson reports.

Creating a vaccine trial that reflects the U.S. population may be critical in ensuring it’s widely accepted and works for everyone.

“Given that Covid-19 has disproportionately caused severe illness and deaths among Hispanic, African American, and Native American populations in the U.S., it’s of critical importance that vaccine trials adequately reflect this reality,” Peter Hotez, dean of the School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, told The Post.

Coronavirus latest

  • The Justice Department is seeking information on whether New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Michigan—all states led by Democrats—violated federal law by ordering public nursing homes to accept covid-19 patients from hospitals. The orders were meant to free up hospital space but were widely criticized for potentially fueling the spread of the virus in nursing homes, the Associated Press’s Bernard Condon reports.
  • A team of infectious disease experts warned in a recent study published by the BMJ that the standard recommendation of six feet for social distancing may be too rigid. In some indoor settings, especially where people are signing or shouting, the virus may infect people who are much further than six feet away from the source. Meanwhile getting a little closer may not be such a big deal in lowest risk settings outdoors, although experts still don’t recommend prolonged contact, Ben Guarino reports.

    The team of experts created a chart to show how different settings affect risk:

  • A poll of 14 wealthy countries found that majorities in all but the United States and the United Kington approved of their government’s response to the pandemic. More than 90 percent of respondents in Australia and Denmark said their country had done a good job; in the U.S. and the U.K only 47 and 46 percent, respectively, said the same, Adam Taylor reports.
  • Some covid-19 patients are taking an unusually long time to regain consciousness after being on a ventilator. Normally it can take patients on ventilators a day or less to clear the drugs that keep them sedated for ventilation, but some patients with Covid-19 are taking weeks to wake up. Doctors aren’t sure why, but some worry that patients who are unresponsive may be taken off life support too quickly, Martha Bebinger writes for Kaiser Health News.

The ongoing debate over reopening schools

  • Nearly 4 out 5 school districts in urban areas will start their school years fully remote, compared to less than half of students in suburban or rural school districts, according to a report by the Center for Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington Bothell. Urban districts serve large number students from families living in poverty, and those kids may have the most to lose from missing out on in-person classes, Axios’s Kim Hart reports.
  • A number of schools in Ohio and Pennsylvania have found dangerous bacteria in their water supplies. Prolonged closures because of the coronavirus mean that water has been lying stagnant in schools’ plumbing systems. It’s an environment ripe for the growth of the bacteria that causes Legionnaire’s disease, a respiratory condition that usually affects older adults and people with weakened immune systems, the Times’s Max Horberry reports.

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The Cybersecurity 202: Ex-DHS official Miles Taylor says Trump is a threat to election security


During the first and only publicly acknowledged National Security Council meeting on election security in advance of the 2018 midterms, Taylor said, the president was dismissive, distracted and unwilling to issue a public warning to Russia and other U.S. adversaries to back off. 

Instead of listening intently to officials briefing about the election threats, Trump talked about which counties he won in 2016, Taylor said. Officials were unable to convince him to issue a public warning that Russia would face serious consequences if it interfered in the midterms. Instead, those messages were largely delivered by lower-level officials.

“His bully pulpit was one of the things that we saw as most critical to keeping the bad guys from doing this,” Taylor said. “If the president of the United States stands up and says there are going to be severe repercussions, that sends a very different signal to a capital like Moscow than it does for the assistant secretary for X, Y or Z to say there will be consequences. But that’s what we were left with.” 

A recent assessment from U.S. intelligence officials found that Russia is already “using a range of measures” to interfere in the 2020 contest aimed largely at hurting Trump’s opponent Joe Biden

The president’s attitude toward election security was effectively an open door to adversaries who wanted to meddle in our democracy,” Taylor said. “He has essentially offered up warm appeasement rather than tough deterrence. The consequences are evident in the fact that these countries have not been dissuaded from interfering. They have continued their efforts. In fact, more are getting in the game.” 

Taylor is one of several former Trump officials to come out in favor of Biden in the 2020 election. 

He’s made no secret of his disdain for the president in a series of YouTube videos in recent weeks produced by the group Republican Voters Against Trump. Among his serious allegations is that Trump offered pardons to federal officials if they faced charges for actions aimed at limiting illegal border crossings. 

But his criticisms on election security are particularly damning because they suggest the president is, at best, ambivalent about foreign efforts to undermine the very machinery of democracy. 

He went so far as to argue the president’s disinterest in election security may be driven by an expectation that any Russian intervention in the 2020 election will help his candidacy, as it did in 2016. That’s a claim Democratic leaders have also leveled at Trump and Republican congressional leaders. 

“Our biggest vulnerability from an election security standpoint going into this cycle is the president really hasn’t made this a priority,” Taylor said. “He hasn’t focused on how to keep governments like the Chinese, the Russians and the Iranians from meddling. And the simple reason is the president sees that interference largely as being beneficial toward him.”

Trump used his bully pit during the Republican convention to harp on Chinese interference – without once mentioning Russia. 

During his speech last night accepting the Republican presidential nomination, Trump warned from the White House that “China supports Joe Biden and desperately wants him to win; I can tell you that upon very good information.” 

The intelligence assessment found that China’s efforts are largely focused on criticizing government activities it sees as hostile to its interests; there were no mentions of large-scale disinformation or hacking campaigns like Russia carried out in favor of Trump in 2016. And Trump’s choice to cherry pick this intelligence to position himself further as tough-on-China is notable in itself. 

Taylor praised the work the federal government has done to improve election security since 2016. 

But he insisted that work was done “despite the president, not because of him.”

At DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, that work has included creating a network of hundreds of cybersecurity sensors at election offices across the country, probing state and local election offices for hackable bugs and sharing classified and unclassified cybersecurity threat information with election officials. 

The president’s inability to play good offense on this has meant that it’s likelier we’re going to have to play defense here at home,” he said. “And I think that’s a problem that CISA, the FBI and the Intelligence Committee are going to have to confront.” 

DHS declined to comment on Taylor’s claims. The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment. 

Taylor has worked at Google since leaving office but is currently on leave. He’s also a senior fellow at Auburn University’s McCrary Institute for Cyber and Critical Infrastructure Studies. Soon after Taylor began publicly criticizing Trump, the president shot back on Twitter calling him a “DISGRUNTLED EMPLOYEE” and “a real ‘stiff.’ ”

With three months to go before the November contest, Trump has remained largely silent on the threat of election hacking. 

Instead, the main focus of Trump’s ire since the pandemic struck has been voting by mail, which he repeatedly has claimed without evidence will produce widespread fraud. The president began by attacking mail voting generally but has since reined in his criticism and even begun promoting mail voting in states where he’s in a tight race with Biden including Florida, Arizona and North Carolina. 

For Taylor, the attacks mark another instance in which the president is treating the integrity of the election as an issue of raw personal interest rather than national security. 

“I suspect the president firmly believes that mail-in ballots will be to his detriment and…the president’s willing to use any tool at his disposal to prevent that from happening,” he said. “I cannot think of a more logical explanation.

Programming note: The Cybersecurity 202 will be on hiatus next week. We’ll be back in your inbox after Labor Day on Tuesday, Sept. 8. 

The keys

Michigan is investigating a robocall operation that spread disinformation about mail voting and may be linked to right-wing trolls. 

The recording, released by Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D), falsely told voters that people who vote by mail in the state will have their information added to a national police and debt-collection database, StateScoop’s Benjamin Freed reports.  

The call also tries to scare voters by falsely telling them their ballots will be used to track people for mandatory vaccines. The call claims it was paid for by the 1599 Project, an outfit run by Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl, conservative political operatives who have spread numerous wild conspiracy theories. 

Wohl denied the pair was behind the call. It’s now being investigated by the state attorney general.

“This is an unfortunate but perfect example of just how low people will go to undermine this election,” said Attorney General Dana Nessel. “This robocall is fraught with scare tactics designed to intimidate Black voters and we are already working hard to find the bad actors behind this effort. ”

Meanwhile the Trump campaign and its surrogates are promoting mail voting in swing states including Michigan.

The campaign has targeted thousands of Facebook ads in states including Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania encouraging people to request mail ballots, Protocol reports. Donald Trump Jr. in robocalls this week urged voters in 13 states to cast absentee ballots, Politico reported.

Iranian government hackers impersonated journalists to target human rights activists on LinkedIn.

The hackers communicated with targets on WhatsApp to gain their trust before sending them malicious links that stole their passwords and other information, researchers at the ClearSky cybersecurity group told Catalin Cimpanu at ZDNet.

Researchers believe the hackers are part of the Iranian government-linked group dubbed Charming Kitten. They posed as journalists for the German broadcasting company Deutsche Welle and the Israeli magazine Jewish Journal.

The attacks, which took place in July and August, mirror similar attacks by the group in 2019 and 2020 when they allegedly posed as Wall Street Journal reporters.

Walmart is partnering with Microsoft in a bid to acquire TikTok’s U.S. operations.

The deal could give Walmart access to younger shoppers it has struggled to attract, Jay Greene and Abha Bhattarai report. Trump signed an executive order that gives TikTok until Nov. 12 to close a deal before the app is banned in the United States over concerns about Chinese spying. 

The bid could face competition from software company Oracle, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. TikTok is continuing a legal challenge against the order, saying the White House’s national security concerns are unfounded.

The Chinese government has never asked TikTok for U.S. user data, Roland Cloutier, the global chief security officer for TikTok’s parent company ByteDance, told CyberScoop. Because TikTok stores U.S. user data in the United States, it’s not subject to Chinese laws, Cloutier said.

Securing the ballot

Voting rights groups are suing the Trump administration over an executive order they say could chill speech around voting.

The groups argue that the order, which seeks to change liability protections for tech companies, could limit voters’ ability to receive election information, Protocol’s Issie Lapowsky reports.

The groups argue that Trump unleashed the executive order in retaliation for Twitter’s decision to fact-check his misleading claims about mail voting. The plaintiffs, which include Rock the Vote, Vote Latino, Common Cause, MapLight and Free Press, are asking the court to invalidate the order and declare it unconstitutional.

Government scan

The Justice Department seized 280 cryptocurrency accounts tied to North Korean hackers. 

Chat room

Elon Musk confirmed on Twitter that a recent attempted hack of a Nevada company was aimed at Tesla. 

The FBI earlier this week arrested a Russian hacker, who agreed to meet with an unnamed employee in California to hand off $1 million in exchange for downloading malware on the company’s servers. But instead of taking the money, the employee tipped off authorities.

Researcher Marcus Hutchins, who pleaded guilty last year to developing banking malware, explains how unusual the attempted hack was:

Daybook

  • The House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing today on “Protecting America’s Democracy: Ensuring Every Vote Counts” at noon.

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Power Up: What pandemic? Trump’s RNC week comes to an end with maskless crowd at White House


The campaign

WHAT PANDEMIC?: President Trump’s speech last night on the White House South Lawn was a reflection of the struggles his flagging campaign is facing in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Most of the 1,500 supporters who gathered to celebrate Trump’s renomination did not receive rapid coronavirus tests, did not wear face masks and were seated closer than six feet apart. 

Speakers throughout the campaign-rally like program praised the president for his handling of the pandemic that’s killed 177,000 Americans and tried to frame the virus as a thing of the past — even as medical experts warned the mass gathering could trigger community spread. 

  • “The program also projected the image to millions watching on television that a president whose public approval ratings have fallen over widespread disapproval of his handling of the pandemic has returned to business as usual, even if most Americans have not,” our colleagues David Nakamura and Josh Dawsey write. 

Trump and his lineup of speakers blamed Joe Biden and the Democratic Party for the country’s current socioeconomic problems, bragged of an economy that has cratered as the virus has sent millions to the “brink of financial ruin,” and propagated falsehoods in defense of his management of the pandemic — even as the number of deaths and spread of cases in the country outpaces every other nation. 

  • “America has tested more than every country in Europe put together, and more than every nation in the Western Hemisphere combined. We have conducted 40 million more tests than the next closest nation,” Trump claimed, providing a misleading indicator on raw numbers of tests compared to those per capita.
  • “Two attendees said in interviews that they were not offered tests and were not even put through a more basic screening, such as being questioned whether they had any symptoms, such as coughs, or taking their temperature. They spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk frankly,” per David and Josh.
  • “A White House official said it was logistically unfeasible to test such a large number of people.” 
  • Ahead of Trump’s remarks, the White House announced a $760 million deal with Abbott Laboratories to provide 150 million rapid coronavirus tests, Lenny Bernstein and Seung Min Kim report.

Thursday’s alternative reality was the cherry on top of a week in which “Trump and his allies used the unfiltered platform of a national political convention to paint a portrait of two Americas that do not exist,” our colleague Toluse Olorunnipa writes.  

  • “In one — a misrepresentation of life under Trump — the coronavirus has been conquered by presidential leadership, the economy is at its pre-pandemic levels, troops are returning home, and the president is an empathetic figure who supports immigration and would never stoke the nation’s racial grievances.”
  • “In the other — a hypothetical preview of a Joe Biden presidency that mischaracterizes many of his proposals — police are defunded, taxes are increased, infanticide is legal, suburbs are abolished and cities burn as violence spreads nationwide.”
  • “While all political confabs involve some level of spin and revisionism, the Republican National Convention this year has stood out for its brazen defiance of facts, ethical guidelines and tradition, according to experts on propaganda and misinformation,” per Toluse. 

Trump repeatedly drove home his claim that America wouldn’t be safe from the “anarchy” and “chaos” riving “Democrat-led” cities protesting police brutality in the wake of police killings of Black people. But that argument was also cast in a confusing and sometimes contradictory manner.

  • And extending a tension that defined much of the week, Mr. Trump again drove an inconsistent message on criminal justice, bragging of his own efforts to make the system more merciful while claiming that Democrats’ support for more lenient policies would result in hordes of criminals pouring ‘onto your streets and into your neighborhoods,’” the New York Times’s Alexander Burns and Maggie Haberman. 
  • “The more chaos and anarchy and vandalism and violence reigns,” outgoing White House aide Kellyanne Conway said on Fox News on Wednesday night, “the better it is for the very clear choice on who’s best on public safety and law and order.”
  • “The RNC seems to have put the emphasis on a tried-and-tested weapon to try to unite support — leveraging fear in fearful times,” Emma Briant, a professor at Bard College who studies propaganda and political communication, told Toluse. “If one doesn’t have truth on one’s side, shouting loudly with emotion can certainly work.”

Trump’s own agenda for the next four years, which he has struggled to articulate, was no more clear by the end of his speech. In an interview with the New York Times’s Peter Baker on Wednesday, “Trump rattled off a list of what he has done and would continue, like increasing military spending, cutting taxes, eliminating regulations, reinforcing the border and appointing conservative judges.”

  • “But so I think, I think it would be, I think it would be very, very, I think we’d have a very, very solid, we would continue what we’re doing, we’d solidify what we’ve done and we have other things on our plate that we want to get done,” he said.

The policies

OMISSION: Trump kicked off convention week in Charlotte by railing against mail-in voting, which he claims will be rife with fraud as states expand the practice to accommodate voters who don’t want to cast in-person ballots because of the pandemic. 

Notably missing from Trump’s big speech on Thursday night was any mention of mail-in voting, perhaps because Republican strategists have warned such attacks could undermine the GOP’s own efforts.

Counterprogramming: Voting and disinformation experts have snapped into action, starting to warning American voters that Nov. 3 election will be an election unlike any other. The Defending Digital Democracy Project at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center believes the media plays a crucial role in setting realistic expectations about the election. 

  • D3P, shorthand for the program, is assembling an “Election Influence Operations Playbook” to provide election officials with verified resources on threats; an introduction to understanding election influence operations; and “recommendations for reporting, responding and countering mis and disinformation incidents around elections.”
  • The group has built out a national training corps for state election officials to teach them how to maintain citizen confidence in elections and provide people with verified voting resources. 

D3P officials say because of the potential for a large increase in mail-in balloting, the media should prepare voters for a possibly major delay in getting results that typically come on election night, said the group’s Anna Sakellariadis: 

  • “If our country enters Nov. 3 expecting we will have unofficial election results announced on that night — and we almost certainly won’t — that leaves open the door for a lot of mis and disinformation to spread about our election,” she said.
  • In the past, the number of absentee ballots has been less than the margin of victory, “but when you have a significant increase in absentee ballots, as we expect this year, and especially when we don’t have good precedents to estimate how many voters will choose to vote by mail or in person during this pandemic, that is no longer the case,” Sakellariadis explained.

A poll conducted by the Knight Foundation found a majority of young people, for example, are likely to doubt the results of the election — especially “if it’s not administered well.” Seventy-four percent of young people “will have major or minor doubts about the fairness of the election if it takes weeks to count.” 

  • D3P wants voters to remember that democracy is working even if there isn’t a winner declared on election night: “Without knowing on Nov, 3 whether the margin of victory from in-person voting is greater than the number of absentee ballots cast, it will be almost impossible to confidently project a winner on that night,” per Sakellariadis. “And, in this case, learning results at a later date does not mean that our system is malfunctioning; it means that ensuring an accurate and secure count will take longer than in past years.
  • “To the best of their ability it’s important for the media to accurately describe what to expect from this election well in advance of issues occurring,” Sakellariadis added. So for instance, we recommend that, rather than referring to ‘election night’ in election coverage, reporters talk about ‘election week’ or ‘election month.’ Otherwise it creates an opening for audiences to believe that something went wrong if unofficial results are not conclusive on November 3rd.”

A perhaps even more urgent task: Ensuring voters understand how to properly cast their ballots by mail where targeted efforts are spiking to fan flagrant falsehoods about the practice. 

For example: “Officials launched an investigation Thursday into what they said was an erroneous, racist robocall aimed at discouraging voters in battleground states from casting their ballots by mail,” The Post’s Meryl Kornfield reports. 

  • Voters in Democratic-leaning Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia received a recorded message from “a woman who says she works for ‘Project 1599,’ founded by the right-wing operatives Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman, and falsely warns that personal information of those who vote by mail will be shared with police tracking down warrants and credit card companies collecting outstanding debt, according to recordings of the call reviewed by The Washington Post.”

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) and Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) released statements rebutting the misinformation: 

  • “This is an unconscionable, indefensible, blatant attempt to lie to citizens about their right to vote,” Benson wrote. “The call preys on voters’ fear and mistrust of the criminal justice system — at a moment of historic reckoning and confrontation of systemic racism and the generational trauma that results — and twists it into a fabricated threat in order to discourage people from voting.”
  • “Disinformation targeting elections, and resulting misinformation, highlight elements of how elections run,” Maria Barsallo Lynch, DP3’s executive director, told Power Up. “As voters, we should be prepared to seek and verify information with official sources of information in our communities ahead of, during or after election day.”

The stakes are high in key battleground states as millions of Americans plan to vote by mail this fall. Our colleague Elise Viebeck reports on critical steps voters should take to properly cast their ballot.  

More than 534,000 mail ballots were rejected during primaries across 23 states this year — nearly a quarter in key battlegrounds for the fall — illustrating how missed delivery deadlines, inadvertent mistakes and uneven enforcement of the rules could disenfranchise voters and affect the outcome of the presidential election,” Elise reported earlier this week. 

  • “The rates of rejection, which in some states exceeded those of other recent elections, could make a difference in the fall if the White House contest is decided by a close margin, as it was in 2016, when Donald Trump won Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by roughly 80,000 votes.”

There are some key steps Americans should take to cast a mail ballot, per Elise’s helpful guide to prevent your ballot from being rejected. It’s a process that can be complicated compared to in-person voting as “it involves more steps and more opportunities for problems – including some outside the voter’s control.”

  1. “If you need to request your ballot, do it early.”
  2. Read the instructions, and seek clarification from election officials if you are confused.”
  3. “If you must sign your name, learn about signature matching.”
  4. “Avoid stray marks, tears and other accidental flubs that could disqualify your ballot.”
  5. “Return your ballot as soon as possible. If you do not want to use the mail, there might be other options.”
  6. “Seek reliable information about the process from election officials.”

At the White House

CONVENTIONAL WISDOM: What else happened on the final night.

Protests raged outside the White House: “Hundreds of protesters chanted, marched and played music near the White House on Thursday as President Trump spoke on the final night of the Republican National Convention — a loud and often raucous rejoinder to a leader they say has divided the country and supported racist policies and practices,” Antonio Olivo, Fenit Nirappil, Justin Wm. Moyer and Joe Heim report.

Demonstrations continued after Trump’s speech ended: A group of demonstrators shouted at supporters of the president as they left the White House, including Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who had to be escorted to a nearby hotel by police. Officers sprayed a chemical irritant at the protesters.” 

All the president’s falsehoods: “Trump ended the Republican National Convention with a tidal wave of tall tales, false claims and revisionist history. Here are 23 claims by the president that caught our attention, along with seven claims by speakers earlier in the evening. As is our practice, we do not award Pinocchios for a roundup of claims made in convention events,” Glenn Kessler, Salvador Rizzo and Meg Kelly report.

Here’s just a few on their list:

  • America’s testing capacity was not put into proper context, again: “The key indicator is tests per capita … The United States still lags major countries such as Russia and is tied with Britain in terms of number of tests per million people,” our colleagues write of Trump’s claim that “America has tested more [for the coronavirus] than every country in Europe put together, and more than every nation in the Western Hemisphere combined. ”
  • No, the military was not ‘badly depleted’: “The U.S. military budget had declined in the years before Trump took office as a result of decreases in funding for Overseas Contingency Operations, as both the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan came to a close, not because the military was ‘very badly depleted.’’ (Our colleagues point out that claim appears 175 times in The Post’s database of false or misleading claims).
  • No, Biden does not support defunding the police: “This is a false claim that has earned Trump Four Pinocchios. Biden does not support ‘defunding police,’ according to the candidate and the campaign.”

Trump may have been the worst offender (he did have the longest speech), but he wasn’t the only one:

  • No, Democrats won’t tell you how many hamburgers to eat: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) made this false claim during a video appearance. He didn’t say this in his remarks, but it’s likely he was referring to restrictions on the emissions of greenhouse warming gasses in the Democrats’ Green New Deal environmental proposal. Which doesn’t reference hamburgers, though eliminating “farting cows” was highlighted in a fact sheet by  that never made it into the final resolution. So, where’s the beef?
  • Yes, people could have anticipated the pandemic: Ultimate Fighting Championship President Dana White claimed “no one person or place could have anticipated the challenges that covid would bring.” Our colleagues response: “The risks of a global pandemic have long been predicted by health experts, and the Trump administration arguably reduced the ability of the United States to respond effectively to the outbreak. ”

CNN’s Daniel Dale almost had to impersonate an auctioneer:  

A widow of a man killed during unrest in St. Louis delivered a powerful message: “Ann Dorn, the widow of a retired St. Louis police captain fatally shot during unrest in June, told a gripping story about her husband that aligned with Trump’s characterization of protests and cities as lawless and dangerous,” Toluse Olorunnipa reports.

  • “I relive that horror in my mind every single day. My hope is that having you relive it with me now will help shake this country from the nightmare we are witnessing in our cities and bring about positive, peaceful change,” Ann Dorn said of the death of her husband David Dorn, a 77-year-old who was shot while trying to protect the looting of a friend’s pawnshop.

But Dorn’s daughters objected to using their father’s memory in a political context: “We know his wife is a Trump supporter, but he was not,” Debra White, one his daughters, told the St. Louis American. “He frequently said they were not able to talk about politics, because they were at the opposite ends of the spectrum. I know he would not want his legacy to be for his death to be used to further Trump’s law-and-order agenda.” 

Alice Johnson offered a powerful personal testimony about criminal justice reform: Johnson, a nonviolent first-time offender, was serving a life sentence for her involvement in a drug trafficking organization before Kim Kardashian West lobbied Trump to grant her clemency. The president commuted her sentence on June 6, 2018,” Colby Itkowitz reports.

  • “I was once told that the only way I would ever be reunited with my family would be as a corpse,” Johnson said. “But by the grace of God and the compassion of President Donald John Trump, I stand before you tonight — and, I assure you, I’m not a ghost. I am alive, I am well, and most importantly, I am free.”
  • “Ivanka dubbed Trump ‘the people’s president,’ claiming that he governs with ‘common sense’ and has been ‘fighting for you from dawn til midnight, when the cameras have left, the microphones are off and the decisions really count.’ She gave a full-throated endorsement of his accomplishments and praised him as a bipartisan dealmaker trying to heal the nation — despite his record of partisan acrimony with Congress, a logjammed legislative agenda and repeated efforts to pit groups of people against each other.” 

After her speech, Ivanka sparked a viral moment:

The people

JACOB BLAKE IS HANDCUFFED TO A HOSPITAL BED: “When Jacob Blake’s father visited him in the hospital Wednesday, he said his son — who was shot in the back by a Kenosha, Wisconsin, police officer over the weekend — was handcuffed to the bed,” the Chicago Sun Times’s Clare Proctor reports.

  • “Asked why his son was handcuffed, Blake’s father replied ‘he’s under arrest.’ The father also said it was unclear what charge or charges his son might be facing, explaining ‘right now, we don’t know. We’re playing it by ear.’

Alleged Kenosha shooter fixated on supporting police: “Before he took his rifle to confront the unrest Tuesday in Kenosha, Wis., and was charged in a fatal shooting at the protests, Kyle Rittenhouse seemingly idolized one thing: the police,” Teo Armus reports.

  • More details: “Growing up in Chicago’s far northern suburbs, the 17-year-old shadowed local law enforcement as a cadet and filled his social media feeds with posts declaring that “Blue Lives Matter” and photos of himself posing with guns.” 

Outside the Beltway

LAURA DECIMATES LOUISIANA: “Laura carved a deadly, devastating path north from the Louisiana coast on Thursday, destroying some homes and businesses while sparing others, killing at least four residents, uprooting trees and overturning tractor-trailers, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without power and dumping massive amounts of rain on the region,” Ashley Cusick, Maria Sacchetti, Marisa Iati and Brady Dennis report from Lake Charles, La.

  • Trump said he plans to tour areas hit by Laura this weekend: “Downtown Lake Charles, La., took one of the heaviest hits from Laura’s brutal winds, which shredded trees, peeled off roofs, obliterated buildings and tossed lampposts into the streets. An industrial plant nearby that makes chlorine-based products caught fire, sending caustic smoke throughout the area and leading to a shelter-in-place order.” 

Scientists say the storm’s rapid intensification is a sign of climate change: Experts call the phenomenon “rapid intensification” and say it’s happening more frequently, thanks in part to warming ocean temperatures driven by climate change. The speed with which these storms morph can complicate both weather forecasting and emergency responses,” Chris Mooney and Andrew Freedman report of Laura’s rise from a Category 1 to Category 4 hurricane in 24 hours.

In the media

WHAT ELSE YOU NEED TO KNOW:

The Trump Organization charged the U.S. government more than $900,000: “Federal spending records show that taxpayers have paid Trump’s businesses more than $900,000 since he took office. At least $570,000 came as a result of the president’s travel, according to a Post analysis,” David A. Fahrenthold, Josh Dawsey and Joshua Partlow report based on documents The Post filed suit to obtain.

Jobless Americans say they won’t forget Congress leaving town as their benefits ran out: “The Post spoke to 20 people who have lost their livelihoods in recent months, and all said they felt immense pressure to stay afloat without the extra $600, which expired at the end of July … Often, the anger was directed at Republicans, who control the White House and the Senate, although a few credited President Trump for at least trying to take action on his own,” Eli Rosenberg and Heather Long report.

  • Key quote: “Most of them are rich. They don’t struggle. They get paid,” Shawn Gabriel, a single father of two in Parma, Ohio told our colleagues. “I think they should have come to an agreement.”

The 57th anniversary of the March on Washington is today: Organizers initially thought 100,000 people would attend the march, but now expect 50,000 to gather, Marissa J. Lang wrote earlier this week.



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The Daily 202: Republican convention offers apocryphal quotes amid revisionist history


Contrary to her “preconceived notion,” the 37-year-old explained, “they were warm and caring, they were hard workers, and they were down to earth.”

“I often think back to my 24-year-old self, driving alone in my car from North Carolina to New York City, and I think about what I would tell myself now as we head towards the most critical election in modern history,” Lara Trump continued. “This is not just a choice between Republican and Democrat or left and right. This is an election that will decide if we keep America America – or if we head down an uncharted, frightening path towards socialism. Abraham Lincoln once famously said ‘America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.’ While those words were spoken over 150 years ago, never have they been more relevant.”

Lincoln never said this. Historians agree it is an apocryphal quote. Snopes and PolitiFact have traced it to a Facebook meme that went viral last year.

Amazingly, this is not the only fake Lincoln quote that has been cited during this week’s prime-time programming.

On Tuesday night, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron (R) talked about growing up 15 minutes from Lincoln’s birthplace. “Lincoln said that ‘any nation that does not honor its heroes will not long endure,’” Cameron continued. “Sadly, there are some who don’t believe in this wisdom or in the better angels of our shared American history, as they tear down the statues of people like Ulysses S. Grant, Frederick Douglass and even Mr. Lincoln himself.”

“This quote pops up frequently but does not originate with Lincoln,” said Christian McWhirter, a Lincoln historian at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, in an email to Brent Griffiths. “The earliest occurrence I’ve located is actually from a speech given about Lincoln in 1911 by Hugh Gordon Miller.”

Cameron’s campaign team responded to the mistake not with a correction but with a statement of defiance: “In researching inspirational material for the speech, our team found this quote attributed to Lincoln in numerous places. The sentiment rang true and is one that General Cameron feels deeply.”

Lincoln, the first Republican president, was a touchstone of the program. During her speech on Wednesday, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) even compared Trump to the 16th president. “History chooses its heroes for the time in which they live,” she said. “At our founding, [James] Madison was one of the chosen. When the nation’s very existence was challenged, it was Lincoln’s turn. He was alarmed by the increasing disregard for the rule of law throughout the country. He was concerned for the people that had seen their property destroyed, their families attacked, and their lives threatened or even taken away. Sound familiar?” Noem gave Trump a four-foot replica of Mount Rushmore with his face added alongside Lincoln’s when the president visited the monument in her state last month. “Thanks to these men, America is a land of hope,” she said.

North Carolina congressional candidate Madison Cawthorn also invoked Madison and Lincoln when he took the stage a few minutes later. “I just turned 25,” he said. “When I’m elected this November, I’ll be the youngest member of Congress in over 200 years. If you don’t think young people can change the world, then you don’t know American history. … Abe Lincoln was 22 when he first ran for office. James Madison was 25 when he signed the Declaration of Independence.”

But Madison did not sign the Declaration of Independence – at 25 or any other age. Cawthorn sought to clean up his mistake by tweeting: “I ad libbed that line and meant to say James Madison was 25 when the Declaration was signed. Arguably my favorite founder. After speaking all of that truth … I was afraid the fact checkers were going to get bored. I wanted to give them something to do.”

This explanation does not add up. Organizers sent out an embargoed script of the speech before it aired with the inaccurate Madison line. Why would it matter how old Madison was when an amazing event happened?

Peddling apocryphal quotes is a Trump family tradition. White House aide Ivanka Trump, scheduled to introduce her father on the South Lawn tonight, opened a section of her 2017 book on how to “Lead with purpose from any level” with a made-up quote from President John Quincy Adams that sounds nothing like anything he would have uttered. She claimed our sixth president said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” Ironically, the president tweeted the same fake quote in 2015.

Other quotes during this convention have been accurate but devoid of critical context. Lara Trump’s husband, Eric, invoked Ronald Reagan during his Tuesday speech to the convention. “Ronald Reagan’s quote ends with this simple warning: ‘One day we could spend our sunset years telling our children … what it was once like in, the United States, where men (and women) were free,’” Eric Trump said. “Under President Trump, freedom will never be a thing of the past. That’s what a vote for Donald Trump represents.”

That quote comes from a 1960s speech by Reagan denouncing John F. Kennedy’s proposal for what would, a few years later, become the Medicare program. “Seems like if you’re going to make the case that Democrats are going to enact policies that destroy America, maybe you shouldn’t invoke one of the most popular programs of the last half-century and show that past claims about socialist nightmares were extremely overblown,” said Princeton history professor Kevin Kruse.

Indeed, when appreciated in context, Eric Trump invoking Reagan’s dire warnings against Medicare implicitly undermines the sky-is-falling, doom-and-gloom warnings that a Joe Biden presidency would somehow destroy America. There has been a lot of that going on during this week’s convention.

“You won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America,” Vice President Pence warned in his speech on Wednesday night at Fort McHenry in Baltimore. “Biden would be nothing more than a Trojan horse for a radical left.”

Former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz questioned Biden’s faith, calling him “Catholic in name only,” because he supports abortion rights. Mick McHale, a retired Florida police officer who heads the National Association of Police Organizations, accused Biden of turning “his candidacy over to the far-left anti-law enforcement radicals” and warned: “Your choices are the most pro-law enforcement president we’ve ever had or the most radical anti-police ticket in history.” 

The study of history, in some ways, is a never-ending fight over national memory. But while people are entitled to have their own interpretations, they are not entitled to their own facts.

Pence’s national security adviser Keith Kellogg, a retired Army lieutenant general, spoke poignantly during the convention about being in the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists crashed a hijacked commercial airliner into the building. “I lost friends there that day,” Kellogg said. 

This was notable because Trump has recently offered praise for congressional candidate Marjorie Taylor Greene. The president called her a “future Republican star” after she won a GOP runoff this month in Georgia for a solidly red House seat. Greene is an adherent to the QAnon conspiracy theory and has peddled 9/11 conspiracy theories. In 2018, Greene referred to “the so-called plane that crashed into the Pentagon,” adding: “It’s odd there’s never any evidence shown for a plane in the Pentagon.” After these comments were widely reported, she tweeted on Aug. 13: “Some people claimed a missile hit the Pentagon. I now know that is not correct. The problem is our government lies to us so much to protect the Deep State, it’s hard sometimes to know what is real and what is not.”

The president has invited Greene to attend his acceptance speech at the White House tonight:

Team coverage from the convention:

Quote of the day

“We will make America great again, again,” Pence said in his speech. 

More campaign news

At least one of the women who became a U.S. citizen on TV did not know she would be a part of the Republican convention. “Neimat Awadelseid had looked forward to the moment she would become a U.S. citizen for years — but she never dreamed her naturalization ceremony would happen at the White House. Even after she received a call inviting her to the White House for the ceremony, she did not know the president would be there until moments before it began. Nor did she know that it would become a featured segment of the RNC,” Jose Del Real reports. “Awadelseid said she did not mind that the ceremony had been featured in a political format. The spectacle, she said, did not diminish the uniqueness of being sworn in as a citizen in one of the country’s most iconic settings. ‘That is the world we live in now,’ she said.” She declined to say for whom she would cast her first vote in November. 

The GOP convention used video showing rioters in “Biden’s America.” It was actually from Spain. The Republicans used footage from protests that broke out in Barcelona after Spanish courts sentenced Catalan separatist activists to prison, BuzzFeed News reports. The footage is for sale on Shutterstock, where it’s described as “Young rebel riot revolutionary anarchist.” The video is part of a pattern of the Trump campaign misrepresenting foreign images, including from Thailand, Ukraine and Russia, and trying to pass them off as American.

Black voters are being targeted in disinformation campaigns, echoing the 2016 Russian playbook. “The potency and persistence of the racial playbook was highlighted this week when Twitter deleted an account featuring a profile photo of a young Black man claiming to be a former Black Lives Matter protester who switched his allegiance to the Republican Party,” Craig Timberg and Isaac Stanley-Becker report. “The account, @WentDemtoRep, offered an online testimonial Sunday … and was retweeted 22,000 times. … ‘I’ve been a Democrat my whole life,’ the tweet said … ‘I joined the BLM protests months ago when they began. They opened my eyes wide! I didn’t realize I became a Marxist. It happened w/o me even knowing it. I’m done with this trash. I’ll be registering Republican.’ Twitter suspended the account and several others that posted similar messages for violating rules about ‘platform manipulation and spam.’ … In dozens of cases, the text from the original message was pasted directly into tweets of other accounts.” 

After a three-year onslaught against LGBTQ rights, Trump is suddenly trying to reach out to the community. “Mr. Trump’s advisers are suddenly talking about L.G.B.T.Q. people as they scramble to find new voter support. Last weekend, the campaign announced the L.G.B.T.Q. coalition that had been expected in June, blaming the delay on the coronavirus,” the Times reports. “Alphonso David, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LBTQ civil rights group, responded, ‘We’re not taking the bait.’”

Election security officials see no sign of a foreign threat to mail-in voting, even as Russia and China continue trying to interfere in the election. “We have yet to see any activity intended to prevent voting or to change votes, and we continue to think that it would be extraordinarily difficult for foreign adversaries to change vote tallies,” Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said in remarks to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank. (Devlin Barrett

Robocalls from Donald Trump Jr. are urging Republicans to vote by mail. People are are receiving these calls even as his father continues to rail against mail-in voting as an invitation for fraud. “Voting absentee is a safe and secure way to guarantee your voice is heard,” Trump Jr. says in the calls. (Politico)

Over 100 former staff members for the late John McCain endorsed Biden. The signatories range from chiefs of staff in McCain’s Senate office to junior aides on his campaigns. Most are still Republicans. “We have different views of Joe Biden and the Democratic Party platform — most of us will disagree with a fair amount of it — but we all agree that getting Donald Trump out of office is clearly in the national interest,” said Mark Salter, McCain’s longtime chief aide and speechwriter. (NYT)

The traditionally conservative Chamber of Commerce is poised to endorse nearly two dozen freshmen House Democrats for reelection, a move likely to trigger a revolt within the organization and among some of its donors. It reflects the Chamber’s expectation that Democrats will hold the House. (Politico)

TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer resigned as a U.S. ban on the popular app approaches. Mayer, a former Disney executive, only survived in the role for three months. In a letter to employees, he said “the political environment has sharply changed” since he accepted the role in May, Rachel Lerman reports. Trump issued an executive order this month announcing that the app will be banned in the U.S. beginning the week of Sept. 20 because of national security concerns due to the company’s Chinese ownership. TikTok sued the administration on Monday.

Hurricane Laura

Laura made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane in Louisiana. 

“The storm made landfall at 1 a.m. near Cameron, La. about 35 miles east of the Texas border. Images from downtown Lake Charles, La., showed flying debris and buildings with their windows blown out, as local officials warned residents to remain indoors.The storm, which leaped from a Category 1 on Tuesday to a high-end Category 4 Wednesday night, packed 150 mph peak winds when it crossed the coast,” our colleagues report in a live blog. “Laura was beginning to unleash a swath of destructive winds when it made landfall, with ‘catastrophic damage’ expected, according to the National Hurricane Center, along with widespread power outages. Hurricane-force winds could extend well inland over western Louisiana and East Texas on Thursday morning.” Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) said he had activated the entire Louisiana National Guard to help with hurricane response. 

“The National Hurricane Center urged residents to treat [Laura’s] extreme winds like a tornado. ‘The safest place to be during a major landfalling hurricane is in a reinforced interior room away from windows,’ it wrote. … Heavy thunderstorms embedded within Laura’s core may also spawn tornadoes, and several tornado warnings are active in southern Louisiana.” 

As the hurricane continues to move north along Louisiana’s western border and into Arkansas, its wind speeds will slow, but heavy rains and strong gusts still threaten to cause damage today and tomorrow. Flooding caused by a “catastrophic” storm surge up to 40 miles inland in southwestern Louisiana may continue for several days before the displaced water fully recedes. A National Ocean Service tide station in Calcasieu Pass, La., recorded a water level rise of 9.19 feet during the storm surge. (Katie Shepherd)

  • Hurricane Laura’s ferocious winds, storm surge could be ‘unsurvivable’ along Texas, Louisiana coast. Residents fled Lake Charles and Port Arthur, Tex., as the National Weather Service predicted that high tide combined with a potentially historic storm surge could push dangerous waters as far as 40 miles inland. (Ashley Cusick, Maria Sacchetti, Marisa Iati and Andrew Freedman)

The hurricane will hit in the middle of a pandemic. Medical facilities say they’re ready. 

“Critically ill patients have been transferred from hospitals and frail patients are out of nursing homes in Jefferson County, Tex.,” Lenny Bernstein reports. “‘There comes a moment when you’ve prepared the best you can. It’s beyond your control, and you adapt to it as it comes,’ said Ryan Miller, chief operating officer for Christus Southeast Texas Health System … Masks are universal and accommodations allow for social distancing, he said. About 30 patients with covid-19 … are being kept separate from others. …  At the Medical Center of Southeast Texas in Port Arthur, … officials have transferred about 65 percent of patients to hospitals further inland … That includes patients from intensive care units, some of whom were unconscious and on ventilators because they were receiving treatment for covid-19.” 

Plans for evacuations were complicated by the pandemic. 

“Officials in coastal states most affected by the hurricane season have had months to prepare for the summer’s storms. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced shelters and buses would be stocked with hand sanitizer and face masks and shelters would be spaced appropriately. Abbott also said 200,000 hotel rooms would shelter evacuees from Southeast Texas, effectively isolating groups rather than gathering people in a large shelter. But with limited space to social distance, capacity for shelter ran out in some areas,” Meryl Kornfield reports.

Racial reckoning

A 17-year-old was charged with homicide after two people were killed during protests in Kenosha, Wis. 

“Police in Antioch, Ill., about 20 miles southwest of Kenosha, said they had arrested Kyle Rittenhouse in the killings. The Antioch resident was charged with first-degree intentional homicide in Wisconsin, authorities said, but they did not specify whether he was being charged in one fatal shooting or both,” Mark Guarino, Mark Berman, Jaclyn Peiser and Griff Witte report. “The shooting came as self-declared militia members and armed counterprotesters have appeared in the city, which is reeling from days of unrest. … [Rittenhouse’s] social media feeds contained messages supporting the police and photos of himself with assault rifles. He had been a member of cadet programs for local police and fire departments.”

Kenosha became the latest locus of anger over police brutality after police shot Jacob Blake, a Black father of five, seven times on Sunday. The Wisconsin Department of Justice identified Blake’s shooter as Rusten Sheskey, a seven-year veteran of the police department. Blake’s shooting has led to days of peaceful mass demonstrations but also damaging riots in which businesses have been looted and burned. Armed militias have descended on the town. Some wielding AR-15-style rifles took position near stores and businesses saying they intended to fill a vacuum left by a law enforcement. Cellphone video from before Tuesday night’s shooting showed police officers thanking armed civilians for being on the streets after curfew and handing them bottles of water.

Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis told the media that the three officers at the scene have been placed on leave during the investigation. The Wisconsin Department of Justice said that a knife was found in Blake’s car after he was shot. The agency did not say if any of the officers at the scene saw the knife or knew it was there. “Witnesses confirm that he was not in possession of a knife and didn’t threaten officers in any way,” a lawyer for Blake’s family said. Authorities have not released more information about the shooting. 

Miskins appeared to partially blame the victims of Tuesday’s shooting because they were breaking curfew. “Everybody involved was out after the curfew,” he said. “The curfew’s in place to protect. Had persons involved not been in violation of that, perhaps the situation that unfolded would not have happened.” The names of the shooting’s victims have not been released. 

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) said he’s increasing the state’s National Guard contingent in Kenosha to 500 troops. Trump, on Twitter, said he would “be sending federal law enforcement and the National Guard to Kenosha.” There were no other specifics. Pence said in his speech: “Let me be clear: the violence must stop — whether in Minneapolis, Portland, or Kenosha.”

After online warnings, armed civilians brought the threat of violence to protests in Kenosha and elsewhere. 

“The online call to arms was urgent: ‘Armed Citizens’ were needed to protect Kenosha. ‘Law enforcement is outnumbered and our Mayor has failed,’ a new group calling itself the Kenosha Guard wrote, summoning gunmen to confront racial justice protesters in Wisconsin. ‘Take up arms and lets defend our CITY!’”Joshua Partlow, Isaac Stanley-Becker and Mark Guarino report. “The guns showed up … Militia-style groups and their sympathizers have become a regular fixture in the United States this summer, appearing at dozens of events and confronting racial justice protesters. Experts who track militia activity have been warning that the proliferation of powerful weapons in untrained hands during tense protests is a recipe for bloodshed. … The Kenosha Guard, which called on people to bring guns to Tuesday’s protest, denied on Wednesday that it had any connection to Rittenhouse. … Andy Berg, a member of the Kenosha County Board of Supervisors, said that although he doesn’t support looting or property damage, the Kenosha Guard is ‘agitating the situation.’ ‘If they wanted to be law enforcement, they should have put their application in and gone through the hiring process,’ he said.”

  • Rittenhouse was in the front row of a Trump rally in January, BuzzFeed News reports: Rittenhouse’s social media presence is filled with him posing with weapons and offering support for the president. Footage from the Des Moines, Iowa, rally on Jan. 30 shows Rittenhouse feet away from the president, in the front row, to the left of the podium. He posted a TikTok video from the event. He had written “Trump 2020” and “bruh i’m just tryna be famous” on his TikTok biography.
  • A review of 27 deaths linked to either protests or subsequent violence since late May indicates that those ultimately alleged to be culpable, in cases where a suspect or perpetrator were identified, were almost never actually part of the protest movement, Philip Bump reports.

The chaos in Kenosha is swaying some voters in Wisconsin. 

“The politically calculated warnings of Trump and the Republican Party about chaos enveloping America should Democrats win in November are reverberating among some people in Kenosha,” the Times reports. “In Kenosha County, where the president won by fewer than 250 votes in 2016 … some voters who were less sure of their choice said the chaos in their city and the inability of elected leaders to stop it were currently nudging them toward the Republicans. And some Democrats, nervous about condemning the looting because they said they understood the rage behind it, worried that what was happening in their town might backfire and aid the president’s re-election prospects. Yet the situation in Kenosha remains extremely fluid.”

The NBA, WNBA, MLB, MLS and pro tennis postponed games and matches as athletes protested Blake’s shooting.

This is a seminal moment in the history of sports. Thursday happened to be the fourth anniversary of the first time that then-NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand during the national anthem to protest racial injustice. He was an outlier then. His act of protest derailed his playing career. Now it’s become something close to a consensus position among Black athletes across professional sports.

“The NBA’s restart inside a restricted bubble at Disney World, which has proceeded smoothly for more than a month without any positive novel coronavirus tests, came to a screeching halt Wednesday when the Milwaukee Bucks refused to take the court for a playoff game against the Orlando Magic to protest the police shooting of Jacob Blake,” Ben Golliver reports. “The unprecedented decision to postpone the games was quickly followed by a similar decision by the WNBA … In Milwaukee, the Brewers announced they would not play their Major League Baseball game Wednesday night against the Cincinnati Reds. The Seattle Mariners’ game against the San Diego Padres and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ game against the San Francisco Giants also were postponed. …

“‘Black Lives Matter’ is painted in bold letters on the courts, and players are wearing words and phrases calling for social justice on the backs of their jerseys. But the sentiment has pivoted to anger and despair since the Blake shooting Sunday night. Lakers forward LeBron James issued a powerful postgame statement Monday, saying, ‘Quite frankly, it’s just f—ed up in our community.’ James’s remarks were followed Tuesday by Clippers Coach Doc Rivers, who said, ‘It’s amazing why we keep loving this country and this country does not love us back.’ … 

The Bucks’ decision not to play in Game 5 of their first-round series caught league and team staffers by surprise. The Bucks’ players, who were dressed in their game uniforms as if they had arrived at the arena ready to play, remained inside the locker room with their coaches, General Manager Jon Horst and other team personnel for more than three hours before emerging to demand justice for Blake from Wisconsin politicians. … The National Basketball Players Association held a meeting Wednesday night to discuss next steps, including whether to continue play or to cancel the balance of the postseason, which is scheduled to run through mid-October. … The Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers, two of basketball’s top contenders, voted against finishing the postseason at the meeting … while a majority of the teams present voted to continue. …

The Bucks franchise has had multiple incidents with police brutality and racial profiling in recent years. Bucks guard Sterling Brown sued the city of Milwaukee after he was injured during an incident with police, and former center John Henson spoke out publicly after he was denied service by a Milwaukee jeweler. … A group of Bucks players turned out for a July protest in Milwaukee with T-shirts that bore some of George Floyd’s last words, ‘I can’t breathe.’ … Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul (D) held a brief phone call with the Bucks on Wednesday to explain how the Wisconsin process works. Kaul’s agency is investigating Blake’s shooting … 

On Tuesday, the Detroit Lions canceled practice and players addressed reporters huddled around a whiteboard reading, ‘The World Can Not Go On.’ All but one of the six Major League Soccer matches were postponed after one or both teams decided not to play. … Naomi Osaka, a two-time Grand Slam tennis champion, announced that she would not play her semifinal match in the Western & Southern Open in New York, a U.S. Open tuneup, hours after winning her quarterfinal. A few hours after Osaka’s announcement, the sport’s organizers said play at the event would be paused Thursday … The 22-year-old is the highest-paid female athlete in the world, having brought in more than $37 million in prize money and endorsements last year … ‘I don’t expect anything drastic to happen with me not playing, but if I can get a conversation started in a majority White sport I consider that a step in the right direction,’ Osaka wrote on Twitter. ‘Watching the continued genocide of Black people at the hand of the police is honestly making me sick to my stomach.’”

The coronavirus

The controversial change in testing guidelines was directed by the White House coronavirus task force. 

“The new guidance — introduced this week, without any announcement, on the CDC website — replaces advice that everyone who has been in close contact with an infected person should get tested to find out whether they had contracted the virus. Instead, the guidance says those without symptoms ‘do not necessarily need a test,’” Amy Golstein and Lena Sun report. “The revised guidelines come as Trump has feuded with the CDC and the FDA, both parts of the Department of Health and Human Services … On Wednesday, Brett Giroir, an assistant HHS secretary who oversees testing, denied the impetus for the shift came from the White House. He said the idea of altering the testing guidance originated with him and CDC Director Robert Redfield … A senior administration official … confirmed that Giroir launched the effort. Redfield was initially skeptical, the official said, ‘but then came along to it.’ … ‘The truth,’ [the official said] ‘is that people are getting tested who don’t really need to get tested. You are taking a test from someone who actually needs it and is at a greater risk.’” 

Giroir told reporters that he and Redfield discussed the idea with all the task force’s physicians, including Tony Fauci and Scott Atlas, a new member who has juice with Trump. “All the docs signed off on this . . . before it got to a place where the political leadership would have ever seen it,” Giroir said. He said the task force debated the change for about a month before approving it last Thursday.

But Fauci said the decision to change the testing guidelines was made while he was in surgery. In an interview with CNN, Fauci said he was “under general anesthesia in the operating room last Thursday and was not part of any discussion or deliberation regarding these new testing recommendations. . . . I am concerned about the interpretation of these recommendations and worried it will give people the incorrect assumption asymptomatic spread is not of great concern. In fact, it is.” 

At least three Democratic governors said their states won’t follow the new CDC guidelines. “This will not be the policy of the state of California,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a tweet. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said the guidance would cause his state “to miss thousands of new cases and allow the virus to spread in our communities.” On Twitter, he urged: “If you’ve been exposed to a confirmed case, GET TESTED.” And New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo called the change “indefensible.” “We’re not going to follow the CDC guidance,” he said.

  • Another million people applied for unemployment last week for the first time, the Labor Department said this morning, down slightly from 1.1 million the week before. All told, 27 million people are receiving some form of unemployment assistance. (Eli Rosenberg)
  • Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell announced a major shift in the way the central bank aims to achieve maximum employment and stable prices. Speaking at the Fed’s yearly Jackson Hole policy conference, Powell put an emphasis on achieving full employment. As the Fed debuts a lengthy review of its monetary policy framework, the Fed concluded that inflation could run a bit over its 2 percent target if that means more Americans stay in the workforce. (Rachel Siegel
  • The Trump administration asked the Supreme Court to reinstate a rule that requires women seeking medication abortions to visit doctor’s offices or clinics, a requirement that a Maryland federal judge lifted because of the pandemic. (Robert Barnes)

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said additional executive orders are in the works. 

Meadows said “the administration is eyeing executive action to prevent airline furloughs in absence of a deal with Congress on new coronavirus relief legislation,” Erica Werner, Lori Aratani and Jeff Stein report. His comments “came a day after American Airlines said it would furlough or lay off some 19,000 workers starting in October unless the federal government steps in with billions more in relief for struggling airlines. Delta Air Lines also intends to furlough nearly 2,000 pilots effective Oct. 1, according to the pilots’ union. ‘I think everybody every time they hear that we’re going to do executive actions they don’t believe me,’ Meadows said. ‘We’ve got four executive actions that actually the president took, we’re going to take a few others. Because if Congress is not going to work, this president is going to get to work and solve some problems.” (It would have been unimaginable for Meadows, before he became a Trumpist, to be advocating for the use of executive power to tell companies who they can and cannot lay off.)

  • A third of schoolchildren worldwide – about 463 million – are unable to access remote learning, UNICEF said. (Antonia Farzan)
  • Researchers believe a woman evacuated from Italy in March contracted the virus on her flight back to South Korea – most likely in the airplane’s bathroom. (Farzan)
  • Three Maryland nursing homes face six-figure fines for infection-control deficiencies that inspectors say placed residents in “immediate jeopardy” during the pandemic. The fines range from $120,000 to $294,000. At least 78 residents from the three facilities died of covid-19 since the spring, according to state data. (Rebecca Tan and Rachel Chason)
  • Arlington, Va., will begin enforcing social distancing ordinances again after a rise in cases. The action comes as officials say some restaurant and bar patrons have responded with “open defiance” to police and security personnel. (Patricia Sullivan
  • Chemical experts are questioning the EPA’s emergency approval of a disinfectant that it said would kill the virus on surfaces for up to a week. “It would be great if this was a miracle solution, but it’s not,” said Jennifer Sass, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “There’s plenty of risk here and too much we don’t know about how this chemical could actually harm people.” The cleanser is, for now, will be used by American Airlines and two sports clinics in Texas. Experts say the cleanser might actually harm passengers and flight attendants and do little to protect against the virus. (Steven Mufson and Meryl Kornfield)
  • Four sleep-away camps in Maine prevented the virus from spreading among more than 1,000 people, according to a CDC report. The camps tested staff and campers before and after arriving and made them quarantine. Masks and physical distancing were employed, as well as extensive cleaning and disinfection. The camps offer a contrast with a Georgia camp, where 260 children and staffers were infected in less than a week. (Lena Sun)
  • College parties are driving the growing number of cases in North Carolina, officials said. On Wednesday, North Carolina State University announced the closure of residence halls and ordered most students to leave campus by Sept. 6. The university has reported 24 clusters across dorms, off-campus housing and Greek houses. State health official Mandy Cohen said recent clusters could increasingly be traced back to gatherings of recently-returned students or athletes. (Antonia Farzan
  • Virginia Tech’s football game against North Carolina State is being postponed after 22 members of the Wolfpack’s athletic department tested positive. (Gene Wang
  • Nearly 2,000 Cornell students signed a petition to have Jessica Zhang, a freshman and a TikTok star, expelled because she flouted coronavirus rules and partied with a crowd. (Hannah Knowles)

Social media speed read

Fox News host Tucker Carlson is under fire and facing another advertiser boycott for saying this after a 17-year-old allegedly shot into a crowd of protesters in Kenosha:

A CNN correspondent flagged a claim in Pence’s speech as problematic:

After his convention speech, the vice president walked a rope line with no mask and fist-bumped people: 

Another former Trump official at DHS is speaking out, warning in a new ad that Trump is making the country “less safe”:

Videos of the day

Biden’s campaign will debut a two-minute television ad on broadcast and cable networks during the convention program tonight. “It portrays the 77-year-old candidate as a vibrant and quick-paced campaigner at a time when Republicans are trying to paint him as a washed-up politician who is showing his age,” Annie Linskey reports. “The narrator says that some people ‘race up steps when others take it slow’ as a video shows Trump making an unsteady descent on a ramp after giving an address at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in June. That’s juxtaposed with video of Biden jogging up a similar ramp, from an address he gave at the academy.” Watch it here first:

In an interview with Stephen Colbert, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) warned Republicans not to underestimate Biden: 

Trevor Noah talked about the shooting of Jacob Blake: 





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The Health 202: Pence offers revisionist history of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.


“Before the first case of coronavirus spread within the United States, President Trump took the unprecedented step of suspending all travel from China,” Pence said in a speech from Fort McHenry National Monument on the third night of the Republican National Convention.

“That action saved an untold number of American lives,” he said. “And bought us time to launch the greatest national mobilization since World War II.”

National Review’s John McCormack:

The speech, which lasted around half an hour, was a remarkable effort by Pence to sound victorious.

As leader of the Trump administration’s pandemic response, Pence was in a unique position to address the highly infectious virus that has touched the life of nearly every American. 

He spoke first about President Trump’s foreign policy achievements and judicial appointments – but then launched into a discussion of the pandemic that made it sound like the U.S. has already won the struggle.

The speech wasn’t all misleading; there were indeed some bright spots in the administration’s response. There were sufficient ventilators to care for the seriously ill. There was a major increase in testing, after a long delay. Hospitals in most places weren’t overrun with patients, with the possible exception of New York City. And Trump has signed a number of economic relief packages, though Congress went home recently without extending such aid.

Pence noted all these steps. But what he didn’t mention was the summer’s overall rise in infections, hospitals and deaths, an employment rate around 10 percent and a school year that is starting only virtually for many students. There are persistent supply chain problems hindering labs and medical centers from further ramping up testing.

Ronald Klain, who served as former poresident Barack Obama’s “Ebola czar”:

New Yorker staff writer Susan Glasser:

He also claimed the administration forged “seamless partnerships with governors across America in both parties,” despite reports of frustration by governors feeling the White House wasn’t responding to their needs.

New York Times reporter Alex Burns:

It wasn’t the first time Pence tried to declare mission accomplished.

In a June 16 Wall Street Journal op-ed, the vice president declared “we are winning the fight against the invisible enemy.” Yet since then, another 59,000 people have died of covid-19. The U.S. death rate is still hovering around 1,000 fatalities a day.

Pence also projected an optimistic tone for the future last night, pointing to rapid progress in developing a vaccine and improved, life-extending treatment for covid-19 patients.

“In the days ahead, as we open up America again and open up America’s schools, I promise you we’ll continue to put the health of America first,” he said.

“And as we work to bring this economy back, we all have a role to play and we all have a choice to make.

On November 3rd, you need to ask yourself: Who do you trust to rebuild this economy?” he said. “The choice is clear to bring America all the way back, we need four more years of President Donald Trump in the White House.”

Pence did express empathy for victims of the contagion.

Except for first lady Melania Trump, few speakers at the RNC have acknowledged the pandemic’s massive health, economic and emotional toll on Americans. But Pence acknowledged the loss of life and thanked the nation’s medical workers.

“But tonight, our hearts are with all the families who have lost loved ones,” Pence said. “We mourn with those who mourn, and we grieve with those who grieve.”

He praised two first responders in the audience at Ft. McHenry: nurse Veronica Saez and her brother, firefighter William.

“They’re emblematic of heroes all across this country,” Pence said. “You’ve earned the admiration of your fellow Americans, and the thanks of a grateful nation.”

A few hours earlier, fractures over testing emerged in the task force Pence leads.

Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN he is “concerned” about revised guidance from the Centers for Disease Control about who should get tested for the virus.

The CDC now says those who came into contact with someone infected “do not necessarily need a test” if they don’t exhibit symptoms. The new direction replaces prior guidance that everyone who has been in close contact with an infected person should get tested.

Brett Giroir, who oversees the testing effort, insisted to reporters “all the docs” signed off on the changes after they were debated for a month. 

But Fauci contradicted that account in a statement he gave to CNN’s Sanjay Gupta.

“I was under general anesthesia in the operating room last Thursday and was not part of any discussion or deliberation regarding these new testing recommendations,” the statement said. “I am concerned about the interpretation of these recommendations and worried it will give people the incorrect assumption asymptomatic spread is not of great concern. In fact, it is.”

Giroir said he and CDC Director Robert Redfield led the charge on changing the guidance, based on concerns that people can have misleading negative results if the test is given too early. But experts raised concerns similar to Fauci’s:

Several leading infectious-disease experts predicted that, after months of public health exhortations encouraging people to get tested, the turnaround could heighten public confusion, impede contact tracing and lead to more cases,” The Post’s Amy Goldstein and Lena H. Sun report.

“The CDC estimates that 40 percent of those who test positive for the coronavirus have no symptoms but may be highly infectious and spread it to other people,” they note.

Other Republican speakers barely mentioned the pandemic last night.

There was no acknowledgement of the coronavirus by second lady Karen Pence or Kellyanne Conway, the longtime Trump advisor who just announced her exit.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.):

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany made a passing reference to people with preexisting conditions, roundly mischaracterizing the Trump administration’s approach to protecting them.

In a speech where she spoke about testing positive for a genetic mutation linked to breast cancer, she claimed Trump “stands by Americans with preexisting conditions.”

Yet the Department of Justice, under Trump, is refusing to defend the Affordable Care Act from a lawsuit brought by GOP-led states. A landmark part of the ACA was its requirement that insurers cover people with preexisting conditions and not charge them more. Millions of Americans could lose those protections if the Supreme Court strikes down the law.

The Washington Post’s Philip Bump:

Trip Gabriel, reporter for the New York Times:

Ahh, oof and ouch

AHH: Texas hospitals prepared for Hurricane Laura despite extra hurdles from the coronavirus pandemic.

“Evacuations were more cumbersome with the added requirements of social distancing and masks because of the coronavirus. But critically ill patients have been transferred from hospitals and frail patients are out of nursing homes in Jefferson County, Tex.,” Lenny Bernstein reports. The hurricane made landfall in the early hours of Thursday morning.

Medical Center of Southeast Texas in Port Arthur, one of several large hospitals in the region with experience dealing with hurricanes, transferred nearly two-thirds of patients to hospitals farther inland. Patients receiving kidney dialysis were all moved out of concerns that disruptions in the water supply could interrupt their treatment.

Jefferson County also helped move 1,000 nursing home residents in buses, which were limited to less than half of their usual capacity to prevent spread of the coronavirus.

“There comes a moment when you’ve prepared the best you can. It’s beyond your control, and you adapt to it as it comes,” Ryan Miller, the chief operating officer for Christus Southeast Texas Health System, told Lenny.

OOF: Trump trolls Biden by calling for drug tests before the presidential debates.

Trump suggested that Biden had an unusually strong debate performance against Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont during the Democratic primary because the former vice president might have been on drugs (there is no evidence at all this is the case). 

“If you go back and watch some of those numerous debates, he was so bad. He wasn’t even coherent. And against Bernie, he was,” Trump told the Washington Examiner. “And we’re calling for a drug test,” he added.

It’s not the first time Trump has called for drug testing before a debate. In 2016 he suggested then-nominee Hillary Clinton had been on drugs during their second debate. Trump provided no evidence for either claim.

But in the case of Biden, the aspersion fits into a broader pattern of Trump attacks aimed at casting doubt on the mental fitness of this year’s Democratic nominee, who he routinely calls “Sleepy Joe.”

Some Trump critics thought that the tactic could backfire, while others suggested Biden should set his own preconditions.

Never Trump conservative and political commentator Bill Kristol:

OUCH: The coronavirus pandemic has pushed rural hospitals to the brink of closure.

“As COVID-19 continues to spread, an increasing number of rural communities find themselves without their hospital or on the brink of losing already cash-strapped facilities,” Kaiser Health News’s Sarah Jane Tribble reports.

Before the pandemic, rural hospitals were already stretched thin. A record 18 hospitals closed in 2019. Since then, another 14 have closed in the first half of 2020. Experts say that more would have closed if it weren’t for grants and loan money approved by Congress through the Cares Act. 

But now many hospitals have already gone through that relief money and are unsure how they will pay back federal loans, even as they are bracing for a possible increase in coronavirus cases over the winter. Of the 1,300 small critical care hospitals across the United States, 859 took advantage of Medicare loans.

“For us, this was survival money and we spent it already,” Paul Taylor, the chief executive of a 25-bed hospital in northwestern Arkansas, told Kaiser Health News.

A $5 coronavirus test that returns results in minutes received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA granted an emergency use authorization to Abbott Laboratories for the rapid-response test, which can be administered at a doctor’s office or a school nurse’s office.

“The emergency approval comes as demand grows for greater access to Covid-19 diagnostic tools that deliver results in minutes, rather than days to help quickly contain infections,” the Wall Street Journal’s Sarah Krouse reports. Some public health officials say that low-cost rapid tests will be crucial as workplaces and schools reopen.

Politico’s Alexander Gaffney:

The card-like test uses a technology similar to that is used in home pregnancy tests to search for virus proteins in samples taken from a nasal swab. The antigen test accurately detects about 97 percent of positive cases, but is not thought to be as sensitive as some lab tests. 

Abbott Laboratories has said that it intends to ship millions of the tests across the country in September and plans to ramp up production to 50 million tests in October. Production at that level could double the number of tests in the United States compared to June, Sarah reports.

Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the FDA:

A top FDA official says he will quit if political interference leads to a rushed and unproven coronavirus vaccine.

“Scientists, public health officials and lawmakers are worried that the Trump administration will pressure the FDA to authorize a COVID-19 vaccine in advance of the November presidential election, even if data from clinical trials do not support its widespread use,” Reuters’s Dan Levine and Marisa Taylor reports.

Peter Marks, the director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said he would resign if the Trump administration approved a vaccine before it was properly tested. The comment came during a vaccine working group call last week.

Marks, a career official who will be central to the approval of any vaccine, told Reuters that he has not faced any political pressure so far.

The concerns come amid fears that political interference may have played a role in the agency’s decision to grant an emergency use authorization for blood plasma to treat the coronavirus, despite objections from some top scientists.

Michael Caputo, a top spokesman at the Department of Health and Human Services, said that speculation about political interference in the vaccine development “only undermines confidence in the public health system.”

Coronavirus latest

  • Four sleep-away camps in Maine successfully used face masks, physical distancing and bubbles to prevent the spread of the virus among more than 1,000 campers and staff members, according to a new federal study. Their experience could serve as a potential road map as public health officials look for safe ways to reopen schools, Lena H. Sun reports.
  • Experts have raised doubts about a coronavirus disinfectant that was granted emergency authorization by the Environmental Protection Agency on Monday. The maker of the disinfectant, Dallas-based Allied BioScience, claims that it kills the virus on surfaces for up to a week. But some public health officials worry that the disinfectant — set to be used by American Airlines and two Texas sports clinics — could create a false sense of security and might have harmful health effects, Steven Mufson and Meryl Kornfield report.
  • Older men infected with the coronavirus are twice as likely to get sick and die as women of the same age. A new study suggests that women might be protected by a stronger immune response, a finding that could have implications for any vaccination program, the Times’s Apoorva Mandavilli reports.
  • A disproportionate number of the more than 1,000 health-care workers killed by the virus have been people of color or immigrants (regardless of race), according to a joint investigation by the Guardian’s Danielle Renwick and Kaiser Health News’s Shoshana Dubnow.

Elsewhere in health care

A woman infected with HIV in 1992 may be the first to recover from the retrovirus without medical treatment.

“The woman is Loreen Willenberg, 66, of California, already famous among researchers because her body has suppressed the virus for decades after verified infection,” the Times reports. Only two other people have ever been declared cured of HIV, and both underwent grueling bone-marrow transplants.

The case was documented in a new study published in the journal Nature that also looked at dozens of other people whose bodies appear to be able to control HIV infections without anti-retrovirals — a phenomenon thought to occur in fewer than 1 percent of people infected. 

Researchers believe they may have identified a possible mechanism for how this works: HIV inserts itself into the human genome, but in a very small number of people it seems that the virus may be locked in regions of the genome where it cannot reproduce. In the case of Willenberg, scientists could find no evidence of HIV in her body.

“I think that is a novel, an important discovery,” Sharon Lewin, director of the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity in Melbourne, told the Times. “The real challenge, of course, is how you can intervene to make this relevant to the 37 million people living with H.I.V.”

U.S. diplomats hit back against a U.N. panel finding that the country restricted abortion during the pandemic.

“The U.S. government on Wednesday denied a United Nations panel’s accusation that states have restricted abortion access during the COVID-19 pandemic, and rejected the notion that there is an assumed ‘right to abortion,’ ” the Hill’s Nathaniel Weixel reports.

The U.S. mission in Geneva was responding to a letter from a the U.N. Working Group on Discrimination Against Women, which alleged that U.S. states had used the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to restrict abortion access.

“As United Nations human rights mandate holders, you are undoubtedly aware that international human rights law does not recognize any ‘right to abortion,’ ” diplomats in the U.S. Mission to Geneva wrote. “The United States is disappointed by and categorically rejects this transparent attempt to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to assert the existence of such a right.”

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The Finance 202: Stock market investors are increasingly focused on the election. History shows it may not matter.


Some analysts warn against overthinking it. By this logic, President Trump’s reelection would prove bullish for stocks, as he would continue to push for cutting taxes and regulations, whereas Joe Biden has proposed hiking taxes by $4 trillion and tightening industry oversight.

Others say a victorious Biden would more than make up elsewhere what he costs companies in higher taxes. That is, the Democratic candidate would bring the stability that corporate chiefs favor, remove the specter of the trade wars that has rocked the market in the Trump era, and provide more emergency spending from Washington.

Here’s another take: For the broader market, it doesn’t really matter who wins. The results of presidential elections are merely one input among many shaping how investors value companies. History suggests there’s something to this theory. This SunTrust chart of the S&P 500 over the past 75 years shows it’s impossible to eyeball changes in presidential power based on the performance of the index:

Keith Lerner, chief market strategist at Truist/SunTrust Advisory, puts a finer point on it. “Elections matter, but other factors matter more,” he says. “From the market’s perspective, progress or lack thereof on [coronavirus] vaccines is going to be more impactful than who’s in the White House over the next year — or several years.”

Investors looking for the election results to offer a preview of tax policy may not gain useful insights. 

Indeed, “markets have, counterintuitively, produced better returns, on average, and been more consistently positive in years in which taxes have risen,” a SunTrust analysis found.

To that end, the analysis notes, consider the market saw its strongest decade of gains in the 1950s — when both individual and corporate tax rates were at or near their highest — thanks to the postwar economic boom and low stock valuations going into the period. “Conversely, despite having among the lowest average tax rates of the past 50 years, the 2000s generated the worst stock market returns and economic growth in the modern era,” per the note.

Goldman Sachs analysts acknowledged the complexity confronting investors as they weigh various election outcomes. While a Democratic sweep of the White House and Congress would likely usher in higher taxes that would bite corporate bottom lines, “given the high level of uncertainty about the broader economic outlook, these shifts may be harder to isolate than in a less volatile market,” they wrote last month. 

It is no easier to distinguish winners and losers among specific sectors.

The financial sector, for example, would seem to be among the first cut of winners under a second Trump term. Their regulators “will likely feel they have a second lease on life, and a limited amount of time to finish their to-do lists,” Capital Alpha’s Ian Katz wrote in a note this week. “And those regulators who leave will probably be replaced by Trump appointees who are more aggressively deregulatory, or even libertarian.”

Yet industry stocks have offered the same returns under Trump as they did under his predecessor, in both cases underperforming the broader market:

Low interest rates and weaker economic growth suggest the sector will continue to underperform, regardless of who wins the White House, Lerner says.

The takeaway for long-term investors in the broader market, Capital Group strategists wrote in a note last month: “Moving to the sidelines would be an understandable approach for anxious investors who prefer to wait and see what happens. As history has shown, however, that is often a mistake. What matters most is not election results, but staying invested.”

Market movers

Hurricane Laura barrels toward heart of oil refining.

The powerful category 4 storm has analysts more worried: “Hurricane force winds will extend up to 60 miles from the storm center, the NHC said, encompassing an area with a half-dozen large oil refineries and natural-gas processing plants. Cheniere Energy Inc, the top exporter of U.S. liquefied natural gas, evacuated a plant near the storm’s path, and Cameron LNG also closed its Louisiana LNG export plant,” Reuters’s Erwin Seba reports.

“The ports of Lake Charles, Louisiana, and Houston, Beaumont, Port Arthur and Orange, Texas, closed to vessel traffic on Wednesday, the U.S. Coast Guard said. Six oil-processing plants that convert nearly 2.33 million barrels per day of oil into fuel, and account for about 12 percent of U.S. processing were shut down on Wednesday.”

  • Oil nears five-month high. “Oil held near a five-month high as Hurricane Laura disrupts production and refining in the U.S. Gulf,” Bloomberg’s Ann Koh and Alex Longley report. “While the hurricane’s path shifted away from refineries and ports in the Houston area, traders are waiting to assess the full extent of the damage and its potential impact on fuel consumption.”

Jay Powell to outline Fed’s new approach to inflation, employment. 

Investors will be glued to the Fed chair’s speech from Jackson Hole, Wyo. “In the backdrop is an economy that’s vastly different from the one for which the Fed thought it was planning,” Rachel Siegel reports. “But experts say the review ultimately speaks to some of the most pressing questions of this new world, namely whether a different approach is needed for the Fed to achieve its ‘dual mandate’ of maximum employment and stable prices…

“Many economists argue that a strong recovery will depend on inflation growth beyond 2 percent. The Fed’s policy review is widely expected to move toward average inflation targeting, which would allow for some overshoot of the 2 percent target to balance out periods when inflation skirted below.”

S&P 500 and Nasdaq hit more records: “The broader market index advanced 1 percent to 3,478.73 while the Nasdaq popped 1.7 percent to end the day at 11,665.06. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 83.48 points, or 0.3 percent to end at 28,331.92,” CNBC’s Fred Imbert and Maggie Fitzgerald report.

“Shares of Salesforce surged 26 percent — their biggest one-day gain ever — after the software company posted blowout earnings after the bell on Tuesday.  Salesforce will be added to the Dow at the end of August, S&P Dow Jones Indices said Monday. The changes are driven by Apple’s coming stock split, which will reduce the technology weighting in the price-weighted average.”

Weekly jobless claims out this morning expected to remain high. “The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits likely held near one million last week, an indication that companies continue to lay off workers even as the broader economy shows signs of recovering from the economic downturn,” the Wall Street Journal’s Sarah Chaney reports

“New applications for unemployment benefits have stagnated around one million a week recently, significantly lower than a peak of near seven million in March but well above the pre-pandemic levels of about 200,000 claims a week. There are signs the labor market is healing, albeit more slowly than in the spring.”

Latest on the federal response

Mark Meadows says Trump may take executive action to avoid airline furloughs.

The White House chief of staff also said he’s not optimistic about a stimulus deal: “Meadows’s comments in a Politico Live event came a day after American Airlines said it would furlough or lay off some 19,000 workers starting in October unless the federal government steps in with billions more in relief for struggling airlines,” Erica Werner, Lori Aratani and Jeff Stein report.

“It was unclear how the administration could act on its own to extend aid to airlines or take steps that would prevent furloughs. Meadows did not elaborate and the Treasury Department did not immediately respond to requests for comments.

Where relief plan talks stand: “Senate Republicans have been convening daily conference calls, often joined by Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, aimed at trying to reach consensus on a bill they could potentially try to bring up before Labor Day. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who had been a holdout on a previous Senate GOP bill, said in an interview that he was supportive of a ‘targeted’ bill with a price tag below $1 trillion.” Democrats are unlikely to support such a plan.

  • That means the focus is on September: There’s a Sept. 30 deadline “when government funding expires and many agencies will begin to shut down if Congress does not act. That deadline will force legislative action of some kind that could become a vehicle for passing some new covid-19 relief provisions. And that deadline comes less than six weeks before the November elections.”

Coronavirus fallout

From the U.S.:

  • At least 5,788,000 cases have been reported; at least 176,000 have died
  • Controversial change in testing guidelines came from White House task force: “An abrupt shift this week in government testing guidelines for Americans exposed to the coronavirus was directed by the White House’s coronavirus task force, alarming outside public health experts who warn the change could hasten the disease’s spread,” Amy Goldstein and Lena H. Sun report.
  • Justice Department eyes possible probe of Democratic states’ handling of nursing homes: “The Justice Department requested information on covid-19 in nursing homes from the Democratic governors of four states while asserting that their orders during the pandemic ‘may have resulted in the deaths of thousands of elderly nursing home residents’ — a move that drew some questions as being politically motivated,” Matt Zapotosky reports. The four states are New York, New Jersey, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
  • Researchers find Maine camps prevented spread: “As school and public health officials look for ways to reopen classrooms safely throughout the country, a potential road map emerges from the experience of four sleep-away camps and the extensive measures they adopted to prevent spread of the coronavirus among more than 1,000 campers and staff members,” Lena H. Sun reports.

From the corporate front:

  • Abbott wins approval of cheap, rapid antigen test: “Abbott Laboratories said on it won U.S. marketing authorization for a covid-19 portable antigen test that can deliver results within 15 minutes and will sell for $5,” Reuters’s Carl O’Donnell and Mrinalika Roy report.
  • Mall giant Simon is snapping up bankrupt retailers: “In recent weeks, Indiana-based Simon snapped up bankrupt retailers Brooks Brothers and Lucky Brand, and bid on another, J.C. Penney,” Abha Bhattarai reports. “Analysts say the succession of deals gives Simon a roster of iconic brands for rock-bottom prices and steady rent. Others see an act of desperation that will only delay the inevitable demise of dozens of flailing malls across the country.”
  • Saks owner Hudson’s Bay drops financing plan: “Hudson’s Bay Co, the owner of luxury department store Saks Fifth Avenue, has ditched its plan to raise up to $900 million in debt after prospective investors requested a higher interest rate than the company was willing to pay …,” Reuters’s Jessica DiNapoli reports.

Around the world:

  • UNICEF finds nearly 500 million children are struggling to access school: At least 463 million students around the world have no access to remote lessons provided by digital or broadcast means because families don’t have the ability to receive them or governments are not providing them, a new UNICEF report says,” Valerie Strauss reports.

Money on the Hill

U.S. Chamber poised to endorse a slate of Democrats, prompting internal uproar. 

The big business lobby’s move comes as it tries to stay relevant amid shifting political winds. “The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is poised to endorse nearly two dozen freshmen House Democrats for reelection, triggering a revolt within the right-leaning organization and drawing fierce pushback from the group’s powerful GOP donors,” Politico’s Alex Isenstadt reports

  • A break with history: “The decision represents a sharp departure for the traditionally conservative Chamber, which has spent over $100 million backing Republican candidates during the past decade, and it threatens to further complicate the party’s prospects in the November election while driving a split in the business community.
  • Board resignations possible: “Chamber leaders — including President Suzanne Clark, Chief Executive Officer Tom Donahue and Executive Vice President Neil Bradley — have been pushing the proposal ahead of a Thursday committee vote to finalize a slate of 2020 endorsements. But the group’s donors and members are up in arms, with some threatening to pull funding and others openly venting their frustration. Some are raising the prospect that Chamber board members will quit in the weeks to come.”

When superpowers collide

TikTok CEO abruptly resigns amid political pressure of possible ban.

Kevin Mayer was only in the role for three months: In a letter to employees Wednesday, Mayer said ‘the political environment has sharply changed’ since he accepted the role in May, and that a new resolution for the company is expected soon,” Rachel Lerman reports.

“Trump issued an executive order earlier this month announcing TikTok would be banned in the U.S. beginning the week of Sept. 20 because of national security concerns due to the company’s Chinese ownership … Mayer’s departure throws more uncertainty into the mix for the embattled TikTok, which has been a high-profile example of escalating tensions between the U.S. and China. Mayer’s hiring was a key move in TikTok’s public relations strategy to appeal to U.S. regulators as an American friendly company.”

Pocket change

NBA playoffs games postponed as players strike.

Athletes have lost patience with the pace of change amid social unrest: “The NBA’s restart inside a restricted bubble at Disney World, which has proceeded smoothly for more than a month without any positive novel coronavirus tests, came to a screeching halt when the Milwaukee Bucks refused to take the court for a playoff game against the Orlando Magic to protest the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis,” Ben Golliver reports.

“The league announced the cancellation of all three games scheduled for Wednesday as a result, and a meeting of NBA players later Wednesday night cast doubt on whether the postseason would continue at all. The unprecedented decision to postpone the games was quickly followed by a similar decision by the WNBA, which postponed three scheduled games across the state in Bradenton, and by teams and players in numerous other professional sports.”

Media companies think college football’s cancellation might be a good thing: “A growing number of analysts and insiders are reaching a startling conclusion: While the NFL and its sky-high viewership may be critical to networks as marketers look to unleash their budgets on holiday shoppers, the scrapping of the college Division I football season actually might come with as many silver linings as drawbacks — maybe even more,” Steven Zeitchik reports.

“The idea upends common wisdom about the pandemic, which holds that cancellations of any kind are bad for business. And it can seem counterintuitive. But conversations with industry experts and a dive into the numbers highlights a dirty secret: Buying the rights to college games has become so expensive that sometimes networks are better off if the games aren’t played at all.”

Daybook

  • Fed Chair Jerome Powell virtually headlines the Kansas City Fed’s annual Jackson Hole Economic Policy Symposium
  • The Labor Department releases the latest weekly jobless claims
  • Dollar General, HP, Abercrombie & Fitch, Ulta Beauty and Dollar Tree are among the notable companies reporting their earnings

The funnies

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The Energy 202: EPA’s big coronavirus announcement questioned by scientists


They “say the cleanser might actually harm passengers and flight attendants and do little to protect against the virus, which is mainly transmitted through the air in closed spaces,” my colleagues Steven Mufson and Meryl Kornfield report

“It would be great if this was a miracle solution, but it’s not,” Jennifer Sass, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, told my colleagues. “There’s plenty of risk here and too much we don’t know about how this chemical could actually harm people.” 

The announcement, coming the week of the Republican National Convention, illustrates how the Trump administration especially as the election nears is eager to fast-track possible solutions to reopening and tout them as major breakthroughs. 

Andrew Wheeler, the EPA’s administrator, called the disinfectant — SurfaceWise2, made by Dallas-based Allied BioScience and reportedly applied electrostatically to surfaces — “a major game-changing announcement.” 

And on Sunday, on the eve of the convention, President Trump announced the Food and Drug Administration is granting emergency authorization of convalescent plasma for covid-19. Yet the details of this announcement from the FDA were also disputed by scientists, and FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn later corrected his dubious statement that 35 out of 100 people suffering from covid-19 were saved by the injection of antibody-rich plasma. 

Experts questioned the significance of the disinfectant announcement since the chance of catching the virus of a surface is relatively small compared to the risk of catching it through the air via small droplets emitted by an infected person. 

Maha El-Sayed, chief science officer at Allied BioScience, told my colleagues the product “binds to surfaces and kills viruses that land on it, including covid-19” and its protection could last up to seven days. But it could bring other potential hazards, per my colleagues: “Sass said the company’s ‘Material Safety Data Sheet,’ which lists the common hazards of a product, acknowledged concern about prolonged skin and eye contact, both possible in environments such as the cabins of aircraft. The data sheet also does not list tests for chronic or long-term effects, she added.”

“Although acute toxicity seems to be very low, many people will be exposed to it on a daily basis,” including airline workers, Sass told my colleagues. It could also adversely affect some passengers. Per my colleagues: “People most vulnerable to the novel coronavirus — those with asthma, chemical intolerances or certain allergies — may have greater irritation from exposure to the disinfectant, according to Claudia S. Miller, an immunologist, allergist and professor emeritus at the University of Texas. 

There are some concerns about the environmental impact as well: “The data sheet for SurfaceWise2 also says that it is toxic to aquatic organisms. Sass noted that was because it kills microbes — including beneficial ones, my colleagues write. Allied BioScience cautions that care should be taken to ensure its disinfectant doesn’t end up in drains and waterways but noted that SurfaceWise2 has the highest safety categorization available from the EPA. 

The focus on air travel is perhaps not surprising given American Airlines’s warning on Tuesday that it planned to cut up to 19,000 workers by October. “The airline is looking to cut thousands of flight attendants, pilots, technicians, gate agents and other staff, it said. Including buyouts, retirements and leaves of absence, the company expects to have about 40,000 fewer employees on Oct. 1 than it did before the pandemic, a 30 percent decline in its workforce,” the New York Times’s Niraj Chokshi and Ben Casselman reported

American is just the latest airline to predict bad news. Earlier this summer, United Airlines said that it could furlough as many as 36,000 employees in the fall. And, on Monday, Delta Air Lines warned that it might have to furlough as many as 1,941 pilots in October, even after nearly as many had accepted buyouts, they wrote. 

Hurricane Laura

Hurricane Laura made landfall in southwestern coastal Louisiana around 1 a.m. on Thursday.

The storm slammed ashore “with a ferocity that this region has never previously endured,” packing 150 mph peak winds, my colleagues Andrew Freedman, Jason Samenow, and Derek Hawkins report.

“Laura struck near high tide and is predicted to inundate coastal areas of western Louisiana to the Texas border in up to 15 to 20 feet of water, perhaps the largest storm surge in the Gulf of Mexico since Hurricane Katrina in 2005,” Freedman, Samenow, and Hawkins write.

In the lead up to the storm, National Hurricane Center warned that Laura would be “catastrophic” and could cause an “unsurvivable” storm surge with “large and destructive waves.” At least half a million people had evacuated by late Tuesday.

Hurricane Laura intensified at record speeds as it crossed through the Gulf of Mexico. This is part of a broader trend of storms increasingly going from relatively weak to incredibly powerful in a short time, often leaving people with less time to prepare.

“Laura’s intensification was made possible by the unusually warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, which are tied in part to human-caused global warming, since the vast majority of the heat trapped in the atmosphere by greenhouse-gas emissions ends up in the oceans,” Freedman, Samenow, and Hawkins write.

In the lead-up to Laura’s landfall, astronauts at the International Space Station captured images of the massive storm:

You might not know that a massive hurricane was bearing down on the Gulf Coast from listening to night 3 of the Republican convention.

Vice President Mike Pence opened his speech by calling it “a serious storm” and vowing that “FEMA has mobilized resources and supplies for those in harm’s way.” Beyond that brief mention, however, there was little additional comment on the hurricane during the two-and-half hours of prime time.

Vox editor and columnist Matthew Yglesias pointed out one potential reason why:

But others noted that the unusually severe hurricane season, record-breaking heat, and wildfires that have been ongoing for weeks and have received little attention on any night of the convention so far. Severe storms in Iowa received more attention with the state’s governor, Kim Reynolds, and junior senator, Joni Ernst, both speaking at the event about the derecho that hit the state earlier this month. 

On the occasions that natural disasters have come up, speakers did not link them to human activity or broader environmental concerns.

“Experts are broadly convinced that a steady uptick in extreme weather events of recent years is at least in part the result of man-made climate change,” my colleague Ishaan Tharoor writes. “Yet if you listen to the Republican National Convention this week, talk of the threat posed by climate change will be wholly, if predictably, absent.”

Climate change was not included in the list of bullet-pointed priorities released by the Republican Party in lieu of a platform over the weekend. Trump himself has adopted an inconsistent stance on whether he even believes in the science, sometimes referring to climate change as a “serious subject” while other times portraying it as a “hoax.”

It’s a stance that could alienate younger conservatives. The Pew Research Center found that Republican adults under the age of 39 were far more likely than older conservatives to say the party should be doing more to combat climate change.

Power plays

Joni Ernst looked to link Joe Biden to the Green New Deal during her Republican convention address. 

On the third night of the GOP convention, the senator from Iowa claimed the climate plan popular with liberals would destroy farmers. “The Democratic Party of Joe Biden is pushing this so-called Green New Deal,” she said. “If given power, they would essentially ban animal agriculture and eliminate gas-powered cars.”

However, the non-binding Green New Deal resolution introduced last year does not ban cows and other farm animals, which are a significant source of the greenhouse gas methane. Rather, it vaguely calls for “working collaboratively with farmers and ranchers” to cut pollution “as much as is technologically feasible.” 

Ernst also praised Trump for scrapping a “punishing” Obama-era water rule that would have made it harder for the agricultural sector to drain wetlands and small streams. “It would have been a nightmare for farmers,” she said.

And earlier in the night, Minnesota logger and trucker Scott Dane also credited Trump for better forest management that has reduced wildfires. “Under Obama-Biden, radical environmentalists were allowed to kill the forests. Wildfire after wildfire shows the consequences.”

Lawmakers urged the Trump administration to reverse course on methane regulation rollback.

“A coalition of 87 House lawmakers is asking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to withdraw its latest rules rescinding standards for methane emissions in the oil and gas industry,” the Hill reports

Earlier this month the EPA finalized two rules that would eliminate requirements that oil and gas companies monitor and take steps to prevent methane leaks. The agency’s own analysis estimated that the rollback of both rules would increase methane emissions by a combined 850,000 tons.

“Methane is one of the most potent greenhouse gases driving climate change — 84 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in the first two decades after its release,” the members — 85 Democrats and two Republicans — wrote in the letter. The letter also accused the agency of having an “anti-science” approach to rulemaking.

The administration has said that the changes protect small and medium-size oil and gas companies that might otherwise struggle with red tape. 

A coalition of U.S. labor organizations and environmental groups endorsed Biden.

“It was the first time the group has backed a candidate for public office in its 14-year history,” Reuters reports

Jason Walsh, the head of the alliance, told Reuters that Trump was the “the most anti-worker and anti-environment president of our lifetime.”

Among the members represented in the coalition are the United Steelworkers, the Utility Workers Union of America, and the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters on the labor side, and the Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters and the National Wildlife Federation on the environmental side.

Some unions have been wary of Biden’s environmental platform. North America’s Building Trades Unions, for instance, commissioned studies last month that found oil and gas projects created high-paying jobs. And the United Association of Union Plumbers and Pipefitters disagrees with Biden about the Keystone XL pipeline even though it endorsed him based on his support for labor and his plans to replace environmentally hazardous lead piping. 

Oil check

At least nine oil-processing plants in Louisiana and Texas shut down or slowed production in advance of Hurricane Laura.

“The storm track spans Port Arthur, Texas, to Lake Charles, Louisiana, an area with a half-dozen large oil refineries and natural-gas processing plants,” Reuters reported on Tuesday. 

The plants that had closed or changed production convert 2.9 million barrels per day of oil into fuel, accounting for 15 percent of U.S. processing, Reuters writes.



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