The Daily 202: Debate showcased Trump’s failure to caricature Biden as captive to ‘radical left’

Personifying his Twitter feed, Trump acted like the troll-in-chief as he bullied Biden. There may be Teleprompter Trump and Twitter Trump, but it is always The Trump Show. On Tuesday night, he was all about the base. Most notably, the president refused to condemn white supremacists and armed militia members.

The 82-minute debate in Cleveland will be remembered for the crosstalk, and how Biden exceeded the low expectations Trump set for him, but the clash also underscored the president’s inability over the past six months to define his challenger as some kind of radical kook who is in cahoots with the far left.

Anyone who watched one of this cycle’s Democratic primary debates knows that Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) significantly differ in how they approach health care. That issue took up, by far, more time than any other. Sanders repeatedly ripped his rival for not endorsing Medicare-for-all. With his eyes on the general election, Biden took a lot of hits during the nominating contest for favoring a public option that would expand Obamacare while allowing people to keep their private health insurance plans. But, in the first segment of Tuesday’s debate, Trump tried to argue that Biden supports Sanders’s proposed government takeover of health care.

“Your party wants to go socialist medicine,” said Trump.

“My party is me,” Biden said. “Right now, I am the Democratic Party. The fact of the matter is I beat Bernie Sanders.”

“Not by much,” Trump replied.

“I beat him by a whole hell of a lot,” Biden replied. “I’m here facing you, old buddy.”

Indeed, Biden won more than 2,600 delegates to the Democratic convention while Sanders won 1,073.

It was one of several moments that Biden undercut Trump’s efforts to pretend like his opponent is actually Sanders, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) or antifa. The most revealing illustration came when Trump claimed that Biden refuses to say the words “law and order” because he’s beholden to the “radical left.”

“They’ve got you wrapped around their finger, Joe, to the point where you don’t want to say anything about law and order,” Trump said. “I tell you what, the people of this country want and demand law and order, and you’re afraid to even say it. Are you in favor of law and order?”

Biden said yes, even as Trump repeatedly cut him off. “I am in favor of law and order with justice, where people get treated fairly,” he said. 

“Okay,” Trump replied.

Just a minute later, Trump again claimed Biden refuses to say the words “law and order.”

“He doesn’t want to say law and order because he can’t, because he’ll lose his radical left supporters, and once he does that, it’s over with,” Trump said, as if he was asking people to reject the evidence of their eyes and ears.

“No way,” said Biden.

Trump then painted an apocalyptic picture of what the country would look like if Biden won, even though none of it happened during his 36 years in the Senate or eight years as vice president. “Our suburbs would be gone,” Trump said.

“He wouldn’t know a suburb unless he took a wrong turn,” said Biden. “I was raised in the suburbs. This is not 1950. All these dog whistles and racism don’t work anymore. Suburbs are, by and large, integrated. … What really is a threat to the suburbs and their safety is his failure to deal with covid.” 

When Trump attacked Biden over the Green New Deal, the Democratic nominee distanced himself. “That is not my plan. The Green New Deal is not my plan,” he said. “I support the Biden plan that I put forward. The Biden plan is different than what he calls the radical Green New Deal.”

Biden strategists believe that Trump is so detested by the left that they can count on liberals who backed Sanders and others in the primary turning out. In one indication that they’re right, Biden raised $3.8 million online between 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern, which the digital director said is the most money the campaign has ever raised in a single hour.

To be sure, Biden offered nods to the left. For example, he refused to rule out that he would support packing the Supreme Court if he wins and Democrats seize control of the Senate. “Whatever position I take,” Biden dodged, “that will become the issue. The issue is the American people should speak.” Trump taunted Biden. “You just lost the left,” he said.

Trump seems to subscribe to the Emersonian view that “consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” He repeatedly deployed attacks against Biden that contradicted other attacks he had already made. For example, even as Trump said Biden was soft on crime, he attacked him for imposing overly harsh mandatory sentences in the 1994 crime bill. 

The president also falsely accused Biden of referring to African Americans as “super predators.” Biden was never reported to have used that term. That was something Hillary Clinton said in the 1990s, which she took flack for in 2016.

The Trump campaign has been running commercials in the very same media market with these contradictory messages: On channels mostly watched by Black audiences, they attack Biden for being too tough on crime. On channels favored by White audiences, they attack Biden for being too soft on crime.

During the debate, as he has for months, Biden unequivocally condemned violence, rioting and looting. He has consistently said he supports only peaceful forms of protest. That has not stopped Trump from claiming otherwise.

On Tuesday, moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump: “Are you willing to condemn white supremacists and militia groups and to say that they need to stand down and not add to the violence in a number of these cities?” After initially saying “sure,” Trump pivoted: “I’m prepared to do that, but I would say almost everything I see is from the left wing, not from the right wing.” When Biden said Trump should condemn the “Proud Boys,” Trump responded by telling the group to “stand back and stand by,” terminology that was seized upon by members of the group. “This is not a right-wing problem,” Trump repeated. “This is a left-wing problem.”

When Biden noted that more than 200,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus on Trump’s watch, the president responded that 2 million would have died if Biden had been in charge because he would not have been aggressive enough about responding to the contagion. In the next breath, Trump attacked Biden for being too aggressive about trying to lock down the country to contain the virus.

Asked about masks, Trump said he supports wearing them when appropriate. A moment later, he cast doubt on the scientific consensus that they’re helpful. Then he criticized Tony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, for saying early in the pandemic that people don’t need to wear masks.

The bottom line is that Trump probably did nothing to dig himself out of the hole he is in, with an approval rating mired in the low 40s. It seems like a safe bet that ratings will be way down for the second debate because people were so fatigued and exhausted from all the crosstalk during the first meeting. Biden did not have a flawless performance, by any means, but he showed discipline and didn’t commit any significant gaffes. 

A CNN poll conducted by SSRS found that six in 10 debate watchers said Biden did the best job, compared to 28 percent who said Trump did. About two-thirds said Biden’s answers were more truthful than Trump’s. While 69 percent called Biden’s attacks on Trump fair, just 32 percent said Trump’s attacks were fair.

A CBS News survey conducted by YouGov found that 48 percent of debate watchers thought Biden won, compared to 41 percent who thought Trump did. Another 10 percent called the debate a tie. Just 17 percent said the debate was informative. 

The debate concluded with an ominous reminder. Election Day might be five weeks away, but that does not mean this nasty campaign will end on Nov. 3. Trump said during the final segment that “we might not know for months” who won the election because of disputes over which ballots should be counted. The president reiterated that he is “counting” on the Supreme Court to protect him from what he insists, without evidence, will be a “rigged” process. “I think I’m counting on them to look at the ballots, definitely,” Trump said. 

In a news dump, clearly timed to coincide with the debate, Senate Republicans released the written questionnaire that Judge Amy Coney Barrett filled out as part of the confirmation process. In it, Trump’s third nominee to the Supreme Court would not pledge to recuse herself from cases related to determining the outcome of the 2020 election. 

More team coverage

Our Fact Checkers reviewed 21 dubious statements from the debate. For example, Trump wrongly claimed: “There aren’t 100 million people with preexisting conditions.” In fact, an estimated 102 million Americans have preexisting health conditions.

On the margins, the debate probably did more to help Biden than the president, at a moment when Trump needed to change the shape and trajectory of the campaign,” writes chief correspondent Dan Balz. “Judging the debate by traditional standards gives the evening more credit than it deserves. For most people, this was unwatchable, a grab-the-remote, change-the-channel moment in a forum that in past election years has served the country well.”

Trump’s “performance was not ideal in the opinion of some of his advisers,” per White House correspondent Josh Dawsey. “The president is trailing Biden badly with female voters and his campaign is trying to close that gap while also trying to hold onto independents who like some of what he has delivered as president but do not like his tactics or personality.”

He talked so much that it became impossible to even understand what he was talking about,” writes critic-at-large Robin Givhan. “He talked ceaselessly, and yet he said very little. He talked so much it was as though he was trying to pummel the viewer into submission with his words.”

On Parler, the platform and social network where numerous extremist groups have moved following crackdowns on Facebook, the chairman of the Proud Boys, Enrique Tarrio, responded to Trump’s remarks by posting, ‘That’s my president!’ Numerous effusive posts followed. ‘Standing by sir,’ he wrote,” per Toluse Olorunnipa and Cleve Wootson Jr. “Members of the group used Trump’s “stand back and stand by” comments to create a fresh logo and messaging campaign on social media. … In an interview, Tarrio said he supported Trump’s commentary, a sign that the group’s attempts to achieve legitimacy and recognition got a boost during the first presidential debate.”

What pundits are saying

Commentary from The Post’s opinion page:

  • Max Boot: “Trump showed no respect for time limits, human decency or the truth.”
  • Dana Milbank: “Only the Proud Boys can take pride in Trump’s debate hooliganism.”
  • Jen Rubin: “Trump blows up the debate – and himself.”
  • Gary Abernathy: Trump “is no longer shocking or surprising or even novel, which might be to his detriment.”
  • Marc Thiessen: “Biden cleared the low bar Trump set for him. But Trump still won.”
  • Alyssa Rosenberg: “I recapped ‘Game of Thrones’ live for eight straight seasons, and the first clash between Trump and Biden was still one of the wildest things I’ve ever seen on television.”
  • Ben Ginsberg: “As a Republican lawyer who has spent four decades monitoring elections and looking for fraud, I can say with confidence that evidence to support the president’s words and threatened actions does not exist. The president has consistently been behind in the polls, and his aim appears to be seeding chaos in order to somehow cling to power.”

How it played elsewhere:

  • “In some ways it can be entertaining to see politicians drop all pretense and start hurling their own waste at each other like primates at the zoo. But the intensity and unrelenting nature of the rudeness quickly ceased to be interesting and became simply depressing,” writes Politico founding editor John Harris.
  • “Chris Wallace now feels the pain of women in meetings,” said FiveThirtyEight’s Clare Malone.
  • “I think, on the Trump side, it was too hot,” said former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who helped Trump prepare for the debate, on ABC. “Listen, you come in and decide you want to be aggressive, and that was the right thing. … But that was too hot.”
  • “The reason Trump is losing women, independent voters [and] suburban voters is that they are exhausted by the chaos, the constant attacks and drama,” said Amy Walter, national editor of the Cook Political Report, adding he leaned into all three.
  • “No hyperbole: the incumbent’s behavior this evening is the lowest moment in the history of the presidency since Andrew Johnson’s racist state papers,” said presidential historian Jon Meacham.
  • Trump’s unhinged performance is a sign he knows he’s losing, wrote the New Republic’s Walter Shapiro. But the president’s “failure to land a punch probably won’t matter in the long run. Trump’s real enemy in this campaign is time, not Biden. Every day that Trump doesn’t score a major breakthrough is a good day for Biden.”
  • The Atlantic’s James Fallows calls it a “disgusting night for democracy”: “Trump made it so, and Chris Wallace let him.”
  • “Even with the bar as low as it was, the segment on race and violence was especially infuriating,” writes Mother Jones’s Nathalie Baptiste. “Unsurprisingly, the three white men on the debate stage failed to meet the moment. … The race segment certainly was not about appealing to Black voters.”
  • “We saw very little content about gender or marginalized people and a lot of masculine posturing,” Occidental College political scientist Jennfier Piscopo told the 19th‘s Errin Haines.
  • The debate’s section on race “had more dog whistles than we could count,” said BuzzFeed’s Ryan Brooks and Nidhi Prakash.
  • “If you are a fan of the Trump lifestyle brand—if you have a Trump flag on your boat and wear a MAGA hat because you love pissing off the brown girl with the nose ring at Starbucks—then I suspect that you thought this was the greatest performance by any debater in the history of debates,” writes the Bulwark’s Jonathan Last. But the conservative writer added: “I cannot understand how anyone with an IQ over 80 could have watched this disgrace and not come away understanding that the president of the United States is a sociopath.”
  • “The president’s conduct was the equivalent of pulling the pin on a hand grenade and hoping that the ensuing explosion would harm the other candidate more,” Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns write in the Times.
  • Trump claimed his policies have made insulin “so cheap, it’s like water.” But, for most people, it costs just as much as ever before. Stat News reports the vital drug retails for roughly $300 a vial. Most patients with diabetes need two to three vials per month, though some can require much more.

Quote of the day

“That was a hot mess, inside a dumpster fire, inside a train wreck,” said CNN’s Jake Tapper. “It wasn’t even a debate. It was a disgrace.” His colleague Dana Bash responded with sharper words: “I’m just going to say it like it is. That was a s— show.” (Elahe Izadi)

More on the election

Trump offered Barrett the Supreme Court nomination the day he met her. 

“Barrett submitted her 69-page nominee questionnaire — which reveals her most monumental cases, financial information, work history, public writings and details of her selection process — Tuesday evening,” Seung Min Kim, Felicia Sonmez and Robert Barnes report. “Barrett tells senators that she was first contacted for the vacancy on Sept. 19, the day after Ginsburg’s death, by White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and White House counsel Pat Cipollone. She was invited to Washington for a meeting with Trump that Monday and was offered the nomination that same day, according to the questionnaire. … Among the information in the questionnaire, which senators will review, Barrett listed a net worth of nearly $2.6 million. … 

“Barrett was asked a standard question about her most significant decisions as a judge. She made her first choice a gun rights case in which she dissented … from a panel decision that upheld federal and Wisconsin state laws banning felons from having guns. … Barrett in the questionnaire also listed cases dealing with the Trump administration’s tightening of benefits for those seeking green cards, and a case in which the panel questioned the fairness of Purdue University’s treatment of a male student accused of sexual misconduct. … The administration has eschewed a traditional outside liaison to help Barrett navigate Capitol Hill throughout her confirmation process, relying primarily on Meadows and Cipollone to guide her through her fight.” Barrett met with nine GOP senators on Tuesday.

Barrett once represented an affiliate of an Iranian exile group as it challenged the State Department’s designation of it as a foreign terrorist organization. She disclosed her work for the National Council of Resistance of Iran and its U.S. office in the 2017 questionnaire when she was nominated to the circuit court. She was one of five lawyers that represented the NCRI from 2000 to 2001, which is affiliated with the Mujahideen-e Khalq, a onetime militant group comprising Iranian exiles who oppose Iran’s clerical regime. “The Obama administration removed the group from the U.S. government’s list of terrorist organizations in 2012,” Paul Sonne and Yeganeh Torbati report.

Joe and Jill Biden paid nearly $300,000 in federal income taxes last year.

The Bidens paid that on earnings of about $985,000, according to tax returns he released in the wake of the New York Times bombshell that Trump paid just $750 in recent years and nothing at all in others, Sean Sullivan reports. “Biden’s running mate, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), also released her 2019 taxes on Tuesday. Her return showed nearly $3.3 million in total income with her husband, Douglas Emhoff, who had a lucrative law practice from which he is currently on leave. They paid more than $1.1 million in federal taxes.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce fires political director Scott Reed right before the debate.

“Reed, who managed the presidential campaign of Bob Dole in 1996, had helped pilot the chamber’s well-funded congressional election strategy for more than a decade,” Tom Hamburger reports. “A replacement has not been named, but an internal memo obtained by The Washington Post says that the chamber anticipates no disruption in its election plans, which this year included endorsing 30 Democrats seeking House seats. This shift has led to a growing rift between the chamber and top Republicans.”

  • “The Chamber would not let me spend Senate money down the home stretch in North Carolina and Maine,” Reed emailed.
  • “An internal review has revealed that Scott repeatedly breached confidentiality, distorted facts for his own benefit, withheld information from chamber leadership and leaked internal information to the press,” Chamber CEO Tom Donohue wrote in a note to his board.

ICE is preparing targeted, pre-election arrests of immigrants to amplify Trump campaign messaging. 

“The Immigration and Customs Enforcement operation, known informally as the ‘sanctuary op,’ could begin in California as soon as later this week. It would then expand to cities including Denver and Philadelphia,” Nick Miroff and Devlin Barrett report. “Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, probably will travel to at least one of the jurisdictions where the operation will take place to boost Trump’s claims that leaders in those cities have failed to protect residents from dangerous criminals. … Two officials with knowledge of plans for the sanctuary op described it as more of a political messaging campaign than a major ICE operation, noting that the agency already concentrates on immigration violators with criminal records and routinely arrests them without much fanfare.” 

The Trump administration is also pushing to build more chunks of the border wall before the election. Construction crews are now adding nearly two miles per day, Miroff reports. The latest figures from CBP show the rate of construction has nearly doubled since the beginning of the year, accelerated by the government’s ability to cut through national forests, wildlife preserves and other public lands already under federal control. Officials are preparing a ceremony for Trump next month that will allow him to boast about the completion of 400 miles of new fencing.

An early surge of Democratic mail voting is sparking worry inside the GOP. 

“Democratic voters who have requested mail ballots — and returned them — greatly outnumber Republicans so far in key battleground states, causing alarm among GOP party leaders and strategists that Trump’s attacks on mail voting could be hurting the party’s prospects to retain the White House and the Senate this year,” Amy Gardner and Josh Dawsey report. “Of the more than 9 million voters who requested mail ballots through Monday in Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Maine and Iowa, the five battleground states where such data is publicly available, 52 percent were Democrats. Twenty-eight percent were Republicans, and 20 percent were unaffiliated. Additional internal Democratic and Republican Party data obtained by The Post shows a similar trend in Ohio, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Wisconsin. Even more alarming to some Republicans, Democrats are also returning their ballots at higher rates than GOP voters in two of those states where that information is available: Florida and North Carolina.” 

USPS workers are quietly resisting the postmaster general’s changes. 

“Mechanics in New York drew out the dismantling and removal of mail-sorting machines until their supervisor gave up on the order. In Michigan, a group of letter carriers did an end run around a supervisor’s directive to leave election mail behind, starting their routes late to sift through it. In Ohio, postal clerks culled prescriptions and benefit checks from bins of stalled mail to make sure they were delivered, while some carriers ran late items out on their own time. In Pennsylvania, some postal workers looked for any excuse — a missed turn, heavy traffic, a rowdy dog — to buy enough time to finish their daily rounds,” Jacob Bogage reports. “‘I can’t see any postal worker not bending those rules,’ one Philadelphia staffer said in an interview. … Some of the agency’s 630,000 workers say they felt a responsibility to counteract cost-cutting changes from their new boss, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, that they blame for the mail slowdowns. They question whether DeJoy … is politicizing the institution in service to a president who has actively tried to sow distrust of mail-in voting, insisting without evidence that it will lead to massive fraud.” 

  • New York election officials will resend ballots after about 100,000 voters in Brooklyn were sent return envelopes with wrong information, a mistake blamed on a vendor. (Tim Elfrink and Paulina Firozi)
  • An appeals court upheld Wisconsin’s six-day extension for counting ballots, allowing voters more time to return their absentee ballots, after finding that Republicans didn’t have the standing to challenge the motion. (Journal Sentinel)

There’s still a bear in the woods

Michael Flynn’s lawyer personally briefed Trump on his case this month.

“The disclosure by Flynn’s attorney Sidney Powell was one of the most striking notes of a contentious five-hour hearing before U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan into whether the court should grant a Justice Department request to dismiss the case,” Spencer Hsu, Ann Marimow and Matt Zapotosky report. “Flynn’s lawyer initially declined to answer Sullivan’s questions about her interactions with Trump, citing executive privilege. Powell later relented after the judge noted she was not a government official.” Flynn pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI about his Russia contacts, but Attorney General Bill Barr is trying to let him off. A DOJ lawyer rejected assertions during the hearing that Barr ordered the case abandoned for corrupt and purely political reasons. Powell also claimed that she asked Trump not to pardon his former national security adviser. 

Bob Mueller denies allegations in an ex-prosecutor’s tell-all book.

“The rare public statement from Mueller came on the day Andrew Weissmann, a former prosecutor in the special counsel’s office, released a book alleging that the group did not fully investigate Trump’s financial ties and should have stated explicitly that it believed he obstructed justice,” Zapotosky reports. “Although Mueller’s statement did not name Weissmann or the book … it seemed clearly designed to address some of his complaints — particularly those directed at Aaron Zebley, Mueller’s top deputy, whom Weissmann said was not sufficiently aggressive. ‘It is not surprising that members of the Special Counsel’s Office did not always agree, but it is disappointing to hear criticism of our team based on incomplete information,’ Mueller said, [adding] that he was the office’s ultimate decider. … Weissmann said he agreed with ‘most of what special counsel Mueller wrote’ but he maintained his ‘personal views’ on some of the steps the office didn’t take, such as subpoenaing the president, conducting a more complete financial investigation and clearly stating the view that Trump obstructed justice.”

Republicans are accelerating public scrutiny of the Russia investigation. 

“Senate Republicans’ election-season gambit to scrutinize the 2016 investigation of Trump’s campaign resumes Wednesday with public testimony from former FBI director James B. Comey,” Karoun Demirjian reports. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) “organized the hearing with Comey as part of a long-running review of the counterintelligence probe known as ‘Crossfire Hurricane.’ He is one of three Senate committee chairmen looking into the matter on suspicion that law enforcement’s scrutiny of Trump was biased. … On Tuesday, Graham released a letter from Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe stating that Obama administration officials were briefed on a Russian intelligence analysis alleging that Trump’s opponent in 2016, Hillary Clinton, authorized ‘a campaign plan to stir up a scandal’ against Trump by tying him to Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russians’ hack of Democrats’ emails. In the letter, Ratcliffe acknowledged that the intelligence community is uncertain if the information in that analysis was accurate. The Post reported in 2017 that officials believed a document matching the description in Ratcliffe’s letter was possibly fake and planted to confuse the FBI.”

Kentucky’s attorney general says he didn’t present homicide charges to the grand jury in Breonna Taylor’s case. 

“Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron did not recommend murder charges to the grand jury considering evidence against the police officers involved in the death of Breonna Taylor, he said Tuesday amid growing criticism of his handling of the case,” Hannah Knowles and Marisa Iati report. “Cameron recommended that the grand jury indict one officer on charges of wanton endangerment for firing bullets that entered neighboring apartments, but said the other two officers, whose bullets struck Taylor, were ‘justified in their acts.’ … The statement cast doubt on comments he had made during a news conference last week, when Cameron said he walked jurors through ‘every homicide offense, and also presented all of the information that was available.’ The grand jury followed Cameron’s recommendation, holding no one accountable for Taylor’s death.”

  • The mother of an unarmed man killed by Park Police officers calls on Congress to require body cameras. (Tom Jackman)
  • A Texas sheriff is indicted after TV footage of a fatal police chase was destroyed. (Teo Armus)
  • Prosecutors say a man who drove into BLM protesters in Pasadena, Calif., was amassing guns. (Paulina Villegas)

The coronavirus

Seven former FDA commissioners say the Trump administration is undermining the agency’s credibility. 

In an op-ed published in today’s newspaper, Robert Califf, Scott Gottlieb, Margaret Hamburg, Jane Henney, David Kessler, Mark McClellan and Andy von Eschenbach, all former leaders of the agency, said the safe and effective vaccination of Americans depends “on widespread confidence that the vaccine approval was based on sound science and not politics. If the White House takes the unprecedented step of trying to tip the scales on how safety and benefits will be judged, the impact on public trust will render an effective vaccine much less so. … In the 114 years since, FDA professionals have created a consumer safety net that has been a worldwide model for evidence-based public health policy. … That is changing in deeply troubling ways. The White House has said it might try to influence the scientific standards for vaccine approval put forward by the FDA or block the agency from issuing further written guidance on its criteria for judging the safety and benefits of a potential covid-19 vaccine. … 

The White House statements came on the heels of other concerning actions that could impact the FDA’s scientific standards. On Sept. 15, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar revoked the FDA’s authority to establish rules for food and drug safety, instead claiming that sole authority for himself. This came in the wake of acknowledged acts of political influence on the FDA’s coronavirus communications, significant misstatements by the secretary and other political leaders about the benefits of hydroxychloroquine and convalescent plasma, and the overruling of FDA scientists on the regulation of covid-19 laboratory tests. At risk is the FDA’s ability to make the independent, science-based decisions that are key to combating the pandemic and so much more.”

Trump has scheduled large campaign rallies this weekend in Wisconsin despite recommendations from the White House Coronavirus Task Force that call for increasing social distancing in the state ‘to the maximal degree possible,’Michael Scherer and Lena Sun note. “The task force has further flagged La Crosse and Green Bay, the metropolitan areas where Trump plans to gather thousands of supporters Saturday, as coronavirus ‘red zones,’ the highest level of concern for community spread of the virus, according to a report from the group released Sunday and obtained by The Washington Post. Wisconsin is listed in the document as the state with the third-highest rate of new cases in the country, with 243 new cases per 100,000 people over the previous week, about 2.6 times greater than the national average. Ahead of Trump’s scheduled rally in Green Bay, the Bellin Health System said Tuesday that its hospital in that city is at 94 percent capacity as covid-19 continues to spike in the community.”

The Trump team’s new rapid tests are also plagued by confusion and a lack of planning. The administration’s “deployment of the new tests to nursing homes has been plagued by poor communication, false results and a frustrating lack of planning, state leaders say,” William Wan and Sun report. “Health officials in several states say they have been allowed no say in where the new tests are being sent and sometimes don’t know which nursing homes will receive them until the night before a shipment arrives. That has left some facilities ill-trained in how to use the tests and what to do with results. And it may be contributing to false-positive test results — when people are identified as being infected but aren’t.”

Celebrities are refusing to participate in Trump’s taxpayer-funded ad blitz.

“They made a list of more than 30 celebrities including Justin Timberlake, Taylor Swift and Billy Joel to appear in their ad campaign to ‘inspire hope’ about coronavirus, but they ended up with only Dennis Quaid, CeCe Winans and Hasidic singer Shulem Lemmer,” Politico reports. “Some complain of the unstated aim of helping Trump’s re-election. Others point to an ill-prepared video team and a 22-year-old political appointee who has repeatedly asserted control despite having no public health expertise … Interviews with participants and others in the Health and Human Services Department paint a picture of a chaotic effort, scrambling to meet an unofficial Election Day deadline, floundering in the wake of the medical leave of its architect, Michael Caputo, and running up against increasing resistance among career staff. … The video firm recommended by HHS to execute the campaign has struggled to meet deadlines, retain staff and even find the contact information of celebrities to participate in the videos … That firm, DD&T, is led by a filmmaker who had no prior experience making U.S. public health campaigns and is also the business partner of Caputo.”

As colleges reopened, many more young people got infected.

“Covid-19 cases surged nationally among 18- to 22-year-olds between Aug. 2 and Sept. 5, according to a report released by the CDC, which urged young adults as well as colleges and universities to take precautions to prevent the spread of the virus,” Susan Svrluga reports. “Weekly cases among the age group jumped 55 percent across the country during that time and made up a bigger share of overall cases, according to the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The agency said the increase in cases couldn’t fully be explained by ramped-up testing as colleges reopened for the fall.” 

  • More children in New York state have lost parents to covid-19 than in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Roughly 4,200 children suffered the loss of at least one parent between March and July of this year. By contrast, an estimated 3,051 children lost a parent on 9/11, according to researchers at United Hospital Fund and Boston Consulting Group. (Antonia Farzan)
  • The Tennessee Titans confirmed eight positive tests among players and other personnel and have shut down in-person activities in what has become the NFL’s first covid outbreak, Mark Maske reports. The Minnesota Vikings, who played the Titans on Sunday, also suspended in-person team activities, including practices and face-to-face meetings.
  • Tennessee is removing all remaining coronavirus-related restrictions on businesses and large gatherings, Gov. Bill Lee (R) announced. Health departments in the state’s six largest counties, which include the cities of Nashville and Memphis, will be able to enforce their own local ordinances. But Lee told state legislators Tuesday that he was urging those communities to rethink their regulations so that the economy can “move forward.” (Antonia Farzan)
  • Disney will lay off 28,000 people across its theme-park division in the U.S. as the virus slams its theme-park businesses. Most are part-time workers, but the news shows the grim outlook for the leisure industry. (Steven Zeitchik)
  • After Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) threatened to cut off state funding, Miami’s school board agreed to open some schools more than two weeks earlier than planned. (Valerie Strauss)
  • Democrats and the White House say they’re hopeful an economic relief deal is within reach. (Erica Werner)

The virus stole a chef’s sense of taste, and there’s no telling when it might come back. 

“When covid-19 came for Dudu Mesquita, who prepares menus for restaurants all over Brazil, it took away his sense of taste and smell. Five weeks later, they still weren’t back completely, and his doctors couldn’t say if they ever would be. He wondered what that might mean for him. For what is a chef who cannot taste?” Terrence McCoy and Heloísa Traiano report. Mesquita is “one more person in this disease-racked country reckoning with how the coronavirus has altered their life. The virus has exacted a devastating toll on Brazil, infecting more than 4.7 million people — more than 1 in 50. The vast majority have survived. But many are not the same. … Gabriela Montenegro, 33, who’d belted out church hymns every Sunday, now can’t sing … Roberto Godoy, a 42-year-old triathlete, doesn’t know when he’ll compete again … But the sudden loss of taste and smell, the most distinct sign of a coronavirus infection, has proved particularly disorienting — and enduring. Studies haven’t determined how long it might last, but agree it could be a long time.”

Social media speed read

Some memorable reactions to the debate:

Videos of the day

Stephen Colbert said the debate was so messy that it made him look forward to the vice-presidential version next week:

Trevor Noah said the debate didn’t need a moderator but a UFC referee:

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The Technology 202: Chaotic debate makes social media more important for Biden and Trump

On social media, Biden highlighted his best soundbites and offered fact checks of Trump’s repeated false claims. His campaign team also tried to seize on potentially viral moments and was swiftly out with a link to buy a t-shirt with the line of the night, “Will you shut up, man.”

Meanwhile Trump was using powerful Facebook advertising tools to amplify misinformation. He was running dozens of ads last night that implied Biden was wearing an earpiece during the debate – after such false rumors festered on social media and were covered by conservative news outlets. 

Facebook declined to comment on the ad, but the company does not fact check ads from politicians. The company’s fact-checking partners did debunk and label similar claims from accounts that did not belong to politicians. 

The travesty of a debate further proves campaigns’ digital strategies matter more than ever in 2020. 

The coronavirus pandemic has forced most campaign events – especially on the left – to go virtual already this year. The presidential debates would have been among the few political events this year that changed little from their traditional format during this unorthodox year.

But now that last night’s performance is being called the “worst presidential debate in living memory” by many observers, it’s unclear how many voters will tune in to the remaining two showdowns between Trump and Biden. That means more people could be turning to social media for information about the candidates that ever before – for better or worse. 

Social media companies were among the clear losers of the night. 

CNN’s fact checker said the president spread “an avalanche of lying” during the debate. That’s only going to increase the challenge for social media companies who are under pressure to ensure that misinformation – especially about voting processes – does not spread on their platforms. Trump’s lengthy and largely false diatribe about mail-in voting on TV comes as the companies have been criticized for not doing enough to rein in his false claims on their platform. 

The intense back and forth could also lead to an increasingly polarized political environment, which could intensify some of the existing issues with online discourse. 

The Biden campaign was preparing for this dynamic. 

Trump’s brash style increased the pressure on his campaign and the Democratic National Committee war room to provide lengthier fact checks on Twitter – particularly through the @Truth account they unveiled ahead of the debate to fact check the presidents’ remarks. 

“Donald Trump has lied to the American people more than any president in our history — by far,” Biden spokesman Andrew Bates said ahead of the debate. “The American people deserve to remember what it’s like to have a president who tells the truth again.”

Throughout the night, that account was trying to provide more context to Biden’s pushback of Trump onstage, often linking to news stories from outlets including The Washington Post and CNN that debunked the president’s claims. 

The Biden campaign had some strong viral moments before the debate started. 

Biden has traditionally struggled to keep pace with Trump on social and has a significantly smaller online following than the president. But last night he appeared to be upping his game as he hit back against viral misinformation about the earpiece and suggestions that he might take performance enhancing drugs with his Twitter account: 

Meanwhile, Rob Flaherty, Biden’s digital director, was ready with a very 2020 tweet. He commissioned a video of former Trump 2016 campaign manager Corey Lewandowski to give Biden a pump-up speech via the Cameo, an app that allows people to commission videos from celebrities and online influencers.

Trump, meanwhile, used his Twitter and Facebook presence to make false claims about what happened in the debate. 

In addition to the Facebook ad, Trump also shared a highly edited video on Twitter that suggested Biden wanted to defund the police – even after Biden strongly denied onstage that he supported defunding the police. 

Trump also sought to focus on “law and order” in his messaging on social media, falsely suggesting that Biden wouldn’t even say the words:

Biden actually said he was in favor of “law and order with justice, where people get treated fairly.”

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Online extremists took Trump’s comments to “stand back and stand by” as a call to arms.

The president made the comments in an effort to deflect a question from moderator Chris Wallace asking him if he would condemn violent militias and white supremacists who have become a dangerous presence at recent protests.

“Proud Boys, stand back and stand by, Trump said. But I’ll tell you what I’ll tell you what, somebody’s got to do something about antifa and the left because this is not a right-wing problem.

The right-wing extremist group took the president’s comments to “stand back and stand by” as marching orders instead, Ben Collins and Brandy Zadrozny at NBC News report.  Proud Boys’ main group, which has been kicked off most major social media platforms including Facebook, posted about the comments on Telegram.  

“President Trump told the Proud Boys to stand by because someone needs to deal with ANTIFA … well sir! we’re ready!!” Proud Boys organizer Joe Biggs also posted. Another member incorporated Trump’s comments into a new logo for the group.

Proud Boys, a far-right “Western chauvinist” group that has been associated with white nationalist rhetoric, have recently involved themselves in violent protests that have erupted in Portland over police brutality. Antifa is an ideological movement and not an organized group.

Biden, who condemned white supremacists during the debate, called that post “Trump’s America.” 

The Trump administration is ramping up scrutiny of past Chinese investments in U.S. start-ups.

The federal arm that monitors foreign investments for national-security risks has sent dozens of inquiries about deals dating back years, Jeanne Whalen reports

The letters point to an increasingly contentious economic relationship between the two powers that has made some Silicon Valley companies wary of accepting Chinese investment, and Chinese investors wary of investing

“You have discussions with companies, ‘You need to think about this very seriously, it could open you up to CFIUS investigations … if you have alternatives, you should consider them,’” said Michael Borrus, the founding general partner of XSeed Capital. “They usually see the wisdom.” 

The inquiries are the first steps for the Treasury Department-led Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States in deciding on whether it will investigate an investment, as it did with TikTok. CFIUS is most focused on companies and apps that collect sensitive personal information or are involved with critical technologies like batteries and biotechnology, lawyers familiar with the letters told Jeanne.

While normally CFIUS reviews target recent investments, the approach appears to have changed under the Trump administration.

Historically, it was unusual for [CFIUS] to reach back more than three years,  said Stephen Heifetz, a lawyer at Wilson Sonsini. But there is in theory no time limitation, and we are increasingly hearing about long reach-back periods.” 

Amazon warehouse injury rates are spiking despite safety investments, internal documents show.

Amazon facilities recorded 14,000 serious injuries that required a day off or restrictions in 2019, a 33 percent jump from 2016, Will Evans at Reveal reports

“While the reports show a committed drive to improve processes with technology or design changes, they don’t propose reducing the intense workload for Amazon’s warehouse employees, which is what helps drive Amazon’s speed,” Evans reports. Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos owns The Post. 

The internal records obtained by Reveal also show injuries spike during Prime Day and Cyber Monday contrary to Amazon’s claims to the press and lawmakers. Amazon employees are encouraged to use in-house medical care to help keep reported injuries down, Evans reports. In Colorado, Amazon contracted a medical care provider who advertises its services as “treating injuries such that they are not OSHA recordable.

Warehouse employees and medical experts say the company’s expansion of robotics has made quotas unsustainable and increased injury rates, disputing the company’s claims that increased use of robotics has made warehouses safer. Amazon’s own data showed the rate of serious injuries from 2016 to 2019 was more than 50 percent higher at warehouses with robots than facilities without them.

“Nothing is more important than the health and safety of our teams. So far in 2020, we have committed over $1B in new investments in operations safety measures, ranging from technology investments in safety to masks, gloves, and the enhanced cleaning and sanitization required to protect employees from the spread of Covid-19,” Amazon spokesperson Rachael Lighty said in an email to Reveal.

Social media companies are falling short in implementing election disinformation policies, according to a new report. 

The majority of social media platforms have taken steps to prevent election misinformation and voter suppression, but the companies have failed to provide transparency into how those policies are enforced, according to a new report from a think tank, New America’s Open Technology Institute. 

OTI flags that there is no consensus around how to approach election misinformation in political ads. The report’s authors also expressed doubts that Facebook’s “Get Voting Information” label would have a meaningful impact because it has been applied to both posts from the president alleging voter corruption and straightforward ads encouraging voters to vote.

The report recommends that platforms take measures to notify users who have engaged with misleading election content and to direct them to credible information.

Of the ten platforms reviewed by OTI, only Snap had no restrictions on false or misleading content that may support voter suppression. The report urges policymakers to take legislative steps including updating the Voting Rights Act to clarify that voting suppression through intimation and deception applies online.

Rant and rave

While tech policy didn’t come up last night, the debate still gave off big Internet vibes.

The constant interruptions added to the chaos. 

Sometimes a Zoom can just be an email!

Not even the robots can help us now.

Workforce report

Seattle voted to give Uber and Lyft drivers a $16 minimum wage. 

The newly approved law makes Seattle the second city after New York City to provide ride-share drivers with the protection, the New York Times reports.  

“The pandemic has exposed the fault lines in our systems of worker protections, leaving many front line workers like gig workers without a safety net,” Mayor Jenny Durkan said in a statement. Lyft spokesman CJ Macklin called the plan “deeply flawed.” 



  • New America’s Future Tense will host an event, “Free Speech Project: So Long Internet, Hello Internets,” today at noon.
  • The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on proposals to strengthen antitrust laws and restore competition online Thursday at 1 p.m.
  • New Americas Open Technology Institute will hold a virtual panel exploring how Internet platforms are addressing the spread of election-related misinformation Thursday at 1:30 p.m.

Before you log off

Only Stephen Colbert could make me smile after that performance:

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The Energy 202: Joe Biden walks political tightrope by saying he does not support the Green New Deal

I don’t support the Green New Deal,” Biden said when pressed by Wallace. “I support the Biden plan I put forward.” 

While Biden has managed in the past to praise the Green New Deal without fully endorsing it, his most recent comments in front of a live television audience have the potential to reopen old intraparty wounds. Sensing a weak spot, President Trump sought to turn the exchange into a wedge between Democratic Party’s liberals and moderates. 

“Oh, well, that’s a big statement,” Trump responded, talking over Biden as he often did during Tuesday evening’s ugly and rancorous event. “That means you just lost the radical left.”

Biden has spent months reconciling the climate demands of his party’s liberal and moderate wings. 

Over the spring, Biden revamped his climate plan after it failed to impress young climate activists. The youth-led Sunrise Movement, which backed Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) during the primary, gave his initial proposal an “F.” 

Biden’s pivot to the left, unusual for a candidate who just locked down his party’s nomination, resulted in a more extensive plan that called for spending $2 trillion over four years to eliminate carbon emissions from the power sector by 2035 through a set of mandates.

Aiming to own the issue during the debate, Biden vowed to rejoin the Paris climate accord and to pressure Brazil to stop the destruction of the Amazon. He promised transitioning to cleaner energy would be an economic boon and would creating “hard, hard, good jobs by making sure the environment is clean.”

While Biden’s plan is more aggressive than anything from any other major party candidate, the Green New Deal sought for more. That plan, which Biden’s eventual running mate Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) co-sponsored, called for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions across the entire U.S. economy within just 10 years. Ocasio-Cortez and Markey’s nonbinding resolution set a goal, but didn’t specify how those emissions cuts would be achieved, and labor leaders said the timeline was too unrealistic. 

The original Green New Deal backers sought to tamp down any divisions after the debate. 

In a message retweeted by the president himself, Trump campaign spokesman Ken Farnaso said “the American people deserve an answer” about what Biden thinks about the Green New Deal.

Markey, who recently won a tough primary in Massachusetts in part by emphasizing his environmental record, responded by saying he and other progressives are still backing Biden despite his comments. 

“I support the Green New Deal and I’m voting for Vice President Joe Biden,” Markey said in a statement after the debate. “Donald Trump is wrong. The liberal left is with Joe Biden, and we will pass a Green New Deal.” 

On Twitter, Ocasio-Cortez wrote she worked with the Biden campaign on climate change to “set aside our differences & figure out an aggressive climate plan to address.” 

Earlier this year, Ocasio-Cortez led with former secretary of state John F. Kerry a climate task force meant to unify the Biden and Sanders wings of the party. Their nine-person panel crafted, which included Sunrise co-founder Varshini Prakash, crafted an outline of a climate plan designed for broad appeal. 

Her climate group, which brought the idea of the Green New Deal to the fore in Washington by staging sit-in protests in Congress, echoed Biden’s previous comments saying the slogan is “a framework, not one bill.”

Trump’s own response to whether he believed in climate change was strained.

When pressed by Wallace, the president said that greenhouse gas emissions contributed to the warming of the planet “to an extent.”

“I think a lot of things do, but I think, to an extent, yes,” he said. 

The vast majority of climate scientists agree that the burning of fossil fuels and other human activities are the primary driver of the rise of global temperatures. Trump, by contrast, has suggested in the past that the notion that the Earth is warming is a hoax cooked up by the Chinese government.

Trump offered few specifics for achieving “crystal-clean water and air,” and wouldn’t say whether the wildfires scorching California were being made worse by rising temperatures.

He also defended rolling back Obama-era rules meant to curb emissions from automobiles and power plants.

On cars, the president said fuel-efficiency standards made only a “tiny difference” and said he supported “big incentives” for electric vehicles. 

In reality, his White House has proposed eliminating tax credits for purchasing electric cars.

Few were expecting any questions about climate change at all from Wallace.

His initial list of debate topics instead included coronavirus pandemic, the economy, election integrity, and “race and violence in our cities.” 

But the Fox News host found himself under pressure from Democratic politicians as well as his peers in the media to ask about an issue many of them see as an existential crisis, even in the midst of all the health, social and economic tumult of the year.

Without mentioning climate change, “any discussion on the economy, racial justice, public health, national security, democracy, or infrastructure would be incomplete,” three dozen Democratic senators, led by Markey, wrote to the Commission of Presidential Debates demanding every debate include questions on climate change.

“Wallace clearly recognized that not asking about climate change would be a dereliction of journalistic duty, since wildfires, more intense storms and other climate change impacts are hurting average Americans and our economy already,” Paul Bledsoe, a former Clinton White House climate advisor, said. 

Biden seemed pleased when the topic came up.

“You know, I’d like to talk about climate change,” Wallace said at one point, interrupting the bickering candidates.

“So would I,” Biden said.

Power plays

A new economic relief package would provide aid to the Energy Department and homes facing energy shut-offs.

House Democrats unveiled a new $2.2 trillion economic relief package, sparking the most extensive engagement between Democrats and the Trump administration on the topic since negotiations broke down in August.

The new package contains several energy-related provisions, including a tripling of funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, a program that assists families with energy bills and weatherization, from $1.5 billion to $4.5 billion. The bill would require states and utilities to prevent loss of essential services during the pandemic, E&E reports.

The package would also give the Energy Department $144.3 million for activities related to the pandemic, and it sets aside $50 million in funding for environmental justice grants to be awarded by the Environmental Protection Agency. 

Senators introduced a bipartisan bill to combat the international wildlife trade and prevent the next pandemic.

Sens. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) introduced a bill that would prohibit the import or export of live wildlife for human consumption or medicine and increase funding to combat illegal wildlife trafficking both in the United States and abroad. A companion bill was also introduced by Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) and Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) in the House.

“From SARS to Ebola to COVID-19, the risk of disease transmission from wildlife to people is a persistent threat to global public health, and we know that commercial wildlife markets and the international wildlife trade significantly increase that risk,” Booker said in a statement.

The “Preventing Future Pandemics Act of 2020” would provide $435 million per year to the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to combat illegal wildlife trafficking. It also directs the United States to engage in global diplomacy toward ending the trafficking of live wildlife for human consumption around the world. 

Booker, Quigley and Upton were among 66 lawmakers who sent a letter earlier this year urging the World Health Organization, the United Nations and the World Organization for Animal Health to take aggressive actions to shut down live wildlife markets.

The novel coronavirus is thought to have originated in bats before jumping to humans. Scientists say that wildlife trafficking and the encroachment of humans into new habitats increases the risk of new zoonotic diseases emerging. 

Energy transitions

The United States is not on track to electrify vehicles fast enough to meet climate targets.

A new study published in Nature Climate Change found that 90 percent of America’s light-duty cars will need to be electric by 2050 if the transportation sector is to stay in line with climate mitigation targets set out in the Paris agreement, E&E News reports.

“That might mean requiring all of the nation’s new car sales to be electric as early as 2035, the state target established by California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) in an announcement last week,” E&E News writes.

The study estimated that if California’s target is adopted nationally, and current trends in car use and ownership continue, 350 million electric vehicles would crisscross America’s roads in 2050, using up the equivalent of 41 percent of the nation’s total power demand in 2018. This could potentially create problems for the nation’s grid.

The study, by engineers at the University of Toronto, accounts for projections that the average number of miles driven per car will continue to increase. The authors suggest that meeting climate targets may require modifying this trend by encouraging Americans to drive less.

An ambitious plan for nuclear fusion may be feasible, according to scientists.

“Scientists developing a compact version of a nuclear fusion reactor have shown in a series of research papers that it should work, renewing hopes that the long-elusive goal of mimicking the way the sun produces energy might be achieved and eventually contribute to the fight against climate change,” the New York Times reports.

In seven peer-reviewed papers published Tuesday in an issue of the Journal of Plasma Physics, researchers made the case that a nuclear fusion reactor, called Sparc, is both technically feasible and could produce 10 times the energy it consumes. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the private spinoff Commonwealth Fusion Systems — engaged in a collaboration to develop the reactor — said that construction will begin next spring and take three to four years.

The hope is that by the beginning of the next decade a power plant could generate electricity from fusion energy — in time, the developers say, to help mitigate the effects of global warming.

“Like a conventional nuclear fission power plant that splits atoms, a fusion plant would not burn fossil fuels and would not produce greenhouse-gas emissions. But its fuel, usually isotopes of hydrogen, would be far more plentiful than the uranium used in most nuclear plants, and fusion would generate less, and less dangerous, radioactivity and waste than fission plants,” the Times writes.

University of Oxford researcher and founder of Our World in Data Max Roser:


Ocean waters are mixing less, which could speed up global warming.

“The layers of the world’s oceans aren’t mixing like they used to due to climate change, potentially speeding up how fast the planet will warm in the coming decades,” our colleague Andrew Freedman reports.

A study published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change finds that the topmost 700 feet of ocean water is rapidly warming with less exchange between layers of deeper, colder water. This pattern could exacerbate climate change, but it has not been taken into account in many climate models.

The trend is “projected to increase energy available to hurricanes and other storms, reduce essential nutrients for fish in upper ocean layers and diminish the oceans’ ability to store carbon, among other impacts,” Freedman writes.

If layers in the ocean aren’t mixing—a process that Freedman compares to the separation of oil and vinegar in a salad dressing—there could also be implications for some of the globe’s most important ocean currents, which rely on an exchange of lighter surface waters and deeper ocean layers.

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The Finance 202: Trump’s false claims about his economic record typified chaotic debate

He repeated one of his most common refrains, for example, that before the pandemic struck, his administration built “the greatest economy in history.”

Coming into the year, the Trump team aimed to make that argument the spine of its reelection pitch to voters. And it’s true, as Reuters’s Howard Schneider writes, that before the coronavirus forced an economic shutdown, “record-low unemployment and rising wages were helping the less well-off, while a record stock market buoyed richer Americans.”

In the first half of his term, Trump’s signature tax cuts and a major spending package gave the economic expansion he inherited a turbo-boost of fiscal stimulus. But as they faded, and Trump launched a multi-front trade war that weighed on investment and spending by businesses, growth slowed from 2.9 percent in 2018 to 2.3 percent last year, well short of the 3 percent pace he promised to lock in, at a minimum.

And even if Trump had lived up to his pledge to maintain a 3 percent pace, it would have fallen short of the roughly 4 percent growth in the second half of the 1990s — as well as a mid-1980s boom.

Judged on a more recent timeline, from the beginning of the Obama administration, pre-pandemic growth under Trump has merely followed the trend — contrary to Trump’s claim in the debate that after his 2017 tax cuts, the economy “boomed like its never boomed before”:

Similarly, job growth during Trump’s first term mostly continued apace from the Obama years until the pandemic hit.

Skipping over the worst of the damage from this year’s recession, Trump i pointed to “10.4 million in a four-month period that we’ve put back into the workforce.” But as the chart suggests, Trump is on track to finish his term with fewer jobs than when he took office. 

Biden said that would make Trump the first president in history to do so. Yet Bureau of Labor Statistics data only go back to the middle of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration in the late 1930s. 

Trump pledged to set records in the other direction. As a first-time candidate in 2016, he promised to put the country on track to add 25 million jobs in a decade, which would have been the most of any president.

Both candidates overstated their attacks on the other’s record on jobs in manufacturing.

In his first run, Trump emphasized he would revive manufacturing jobs as his campaign targeted — and won — typically Democratic strongholds in the industrial Midwest.

Biden on Tuesday said the sector “went in a hole” under Trump even before the economic crisis this year. Trump countered that Biden and the Obama administration “brought back nothing. They gave up on manufacturing,” while he “brought back 700,000 jobs.”

Both claims were inaccurate. The economy added roughly 500,000 manufacturing jobs in Trump’s term before the pandemic. Since the economic crisis, however, employment in the sector has dropped to levels not seen since 2014.

For its part, the Obama administration inherited an industry in steep decline amid the 2008-2009 financial crisis. By the end of that team’s eight-year run, manufacturing jobs had returned to the level where they stood when they took office:

And that amounted to a turnaround from a three decade decline:

But as far as those tuning in were concerned, this chart is probably a more instructive indicator of how the debate went: 

Latest on the federal pandemic response

Pelosi and Meadows say they’re hopeful a stimulus deal is possible.

Renewed talks show some signs of progress: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters at the Capitol an agreement could come this week, which is supposed to be Congress’s final one in session before recessing through the election. She spoke by phone for about 50 minutes Tuesday morning with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, with whom she negotiated four relief bills in March and April totaling about $3 trillion,” Erica Werner reports.

“Pelosi and Mnuchin are set to talk again [today], at which point Mnuchin is expected to come back with a more detailed response …Congress hasn’t acted to pass any new aid since the spring, and prospects for a bipartisan deal ahead of the election were looking increasingly grim.”

PPP loans are starting to be forgiven: “The government expects to approve and pay forgiveness requests by late this week or early next, a Treasury spokesperson said. The applications are generally expected to be approved quickly, with the exception of loans above $2 million that will get added scrutiny,” the Wall Street Journal’s Yuka Hayashi reports.

“Business advocates, banks and lawmakers have raised concerns that the process of turning the loans into grants is too complex and slow under the $670 billion federal program, designed to help small businesses respond to the economic fallout of the pandemic with forgivable government-backed loans distributed through banks.” 

Campaign 2020

U.S. Chamber abruptly ousts top political consultant.

The top business lobby’s move widens its rift with Republicans: “Scott Reed, the veteran GOP political consultant, was fired by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as the organization’s political director amid allegations that he had leaked confidential information. Reed, who managed the presidential campaign of Bob Dole in 1996, had helped pilot the chamber’s well-funded congressional election strategy for more than a decade,” Tom Hamburger reports.

“A replacement has not been named, but an internal memo obtained by The Washington Post says that the chamber anticipates no disruption in its election plans, which this year included endorsing 30 Democrats seeking House seats. This shift has led to a growing rift between the chamber and top Republicans.

  • Reed blasted the Chamber in an interview: “I can no longer be part of this institution as it moves left,” Reed told Politico’s Alex Isenstadt and Scott Bland. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell joined the pile on. “Honestly at this point, I think they’re so confused about what they’re about that they probably don’t make much difference,” he said.

The Bidens paid nearly $300,000 in federal income taxes: “Biden and his wife, Jill, paid nearly $300,000 in federal income taxes on earnings of more than $985,000 in 2019, according to returns he released following a news report that Trump has paid far less in recent years,” Sean Sullivan reports.

“Biden’s running mate, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), also released her 2019 taxes … Her return showed nearly $3.3 million in total income with her husband, Douglas Emhoff, who had a lucrative law practice from which he is currently on leave. They paid more than $1.1 million in federal taxes.”

Market movers

U.S. consumer confidence posts biggest gain in 17 years.

But like all recovery news, downsides remain: “Consumers also appeared to shrug off growing uncertainty ahead of the Nov. 3 presidential election and signs the economy’s recovery from the recession was slowing,” Reuters’s Lucia Mutikani reports.

“The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index increased 15.5 points to a reading of 101.8 this month. That was the largest gain since April 2003. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the index edging up to a reading of 89.5 in September. The index was at 132.6 in February.”

  • New York Fed President John Williams sees up to three years for full recovery. “I do think the economy is on a pretty good trajectory so it’s really a matter of if there’s more or less fiscal policy that maybe tilts that trajectory,” Williams told reporters Tuesday, per Reuters. 

Peter Thiel’s Palantir goes public on NYSE today: “The direct listing on the New York Stock Exchange is one of the most hotly anticipated tech IPOs in years, as investors seek to capitalize on a business that has grown by almost a third each year since 2009. But recently disclosed financial records… suggest Palantir’s business may be overly concentrated among a handful of loyal customers, raising questions about whether it can scale up the same way as other tech outfits,” Aaron Gregg and Douglas MacMillan report.

Robinhood uses weren’t as reckless as portrayed: “The image of the investing app’s clients spending their days loading up on fad stocks doesn’t accord with reality, according to a new working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research titled, ‘Retail Raw: Wisdom of the Robinhood Crowd and the Covid Crisis,’” Bloomberg News’s Sarah Ponczek reports. Instead, as the professor behind the study found, the average Robinhood portfolio “was a lot more ordinary.”

Coronavirus fallout

From the United States:

  • At least 7,155,000 cases have been reported; at least 205,000 have died
  • Trump administration’s new rapid tests plagued by confusion and a lack of planning: “Health officials in several states say they have been allowed no say in where the new tests are being sent and sometimes don’t know which nursing homes will receive them until the night before a shipment arrives. That has left some facilities ill-trained in how to use the tests and what to do with results. And it may be contributing to false-positive test results — when people are identified as being infected but aren’t,” William Wan and Lena H. Sun report.
  • New York region sees 40 percent bankruptcy surge: “This fall, the nation’s largest city will see even more padlocked doors as companies burn through federal and private loans they tapped in March, landlords boot businesses that can’t make rent, and plummeting temperatures chill outdoor dining and shopping,” Bloomberg’s News’s Josh Saul and Henry Goldman report.
  • Sanitation workers are feeling the strain of trash piling up: “From Chicago to New York City, Philadelphia, and New Orleans, U.S. disposal workers are facing a daunting burden: Municipal trash collection is a job more essential than most, and it comes with additional health risks for the people who do it,” Bloomberg News’s Gerald Porter Jr. and Sarah Holder report. 

From the corporate front:

  • Disney lays off 28,000: “About two-thirds of those losing their jobs are part-time employees, the company said … The company did not reveal what percentage of its workforce that entailed, but it’s believed the U.S. theme parks employ about 200,000 people, which would make the layoffs a workforce reduction of 14 percent,” Steven Zeitchik reports.
  • Retail bankruptcies, store closures hit record in first half: “This year’s collapse in American retail could overtake that of 2010, when 48 retailers filed for bankruptcy in the wake of the 2007-09 recession, according to the report by professional-services firm BDO USA LLP,” WSJ’s Aisha Al-Muslim reports.
  • Meatpackers deny workers benefits for covid complications: “Workers can challenge companies’ denials in an administrative process that varies by state but typically resembles a court hearing. The burden of proof, however, usually falls on the worker to prove a claim was wrongfully denied,” Reuters’s Tom Hals and Tom Polansek report.
  • Movie industry dealt devastating blow with more blockbuster postponements: “Shares of AMC plummeted 7 percent after the announcement,” CNBC’s Sarah Whitten reports of Disney’s decision to push “Black Widow” until next May. “IMAX shares fell 6 percent, Marcus Theater’s stock slipped 5.7 percent and Cinemark shares dropped 3 percent. Disney’s shares were down around 2 percent.”

When superpowers collide

TikTok was just the beginning.

The Trump administration is stepping up scrutiny of past Chinese tech investments: “The emailed requests for information are being sent by a new enforcement arm of a government committee that monitors foreign investment for national-security risks, according to lawyers and a redacted copy of one email reviewed by The Washington Post. After the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) gathers details from the companies, it can decide whether to probe the matter further and even push the foreign investor to divest, as it did in the case of TikTok,” Jeanne Whalen reports.

“The letters, which began landing in dozens of companies’ email inboxes in the spring, reflect the broadly held view among U.S. officials and lawmakers that the United States failed in recent years to adequately screen investments pouring in from China and other countries — particularly low-profile venture-capital investments that didn’t make the headlines.”

Huawei lawyers wrap up arguments in Canadian court: “ Lawyers for the Canadian government asked a judge to keep Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou’s extradition case to the United States ‘on the straight and narrow’ and described the evidence presented by the defense as inadmissible,” Reuters’s Moira Warburton and Tessa Vikander report.

“The hearing is expected to wrap up [today]. Meng’s extradition case is scheduled to finish in April 2021.”

Pocket change

Major firms commit to share government diversity data.

The move comes after many companies pledged to do more for racial justice: “New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, who advises the city’s public retirement funds, said Monday that 34 companies — some of which had refused to release the same reports as recently as last year — would disclose their full data by March 2021,” Jena McGregor reports.

“BlackRock’s report shows that in 2019, four of its 103 executive or senior-level employees (3.9 percent) were Black. BlackRock said in a statement that the firm has ‘made strides’ but ‘we acknowledge significant work remains ahead to realize sustainable change, and the disclosure of our EEO-1 data is an important step towards greater transparency and accountability.’ Target’s release, meanwhile, showed that 40 of its 777 executive or senior-level employees were Black (5.1 percent) and 50 were Hispanic or Latino (6.4 percent). In a statement, Target called being more transparent about their data ‘the next step in our journey to build an organization that is more diverse, equitable and inclusive.’”

JPMorgan Chase to pay $920 million to resolve illegal trading cases: “The settlement, the largest ever imposed for this type of fraudulent activity, known as spoofing, resolves investigations by the Justice Department, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, according to statements from the government agencies,” Hamza Shaban reports.

“For years, JPMorgan traders initiated orders to buy or sell precious metals, Treasury notes and Treasury futures only to quickly cancel the trades before they were executed. The illegal practice sends a false signal to other market players, prompting price changes that the spoofers can then exploit. According to the CFTC, traders at JPMorgan, in many instances, were successful in causing artificial price changes that were favorable to them.”

Oil traders doubt OPEC will boost output as planned in 2021: “OPEC is unlikely to increase oil output as planned from January next year as it could mean adding more downside pressure to the already bearish and weak market, top traders said,” Reuters’s Dmitry Zhdannikov and Julia Payne report.

“OPEC is due to taper their production cuts by 2 million barrels per day in January. OPEC and other major oil producers announced record oil cuts in March this year as fuel demand collapsed with half the world in some form of lockdown to stop the spread of covid-19.”


  • The Labor Department reports the latest weekly jobless claims
  • PepsiCo, Bed Bath & Beyond and Conagra Brands are among the notable companies reporting their earnings.
  • The Labor Department releases the monthly jobs report, the last before Election Day.

The funnies

Bull session

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The Health 202: Health care was first up in last night’s caustic presidential debate

President Trump incessantly interrupted and insulted his opponent Joe Biden and both men repeatedly talked over each other, in a debate severely lacking in civility even by today’s standards. 

The candidates spent the first half hour tangling over the coronavirus pandemic, the Obamacare challenge before the Supreme Court, differences over expanding health insurance and abortion rights . But much of the debate couldn’t be heard clearly and the candidates jumped quickly between topics to lob accusations and even insults at each other.

Here are seven takeaways from the debate.

Trump mocked Biden for wearing a mask and limiting campaign crowd sizes.

The  coronavirus pandemic – and Trump’s response to it – got plenty of air time during the debate’s first half. Biden came prepared with a list of the president’s repeated blunders: his confusing and inaccurate claims about how the virus behaves, his delays on acting on the pandemic last winter and spring and his refusal to accept vaccine timelines laid out by his own advisers.

When Biden noted Trump’s long resistance to wearing masks, despite advice by the director of the Centers for Disease Control, the president mocked Biden for adhering to the public health guidance.

“I wear masks….I don’t wear a mask like him,” Trump said. “Every time you see him, he’s got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away…and he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.”

From a writer for The Dispatch, which describes itself as “fact based conservative news”:

When moderator Chris Wallace noted Biden is holding much smaller events than Trump, Trump said that’s “because nobody will show up.”

Questioned by Wallace on the large rallies he continues to hold, the president claimed “we have had no problem whatsoever.”

“We do them outside, we have tremendous crowds, as you see, and literally on 24 hours notice,” Trump said. “And Joe does the circles and has three people someplace.”

Trump steamrolled not only Biden but also the moderator.

He repeatedly disregarded rules of the debate, refusing even to let Biden speak for two minutes without interruption when each new debate topic was introduced. Several times he earned rebukes from Wallace, who warned the president he was violating procedures his own campaign had agreed to.

“Mr. President, your campaign agreed to both sides would get two-minute answers, uninterrupted,” Wallace said. “Well, your side agreed to it and why don’t you observe what your campaign agreed to as a ground rule. Okay, sir?”

“Gentlemen, you realize if you’re both speaking at the same time,” Wallace said at another point.

Rodney Whitlock, former health-care staffer for Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa):

Derek Thompson, a writer at The Atlantic:

Casey Mattox, a vice president at the conservative group Americans for Prosperity:

Libertarian podcaster Ben Shapiro:

Biden didn’t hold back with insults.

He called Trump “a clown,” a “liar” (Trump quickly returned the insult) and told him to “shut up.”

Biden also got sarcastic after a discussion of whether he’d support adding more Supreme Court justices or eliminating the Senate filibuster – two questions the former vice president didn’t answer. Trump kept jabbing Biden over his refusal to answer the question directly, accusing him of seeking to pack the court with “radical left” justices.

“That was really a productive segment, wasn’t it? Keep yapping, man,” Biden retorted.

Megan McArdle, columnist for The Post:

Biden tried to talk directly to Americans.

On several occasions Biden peered directly into the camera and talked directly to viewers, even as Trump tried to talk over him.

“Do you believe for a moment what he’s telling you in light of all the lies he’s told you about the whole issue relating to covid?,” Biden said. “He still hasn’t even acknowledged that he knew this was happening, knew how dangerous it was going to be back in February, and he didn’t even tell you.”

Biden cited the nation’s immense death toll from covid-19, which now exceeds 200,000 – a tragedy the president has rarely acknowledged.

“How many of you got up this morning and had an empty chair at the kitchen table because someone died of covid?” Biden said, looking into the camera.

“How many of you are in a situation where you lost your mom or dad and you couldn’t even speak to them, you had a nurse holding a phone up so you could in fact say goodbye?”

Chris Megerian, White House reporter for the LA Times:

Trump claimed insulin has become “as cheap as water.”

“Insulin, it was destroying families, destroying people, the cost,” the president said. “I’m getting it for so cheap it’s like water, you want to know the truth. So cheap.”

The administration has capped co-pays for insulin at $35 a month in some Medicare prescription drug plans. But insulin remains expensive for millions of Americans with private health coverage or no coverage at all, often adding up to hundreds or thousands of dollars in monthly costs for them.

Trump’s claim about insulin was hardly the only way he misrepresented his record on health policy. Just minutes into the debate, the two candidates clashed over his approach to the Affordable Care Act. Biden noted the president’s failure to repeal and replace the law and his administration’s refusal to defend the law before the Supreme Court. Trump continually interrupted him, loudly countering that the law’s penalty for being uninsured was repealed.

“There are 20 million people getting healthcare through Obamacare now that he wants to take it away,” Biden said. “He won’t ever look you in the eye and say that’s what he wants to do. Take it away.”

“No, I want to give them better healthcare at a much lower price, because Obamacare is no good,” Trump returned

Sarah Kliff, of the New York Times:

Biden exaggerated the number of Americans with preexisting conditions. 

Biden claimed there are “a hundred million people who have preexisting conditions” who could lose their coverage if the Supreme Court strikes the law – to which Trump retorted “there aren’t a hundred million people with preexisting conditions.”

Trump was correct that Biden overstated the number. The Kaiser Family Foundation has estimated almost 54 million people – 27 percent of all adults under age 65 – have a condition that would likely have made them uninsurable in the individual market before the ACA. Seniors wouldn’t be affected because they are eligible for Medicare regardless of health status.

Biden didn’t accurately describe his own health-care plan.

His signature proposal is to create a government-run, “public option” plan which would be available for any American to purchase on the individual ACA marketplaces, alongside the existing private options. 

But Biden claimed the public option would be available only to low-income Americans already eligible for the Medicaid program. He was responding to a question from Wallace about whether a public option would essentially cause private plans to shutter.

“It’s only for those people who are so poor they qualify for Medicaid they can get that free in most states, except governors who want to deny people who are poor Medicaid,” Biden said. “Anyone who qualifies for Medicaid would automatically be enrolled in the public option. The vast majority of the American people would still not be in that option.”

Several reporters and health-policy experts noted Biden’s blunder:

Jennifer Haberkorn, a congressional reporter for the LA Times:

Michael Cannon, director of health-policy studies at the Cato Institute:

Eliot Fishman, senior director of health policy for Families USA:

Ahh, oof and ouch

AHH: HHS is struggling to put together an unusual ad blitz.

The agency’s $300 million ad campaign meant to “defeat despair” in the midst of the pandemic has struggled to meet deadlines and gain support, as celebrities express lukewarm interest in participating, Politico’s Dan Diamond reports.

“Interviews with participants and others in the Health and Human Services Department paint a picture of a chaotic effort, scrambling to meet an unofficial Election Day deadline, floundering in the wake of the medical leave of its architect, Michael Caputo, and running up against increasing resistance among career staff,” Diamond writes.

The health department made a list of 30 celebrities who might participate in a series of public service announcements alongside government health officials, but they ended up with only three: singers CeCe Winans and Shelem Lemmer and actor Dennis Quaid. Quaid recently said he wanted to drop out of the campaign after a Politico story last week traced the origin of the ad blitz and highlighted concerns from critics that it could be used as a political stunt for the Trump administration.

A video firm involved in organizing the campaign has also failed consistently to meet deadlines. DD&T is led by a filmmaker who has no prior experience with public health campaigns and who is also the business partner of Caputo, Diamond reports.

OOF: Seven former FDA commissioners condemned political interference from the Trump administration.

The commissioners argued that actions by the White House and political appointees in Health and Human Services are eroding public trust in a potential coronavirus vaccine.

“If the FDA makes available a safe and effective vaccine that people trust, we could expect to meaningfully reduce covid-19 risk as soon as next spring or summer. Without that trust, our health and economy could lag for years,” the commissioners wrote in an op-ed published in The Washington Post.

The former commissioners pointed to White House statements questioning tougher guidelines that the FDA put out for emergency use of any experimental coronavirus vaccine. Trump called the new guidelines a “political move” and indicated the administration might not approve them.

 The commissioners also cited HHS overruling the FDA on regulation of covid-19 laboratory tests, a recent move by HHS Secretary Alex Azar to rescind FDA’s authority to independently establish rules for food and drug safety, and misstatements from leaders in the Trump administration about the benefits of hydroxychloroquine and convalescent plasma.

The rebuke focused on the public perception of a vaccine, rather than on a concern the vaccine itself would be compromised. The authors write they have “confidence in the integrity and high-quality scientific work of the FDA staff” and that these professionals will not recommend a vaccine unless it meets strict standards. Drugmakers have also promised to follow the scientific standards set forward by the FDA, the authors note.

The rollout of the Trump administration’s rapid coronavirus tests has been plagued by confusion.

“President Trump heralded new rapid coronavirus tests on Monday as game changers — fast, cheap and easy to use. But his administration’s deployment of the new tests to nursing homes has been plagued by poor communication, false results and a frustrating lack of planning, state leaders say,” The Post’s William Wan and Lena H. Sun reports.

State health officials have said that they often don’t know until the last minute which nursing homes will receive tests and that many facilities receiving tests have not had training on how to use them. Overarching all of this is the fact that the federal government has not outlined a clear strategy on testing.

“The lack of federal planning also has left states with no standardized way to capture results from the new tests and include them in daily counts of infections and tests. Consequently, as the rapid tests become more widely distributed, the data and dashboards being used each day to guide the nation’s coronavirus response are becoming more inaccurate,” Wan and Sun write.

Many public health experts have welcomed the mass production of antigen tests, which are less reliable than lab-based tests but also much faster and cheaper. Some researchers, however, are concerned about reports that facilities are finding rates of false positives beyond what is expected. There’s also conflicting advice: the FDA recommends testing only symptomatic people with antigen tests, while the Trump administration has deployed them more widely for screening in nursing homes and schools.

The Trump administration has defended its rollout of the tests, saying that the lack of a standardized reporting system is the result of urgency in getting tests to as many people as quickly as possible. The administration has also indicated that it will give governors more control over where future shipments of tests go.

Race for a vaccine

A new study suggests Moderna vaccine is safe in older adults.

“Results from an early safety study of Moderna Inc’s coronavirus vaccine candidate in older adults showed that it produced virus-neutralizing antibodies at levels similar to those seen in younger adults, with side effects roughly on par with high-dose flu shots,” Reuters’s Julie Steenhuysen reports.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Tuesday showed that older adults who received two injections of Moderna’s vaccine had roughly the same immune response as younger adults and that most side effects were mild.

The findings are important because immunity can weaken with age, and older adults are also at increased risk of severe complications from covid-19.

The study was an extension of Moderna’s Phase 1 safety trial, which was first conducted in people between the ages of 18 and 55. The new study tested the vaccine in 40 adults over the age of 56. Moderna is already testing its vaccine in a large Phase 3 trial.

Elsewhere in health care

  • Several private health insurers are set to end benefits in which they covered the full cost of telehealth visits during the pandemic. Anthem and UnitedHealthcare will stop waiving the cost of copays or other costs to the patients for virtual visits in some circumstances starting Oct. 1, Stat News reports.
  • Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) made a rare procedural move on Tuesday to force a vote on a bill that would ban the Department of Justice from supporting litigation to overturn the Affordable Care Act. Democrats are unlikely to get the 60 votes needed to move the legislation forward, but it could put pressure on Republicans at a time when Democrats are making the ACA a key issue in the presidential election and in arguments against the confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, the Hill reports.
  • The Food and Drug Administration approved opioid-based drugs on the basis of short-term, narrowly focused trials that often excluded patients who had negative reactions to drugs, according to a new study published Monday in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine. The study, by researchers at Johns Hopkins, reviewed 48 drug approvals between 1997 and 2018, Courthouse News Service reports.
  • The House Oversight Committee will hold hearings this week with six drug company CEOs as part of a drug pricing probe launched by the late Rep. Elijah Cummings in January 2019, Stat News reports.

Sugar rush

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The Cybersecurity 202: Trump made a slew of false claims about mail voting during the first debate

He also refused to say he’d accept the results of the election or that he won’t preemptively declare victory before all the ballots are counted.

“If I see tens of thousands of ballots being manipulated, I can’t go along with that,” he said.

The president’s major theme appeared, astoundingly, to be that there’s absolutely no way to hold a legitimate election at this point.“As far as the ballots are concerned, it’s a disaster,” he said. 

When the debate moderator Fox News’s Chris Wallace pressed him about what should be done to protect the integrity of mail voting, which has already begun in many states, he didn’t answer. He did say that he’s “counting on” the U.S. Supreme Court – where the Senate is considering his appointment to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg – to weigh in on mail voting. “I hope we don’t need them, in terms of the election itself, but for the ballots, I think so,” he said. “Because what’s happening is incredible.” 

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, meanwhile, expressed confidence about the election’s legitimacy.  He charged that Trump’s goal is to depress voter turnout to aid his electoral chances. 

This is all about trying to dissuade people from voting because he’s trying to scare people into thinking that it’s not going to be legitimate,” he said. 

He urged Americans to “show up and vote. You will determine the outcome of this election. Vote, vote, vote.”

The volume of falsehoods was astounding even considering Trump’s frequent unfounded attacks on mail voting.

He claimed without evidence that mail ballots are being sold on the street by mail carriers and discovered in creeks and rivers.

He falsely claimed that his supporters were blocked from observing polls in Philadelphia, when in fact traditional polls are not open yet.

He cited a genuine case in which nine mail ballots mailed by military members were found discarded by election officials in Luzerne County, Pa. But he claimed without evidence that all the ballots included votes for him and that it was aimed at hurting his candidacy. In fact, seven of the nine ballots included votes for Trump but the other two remain sealed. Federal investigators are still investigating the case and the motives of the contractor who threw out the ballots remain unclear.

Here’s how CNN’s fact checker Daniel Dale summed it up on Twitter: “I’m not exaggerating when I say almost literally everything Donald Trump says about mail voting is wrong in whole or in part.”

Election officials and experts were quick to hit back at Trump’s claims during the debate.

Here’s David Levine, elections integrity fellow at the Alliance for Securing Democracy:

Michael G. Miller, a political science professor at Barnard College:

Graham Brookie, director of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, which focuses on combating disinformation: 

And Edward Perez, global director of technology development at OSET Institute, a nonprofit election technology organization:

Biden responded to Trump’s attacks largely by urging his supporters to vote – and providing extensive details about how to do that. 

The intense focus on the voting process harkened back to the Democratic National Convention when speaker after speaker urged Americans to “make a plan to vote.”

It was essentially an acknowledgement that mail voting is often more complex than in-person voting and will be unfamiliar to many people doing it for the first time during the pandemic. That could lead to legitimate votes that are discarded because of technicalities. 

Election officials in Pennsylvania, for example, are warning that as many as 100,000 mail ballots might be invalidated because voters failed to put their ballot inside a “secrecy envelope” designed to ensure voter privacy. 

During that portion of the debate Biden outlined mail voting procedures, urged patience while mail votes are counted and even described part of the process for voters to challenge when their ballots are invalidated. He also urged people to vote in person if they choose to and expressed confidence that polling sites will allow for sufficient social distancing during the pandemic.

“Vote whatever way is the best way for you,” Biden said. “He cannot stop you from being able to determine the outcome of this election.”

The keys

The Trump administration is looking into Chinese investments in U.S. tech start-ups for national security red flags.

The government committee that monitors foreign investments for national-security risks has sent dozens of inquiries about deals dating years back, Jeanne Whalen reports. 

The letters highlight the way White House national security concerns are escalating the increasingly contentious economic relationship between the United States and China.

The inquiries are the first steps for the Treasury Department-led Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States in deciding whether it will investigate an investment, as it did with TikTok. 

CFIUS is most focused on companies and apps that collect sensitive personal information or are involved with critical technologies like batteries and biotechnology, lawyers familiar with the letters told Jeanne. 

Historically, it was unusual for [CFIUS] to reach back more than three years,  said Stephen Heifetz, a lawyer at Wilson Sonsini. But there is in theory no time limitation, and we are increasingly hearing about long reach-back periods.”

CFIUS has also sent agents to tech and venture capital leaders in Silicon Valley to warn them about Chinese investments, Jeanne reports.

A federal judge sentenced a hacker who stole over 100 million passwords from LinkedIn and other platforms to seven years in prison.

Nikulin was charged in 2016 with nine felony counts, including computer intrusion and aggravated identity theft. He was found guilty in July, but his lawyers have argued that the government unfairly based his sentencing on identity theft losses that were never reported.

Foreign hackers are becoming more sophisticated, Microsoft says.

Covid-19 response efforts have become a key target. Microsoft observed 16 different nation-state actors using the pandemic to try lure victims or hack into groups involved in response efforts. Attackers have also increased how quickly they demand ransoms for data captured in attacks, believing that the pandemic has made regaining access to the data more critical, Microsoft said.

Hill happenings

The House unanimously passed four bills that would shore up U.S. energy infrastructure against cyberattacks.  

The bills would establish new Energy Department programs to enhance cybersecurity for the U.S. power grid, Maggie Miller at The Hill reports. The quartet of bills also addresses physical threats to the grid, such as wildfires.


  • The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on supply chain integrity on Thursday at 9:15 a.m.
  • New Americas Open Technology Institute will hold a virtual panel exploring how Internet platforms are addressing the spread of election-related misinformation on Thursday at 1:30 p.m.

Secure log off

Here’s a blast from the SNL debate past:

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Power Up: Trump’s debate performance was described this way by undecided voters: ‘Crackhead,’ ‘arrogant,’ ‘un-American,’ ‘forceful’

Undecided voters from battleground states around the country used decidedly different words to describe the night featuring the Republican and Democratic nominees on the same stage for the first time. 

  • ‘Crackhead,’ ‘arrogant,’ ‘un-American,’ ‘forceful,’ ‘puzzling,’ ‘eh,’ and ‘unhinged’ were some of the words used to describe Trump’s performance by a group of undecided voters in GOP pollster Frank Luntz’s post-debate focus group Zoom session. 
  • ‘Professional,’ ‘showed restraint and compassion,’ ‘predictable,’ ‘politician,’ and ‘presidential’ were the descriptors used to describe Biden by the same participants in Luntz’s group, which comprised of over a dozen undecided voters from Arizona, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Florida, Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio, and North Carolina.

Some in the group remained undecided and eager to see more from the candidates while others were so repelled by Trump’s performance, they immediately made up their minds. There was clear agreement that Trump’s chaotic behavior, incessant interruptions and personal attacks did not help his reelection argument.

Trump’s most problematic moment of the debate, according to the voters, was overwhelmingly his refusal to condemn white supremacy and militia groups that have appeared in protests in cities around the country.

  • “What do you want to call it?” Trump asked, seeking clarification on what he should be condemning after asked by Wallace whether he would do so. “Proud Boys? Stand back and stand by,” Trump said, before quickly pivoting, “But I’ll tell you what, somebody’s got to do something about antifa and the left.”
  • “That was definitely his worst moment it’s literally the easiest thing he could accomplish and he still didn’t do it right,” Travis, an undecided voter from Arizona, told Luntz.
  • “He will not denounce anyone who supports him and that was on display today,” said Joe, another Arizona person on the fence.
  • Katie from Iowa interrupted to defend Trump, citing his recent pledge to designate the Ku Klux Klan and antifa as terrorist organizations.
  • “He’s had four years to denounce them and he’s declined to do that, Joe responded.

The president’s response aligns with his past refusal to denounce white supremacists and blame Democrats for violence in American cities riven by protests against police brutality. As our colleague Ashley Parker noted,Trump’s previous refusals to disavow white supremacy are among the few times his numbers have really taken a hit.” Trump’s approach stands in stark contrast to comments from his own FBI director earlier in September: 

  • Christopher A. Wray told Congress  that “racially motivated extremism makes up the largest share of the FBI’s domestic terrorism cases, and that white supremacist ideology appears to drive the bulk of those racially motivated extremism cases.”
  • Trump’s private and public musings about Black and Jewish Americans and Hispanics have created a “substantial record of his actions as president that have compounded the perceptions of racism created by his words,” our colleague Greg Miller reported.

Facts, please: Luntz’s focus group also expressed frustration and confusion about Trump’s unfounded diatribe against mail-in voting. The dark line of attack on the national stage – that absentee ballots are “being sold, they’re being dumped in rivers:” – prompted questions about the integrity of the election. Some of the participants requested that Fox News or Wallace provide more fact checking and insight to help them parse through the onslaught of claims.

  • “Is the votes are in the trash can a real story?” Rob from Iowa asked. “If that’s happening at all, that needs to stop… If it’s in the trash can? Yep then it needs to stop.”
  • “I don’t believe in that,” Jennifer from Pennsylvania said of absentee voting. “It’s bogus and things will get lost… I don’t trust it.”
  • Jeremy from Arizona, however, praised the electoral system for its ease and efficiency: “Arizona is a red state and we don’t have issues with mail-in voting so why aren’t we expressing that sentiment elsewhere and telling the good stories about how it works?”
  • The facts: The rate of potentially fraudulent ballots is miniscule. “… a Washington Post analysis of data collected by three vote-by-mail states with help from the nonprofit Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) found that officials identified just 372 possible cases of double voting or voting on behalf of deceased people out of about 14.6 million votes cast by mail in the 2016 and 2018 general elections, or 0.0025 percent,” our colleague Elise Viebeck reported earlier this year.
  • How do you vote in your state? Click right here.

It was unclear, however, whether Biden had done enough to persuade undecideds in the group to choose him as their candidate. Kimberly, a Black woman from Ohio, delivered a powerful monologue saying the squabbling between the two candidates — and lack of policy discussion —  risked “turning off a lot of people to the point where a lot a lot of people don’t want to vote.” 

  • “And no vote is a vote for Mr. Trump,” Kimberly added. “So we gotta be smarter than that. My advice is stay focused and stay away from the behavior that Trump does …. A lot of people are going to be turned off. If they were gonna vote for him, maybe tonight they’d say, you know what I’m not voting for him at all.”
  • “In my community, a lot of us are undecided,” said Kimberly. “Because we are darned if we do, darned if we don’t,” she added, before describing the systemic discrimination and racism she encounters on a daily basis that she said neither candidate has yet to address. “I need someone to tell me how they’re going to deal with the Black agenda to help us start moving forward. We’re not asking for handouts, we’re looking for an equal playing field.”
  • “They were both bickering at each other like two old men in a nursing home,” Travis said, advising Biden to focus less on Trump and more on introducing his own policy proposals in the next debate.
  • “What I want to see in the next debate is why should Joe be elected — not why shouldn’t I vote for Trump,” said Jeremy from Arizona.
  • Joe from Arizona defended Biden’s counterpunches: “I don’t like incivility but I do get it — he’s trying to get people who hate Trump but don’t necessarily like Biden — and they’re like, ‘yes — go get him Uncle Joe.’”

However, Biden did appear to benefit from Trump’s pre-debate attacks  on his mental and physical acuity. Several participants remarked they were surprised Biden’s apparent strength.

  • “I was surprised at how Biden did — based on what the media made him out to be … he did well,” Rob from Iowa commented.
  • Joe from North Carolina said he needs to “see another debate to confirm Biden’s ability to stand up to Trump,” calling his performance “strong but not strong enough for me to make a decision.”
  • Ruthie from Pennsylvania, a previously undecided voter who Biden won over, dismissed the importance of whether someone can stand up to Trump: “It’s just irrelevant — it’s like me thinking it’s relevant that I can win an argue with a crackhead. That doesn’t matter.”
  • “I raised my hand for Trump but I’m thinking harder and I want to know if I can change that?” Jennifer from Pennsylvania asked. “I’m thinking Biden seemed to show more composure. I’m so torn. I can’t wait for the next debate. ”

From Cook Report’s national editor on Trump:

The policies


  • Mail-in voting will not lead to “fraud like you’ve never seen.”: “As usual, Trump offered a baseless conspiracy theory that widespread use of mail ballots during an infectious-disease pandemic would lead to massive voter fraud. There is simply no evidence for these claims.”
  • Biden does not support the Green New Deal: “The Green New Deal is a non-binding resolution from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) and other Democrats that calls for cutting carbon emissions to net-zero over 10 years while making steep investments in green infrastructure.”
  • Drug prices will not “be coming down 80 or 90 percent”: “There is just no evidence for this pie-in-the-sky prediction. In fact, prescription drug prices are up 3 percent since Trump’s first full month in office through August, according to the consumer price index.”

CNN’s fact checker extraordinaire summed up Trump’s statements as an “avalanche of lying”:

👀: The New York Times’s fact-checking team also kept tabs on Trump’s claims, too: 

  • “The president insisted that he paid ‘millions of dollar’  in federal income taxes during 2016 and 2017. In fact, tax documents obtained by [Times] show that in both years, Mr. Trump paid $750 in federal income taxes. Mr. Biden repeatedly prodded the president to release his tax returns for those years. In response, Mr. Trump said ‘you’ll see it as soon as it’s finished, you’ll see it’ — a promise he has repeatedly made and broken since becoming a candidate.”
  • “We’ve had no negative effect and we’ve had 35-40,000 people.” False. “Mr. Trump claimed his rallies have had ‘no negative effect’ because of the coronavirus and that as many as 35,000 or 40,000 people have attended the events. Both are untrue, as is a separate claim that his rallies have all been held outdoors.” the Times’s Michael Shear reports. 
  • “Young children aren’t. Even younger people aren’t.” False. “The president was referring to the relative risks to young people from the coronavirus,” the Times’s Apoorva Mandavilli reports. “The vast majority of children do not become visibly ill when infected with the coronavirus. But while a strong immune system may protect them from becoming sick, they are far from immune. Several studies have shown that children can get infected and harbor high levels of the coronavirus. And a small proportion of children seem to develop a condition called multisystem inflammatory syndrome, a severe and sometimes deadly overreaction of the immune system.”

Banning cows and airplanes is not part of the Green New Deal, despite what Trump says:

  • Violent crime has not gone up under Trump: “Biden did not nail his usual talking point, so this turns out to be false. In discussing his record, he often mentions violent crime. But when he discusses Trump, he talks about murders. This selective presentation puts Biden in the best possible light and Trump in the worst,” our Post colleagues reported.
  • We do not ‘have a higher deficit with China now than we did before’: “The trade deficit in goods and services with China climbed to $380 billion from 2017 to 2018, but then, because of Trump’s tariff war, fell to $308 billion in 2019, according to the Commerce Department. The trade deficit has continued to fall below 2019 levels in the first half of 2020,” they said.

Outside the Beltway

WALLACE FACES HARSH REVIEWS: “With a pugilistic Trump relentlessly interrupting his opponent, [Biden], Wallace struggled to keep the proceedings coherent, reduced at times to pleading with the president to pause and allow the Democratic presidential nominee to speak,” the New York Times’s Michael M. Grynbaum reports.

  • Many pointed out there was little he could do: “The 90-minute debate fell, almost immediately, into chaos and cross-talking, not because Wallace isn’t a capable broadcast interviewer but because Trump was out of control,” Margaret Sullivan writes. “Wallace needed, at the very least, a mute button. Maybe something stronger. A penalty box? A stun gun?”

A number of prominent anchors and personalities questioned if additional debates would be worthwhile: “Can we really have two more of these debates with the type of behavior that was displayed tonight?” Norah O’Donnell said on CBS News, Elahe Izadi reports.

  • Biden’s team quickly reaffirmed its commitment to showing up: “Yes, Joe Biden’s going to show up,” Kate Bedingfield, the deputy campaign manager, said on a call with reporters after the debate. “He’s going to continue speaking directly to the American people.”

“Will you shut up, man?”: Biden clearly had enough. The former vice president lit into the president, though there was disagreement on whether it even mattered based on just how far Trump went.

If you want to know how Biden’s team felt about it: 

Hillary Clinton had some thoughts, too:

Courting trouble?: Biden again refused to say whether he would support expanding the Supreme Court at least partially in retaliation if Republicans are able to speed through Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation. 

Low blow: “…no moment illustrated Trump’s determination to bend the debate to his will at all costs than when he wrenched Biden’s tribute to his son Beau, who died of brain cancer in 2015, into an attack on the business dealings of Biden’s other son, Hunter,” Politico’s Christopher Cadelago and Elena Schneider report. 

  • “I don’t know Beau,” Trump snickered when Biden brought up his deceased son who served in Iraq. He then hit an even lower mark by attacking Hunter Biden’s past drug use.
  • “Hunter got thrown out of the military. He was thrown out, dishonorably discharged for cocaine use,” Trump continued, even as Biden tried to interrupt, calling it “not true.” (Hunter was discharged from the military, but not dishonorably).
  • Biden’s honest reply to Trump’s deeply personal attacks seemed to resonate with many: “My son, like a lot of people you know at home, had a drug problem,” Biden said. “He’s overtaken it. He’s fixed it. He’s worked on it, and I’m proud of him. I’m proud of my son.”

The last word: “No one alive has ever seen a presidential debate like Tuesday night’s unseemly shout fest between President Trump and former vice president Joe Biden — 90 minutes of invective, interruptions and personal insults. It was an insult to the public as well, and a sad example of the state of American democracy five weeks before the election,” Dan Balz reports.

  • “It was an exhausting mess that spun beyond moderator Chris Wallace’s control and outside the bounds of anything that could reasonably be called a debate. It was a 90-minute display of a president’s testosterone-fueled, unmanaged rage and insecurity,” our Robin Givhan writes. 
  • “I think President Trump went in to dominate. Whether that’s a good or bad strategy, they’ll have to decide later,” Trump ally Newt Gingrich said on Fox News, according to our Josh Dawsey.  “It was, in the words of Chris Christie, who coached Trump for the debates at the White House in recent days, ‘too hot.’” 
  • “’I think the president overplayed his hand tonight,’ former Republican Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum said, as other commentators on CNN looked on, “per Dawsey.


Here’s a sampling from best of the Twitter gallery:

Some people just felt for Wallace:

There was one constant: Biden raked in more money:

In the media


ICE is set to target “sanctuary” jurisdictions: “The Trump administration is preparing an immigration enforcement blitz next month that would target arrests in U.S. cities and jurisdictions that have adopted ‘sanctuary; policies …,” Nick Miroff and Devlin Barrett report.

Homicide charges were not presented to grand jury in Breonna Taylor case: “Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron (R) did not recommend murder charges to the grand jury considering evidence against the police officers involved in the death of Breonna Taylor, he said amid growing criticism of his handling of the case,” Hannah Knowles and Marisa Iati report.

  • Cameron recommended the grand jury indict one officer on charges of wanton endangerment for firing bullets that entered neighboring apartments, but said the other two officers, whose bullets struck Taylor, were “justified in their acts.”

Jim Comey is back on the Hill: “Senate Republicans’ election-season gambit to scrutinize the 2016 investigation of Trump’s campaign resumes [today] with public testimony from former FBI director James B. Comey, and as one of the president’s chief allies on Capitol Hill warns that a ‘day of reckoning” is coming,’” Karoun Demirjian reports.

  • Right on time: there are also new unconfirmed claims about Clinton: “Sen Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) released a letter from Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe stating that Obama administration officials were briefed on a Russian intelligence analysis alleging that Clinton, authorized; a campaign plan to stir up a scandal’ against Trump by tying him to Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russians’ hack of Democrats’ emails. In the letter, Ratcliffe acknowledged that the intelligence community is uncertain if the information in that analysis was accurate.”

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House votes to kill Rep. Gohmert resolution to ban Democratic Party

Gohmert reintroduced the privileged resolution last week, forcing a swift procedural vote in the House that mostly fell along party lines.

The resolution also would have directed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to remove “any item that names, symbolizes, or mentions any political organization or party that has ever held a public position that supported slavery or the Confederacy, from any area within the House.”

Gohmert introduced the resolution in July shortly after the House voted to remove the statues of Confederate leaders and replace a bust of Roger B. Taney, the U.S. chief justice who wrote the Supreme Court decision that said people of African descent are not U.S. citizens.

The vote was 305 to 113 for the bill to replace the bust of Taney, which sits outside the old Supreme Court chamber on the first floor of the Capitol, with one of Thurgood Marshall, the first Black member of the Supreme Court.

That vote came amid a broader push by Democrats to remove statues, portraits and other art in the Capitol honoring Confederate leaders and other controversial figures, at a time of national reckoning over systemic racism after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Gohmert’s resolution cited Democratic Party platforms in the 1800s and the filibuster by some in the party against the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which a Democratic president, Lyndon B. Johnson, signed into law.

“A great portion of the history of the Democratic Party is filled with racism and hatred,” Gohmert said in July. “Since people are demanding we rid ourselves of the entities, symbols, and reminders of the repugnant aspects of our past, then the time has come for Democrats to acknowledge their party’s loathsome and bigoted past, and consider changing their party name to something that isn’t so blatantly and offensively tied to slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination, and the Ku Klux Klan.”

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The Daily 202: Trump faces historic gender gap heading into first debate

These disparities are in line with a flood of other surveys. Barring a significant change in the contours of this contest, the polling indicates that 2020 will probably see the largest gender gap of any presidential election since the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment granted women the right to vote a century ago.

One way to define the gender gap is the difference between the percentage of women and men who back the winning candidate. In 2016, it was 11 points – with 41 percent of women and 52 percent of men backing Trump, according to exit polling. That tied the record set by President Bill Clinton in 1996, when he won reelection with 55 percent support among women and 44 percent among men. (In Pew’s study of validated 2016 voters, it was a slightly larger 13-point margin, with 52 percent of men and 39 percent of women supporting Trump.)

Women have favored the Democratic candidate in every election since 1992. But the gender gap did not emerge as a meaningful factor in presidential politics until 1980. Ronald Reagan won that year with support from 46 percent of women and 55 percent of men.

The culture wars of the 1970s, including the emergence of abortion as a major voting issue in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision and the clashes over ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, fueled a divergence in male and female attitudes toward the two parties.

Not only is Trump himself the most polarizing president in modern history, but the fight over his nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to replace the late justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg appears to be supercharging long-term trends. Between her paper trail as a law professor at Notre Dame and her record as a judge for nearly three years, Barrett has left little to no doubt about her hostility toward abortion rights and the Affordable Care Act, which helped millions get insurance and expanded access to contraception for women.

With the election five weeks away, as polls show the potentially record-breaking gender gap translating to down-ballot races, three Senate Republicans found themselves on the defensive over these issues in debates on Monday night:

In Maine, Sen. Susan Collins’s support has tanked ever since she voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court in 2018. With polls showing Collins trailing, after garnering 69 percent of the vote six years ago, the incumbent announced that she will oppose confirming any new justice before the election. But Monday’s debate opened with her Democratic challenger, Sara Gideon, attacking Collins for confirming Trump’s other judicial nominees. “What we have to focus on is how we get back to a judiciary that is independent once again,” said Gideon, according to CNN.

In Iowa, Sen. Joni Ernst struggled to explain her flipflop from opposing a vote for President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, to supporting a rapid confirmation for Barrett. Ernst, trailing in the latest polls, sought to downplay the probability that Barrett would undo abortion rights. “I think the likelihood of Roe v. Wade being overturned is very minimal,” Ernst said, according to the Des Moines Register. “I don’t see that happening. Truly, I don’t see that happening.” Ernst joined 38 Senate Republicans and 168 House Republicans earlier this year in asking the Supreme Court to revisit and potentially overturn Roe.

In Montana, Sen. Steve Daines tried to argue that it is unlikely Barrett, if confirmed, and the Supreme Court would actually strike down the ACA. “The experts are saying it’s highly unlikely they’ll overturn the ACA. That’s the consensus of many legal experts,” Daines claimed. HuffPost notes that, in July, a Daines spokesman told local newspapers that the senator supports the Trump administration’s legal effort to get rid of the “failed law” with “whatever mechanism.” 

Similar themes will ostensibly come up Tuesday night in Cleveland during the first presidential debate. The Supreme Court is one of the six topics that moderator Chris Wallace said he plans to cover, devoting 15 minutes to the vacancy.

Biden holds an eight-point advantage over Trump on whom Americans trust to handle the Supreme Court appointment. The Post-ABC national poll found that women trust Biden more on the vacancy by a margin of 26 points, 59 percent to 33 percent. Men trust Trump more by 11 points, 52 percent to 41 percent. Similarly, women trust Biden more than Trump to handle health care by a margin of 35 points, 65 percent to 30 percent. Men are split: 47 percent trust Trump, and 43 percent trust Biden. 

This national poll, which was conducted after Ginsburg died but before Trump named Barrett, found that 31 percent of women said Trump should nominate and confirm a Ginsburg replacement, compared to 64 percent who said the winner of the November election should get to choose. Half of men also said the winner of the election ought to decide. Finally, 64 percent of Biden supporters in the poll say the court vacancy makes it “more important” that he win the election, compared with 37 percent of Trump supporters who said the same about the president.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), her party’s vice-presidential nominee, referenced the polling that shows most Americans prefer to wait until after the election for Ginsburg’s seat to be filled. “We’re not in the middle of an election year — we’re in the middle of an election, an ongoing election. Almost a million Americans have already voted,” Harris said in a speech on Monday in Raleigh, N.C. 

Harris, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee whose national profile rose during Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing, plans to leave the campaign trail the week after next to question Barrett. Unlike other Democratic senators, she said that she also plans to sit down with the judge. In her first public remarks since Trump unveiled his selection on Saturday at the White House, Harris emphasized Barrett’s record on the ACA, including her criticism of Chief Justice John Roberts’s decision to uphold the health-care law in 2012, and her writings on reproductive rights.

“President Trump and his party and Judge Barrett will overturn the Affordable Care Act, and they won’t stop there. They have made clear that they want to overturn Roe v. Wade and restrict reproductive rights and freedoms,” Harris said. “There is no other issue that so disrespects and honors the work of Justice Ginsburg’s life than undoing the seminal decision in the court’s history that made it clear a woman has a right to make decisions about her own body.”

Harris would be the first female vice president if Biden wins. She is the fourth woman on a major party ticket, following in the footsteps of Geraldine Ferraro in 1984, Sarah Palin in 2008 and Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Republican senators, their advisers and outside allies involved in the effort say they hope Democrats will overplay their hands in the confirmation hearing scheduled to start Oct. 12 by focusing excessively on Barrett’s Catholic faith rather than her paper trail on health care, abortion and other hot-button issues where she’s out of step with most American women.

“The Women’s March organization said it is planning a ‘socially distant march’ in Washington and more than 30 other cities on Oct. 17, days before Senate Republicans aim to vote on Trump’s pick,” Samantha Schmidt reports. “The organization plans to organize a rally in Freedom Plaza, followed by a march to the Supreme Court, and estimates that about 10,000 people will participate, according to an application for a permit submitted on Wednesday with the National Park Service.”

Many women who voted for the president in 2016 have come to regret that decision. The AP interviewed two dozen Republicans in three traditional swing states and Texas who say they will not support Trump a second time. “My heart will not let me do it. I can’t vote for someone who is that ugly to other people,” said Shawna Jensen, 47, a school librarian in Texas. “I’m pro-life, but I just feel that Republicans have become so hung up on our abortion stance that we are letting this man ruin us.” 

Dee Stoudemire, 64, a retired legal administrator in Jacksonville, Fla., stopped supporting Trump after he ordered the withdrawal of troops from Syria. “That was a bat signal to me, that he’s not listening to his military leaders,” she told the AP. “When you have a leader that cannot and will not listen to his military leaders when it comes to world affairs, you’ve got a problem.”

A new Monmouth University poll shows that 74 percent of registered voters say they plan to watch the first debate tonight, but only 3 percent said they think they are very likely to hear something that will affect their vote.Another 10 percent say that is somewhat likely, while 87 percent say that is not likely.

Who are these few undecided voters still left? In rural Minnesota, Erin Tollefsrud teaches refugee children and is a single mother of her own son. She wants a president who is openhearted yet tightfisted. “Tollefsrud, 35, thought early this year that she’d finally found a candidate who reflects her concerns about climate change, education and racial justice. She liked Andrew Yang in the Democratic primary race, but now she’s torn. She’s suspicious of Democrats like Biden who she sees as unfamiliar with and unsympathetic to rural residents and gun owners,” Marc Fisher, Christine Spolar and Amy Wang write. “But she’s appalled by Trump’s Twitter persona and coarse rhetoric at rallies. And she’s worried that ‘there’s no fiscal conservative in this race.’ Still, she likes the attention Trump pays to rural America and she thinks of him as someone who doesn’t flip-flop, who tells it like it is. ‘Neither candidate represents me,’ she said. …

“Tollefsrud is a classic swing voter, casting ballots for George W. Bush and Barack Obama before going with a third-party candidate in 2016. On Tuesday, she wants to hear whether Biden can hold his own against Trump’s insults. ‘His age is concerning,’ she said. ‘If you look at pictures of presidents after their term, they look older, stressed, harried.’”

What to expect tonight

The debate starts at 9 p.m. Eastern and runs 90 minutes without commercial interruption. The Washington Post will air live coverage. I will join anchor Libby Casey in our newsroom for a preview show starting at 8 p.m. and 45 minutes of post-debate analysis. You can stream our programming on or here on YouTube.

Due to health guidelines, only about 80 people will be allowed in the audience in Cleveland, compared to about 900 in a normal year. Each person will be required to wear a mask and get tested for the coronavirus. Each candidate is allowed just 20 guests in the hall. Frank Fahrenkopf, co-chair of the Commission on Presidential Debates, said that Trump and Biden will not wear masks onstage, but they also will not shake hands. Trump will get the first question.

“Incumbent presidents have, more often than not, stumbled in their first debates, in part because they approach them both overconfident and underprepared,” Karen Tumulty notes. “It happened to Gerald Ford in 1976, Jimmy Carter in 1980, Ronald Reagan in 1984, George W. Bush in 2004 and Barack Obama in 2012. For George H.W. Bush, disaster struck in the second debate of 1992, when television cameras caught him checking his watch as an audience member asked him how deeply the recession had personally affected him. Years later, the elder Bush acknowledged what he had been thinking at that moment: ‘Only 10 more minutes of this crap.’ The current president appears to be following this historical trend. Trump has said he doesn’t need to buckle down on briefing books or load down his schedule with practice sessions and mock debates.”

After the debate, Joe and Jill Biden plan to leave Cleveland for a train tour that will take him to Alliance, Ohio; Pittsburgh; Greensburg, Pa.; Latrobe, Pa.; and finish in Johnstown, Pa. “The trip is meant to help Biden connect with voters who supported Trump in 2016,” reports Annie Linskey, who will accompany Biden for the trip. “This train tour will help Biden drive home the ‘Scranton vs. Park Avenue’ contrast that he’s been trying to draw to highlight his humble roots and Trump’s privileged upbringing. During the tour, Biden is set to meet with workers, including union members, to hear ‘how they have struggled to get ahead in Trump’s economy,’ according to the campaign.” 

The final stop in Johnstown, one of the poorest places in Pennsylvania, will take place near where Trump held a massive rally in 2016. He promised to bring back jobs to the area if elected. Biden will deliver an economic address that will point out Trump’s failure to do so and highlight his own plan for recovery.

More on the election

Judges are skeptical of GOP claims of electoral fraud. 

“A review by The Post of nearly 90 state and federal voting lawsuits found that judges have been broadly skeptical as Republicans use claims of voter fraud to argue against such changes, declining to endorse the GOP’s arguments or dismissing them as they examined limits on mail voting,” Elise Viebeck reports. “In no case did a judge back Trump’s view — refuted by experts — that fraud is a problem significant enough to sway a presidential election. Some of the Democrats’ wins have been preliminary. And in many cases, judges issued split decisions, granting some of the changes sought by liberal plaintiffs and otherwise maintaining the status quo as favored by Republicans. 

“But The Post found that judges appointed by Republicans and Democrats alike have been dubious of GOP arguments that lowering barriers to mail voting could lead to widespread fraud. … Many important rules for voting remain in flux after hundreds of cases were filed in more than 44 states. … So far, GOP lawyers have scored several defensive wins related to mail ballots, such as maintaining North Carolina’s witness requirement and keeping in place limitations on third parties collecting and returning ballots or applications, which Republicans deride as ‘harvesting,’ in Florida, Minnesota and Michigan.”

  • Pennsylvania’s Republican legislative leaders asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stop a decision by the state’s high court to count mail-in ballots received up to three days after Election Day. (Robert Barnes)
  • A federal judge ordered emergency paper backups of voter records at every Georgia polling place, a safeguard allowing voters to continue casting ballots if computers fail on Election Day. The ruling comes after the state struggled with its new voter check-in tablets during its June 9 primary. Some voters waited for hours because of a combination of high turnout, social distancing and difficulties operating the equipment. (Journal-Constitution)
  • Voters in Brooklyn received absentee ballot envelopes with the wrong names and addresses, meaning their votes could be voided. (Gothamist)
  • Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) introduced a bill requiring mail-in ballots to be counted within 24 hours of Election Day. (Fox News
  • Senate Majority PAC, the main super PAC supporting Democrats in the upper chamber, launched a $6.5 million ad campaign in South Carolina against Sen. Lindsey Graham (R), who will chair the Barrett hearings. (Seung Min Kim)
  • Former aides say Trump is not a religious guy and mocks his Christian supporters behind their backs. “They’ve heard Trump ridicule conservative religious leaders, dismiss various faith groups with cartoonish stereotypes, and deride certain rites and doctrines held sacred by many of the Americans who constitute his base,” the Atlantic’s McKay Coppins reports.

Fresh evidence shows the Trump campaign sought to dissuade African Americans from voting in 2016. 

“A database built by Cambridge Analytica, the Republican-aligned firm that unraveled over allegations of improper use of Facebook data, disproportionately identified Black voters as ripe for ‘Deterrence’ in profiles prepared for Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, according to a report Monday from Britain’s Channel 4 News,” Craig Timberg and Isaac Stanley-Becker report. ”The firm was founded in part by the Trump campaign’s onetime chief executive, Stephen K. Bannon … A database of nearly 200 million American voters, obtained by Channel 4, sorted likely Democratic voters into several categories, such as ‘Core Clinton’ or ‘Disengaged Clinton.’ The database put 3.5 million African Americans into a third category called ‘Deterrence,’ in an apparent bid to single them out for messages designed to dissuade them from voting … 

“The database, in Channel 4′s telling, was ‘used by Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign’ — an allegation the campaign denied. … Trump’s 2016 campaign paid Cambridge Analytica $5.9 million … Cambridge Analytica’s former director of business development, Brittany Kaiser, called the new findings consistent with her understanding of how Cambridge Analytica and Republicans targeted Black voters in 2016.” Brad Parscale worked as the digital director on Trump’s 2016 campaign. His success at capitalizing on the kind of data that Cambridge Analytica provided is what earned him a promotion to run the president’s reelection apparatus for 2020.

A police report includes domestic abuse allegations against Parscale.

“Parscale, who managed [Trump’s] campaign for nearly 2½ years until he was demoted in July, was hospitalized for his own safety after threatening suicide while holding a handgun during a confrontation with his wife at his Florida home, local police said Monday. Parscale’s wife, Candice, called authorities shortly before 4 p.m. Sunday to report that he had loaded a gun in front of her, prompting her to flee the house out of fear for her safety,” Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey report. “Several of the officers who responded to the incident wrote in their reports that Candice Parscale exhibited physical signs of what she said was previous abuse by her husband. One officer wrote that she ‘had several bruises on both of her arms as well as scratches and bruising on her face,’ and another wrote that they noticed ‘several large sized contusions on both of her arms, her cheek and forehead.’ … In an audio recording released by the police, Terry Behal — a real estate agent who was showing a house in the neighborhood when Candice Parscale flagged her down for help — can also be heard noticing her bruises. …  

“Parscale was angry over being demoted by Jared Kushner — Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, with whom he had been close — rather than by the president himself … But Parscale had spoken to Trump in recent weeks and had returned to the campaign’s Arlington, Va., headquarters for meetings. … Parscale, who was still employed by the campaign as of Monday, did not respond to requests for comment. … Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh offered a statement Monday supportive of Parscale: ‘Our thoughts are with Brad and his family as we wait for all the facts to emerge.’  … The police reports describe Brad Parscale as ‘clearly intoxicated,’ and a video released by the police shows him, shirtless, holding a beer as he exits his house to come down his driveway to talk to the officers. As he stands in his driveway starting to explain his version of events to an officer, another officer can be heard telling him several times to ‘get on the ground,’ before tackling him and detaining him with handcuffs.”

The Post’s Editorial Board endorses Biden for president.

“He would restore decency, honor and competence to America’s government,” writes the board, which is independent from the newsroom. “In contrast to Mr. Trump’s narcissism, Mr. Biden is deeply empathetic; you can’t imagine him dismissing wounded or fallen soldiers as ‘losers.’ To Mr. Trump’s cynicism, Mr. Biden brings faith — religious faith, yes, but also faith in American values and potential. … 

“If he takes the oath in the midst of the pandemic’s second wave, as is quite possible, with the economy in a tailspin, we can be confident Mr. Biden will rise to the occasion. Why? Because when President Barack Obama and he took office in 2009, the nation was in a similarly frightening tailspin. Mr. Obama trusted his vice president to work with Congress to deliver a bipartisan recovery package and then to help administer it, helping save America’s auto industry and the economy more broadly.”

The Trump presidency

Intelligence pros say Trump’s debts and foreign deals pose national security risks.

“Security teams at U.S. spy agencies are constantly scouring employee records for signs of potential compromise: daunting levels of debt, troubling overseas entanglements, hidden streams of income, and a penchant for secrecy or deceit to avoid exposure,” Greg Miller and Yeganeh Torbati report. “Trump would check nearly every box of this risk profile based on revelations in the New York Times from his long-secret tax records that former intelligence officials and security experts said raise profound questions about whether he should be trusted to safeguard U.S. secrets and interests. The records show that Trump has continued to make money off foreign investments and projects while in office; that foreign officials have spent lavishly at his Washington hotel and other properties; and that despite this revenue he is hundreds of millions of dollars in debt with massive payments coming due. … 

The revelations add to long-standing suspicions about Trump’s approach to foreign policy and seeming deference to leaders of countries where he has either pursued real estate projects or could do so upon leaving office. The list includes Russia, Turkey and the Philippines, where Trump has sought to erect office towers bearing his name or made millions of dollars from licensing deals and other ventures. … Intelligence officials said the magnitude of Trump’s debts pose a vulnerability that is compounded by his determination to prevent his financial records from becoming public. ‘It’s the hiding of a vulnerability that is a real indicator’ of potential security risk, said Jeffrey Edmonds, a former CIA analyst who served in the Trump White House as deputy director for Russia on the National Security Council. ‘The more you try to hide something like that, the greater lengths you will go to keep it concealed.’”

Quote of the day

“From a national security perspective, that’s just an outrageous vulnerability,” said Larry Pfeiffer, who previously served as CIA chief of staff. Pfeiffer, who now serves as director of the Hayden Center for Intelligence at George Mason University, said if he had faced even a fraction of Trump’s financial burden “there is no question my clearances would be pulled.”

Tax records show how “The Apprentice” rescued Trump. 

“From the back seat of a stretch limousine heading to meet the first contestants for his new TV show ‘The Apprentice,’ Trump bragged that he was a billionaire who had overcome financial hardship. … It was all a hoax,” the Times reports. “Months after that inaugural episode in January 2004, Mr. Trump filed his individual tax return reporting $89.9 million in net losses from his core businesses for the prior year. … While the returns show that he earned some $197 million directly from ‘The Apprentice’ over 16 years … they also reveal that an additional $230 million flowed from the fame associated with it. The show’s big ratings meant that everyone wanted a piece of the Trump brand, and he grabbed at the opportunity to rent it out. There was $500,000 to pitch Double Stuf Oreos, another half-million to sell Domino’s Pizza … There were seven-figure licensing deals with hotel builders, some with murky backgrounds, in former Soviet republics and other developing countries. …  

“Divorced for the second time, and coming off the failure of his Atlantic City casinos, Mr. Trump faced escalating money problems and the prospect of another trip to bankruptcy court. On his income tax returns, he reported annual net losses throughout the 1990s, some of it carried forward year to year, a tide that would swell to $352.8 million at the end of 2002. Few people knew this, however, because he kept up the relentless self-promotion … Trump had only two open golf courses and two more undergoing renovations at the time of his plunge into television, but golf … always seemed destined to become his next financial sand trap. … Beginning in 2006, and continuing over the next decade, he would accumulate 11 more golf courses, forming a new core of what he describes as his empire. … Meanwhile, Mr. Trump’s main source of income — ‘The Apprentice’ and licensing deals — went into a steep decline starting in 2011, falling along with the show’s ratings … [His tax records] reveal that as he was pouring money into the golf resorts, he also pulled money out of other places in ways that suggested an immediate need. … In addition, he has huge balances on loans, soon to come due, from Deutsche Bank.”

Flashback: When President Jimmy Carter faced a zero-tax bill in 1977, he voluntarily gave the Treasury $6,000. “In 1977, Carter had a problem, according to presidential tax historian Joseph Thorndike. Carter’s federal tax burden for 1976 had been zeroed out by a massive investment tax credit he earned for purchasing equipment and buildings related to his peanut farm,” Christopher Ingraham reports. “Carter was upset because he had a ‘strong feeling’ that wealthy people like him should pay at least some taxes. So he voluntarily paid the Treasury Department $6,000, the equivalent to 15 percent of his adjusted gross income and slightly more than the 14 percent paid by average taxpayers that year. How times have changed.” 

Dave Fahrenthold, who has spent five years studying Trump’s finances, says we still don’t know the answers to these three questions: “1. Will Trump’s tax practices increase the legal trouble he is already facing? The president is already facing at least two state-level investigations of his business. … 2. How much worse are the Trump Organization’s finances now, because of the pandemic? Earlier this year, the pandemic and related shutdown measures caused 17 of Trump’s golf resorts and hotels to shut down temporarily and triggered layoffs of more than 1,500 employees. … 3. As Trump’s companies struggled, how much money did they get from U.S. taxpayers? So far, we’ve found at least $1.1 million in such payments — including room rentals at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property in Florida, where the president’s company charged taxpayers $650 per night. The actual number is likely to be higher, though.”

The coronavirus

Economic talks between the White House and Nancy Pelosi resume, as Democrats make a new offer. 

Democrats “offered a $2.2 trillion package and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin immediately engaged in talks,” Erica Werner reports. “Pelosi and Mnuchin spoke Monday evening and agreed to talk again Tuesday … They are running out of time to reach an agreement before the November election, but their planned talks this week appear to be their most extensive engagement in more than a month. … Senate Republicans and Mnuchin have also said $2.2 trillion is too much to spend, but Mnuchin has said he is open to negotiations. It was not immediately clear whether the talks would bear fruit or whether Democratic leaders would use the bill to provide political cover for moderate House Democrats, who have grown increasingly anxious over Congress’s recent inaction on pandemic relief legislation. … 

“Mnuchin has said his priorities in a new round of spending would be aid for small businesses and children, among others. He has also talked about providing more assistance to the airline industry and approving another round of stimulus checks. There is some overlap in the White House’s goals with the things Democrats included in their new bill. … The bill would fund a range of other programs, including many that Republicans have supported. It would, for example, extend the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses and provide $182 billion for K-12 schools and $39 billion for postsecondary schools. … The biggest budget item in the package would be $436 billion in aid to states, cities, and territorial and tribal governments that have experienced a major budget crunch this year. … The bill would support an assortment of other programs, including $75 billion for coronavirus testing and tracing. … But some Senate Republicans oppose spending any more money at all. … It’s unclear how that dynamic — coupled with the Senate’s focus on filling the Supreme Court vacancy — could affect the chances for a deal.”

The CDC’s credibility has been eroded by internal blunders and external attacks. 

“The agency’s response to the worst public health crisis in a century … has been marked by technical blunders and botched messaging. The agency has endured false accusations and interference by Trump administration political appointees. Worst of all, the CDC has experienced a loss of institutional credibility at a time when the nation desperately needs to know whom to trust,” Lena Sun and Joel Achenbach report. “This harsh assessment does not come from political or ideological enemies of the CDC. It comes from the agency’s friends and supporters — and even from some of the professionals within the agency’s Atlanta headquarters. … One veteran researcher … said Friday that morale is at an all-time low. … Inside the CDC, staffers acknowledge [Director Bob] Redfield’s limitations as a leader but are fearful that, if he is ousted or quits, the White House will install someone of a more distinctly political or ideological bent — such as Scott Atlas, a Stanford University neuroradiologist … who has said pandemic fears are overblown.”

The CDC will decide which people should receive the initial doses of a coronavirus vaccine once it is approved by the FDA: “There is no precedent for a vaccine rollout of this scale, said Michael Fraser, chief executive of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. That’s why the CDC’s troubles are so inopportune. ‘It’s just unnerving,’ he said. … The agency’s most chronic problem has been the inability to speak directly and persuasively to the American public. To a large extent, that’s because it has been muzzled — and sometimes directly criticized — by political operatives in the Trump administration. … The public has not heard consistently from CDC scientists who possess the expertise to help people understand the virus … The CDC has not held a briefing in three months. … A person close to Redfield said the former Army physician has struggled with his ethics because of a belief in the importance of the chain of command. … Redfield has told colleagues he plans to leave at the end of his term, regardless of who wins in November.”

Documents show White House officials pressuring the CDC on school opening guidance. 

“The effort included Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator,” the Times reports. Olivia Troye, who worked as Vice President Pence’s homeland security, counterterrorism and coronavirus adviser until she left the White House last month, “said she was repeatedly asked by Marc Short, the vice president’s chief of staff, to get the C.D.C. to produce more reports and charts showing a decline in coronavirus cases among young people. … According to Ms. Troye, Mr. Short dispatched other members of the vice president’s staff to circumvent the C.D.C. in search of data he thought might better support the White House’s position. … 

“In another instance, Dr. Birx took a direct role in an effort to push the C.D.C. to incorporate work from a little-known agency inside the Department of Health and Human Services, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The document worked on by the mental health agency struck a different tone from the cautious approach being proposed by the C.D.C., warning that school closures would have a long-term effect on the mental health of children. … C.D.C. scientists pointed out numerous errors in the document … But the gist of the mental health agency’s position — stressing the potential risks of children not attending school — became the introductory text of the final C.D.C. policy, leaving some officials there dismayed.”

A Mississippi teacher is alternating between two groups of students and knows that one is falling behind. 

“Danielle Whittington teaches 40 fourth-grade students each day but she has not met all of them in person. In her hybrid classroom, 15 are at home, and the rest are in school — and, she says, she is worried that the two groups are not getting the same education,” Sarah Fowler reports. “For students at home, Whittington gets to school each morning at 6:30 to record 15-minute videos, which walk the remote learners through the day’s online assignments. … She said she is certain many of the students at home are alone, doing their work with no help from an adult. ‘They will be delayed,’ she said of the virtual learners. ‘They’re not going to be as advanced as the kids that are sitting in this class.’ … At night, she responds to parent emails — but she doesn’t have Internet access at home, so she parks her car on the highway where she can get a signal.” 

  • A police officer Tasered a maskless woman at a youth football game in Logan, Ohio, after telling her that she either needed to cover her face or leave. After she refused both requests, she was zapped and hauled away in handcuffs. (Tim Elfrink)
  • Some small groups of students will be able to return to D.C. public school buildings this week for the first time since March. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) said a decision is imminent on whether all students can return to classrooms in November. (Perry Stein
  • Some public schools in Maryland have opened for kids who need it the most, including children with disabilities, homeless children and children learning the English language. (Donna St. George)
  • Coronavirus cases dropped to their lowest level since mid-July in the greater Washington region last week, but health experts and local officials say infections will probably rebound this fall and winter, and that could force authorities to reverse course and tighten restrictions on public activities. (Bob McCartney)
  • “After months of promising signs in its fight against the coronavirus, New York reported a spike in its rate of new cases on Monday, including a rise in New York City and in its northern suburbs,” the Times reports.
  • The University of Notre Dame’s president is facing heat for failing to wear a mask and then shaking hands with multiple people during the White House ceremony nominating Barrett, one of his law professors. The Rev. John Jenkins appears to have violated safety protocols that he has asked students to follow. (Antonia Farzan)
  • Nine of 10 patients who tested positive for the coronavirus reported at least one side effect of the disease following their recovery, according to a new study of more than 900 people by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency. These side effects include loss of taste and smell, fatigue and psychological issues, with fatigue being the most commonly reported one. (Jennifer Hassan)

Other news that should be on your radar

Kentucky’s attorney general will share a recording of grand jury proceedings in Breonna Taylor’s case.

The announcement was made “hours after an unidentified juror filed a court motion criticizing the attorney general’s statements and asking to share details so that ‘the truth may prevail,’” Hannah Knowles reports. “The attorney general said he will provide the information Wednesday on a judge’s order, despite concerns the release could compromise an ongoing investigation and cause other repercussions. Lawyers for Taylor’s family and a slew of leaders, including Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D), have urged Attorney General Daniel Cameron (R) to make the secretive grand jury process public, as questions mount over last week’s charging announcement. … ‘There is a compelling public interest for these proceedings to be released of a magnitude the city and Commonwealth have never seen before that could not be confined, weaving its way across the country,’ reads the juror’s motion to release information. It suggests the attorney general has used jurors ‘as a shield to deflect accountability and responsibility.’”

The family of William Green, a Black man killed by a Prince George’s County police officer in Maryland, will receive $20 million in what is believed to be among the nation’s largest one-time settlements involving someone killed by law enforcement. Authorities say Green was shot six times while his hands were cuffed behind his back in the front seat of a police cruiser by Cpl. Michael Owen Jr. Owen is awaiting trial on charges of second-degree murder. (Keith Alexander and Rachel Chason)

The typical White family had eight times the wealth of a typical Black family and five times the wealth of a typical Hispanic family in 2019, during the height of a record economic expansion. Last year, the median wealth for Black families was less than 15 percent that of White families, according to new data released by the Federal Reserve. White families had median family wealth of $188,200, compared to that of Black families, which was $24,100. (Rachel Siegel)

  • New California wildfires erupted from wine country in the north to Los Angeles in the south, killing at least three. (Andrew Freedman)
  • A brain-eating amoeba in the water supply killed a 6-year-old in Lake Jackson, Tex., leading the state to declare a disaster. (Paulina Villegas)
  • We’re still in the peak period of hurricane season in the Atlantic and Pacific, yet the seas are eerily silent. But this hiatus won’t last long. The slumber began Friday, when former Tropical Storm Beta dissipated and Teddy became fully nontropical. (Matthew Cappucci)
  • Mesmerizing curtains of colorful lights shimmered across the night skies above the Arctic Circle over the weekend amid an ongoing solar storm. (Cappucci)
  • An NHL season unlike any other ended with the Tampa Bay Lightning winning the Stanley Cup. (Samantha Pell)

Social media speed read

Large swaths of our most populous state continue to look like a hellscape:

A former Trump Organization employee who is undocumented said she pays a greater share of her income in federal taxes than the president. She also says the president’s company was aware of her immigration status:

And then there’s this reminder of another way Trump tried to minimize his tax bill:

Jill Biden, a proud “Philly girl,” expressed support for the Phillies after the team failed to make the baseball playoffs:

And a CBS correspondent says the raccoon problem at the White House is out of hand:

Videos of the day

On NBC, Seth Meyers accused Trump of being one of the greatest tax cheats in U.S. history:

And, as a distraction, Stephen Colbert talked on CBS about the 59-foot tall robot made in Japan:

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The Technology 202: Activists slam Palantir for its work with ICE ahead of market debut

But activist groups and human rights watchdogs say that the company’s track record of working with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and countries with questionable human rights records makes it a bad investment. They spent the last week protesting online and in-person to highlight concerns to investors ahead of the public listing. 

“There is a high risk that Palantir is contributing to human rights violations of asylum-seekers and migrants through the ways the company’s technology facilitates ICE operations,” Amnesty International said in a report released yesterday that accused Palantir of failing to guarantee its software isn’t being used to aid in human rights abuses and racial profiling against migrants. Palantir, which declined to comment for this piece citing its “quiet period” running up to the public listing, has said its software is not used for raids or deportations. 

Co-founded by Peter Thiel, a prominent donor to President Trump, the company has flourished under the Trump administration. It’s picked up contracts not just in defense and immigration but also a roughly $25 million deal with the Department of Health and Human Services to work on the response to the coronavirus pandemic. But its work providing digital profiling tools to ICE that helps with raids and deportations has long made it a target of activists and even caused turmoil within its own ranks. 

Civil rights groups in the United States are now turning to the Internet to protest. 

Civil and labor rights groups Color of Change, Jobs with Justice, Fight for the Future and MediaJustice joined an online protest yesterday led by immigration rights advocacy group Mijente. The online demonstration, which followed a week of in-person protests at Palantir’s offices, spread the hashtag #DefundPalantir to raise awareness about the data analytics software company’s work with ICE. 

Mijente, which launched the #NoTechForICE campaign in 2018, has pushed for Palantir to cut its contract with ICE. In addition to raising awareness to lawmakers, the group’s efforts have led to more than 3,000 students pledging to not working for the company and some schools dropping recruitment partnerships. 

Mijente wants investors to view investing in Palantir as just as damaging to society as investing in fossil fuels or tobacco. We think the same principle should apply to companies that are creating tech and data for police and military contractors, that are violating people’s human rights and contributing to over-policing of communities of color, said Jacinta Gonzalez, field director and senior campaign director for Mijente. 

The group has also rallied with other activist groups to ask BlackRock, one of Palantir’s biggest investors, to divest.

Nonprofits focused on corporate responsibility have also expressed concerns.

The Investor Alliance for Human Rights, a nonprofit initiative focusing on investor responsibility, published a risk briefing earlier this month warning about Palantir’s business relationships with governments with questionable human rights records and potential challenges in complying with data privacy and anti-corruption laws. 

Essentially, what they’re saying to investors is: Trust us. Yet they don’t really provide a whole lot of information about they’re going to how they’re going to handle an enormous number of risks, Michael Connor, executive director of Open MIC, a corporate accountability nonprofit that has also worked on shareholder campaigns targeting Amazon, Twitter, Facebook and Google, told me. 

Palantir acknowledges in its filing that criticism of how the company addresses political and social concerns is a risk factor for investors. 

But despite driving significant changes in how ICE operates, the company doesn’t mention its contract once in its filing, as Alvaro Bedoya, director of Georgetown Law’s Center for Privacy and Technology, notes in Slate.

If you’re an investor who believes that corporate accountability and corporate governance are important to companies’ long-term success, Palantir makes it very clear that you should look somewhere else, Connor says.

Palantir has made clear it’s not afraid of controversy, even as Silicon Valley companies make changes in face of activist pressure. 

Palantir’s chief executive Alex Karp said the company, which recently decamped from Silicon Valley to Denver, isn’t deterred by military and other controversial projects. 

“Software projects with our nation’s defense and intelligence agencies, whose missions are to keep us safe, have become controversial, while companies built on advertising dollars are commonplace, Karp wrote in a letter in the company’s Securities and Exchange Commission filing. The slogans and marketing of many of the Valley’s largest technology firms attempt to obscure this simple fact.” 

Palantir’s shareholder structure has also sparked concern from investor groups. 

Palantir – much like Facebook, where Palantir co-founder Thiel also sits on the board – concentrates voting power with its founders. The setup would make it impossible for investors to overrule the founders.

Several groups representing institutional investors, including the nonprofit Council of Institutional Investors which represents about $4 trillion in assets, raised concerns about this model. They say that the proposal flouts best practices for companies trying to attract institutional investors, such as hedge funds.

The group rebuked Karp for trying to distance the company from Silicon Valley while attempting to recreate its unbalanced power dynamics between founders and investors. Instead, the group urged Palantir in a letter earlier this month to include a provision that would ensure proportionate voting rights for stockholders within seven years.

Investors will be watching closely tomorrow to see what valuation Palantir enters the market with, Dan Ives, an analyst with Wedbush Securities, tells me.

Shareholder structure clearly factors in for investors, especially on the institutional side, but it’s a balancing act between the valuation and the growth opportunities, Ives said. They are all ingredients in how investors chose to own or bypass a stock.

Ives says that while many investors will see Palantir’s human rights issues as a contained risk, they will be more concerned about if the company can deliver on its near-term promise to grow its business in the commercial sector. Right now, just shy of half of the company’s revenue comes from government agencies worldwide.

Despite amassing more than half a billion dollars in contracts with U.S. government agencies including ICE, HHS and DOD over the past four years, Palantir acknowledges in its SEC filing that it has incurred losses since it was founded and it might not become profitable in the future.

A possible turnover in the White House combined with growing government scrutiny could further jeopardize its revenue streams.

Either way, Palantir will have to reckon with the pressures of increased transparency if it wants to succeed as a public company, Ives said. 

It’s been an enigma to many tech investors over the past decade because their technology is so unique, but it’s been hard to see behind the curtains, Ives said. Now that they’re going to the public, clearly transparency and openness will come with the territory.” 

Our top tabs

Joe Biden is pressing Facebook to remove posts by President Trump ahead of debate night.

The letter points to the platform’s refusal to remove several recent Trump posts that cast doubt on the legitimacy of mail-in voting, Axios reports.

“Your platform is the nation’s foremost propagator of disinformation about the voting process,” Jen O’ Malley Dillon, Biden’s campaign manager, wrote in a letter to Facebook. “If Facebook’s goal is to accomplish what it has publicly committed to do — ie ‘clear up confusion about how this election will work’ — the solution should have been simple: remove Mr. Trump’s posts which violate your policies.”

The Biden campaign wrote a similar petition to Facebook in June.

New Cambridge Analytica revelations are likely to revive concerns about Facebook’s role in voter suppression. 

A database that the Republican-aligned firm built disproportionately identified Black voters as ripe for “Deterrence” in profiles created for Trump’s 2016 campaign, according to a report yesterday from Britain’s Channel 4 News. 

Yet the profiles’ existence could spark greater scrutiny of Facebook’s powerful advertising tools, which allow politicians to narrowly target certain demographics of voters. Channel 4 alleges that the Trump campaign did target Black voters with negative ads designed to limit turnout for Hillary Clinton. 

The Channel 4 report criticized the social network for its role in disseminating the ads and for being the original source of information apparently used to help segment Americans into categories. Facebook has said Cambridge Analytica violated its policies in obtaining that information.

“Since 2016, elections have changed and so has Facebook — what happened with Cambridge Analytica couldn’t happen today, Facebook spokesman Andy Stone told my colleagues. “We also have rules prohibiting voter suppression and are running the largest voting information campaign in American history.” 

Google will no longer let apps work around its App Store payment system. 

Companies such as Netflix and Spotify will now be required to give Google a 30 percent cut of in-app purchases, Daisuke Wakabayashi reports for the New York Times. The company has long demanded this cut, but some developers had been bypassing the system and prompting users to pay them directly.

Google said in a blog post yesterday that companies have until Sept. 30, 2021, to adopt its billing system. 

App Store fees are increasingly under scrutiny, especially after Epic Games, the maker of Fortnite, sued Apple and Google on antitrust grounds to challenge the fees. A federal judge in California heard testimony from Epic Games and Apple on Monday, offering a preview of the case before it heads to trial in 2021. 

The Trump administration may have overreached in its attempted TikTok ban, according to a judge. 

The proposed ban may “likely exceed” the law’s scope, Judge Carl Nichols wrote in a decision unsealed yesterday. He wrote that the law that Trump cited in his executive order does not allow certain personal communications to be banned, Rachel Lerman reports. 

“It is undisputed that the Secretary’s prohibitions will have the effect of preventing Americans from sharing personal communications on TikTok,” wrote Nichols, a federal judge in Washington who was appointed by Trump last year.

Nichols added it was clear from the Trump administration’s filing that China presents “a significant national security threat.” But he also said the evidence that TikTok is a threat, and whether a ban is the only way to address that, “remains less substantial.”

Yet the ruling doesn’t affect an additional presidential order that would require TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, to divest from the video app in the United States. That order has a Nov. 12 deadline. 

Rant and rave

Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong’s latest Medium post about politics in the workplace is dividing Silicon Valley. 

He argues that focusing on broader societal issues or political causes internally can distract from a company’s core mission — a divisive stance as a national reckoning on race, a contentious election and the global pandemic are shaping daily business in the tech industry. 

Joelle Emerson, the chief executive of Paradigm, warned this position could have a negative impact on company culture: 

Developer Maia Singletary called out the company for treating race discussions as a distraction:

My colleague Nitasha Tiku noted this stance might be difficult given the company’s stated mission:

Yet some prominent venture capitalists applauded the move. Cyan Banister, partner at Long Journey Ventures, said: 



  • Twitter appointed Rinki Sethi as its new chief information security officer. Sethi previously worked as chief information security officer at Rubrik and vice president of information security at IBM and Palo Alto Networks.
  • TechNet added DoorDash co-founder and CEO Tony Xu to its Executive Council, the trade group announced in a news release.


  • The first presidential debate will take place today at 9 p.m.
  • New America’s Future Tense will host an event, “Free Speech Project: So Long Internet, Hello Internets,” on Wednesday at noon.
  • The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on proposals to strengthen antitrust laws and restore competition online Thursday at 1 p.m.
  • New Americas Open Technology Institute will hold a virtual panel exploring how Internet platforms are addressing the spread of election-related misinformation Thursday at 1:30 p.m.

Before you log off

Who is going to seed fund the Human Cam?

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