Biden accuses Trump of trying to wish away Covid ahead of Wisconsin rally – live

Joe Biden has continued his attack on what his campaign see as a weak spot for Donald Trump: the Covid-19 pandemic. On Saturday, Biden tweeted out a video of Trump saying America is “rounding a corner” in the fight against the virus. Headlines are then displayed detailing the rise in cases of the coronavirus across America. The video ends with three words: “Clueless. Dangerous. Reckless”.

Joe Biden
(@JoeBiden)

You deserve a president who will actually tell you the truth. pic.twitter.com/I9XzZ0ADmT

October 17, 2020

The US passed 8m Covid-19 cases on Friday as fatalities in America from the virus approach 220,000.

Black voters in North Carolina are disproportionately having their mail-in ballots flagged for potential rejection in the battleground state, setting off alarms about disenfranchisement.

North Carolina requires mail-in voters to get a witness for their ballots and at least 7,000 mail-in ballots have been flagged across the state because of a deficiency, according to data collected by Michael Bitzer, a professor at Catawba College who closely tracks voting data in the state. As of Wednesday, 40% of rejected ballots – 2,871 – were from Black voters, even though they comprised only 16% of the overall ballots returned. (A spokesman for the state board of elections cautioned some of the data may be outdated because local election offices have not been entering rejection data into the statewide system while legal challenges are pending.)

Postal voting will play a huge part in this year’s election

Postal voting will play a huge part in this year’s election. Photograph: Lynne Sladky/AP

The Rev Anthony Spearman, the head of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, attributed the higher rate at which Black voters’ ballots were being flagged to the fact that African Americans traditionally have not widely voted by mail in the state, instead opting for in-person voting. Many voters are getting tripped up by the state’s requirement that mail-in voters get a witness to sign their absentee ballot, he said.

“The African American community, many of them for the first time, are utilizing absentee ballots and have not been cultivated to the practices thereof. There is a level of them being not aware of the process and how it goes and so they’re not filling out their forms correctly,” he said.

Just 3% of the Black voters whose ballots were flagged for rejection voted by mail in 2016, according to data collected by Bitzer.

“Voting by mail is very different than voting in person,” Bitzer said. “Until I’m presented otherwise I have to think lack of familiarity with the vote method process is probably what is hanging up so much of these ballots.”

The North Carolina data underscores the conundrum Democrats are facing this year as they encourage supporters to cast their votes by mail amid concerns about Covid-19. A mail vote is more likely to be rejected than an in-person one and research has shown that first-time voters and minorities are all much more likely to have their ballots rejected.

You can read the full article below:

Cinemas in areas of New York with low Covid-19 positivity rates will be able to reopen from Friday, the state’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, says.

Theatres will only be allowed to operate at 25% capacity, up to a maximum audience of 50, and the ruling only applies outside of New York City.

Andrew Cuomo
(@NYGovCuomo)

NEW: Starting October 23, movie theaters outside of NYC can reopen at 25% capacity with up to 50 people per screen.

There will be mandatory social distancing and other precautions. pic.twitter.com/QKmKvuyTy2

October 17, 2020

There were 1,784 new cases of Covid-19 reported in New York on Friday, and nine fatalities. Of the 159,972 tests reported, 1.11% came back positive.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, arguably the most powerful person in the Republican party and a ruthless political operator, is up for reelection this November and holds a 12-point lead over his challenger, Amy McGrath.

However, one of the largest newspapers in his home state of Kentucky has endorsed McGrath’s candidacy.

“During his 36 years in office, McConnell has made it perfectly clear that his only passion is the pursuit of power, his own and that of the Republican Party,” the Lexington Herald-Leader wrote in its editorial. “For that reason alone, we would endorse his opponent.

“Luckily for voters, McGrath, a former fighter pilot and public servant, would make an excellent senator who would actually put the needs and interests of Kentuckians above her own.”

Lauren Gambino

In 1994, Senator Joe Biden of Delaware stood proudly behind Bill Clinton as he signed into law a reform bill that touched nearly every aspect of the US criminal justice system.

More than 25 years later, amid national protests against racial injustice in law enforcement, the Democratic presidential nominee is grappling anew with the implications of legislation he helped author and which experts say opened the door to an era of mass incarceration that devastated African American communities.

At a town hall in Philadelphia on Thursday night, Biden was asked by a voter about the legacy of the 1994 bill, which she said included “prejudice against minorities”, and what his view of the legislation was now.

Biden sought to defend the bill as a product of a different era, while arguing that elements of it were wrongly implemented.

Pressed by the moderator, George Stephanopoulos, to say if his support for the bill had been a mistake, Biden replied: “Yes, it was.

“But here’s where the mistake came,” he said. “The mistake came in terms of what the states did locally.”

In an eight-minute response, Biden said the bill passed with the support of the Congressional Black Caucus and Black mayors around the country. He noted that it contained the landmark Violence Against Women Act and an assault weapons ban.

Conditions were different now, he said, as activists demand an overhaul of policing and incarceration policies in response to police killings of Black Americans.

“Things have changed drastically,” Biden said.

You can read the full article below:

A little over a week since, six men were charged over a plot to kidnap Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer, a man in Wichita, Kansas, has been arrested over allegations he threatened to kidnap and kill the city’s mayor, Brandon Whipple. In both cases, the motive appears to have been discontent over the handling of the pandemic.

According to the Wichita Eagle, 59-year-old Meredith Dowty had asked for Whipple’s address after becoming frustrated with the city’s mask mandates. “He said he was going to kidnap me and slash my throat and he needed my address because I needed to see the hangman – me and everyone who, something about tyranny,” Whipple told the Eagle.

“It sounded like the person was very upset about pretty much mask mandates and he said something about not being able to see his mother because of Covid restrictions on elderly homes.”

Whipple has received pushback in Wichita due to a mandate requiring people to wear masks in most public settings.

Kamala Harris will return to the campaign trail on Monday, according to the Biden campaign. Harris cancelled her in-person appearances on Thursday after it emerged she had flown with someone who had later tested positive for Covid-19. Harris tested negative for the virus on Friday, and she will appear at an event in Florida on Monday.

Kamala Harris will return to the campaign trail on Monday

Kamala Harris will return to the campaign trail on Monday. Photograph: Ronda Churchill/AFP/Getty Images

Meanwhile David Perdue, a Republican senator from Georgia, has been criticized for mocking Harris’s name. During an event in Macon, Georgia, Perdue mentioned: “Kah-mah-la or Kah-ma-la or Kamala-mala-mala, I don’t know, whatever.”

Georgia Democrats
(@GeorgiaDemocrat)

This is intentionally disrespectful and a bigoted racist tactic straight from the Trump playbook. Every Georgia Republican has to answer for this. https://t.co/guUmn1htTi

October 16, 2020

Harris’s late mother was Indian and her father is black, and Democrats accused Perdue of using racially-charged language.

“Senator David Perdue has served in the Senate alongside Vice Presidential nominee and Senator Kamala Harris since 2017. He knows her name and he knows how to say it. His disgusting performance today is nothing more than a desperate dog whistle from a losing politician … Perdue has shown he lacks the dignity and respect that Georgians deserve from their US senator, and he must immediately apologize,” Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesperson Helen Kalla said in a statement.

Stimulus talks between House speaker Nancy Pelosi and the treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, are due to take place later today on a new stimulus package. But, as Politico points out, don’t expect agreement on a subject that has been dragging on for months: Mnuchin is due to leave the country for talks in Israel and the UAE, perhaps showing how much importance he places on the talks.

When Vernon Jones, a black Democratic state representative from Georgia, crossed party lines to deliver a passionate endorsement of the president’s re-election bid at the Republican convention, the GOP greeted him like a rock star. Now there’s evidence the label has gone to his head.

In arguably the most ill-advised and dangerous crowdsurf since electro dance legend Steve Aoki broke a concert goer’s neck in a dinghy, a maskless Jones launched himself into a mostly maskless audience at Trump’s rally in Macon, Georgia, on Friday night.

Riding a sea of red Maga hats packed tightly together in contravention of CDC guidelines, the grinning 59-year-old lawmaker, in suit and tie and with thumbs raised, was passed overhead from deplorable to deplorable, to use a term for Trump supporters Jones used in a tweet defending the stunt.

“Yes, I surfed that crowd!” Jones said in a follow-up message. “To the haters – stay mad! You’ll be even more mad come 3 November.”

Vernon Jones crowdsurfs.

Vernon Jones crowdsurfs during an event in Georgia on Friday night. Photograph: John Bazemore/AP

On social media, reaction was swift and brutal. One Twitter user dubbed Jones “Captain Covid” alongside a photograph of him in superhero pose. Others denounced him as an idiot and a loser, living in fairytale land.

Republicans hope Jones, who was first elected to the Georgia state house in 1992, can help shore up the black Republican vote in his state. Trump won Georgia from Hillary Clinton by more than five points in 2016, but recent polls show the president trailing Democratic challenger Joe Biden by almost one and a half points.

At the Republican convention in August, Jones tore into Democrats’ handling of race issues, as one of a number of first-night speakers of color to deliver a similar message.

“Why is a lifelong Democrat speaking at the Republican National Convention? The Democratic party does not want black people to leave their mental plantation. We’ve been forced to be there for decades and generations,” Jones said, in a controversial speech he later said he intended to be “a culture shock”.

Jones resigned his Georgia House seat in April, after first endorsing Trump. But he rescinded his decision days later, claiming he had received “overwhelming support”.

Updated

Donald Trump has responded on (where else) Twitter to criticism from Ben Sasse, a Republican senator for Nebraska. During a town hall of Wednesday, Sasse said the president “flirted with white supremacists”, “kisses dictators’ butts” and lambasted Trump for the “way he treats women and spends like a drunken sailor.”

Donald J. Trump
(@realDonaldTrump)

The least effective of our 53 Republican Senators, and a person who truly doesn’t have what it takes to be great, is Little Ben Sasse of Nebraska, a State which I have gladly done so much to help. @SenSasse was as nice as a RINO can be until he recently won the Republican….

October 17, 2020

“The least effective of our 53 Republican Senators, and a person who truly doesn’t have what it takes to be great, is Little Ben Sasse of Nebraska, a State which I have gladly done so much to help,” wrote the president on Saturday morning. He added: “Little Ben is a liability to the Republican Party, and an embarrassment to the Great State of Nebraska. Other than that, he’s just a wonderful guy!”

Ben Sasse is considering a run for the presidency in 2024

Ben Sasse is considering a run for the presidency in 2024. Photograph: REX/Shutterstock

Sasse is one of an increasing number of Republicans critical of Trump as the election approaches – and the president trails in the polls. In an article for the Washington Post this week, Maryland’s Republican governor Larry Hogan said he had written in the name of Ronald Reagan on his mail-in ballot. “It’s not going to change the outcome in my state. But I thought it was important to just cast a vote that showed the kind of person I’d like to see in office,” said Hogan.

Both Sasse and Hogan are believed to be considering runs for the presidency in 2024. Their comments this week will allow them to claim they had always opposed Trump when they start their campaigns (of course, if Trump wins, that’s another story…)

Richard Wolffe

There is something worse than Donald Trump’s takeover of the Republican party.

Yes, even worse than a party that doesn’t take seriously a pandemic that has killed more than 217,000 Americans. Worse than a party that doesn’t care about locking up children in cages at the border or separating them permanently from their parents. Worse than a party that celebrates a leader who was impeached for abusing overseas military aid as a tool to smear his political opponent.

What could be worse than Trump’s version of Republican politics? It’s the Trump-driven conversion of the Grand Old Party into a cult of unhinged conspiracy wingnuts.

Donald Trump has refused to distance himself from QAnon

Donald Trump has refused to distance himself from QAnon. Photograph: Kyle Grillot/AFP/Getty Images

The QAnon cult is a bizarre world where everything makes sense of nonsense: where Trump is a savior of the nation’s children from a secret pedophile ring of satanic Democrats and deep state officials, who will be overthrown in some great awakening. And that’s the sane, simplified version of the story.

It should be easier to condemn these fringe-heads than the white supremacists who form such a loyal base for this white supremacist president. But it isn’t. Because to the spiritual leader of the cult of Trump – Donald himself – there are no fringe-heads who think he’s a savior. They are all just very fine people.

You can read the full article below:

Biden: Trump has panicked and tried to wish away Covid-19

With Covid-19 cases hitting record levels in the battleground state of Wisconsin on Friday (see the entry below for more), Joe Biden has attacked Donald Trump’s handling of the pandemic. The president is due to hold a rally in the state later today.

“Wisconsin is in the grips of one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the country,” said Biden after a record daily total of 3,861 cases were recorded in the state on Friday. “Jill and I are praying for the health of those who’ve contracted the virus, and for the families who are mourning the loss of a loved one. We have lost far too many lives to this pandemic – and the sad fact is, it didn’t have to be this way.

“President Trump is knowingly downplaying the severity of the virus. At virtually every turn, he has panicked and tried to wish it away, rather than doing the hard work to get it under control. And today, 150,000 fewer Wisconsin workers are employed than when President Trump took office and his failed response to the pandemic has crushed Wisconsin’s economy.

“If you send me to the White House, I’ll be ready to tackle this crisis on day one. My administration will trust the science, lead by example, speak the truth to the American people, and help Wisconsin families and small businesses build back better than before.”

Trump had planned to hold Saturday’s rally in La Crosse, but was forced to move the event to Janesville, about 175 miles away, where there are fewer cases of the virus, after objections from the local officials.

You can read about the spread of Covid-19 across the midwest below:

According to a CNN analysis of Johns Hopkins University data, 10 US states recorded their highest-ever daily total of Covid-19 cases on Friday. Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming all had their highest daily totals since the start of the pandemic.

Wisconsin had the highest total of those 10 states, with 3,861 new cases on Friday. Wisconsin is considered a battleground state in the presidential election, with Joe Biden holding a lead of 7.5% over Donald Trump in the most recent poll. Trump is holding a rally in Janesville, Wisconsin, on Saturday night.

“I want you all to be aware that Wisconsin is currently one of our red states,” the US surgeon general, Jerome Adams, said on Friday. “Meaning, your positivity rates are over 10% and going in the wrong direction. Cases are in the red, going in the wrong direction.”

NBC’s Noah Pransky reports that mail-in voting in the swing state of Florida is very high, with 2.4m votes cast already and 19 days to go with the option still open.

Noah Pransky
(@noahpransky)

BREAKING: Florida’s vote-by-mail tally just surpassed 2.4M, eclipsing the number of mail ballots cast in entire Aug primary.

And there are still 19 days to go, with 3.4M requested mail ballots still out there…

(1 of 3) #FlaPol #MailInBallot #EarlyVoting

October 17, 2020

During a campaign appearance on Friday, Trump joked he would fire Florida governor Ron DeSantis if he loses the state in the election.

“He’s done a great job and he’s been my friend. Hey, Ron, are we going to win this state, please? You know if we don’t win it, I’m blaming the governor. I’ll fire him somehow. I’m going to fire him. I will find a way, anyway,” Trump said.

You can keep up-to-date with which candidate is leading in all the battleground states with our poll tracker:

Updated

Lauren Aratani

The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) has announced the six topics that will be covered in the debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden in Tennessee next Thursday: “fighting Covid-19”, “American families”, “race in America”, “climate change”, “national security” and “leadership”.

The debate will take place at 9pm ET and will be moderated by NBC’s Kristen Welker. CPD has not announced any modifications to the format of the event, even though it said after the last debate that it would announce “additional structure … to the format of the remaining debates, to ensure a more orderly discussion of the issues”.

The first debate, which took place on 29 September, was largely seen as a chaotic rumble between Trump and Biden, criticized for its lack of substance.

Of course the debate line-up itself changed after Trump contracted Covid-19 and refused to participate in a virtual debate. The two opted for town halls instead.

Of which:

Senate hug symbolizes California’s Dianne Feinstein fatigue

It was a hug that would have shocked many, even in a year without social distancing: Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate judiciary committee, ending a contentious week of supreme court confirmation hearings with a full-body embrace of Lindsey Graham, the committee’s Republican chair.

The act and her remarks about the hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett – “This has been one of the best set of hearings that I’ve participated in” – sparked calls among progressives for her retirement, and outcry that she had been in office for too long. Many of the California senator’s constituents and her more progressive Democratic colleagues have been arguing that for years.

“There have been a number of us in San Francisco that for a long time felt that, without taking away from what she has accomplished, it has gotten to a point where she is out of touch with where San Francisco is and where California is,” said David Campos, chair of the San Francisco Democratic party, not speaking on behalf of the organization.

“She represents the past of San Francisco and California,” Campos continued. “It’s not surprising that at a time when we’re facing a crisis, when we have a rightwing supremacist being rushed through the supreme court, she’s not up to the task. And it’s not because of her age. It’s just because of who she is.”

Some highlights of the Associated Press’s reporting of some of the lowlights of Trump’s campaigning on Friday, in Florida, forever a key battleground state, and Georgia, until now a state any Republican candidate would have had a hard time imagining losing:


Backed into a corner and facing financial strains, President Donald Trump went after his opponent’s family and defended his own struggle to contain the pandemic as he fought to energize his sagging reelection bid.

Trump campaigned Friday in Florida and Georgia, neighboring states he carried four years ago and must win again to extend his presidency. His decision to devote Friday evening’s prime-time slot to Georgia in particular highlighted the serious nature of his challenge: far from his original plan to expand into Democratic-leaning states, he is laboring to stave off a defeat of major proportions.

In Macon, he cited support from former University of Georgia football star Herschel Walker to win favor from his rally crowd. “How good was Herschel Walker?” Trump said as the Georgia crowd roared. “He’s on our side, and he’s an incredible guy.”

Trump had tried the same strategy Wednesday in Iowa, bringing wrestling legend Dan Gable onstage.

Earlier, in Florida, the president derided the Bidens as “an organized crime family”, renewing his daily claims about the candidate’s son, Hunter, and his business dealings in Ukraine and China.

Of that accusation – as the Washington Post literary critic Carlos Lozada has so adroitly pointed out, Trump tends to project. The AP again, on a group with whom Trump needs to succeed, and which polling suggests is not buying what he’s selling:


More to the point for Trump’s Florida audience, he spoke directly to seniors who have increasingly soured on his handling of the pandemic.

“I am moving heaven and earth to safeguard our seniors from the China virus,” Trump said, using his usual blame-shifting term to describe the coronavirus. “We are prevailing,” the president said, promising to deliver the first doses of a vaccine to seniors when it’s ready.

… Meanwhile, the president’s campaign released new numbers suggesting he’s likely the first incumbent to face a fundraising disadvantage in the modern era.

Trump’s campaign, along with the Republican national committee and associated groups, raised $247.8m in September, well short of the $383m raised by Biden and the Democratic National Committee.

Here, meanwhile, is Georgia senator David Perdue shamelessly bating a Trump crowd by pretending not to be able to pronounce Kamala Harris’s name, thereby upholding the august dignity of the matchless deliberative body in which they both serve with the sort of effortless gravitas which even Charles Sumner could never have hoped to match. Yes, you can’t type sarcasm, I know:

Miryam Lipper
(@MiryamLipper)

David Perdue is just gross.

He mispronounced @KamalaHarris‘ name just now warming up the stage for @realDonaldTrump to score race-baiting, cheap political cheers. pic.twitter.com/kiLmn8682A

October 16, 2020

And here’s David Smith’s survey of the state of the race, again:

Good morning …

… and welcome to another day of coverage of electoral politics and Covid crisis in America. The election is two weeks and two days away, and Joe Biden holds a decent lead over Donald Trump in most national polls and many polls in battleground states.

Trump is heading to no fewer than three such states today: Michigan, to deliver “remarks on Supporting the American Way of Life”; Wisconsin, for an evening rally in a Covid “red zone”; and then on to Nevada.

Here’s Jo Walters on the Wisconsin trip:

On Sunday, Biden will head for North Carolina, a state many think Trump has to win if he is to find a path to victory in the electoral college. Fivethirtyeight.com puts Biden up there, but only by 3.1%. Here’s David Smith’s survey of the situation:

In Covid news, on Friday the Johns Hopkins case count in the US passed 8m, with nearly 220,000 deaths, even as Dr Anthony Fauci, the most recognised public health expert in the country, said the White House task force is hardly meeting anymore – and while, as mentioned, Trump charges about the country, disregarding public health measures at campaign events though making sure attendees sign disclaimers lest they catch the bloody thing.

Here’s Lloyd Green’s review of Andrew Cuomo’s new book on the early days of the crisis, when the New York governor battled both virus and a hostile White House:

More follows…

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