|10 things you need to know today !|
|1. Trump, Biden hold separate town halls after debate scrapped|
President Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden held dueling nationally televised town halls on Thursday, a night scheduled for their second debate until Trump backed out when organizers said it would be virtual.
The candidates’ contrasting styles were on display, with Trump sparring with the moderator and Biden offering soothing policy proposals unlikely to endanger his polling lead. Biden used a question about the coronavirus to criticize Trump’s handling of the pandemic.”It’s a presidential responsibility to lead and he didn’t do that,” Biden said.
He spoke in depth about his economic plan. He was asked about how he’d energize young Black voters, and he talked about making systemic changes to American institutions from criminal justice to homeownership and schools to early childhood education to close the racial wealth gap. Asked by moderator George Stephanopoulos whether it was a mistake to support the 1994 crime bill, Biden said, “Yes, it was.” He added, “Things have changed drastically since then.”
Asked whether he still believes that “more cops mean less crime,” Biden said, “Yes, if in fact they’re involved in community policing and not jump squads.”
Trump faced a question about when he first tested positive for the virus, and whether he tested negative ahead of the last debate. “Possibly I did, possibly I didn’t,” Trump said. The candidates have a final debate scheduled before the November election.
She also asked Trump whether he had developed pneumonia after he contracted the virus, a question his doctors have refused to answer. “No, but they said the lungs are little bit different, a little bit — perhaps infected,” he said.
Trump also committed to a peaceful transition of power if he isn’t re-elected.
“The answer is, yes I will, but I want it to be an honest election,” Trump said. In June, Trump told Fox News’ Chris Wallace that he would “have to see” about a peaceful transfer.
In a testy exchange with Guthrie, Trump refused to condemn the QAnon conspiracy movement, which pushes a baseless assertion that he is waging a secret war against a powerful cabal of satanic pedophile Democratic politicians, liberal celebrities and the “deep state.”
“I know nothing about QAnon,” he said, but “I do know they are very much against pedophilia. They fight it very hard.”
While he was at times combative and argumentative with Guthrie, Trump calmly defended his record to the undecided voters who asked him questions, and in a departure from his rallies, he spent little time attacking Biden. One of his questioners even complimented his looks. “You’re so handsome when you smile,” she said, prompting a smile from the president.
Pushed about a New York Times report that he is on the hook for $421 million in debt that is set to come due after the election, Trump declined to say whom he owes the money to, and he disputed the amount before appearing to confirm it. He called the massive sum a “small amount.”
“In fact, some of it I did as favors to institutions that wanted to loan me money, $400 million compared to the assets that I have, all of these great properties all over the world.”
As for whether he owes money to foreign entities, he said, “I don’t owe money to any of these sinister people.”
As for The Times’ report that he paid $750 in taxes the year he was running for president, Trump said: “It’s a statutory number. I think it’s a filing number, you pay 750.”
[NBC News, Bloomberg]
2. Harris suspends travel after campaign coronavirus exposure
Democratic vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris is suspending travel through Sunday
after her campaign director and a “non-staff flight crew member” tested positive for the coronavirus, the campaign said Thursday. The campaign of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said both people were on a flight with Harris on Oct. 8 but were never within six feet of her for more than 15 minutes.
Harris has tested negative since then, most recently on Thursday. An aviation staffer who tested positive also flew on a flight Biden was on. Biden had no contact with the person, so he won’t have to isolate. The news came following a widespread outbreak that hospitalized President Trump and infected first lady Melania Trump, their son Barron, and numerous campaign and White House associates.
The unidentified person sat in the last row of the 737 aircraft, the campaign said. No campaign staffers were in close contact with that person, who wore a mask during their travel with Biden and his party. Biden and the people with him wore N95 masks during the flights, according to campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon.
“Vice President Biden was not in close contact, as defined by the [federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], with this individual at any time,” Dillon said.
“In fact, the Vice President did not even have passing contact: this individual was over 50 feet from VP Biden at all times, entered and exited the aircraft from a rear entrance, and both the individual and the Vice President wore masks for the entire flight,” Dillon said.
“Given these facts, we have been advised by the Vice President’s doctor and the campaign’s medical advisors that there is no need for the Vice President to quarantine.”
The campaign earlier in the day said that it had learned late Wednesday that Liz Allen, Harris’ communications director, and a “non-staff flight crew member” contracted Covid-19.
The campaign said that both of those people who tested positive were on a flight with Harris on Oct. 8, but she was not within 6 feet of them for more than 15 minutes. Harris has taken three PCR tests for Covid-19 since the day of the flight, most recently Thursday, and all of them came back negative.
Neither of the individuals who tested positive had contact with Harris or the former Vice President Biden in the 48 hours before their results came back.
Even so, Dillon said Harris’ travel through Sunday was being canceled “out of an abundance of caution.” The California senator had been scheduled to travel to swing-state North Carolina on Thursday.
Dillon also said that “Harris’ contact with the crew member on her flight, and her staffer, were so incidental that she is not required to quarantine.”
Harris’ husband, Douglas Emhoff, has taken four PCR tests since Oct. 8 and they returned negative. The campaign also canceled his planned travel on Thursday.
Biden and Harris have targeted the president for what they call recklessness in flouting the best recommended practices for limiting the spread of the virus. Trump and his allies have mocked masks and social distancing practices despite their proven effectiveness in curtailing the spread of Covid-19.
[CNBC, ABC News]
3. Senate panel schedules Oct. 22 vote on Barrett confirmation
Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans on Thursday scheduled an Oct. 22 vote on recommending Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation. Democrats protested the rush to confirm Barrett three weeks before the presidential election, and after millions of early ballots have been cast.
But Republicans said Democrats would not be able to block the conservative Barrett’s confirmation to fill the seat of the late liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Under committee rules, a majority of the panel, 12 senators, has to be present in order to report a nomination to the floor. Democrats have signaled that they will not help Republicans meet that quorum. Republicans can hit the requirement on their own as long as all the GOP senators are present.
Though Democratic senators largely kept their irritation over the Supreme Court nomination out of the first three days of the hearing on Barrett’s nomination, their frustrations were on full display Thursday.
“I believe that this rushed, sham process is a disservice to our committee,” Blumenthal said as he made his motion. “The purpose of doing it is simply to have a justice on the Supreme Court as the president has said to decide the election and to strike down the Affordable Care Act.”
Democrats have fumed over the process Republicans are using to put Barrett on the bench by the end of the month.
“This is being done without any precedent in the time at least that I’ve been on this committee,” Feinstein said. “It’s being done I guess to show power and push someone through.”
Republicans, if they confirm Barrett as expected, will set a precedent for how close to a presidential election a Supreme Court nominee has been confirmed. Though other nominees have been confirmed in a fewer number of days, they were further away from the election.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), speaking to reporters in Kentucky, said that he will tee up Barrett’s nomination on Oct. 23, a day after the Judiciary Committee vote. That will set up a final vote on her nomination on the Senate floor for the week of Oct. 26.
“We have the votes,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said.
Witnesses called by Democrats on Thursday told the committee that Barrett, who would give conservatives a 6-3 majority on the high court, could cast deciding votes to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and limit access to abortion and voting rights.
Barrett testified that she had no political agenda as a judge.
[The Hill, The Washington Post]
4. Jobless claims hit 898,000 last week, most since late August
The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits rose to 898,000 last week, the most since late August, the Labor Department reported Thursday. The number was higher than economists expected, and marked an increase of 50,000 over the previous week. Fresh layoffs and other signs that the economic recovery is faltering as coronavirus infections rise have kept weekly jobless claims stubbornly above the pre-pandemic record of 695,000.
The number of people collecting ongoing unemployment benefits through regular state programs fell by 1.2 million to about 10 million. “The jobless claims continued to reflect very difficult labor market conditions,” said Kathy Bostjancic, economist at Oxford Economics. “It’s representative of still uncertain and challenging economic conditions at large.”
[The Wall Street Journal]
5. Republicans on Senate panel push to subpoena Twitter CEO
Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans plan to vote next week to subpoena Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to testify about restricting tweets of a New York Post article alleging that an abandoned laptop linked then-Vice President Joe Biden to his son Hunter’s business dealings. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said committee members will ask Twitter why it is trying “to cover up allegations of corruption.”
The Biden campaign has said an alleged meeting between Joe Biden and a Ukrainian energy company consultant described in a message on the laptop’s hard drive never happened. The Post got the hard drive’s contents from a lawyer for President Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, who got it from the owner of the Delaware computer shop where the laptop was allegedly left for repairs. [Politico]
6. Report: White House warned that Russia fed Giuliani disinformation
The White House was warned by U.S. intelligence agencies last year that Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s personal lawyer, was the target of a Russian intelligence operation, The Washington Post reported Thursday, citing four former officials familiar with the matter.
The goal of the operation reportedly was to feed disinformation to Trump, and National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien told Trump privately that any particulars Giuliani brought back from his trip to Ukraine should be considered contaminated by Russia. Giuliani went to Ukraine searching for information he hoped would discredit Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.
He was not the target of U.S. surveillance, but Giuliani did meet with suspected Russia assets, which is how intelligence agencies intercepted his communications and were able to warn the White House. [The Washington Post]
7. New coronavirus infections top 60,000 for 1st time in 2 months
The number of newly confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States exceeded 60,000 on Thursday for the first time since early August. The news came as the U.S. experiences a long-feared autumn increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations as the weather cools and people spend more time inside.
Forty-four states and the District of Columbia have seen caseloads increase since mid-September. Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Montana, and Colorado set new highs as the crisis spread in the heartland, far from the coastal cities hit hardest in the first wave. “We know that this is going to get worse before it gets better,” Wisconsin Department of Health Services secretary-designee Andrea Palm said.
[The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal]
8. Christie says he was ‘wrong’ not to wear mask at White House
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) was hospitalized with the coronavirus earlier this month, and on Thursday, he encouraged Americans to take the virus “very seriously. The ramifications are wildly random and potentially deadly.” Christie was one of several people who tested positive after they attended a Rose Garden ceremony in late September honoring President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett. Christie told The New York Times he mistakenly believed the White House was “a safe zone, due to the testing that I and many others underwent every day. I was wrong. I was wrong not to wear a mask at the Amy Coney Barrett announcement and I was wrong not to wear a mask at my multiple debate prep sessions with the president and the rest of the team.” [The New York Times]
9. Pentagon study finds minimal risk of coronavirus exposure on planes
A Defense Department study released Thursday concluded that passengers faced little risk of catching the coronavirus on a packed commercial flight. Researchers concluded that a passenger wearing a surgical mask continuously would have to sit next to an infectious passenger for 54 hours to get a dangerous level of exposure through the air. The threat of infection is greatly reduced because of the way air is circulated and filtered on airliners. The study used a mannequin expelling simulated virus particles, and researchers conceded that this method of measuring the threat of aerosol exposure had its limitations. Still, Vice Adm Dee Mewbourne said, “the results showed an overall low exposure risk from aerosolized pathogens like COVID-19 on these aircraft.” [The Washington Post]
10. Sasse tells supporters Trump fueling ‘blue tsunami’
Sen. Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican, harshly criticized President Trump in a telephone town hall with constituents, warning that Trump had so disgusted voters that there could be a “Republican blood bath” in the Senate, according to audio obtained by The Washington Examiner and authenticated by The New York Times on Thursday. Sasse accused Trump of botching the coronavirus response by treating it like a news-cycle “P.R. crisis” instead of a national emergency. He also said Trump had coddled dictators and white supremacists, mistreated women, and alienated allies, setting the stage for a “blue tsunami” on Election Day. “The debate is not going to be, ‘Ben Sasse, why were you so mean to Donald Trump?'” said Sasse, who is up for re-election. “It’s going to be, ‘What the heck were any of us thinking, that selling a TV-obsessed, narcissistic individual to the American people was a good idea?'”
[The New York Times, The Washington Examiner]