It’s been a lively day on the election trail. We’re closing this blog now but will be back with all the developments in US political news, as it happens, tomorrow.
Here are the main events of the day:
- Alaska’s Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski has hopped off the fence and says she will confirm Amy Coney Barrett for the US supreme court in the vote expected on Monday.
- Barack Obama, speaking at a drive-in rally to support Joe Biden in the key swing state of Florida, laid into Donald Trump for his response to the coronavirus pandemic.
- Democratic vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris, campainging in Ohio, also decried the Trump administration’s handling of Covid-19 and lamented that the crushed economy has led to a “hunger crisis” in America.
- Campaigning at two rallies in Pennsylvania today, Joe Biden said at each that he would not ban fracking - a very active industry in the swing state.
- Top infectious disease public health official Anthony Fauci supports the idea of a national face mask mandate if that’s the only way to get people to wear them and curb the spread of coronavirus.
- Both Donald Trump and his most controversial coronavirus adviser Scott Atlas have been spreading misleading info on Twitter about Covid-19.
Democratic vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris is calling for an administration that is frank about racist police brutality in America.
“There isn’t a Black man I know, be it a relative or friend, who has not had some sort of experience with police that’s been about an unreasonable stop, some sort of profiling or excessive force,” she said.
She said Donald Trump “says people who are protesting are looters and they are violent, and talking about law and order, not understanding that peaceful protest is part of how this nation was founded.”
Harris said peaceful protest is what has allowed her to become only the second Black woman elected to the United States Senate (hat tip to groundbreaker Carol Moseley Braun). “But there is still a lot of work to be done” not just to speak out about police brutality but to do something about it.”
She said she had spoken out about Breonna Taylor, shot dead by police in March during a botched raid on her Louisville, Kentucky, apartment, “but there are many Breonnas and Georges”, referring to George Floyd who was killed by police in Minneapolis this spring when an officer kneeled on his neck on the ground for almost nine minutes, reinvigorating the Black Lives Matter movement.
“There needs to be ban on chokeholds and carotid holds, across the board. Let’s have a national registry of police officers who break the law.”
She added that there needed to be “accountability and consequences” not just for individual police but for “the system”.
The latest CNN opinion poll in Ohio has Democratic candidate Joe Biden and Republican candidate Donald Trump in a statistical dead heat, with 46% of those surveyed backing Biden for the White House in November, 47% favoring Trump.
No Republican in modern history has lost Ohio but won the White House.
The 2020 race continues. Donald Trump is on his way to begin another rally in Circleville, Ohio, about a 30-minute drive from Columbus, and Joe Biden is speaking now in Dallas, north-eastern Pennsylvania.
This Dallas is not far from Scranton, Biden’s birthplace. The Democratic candidate for president just said “maybe it’s the Scranton in me” that gives him “a bit of a chip on my shoulder” about Trump’s flaunting of and focus on his own wealth.
Biden is at his most fired up on the campaign trail right now, he doesn’t have the oratory skills of Obama, but he is impassioned.
After so many months in the basement, campaigning online, it’s truly exciting to see Biden, as well as Harris and Obama out on the trail in person talking to motivated voters - not leaving it all to Trump.
Biden just said once again that he won’t ban fracking.
And he’s slamming Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. He’s using what has become one of his standard lines, bringing up the revelation from Bob Woodward’s book Rage that the president told him very early on in the outbreak that he knew exactly how dangerous Covid-19 was but downplayed it to the public because he didn’t want to spread panic (instead his stance just spread coronavirus).
“The American people don’t panic,” Biden said. “Donald Trump panicked.”
He called the president’s approach to controlling the outbreak “weak and chaotic”. Biden said he is determined to shut down the virus if he is president, without shutting down the economy, although it’s not entirely clear yet how he would thread that needle for the nation.
Biden said Trump “hasn’t delivered on a damn thing”. Voters honking their car horns and cheering.
Alaska's Murkowski will confirm Barrett for supreme court
Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett won crucial backing this afternoon when one of the last Republican holdouts announced her support for Donald Trump’s pick ahead of a confirmation vote expected Monday.
Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said during today’s Senate session that while she opposed her party’s decision to push ahead with the nomination process so close to the November 3 presidential election, she supported the federal judge, who is on track to lock in a conservative court majority for years to come, The Associated Press reports.
Barrett already appeared to have enough votes for confirmation from Senate Republicans who hold the majority in the chamber and are racing to install her on the high court before Election Day.
But Murkowski’s nod gives her a boost of support. Only one Republican, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, is now expected to oppose the conservative judge.
“While I oppose the process that has led us to this point, I do not hold it against her,” Murkowski said.
The Senate opened the rare weekend session despite Democratic efforts to stall Trump’s nominee.
Democrats mounted more procedural hurdles during the day, but the party has no realistic chance of stopping Barrett’s advance. Barrett, a federal appeals court judge from Indiana, is expected to be confirmed Monday and quickly join the court.
The fast-track confirmation process is like none other in US history so close to a presidential election.
Democrats, notably the vice-presidential nominee and California Senator Kamala Harris, who sits on the judiciary committee, call it a “sham” and say the winner of the presidential election should name the nominee to fill the vacancy left by the recent death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Senators planned to stay in session Saturday and Sunday.
Read the Guardian’s latest report on the Amy Coney Barrett. Not only is her confirmation process controversial but she is a controversial judge and individual.
Here’s our last report on Barack Obama’s rally in Florida on behalf of Joe Biden today.
In his speech, which lasted almost an hour, he worked through several major election issues, such as the economy and the pandemic and touched on others as he continued to lash Trump.
“Let me just see a show of hands, how many people here have a secret Chinese bank account?” Obama asked, referring to a story that emerged in the week that Trump had paid more than $200,000 in taxes in China, weeks after it emerged his federal income tax liability in the US was far less.
“His first year in the White House he only paid $750 in federal income tax,” Obama said.
“You’ve got secretaries, you’ve got construction workers, you got your health care workers, nurses, who pay a lot more in income taxes than that.”
There was a staunch defense of Obamacare, his signature Affordable Care Act, which provided millions more Americans with affordable health insurance, that Republicans have tried numerous times to dismantle during the Trump administration. “When they’re asked about it they say, ‘Well look, we’re gonna have a great replacement. It’s coming. It’s gonna be there in two weeks.’ They’ve never had a replacement. Nothing. Nada. Zero. Zilch.
“They’ve attacked the Affordable Care Act and every time they’ve driven up costs, they’re driving up the uninsured. Now they’re trying to get the Supreme Court to take away your health care as we speak, in the middle of a pandemic,” referring to the high court’s hearing into the constitutionality of the ACA on 10 November.
Appealing to Florida’s sizeable Hispanic demographic, Obama had harsh words for Trump’s handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico in 2017, and efforts by some among Miami’s Cuban and Venezuelan communities to portray Biden as an extreme socialist.
“Listening to the Republicans, you’d think Joe was more communist than the Castros. Don’t fall for that garbage,” Obama said.
“Folks would know if he was a secret socialist by now. What is true is he’ll promote human rights in Cuba and around the world and he won’t coddle dictators the way our current president does.”
The former prescient ended on an upbeat note.
“I’m here to report that America is a good and decent place. We just see so much noise and nonsense,” he said.
“Sometimes it’s hard for us to remember but I’ve been all across this country. There are a lot of good people here. There are a lot of folks who share the values of looking out for one another and doing right by one another.”
Here we go again with Donald Trump’s antipathy to the wearing of face masks to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Having just arrived in Columbus, Ohio, for his next campaign trail event, the president had a few words with reporters and is talking utter nonsense.
First he said there are so many cases of coronavirus being reported in Wisconsin, where the disease is surging, at the moment because of all the testing.
So if no testing, then no coronavirus? This is a highly misleading and wrongheaded argument that the president of the United States has tried numerous times over the months in order to downplay the coronavirus pandemic.
And at a question from another reporter, Trump barked: “I can’t hear you with your mask on” and moved to the next reporter without waiting for the person to repeat the question.
The Texas state supreme court this afternoon temporarily reinstated the governor’s ban on multiple drop-off sites for mail ballots, in a short-term victory for Donald Trump.
The ban will remain in effect while the state supreme court fully reviews a Friday appeals court ruling that overturned the order by Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican like the president, who faces Democrat Joe Biden in a race for the White House on November 3, Reuters writes.
The Texas 3rd court of appeals had unanimously agreed with a lower court that limiting the number of drop boxes would lengthen lines, increase the risk that voters could get infected with Covid-19, and infringe on their right to vote.
Trump has repeatedly criticized mail-in ballots, claiming - without evidence - they would lead to widespread fraud.
Abbott issued his order limiting mail-in ballot drop boxes to one per county on October 1, saying it was aimed at preventing fraud.
The move, which closed more than a dozen satellite locations in at least two counties, drew condemnation from Democrats and voting rights advocates.
Texas, which Trump won by nine percentage points in 2016, has not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate in more than four decades.
But opinion polls have suggested it might be in reach for Biden, in part because of dissatisfaction over Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Guardian’s Erum Salam noted in this story from earlier in the month that large, populous counties such as Travis and Harris county will be disproportionately affected by Abbott’s order.
These counties includes Texas’s most diverse cities: Austin and Houston, respectively. Nine per cent of Travis county’s population are black and 33% are Hispanic. In Harris county, 20% of the population are black and 43% Hispanic.
Harris county is the third most populous county in the country with more than 4.7 million residents. As of 2018, it has nearly 2.4 million registered voters. After Abbott’s new order, the vast county has gone from having 12 ballot drop-off sites to just one, located at the NRG Stadium in central Houston. Full story here.
Richard Luscombe writes that Barack Obama is delivering a sparky speech at a drive-in rally for Joe Biden in North Miami, Florida.
His event continues with him highlighting the difference between Trump’s “empty promises” for a second term and Biden’s plans for his first.
“Tweeting… doesn’t fix things. Inventing conspiracies doesn’t make people’s lives better,” he said. “You’ve got to have a plan. You’ve got to do the work. And along with the experience of getting things done, Joe Biden has concrete plans and policies that are going to turn our vision of a better, fairer, stronger country into reality.”
Seeking to heap blame on Trump’s lack of response for a coronavirus pandemic that has killed almost 225,000 Americans and cost millions of jobs, Obama pointed out that his own administration had left plans.
“We literally left this White House a pandemic playbook that showed them how to respond before a virus reached our shores,” Obama said.
“It must be lost along with the Republican health care plan. We can’t find it, eight months into this pandemic.”
Also squandered, Obama said, was the nation’s strong economy: “Unemployment was steadily going down during the Obama-Biden presidency. And then he gets elected and it keeps on going down and suddenly he says, ‘Look what I did there.’
“He did inherit the longest streak of job growth in American history that we got started but just like everything else he inherited he fumbled it.
“The economic damage inflicted by [his] pandemic response means that Donald Trump will be the first president since Herbert Hoover that actually loses jobs.”
Obama also teased Trump for ending his interview early for 60 Minutes, with journalist Lesley Stahl, early. The interview airs tomorrow night, ditto one with Biden.
A quick reminder that Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump have threatened to sue the Lincoln Project, if the anti-Trump Republicans do not remove two huge billboards from Times Square in New York City, in which they accuse the senior White House advisers of showing “indifference” to Americans suffering and dying under Covid-19.
Saying the billboards would stay up, the group called Kushner and Trump “entitled, out-of-touch bullies, who have never given the slightest indication they have any regard for the American people”.
My colleague Martin Pengelly has just updated the story with the following:
In an email to the Guardian on Saturday, Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond in Virginia, said: “It does seem unlikely that Ivanka and Jared would actually sue the Lincoln Project, especially before election day, while after that hopefully they won’t care, can return to New York and stop pretending to be public servants.
“Her father has honed litigation abuse as a business person and president, to an art form,” Tobias added, but “if they did sue, the litigation might take years to resolve, be expensive and lead to embarrassing revelations … suits like this by people who have thrust themselves into the public eye are notoriously difficult to win.
“In short, this appears to be the usual Trump family bluster.”
Read the full story here:
And here’s the latest tweet from the project:
Obama speaks in Florida: slams Trump, says Biden made Obama himself "a better president"
Barack Obama is wasting no time in mocking Donald Trump during the former Democratic president’s appearance in North Miami, Florida this afternoon.
“He’s had a tough week. Everybody has been very unfair to Donald Trump, this week,” the former president said to joyous honks of car horns at a drive-in rally.
Referring to the final presidential debate between Trump and Joe Biden on Thursday, Obama said: “Trump was asked, ‘What is your plan for the new phase of Covid?’ which is a pretty good question considering that we just saw the highest number of cases spike up yesterday.
“So you think he’d be ready for a response. Instead, he just said it wasn’t his fault, he didn’t have one. He said, ‘It’s now gone and a bunch of states.’ Just as states are reaching new record highs nationwide he doesn’t have a plan. He doesn’t even acknowledge the reality of what’s taking place all across the country.”
As he did earlier in the week at a rally in Pennsylvania for Biden, his former vice-president, Obama kept the focus firmly on Trump.
“It’s a good idea to have an answer to this question. It’s a good idea if you’re running for reelection to say, ‘Here’s what I want to accomplish.” What did Trump say? He got mad and walked out of the interview,” Obama said, referring to an ill-tempered 60 Minutes due to air on CBS Sunday night but already posted on Trump’s Facebook site.
“He thought the questions were too tough. If he can’t answer a tough question like, ‘What would you like to do in your second term?’ then it’s our job to make sure he doesn’t get a second term.”
Obama said he didn’t know Biden very well when he picked him to be his Veep. But he said he got to know his character as their administration proceeded, and that Biden “made me a better president”.
Sanders in PA, Booker in NC
Also campaigning today in Pennsylvania is Bernie Sanders. He’s out on the trail for Joe Biden, who defeated him in the primary process this spring to become the Democratic nominee for president.
Here’s a post from the Sanders event from the Democratic councilwoman at large for Allegheny county, Bethany Hallam.
Hallam has become a little bit famous of late for her unique campaign to persuade voters in Pennsylvania to be careful to enclose their mail-in ballots in the privacy envelope issued by the state, inside the outer envelope, if you follow me. Read all about it here.
And in North Carolina, former Democratic presidential candidate and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker is campaigning today to help get Joe Biden elected next month.
More from Edward Helmore…
Facebook has demanded that New York University stop collecting data about its political ad targeting practices, arguing the engineering project violates its terms of service.
The argument between the social media giant and NYU’s Ad Observatory project, which launched last month with more 6,500 volunteers assigned to collect data about political ads, flared up on Friday, according to the Wall Street Journal.
In a letter to the engineering department, Facebook said “scraping tools, no matter how well-intentioned, are not a permissible means of collecting information from us”.
Facebook went on to say that if the university does not cease harvesting the data and delete it, it “may be subject to additional enforcement action”.
Last month, Facebook said it would stop political advertising for a month ahead the 3 November presidential election, seeking to prevent the spread of misinformation.
After the 2016 election of Donald Trump, Facebook was accused of allowing Russian disinformation and political profiling to flow almost unchecked.
NYU has said the Ad Observatory is designed to provide the public, journalists, researchers and policy makers with the ability to search political ads floated to specific audiences and to see how those ads are funded.
Facebook’s demand that NYU cease the program met with criticism.
“Facebook is making it harder for Americans to get information about online political ads,” Democratic senator Amy Klobuchar, a sponsor of a bill called the Honest Ads Act, said in a statement to the Journal.
Social media platforms, she added, have pledged to make online advertising more transparent – but Facebook’s threatened action “is further evidence that voluntary standards are insufficient”.
After the Journal’s article was published, Facebook partially retracted its threat, signaling the sensitivity of the issue. It said it would not take any action until after the election.
Harris laments "hunger crisis"
The Democratic vice-presidential nominee, Kamala Harris, is offering a searing view of the Trump presidency in Cleveland, Ohio, right now.
She decries, loudly and in a sharply scathing tone, Donald Trump’s having politicized mask-wearing in relation to the coronavirus pandemic, when the president indicates that if you don’t wear a mask you’re for Trump, if you wear one then you are against him.
“Can you imagine?” she asks rhetorically.
She’s talking as Barack Obama just took the stage at a drive-in rally in North Miami, Florida, where the former president just jogged in wearing a “VOTE” mask.
Harris, in the swing state of Ohio, went on to describe Trump as the kind of vain man “who looks in the mirror rather than looking into the faces of the American people.”
“And so we find ourselves in this crisis,” she said.
With the pandemic decimating the public health and the economy, Harris said that in Ohio right now, one in 10 families are concerned that they don’t have enough food, one in six families are concerned that they won’t be able to pay the rent next month, and one in five businesses have closed “with no prospect of being able to reopen.”
“We are in the middle of a hunger crisis in America,” the California Senator said.
She called the Trump presidency the greatest failure of an administration in US history.
New Yorkers are jamming polling places and standing in line for hours to cast ballots on the state’s first day of early voting today.
They are rushing to record their choices 10 days ahead of the November 3 presidential election, Reuters reports.
Lines formed before polls opened across New York City and neighboring Long Island, videos on social media showed, as New Yorkers joined a flood of more than 56 million Americans across the country who have cast early ballots at a record-setting pace.
Saturday was the first time that voters in New York, a reliably Democratic state where Democrat Joe Biden has a wide lead in polls over the Republican president, Donald Trump, have been allowed to vote early in a presidential election.
A majority of New York voters haven’t supported a Republican candidate for president since Ronald Reagan’s re-election in 1984.
Early in-person voting will continue in the state until November 1.
“Patiently waiting for Mommy to vote early!” the New York City Board of Elections tweeted, showing a photo of a young girl sitting in line with a drawing book.
About 56.1 million Americans already have cast early ballots across the country either in person or by mail, a pace that could lead to the highest voter turnout rate in more than a century, according to data from the US Elections Project.
The high level of early voting has led Michael McDonald, the University of Florida professor who administers the US Elections Project, to predict a record turnout of about 150 million, representing 65% of eligible voters, the highest participation rate since 1908.
Donald Trump’s long-sought after tax records, obtained by the New York Times, appear to show he may have given far less to philanthropic causes than he has claimed.
According to the documents, the Times reports, Trump has given at least $130m since 2005. But the majority of that total, $119.3m, came from simply agreeing not to move forward on land development projects.
In three cases the agreements, known as conservation easements, came after Trump had abandoned the projects but was permitted under US law to keep title and receive a tax deduction equal to their appraised value.
Trump’s tax records, the Times also reported, show that much of his charitable giving has come during periods of financial or public-image duress, including as he faced high tax bills from earnings related to his long-running reality TV series, The Apprentice.
One land deal, currently being investigated by the New York attorney general, involves land donated for a state park. The investigation focuses on whether the appraisal used to secure a tax easement was improperly inflated.
According to an earlier report at least four Trump properties – the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago, a 212-acre Seven Springs estate in Westchester county, New York, the Trump National Golf Club in Los Angeles and a skyscraper at 40 Wall Street in Manhattan – are being reviewed by state and federal authorities for potential tax, debt or insurance irregularities.
The latest reporting contributes to a perception that Trump’s claims to philanthropic largesse are inflated or misleading at best. His charitable foundation was shut down two years ago.
Former New York attorney general Barbara Underwood said at the time the foundation functioned “as little more than a checkbook to serve Mr Trump’s business and political interests”, and had engaged in “a shocking pattern of illegality.”
The current New York attorney general, Letitia James, is investigating whether the Trump Organization falsely reported property values to secure loans or tax benefits.
Investigators with her office this month deposed Eric Trump, the organization’s executive vice president, in what is currently a civil matter. The president’s son described the investigation as “the highest level of prosecutorial misconduct”.
In response to questions posed by the Times about public philanthropic promises that appear either to have been exaggerated or non-existent, Trump Organization spokeswoman Amanda Miller said: “President Trump gives money privately. It’s impossible to know how much he’s given over the years.”
Everyone’s on the move. Donald Trump is en route from North Carolina to his next campaign event, in Ohio, and Joe Biden has another rally in Pennsylvania, this one featuring rock god Jon Bon Jovi, who 10 years ago described himself to the Observer (the Guardian’s sister Sunday newspaper) as “overweight, drinking too much and bored to tears”!
And very soon, Barack Obama is speaking at a drive-in rally in support of Joe Biden in Florida.
Obama began hitting the campaign trail in person a few days ago, giving a blistering critique of Donald Trump’s presidency at a raucous rally in Philadelphia.
The timing appeared very strategic - don’t campaign too early as if your former vice-president needs rescuing, but skid in for the closing when Biden has a strong lead in the polls but some of those last few swing voters in key states are still deciding which way to go....
Here’s Lauren Gambino’s report on that event in Philly. Richard Luscombe will bring us some reporting from Obama’s event in North Miami in a few minutes.
Biden on fracking - no ban
Joe Biden is repeating that he has no plans to ban hydraulic fracturing in Pennsylvania, a critical battleground state where many jobs depend on the industry.
Speaking at a drive-in rally on the grounds of a community college in Bristol, near Philadelphia, earlier The Assocated Press reports that he said: “Let me be clear, I’m not banning fracking in Pennsylvania or anywhere else.”
People in about 100 cars blared their horns.
Still, Biden noted that climate change could lead to more catastrophic floods in places like along the nearby Delaware River.
“We can do something about it,” he said. “But we’ve got to come together.”
Donald Trump has repeatedly accused Biden of supporting a ban on fracking. Biden mistakenly suggested during a Democratic presidential primary debate that he did, but his campaign quickly corrected that. The former vice president has promised to end fracking on federal land.
Biden also said during this week’s presidential debate with Trump that the country would have to “transition away from the oil industry” to combat climate change -- something he didn’t mention at his rally today.
Biden has since clarified that the process would be gradual and not cost people who rely on the energy sector their jobs.
The comment pleased environmentalists but drew criticism from Republicans and even some national Democratic politicians in close congressional races in oil country.
Jill Biden wore a “vote” mask to the rally this morning - here’s a reminder of the great Guardian piece from a few weeks ago about “vote” fashion.
The war of words on the campaign trail is heating up. Donald Trump is still talking in North Carolina, about an hour in, in 82F heat under sunny skies (according to the pool report - your blogger is in the cloudy, cool Big Apple) and the president is mocking Democratic rival Joe Biden’s drive-in rallies and the focus on the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump said all he hears about is “Covid, Covid, Covid” asserting that on November 4, the day after the election, the topic will disappear from headlines and Biden’s utterances.
That seems unlikely as the autumn surge in cases continues across the country, and dire warnings from experts that the death toll, which is currently 224,000 in the US, could more than double to 500,000 in the next four months.
Those attending Trump’s rally lined up for hours and can be seen on the television failing to keep social distance or wear a mask, while also hugging each other and cheering loudly.
Biden held one of his drive-in rallies in Pennsylvania earlier, where voters listen from their cars and cheer, clap and honk in appreciation while keeping away from each other in order to curb the spread of coronavirus.
“People in cars. People in cars!” Trump said sarcastically of Biden’s methods, getting his crowd chuckling.
Some Trump supporters in cars made a point of creating a hullabaloo close to Biden’s rally, interrupting the candidate, who called them “chumps”.
Just 10 days to go, folks.
Meanwhile, Barack Obama is getting ready to hold a drive-in rally for Biden in North Miami within the hour.
Fauci supports national mask mandate
Meanwhile, top infectious diseases expert and the leading public health official on the White House coronavirus task force, Anthony Fauci, has suggested in his latest interview that it could be time to mandate mask-wearing across American in order to curb the spread of coronavirus.
With the pandemic still out of control and infections rising, Fauci expressed exasperation.
“If people are not wearing masks, then maybe we should be mandating it,” Fauci told CNN later yesterday.
The doctor has been reluctant to talk about a national mandate, hoping that information campaigns, local efforts and facts about the effectiveness of masks would sway the public.
Now he appears to be running out of optimism that common sense will prevail.
“There’s going to be a difficulty enforcing it, but if everyone agrees that this is something that’s important and they mandate it and everybody pulls together and says, you know, we’re going to mandate it but let’s just do it, I think that would be a great idea to have everybody do it uniformly,” he said last night.
Unfortunately, Fauci has been undermined all along the way by Donald Trump and now by the president’s newest official adviser, Scott Atlas (see previous post), whom Fauci has acknowledged is being allowed to edge him out and capture the president’s ear.
Fauci also said late Thursday that Trump hasn’t met with the whole task force for months and whereas the White House coronavirus task force met daily earlier in the pandemic they are now only being convened about once a week.
Trump coronavirus adviser plays down importance of case numbers and testing
While the US is surging towards record numbers of new coronavirus infections that could exceed the grim threshold of 100,000 cases a day, Donald Trump’s most controversial official White House coronavirus adviser, Scott Atlas, has put out a tweet, backing up misleading information from the president.
CNN’s ace fact-checker Daniel Dale is not having any of it.
The country set a record daily number of new coronavirus cases on Friday at more than 83,000, eclipsing the previous high set on 16 July by more than 6,000. Dozens of states have reported their own surge in numbers, with the governor of Utah, Gary Herbert, warning that health services are at breaking point.
“Up until now, our hospitals have been able to provide good care to all Covid and non-Covid patients who need it,” he said. “But today we stand on the brink.
“If Utahans do not take serious steps to limit group gatherings and wear masks, our healthcare providers will not have the ability to provide quality care for everyone who needs it.”
Good afternoon, Joanna Walters in New York now taking over the reins from my colleague Bryan Armen Graham.
Trump just arrived in Lumberton, North Carolina, and has begun addressing a rally there.
He’s out of the gate with an entirely unsubstantiated assertion (and a split infinitive) that: “We are going to quickly end this pandemic.”
Trump also remarks to the crowd that the sun is hot and he might have to cut his speech short because: “I’m going to be a lobster”.
The crowd is having a whale of a time.
And then, Christmas greetings.
Joe Biden told a rally crowd in the key battleground state of Pennsylvania that he misses up-close campaigning, but doesn’t want his supporters to become “superspreaders”.
“I wish I could go car to car and meet you all,” the former vice-president said at the top of his 25min remarks. “I don’t like the idea of all this distance but it’s necessary. I appreciate you being safe. What we don’t want to do is become superspreaders.”
Biden’s speech at a drive-in event at Bucks County Community College in the Philadelphia suburb of Bristol came as Donald Trump embarked on a three-state, three-rally jaunt in North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin as campaign season hurtles down the homestretch with early voting under way in all 50 states.
A Rose Garden event in late September has been labeled a “superspreader” for the virus. More than two dozen people linked to the White House have contracted Covid-19 since the president’s reception on 26 September announcing Amy Coney Barrett as his nominee to the US supreme court.
The US Senate has convened a rare weekend session to continue debate over the confirmation of federal appeals court judge Amy Coney Barrett to the supreme court.
Democrats have expressed outrage at the vacancy being filled so close to the election – in fact boycotting Thursday’s vote to advance her nomination to the full Senate – but the Republicans’ 53-37 majority in the upper chamber ensures they have the votes they need to approve her nomination and cement a 6-3 conservative majority on the high court for years to come.
No supreme court nominee has ever been installed so close to a presidential election and, just four years ago, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, and senator Lindsey Graham, who now chairs the judiciary committee, said that installing a nominee in an election year would be a shameful defiance of the will of voters.
Barrett, 48, is expected to be confirmed Monday and quickly join the court.
Barack Obama was promising to step up for his former vice-president with an appearance in Miami on Saturday afternoon. The problem is nobody seems to know exactly when or where.
Democrats have posted only vague details about the event on social media, leaving in the dark hordes of supporters keen to hear the most recent president speak.
Not even the hometown Miami Herald appeared to be in the picture, noting only that Obama “planned a drive-in rally Saturday in North Miami”.
“Does anyone know where in Miami Obama is going to be at,” one woman asked on Twitter on Saturday lunchtime, echoing dozens of similar messages from baffled supporters. Others speculated there were no details because the event was invite only. The Florida Democratic Party, meanwhile, isn’t saying either way.
Florida, a traditional battleground state which Obama carried in his successful 2008 and 2012 campaigns, is crucial to both candidates’ hopes of winning the White House. Donald Trump flipped the state back red in 2016 but trails Biden in latest polls, albeit by a percentage inside the margin of error.
National Guard soldiers in the North Dakota capital of Bismarck have helped notify 800 people who tested positive for the coronavirus but initially weren’t told due to a backlog of cases, the AP reports.
The backlog was due to a recent sharp increase in coronavirus cases. North Dakota leads the nation with more than 1,272 new cases per 100,000 people over the past two weeks, according to the COVID Tracking Project.
This week, North Dakota National Guard soldiers began telling people they tested positive for the virus. They previously were informing people who had contact with someone positive and should monitor their health for signs and symptoms of the virus.
North Dakota reported 886 new infections on Friday, down from a record 1,038 cases on Thursday. Health officials reported nine deaths Friday, increasing the statewide death toll to 440.
A surge of coronavirus cases in Wisconsin and the Dakotas is forcing a scramble for hospital beds and raising political tensions, as the upper midwest has emerged as one of the nation’s most troubling hotspots.
Johns Hopkins University has reported 79,963 new coronavirus cases in 24 hours, a record, although the number of daily deaths has remained broadly stable since the beginning of autumn at between 700 and 800.
The World Health Organization (WHO) chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has said “too many countries are seeing an exponential increase in Covid-19 cases and that is now leading to hospitals and intensive care units running close to or above capacity - and we’re still only in October.”
The message was echoed by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), whose director, Andrea Ammon, spoke of a “highly concerning epidemiological situation”.
The Sars-CoV-2 coronavirus has killed at least 1,145,847 people since the outbreak emerged in China last December, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP.
At least 42,262,290 cases have been registered, of which at least 28,754,900 are now considered recovered.
The tallies, using data collected from national authorities and WHO, probably reflect only a fraction of the actual number of infections. Many countries are testing only symptomatic or the most serious cases.
On Friday, 482,954 new cases and 6,366 new deaths and were recorded worldwide.
Trump votes in Florida
Donald Trump has just cast his ballot in the 2020 presidential election at a library in West Palm Beach not far from his Mar-a-Lago resort.
“It was a very secure vote, much more secure than when you send in a ballot, I can tell you that,” the US president says. “Everything was perfect. Very strict, by the rules. When you send in your ballot, it can never be like that. It could never be secure like that.”
Early voting began in Florida on Monday. More than 52m Americans have already voted, according to the Election Project.
Asked by a reporter which candidate he voted for, he smiles and says: “I voted for a guy named Trump.”
A busy Saturday lies ahead with 10 days to do until election day: three rallies in three states (North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin).
A fascinating and troubling read from Johnny Kaufmann in Georgia, part of our ongoing series The Fight to Vote:
Tariq Baiyina has lobbied politicians, shaken hands with governors, set up a college program, and delivered dozens of sermons. Despite all this, the 42-year-old has never voted. And the reason is simple: since 2002, when he was convicted of a felony, he hasn’t been allowed.
Ivanka and Jared threaten to sue Lincoln Project
Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump have threatened to sue the Lincoln Project, if the group of anti-Trump Republicans do not remove two huge billboards from Times Square in New York City, in which the White House advisers are accused of showing callous disregard for Americans suffering under the Covid-19 pandemic.
On Friday, the Project posted to Twitter a letter from Marc Kasowitz, an attorney who has represented Donald Trump.
“I am writing concerning the false, malicious and defamatory ads that the Lincoln Project is displaying on billboards in Times Square,” Kasowitz wrote.
“Those ads show Ms Trump smiling and gesturing toward a death count of Americans and New Yorkers, and attribute to Mr Kushner the statement that “[New Yorkers] are going to suffer and that’s their problem” … with body bags underneath.
“Of course, Mr Kushner never made any such statement, Ms Trump never made any such gesture, and the Lincoln Project’s representation that they did are an outrageous and shameful libel.”
The Lincoln Project’s response, posted by members including the former GOP strategist-turned-bestselling author Rick Wilson, was typically pugnacious.
“The level of indignant outrage Jared Kushner, and Ivanka Trump have shown towards the Lincoln Project for exposing their indifference for the more than 223,000 people who have lost their lives due to the reckless mismanagement of Covid-19 is comical,” a statement said.
“…The billboards will stay up. We consider it important that in Times Square, the crossroads of the world, people are continuously reminded of the cruelty or density and staggering lack of empathy the Trumps and the Kushners have displayed towards the American people.”
More than 6 million Californians have voted
On 22 October, almost three weeks before one of the most consequential presidential elections in recent history, more than 6 million Californians had already voted.
The number was several times that of the same point in 2016. The pandemic, massive wildfires and the ongoing fight against police brutality have galvanized voters in America’s most populous state.
“We knew the Covid-19 pandemic would pose significant challenges, but elections officials have prepared and voters have responded,” said Alex Padilla, the secretary of state.
California has sent mail-in ballots to 22 million registered voters, and the flood of votes that have been returned so far make up about 25%. It’s still unclear whether voter turnout will be higher than in previous years.
But the early turnout is “shattering prior election returns”, said Paul Mitchell of Political Data, a bipartisan voter data firm based in California.
“We’ve been tracking this kind of stuff for over a decade, and there’s just nothing that compares to how quickly voters have been returning their ballots this election cycle.”
Here’s some of the Associated Press report on yesterday’s worrying coronavirus milestone in the US, a record caseload of more than 83,000 in one day.
States from Connecticut to the Rocky Mountain West are reeling under the surge. The US death toll has grown to 223,995, according to Johns Hopkins University. The total US caseload reported on the site Friday was 83,757, topping 77,362 cases reported on 16 July.
The impact is being felt in every section of the country – a lockdown at the Oglala Sioux reservation in South Dakota, a plea by a Florida health official for a halt to children’s parties, dire warnings from Utah’s governor, an increasingly desperate situation at a hospital in northern Idaho, which is running out of space and considering airlifts to Seattle or Oregon.
“We’ve essentially shut down an entire floor of our hospital. We’ve had to double rooms. We’ve bought more hospital beds,” said Dr Robert Scoggins, a pulmonologist at the Kootenai Health hospital in Coeur d’Alene. “Our hospital is not built for a pandemic.”
Utah governor Gary Herbert proclaimed Friday “a record day for Utah – but not a good one” as cases reached an all-time high.
“Up until now, our hospitals have been able to provide good care to all Covid and non-Covid patients who need it,” he said. “But today we stand on the brink. If Utahans do not take serious steps to limit group gatherings and wear masks, our healthcare providers will not have the ability to provide quality care for everyone who needs it.”
By public health order, masks are required in 21 counties, said Herbert, urging Utah residents to wear one whenever they are around someone outside their immediate household.
The seven-day rolling average for new daily cases in the US surpassed 61,140 on Thursday, compared with 44,647 two weeks ago. The record was reached on 22 July when the rolling average was 67,293.
The head of the World Health Organization warned that countries in the northern hemisphere are at a “critical juncture”.
“The next few months are going to be very tough and some countries are on a dangerous track,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
According to scientists at the University of Washington, things could be about to get much, much worse:
Trump seizes on Biden oil remark
Joe Biden’s remark in Thursday’s final debate that he would support a “transition” away from oil in the US, in favour of renewable energy, has given Trump an in – and he has tried to seize it.
“That could be one of the biggest mistakes made in presidential debate history,” the president said on Friday at a rally at The Villages, a retirement community in central Florida where thousands of people gathered outdoors on a polo field – most not wearing masks.
Later, in Pensacola, Trump recounted the moment with glee.
“It looked like he made it, it looked like it was going to be OK. He got off the stage, going back to his basement, and then they hit him with the energy question. They hit him with a thing called oil.”
Here’s what Oliver Milman, an environment reporter, wrote for us on Friday:
Biden attempted to mend potential political damage after the debate when he told reporters he wanted to end subsidies for fossil fuels rather than the industry itself.
But two vulnerable House Democrats in oil-producing states, Kendra Horn in Oklahoma and Xochitl Torres Small in New Mexico, quickly used Twitter to distance themselves from Biden’s remarks, perhaps mindful of the persistent attacks on Hillary Clinton in 2016 when she was portrayed as being happy to eliminate coalmining jobs.
Climate activists have pointed out that a phase-out of the oil industry is simply a logical consequence of Biden’s climate action plan, which calls for 100% clean energy within 15 years and the negation of all planet-warming gases in the US by 2050. Even some major oil companies, such as BP, have embraced a similar goal of net zero by 2050.
Scientists have warned that emissions must hit zero globally by mid-century to avoid the worst ravages of the climate crisis, including mass suffering and displacement of people due to heatwaves, flooding and wildfires.
Biden’s comments on the oil industry “now count as the conventional wisdom”, said Bill McKibben, co-founder of the climate group 350.org. “That matters.”
States such as Texas, which Democrats are trying to shift from being reliably Republican, have large numbers of workers in the oil and petrochemical industries.
But the economic and political terrain is shifting – Texas is also the largest wind energy-producing state in the US while polls show that nearly eight in 10 Americans want the country to focus on boosting renewable energy rather than fossil fuels, including a clear majority of Republican voters.
Good morning …
… and welcome to another day of coverage of the US presidential election, US politics in general and of course the coronavirus pandemic, ever a subject of political debate.
There are 10 days to go until election day, and Donald Trump is trailing Joe Biden in most national and battleground polls, some deficits by more than 5%, suggesting that even polling inaccuracies of 2016 proportions might not see the president right the ship.
This morning, Trump will vote in Florida, then travel to North Carolina. Here is a story about how one leading expert thinks turnout is heading to be the highest since 1908, early voting surging because of the pandemic – and perhaps because of Trump himself. More than 52m votes have been cast, with 100m or so more expected.
It’s a three-rally day for Trump, with Ohio and Wisconsin after North Carolina. According to the fivethirtyeight.com averages, he’s a fraction ahead of Biden in Ohio, a fraction behind in North Carolina – and quite a long way behind in Wisconsin. Biden will be in Pennsylvania, where he also leads by more than 5%, for two drive-in rallies, one attended by … Jon Bon Jovi.
“To continue our movementI am going to rely on you,” Trump told supporters in Florida on Friday. “Get out and vote. Vote early. Bring your friends, your family, your neighbors, your co-workers. Even grab your boss and say: ‘Come on, boss. You got to vote.’”
Don’t, to put it efficiently, expect much evidence of Covid-19 mitigation measures at the Trump events today. Don’t expect much discussion of how case numbers have now hit record highs – and could reach terrifying levels, according to one new report.
More to come, of course, from me and other Guardian writers. In the meantime, here’s something I helped Ed Pilkington write, about Trump’s dirty tricks …