Many Americans have grown disconcertingly numb to this president advocating the imprisonment of his political opponents over policy disagreements. But this episode touched a nerve, coming just over a week after FBI agents foiled what they described as an advanced domestic terror plot to kidnap Whitmer because of their anger over Michigan restrictions to slow the spread of covid-19. Prosecutors say that these anti-government paramilitaries were training, conducting surveillance and experimenting with explosives with the intent of acting against the governor before Election Day. These men allegedly planned to try Whitmer for treason and then execute her.
“Ten days after that was uncovered, the president is at it again – inspiring and incentivizing and inciting this kind of domestic terrorism,” Whitmer said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “It is dangerous, not just for me and my family, but for public servants everywhere who are doing their jobs and trying to protect their fellow Americans. People of good will on both sides of the aisle need to step up and call this out and bring the heat down. This is the United States of America. We do not tolerate actions like he is giving comfort to.”
Trump’s “lock ’em all up” riff captures in miniature several of his problems 15 days from the election, especially in the Wolverine State and among female voters. The president lacks message discipline, and his focus remains on issues that seem unlikely to turn the tide of a race he is losing.
Trump is always looking for a good foil. His efforts to caricature Joe Biden as a senile socialist have failed. The former vice president is viewed more positively than he was a few months ago. This contest has remained remarkably static.
For a host of reasons, Biden does not engender the sort of vitriolic anger among the Republican grass-roots base that Hillary Clinton did four years ago. That appears to be part of why the president has focused so much this year on attacking other Democrats who a lot of Republicans love to hate, whether it be Clinton, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Whitmer or others.
Saturday’s rally came six months to the day after Trump tweeted “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” He did so to express support for armed protesters who had swarmed the Capitol in Lansing to protest restrictions imposed by Whitmer. Back in March, Trump referred to Whitmer as “that woman from Michigan.”
Trump has also long struggled to condemn odious people or groups that support him, as he did with the Proud Boys during the first debate and QAnon during Thursday’s town hall on NBC. The converse is also true: Trump often attacks individuals who are more popular than him if he perceives them as critical of him, as he has with Tony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, and Whitmer. The president fancies himself a counterpuncher, but throwing such punches often seems to prove counterproductive.
During a rally on Sunday, Trump ridiculed Biden by saying derisively that, “He’ll listen to the scientists,” as if that is terrible. Trump said that, if he had listened to the scientists in the spring, the country would be in an economic depression instead of a recession because even more businesses would have closed. In fact, countries like China that got the virus under control are seeing their economies boom while the United States loses momentum and the recovery falters.
Whitmer might be a more polarizing figure in Michigan than Biden, but she is more popular than Trump in her state. A Detroit News poll this month put the governor’s favorability rating at 51 percent, with 41 percent viewing her unfavorably. She was viewed positively by 45 percent of independents and 56 percent of women in that survey.
A New York Times-Siena College poll released last week, which didn’t ask about Whitmer, showed Biden ahead by eight percentage points in Michigan, 48 percent to 40 percent, among likely voters, with a margin of error of 4.6 percent. Biden led among women by 17 points while Trump led among men by two points.
Trump was the first Republican to carry Michigan in a presidential election since George H.W. Bush in 1988, but he won by fewer than 11,000 votes out of 4.8 million and he did so with less votes than Mitt Romney had garnered four years earlier.
“Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace opened his interview with senior Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller by asking whether the president regrets egging on his crowd just days after the foiled kidnapping plot. “No, not at all,” said Miller. “Many residents of Michigan are pretty frustrated with the governor. … I’m glad that President Trump’s DOJ was able to get these psychopaths and put them away. But the fact of the matter is people in Michigan want to get their state opened back up. They feel it’s been way too heavy of a hand.”
CNN “State of the Union” host Jake Tapper asked the president’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump, a senior adviser on the reelection campaign, about the lock-’em-all-up chants. “He was having fun at a Trump rally,” she said. “And, quite frankly, there are bigger issues than this right now for everyday Americans.” Tapper pressed her. “Look, the president was at a rally. It’s a fun, light atmosphere,” she repeated. “Of course, he wasn’t encouraging people to threaten this woman. That’s ridiculous.”
Next, Tapper asked Lara Trump, who is married to Eric Trump, why the president’s support among White women has slipped. Against all evidence to the contrary, she insisted that it has not. “He’s not doing poorly. You guys tried this talking point in 2016,” Lara Trump responded. Tapper noted that President Trump trailed by 27 points among White women in a recent poll. “We know the polls, Jake, are very wrong when it comes to women and Donald Trump,” she said.
Suburban White women who voted for Trump in 2016 were among the first people to move away from him after he took office. These defections fueled the Democratic takeover of the House in 2018. And Trump’s standing among White women, especially those with college degrees, has only deteriorated further since the midterms.
With public and private polls showing a historic gender gap, Trump himself has acknowledged his weakness as he grovels for their support. “So can I ask you to do me a favor? Suburban women, will you please like me? I saved your damn neighborhood,” Trump said last week during a Pennsylvania rally.
“For many of those women, the past four years have meant frustration, anger and activism — a political awakening that powered women’s marches, the #MeToo movement and the victories of record numbers of female candidates in 2018,” the Associated Press notes. “And it has started to show up in early voting as women are casting their ballots earlier than men. In Michigan, women have cast nearly 56% of the early vote so far, and 68% of those were Democrats, according to the voting data firm L2.”
Biden seriously considered Whitmer as a potential running mate this summer, and the 49-year-old has proven an effective surrogate since getting passed over for the No. 2 job. On “Meet the Press,” Whitmer noted that many of the restrictions Trump seems to be referring to when he attacks her were lifted months ago. And she contrasted her handing of the contagion with Trump’s.
“It should not be a partisan moment and, yet, he has made it that way to deflect from his administration’s inability to get their arms around it,” Whitmer told Chuck Todd. “People are dying. People are out of work. People are looking for help just putting food on the table. And there is no relief in sight. Our numbers keep getting worse. And that is the sad, hard truth of this moment. We should have acted as though we were in a war, but not a war with one another, a war with a virus. And this virus doesn’t care what side of the aisle you vote on. This virus is still a very real threat to all of us.”
Whitmer speculated that Trump said “lock ’em all up” to divert attention from the nearly 220,000 Americans who have died from the virus. “The Trump virus response is the worst in the globe,” she said. “If you’re tired of lockdowns or you’re tired of wearing masks or you wish you were in church this morning or watching college football or your kids were getting in-person instruction, it is time for a change in this country, and that’s why we’ve got to elect Joe Biden.”
This weekend once again put in stark relief the degree to which Trump often talks in nastier language about women than men. At that Muskegon rally where he said “lock ’em all up,” Trump also went after Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), appearing to intentionally mispronounce her name before he said that she “doesn’t love our country too much, I don’t think.”
Omar is one of the four liberal congresswomen of color in the Squad whom Trump said should “go back” to the “totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” Omar has been a U.S. citizen since she came to this country as a teenager, and the other three were born in the United States. Another member of the Squad is from Michigan, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.). Amid the pandemic, the president has also lashed out at two other Democratic women who hold statewide office in Michigan. He called Attorney General Dana Nessel “wacky.” He described Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson as “rogue.”
Predictably, the president’s comments in Muskegon dominated every Sunday public-affairs show. ABC “This Week” host George Stephanopoulos opened his interview with Pelosi by asking about Whitmer before inquiring about the status of stimulus talks. “The president has to realize that the words of the president of the United States weigh a ton,” said the speaker of the House. “And, in our political dialogue, to inject fear tactics into it, especially with a woman governor and her family, is so irresponsible. … The biggest antidote to his poison is the vote.”
Friday made it one year since Pelosi last spoke with Trump. She left the White House after a heated exchange with Trump over his order to pull U.S. troops out of Syria. Pelosi ripped up the text of Trump’s State of the Union address when he finished in February, but what many forget is that Trump snubbed her at the start of that speech by refusing to shake her extended hand. Trump has repeatedly referred to Pelosi as “Crazy Nancy” in tweets and rallies since then. Trump skipped a St. Patrick’s Day lunch in the Capitol on March 12 because Pelosi was the host. Paul Kane noted this weekend that Trump is the first president to skip the event since George W. Bush did so amid the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel, who hails from Michigan, followed Pelosi on ABC and defended the president saying “lock ’em all up” during the rally. “Because of her locking down our state,” McDaniel said. “She locked us down.” Stephanopoulos noted that Whitmer’s staff pointed out that every time the president speaks like this, the threats to her go up on social media. “Well, you know, Democrats attack us, too, George, and threats go up to us, too,” McDaniel replied.
Michigan remains important in several of Trump’s most realistic paths to 270 electoral votes. Last week, the cash-strapped Trump campaign added to its advertising reservations in Michigan after pulling back some last month. The campaign is also pouring more money into Pennsylvania and toward the single electoral vote that’s up for grabs in Maine while pulling reserved television time out of Nevada and Wisconsin, a state where new coronavirus infection rates are surging.
“Trump’s campaign remains confident that Trump can win states such as Florida, Ohio, Iowa, Arizona, North Carolina and Georgia, where public polling averages indicate either a tied race or a slight advantage for Biden,” Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey reported in Sunday’s paper. “Some campaign officials are arguing for the president to spend more time in Pennsylvania, while others want more disparate travel, exploring paths to victory that run through Nevada, Wisconsin and Michigan.”
A confluence of factors allowed Trump to win his narrow upset, and there are signs that the state is reverting to its historic roots. Nearly 300,000 voters who disliked both candidates backed third-party candidates. And Trump made inroads with blue-collar union types by focusing on trade deals that Clinton had supported. This was also a factor in Bernie Sanders’s upset in the state’s 2016 Democratic primary. Black turnout in Detroit was way lower in 2016 than in 2012 and 2008. (Check out Dave Weigel’s examination of the state’s political geography.)
Across the Midwest, Biden has made inroads in rural areas where Trump ran up the score four years ago. Exit polls showed Trump won 56 percent of rural votes to Clinton’s 38 percent in 2016. The Times-Siena poll showed Trump and Biden essentially tied with rural voters.
Most of all, Democrats are determined not to repeat Clinton’s mistake of giving Michigan short shrift. Jill Biden will barnstorm the state on Tuesday. The former second lady will tour an urban farm in Detroit, speak at a women’s volunteer canvas in the suburb of Madison Heights, headline an Arab American voter mobilization drive in Dearborn and speak at a car rally in Saginaw.
As columnist Dana Milbank observed in Sunday’s newspaper: “If Trump loses in two weeks, he will have been taken down by women, exactly a century after they gained the right to vote. After a presidency marked by reckless exercise of the Second Amendment, alarming curtailment of the First Amendment and occasional talk of the 25th Amendment, it would be poetic justice for this man to be done in by the 19th Amendment.”
Quote of the day
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), facing a tight reelection race, described his relationship with Trump to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram as “maybe like a lot of women who get married and think they’re going to change their spouse, and that doesn’t usually work out very well.” Cornyn continued: “I think what we found is that we’re not going to change President Trump. He is who he is.”
More on the election
Biden leads Trump. So did Hillary Clinton in 2016. Democrats feel deja vu.
“Democrats went to the polls last time certain they would elect the first woman ever to become president, and were punched in the face with a Trump upset,” Scherer and Scott Clement report. “This time they feel the punch coming from a thousand miles away. The worry is visceral and widespread, unassuaged by Biden’s lead in the polls. ‘Because of what happened to us in 2016, folks still remain cautious,’ said Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes. ‘Nobody is taking anything for granted.’ … Privately, Trump’s advisers are less bullish than the boss, admitting that he is behind in several key states. But they believe he can close the gap over the next 15 days, and have no interest in broadcasting anything short of certainty. … Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon has been telling donors, activists and voters to assume that the current polling leads will not last … She has said Biden does not have a double-digit lead. …
“The Democratic super PAC Priorities USA has for a year included slides in its presentations predicting the election’s outcome in a shock scenario — in which Biden gets three percentage points less in White working-class support than polling suggests and the turnout among people of color is four percentage points lower than predicted. As of Oct. 9, that scenario gave Biden 257 electoral votes and Trump 239 electoral votes, leaving three states — Nevada, Pennsylvania and Michigan — as too close to call. A jump ball to 270. That doesn’t mean that Biden’s advantage is a mirage, just that the reality is more complicated and less conclusive than many would like at this point, say public opinion experts on both sides of the political divide. …
“Polling shows Biden’s position stronger on several fronts than Clinton’s advantage at this point in 2016, including in the national polls, which do not always correlate to electoral college outcomes. ‘You get a much different sense that the concrete has settled in this race because views of Trump are so intensely negative, but they are not intensely negative with Biden,’ said John Anzalone, a top pollster for the Biden campaign. ‘In ’16, Trump and Hillary’s negatives were essentially identical.’ Anzalone points to Biden’s leads among independents, seniors, White college graduates and suburban voters, all of which Clinton lacked. There is also a much smaller third-party vote evident this cycle, removing a crutch that helped Trump win states such as Wisconsin with just 47 percent of the vote. But even Anzalone does not describe himself as above the post-2016 stress that afflicts many in his party. ‘The only answer to that is to have a healthy supply of alcohol on election night,’ he jokes. …
“Pollsters also have learned from their mistakes in the 2016 race, which revealed huge differences in the electorate depending on educational attainment, which many surveys had not factored in. … Since then, some of the most prolific state polls, including Monmouth University’s, have started to weight their samples by educational attainment to make sure they are not falling prey to survey bias based on voters with more degrees being more likely to answer their phones. Yet several firms have not, including Marist College, Mason-Dixon and EPIC-MRA, which conducts Michigan polls for the Detroit Free Press.”
- Biden’s campaign quietly built a multimillion-dollar operation over the past two months that’s largely designed to combat misinformation online, aiming to rebut Trump while bracing for any information warfare that could happen in the election’s aftermath. The effort is internally known as the “Malarkey Factory” and it consists of dozens of people around the country monitoring what information is gaining traction digitally. (Matt Viser)
- Biden leads Trump by five percentage points in Wisconsin and three points in Arizona, according to CBS News polling.
- Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) delighted the crowd Friday night at a Trump rally by butchering his Senate colleague Kamala Harris’s name multiple times: “Kamala? Kamala-mala-mala? I don’t know. Whatever.” Democrat Jon Ossoff said he raised more than $1.8 million from at least 42,000 donors because of Perdue’s viral moment. (Atlanta Journal Constitution)
With a surge of emotion, Black Americans are rushing to the polls.
“Two weeks before Election Day, Black Americans have voted in striking numbers, helping to drive historic levels of early voting as mail ballots have flooded election offices and people have endured huge lines to cast ballots in person across the country,” Amy Gardner reports. “In interviews in 10 states where early voting is underway, Black voters said this year’s presidential election is the most important of their lifetime — some calling it more consequential even than 2008, when those who were old enough went to the polls in record numbers to make Barack Obama the country’s first Black president … In North Carolina, which began early voting Thursday, Black voters accounted for more than 30 percent of turnout on the first day — well above their 23 percent share overall in 2016. In Georgia, Black voters accounted for about 32 percent of mail ballots and in-person votes cast through Thursday, so far outpacing their overall share of the electorate in 2016. The pattern is similar in U.S. cities with large Black populations.”
Amid fears of Election Day chaos, Erie County, Pa., is preparing for anxious days after the vote.
“Much attention has focused on the endgame in Washington and rarely invoked laws that govern how Congress and federal courts decide which contested votes ultimately count. But before any challenge reaches the nation’s capital, election officials in 3,141 counties must tally local ballots, a process that could be unusually lengthy this year, creating an opportunity for those who want to question or alter the outcome,” Marc Fisher reports. “Nowhere are those issues more pressing than in Erie County, a Rust Belt relic with harsh winters and a lovely lakefront. Pennsylvania law forbids counting mail-in ballots — or even opening the envelopes — before Election Day.
“The winner may not be known for days after the polls close, with a Nov. 23 deadline for reporting the final count to the state. And Erie is very much up for grabs … ‘The anxiety is definitely higher than I’ve seen,’ said Douglas Smith, Erie’s elections chief. … ‘This is an election like no other,’ said Sheriff John Loomis, whose computer screen tells a story of nervous anticipation — emails and Facebook pages that reek of intimidation, that allude to ‘unrest or that some individuals might want to slow the voting down.’”
Trump didn’t follow through on his 2016 promises on infrastructure, creating an opening for Biden.
“Gerry Winkleman points across the Milwaukee River at the former tannery where he worked for almost two decades as a union welder, repairing blow pipes and net machines that produced thousands of leather shoes and handbags every year. Winkleman, 74, drives through a stretch of downtown Milwaukee that once served as a hub of U.S. manufacturing, pausing occasionally to note the factories that have either shuttered or moved their production to China over the past three decades,” Jeff Stein reports. “Winkleman voted for a Republican presidential candidate for the first time in his life in 2016, largely due to Trump’s promise to bring back manufacturing jobs and invest $1 trillion to rebuild U.S. infrastructure in Rust Belt states like Wisconsin. This year, Winkleman will vote for [Biden], a decision sealed in part by Trump’s decision to pursue tax cuts — which Winkleman says primarily benefited the rich — over infrastructure investments. Winkleman said he and other members of the building trades were ‘snookered’ by Trump’s 2016 promises to rebuild the country.”
The New York Post published its Hunter Biden report amid newsroom doubts.
“Bruce Golding, a reporter at the Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid since 2007, did not allow his byline to be used because he had concerns over the article’s credibility,” the New York Times reports. “Many Post staff members questioned whether the paper had done enough to verify the authenticity of the hard drive’s contents, said five people with knowledge of the tabloid’s inner workings. Staff members also had concerns about the reliability of its sources and its timing … The article named two sources: Stephen Bannon … and Rudolph W. Giuliani … Giuliani said he chose The Post because ‘either nobody else would take it, or if they took it, they would spend all the time they could to try to contradict it before they put it out.’ …
“As deadline approached, editors pressed staff members to add their bylines to the story — and at least one aside from Mr. Golding refused, two Post journalists said. … The article appeared Wednesday with two bylines: Emma-Jo Morris, a deputy politics editor who joined the paper after four years at the Murdoch-owned Fox News, and Gabrielle Fonrouge, a Post reporter since 2014. Ms. Morris did not have a bylined article in The Post before Wednesday … Her Instagram account, which was set to private on Wednesday, included photos of her posing with the former Trump administration members Mr. Bannon and Sarah Huckabee Sanders, as well as Roger J. Stone … Ms. Fonrouge had little to do with the reporting or writing of the article, said three people with knowledge of how it was prepared. She learned that her byline was on the story only after it was published, the people said.”
As local newspapers perish, a pay-for-play network of conservative sites is taking their place.
“Maine Business Daily is part of a fast-growing network of nearly 1,300 websites that aim to fill a void left by vanishing local newspapers across the country. Yet the network, now in all 50 states, is built not on traditional journalism but on propaganda ordered up by dozens of conservative think tanks, political operatives, corporate executives and public-relations professionals,” the Times reports. “The sites appear as ordinary local-news outlets, with names like Des Moines Sun, Ann Arbor Times and Empire State Today. They employ simple layouts and articles about local politics, community happenings and sometimes national issues, much like any local newspaper. But behind the scenes, many of the stories are directed by political groups and corporate P.R. firms to promote a Republican candidate or a company, or to smear their rivals.”
Trump’s coronavirus task force has become a den of dissent.
“Discord on the coronavirus task force has worsened since the arrival in late summer of (Scott) Atlas, whom colleagues said they regard as ill-informed, manipulative and at times dishonest. As the White House coronavirus response coordinator, Deborah Birx is tasked with collecting and analyzing infection data and compiling charts detailing upticks and other trends. But Atlas routinely has challenged Birx’s analysis and those of other doctors, including Anthony S. Fauci, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield, and Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn, with what the other doctors considered junk science, according to three senior administration officials,” Yasmeen Abutaleb, Phil Rucker, Dawsey and Bob Costa report.
“Birx recently confronted Vice President Pence, who chairs the task force, about the acrimony … [She] told Pence’s office that she does not trust Atlas, does not believe he is giving Trump sound advice and wants him removed from the task force … Pence did not take sides, but rather told Atlas and Birx to bring data bolstering their perspectives to the task force and to work out their disagreements themselves … The result has been a U.S. response increasingly plagued by distrust, infighting and lethargy … Atlas defended his views and conduct in a series of statements sent through a spokesperson and condemned The Post’s reporting as ‘another story filled with overt lies.’”
- After Atlas made false claims about the ineffectiveness of masks, Twitter deleted his post. (Antonia Farzan)
- Fauci acknowledged that the White House has restricted his media appearances. “There has been a restriction,” Fauci told CBS, “but it isn’t consistent.” Fauci added that he was “absolutely not surprised” that Trump got covid-19 after the Sept. 26 superspreader event in the Rose Garden.
- A Wichita man was arrested for allegedly threatening to kidnap and kill Mayor Brandon Whipple over the Kansas city’s mask mandate, police say. (Timothy Bella)
- Despite being highly vulnerable to the virus, fatality rates among Arizona’s White Mountain Apache Tribe are consistently lower than the state and national averages. One key reason is intensive contact tracing efforts. Another is daily wellness checks for high-risk patients. (Arizona Republic)
Red-state governors continue resisting measures to slow the spread.
“With cases surging to new highs and hospital capacity running low, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R) teared up describing a state ‘caught in the middle of a covid storm.’ To weather it, he said at a news conference last week, people would need to keep their distance, wear masks and avoid gatherings. But the one thing North Dakota did not need were legal limits on reckless behavior. ‘It’s not a job for government,’ Burgum (R) declared,” Griff Witte and Tony Romm report. “Case numbers also are rising again in other states where the virus was thought to be under control after months of widespread illness. Yet even as health authorities in small cities and rural towns plead for help in tamping down deadly outbreaks, many Republican governors are resisting new measures to stop the spread. … Instead, they preach the mantra of ‘personal responsibility.’ … An overreliance on personal responsibility, health officials say, is one of the reasons America’s struggle with the coronavirus has been so destructive, with more than 8 million cases and at least 219,000 people dead. And they maintain it is unlikely to be the solution now — especially as Republican leaders from Trump on down send misleading messages and model dangerous behavior. …
“Coronavirus hospitalizations in Iowa have regularly hit new highs this month, and the state last week surpassed 1,500 total deaths. But Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) has refused to revisit her decision to lift most restrictions on businesses and to allow students back to class without masks. … Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), meanwhile, has forged ahead with plans to reopen bars … The state has been averaging nearly 5,000 new cases and nearly 100 deaths each day. But Abbott said he saw no reason Texas would not ‘be able to reopen 100 percent.’ In South Dakota — which together with its neighbor to the north has had the fastest-growing coronavirus infection rate in the country — Gov. Kristi L. Noem (R) has played down the significance of the climbing caseload, claiming that it’s due to testing and is ‘normal.’”
A federal judge strikes down Trump’s plan to slash food stamps for 700,000 unemployed Americans.
“In a scathing 67-page opinion, Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell of D.C. condemned the Agriculture Department for failing to justify or even address the impact of the sweeping change on states, saying its shortcomings had been placed in stark relief amid the coronavirus pandemic, during which unemployment has quadrupled and rosters of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program have grown by more than 17 percent, with more than 6 million new enrollees,” Spencer Hsu reports. “The rule ‘at issue in this litigation radically and abruptly alters decades of regulatory practice, leaving States scrambling and exponentially increasing food insecurity for tens of thousands of Americans,’ Howell wrote, adding that the Agriculture Department ‘has been icily silent about how many [adults] would have been denied SNAP benefits had the changes sought . . . been in effect while the pandemic rapidly spread across the country.’ The judge concluded that the department’s ‘utter failure to address the issue renders the agency action arbitrary and capricious.’”
The Supreme Court announced this morning it would take up two challenges to Trump’s immigration initiatives: His diversion of military funds to pay for construction of the southern border wall, and a policy that has required tens of thousands of asylum-seekers to remain in Mexico while their claims are processed. “The Trump administration had asked the court to intervene in both because of decisions against it in lower courts,” Robert Barnes reports. “Also in both cases, the justices have previously allowed the administration to proceed with its plans while the merits of the issues were litigated.”
Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia is weakening worker protections amid the pandemic.
“Since the pandemic began, OSHA has received more than ten thousand complaints regarding unsafe conditions related to the virus,” the New Yorker’s Eyal Press reports. “It has issued just two citations under the General Duty Clause [which requires employers to create an environment ‘free from recognized hazards.’]. … Founded in 1970, OSHA has a budget less than a tenth the size of the Environmental Protection Agency’s. Limited resources, meek penalties, and fierce opposition from business interests have long inhibited OSHA’s ability to address the unsafe conditions that lead to the deaths of some five thousand workers on the job annually, with injuries sustained by nearly three million more. Nevertheless, there are ways OSHA can let companies know that willfully violating the law has serious consequences. One of these methods is negative publicity. In 2014, after four workers at a DuPont facility in Texas were exposed to carbon monoxide and died from suffocation, David Michaels, who directed OSHA under Barack Obama, declared, ‘Nothing can bring these workers back to their loved ones. … We here at Osha want DuPont and the chemical industry as a whole to hear this message loud and clear.’
“The statement was part of an initiative, launched under Obama, to shine a light on companies that behaved recklessly. … The Trump Administration summarily ended the policy. … OSHA has explicitly told employers that none of its Covid-19 recommendations impose new legal obligations.”
Pelosi set a Tuesday deadline for reaching a stimulus deal with the White House.
The speaker told ABC that there are still significant differences that divide her and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. “Pelosi’s on-again-off-again talks with Mnuchin over a deal costing between $1.8 trillion and $2.2 trillion have been dragging on for months without producing results. The window for action is narrowing fast. For the first time, Pelosi put a deadline on them, indicating that if no agreement can be struck by Tuesday, it will not be possible to produce a new relief deal by the election. Pelosi and Mnuchin spoke for 75 minutes on Saturday and agreed to speak again on Monday,” Erica Werner reports.
Israel ordered a second lockdown. It’s not going so well.
“After a nearly two-month national quarantine last spring — in which Israel’s 9 million residents largely complied with orders to stay home — autumn’s Lockdown II has proved to be far leakier and more contentious,” Steve Hendrix and Ruth Eglash report. “Whole neighborhoods and towns have openly ignored rules against gatherings at synagogues, weddings and funerals, particularly in Israel’s ultra-Orthodox religious communities. With workplaces and schools shut, parks are filled with families and exercise groups. Social media is rife with stories of citizens of all stripes blowing through the official 1,000-meter limit on trips from home, with many couching visits to friends or family as permitted grocery runs. … Faith in the government’s coronavirus response has collapsed, polls show.”
- For the third time in two weeks, Italy has tightened restrictions on daily life — allowing only table service in bars and restaurants after 6 p.m., among other small steps — in an attempt to slow a second wave. (Chico Harlan)
- South Africa’s health minister revealed that he and his wife tested positive for the virus, as the country’s tally of infections surpassed 700,000. (Farzan)
- With the virus under control, China’s economy surged 4.9 percent in the last quarter compared to last year. “The robust performance brings China almost back up to the roughly 6 percent pace of growth that it was reporting before the pandemic,” the Times reports.
The new world order
Trump has failed to keep the Islamic State under control, as attacks continue across Africa.
“On Aug. 5, militants carrying the black flag of the Islamic State launched a daring land-and-sea assault on the strategic port city of Mocimboa da Praia in northern Mozambique. In less than a week, they routed government forces and captured the entire town, declaring it the capital of a new Islamic province. Days later, a different band of Islamist gunmen rampaged through a famous wildlife park for giraffes in Koure, Niger, just 35 miles from the country’s capital. Firing from motorbikes, they killed eight people, including six French humanitarian workers. The two attacks on opposite sides of Africa are among the scores of violent episodes to shake the continent in what experts are calling a breakout year for extremist groups affiliated with al-Qaeda or the Islamic State,” Danielle Paquette, Souad Mekhennet and Joby Warrick report.
“Less than two years after the fall of the Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq, the terrorist group is attempting a comeback in Africa, with far-reaching implications for a region already beset by poverty, corruption and the novel coronavirus. At least three Islamist insurgencies are surging across broad swaths of territory, from the deserts of the Sinai, to the scrublands of the western Lake Chad basin, to picturesque Indian Ocean villages and resort islands in the Southeast. The spike in terrorist attacks mirrors a steady, if less dramatic, increase in Islamist violence in parts of Syria and Iraq, driven by Islamic State fighters who slipped away after the caliphate’s defeat and have now regrouped. …
“While Trump presided over the final phases of the U.S.-led military campaign to destroy the physical caliphate, the effort to contain the group and its violent ideology has faltered, according to current and former counterterrorism officials and independent analysts. The rise in violence comes as the Trump administration moves to slash U.S. troop deployments and threatens to curtail support for local governments on the front lines of the battle against Islamist militants. The White House is considering steeper cutbacks in U.S. military forces in Africa, despite warnings from some analysts that the reductions could further hamper efforts to check the extremists’ advance. ‘ISIS is not dead,’ said Robert Richer, the CIA’s deputy director of operations during the George W. Bush administration …
“Trump has championed his counterterrorism successes at nearly every campaign event, often referring to the Islamic State in the past tense. ‘We obliterated 100 percent of the ISIS caliphate,’ he said in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in August. But other officials say the threat has merely shifted to new regions and different forms. In the 18 months since the fall of the Islamic State’s last Syrian stronghold, the group’s African affiliates have seen dramatic gains in territory and recruits, as well as in firepower, according to a study published in August in CTC Sentinel, a journal published by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.” (Read the study.)
Trump’s tweets about pulling out of Afghanistan have emboldened the Taliban.
“The Taliban, facing international condemnation for a 10-day assault in southern Helmand province, is accusing the U.S. military of violating their February accord by carrying out ‘excessive’ aerial attacks and bombings in recent days,” Pamela Constable reports. “In a statement Sunday, the insurgents played down their own attack on areas around Helmand’s provincial capital, which has forced thousands of villagers to flee their homes and left scores hospitalized. The assault has aroused public alarm and anger, leading many Afghans to question why their government is holding peace talks with the Taliban, especially as the insurgents are hardening their negotiating position after President Trump said he wanted to withdraw all U.S. troops by year’s end.
“The Taliban delegates to the talks in Doha welcomed Trump’s announcement and publicly wished for his reelection … It was soon after Trump’s announcement that the Taliban launched the assault in Helmand, triggering accusations that they had violated the U.S. accord and jeopardized the entire peace process. U.S. officials appealed to the Taliban last week to stop, then met with its leaders in Doha to try to salvage the deal they spent 18 months negotiating.”
- Two senior U.S. officials visited Damascus in August for secret talks about the fate of missing American journalist Austin Tice, sanctions and the U.S. military presence in Syria, in rare high-level negotiations, according to a newspaper aligned with the Syrian government. “According to the report in Al Watan newspaper, U.S. Ambassador Roger Carstens, an envoy for hostage affairs, and Kash Patel, a top White House counter-terrorism advisor, met with Ali Mamlouk, the head of Syria’s intelligence agency, in his office in Damascus,” Sarah Dadouch reports.
- Trump has reduced admission to the country for refugees who assisted our troops. “The Trump administration had reserved 4,000 slots for Iraqi refugees who had helped American troops, contractors or news media or who are members of a persecuted minority group in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. It ultimately admitted only 161 Iraqis — or 4 percent — to the United States, the lowest percentage of the four categories of refugees the administration authorized for resettlement last year,” the Times reports.
- U.S. lawmakers want Egypt’s Abdel Fatah al-Sissi to release prisoners. “In a letter to be sent on Monday, 56 lawmakers detail several cases of what they say is unjust imprisonment and raise concerns of covid-19 spreading in Egypt’s jails. They urge Sissi to release those ‘unjustly detained for exercising their fundamental human rights,’” Sudarsan Raghavan reports. “The letter is signed by 55 Democrats and independent Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.). Trump once called Sissi his ‘favorite dictator.’ His administration has been mostly silent, at least publicly, about abuses under Sissi’s rule.”
- Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny told the New Yorker that he has evidence that he was poisoned with Novichok: “You can’t just go and use it. If I give you some Novichok and tell you to go kill someone with it, you are going to kill yourself and the people around you and probably not the person you are targeting. You have to be trained to use it. This definitively changes our picture of what happens inside the Kremlin, and now we have proof.”
Socialists claim a massive victory in Bolivia, one year after being ousted.
“Exit polls issued early Monday showed Bolivia’s Socialists taking a seemingly insurmountable lead in the country’s bitterly fought presidential election, a result that, if confirmed by the official tally, would amount to a massive popular rebuke of the right-wing forces that drove the left from power a year ago,” Monica Machiaco and Anthony Faiola report. “Sunday’s much-delayed election was a do-over of last year’s contest. That vote ended with longtime socialist President Evo Morales fleeing to exile as opponents alleged electoral fraud and supporters decried a ‘coup.’ Morales, banned from running this time, watched from Argentina as his former finance minister, front-runner Luis Arce, 57, faced two main competitors with the objective of stopping a socialist comeback.”
Social media speed read
The wife of Alex Vindman, the Purple Heart winner purged from the Trump White House after testifying as part of the impeachment inquiry about Trump’s alleged coercion of Ukraine, took issue with Lara Trump saying the president was just having fun when he said “lock them up”:
Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.) called out Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) for claiming that he privately opposed Trump diverting money from the military budget for the border wall:
Videos of the day
John Oliver discussed how Trump’s plans to withdraw the U.S. from the World Health Organization could have dire consequences:
The cold open of “Saturday Night Live” mocked the NBC and ABC town halls: