The Daily 202: Trump is ‘tired’ of talking about covid-19. But he cannot avoid the virus. And he cannot help himself.

In an open letter, Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien argued that this will mean there is insufficient discussion about foreign policy, which in normal times has been a focus of one of the three presidential debates. Stepien wrote, without evidence, that Joe Biden, who served eight years as vice president and chaired the Foreign Relations Committee during his 36 years in the Senate, is “desperate to avoid conversations about his own foreign policy record.”

As the United States recorded more than 58,000 new coronavirus infections on Monday, and the death toll passed 220,000, Stepien’s letter sure made it sound like Trump is desperate to avoid conversations about his own coronavirus record. It came as the president suggested to a packed rally in Arizona, where supporters were crowded shoulder to shoulder, that Americans are no longer interested in or willing to take precautions to slow the spread of the contagion as he falsely claimed that the country is “rounding the turn.”

“They’re getting tired of the pandemic — aren’t they? You turn on CNN. That’s all they cover: ‘Covid, covid, pandemic. Covid, covid, covid,’” the president said. “They’re trying to talk people out of voting. People aren’t buying it, CNN, you dumb bastards.”

Trump spent the weekend attacking Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) over her coronavirus lockdowns in a battleground state where she is more popular than him. The president spent Monday going after Anthony Fauci after the government’s top infectious-disease expert said during an interview that aired Sunday on CBS’s “60 Minutes” that he was “absolutely not” surprised that the president contracted covid-19 based on the way he was behaving.

During a conference call for campaign staffers that was intended to be a pep talk, which he dialed into from his hotel room in Nevada and which reporters were invited to join, Trump called Fauci a “disaster.”

“People are tired of covid,” Trump said. “People are saying, ‘Whatever, just leave us alone.’ People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots. … He’s been here for, like, 500 years. … Every time he goes on television, there’s always a bomb, but there’s a bigger bomb if you fire him.”

Polls show that Fauci is far more trusted than Trump as a source of information about the coronavirus, and most Americans remain quite worried about getting it and disapprove of the president’s handling of the crisis. It seemed like what Trump meant is that he personally is “tired of covid.” 

But Trump, always eager to be a counterpuncher, wound up spending most of the day attacking Fauci. This only drew more attention to how much the government’s key scientists disagree with his approach and spotlighting the den of dissent that exists inside the White House coronavirus task force. With Election Day two weeks away, it is difficult to see how picking such a fight will help the president turn the tide of a race in which he continues to trail. 

Trump mocked Fauci on Twitter for throwing an embarrassingly off-base ceremonial first pitch at Opening Day for the Washington Nationals. The 74-year-old made a dated reference to the late Bob Hope to complain that Fauci is on television too much. When he landed in Arizona for the first of two events, he held court with reporters about Fauci on the tarmac. “I like him, but he’s called a lot of bad calls,” the president said.

Quote of the day

“I’m not running scared,” Trump told reporters in Arizona. “I think I’m running angry.”

Trump is expected to do three or four rallies a day starting this weekend, Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey report. “Senior advisers to the president say they still want the closing message to be about the economy and what they say would be the negative effects of a Biden victory, with a campaign focus on Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina and Florida. They see the coronavirus — and the president’s handling of the pandemic — as their biggest political weakness, and Biden’s top advisers agree. But Trump continues to call attention to the outbreak.”

Even if Trump could maintain message discipline, four polls illuminate why he cannot change the subject: 

1) Approval for Trump’s handling of the virus is closely tied to his share of the vote.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll of North Carolina, released this morning, shows Biden at 49 percent and Trump at 48 percent. The head-to-head numbers are closely linked to perceptions of the president’s job performance and handling of the pandemic. Trump’s approval rating is 47 percent. “Registered voters in North Carolina disapprove of the way the president has dealt with the crisis, by 53 percent to 45 percent, with 47 percent saying they strongly disapprove. But overall, they are notably less critical of the president on this issue than the country as a whole. Among likely voters in North Carolina who approve of how Trump is handling the coronavirus outbreak, 95 percent support Trump; among those who disapprove, the same percentage support Biden,” per Dan Balz, Scott Clement and Emily Guskin.

2) Fauci is far more trusted than Trump.

A large national poll released Monday by the Public Religion Research Institute asked Americans how much they trust eight potential sources of information about the pandemic. Reflecting the country’s polarization, only one is trusted “a lot” by a majority of Americans. Fauci is second on the list, trusted a lot by 49 percent of the country. Trump was last: Only 14 percent said they trust Trump a lot to provide accurate information and advice regarding the pandemic.

Also reflecting polarization, only 39 percent of Republicans said they consider the coronavirus a “critical issue,” compared with 85 percent of Democrats. “Republicans and Democrats seem to be living in different countries,” said PRRI chief executive Robert Jones.

3) The trust deficit has taken a toll. People don’t accept Trump’s claims about the virus. 

A New York Times-Siena College poll out this morning shows Biden leading Trump by nine points among likely voters. Biden is favored to lead on combatting the coronavirus by 12 points. A 51 percent majority of voters said they believe that the worst of the pandemic is yet to come, compared with 37 percent who say they think the worst is over. 

“Among voters over 65, a bloc that has drifted away from Mr. Trump, the difference was even starker: Fifty-six percent said they worried the worst was still to come, and only 29 percent said the opposite,” Alex Burns and Jonathan Martin report. “Even more striking was the disconnect between Mr. Trump’s cavalier approach toward wearing a mask to guard against the virus and the broad support to mandate the practice in public. Voters supported mandatory mask-wearing, 59 percent to 39 percent over all, and among women support for a mandate grew to 70 percent. Among voters over 65, 68 percent favored it, and even about 30 percent of Republicans said they backed a nationwide requirement. There was also hesitation on taking an eventual vaccine for the coronavirus, with 33 percent saying they would definitely or probably not take a vaccine after it was approved by the F.D.A.”

4) The pandemic is taking an emotional toll on Americans that jobless rates cannot pick up.

A new poll by the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the Associated Press, in collaboration with the software company SAP, found that 7 in 10 workers American workers cite juggling their jobs and other responsibilities amid the contagion as a source of stress. “Fears of contracting the virus also was a top concern for those working outside the home,” the AP notes. “Fifty percent of women call the pandemic a major source of stress in their lives, compared to 36% of men. Sixty-two percent of Black workers and 47% of Hispanic workers say it is, compared to 39% of white workers. 

“Jamelia Fairley, a single mother who works at a McDonald’s in Florida, said managers initially told her to make masks out of coffee filters and hairnets. Although she now gets protective gear, she said workers often have to serve customers who refuse to wear masks. … Federal labor figures point to a trend of working-age women, particularly Black and Hispanic women, increasingly dropping out of the labor force amid a child care crisis caused by school and daycare closures. … The poll finds 28% of workers report working fewer hours since the pandemic hit, which could be because they are juggling responsibilities or because employers have cut back their hours. Among Black workers, the number rises to 38%.”

A few hours after the Trump campaign released its letter calling for the debate to focus on foreign policy, the bipartisan commission announced that it will mute Trump’s and Biden’s microphones during parts of Thursday’s debate at Belmont University. Each man will get two minutes to speak uninterrupted at the start of each of the six segments. Their opponent’s mic will be cut in that window to minimize the sorts of Trump interruptions that made the Cleveland debate so messy. There will then be an 11-minute period of “open discussion” where Trump and Biden can mix it up until the start of the next segment.

High school debaters do not need this sort of enforced timekeeping, but apparently the president does. The Trump campaign strongly opposes doing it this way, but the president has little leverage. He already pulled out of the second debate after the commission announced it would be virtual in the wake of his three-day hospitalization at Walter Reed. Trailing in the polls, Trump needs this debate to take place more than Biden does. It’s his last big opportunity to change the trajectory of the race. Stepien responded with a statement saying Trump is “committed” to debating Biden “regardless of last minute rule changes.” 

Politically, the president’s attack on Fauci makes little sense. Substantively, it doesn’t really add up either. Trump claims that hundreds of thousands of more people would have died if he had listened to Fauci, suggesting that he wanted to be more aggressive than the public health experts, while simultaneously arguing that Fauci wanted too many restrictions to mitigate the spread of the disease, which he claims would have been a cure worse than the disease that pushed the country into a depression. Both cannot be true.

Biden seized on Trump’s attacks against Fauci:

A few Republicans rallied to the doctor’s defense, as well, including retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Senate Health committee. “Dr. Fauci is one of our country’s most distinguished public servants. He has served six presidents, starting with Ronald Reagan,” Alexander said in a statement. “If more Americans paid attention to his advice, we’d have fewer cases of covid-19, and it would be safer to go back to school and back to work and out to eat.”

More on the coronavirus

Since May, 8 million Americans have plunged into poverty. 

That’s according to Columbia University researchers. They found that the Cares Act, which gave Americans a one-time stimulus check of $1,200 and unemployed workers an extra $600 each week, helped offset growing poverty rates in the spring, but its effects were short-lived. The federal government defines the poverty line as when a family of four earns $26,200 a year or less. The Columbia researchers say that the number of Americans in this category is now 55 million. “After aid diminished toward the end of summer, poverty rates, especially those among minorities and children, rebounded,” NBC News reports. “The results of the Columbia study are underscored by another recent study published by the University of Chicago and the University of Notre Dame, which found that within the last three months alone, 6 million Americans entered poverty.” 

Nancy Pelosi cites some progress in talks, as her self-imposed deadline looms.

The House speaker said on MSNBC that the Trump administration had agreed to language the Democrats demanded relating to addressing racial disparities in the virus’s impact. “Her chief interlocutor from the Trump administration is Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who is traveling in the Middle East. He and Pelosi spoke for roughly and hour on Monday and are expected to talk again. Trump seemed to downplay chances for an outcome,” Erica Werner and Jeff Stein report.

The Fed is sitting on a mountain of untapped funds.

“Hundreds of billions of dollars already set aside by lawmakers to support the Federal Reserve’s emergency aid programs may never be touched, illustrating the unevenness of Congress’s bailout decisions from earlier this year,” Rachel Siegel and Stein report. “In March, Congress allotted $454 billion to the Treasury Department to support the central bank’s emergency lending programs, including those for struggling businesses and local governments. Of that pot, only $195 billion has been specifically committed to cover any losses the Fed might take, including through loans that companies fail to repay. … Federal Reserve and Treasury Department officials say there are ways the money could be repurposed to more directly reach businesses and workers but say they cannot do so without congressional approval.”

The CDC finally recommends that passengers wear masks on planes, buses and public transit.

The guidance was issued in response to pressure from the airline industry, but the recommendations fall short of what transportation industry leaders and unions have sought. The CDC previously drafted an order under the agency’s quarantine powers that would have required all passengers and employees to wear masks on all forms of public transportation, but that order was blocked by the White House, per Lena Sun, Michael Laris and Lori Aratani.

  • TSA screened 1,031,505 travelers on Sunday, the first time since March 17 that airport security nationwide has seen more than 1 million daily passengers. (Shannon McMahon
  • A Texas woman in her 30s died of covid-19 on a plane scheduled to go from Arizona to Texas in July. She passed away while the plane sat on the tarmac. (BuzzFeed)
  • D.C. public health officials added eight states – including Arizona, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania – to the city’s list of locations considered “high-risk” for travel, raising the total number of states under the designation to 39. (Michael Brice-Saddler, Rachel Chason and Dana Hedgpeth)
  • The New Yorker suspended writer Jeffrey Toobin after he inadvertently exposed himself during a Zoom call with colleagues. “The magazine, which has employed Toobin since 1993, did not comment further about the nature of the incident or the length of the suspension. He will also be absent from his longtime television home, CNN, which employed him as chief legal analyst, amid the incident,” Jeremy Barr reports.

Large school districts are opening their doors again. 

“In many cities, coronavirus infection rates are rising, which could prompt school leaders to change their plans. Some classrooms and even entire schools have opened and had to close again in response to outbreaks. In some cities, opposition from teachers unions has slowed efforts to open buildings. But overall, the trend is now toward more in-person school. Of the 50 biggest school districts, 24 have resumed in-person classes for large groups of students, and 11 others plan to in the coming weeks,” Laura Meckler and Valerie Strauss report. “Four more have opened, or plan to open, for small groups of students who need extra attention. Many are in Florida and Texas, where Republican governors are requiring in-person classes, but schools are also open in New York City, Greenville, S.C., and Alpine, Utah, the state’s largest district. Returns are planned in Charlotte, Baltimore and Denver. Just 11 of the largest 50 school districts are still fully remote, with no immediate plans to change that.” 

  • Data show a surprisingly small number of positive cases among staff and schoolchildren in New York City three weeks into their in-person school year. “Out of 16,348 staff members and students tested randomly by the school system in the first week of its testing regimen, the city has gotten back results for 16,298. There were only 28 positives: 20 staff members and eight students,” the New York Times reports.
  • Turkey farmers fear they’ve bred too many big birds. The pandemic will entail smaller Thanksgiving and holiday gatherings – and more anxious first-time cooks – which means the Butterball hotline is primed to field a flock of queries and demands for lighter turkeys. (Laura Reiley)

British scientists will launch the world’s first human challenge trials for covid-19.

They will infect healthy volunteers with the virus in the hope of further speeding the way to a vaccine. The research, led by Imperial College London scientists, is a gutsy gambit, given that people will be submitting themselves to the virus with no surefire treatment. Volunteers will be given a laboratory-grown strain of the live virus while quarantined in a secure unit at the Royal Free Hospital in London, where they will undergo daily, even hourly, tests. The initial phase of the study will seek to determine the minimal amount of virus necessary to cause an active, measurable infection. (William Booth and Carolyn Johnson)

  • California will not distribute any coronavirus vaccine approved by the federal government until it has conducted its own independent review, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said. (Antonia Farzan)
  • “Researchers have been presenting their results online or sending them directly to media outlets rather than awaiting publication in prestigious academic journals. And the stodgy process of peer review has evolved into forthright — and sometimes acrimonious — assessments in the unbridled atmosphere of the Internet,” Frances Stead Sellers reports. “The need for speed has put a spotlight on the messiness of the scientific process, in which breakthroughs are rare and single studies are typically just starting points or contributions to an evolving body of knowledge.”
  • Argentina became the fifth country to surpass 1 million cases, joining the United States, India, Brazil and Russia. (Farzan)

The voting wars

The Supreme Court denies a GOP request to stop an extended deadline for mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania.

“The justices’ action involved an arcane voting practice but carried outsize importance because of Pennsylvania’s pivotal role in the presidential election. It prompted a fierce battle between the state’s Democrats and Republicans. It also showed a precariously balanced Supreme Court, which has only eight members after the death last month of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and the potential importance of Trump’s nominee to replace her, Judge Amy Coney Barrett. The court was tied on the Republican request, which means the effort failed,” Robert Barnes reports. “The court’s four most conservative justices — Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh — said they would have granted the stay. But that takes five votes, which means Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. sided with liberal Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Neither side explained its reasoning, which often is the case with emergency requests. But the outcome underscored the decisive role Barrett could play if she is confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate — with a vote there expected as soon as next week. Trump has said he wants his nominee on the court in case it is split on litigation arising from the election.”

Legal wrangling continues in lower courts.

“Thousands of voters flocked to the polls throughout Florida on the state’s first day of in-person voting Monday despite heavy rain across the state, adding to evidence that Americans are unusually eager to cast ballots in this year’s presidential election,” Amy Gardner, Michael Majchrowicz and Lori Rozsa report. “In Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Sarasota, St. Petersburg and many other Florida communities, voters lined up before polls opened to cast their ballots in person at the first available moment. … With early voting underway across the United States and Americans casting ballots by mail at historic numbers, nearly 30 million have already voted with two weeks to go before Election Day, according to a tally by political scientist Michael McDonald of the University of Florida. That represents more than a fifth of the total turnout in 2016. … In North Carolina, a weeks-long dispute over mail ballots returned without a witness signature came to an end Monday, allowing county election administrators to resume the process to fix, or ‘cure,’ thousands of deficient ballots left in limbo as the state continues its early-voting period.”

  • A federal appeals court ruled that Texas can reject mail-in ballots over mismatched signatures without giving voters a chance to appeal. (Texas Tribune)

The Postal Service benches police officers responsible for protecting ballots.

“The agency’s unilateral order ended daily patrols meant to prevent robberies of blue collection boxes and mail vehicles, and has left letter carriers without escorts on unsafe routes in some of the nation’s biggest cities, according to interviews with police officers and union representatives opposed to the change and a copy of the directive,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “Mail thieves, in the past, often targeted mail for credit cards and checks. Now, the postal police officers said the fear is that thieves also will get ballots, which could be ditched.”

  • Firefighters in Baldwin Park, Calif., said someone purposely tossed a burning newspaper into a ballot box. Investigators are now looking for the person who set the drop box on fire, which potentially compromised dozens of votes. (ABC7)

Some workers feel their boss is trying to coerce them into voting for Trump.

George Daniels, the president of Orlando-based Daniels Manufacturing Corporation, wrote a letter placed in pay stub envelopes that said some employees might lose their jobs if Trump loses the election, WESH 2 News in Orlando reported. “The incident prompted mixed reactions among the employees and raised questions over the appropriateness of the message. It was seen by some workers as an attempt to coerce their votes. Several of the company’s employees told the local TV channel that they felt intimidated and offended by the letter,” Paulina Villegas reports“Federal campaign finance records show Daniels has made contributions of hundreds of thousands of dollars to Trump’s campaign and the political action committees supporting him … In July, for instance, Daniels donated $100,000 to the super PAC Club for Growth Action … A Trump 2020 flag can be seen flying at the entrance to the Daniels Manufacturing facility.”

  • Black women are running for office in historic numbers, but they’re not getting the financial support they need. Data from the Center for Responsive Politics shows that the 113 active Black women candidates running on all tickets raised nearly $81 million in the first three quarters compared to the nearly $811 million raised by their 379 active White women counterparts. (The Lily)
  • Gov. Ralph Northam (D) called for an investigation into the Virginia Military Institute. “The governor, who graduated in VMI’s Class of 1981, co-wrote a letter to the college’s Board of Visitors informing it that the state will fund an independent probe into the school’s treatment of its Black students,” Ian Shapira reports. “His action followed a Post story detailing a lynching threat, Klan reminiscences and Confederacy veneration at the Lexington school, whose cadets fought and died for the slaveholding South during the Civil War.”
  • A trial will determine the fate of Northam’s effort to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee. The suit hinges on a deed the state legislature accepted in 1889 promising to protect the memorial forever. The state attorney general argued that the case is moot because the General Assembly adopted language in the state budget Friday night that sets aside money to take down the statue and repeals the original resolution accepting the deed, Gregory Schneider reports.
  • White communities and private companies prospered off George Floyd’s imprisonment while he withered. (Cleve Wootson)

House Republicans are acting increasingly desperate in their ads.

“In Pennsylvania, where Democrat Eugene DePasquale is poised to oust Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), the National Republican Congressional Committee put up an ad on Oct. 13 attacking DePasquale — for his Italian name. ‘Eugene DePasquale: Tough to spell,’ the announcer intones,” columnist Dana Milbank reports. “In Nebraska, where Democrat Kara Eastman is positioned to defeat a Republican incumbent, an ad by the Congressional Leadership Fund — the House GOP super PAC — shows the Democrat’s head superimposed over a raw steak. It accuses her of plotting to ‘get rid of farting cows’ … Eastman, in a meeting with supporters, had said Republicans are ‘attacking me like crazy. There’s fliers going out to everybody in the district that I’m a radical socialist.’ The CLF cut out all the words except ‘I’m a radical socialist’ and uses that phrase in the ad. …

“In Texas, where Democrat Sri Preston Kulkarni has a good shot to flip a Republican seat, the CLF attacks him for attending ‘notorious desert drug parties.’ The ‘drug party’ in question? The annual Burning Man arts festival, attended by tens of thousands. One Republican congressional nominee in Virginia slams his son to a wrestling mat and repeatedly pins him to show he’ll ‘put liberal ideas in a headlock.’”

Adm. Bill McRaven (Ret.), who oversaw the raid that killed Osama bin Laden as head of U.S. Special Operations Command from 2011 to 2014, voted for Biden: “The world no longer looks up to America,” McRaven writes in an op-ed for the WSJ. “Truth be told, I am a pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, small-government, strong-defense and a national-anthem-standing conservative. But, I also believe that black lives matter, that the Dreamers deserve a path to citizenship, that diversity and inclusion are essential to our national success … Most important, I believe that America must lead in the world with courage, conviction and a sense of honor and humility.”

There’s a bear in the woods

The U.S. charges six Russian intelligence officers in several high-profile cyberattacks.

These include the disruption of Ukraine’s power grid and the release of a mock ransomware virus that caused billions of dollars in damage, Ellen Nakashima and Devlin Barrett report. The alleged hackers are members of the GRU – the same military intelligence agency previously charged in connection with efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. Authorities allege that the group also leaked hacked emails of individuals involved in French President Emmanuel Macron’s 2017 campaign, targeted the organizations investigating the poisoning of Russian operative Sergei Skripal and hacked computers supporting the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea in retaliation for the Russian doping scandal being exposed. (Read the indictment.)

  • “No country has weaponized its cyber capabilities as maliciously and irresponsibly as Russia, wantonly causing unprecedented collateral damage to pursue small tactical advantages and to satisfy fits of spite,” Assistant Attorney General John Demers said in announcing the indictment.
  • “Time and again, Russia has made it clear they will not abide by accepted norms and instead they intend to continue their destructive and destabilizing cyber behavior,” said FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich.

The Trump administration may be covering up Russian attacks on CIA officers and U.S. diplomats.

If you read only one story today, make it this bone-chilling piece in the New York Times: “The strange sound came at night: a crack like a marble striking the floor of the apartment above them. Mark Lenzi and his wife had lightheadedness, sleep issues and headaches, and their children were waking up with bloody noses — symptoms they thought might be from the smog in Guangzhou, China, where Mr. Lenzi worked for the State Department. But air pollution could not explain his sudden memory loss, including forgetting names of work tools. What began as strange sounds and symptoms among more than a dozen American officials and their family members in China in 2018 has turned into a diplomatic mystery spanning multiple countries and involving speculation about secret high-tech weapons and foreign attacks. One of the biggest questions centers on whether Trump administration officials believe that Mr. Lenzi and other diplomats in China experienced the same mysterious affliction as dozens of diplomats and spies at the American Embassy in Cuba in 2016 and 2017, which came to be known as Havana Syndrome. … 

“While the officers in Cuba were placed on administrative leave for rehabilitation, those in China initially had to use sick days and unpaid leave, some officers and their lawyers say. And the State Department did not open an investigation into what happened in China. The administration has said little about the events in China and played down the idea that a hostile power could be responsible. But similar episodes have been reported by senior C.I.A. officers who visited the agency’s stations overseas, according to three current and former officials and others familiar with the events. That includes Moscow, where Marc Polymeropoulos, a C.I.A. officer who helped run clandestine operations in Russia and Europe, experienced what he believes was an attack in December 2017. Mr. Polymeropoulos, who was 48 at the time, suffered severe vertigo in his hotel room in Moscow and later developed debilitating migraine headaches that forced him to retire.

“The cases involving C.I.A. officers, none of which have been publicly reported, are adding to suspicions that Russia carried out the attacks worldwide. Some senior Russia analysts in the C.I.A., officials at the State Department and outside scientists, as well as several of the victims, see Russia as the most likely culprit given its history with weapons that cause brain injuries and its interest in fracturing Washington’s relations with Beijing and Havana. … Critics say disparities in how the officers were treated stemmed from diplomatic and political considerations, including the president’s desire to strengthen relations with Russia and win a trade deal with China. … (Russia’s) intelligence operatives have seeded violence around the world, poisoning enemies in Britain and fueling assaults on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union bombarded the American Embassy in Moscow with microwaves. In a 2014 document, the National Security Agency said it had intelligence on a hostile country using a high-powered microwave weapon to ‘bathe a target’s living quarters in microwaves,’ causing nervous system damage. The name of the country was classified, but people familiar with the document said it referred to Russia. Several of the cases against the C.I.A. affected senior officers who were traveling overseas to discuss plans to counter Russian covert operations with partner intelligence agencies, according to two people familiar with the matter. Some C.I.A. analysts believe Moscow was trying to derail that work.”

Fox News passed on the Hunter Biden story because of credibility concerns.

“Fox News was first approached by Rudy Giuliani to report on a tranche of files alleged to have come from Hunter Biden’s unclaimed laptop left at a Delaware computer repair shop, but the news division chose not to run the story unless or until the sourcing and veracity of the emails could be properly vetted,” Mediaite reports. “Giuliani ultimately brought the story to the New York Post, which shares the same owner, Rupert Murdoch. The tabloid has been exhaustively covering the contents of the laptop — which include everything from emails regarding Hunter Biden’s work for a Ukrainian company to personal photos of the recovering addict — with each morsel being amplified in the conservative media world, including on Fox News’ top-rated opinion programs.”

The FBI is examining the younger Biden’s laptop as part of a possible foreign disinformation operation. The investigation is at odds with Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe’s claims that the dissemination of materials from the computer was not part of a Russian disinformation campaign. Ratcliffe told Fox Business that “the intelligence community doesn’t believe that because there is no intelligence that supports that.” But a congressional source told the Daily Beast that the FBI has the laptop and is looking into the provenance of the material and whether the laptop dump was part of a disinformation effort. 

More than 50 former senior intelligence officials have signed on to a letter outlining their belief that the recent disclosure of emails allegedly belonging to Joe Biden’s son ‘has all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation,’Politico reports. “While the letter’s signatories presented no new evidence, they said their national security experience had made them ‘deeply suspicious that the Russian government played a significant role in this case’ and cited several elements of the story that suggested the Kremlin’s hand at work. … The former Trump administration officials who signed the letter include Russ Travers, who served as National Counterterrorism Center acting director; Glenn Gerstell, the former NSA general counsel; Rick Ledgett, the former deputy NSA director; … Cynthia Strand, who served as the CIA’s deputy assistant director for global issues.”

Social media speed read

Maine’s Democratic Party is paying for signs to link Sen. Susan Collins (R) with Trump:

ExxonMobil said its executives have not spoken with Trump after the president described a hypothetical situation in which he could shake down their CEO to get campaign contributions in exchange for drilling permits. The president said he could raise a billion dollars if he was willing to do that, but he insisted that he is not:

Trump’s former U.N. ambassador, laying the groundwork to run for president in 2024, campaigned in Montana with the Republican congressman who once assaulted a reporter on camera. Greg Gianforte is running for governor in what the Cook Political Report considers the only toss-up gubernatorial contest of the year:

Videos of the day

Seth Meyers is excited about Trump’s campaign promise to leave the country if he loses the election:

Stephen Colbert promised to help Trump pack: 

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Power Up: It’s a toss up in North Carolina races that are key to White House and Senate control

Former vice president Joe Biden is at 49 percent and President Trump is at 48 percent among likely voters:

The gap widens slightly among registered voters, with Biden is at 48 percent, Trump at 46 percent and third-party candidates a combined 3 percent.

In the Senate race, 49 percent of likely voters support Cal Cunningham (D) versus 47 percent who support Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.). And the gaps in both races are well within the survey’s 4.5 percentage-point margin of sampling error. 

  • Far more – 81 percent majority of registered voters – say that partisan control of the Senate is “extremely” or “very” important to their vote. That includes nearly 9 in 10 Democrats and Republicans as well as about 7 in 10 independents.
  • And a 56 percent majority say that Tillis’s support for Trump matters to them, including majorities of Republicans and Democrats and just under half of independents.

Trickle down: A GOP strategist close to the race told Power Up that the top of the ticket will ultimately determine who wins the down ballot in the state. “If Biden wins, Cunningham wins,” said the strategist, who acknowledged that Cunningham’s numbers are unlikely to “plummet so far that Tillis can outrun whatever happens with Trump.” 

Indeed, the poll shows the two races are closely aligned: 89 percent of likely voters in North Carolina are supporting the same party in both the presidential and Senate elections. Independents, meanwhile, split right down the middle in their support for Cunningham (48 percent) and Tillis (45 percent). 

  • “The president has desensitized voters to this sort of thing,” the Republican strategist said of the apparent indifference to Cunningham’s affair, noting that Republicans despite their concerted attacks to draw attention to the issue are also not tracking much pickup.
  • “It’s a Tillis problem, too,” the strategist continued. “He hasn’t done enough to separate himself from Trump or define himself. He was in a massive hole before this scandal and most Republicans and Democrats would have previously considered him a long-shot.”

While Cunningham’s personal approval ratings took a hit in the wake of revelations he exchanged illicit texts with a woman this summer, as seen in a New York Times/Siena College poll released last week, female voters have apparently not been turned off enough by the indiscretions to support his Republican opponent. Cunningham and Biden hold significant leads with women. 

  • “Cunningham is fueled by a 16 percentage-point advantage among female voters while Tillis holds a 14-point edge among men,” Scott and Dan report. “That gender gap is slightly wider than in the presidential race in North Carolina, where Biden leads by 11 points among women and Trump leads by 10 points among men.” 
  • When both candidates are disliked, the strategist added, the change candidate – Cunningham in this case – generally “benefits from the anti-status quo.”

North Carolina is a critical battleground: Republicans currently are defending their 53 to 47 majority in the Senate. Democrats need at least three seats to wrest control if Biden wins and four if Trump is re-elected since the vice president can break a tie.

And in the presidential, Trump won North Carolina by four percentage points in 2016 – it’s considered one of the more conservative leaning swing states of the batch. Without the state’s 15 electoral votes, the president’s path to 270 is far more difficult. 

Trump, whose approval rating among registered voters in North Carolina is 47 percent positive and 52 percent negative, is slightly above where it is nationally. 

But while North Carolina voters are also “notably less critical of the president” on the issue of the coronavirus than the country as a whole, our colleagues Dan, Scott, and Emily Guskin report, Trump’s handling of the pandemic still a vulnerability there. A majority of registered voters in North Carolina disapprove of the way Trump has handled the coronavirus crisis – 53 percent who disapprove versus 45 percent who approve. 

  • Biden is trusted to handle the coronavirus crisis over Trump (51 percent to 43 percent), while voters trust the president more to deal with the economy (51 percent to 45 percent):
  • “Biden’s margin on trust on the pandemic is smaller than nationally, while Trump’s margin on the economy is better than his national number,” our colleagues write.

The coronavirus diagnoses of both Trump and Tillis make the issue even more pronounced. The Times/ Siena poll released shows that Tillis and Trump both suffer from a trust deficit with likely voters.  

  • “Asked if they trusted the Trump administration to provide accurate updates about the president’s health after his positive coronavirus test, 41 percent of voters surveyed said they did and 52 percent said they did not. Even nine percent of Mr. Trump’s supporters in the state said they did not trust his administration to state true facts about his health,” per the New York Times’s Reid Epstein and Matt Stevens.
  • Tillis contracted the coronavirus after attending the reception for Trump’s Supreme Court pick, Amy Coney Barrett, at the White House earlier this month.

Then and now: Currently, Trump’s margins with white voters and likely senior voters over the age of 65 do not rival the lead he enjoyed against Clinton in 2016. “Trump holds a clear lead among white voters in North Carolina by a margin of 58 percent to 39 percent. Exit polls in 2016 showed Trump winning 63 percent of white voters compared with 32 percent for Hillary Clinton,” per Dan, Scott and Emily.

  • With seniors: “The president minimally tops Biden among likely voters age 65 and above by 55 percent to 45 percent, which is better than his standing among seniors nationally, where he and Biden are about even. His current margin is not as big as the 23-point margin he enjoyed against Clinton in 2016 in North Carolina.”

Yet Biden’s lead with non-White voters does not match Clinton’s 81-point lead over Trump in 2016 with that voting bloc. 

  • “Biden holds a lead of more than 50 points among all non-White voters and by 70 points among Black voters (84 percent to 14 percent). But that 70-point margin is less than Hillary Clinton’s 81-point margin over Trump in 2016, according to network exit polls.”
  • Biden is outperforming Clinton in other places: “Regionally, Biden is outperforming Clinton in the Raleigh/Durham triangle, by 68 percent to 30 percent, a 38-point margin that is larger than Hillary Clinton’s 22-point advantage there in 2016,” our colleagues write.

The people

THURSDAY’S DEBATE IS ON: Trump reaffirmed to reporters on Air Force One last night that he will participate in the final presidential debate in Nashville, but echoed his campaign’s complaints that it is “unfair.”

The debate on the debates (part 3): Trump and his allies have continued to attack NBC News’s Kristen Welker, the debate’s moderator, and his campaign manager Bill Stepien slammed the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates.

  • “Stepien — who mockingly referred to the nonpartisan commission as the ‘Biden Debate Commission’ in a tweet — claimed the commission had ‘promised’ that the Nashville debate would be about foreign policy and asked for it to discard the six subjects announced last week by Welker. They are ‘fighting covid-19,’ ‘American families,’ ‘race in America,’ climate change, national security and leadership,” the New York Times’s Michael M. Grynbaum reports. Past presidential cycles have included a foreign policy-focused debate, but such plans were not made this time around.

From the courts

SCOTUS DENIES GOP REQUEST ON MAIL-IN BALLOTS: “The Supreme Court last night allowed Pennsylvania election officials to count mail-in ballots received up to three days after Election Day, refusing a Republican request to stop a pandemic-related procedure approved by the state’s highest court,” Robert Barnes reports.

The high court tied 4-4 with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joining the court’s liberal justices: “Neither side explained its reasoning, which often is the case with emergency requests. But the outcome underscored the decisive role Judge Amy Coney Barrett could play if she is confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate — with a vote there expected as soon as next week,” our colleague writes.

  • Court watchers say this Democratic victory could be short lived: “It means that we have no guidance from the court as to when and whether a state Supreme Court can rely on a state Constitution when it expands or changes state voting rules in a presidential election,” Election law expert Rick Hasen writes in Slate. “This lack of guidance could be a huge problem in the two battleground states—North Carolina and Pennsylvania—with Democratic state Supreme Courts and Republican legislatures who could battle over any post-election voting rules.”

At the White House

TRUMP ATTACKS FAUCI: “Trump dismissed precautions to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus and attacked the nation’s top infectious-disease expert as a ‘disaster,’ arguing that people are getting tired of all the focus on [the pandemic],” Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey report.

  • Doubting the doc: “People are tired of hearing [Anthony S.] Fauci and all these idiots,” Trump said in a call with his campaign staff. He baselessly suggested that Fauci’s advice on how best to respond to the outbreak was so bad it would have led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands more people. “And yet we keep him,” Trump continued, calling in from his Las Vegas hotel. “Every time he goes on television, there’s always a bomb, but there’s a bigger bomb if you fire him. But Fauci is a disaster.”

A rank closing: “Trump aides said they had hoped the last-minute call with staffers would not become a story about the coronavirus,” our colleagues write. 

  • What the want the message to be: “Senior advisers to the president say they still want the closing message to be about the economy and what they say would be the negative effects of a Biden victory, with a campaign focus on Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina and Florida.”

Meanwhile, the president is mocking Biden for saying he would “listen to the scientists”: The former vice president’s campaign cut a digital ad highlighting the comments and poked back on Twitter.

On the Hill

PELOSI’S DEADLINE APPROACHES: “House Democrats and the Trump administration remained far apart in economic relief negotiations, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said there were signs of progress in the ongoing talks,” Erica Werner and Jeff Stein report.

  • Where things stand: “The two ‘continued to narrow their differences’ on Monday and ‘the speaker continues to hope that, by the end of the day Tuesday, we will have clarity on whether we will be able to pass a bill before the election,’ Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said on Twitter.” It’s unclear what he meant by “clarity” and what that might mean for the speaker’s self-imposed deadline of tonight for any relief plan to pass before Election Day.
  • Key quote: “There isn’t a single Democrat who could vote for a bill with those provisions,” Rep. Diana DeGette (Colo.) told fellow Democratic lawmakers on a conference call about the party’s opposition to the administration’s push for liability protections for businesses among other proposals.

Pelosi on why she wants a deal now:

It’s not even clear if a deal could get through Congress: “Republicans’ ‘natural instinct, depending on how big it is, and what’s in it, is probably going to be to be against it,’ Senate Majority Whip John Thune told reporters, Politico’s Burgess Everett and Marianne LeVine report. “I think we’re going to have a hard time finding 13 votes for anything.”

  • There’s a very odd dynamic at play: “It is quite unusual for the Trump administration to negotiate legislation that turns off most members of Congress in Trump’s own party. If all Senate Democrats supported the legislation, it would still need more than a dozen Republicans to clear the 60-vote threshold needed to overcome a filibuster.”

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is going his own way: He said senators will vote later today on a bill to replenish the Paycheck Protection Program and Wednesday on a much narrower $500 billion proposal that includes money for schools, vaccines, some new unemployment insurance and more.

In the media

Communities and companies made money off George Floyd’s imprisonment: “Floyd’s time in Bartlett State Jail only furthered his downward spiral. Behind its walls, Floyd found few opportunities to better himself, friends and relatives said, and the experience only exacerbated his depression, drug dependency and claustrophobia — the very issues that would play a role in the final moments of his life nearly a decade later,” Cleve R. Wootson Jr. reports from Bartlett, Tex. in the fourth installment of The Post’s “George Floyd’s America” series.

Trump’s lawyers and the DOJ are back in court today to block access to his tax records: “The Supreme Court this summer said the president is not immune from congressional investigation, but the justices put the subpoena on hold. The case is now back before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit for a more detailed review of Congress’s request to access Trump’s personal financial records held by his longtime accounting firm,” Ann Marimow reports.

New Yorker suspends writer Jeffrey Toobin after accidental Zoom exposure: “The magazine, which has employed Toobin since 1993, did not comment further about the nature of the incident or the length of the suspension,” Jeremy Barr reports.

  • “Toobin, who could not immediately be reached for comment, told, who first broke the story, in a statement that he ‘made an embarrassingly stupid mistake’ during the Zoom call. ‘I believed I was not visible on Zoom,’ he said. ‘I thought no one on the Zoom call could see me. I thought I had muted the Zoom video.’”

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The Daily 202: Trump’s attacks on Gretchen Whitmer help explain his struggles with women and in Michigan

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.”

The coronavirus

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:

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Power Up: ‘It’s a race issue.’ Black voters express deep skepticism election process will be fair

Hours-long lines and technical glitches at polling stations, skepticism about voting by mail, and a lack of trusted sources in politics or the media are all helping fuel a surge to vote, Black voters said in two focus groups last week conducted by an independent research firm. (Power Up was provided access to both hour-and-a-half long focus groups on the condition of anonymity because it yielded proprietary information sold to political organizations seeking to increase turnout of voters of color.) 

  • “It feels like our race as a whole people of color it feels like we’re all once again on the auction block of sorts and being misled intentionally so that we don’t go out and vote,” said Bradley, a young Black voter from Atlanta. “It all comes to educating our own selves and not relying on the news outlets and sociopath president.” 
  • Bradley was among the majority of voters in both focus groups who said they were feeling “very concerned” about the outcome of the election. After being read the lead of a CNN article about “early hiccups” in Georgia’s in-person voting, he said he would encourage people to turn out anyway and not to “believe in the hype and the games being played. That was our biggest error in 2016.” 

The two focus groups of Black voters from battleground states one comprised of men between the ages 35 and 55, the other of Millennial and Gen Z voters unanimously agreed that this is an extraordinarily consequential election. Many appeared very motivated to vote against President Trump. This election comes as Trump has been criticized for his handling the summer of protests against racism and bias in policing — and the coronavirus pandemic, which has taken a disproportionate toll on Black Americans who are nearly five times as likely to be hospitalized and twice as likely to die as Whites. 

In the session, the voters also expressed outrage about what they described as disparities in the voting system designed to make voting more challenging. The groups were asked directly if they felt they might ultimately be deprived of their right to vote due to race, in light of Amy Coney Barrett’s testimony last week, when she declined to say whether she believes voter discrimination exists in American on the basis of race. 

  • “We have these long lines in Georgia and places in the South and people waiting 10 and 12 hours to vote it is a race issue,” said Cameron, a young Black woman from South Florida, who is currently studying voting and voter suppression as a graduate student. 
  • When asked to describe why he is so concerned about the current status of the country, Kimothy, a middle-aged Black man from Pennsylvania, cited headlines that “should be very perplexing to voters” about various Republican efforts to limit absentee voting.
  • Yet Kimothy also blamed Democrats for not doing enough to stop it: “Everyone in power can push back and they aren’t — they’re just pushing fear onto people. There is no checks and balances for these people.”
  • By the numbers: “Black and Hispanic voters are less likely than White voters to say the voting process will be easy,” according to a Pew Research Center survey released last week. Sixty-eight percent of White voters say they expect voting to be “very or somewhat easy” compared to 55 percent of Black voters who say the same.

Many in the group also said they planned and preferred to vote in person despite the health risks because they’re worried about mail delivery and their absentee ballots not being counted. 

  • “If narrow results prompt a wave of post-Election Day ballot litigation, it could affect voters of color more than White voters,” reports our colleague Amy Gardner. Research by political scientist Dan Smith at the University of Florida found that the mail ballots of Black voters have been rejected at higher rates in past elections. And in North Carolina this fall, election officials have flagged the ballots of a disproportionate number of Black voters with errors that must be remedied to count.”
  • Communities of color tend to vote by mail at lesser rates, because of reasons including historical attachment to voting in person, but there are also communities that can’t reliably trust their mail and are not getting good mail service, Myrna Pérez, director of the Voting Rights & Elections program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, Business Insider’s Grace Panetta earlier this year. 

Civil rights activists are also concerned about disinformation dampening turnout. The recent felony charges in Michigan against right-wing operatives Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman for intimidating voters with inaccurate robocalls seemingly designed to discourage Black voters from casting their ballots by mail exemplify these concerns. 

Kristen Clarke, the president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, whose group is also suing the operatives, warned the challenge will be even bigger to distinguish between disinformation and real threats as voters head to the polls. “There are high anxiety levels about disinformation campaigns and voter intimidation efforts during early voting and on election day concerns about armed militia, etc.,” Clarke told Power Up. We need to be vigilant but need to be sure about responding to actual threats. 

  • “Voter suppression is alive and real,” Clarke told Power Up. “But it’s important that we not breathe life into [disinformation] efforts until we know they are actually having an impact and are very much real.” 
  • While Clarke is dedicated to ensuring potential efforts to suppress the vote don’t work, she also notes it can concerns have the opposite intended effect increasing turnout because Black voters see “the lengths people will go to in order to strip people of their voice.” 

HISTORIC EARLY VOTING TURNOUT: “As of Sunday, nearly 28 million Americans had cast ballots, according to Michael McDonald, a political scientist at the University of Florida. The number, equivalent to more than one-fifth of the overall turnout in 2016, suggests that Trump will have to make up a huge Democratic advantage on Election Day,” Amy 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.”
  • “So far, this year’s mobilization is on track to rival 2008, when historic levels of Black turnout helped propel Obama to the White House. Since [Hillary] Clinton’s lower performance among Black voters in 2016, Democrats have lamented whether a White candidate, including Biden, could ever attract the same level of support as Obama,” according to Amy.
  • Turnout numbers in states with available data show a surge of Black participation in the first few days of in-person voting. 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.”

Many voters in the focus groups also expressed a determination to vote this year despite their anxieties about the process. 

  • “The main reason I find it important to vote is because as a community we have a responsibility to vote and I find it counterintuitive that people complain about the presidency but then don’t go out and vote because they don’t know enough about the candidates or policies,” said Samuel, a young Black voter from Arizona. “I encourage everyone to read up and go out and vote because it’s the most important vote of our lifetime.”
  • “This year is different because of the president there’s a whole lot of racism at the forefront,” Eric from Michigan said about why he feels there is more at stake this year than previous elections. 

FOCUS ON GEORGIA: Voting-rights advocate Stacey Abrams has already raised the specter of voter suppression as long lines plague polling places in the state. However, local officials and others have urged patience, warning that it’s still too soon to judge the factors at play — especially amid a record high turnout: “More than 128,000 Georgians went to the polls Monday, a record for the first day of early voting in the state, according to the secretary of state’s office, per the Associated Press’s Kate Brumback.

  • “Election officials have limited resources — especially during the pandemic,” Rick Hasen, an election law professor at the University of California-Irvine, tweeted Monday night. “Great enthusiasm on the first day of voting leading to long lines does not necessarily mean there’s a systemic problem. Let’s give it a few days.” 

That being said, “the clogged polling locations in metro Atlanta reflect an underlying pattern: the number of places to vote has shrunk statewide, with little recourse,” Stephen Fowler of Georgia Public Broadcasting reports in partnership with ProPublica. “Although the reduction in polling places has taken place across racial lines, it has primarily caused long lines in nonwhite neighborhoods where voter registration has surged and more residents cast ballots in person on Election Day.”

  • “Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Shelby v. Holder decision in 2013 eliminated key federal oversight of election decisions in states with histories of discrimination, Georgia’s voter rolls have grown by nearly 2 million people, yet polling locations have been cut statewide by nearly 10%, according to an analysis of state and local records by Georgia Public Broadcasting and ProPublica. Much of the growth has been fueled by younger, nonwhite voters, especially in nine metro Atlanta counties, where four out of five new voters were nonwhite, according to the Georgia secretary of state’s office.” 
  • The changes have put the squeeze on nonwhite communities: “An analysis by Stanford University political science professor Jonathan Rodden of the data collected by Georgia Public Broadcasting/ProPublica found that the average wait time after 7 p.m. across Georgia was 51 minutes in polling places that were 90% or more nonwhite, but only 6 minutes in polling places that were 90% white,” Fowler reports. 

At the White House

Deborah Birx has had it: “She recently confronted Vice President Pence, who chairs the task force, about the acrimony,” our colleagues write. “Birx, whose profile and influence has eroded considerably since Atlas’ arrival, 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 declined to mediate the dispute: “He told Atlas and Birx to bring data bolstering their perspectives to the task force and to work out their disagreements themselves.”
  • She’s not alone either: “These days, the task force is dormant relative to its robust activity earlier in the pandemic. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, Birx, Surgeon General Jerome Adams and other members have confided in others that they are dispirited.”

Atlas has argued against expanding testing across the board: “Birx and Fauci have advocated dramatically increasing the nation’s testing capacity, especially as experts anticipate a devastating increase in cases this winter. They have urged the government to use unspent money Congress allocated for testing $9 billion, according to a Democratic Senate appropriations aide,” our colleagues write. 

  • Atlas has repeatedly squashed their efforts: He claims, our colleagues write, “young and healthy people do not need to get tested and that testing resources should be allocated to nursing homes and other vulnerable places, such as prisons and meatpacking plants.”

RED STATE GOVS RESIST RESTRICTIONS: “The coronavirus is hammering middle America this fall, with records shattered daily in states that had escaped the worst of the pandemic this spring and summer. Case numbers also are rising again in other states where the virus was thought to be under control after months of widespread illness,” Griff Witte and Tony Romm report.

  • But Republican governors aren’t changing their approach: “Instead, they preach the mantra of ‘personal responsibility,’ insisting that government interventions such as mask mandates or business restrictions are either unnecessary or harmful, and that people should be trusted to make their own decisions about how to keep themselves — and each other — healthy.”

Public health experts say this isn’t enough: “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,” our colleagues write.

On the Hill

PELOSI PUTS THE WHITE HOUSE ON THE CLOCK: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that an economic stimulus deal must be struck within 48 hours in order for Congress to pass legislation before Election Day, but she noted that significant differences still divide her and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin,” Erica Werner report.

Where things stand: “They have yet to come to terms on funding for cities and states, child care, tax credits for lower-income Americans, liability protections sought by Republicans and more. They have areas of agreement including aid to airlines and a new round of $1,200 stimulus checks to Americans,” our colleague writes.

  • It was thought that the two sides made progress on testing: “Mnuchin said Thursday he was prepared to accept Pelosi’s demands for a national strategic testing plan, subject to minor edits. But Pelosi said Sunday those edits turned out to be significant, including changing ‘shall’ to ‘may,’ ‘requirements’ to ‘recommendations’ and ‘a plan’ to ‘a strategy, not a strategic plan.’”

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Mitch McConnell is forging his own path: The Senate will be voting on Wednesday on a $500 billion bill, essentially the same legislation Democrats blocked last month. 

  • What’s in it: “Money for schools and health care, liability protections, small-business spending and enhanced unemployment insurance that is lower than the $600 weekly that expired July 31. It does not include new relief checks for individuals.”

The campaign

DEMS FRET WHILE LEADING: 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. 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,” Michael Scherer and Scott Clement report.

  • What Trumpland is feeling: “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.” 

Trump struggling with his closing argument: “In the week since he restarted in-person campaigning, Trump has continued to prove he is his own biggest impediment by drawing more attention to himself each day than to Biden,” the New York Times’s Jonathan Martin reports.

  • He once again put his party in awkward spots this weekend: “A new low point came on Saturday, when Trump held a rally in Muskegon, Mich., where he demanded that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) reopen the state and then said ‘lock them all up’ after his supporters chanted ‘lock her up!’ It was a stunningly reckless comment from a president whose own F.B.I. this month arrested 14 men who it said had been plotting to kidnap Whitmer and were captured on video with an array of weapons allegedly planning the crime.”

And on Sunday, Trump offered this bizarrely worded attack:

Biden has an aptly named misinformation fighting war room: “The effort, internally called the ‘Malarkey Factory,’ consists of dozens of people around the country monitoring what information is gaining traction digitally, whether it’s resonating with swing voters and, if so, how to fight back,” Matt Viser reports.

  • “The three most salient attacks the Malarkey Factory has confronted so far are claims that Biden is a socialist, that he is ‘creepy’ and that he is ‘sleepy’ or senile.’”

Trump’s senioritis: “Republicans have won the senior vote in the last four presidential elections,” the Wall Street Journal’s Aaron Zitner and Dante Chinni report. “This year, older voters are showing signs of having second thoughts about President Trump, one reason he is lagging behind Democratic nominee Joe Biden in polls of some of the most important battlegrounds.”

  • Key stat: “The president won seniors by 7 percentage points in 2016 but has trailed Biden by 10 points with that group all year in Wall Street Journal/NBC News polling.”

In the media

Federal judge strikes down Trump plan to slash food stamps for nearly 700,000 people: “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 pandemic,” Spencer S. Hsu reports.

Beijing says it’s bouncing back from covid: Chinese officials said “that gross domestic product expanded by 4.9 percent in the third quarter from a year earlier, putting China’s economy back toward its pre-coronavirus trajectory half a year after the pandemic gutted its economy,” the WSJ’s Jonathan Cheng report.

The Fall Classic is set: “Against all odds, the 2020 baseball season has made it to the World Series, and it arrived there Sunday night with an epic, sprawling Game 7 in the National League Championship Series that reminded everyone why the sport endured all the tumult of spring and chaos of summer amid a global pandemic,” Dave Sheinin writes from Arlington, Tex., where the Los Angeles Dodgers will take on the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night.

  • The Dodgers beat the Atlanta Braves 4-3, capping off their run as just the 14th team in history to come back from a 3-1 series deficit.

The LA Times’s sports front:

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Trump and Pelosi haven?t spoken in a year as grave crises grip the nation

“I wish you were a politician,” Pelosi shouted back, as she retold the story later that day at the Capitol.

After more clashes about the actual policy in Syria, Pelosi stood, pointed at Trump and told him what she thought. Then the Democrats left the White House, a moment captured and released by the official Trump photographer.

“Goodbye,” the president yelled, according to the notes of a Democrat present. “We’ll see you at the polls.”

That was the last time that the president and House speaker talked to each other, more than a year since the leaders of the executive and legislative branches have had direct communication. And now, in a little more than two weeks, Trump heads to the polls hobbled by his administration’s handling of the deadly coronavirus, incapable of cinching another round of economic relief that his advisers have pursued with Pelosi.

There’s no constitutional requirement for the president and the House speaker to act cordial toward each other, and history is littered with fractious relationships between the two posts, particularly when members from opposing parties head the two branches of the federal government.

Yet plenty of presidents have found ways to work with opposing congressional leaders in ways that signaled to the nation that politics did not always poison the well, particularly in matters of national or international crisis.

During the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, President John F. Kennedy brought Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen (R-Ill.) into close contact as the standoff grew more serious, elevating Dirksen’s stature and helping him defeat a Democratic challenger a few weeks later. In 2001, after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, President George W. Bush worked closely with Senate Majority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) on war resolutions and other anti-terrorism legislation.

And, in fall 2008, just before that presidential election, Bush brought Pelosi into the White House to craft a massive $700 billion rescue program for financial institutions.

Those moments reassured an anxious public that such grave crises could prompt leaders to set aside politics.

To be sure, in this current crisis, without Trump and Pelosi ever speaking, Congress came together and passed about $3 trillion worth of economic relief and health security funds with near bipartisan support.

Trump essentially outsourced those talks to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. But now, with at least 218,000 U.S. lives lost and millions out of work, talks on another relief package have run ashore.

Mnuchin’s hands are tied by a vast majority of Senate Republicans who do not want to spend another $1.5 trillion or more. Trump has previously held enough clout with his supporters that he could bend enough Republicans to his will, whenever he’s fully engaged on an issue.

So far, a few random tweets account for the president’s own effort on the issue.

In a contentious interview Tuesday, CNN news anchor Wolf Blitzer pleaded with Pelosi to reach a deal.

“When,” Blitzer asked, “was the last time you spoke to the president about this?”

“I don’t speak to the president,” she replied.

Instead, she said, she only speaks to “his representative,” usually Mnuchin and, for a couple weeks in the summer, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.

Presidential and congressional experts are hard pressed to find any similar historic dynamic. Ross Baker, distinguished congressional scholar at Rutgers University, settled on a particularly bleak moment in the nation’s history.

“How about this one: Andrew Johnson and Speaker Schuyler Colfax over reconstruction policies in the South, after the Civil War,” said Baker, who has done seven stints working for congressional leaders during academic sabbaticals over the past 45 years.

Johnson, originally a Democrat who joined Abraham Lincoln’s unity ticket in 1864, fought over the Republican speaker’s push for voting rights for freed enslaved people, helping lead to Johnson’s impeachment.

By the time of Trump’s tirade last October, Pelosi had already unleashed her committee chairs to begin the process that led to Trump’s impeachment last December, over his effort to pressure Ukrainian leaders to investigate his domestic political rivals, including Joe Biden.

But the White House meeting last October was unrelated to that. Trump had declared he would pull U.S. military operatives out of northern Syria, leaving the Kurdish forces, longtime allies, exposed to attacks.

By a sweeping 354-to-60 margin, the House condemned the policy decision and, after rebuffing requests for a briefing of the entire Congress, White House officials invited top leadership from the House and Senate to the Cabinet Room.

Instead, it quickly devolved into a shouting match and the Democrats decided to leave.

“It shook him up, melted him down and he behaved accordingly,” Pelosi told reporters upon returning to the Capitol that day. “Does that mean we can’t have future meetings? No. Just depends on the subject, I guess.”

At a rally in Dallas the next day, Trump accused Pelosi of having a “meltdown” and set in stone a relationship that would never recover.

“Crazy Nancy. That crazy Nancy, she is crazy,” Trump told supporters.

They have only been in the same room twice since, the first during the State of the Union address on Feb. 4. As is custom, Trump walked to the rostrum in the House chamber and handed a copy of his speech to Vice President Pence and Pelosi, who stuck her hand out for a handshake. He snubbed her.

Nearly 80 minutes later, after a hyperpartisan speech by Trump, Pelosi stood up and, on camera, tore her copy of the speech into shreds.

Two days later, after the Senate acquitted Trump in its impeachment trial, Trump used the normally somber National Prayer Breakfast as an excuse to accuse Pelosi, a practicing Catholic her entire life, of faking her prayers for the presidency, among other insults.

By early March, as the virus began its spread across the nation, Pelosi and Mnuchin became the negotiating partners, talking 20 times on a single day when the relatively modest second relief package was agreed to. Did she ever talk to Trump?

“There was no need for that,” she told The Washington Post on March 13. The day before, Trump refused to attend the St. Patrick’s Day luncheon with the Irish prime minister, because Pelosi was the host — the first president to skip the annual event since Bush in 2003, just as the Iraq War was starting.

Now, Pelosi and Mnuchin are deadlocked, despite 11 long negotiating phone calls so far in October, according to the speaker’s office. Any chance for more relief funds requires Trump’s engagement, but he has blamed her for blocking a deal.

But neither Trump nor Pelosi is about to pick up the phone.

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Gubernatorial Report Shorts (October 16, 2020): Missouri Governor | News & Analysis

Gubernatorial Report Shorts (October 16, 2020): Missouri Governor

by Jacob Rubashkin
October 16, 2020 · 2:27 PM EDT

Missouri. Mike Parson (R) ascended to governorship June 2018. This race remains Democrats’ one legitimate pickup opportunity of the cycle. State Auditor Nicole Galloway has…

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House Report Shorts (October 16, 2020) | News & Analysis

House Report Shorts (October 16, 2020)

October 16, 2020 · 2:28 PM EDT

6th District (Scottsdale and North Phoenix) Dave Schweikert, R, re-elected 55%.
Trump 52%. Strong performances at the top of the ticket from Joe Biden and Mark Kelly, the…

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The Daily 202: Town hall shows how deeply in denial Trump remains about coronavirus

A few hours later, during an NBC town hall in Miami, President Trump declared: “What we’ve done has been amazing, and we have done an amazing job, and it’s rounding the corner.”

Sadly, the president is wrong. The contagion is not in its last throes. Nor is this a regional crisis isolated to the Midwest. This is a national emergency.

More than 63,500 new cases were reported in the United States on Thursday, the highest number since July. “Forty-four states and the District of Columbia have higher caseloads than in mid-September,” Joel Achenbach and Jacqueline Dupree report. “During the past week, at least 20 states have set record seven-day averages for infections, and a dozen have hit record hospitalization rates. … The cumulative number of cases in the United States since the start of the pandemic is likely to surpass 8 million on Friday.”

One of the 8 million is the president himself. But Trump’s three-day hospitalization this month has not seemed to chasten or humble him. He downplayed the severity of his own illness, just as he publicly downplayed the lethality of the virus in the spring. Questioned by NBC’s Savannah Guthrie, the president declined to say whether he had taken a coronavirus test on the day of the first presidential debate, as required by the rules.

Quote of the day

“Possibly I did,” Trump said. “Possibly I didn’t.”

Trump said during his hour-long appearance that he supports wearing a mask but, in the next sentence, expressed skepticism about how effective they are at slowing the spread of the virus. The president falsely characterized a study to claim that people who wear masks still get the virus at about the same rate as those who do not wear them.

During a simultaneous town hall in Philadelphia, which aired live on ABC, Democratic nominee Joe Biden emphasized the value of masks and reiterated that he would urge local leaders to mandate them. “The words of a president matter — no matter whether they’re good, bad or indifferent, they matter,” Biden said. “When a president doesn’t wear a mask or makes fun of folks like me when I was wearing a mask for a long time, then people say: ‘Well, it must not be that important.’”

Back in Miami, Trump repeatedly declined to express any regret about any element of his handling of the pandemic. When asked how he would improve in a second term, Trump rejected the premise. “I’ve done a great job,” the president said. 

Most Americans apparently do not agree. A new NPR-PBS-Marist poll shows Biden ahead by 11 percentage points among likely voters nationally. “In an open-ended question, respondents were asked to describe the candidates in one word. For Trump, the word that stands out is ‘incompetent,’ while for Biden it is ‘honest,’” NPR reports. The president “has just a 43% job approval rating, and 47% of likely voters say they strongly disapprove of the job he’s doing. That means there are few undecided voters. In fact, in this survey, just 5% of voters are persuadable.”

The poll finds that 52 percent of likely voters describe Trump’s presidency as a “failure,” and 55 percent say they prefer Biden to handle the pandemic. “By a 71%-to-26% margin, likely voters view the coronavirus as a ‘real threat’ as opposed to it being ‘blown out of proportion.’ Republicans are split on this question, with 51% saying it’s blown out of proportion and 46% saying it’s a real threat,” per NPR. “Only 36% of likely voters say they trust what they’re hearing from Trump on the virus a great deal or a good amount; 63% say they don’t trust what they hear from the president very much or not at all. Almost two-thirds — 63% — say it would be a good idea to impose a national mask mandate. That includes almost 9 in 10 Democrats and two-thirds of independents. Two-thirds of Republicans think it would be a bad idea.”

Former New Jersey GOP governor Chris Christie released a statement Thursday saying he was “wrong” not to wear a mask, both during the Sept. 26 Rose Garden ceremony at which Trump announced Amy Coney Barrett as his Supreme Court nominee and in multiple debate preparation sessions with the president. “I believed that when I entered the White House grounds, that I had entered a safe zone, due to the testing that I and many others underwent every day,” Christie wrote. “I hope that my experience shows my fellow citizens that you should follow CDC guidelines in public no matter where you are and wear a mask to protect yourself and others.”

Christie contracted covid-19 and spent seven days isolated in the ICU of a New Jersey hospital. Now he is back home and convalescing. “It is something to take very seriously,” Christie said in the statement. “The ramifications are wildly random and potentially deadly. No one should be happy to get the virus and no one should be cavalier about being infected or infecting others. Every public official, regardless of party or position, should advocate for every American to wear a mask in public, appropriately socially distance and to wash your hands frequently every day. At the same time, we should be reopening in every corner of this nation under these guidelines.”

Guthrie asked Trump about Christie’s statement. “Well, I mean he has to say that,” the president said. “He’s a good guy, and wrong or not wrong, you have to understand, as president, I can’t be locked in a room someplace for the next year and just stay and do nothing.”

Guthrie told Trump that no one is suggesting he should stay in the basement of the White House. She noted that masks are not required at his rallies. “We’re a winner on the excess mortality,” Trump said. “We were expected to lose 2,200,000 people and maybe more than that.” (Guthrie noted that that this estimate was a worst-case scenario based on what might happen with no efforts whatsoever to mitigate the spread of the virus.)

During a telephone town hall with his constituents on Wednesday night, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) accused Trump of mishandling the pandemic from the beginning. “He careened from curb to curb,” the Republican said. “First, he ignored covid. And then he went into full economic shutdown mode. He was the one who said 10 to 14 days of shutdown would fix this. And that was always wrong. I mean, and so I don’t think the way he’s led through covid has been reasonable or responsible, or right.”

Those comments were overshadowed because Sasse also faulted Trump for “the way he kisses dictators’ butts, … the way he treats women and spends like a drunken sailor.”

“He mocks evangelicals behind closed doors,” the senator said. “His family has treated the presidency like a business opportunity. He’s flirted with white supremacists.”

Audio of that town hall, which was first reported by the Washington Examiner, was confirmed as authentic by Sasse’s spokesman. “I’m now looking at the possibility of a Republican bloodbath in the Senate, and that’s why I’ve never been on the Trump train,” Sasse told his constituents. “We are staring down the barrel of a blue tsunami, and we’ve got to hold the Senate, and so that’s what I’m focused on.”

Other highlights from the town halls

In one of the most notable exchanges, [Trump] said he did not know about QAnon, a loose-knit online community that was recently banned from Facebook after sharing false stories, including ones about Democrats abusing children. Supporters of the group regularly appear with signs and apparel at Trump’s rallies. ‘They are very strongly against pedophilia, and I agree with that,’ he said,” Michael Scherer, Jenna Johnson and Josh Dawsey report. “He also refused to apologize for recently retweeting a false conspiracy theory that holds that the Obama administration faked the death of [Osama bin Laden] and may have orchestrated the murder of U.S. Special Forces personnel. He said it was a ‘retweet,’ suggesting he was not responsible for its accuracy. ‘You’re the president,’ Guthrie replied. ‘You’re not like someone’s crazy uncle who can retweet whatever.’ Trump responded by calling the media ‘so fake and so corrupt,’ and said he needed to rely on social media to ‘get the word out.’”

  • The woman who nodded and gave thumbs ups during the Trump town hall is a pro-Trump activist who ran a quixotic campaign for Congress in 2018. “We have your back! You see, you see you are the best,” Mayra Joli told the president after the event, per the Miami Herald.
  • The woman who said she liked the president’s smile during the town hall, and asked him about DACA, said afterward that she’s still leaning toward supporting Biden. “I think the man has a nice smile,” Paulette Dale, a registered Republican, told the Miami New Times. “However, I’m not a fan.” 
  • Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) welcomed the endorsement of congressional candidate and QAnon conspiracy believer Marjorie Taylor Greene. Standing alongside Greene, who has also posted racist and xenophobic videos, Loeffler said “no one in Georgia cares about this QAnon business.” (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
  • C-SPAN indefinitely suspended political editor Steve Scully, who was supposed to moderate the scrapped second debate, after he falsely claimed that his Twitter account had been hacked. (Elahe Izadi)

More on the coronavirus

White House meddling inside the CDC is even worse than previously known. 

“At 7:47 a.m. on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, Dr. Jay Butler pounded out a grim email to colleagues at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Butler, then the head of the agency’s coronavirus response, and his team had been trying to craft guidance to help Americans return safely to worship amid worries that … the chanting of prayers and signing of hymns … could launch [the] virus into the air,” ProPublica reports. “Days earlier, Butler and his team had suddenly found themselves on Trump’s front burner when the president began publicly agitating for churches to reopen. … Butler’s team rushed to finalize the guidance for churches, synagogues and mosques that Trump’s aides had shelved in April after battling the CDC over the language. In reviewing a raft of last-minute edits from the White House, Butler’s team rejected those that conflicted with CDC research … On Friday, Trump’s aides called the CDC repeatedly about the guidance, according to emails. ‘Why is it not up?’ they demanded until it was posted on the CDC website that afternoon. The next day, a furious call came from the office of the vice president: The White House suggestions were not optional. The CDC’s failure to use them was insubordinate, according to emails at the time. …

Interviews and documents show an insular, rigorous agency colliding head-on with an administration desperate to preserve the impression that it had the pandemic under control … Even when the CDC was not to blame, the Trump administration exploited events to take control of the agency’s messaging. … The CDC endured meddling on multiple fronts by officials with little or no public health experience, from Trump’s daughter Ivanka to Stephen Miller [and] a shifting and mysterious cast of political aides and private contractors — what one scientist described as young protégés of Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, ‘wearing blue suits with red ties and beards’ — crowded into important meetings about key policy decisions. … The most heated disputes involved an HHS mental health office that emphasized the role of schools as integral to the psychological well-being of children. … In August, the White House crafted new guidance from Trump. Titled ‘SCHOOLS SHOULD SAFELY REOPEN,’ it contradicted the CDC recommendations. … The CDC objected, but the White House published it anyway.”

CDC Chief of Staff Kyle McGowan had been Bob Redfield’s main political protector, but he ran out of moves: “McGowan had managed campaigns for Georgia Congressman Tom Price …  When Trump appointed Price as HHS Secretary, McGowan followed him. Six months after Price resigned, McGowan was named to the CDC post. … But McGowan and the CDC were often on the losing side. One of their prime tormentors was Michael Caputo, a political fixer handpicked by Trump himself to oversee communications at HHS. … Caputo began riding herd over CDC communications seen as conflicting with Trump’s political message. … McGowan reached his breaking point when Redfield asked him to stop the deportation of a dog, according to people who worked closely with him. In late June, a Peace Corps volunteer evacuated from West Africa was told that the rabies vaccine of her dog, a terrier mix named Socrates, was not valid. … McGowan spent an hour and a half on the phone with the HHS general counsel and other senior officials to figure out how to make an exception for a dog. All the while, he told colleagues, his mind kept returning to the fact that the same administration was using the CDC’s quarantine power to deport thousands of children at the border with Mexico. … McGowan resigned in August.”

The White House installed two political operatives inside the CDC in an attempt to control the flow of information and project a more positive outlook that is at odds with scientific evidence. The Associated Press reports that the two appointees, who have been there since June, have no background in public health. Their assignment is to keep an eye on Redfield, as well as on scientists, according to CDC and administration officials. When the two political appointees initially showed up to CDC headquarters in Atlanta, their roles were a mystery to senior staff. One of them, Nina Witkofsky, eventually became acting chief of staff. The other is her deputy, Chester Moeller, who sits in on meetings of scientists.

Young and healthy people may need to wait until 2022 for a vaccine. 

“People tend to think, ah, on the first of January or the first of April, I’m going to get a vaccine and then things will be back to normal,” said World Health Organization chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan in an online question-and-answer session on Wednesday. “It’s not going to work like that. There will be a lot of guidance coming out, but I think an average person, a healthy, young person, might have to wait until 2022 to get a vaccine.” 

“With an unprecedented global demand for a vaccine, governments and international organizations such as the WHO will have to work to ensure that people most at risk get priority,” Antonia Noori Farzan and Adam Taylor report. “Health-care workers and others on the front lines may go first, followed by the elderly or sick. The remaining healthy, young people waiting for a return to normal life may end up at the back of the line. ‘Vaccines are going to be available in the initial years in too small quantities to vaccinate the seven billion people we have across the globe today,’ Robin Nandy, the chief of immunization at UNICEF, said in an interview. ‘Vaccines will arrive in dribs and drabs.’”

  • The WHO warned death rates in continental Europe this winter could be five times as bad as the April peak. (Michael Birnbaum)
  • The group also said the anti-viral drug remdesivir, which Trump recently received, has little to no effect on coronavirus patients’ chances of survival. Gilead, which manufactures the drug, rejected the WHO’s findings as “inconsistent” with other studies. (BBC
  • Trump’s $200 drug discount cards face an uncertain path as the election-season idea is mired in uncertainty over whether the program is legal. HHS Secretary Alex Azar and Medicare administration Seema Verma have distanced themselves from the idea, claiming that they weren’t consulted by the White House. (Amy Goldstein)
  • A 13-year-old girl spread the coronavirus to 11 relatives across four states this summer, despite testing negative two days before a three-week family vacation, according to a CDC journal article. (Shannon McMahon)
  • An outbreak in Switzerland was blamed on two indoor yodeling shows that 600 people attended last month. (Antonia Farzan)
  • The president of the State University of New York at Oneonta has resigned after more than 700 students tested positive. (Farzan)
  • Negotiations to reopen D.C. public schools stalled because of objections from the teachers’ union. (Perry Stein)

More on the Trump agenda

Democrats threaten payback as Republicans schedule a vote for Amy Coney Barrett.

“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he would begin the full Senate consideration of Barrett’s nomination on Oct. 23 and confidently declared that his GOP majority, which he is at the risk of losing in next month’s elections, had enough support to confirm her,” Seung Min Kim and Karoun Demirjian report. “Democrats predicted a voter backlash against the GOP for confirming a conservative whose jurisprudence is the polar opposite of liberal icon Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg … During her nearly 20 hours of testimony over two days, Barrett declined to share her legal views on abortion rights, health care, voting rights, immigration, presidential power and climate change.” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) warned Republicans as the fourth and final day of Barrett’s confirmation hearing wrapped up: “Don’t think that when you have established the rule of ‘Because we can,’ that should the shoe be on the other foot, you will have any credibility to come to us and say, ‘Yeah, I know you can do that, but you shouldn’t.’”

  • During the ABC town hall, Biden signaled he would take a firm position on expanding the size of the Supreme Court before the election. After reiterating he is “not a fan” of adding more seats, Biden hinted at “other alternatives” for transforming the court. (Sean Sullivan)
  • At least 415 women’s marches and virtual events are planned across the country for Saturday. In D.C., organizers expect between 6,000 and 10,000 people to gather on Freedom Plaza for a midday Saturday rally focused on voting rights and calling on Congress to suspend Barrett’s confirmation. “After the rally, participants will march to the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Capitol,” Samantha Schmidt reports.
  • Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) leads in his reelection race. He’s beating Jaime Harrison 46 percent to 40 percent, per an NYT-Sienna College poll. Trump leads Biden by 8 points in a state he won by 14 in 2016.

Trump rejects emergency aid to help California recover from the worst fires in state history.

“Fueled by extreme heat and tinder-dry conditions, wildfires exploded across California in September, blazing through almost 1.9 million acres, destroying nearly 1,000 homes and killing at least three people. One wildfire, the Creek Fire, became the largest single blaze in California history and grew so fierce it spun up fire tornadoes with 125 mph winds. But the Trump administration this week refused to grant an emergency declaration that would open up hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding for areas devastated in those fires,” Tim Elfrink reports. “In public, Trump has often been belligerent toward California’s Democratic-dominated state government, blaming their oversight for record-setting fires. … Most scientists, though, say that climate change is the most significant factor driving the bigger wildfires. And the federal government, in fact, manages 57 percent of California’s forests, as the Sacramento Bee noted.” Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) plans to appeal Trump’s decision.

  • The Cameron Peak Fire has become the biggest blaze in Colorado’s history. The fire, which started on Aug. 13, continues expanding and has burned through more than 164,140 acres. (Matthew Cappucci)
  • Phoenix has had 144 days this year in which the temperature passed 100 degrees, breaking a record set in 1989. (Arizona Republic

The Trump administration is trying to exclude Democratic cities from a coronavirus grant program. 

“The Transportation Department said it will use a presidential memo calling for punishing ‘anarchist jurisdictions’ when deciding which cities should get money under a coronavirus grant program,” Michael Laris reports. “The American Public Transportation Association said the declaration could undermine applicants for the pandemic safety grants from Seattle, Portland, Ore., or New York City, the first three jurisdictions the Trump administration has deemed to be ‘permitting anarchy.’ … The move also comes as critics have slammed the Trump administration — and the Transportation Department under Secretary Elaine Chao — for not executing policies needed to subdue the coronavirus. … Representatives from Seattle and Portland said the cities are exploring their legal options.” Laura Feyer, a spokeswoman for New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), said: “This is nothing more than political retribution. If the Trump administration tries to take away our funds, we’ll see them in court.

Mnuchin is still negotiating with House Democrats, despite opposition from Senate Republicans.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin “have been discussing a new spending deal between $1.8 trillion and $2.2 trillion, although Trump has said he would support even more,” Erica Werner and Jeff Stein report. “The rapidly developing changes came late Thursday after a nearly 90-minute conversation between the two negotiators. They both cited progress in resolving one of Pelosi’s top demands, for a national strategic testing plan to better detect the coronavirus. Mnuchin told her that the White House would accept the Democrats’ proposal with some ‘minor’ modifications, according to Pelosi’s spokesman — confirming comments Mnuchin himself had made earlier in the day. However, opposition from Senate Republicans emerged Thursday as a formidable obstacle to any deal passing Congress before Election Day. … [McConnell] spent much of Thursday doubling down on his opposition, publicly denouncing the White House deal taking shape and swatting away Trump’s directive to ‘Go big or go home!!!’ … McConnell said he didn’t think Pelosi and Mnuchin would reach a deal, anyway. And at an earlier event the majority leader all but ruled out a vote on a large-scale relief bill.”

  • Trump, the RNC and affiliated joint fundraising committees said they raised $247.8 million in September, entering the month with $251.4 million cash on hand. Biden’s campaign and affiliated committees announced Wednesday that they raised $383 million in September, with $432 million in cash on Oct. 1.
  • Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his wife poured another $75 million into a pro-Trump Super PAC, bringing their total giving for Republican groups to at least $176 million for the 2020 cycle. The couple also gave $50 million to the main Senate GOP super PAC and $40 million for the House GOP super PAC. (Politico)

There’s a bear in the woods

The White House was warned Giuliani was the target of a Russian intelligence operation to feed misinformation. 

“U.S. intelligence agencies warned the White House last year that President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani was the target of an influence operation by Russian intelligence, according to four former officials familiar with the matter,” Shane Harris, Ellen Nakashima, Greg Miller and Dawsey report. “The warnings were based on multiple sources, including intercepted communications, that showed Giuliani was interacting with people tied to Russian intelligence during a December 2019 trip to Ukraine, where he was gathering information that he thought would expose corrupt acts by … Joe Biden and his son Hunter. The intelligence raised concerns that Giuliani was being used to feed Russian misinformation to the president, the former officials said … 

“The warnings to the White House, which have not previously been reported, led national security adviser Robert O’Brien to caution Trump in a private conversation that any information Giuliani brought back from Ukraine should be considered contaminated by Russia … But O’Brien emerged from the meeting uncertain whether he had gotten through to the president. Trump had ‘shrugged his shoulders’ at O’Brien’s warning, the former official said, and dismissed concern about his lawyer’s activities by saying, ‘That’s Rudy.’ … The information that Giuliani sought in Ukraine is similar to what is contained in emails and other correspondence published this week by the New York Post, which the paper said came from the laptop of Hunter Biden and were provided by Giuliani and Stephen K. Bannon … The Washington Post was unable to verify the authenticity of the alleged communications …

Several senior administration officials ‘all had a common understanding’ that Giuliani was being targeted by the Russians, said the former official who recounted O’Brien’s intervention. That group included Attorney General William P. Barr, [Wray] and White Counsel Pat Cipollone. … In a text message on Thursday, Giuliani said that he was never informed that Andriy Derkach, a pro-Russian lawmaker in Ukraine whom he met on Dec. 5 in Kyiv, was a Russian intelligence asset. … But Giuliani met again with Derkach in New York two months later.” 

  • “Federal investigators are examining whether the emails … are linked to a foreign intelligence operation,” NBC News reports.
  • Giuliani’s daughter urged Americans to vote for Biden. “The only way to end this nightmare is to vote,” Caroline Rose Giuliani writes in Vanity Fair. “I may not be able to change my father’s mind, but together, we can vote this toxic administration out of office.”

Twitter changes the rule blocking users from sharing the Hunter Biden story. 

“The link to the New York Post story will still be blocked under a policy that prohibits sharing people’s personal information,” Elizabeth Dwoskin reports. “Late Thursday night, Twitter executive Vijaya Gadde tweeted that the company made the decision after receiving ‘feedback’ over the past 24 hours that the policy on hacked materials as written could result in undue censorship of journalists and whistleblowers. Going forward, the company will remove content only if it’s directly posted by hackers or those acting in concert with them. It will label more questionable tweets.”

  • Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee will subpoena Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to testify on Oct. 23 about this incident. (WSJ)

A veteran federal prosecutor resigns in protest over Barr’s politicization of the Justice Department.

“After 36 years, I’m fleeing what was the U.S. Department of Justice — where I proudly served 19 different attorneys general and six different presidents,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Phillip Halpern writes in an op-ed for the San Diego Union-Tribune. “Like many of my colleagues, I fervently hoped that [Barr’s] preemptive misrepresentation of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report was an honest mistake or a solitary misstep … Unfortunately, over the last year, Barr’s resentment toward rule-of-law prosecutors became increasingly difficult to ignore, as did his slavish obedience to Donald Trump’s will in his selective meddling with the criminal justice system in the Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn and Roger Stone cases. … Barr’s longest-running politicization of the Justice Department is the [John] Durham investigation — a quixotic pursuit designed to attack the president’s political rivals. … 

“I remained in government service this past year at least partly because I was concerned that the department would interfere with the [Duncan Hunter Jr.] prosecution in my absence. Unfortunately, many of my colleagues without such a rationale appear to have started abandoning Barr’s ship. Equally troubling, highly qualified lawyers appear to be unwilling to apply to be federal prosecutors while Barr remains at the helm.”

In other law enforcement news:

  • The judge overseeing the criminal prosecution of the police officers charged with killing George Floyd will allow the defense to present evidence from a May 2019 encounter between Floyd and Minneapolis police they say shows Floyd exhibiting similar behavior to the Memorial Day incident that left him dead. (Holly Bailey)
  • The private security guard suspected of fatally shooting Lee Keltner, a man who was demonstrating in support of law enforcement at the scene of protests in Denver, will be charged with second-degree murder. (Hannah Knowles)
  • Two U.S. Park Police officers were charged by a Fairfax County special grand jury with manslaughter in the November 2017 shooting of Bijan Ghaisar, an unarmed motorist. Officers Alejandro Amaya and Lucas Vinyard, who’ve been on paid administrative duty since shortly after the shooting, were not taken into custody. Prosecutors expected them to make arrangements to surrender. (Tom Jackman)
  • Mexico’s former defense minister was arrested on drug charges in Los Angeles. Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos worked for former Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto. The arrest was requested by the U.S. DEA. (Mary Beth Sheridan)
  • Texas billionaire Robert Brockman evaded $2 billion in taxes, federal authorities said, in what they called the largest tax fraud scheme in U.S. history. A federal grand jury in San Francisco indicted the 79-year-old on 39 charges, including tax fraud, wire fraud, evidence tampering and money laundering. (Jaclyn Peiser)

Social media speed read

A Trump campaign adviser mocked Biden’s performance as low energy:

A Never Trump Republican said that’s a good thing:

Here’s how a lot of Americans feel 18 days until the election:

Videos of the day

Jimmy Kimmel reviewed the dueling town halls: 

Trevor Noah said that any “normal” president would be focused on getting coronavirus under control. But Trump, he said, is not normal:

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The Technology 202: Silicon Valley’s prized legal shield is increasingly in jeopardy as Republicans escalate attacks

Meanwhile, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee say they’re planning to subpoena Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey in response to the company’s handling of the issue. And Ajit Pai, the Republican chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, announced that he plans to move forward with an effort to clarify and redefine the scope of Section 230. 

The Washington Post was unable to verify the authenticity of the alleged emails and correspondence published by the New York Post, which Twitter initially said were restricted under the policy against the spread of hacked materials and disclosure of personal information. The company later said the story broke the rules because it included images of personal and private information, such as email addresses. Facebook limited the story’s distribution on its platform. 

The drama could have far-reaching effects beyond Washington in the delicate weeks to come.

The swift backlash – and Twitter’s admission that it was wrong to block links to the story – could provide Republicans with greater ammunition to attack the companies’ content moderation decisions before Nov. 3. The companies, under pressure to take a firmer hand after Russian interference on their platforms during the election four years ago, have extra challenges as the president clings to unfounded claims about mail voting and are preparing for the possibility that candidates might prematurely declare victory because ballots will likely take longer to count this year. 

Republicans are now claiming that in this election, the companies are the meddlers. 

“This is election interference, and we are 19 days out from an election,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), a Judiciary Committee member, told reporters yesterday. “Never before have we seen active censorship of a major press publication with serious allegations of corruption of one of the two candidates for president.”

Cruz said he and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) plan to vote on a subpoena for Dorsey on Tuesday, which would require the Twitter CEO to appear before the committee on Oct. 23. Republicans are already expected to highlight claims of anti-conservative bias at a key Senate Commerce Committee hearing on Oct. 28, where Dorsey and Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg have agreed to testify. Republicans for years have said that the companies are censoring them, but have often offered specious evidence and the companies have strongly denied that their content decisions are politically motivated. 

Facebook and Twitter’s actions were rare, especially because the target was a traditional media outlet. 

The article tested the companies’ long-running efforts to prepare for the 2020 elections, my colleague Elizabeth Dwoskin reported. Twitter marked the link to the New York Post story as “potentially unsafe” and eventually blocked people from sharing the story, after it initially surged to a No. 3 trending story in the United States. Facebook preemptively slowed down the spread of the story on its service, while it waited for its third-party fact-checking partners to make a determination on the story’s authenticity. The company has taken this step before, but it isn’t standard. 

The article was based on allegedly leaked emails, which suggested that Hunter Biden gave a Ukrainian executive the “opportunity” to meet the former vice president. The Biden campaign says his schedule indicated such a meeting did not take place. 

The company’s actions highlighted how they’re implementing the many policies they adopted to address election integrity since 2016. The companies have been planning for a scenario similar to the Russia-tied email dump of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair John Podesta. 

Separately, the White House was warned by U.S. intelligence agencies last year that President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani was the target of an influence operation by Russian intelligence, my colleagues Shane Harris, Ellen Nakashima, Greg Miller and Josh Dawsey report. Giuliani, along with Stephen K. Bannon, Trump’s former top political adviser, helped facilitate the information that the New York Post said came from Hunter Biden’s computer and hard drive.

Twitter issued a reversal of its policy on hacked materials amid the political fallout. 

Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s legal, policy, trust and safety lead, said last night the company would overhaul the hacked materials policy that resulted in blocking the article in response to “feedback.” Going forward, it will only remove material directly shared by hackers and those working with them, and it will label tweets rather than banning links from being shared on Twitter. 

Twitter will continue to block the link to the New York Post story under a separate policy, which prohibits sharing people’s personal information, the company said.

And Dorsey today said straight blocking of URLs “was wrong.” 

The announcements are a stunning reversal from Twitter’s explanation for the action on Wednesday. 

Brandon Borrman, Twitter’s vice president of global communications, initially pointed Elizabeth to the company’s hacked materials policy, which then said, “We don’t permit the use of our services to directly distribute content obtained through hacking that contains private information.” He said the company had blocked links before under the policy, but did not say when. 

But Dorsey later said the company’s communications around the actions were “not great,” and the company’s corporate account later tweeted that it blocked sharing of the article because it included images that contained personal and private information in violation of its rules.

Trump responded by tweeting a satirical article as if it were factual that suggested Twitter shut down entirely to slow the spread of the New York Post article. The company had an outage yesterday, which the company said was caused by a system change that was initiated earlier than planned and impacted its servers. 

From Buzzfeed’s Craig Silverman:

Facebook, meanwhile, declined to comment on the backlash from Republicans. Facebook spokesman Andy Stone explained the company’s handling of the New York Post story on Twitter Wednesday. 

Against this backdrop, the FCC’s announcement about its plans to review Section 230 is sparking controversy. 

Many of the FCC’s critics pounced on the fact that Pai announced a long-anticipated rule-making on Section 230 in the final weeks before the election and amid the backlash over the handling of the New York Post story.

“The timing of this effort is absurd,” Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democratic FCC commissioner, said in a statement. “The FCC has no business being the President’s speech police.”

Tech industry groups were also critical of the decision. Netchoice, a trade group representing major tech companies, announced it opposed the decision and questioned whether the FCC had the authority to redefine Section 230. 

“Congress never granted the FCC the power to interpret Section 230,” said Carl Szabo, vice president and general counsel at NetChoice. “The history and text of the law both confirm that the FCC lacks the authority to regulate the online speech through Section 230.” 

But Pai defended his authority to move forward with the rulemaking process, saying in a statement that the commission’s general counsel has determined it has the legal authority to move forward. The FCC is taking this step after the Department of Commerce petitioned the FCC to “clarify ambiguities in Section 230,” following an executive order that the president signed earlier this year. Trump signed that executive order shortly after Twitter began more aggressively cracking down on his tweets that violate its rules. 

The FCC’s process begins as members of both parties in Congress have proposed legislation that would limit the protections tech companies enjoy under Section 230. 

Meanwhile, the companies are also dealing with the threat of increased antitrust scrutiny. Traditionally, Democrats have been more aggressive than Republicans in calling for the companies to be broken up or otherwise regulated. But some Republicans are more aggressively calling for antitrust action amid the controversy. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), one of the companies’ most vocal critics, suggested that Facebook had monopoly power on Twitter. 

Note to readers: The Technology 202 won’t publish Monday or Tuesday. We’ll be back in your inbox on Wednesday, Enjoy the weekend!

Our top tabs

Trump refused to denounce QAnon again, even as YouTube joined other tech companies in cracking down on the conspiracy.

Trump claimed not to know much about the group when asked by NBC News host Savannah Guthrie at his televised town hall. “What I do hear about it is that they are very strongly against pedophilia, and I agree with that,” Trump said. 

The QAnon conspiracy theory, which claims that Democrats and celebrities abuse children, has gained some traction in mainstream Republican politics has been labeled by the FBI as a terrorist threat.

NBC’s Ben Collins noted adherents of the conspiracy theory would celebrate the president’s remarks:

That could make it harder for Silicon Valley companies to follow through on their recent promises to crack down on QAnon. YouTube is the latest to change its policies, and it did not say how many videos and channels would be affected. Several of the most popular accounts pushing the conspiracy theory were removed yesterday, Elizabeth and Isaac Stanley-Becker report. YouTube began removing some of the content after updating its hate and harassment policies prohibit content that “targets an individual or group with conspiracy theories that have been used to justify real-world violence.” 

YouTube will still allow discussions of the conspiracy theory that don’t involve targeted harassment. 

Twitter made a similar decision this summer, resulting in the immediate ban of 7,000 QAnon accounts. Facebook most recently decided to ban the content entirely.  YouTube previously acted against QAnon related videos and channels for violating its policies about Holocaust denial and covid-19 misinformation.

A group of state attorneys general plan to follow the Justice Department’s Google lawsuit with their own investigation.

The states will issue a statement that they are still scrutinizing aspects of Google’s business and may not join the federal case, Tony Romm reports. The states leading the probe include Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee and Utah. 

The Justice Department’s complaint is expected to focus on Google’s search business. A group of approximately a dozen Republican attorneys general plan to join the lawsuit, which is expected to be announced next week. Texas Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton (R.) is also leading an antitrust investigation targeting Google’s advertising business.

Google preempted the expected lashing by regulators at an event for its search service Thursday, Rachel Lerman reports. “There’s never been more choice and competition in the way people access information,” said head of search Prabhakar Raghavan. Google has been criticized for pushing its own products over rivals in its search service.

Amazon Ring call center workers say they are getting sick from their work conditions.

The Phillipines-based contract workers estimate that dozens out of hundreds of workers at their center have developed coronavirus symptoms due to crowded shifts and shared living accommodations, Olivia Solon and April Glaser at NBC News report. Their requests to work from home have been repeatedly denied. 

“People are scared because we don’t know who has it and who doesn’t have it,” an Amazon Ring contractor told NBC News “But people don’t have a choice, because it’s either you will be infected or you will die of starvation.”  At least one contractor has died during the pandemic, though the company did not disclose the cause of her death.

Workers are sent home if they are sick and some have paid sick leave, Mike Lytle, the chief operating officer at Teleperformance Philippines, said.

For the first six months of the pandemic, employees slept on the floor of the call center until public news reports prompted Amazon to investigate. The contractor, Teleperformance, promised to make changes but hasn’t provided alternative living situations. Instead, employees are forced to share rooms that cost 20 percent of their income. 

The report highlights the discrepancy in treatment between tech companies’ corporate employees and contractors during the coronavirus pandemic. Facebook recently made its contract content moderators return to the office despite safety concerns.

Amazon Ring spokeswoman Emma Daniels said the company won’t allow the contractors to work from home because of data security concerns and privacy. But it’s unclear how many workers actually access confidential information on a daily basis.

Rant and rave

Trump’s team slammed Biden during dueling town halls last night by comparing him to Mr. Rogers. 

Twitter said, “wait, what?”

The digital race to 2020

Top executives at Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft  have poured $16 million into the election cycle.

But none of the companies chief executives have donated, according to data reported by Issie Lapowsky at Protocol provided by the Center for Responsive Politics. Nearly all of the money went to Democrats Just one executive, Douglas Vetter, vice president and associate general counsel at Apple, donated to Trump.

The average donation was just over $183,000. Microsoft board member Reid Hoffman donated nearly $8 million to Democratic causes. Other notable donors to Democrats included Facebook chief operating office Sheryl Sandberg and Microsoft president Brad Smith.

Trump tracker

The White House has a new plan for protecting emerging U.S. technologies from China and Russia.

As our competitors and adversaries mobilize vast resources in these fields, American dominance in science and technology is more important now than ever, and is vital to our long-term economic and national security, the White House’s press office said in a statement. “The United States will not turn a blind eye to the tactics of countries like China and Russia, which steal technology.

The plan includes leveraging the private sector  to accelerate development and to reduce burdensome regulations that stall industry growth. It prioritizes securing supply chains for the technologies though it doesn’t provide specifics.

Hill happenings

Congress is urging a government watchdog to look into federal surveillance of police brutality protests.

They say the surveillance could have a chilling effect on protesters and raise concerns government agencies could be circumventing rules for using the surveillance technology. 

“The act of protesting has played a central role in advancing civil rights in our country, and our Constitution protects the right of Americans to engage in peaceful protest unencumbered by government interference,” Reps. Anna G. Eshoo and Bobby L. Rush (D-Il.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) wrote in a letter to members of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. 

PCLOB, an independent oversight board, is focused on the executive government’s response to terrorism threats, which the trio say is appropriate given Trump’s labeling of BLM protesters

The letter is the latest in an ongoing push for oversight of federal agencies surveilling peaceful protesters. Wyden and Eshoo also demanded an investigation into the use of National Guard flights over protests, which led to an Air Force Inspector General investigation.

Lawmakers want Amazon to immediately stop surveilling employees engaged in labor organizing.

Reports that the company is infiltrating private worker listservs and social media groups and visually mapping “labor organizing threats” could possibly amount to labor law violations, a group of Senators led by Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) wrote to the company.  

“It is deeply concerning that Amazon has prioritized tracking workers who would look to improve their working conditions over addressing the underlying health and safety concerns that those workers face,” Sens. Schatz, Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wrote in a letter Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos. Bezos owns The Post.

The letter also poses questions about recently deleted job postings that originally suggested Amazon was hiring intelligence agents to surveil activist and labor groups in the company.



  • The Aspen Tech Policy Hub will hold a forum highlighting tools to improve access to information about covid-19 during the pandemic on Wednesday at 12 p.m. ET

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