Kari Paul here, logging off for the night. Thank you for sticking with us on these fast-moving news days. Here is what you should know from the last few hours:
- The justice department is set to investigate the Roger Stone case after prosecutors said they were encouraged to lower the sentence for the former Trump colleague
- Former Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum came out as bisexual in his first interview since a drug scandal in February
- An appeals court decided Monday to allow Donald Trump to phase out ‘Temporary Protected Status’ immigrant humanitarian protections
- Donald Trump did some gloating via retweet on Monday after a federal judge ruled shutdown orders in Pennsylvania unconstitutional
- A horrific complaint has been filed against an Ice detention center in Georgia alleging poor Covid safety practices and forced hysterectomies of female inmates
- The post office is temporarily shutting down some offices in fire-stricken states
The post office is shutting down temporarily in fire-stricken states
As historic and destructive fires continue across the western United States, the USPS has temporarily closed post offices in California, Oregon and Washington due to fire danger and power outages related to the fires.
The fire-related shutdowns come after increased focus on access to postal services as the 2020 elections approach, for which many citizens will be voting by mail to minimize Covid-19 risks.
More fallout in New York over the suffocation death of Daniel Prude, the Associated Press reports:
Rochester mayor Lovely Warren fired the city’s police chief and suspended her top lawyer and communications director Monday in the continuing upheaval over the suffocation death of Daniel Prude.
Chief Le’Ron Singletary announced his retirement last week as part of a major shakeup of the city’s police leadership but said he would stay on through the end of the month.
Instead, Warren said at a news conference that she had permanently relieved him while suspending Corporation Counsel Tim Curtin and Communications Director Justin Roj without pay for 30 days following a cursory management review of the city’s role in Prude’s death.
“This initial look has shown what so many have suspected, that we have a pervasive problem in the Rochester Police Department,” Warren said. “One that views everything through the eyes of the badge and not the citizens we serve. It shows that Mr. Prude’s death was not taken as seriously as it should have been by those who reviewed the case throughout city government at every level.”
Officers found Prude running naked down the street in March, handcuffed him and put a hood over his head to stop him from spitting, then held him down for about two minutes until he stopped breathing. He died a week later after he was taken off life support.
Whistleblower complaint alleges Ice detention center is ‘like an experimental concentration camp’
Immigrants in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) detention center in Georgia are being subjected to horrific conditions and treatment including “jarring medical neglect” and mass hysterectomies of immigrant women, according to a complaint filed by several legal advocacy groups on behalf of a nurse there.
Dawn Wooten has worked as a nurse for more than 10 years, three of which she was employed at Irwin county detention center in Georgia, which is run by private corporation LaSalle Corrections. The complaint filed on her behalf on 14 September accused the center of negligence, including poor safety precautions surrounding Covid-19 and generally hazardous and unsanitary conditions. Immigrants who spoke out against these conditions were regularly pushed into solitary confinement, the complaint said. Wooten herself was demoted and reprimanded when she spoke out about these practices.
Wooten also reported an alarmingly high rate of hysterectomies - a surgery in which part or all of the uterus is removed - being performed on Spanish-speaking immigrants, many of whom did not appear to understand why they had undergone the procedure.
She said an off-site doctor supposedly performed the surgeries on women who complained of heavy menstrual cycles, but that many women seemed to not understand what had happened. In many cases nurses obtained consent from patients by “simply googling Spanish,” according to the complaint.
“Everybody he sees has a hysterectomy – just about everybody,” Wooten said. “That’s his specialty, he’s the uterus collector. Everybody’s uterus cannot be that bad.”
The complaint details health and safety violations related to the procedures. One woman said she was not properly anesthetized during a procedure and overheard the doctor say he had mistakenly removed the wrong ovary, rendering her unable to have children. Another went in to have a cyst drained and ultimately got a hysterectomy instead.
“When I met all these women who had had surgeries, I thought this was like an experimental concentration camp. It was like they’re experimenting with our bodies,” one detainee said, according to the complaint.
When reached by phone, an employee at Irwin county detention center declined to comment or answer how many immigrants are currently housed there. LaSalle Corrections did not respond to request for comment. Ice did not respond to request for comment.
Donald Trump did some gloating via retweet on Monday after a federal judge ruled shutdown orders in Pennsylvania unconstitutional
District judge William Stickman IV, who was appointed by Trump, ruled orders made by governor Tom Wolf to shut down businesses in the state and limit gatherings were unconstitutional.
Pandemic policies enforced by the Wolf administration violated the right to freedom of assembly and the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th amendment, the judge ruled.
He wrote in his hearing the governor’s efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus “were undertaken with the good intention of addressing a public health emergency” but ultimately were overreaching, arbitrary and violated citizens’ constitutional rights.
Trump responded to the news by gleefully retweeting memes and videos praising the decision, including one in which elderly people take off their masks to the tune of ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’ by Twisted Sister.
The Wolf administration will reportedly appeal the decision.
An appeals court decided Monday to allow Donald Trump to phase out immigrant humanitarian protections.
In a 2-1 ruling, a California circuit court of appeals reversed a lower court’s decision to block the administration from phasing out Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for people from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan.
Hundreds of thousands of immigrants, many of whom have lived in the United States for decades, will now be required to find another way to live in the US legally.
Judge Consuelo Callahan, an appointee of Republican former President George W. Bush, wrote in a 54-page opinion that the Trump administration decisions to phase out the protections were not reviewable and therefore should not have been blocked.
Callahan also rejected a claim by plaintiffs that Trump’s past criticism of non-white, non-European immigrants influenced the TPS decisions.
“While we do not condone the offensive and disparaging nature of the president’s remarks, we find it instructive that these statements occurred primarily in contexts removed from and unrelated to TPS policy or decisions,” she wrote.
The plaintiffs in the case will seek another “en banc” review of the matter, their attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union said.
Former Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum said on daytime talkshow the Tamron Hall Show on Monday that he identifies as bisexual.
“To be very honest with you, when you didn’t ask the question, you put it out there is whether or not I identify as gay,” he said. “The answer is I don’t identify as gay, but I do identify as bisexual, and that is something that I have never shared publicly before.”
Gillum was the mayor of Tallahassee from 2014 to 2018 and ran for governor in 2018, losing narrowly to Republican Governor Ron DeSantis. He checked into a rehab center in February for alcohol abuse after a tabloid published a photo of him passed out in a hotel where a man overdosed and meth was found.
The interview was Gillum’s first since the scandal. His wife R. Jai told Hall she was aware of Gillum’s sexual orientation prior to their marriage.
“What was most hurtful was this belief that I was somehow living a lie in my marriage and in my family,” Gillum said. “That was the most hurtful to me. Because I believe we are all entitled to mistakes, and I believe we are entitled to those mistakes without having every other respectable and redeeming part of our lives invalidated.”
Justice Department watchdog to investigate Roger Stone case
The Justice Department is investigating whether the sentencing of political consultant and longtime Donald Trump buddy Roger Stone was impacted by his relationship to the president, according to NBC News.
The Office of the Inspector General is looking into allegations that in February prosecutors of Stone were encouraged to seek a lighter sentence than they would have previously considered when sentencing Stone.
Stone was convicted on seven counts related to misleading an investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia in 2016, including witness tampering and lying to investigators.
All four prosecutors quit when attorney general William Barr tried to override the recommendation of seven to nine years. Stone is a close friend of Trump.
Aaron Zelinsky, one of the prosecutors who quit, said when testifying before Congress in June that US Attorney, Timothy Shea was “receiving heavy pressure from the highest levels of the Department of Justice to cut Stone a break, and that the US Attorney’s sentencing instructions to us were based on political considerations.”
The investigation was prompted primarily by Zelinsky’s testimony, according to NBC News. It is not yet clear how far along this investigation is and whether it has surfaced any wrongdoing, the report said.
Kari Paul here in the San Francisco Bay area, taking over the blog for the next few hours. Stand by for more updates.
Today so far
That’s it from me today. My west coast colleague, Kari Paul, will take over the blog for the next few hours.
Here’s where the day stands so far:
- Joe Biden criticized Trump as a “climate arsonist” while wildfires continue to rage along the west coast. In a speech at the Delaware Museum of Natural History, the Democratic nominee said, “If you give a climate arsonist four more years in the White House, why would anyone be surprised if we have more of America ablaze?”
- Trump received a briefing on the wildfires in California. The president blamed the recent surge in wildfires on poor forest management, even though climate experts have pointed to record levels of heat and drought, which have been attributed to climate change. When a California official pressed Trump on the facts of climate change, the president said, “I don’t think science knows actually.”
- Trump dismissed concerns about the possible spread of coronavirus at his indoor rally in Nevada this weekend. “I’m on a stage and it’s very far away,” the president told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “And so I’m not at all concerned.” But that comment did not address the threat posed to the thousands of Trump supporters who attended the rally in Henderson, Nevada.
- A senior official at the department of health and human services accused CDC scientists of “sedition.” In a live video hosted on his personal Facebook page, Michael Caputo claimed (without any evidence) that CDC officials were forming a “resistance unit” aimed at undermining Trump.
- The attorney general of South Dakota was accused of hitting and killing a man while driving home from a Republican fundraiser on Saturday. According to the South Dakota Department of Public Safety, Jason Ravnsborg initially told officials he had hit a deer, but the body of Joe Boever was found the following morning.
Kari will have more coming up, so stay tuned.
Caputo accuses CDC scientists of 'sedition'
Michael Caputo, the assistant secretary of public affairs at the department of health and human services, reportedly accused scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of “sedition” over their response to the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the New York Times, Caputo claimed (without any evidence) that CDC officials were forming a “resistance unit” aimed at undermining Trump.
“You understand that they’re going to have to kill me, and unfortunately, I think that’s where this is going,” Caputo said in a live video hosted on his personal Facebook page.
Caputo also spread baseless claims that left-wing groups were preparing for armed conflict after the presidential election.
“And when Donald Trump refuses to stand down at the inauguration, the shooting will begin,” Caputo said. “The drills that you’ve seen are nothing. ... If you carry guns, buy ammunition, ladies and gentlemen, because it’s going to be hard to get.”
Caputo has recently weathered severe criticism after Politico obtained emails showing the official had sought to change key CDC reports on coronavirus, even complaining that the reports “would undermine the president’s optimistic messages about the outbreak.”
During the briefing on the west coast wildfires, Wade Crowfoot, the secretary of California’s Natural Resources Agency, emphasized that climate change was exacerbating the crisis.
“We want to work with you to really recognize the changing climate and what it means to our forests, and actually work together with that science,” Crowfoot told Trump.
“If we ignore that science and sort of put our head in the sand and think it’s all about vegetation management, we’re not going to succeed together protecting Californians.”
The president has previously suggested the recent surge in wildfires was attributable to poor forest management, rather than record levels of heat and drought, as climate experts have said.
Trump responded by telling Crowfoot, “It’ll start getting cooler, you just watch.”
“I wish science agreed with you,” Crowfoot replied.
“I don’t think science knows actually,” Trump responded.
Shortly after that exchange, Crowfoot sent a tweet with a graphic showing the rise in California’s average temperature in recent decades.
When Gary Cohn was Donald Trump’s top economic adviser, according to Bob Woodwards first Trump book, Fear, he made sure key pieces of paper were removed from the president’s desk, lest he enact policies Cohn thought would be catastrophic.
When Trump said there were “very fine people” on both sides of a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia at which neo-Nazis chanted “Jews will not replace us” and a counter-protester was murdered, Cohn, who is Jewish, broke with the president and came close to resigning.
When Cohn did quit the Trump White House, he said it was over Trump’s love for tariffs which, as a free-trader, he could not support.
Cohn is a Democrat, and the country is less than two months out from a presidential election which the Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, has cast as an existential battle with a “climate arsonist” president.
Cohn has also watched, with the rest of America, more than 190,000 die from a pandemic the president knew was a severe threat, but chose not to tell the country so immediately. He has watched the US economy tank, under the impact of that pandemic.
But Cohn told CNBC today he wasn’t sure who he will vote for in November:
“You know, I honestly haven’t made up my mind. I’m really eager to see an economic debate between the two of them. I actually vote on issues.
“We have to have a plan to get back to a more normalised fiscal picture, once we normalise and we get back to a normal economy in the United States. And I really do want to hear where the two candidates are. Just taxing to spend doesn’t make sense to me. We have to have a plan to get our fiscal house back in order.”
Trump on climate change: 'I don't think science knows'
During the briefing on the west coast wildfires, multiple officials, including California governor Gavin Newsom, said climate change was exacerbating the disaster.
As one official made this argument, Trump interrupted to say, “It will start getting cooler.”
However, climate experts have warned the planet will continue to get hotter if greenhouse gas emissions are not curtailed.
But Trump told the officials at the briefing, “Just watch. I don’t think science knows actually.”
Trump is now attending a briefing on the west coast wildfires, with California’s Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom, and state and federal officials involved in the wildfire response.
As the briefing got underway, Trump said of Newsom, “I know we come from different sides of the planet, but we have a great relationship.”
Newsom acknowledged the need for improved forest management, which Trump has called for, but the governor added, “We come to the perspective, humbly ... that climate change is real and that is exacerbating this.”
The president nodded in response but did not directly address Newsom’s comment.
After landing in California, Trump blamed the recent devastating wildfires on poor forest management, which the president said can cause exploding trees.
“When trees fall down after a short period of time -- about 18 months -- they become very dry. They become really like a matchstick,” Trump told reporters after Air Force One landed in Sacramento.
“They just explode. They can explode. Also leaves. When you have years of leaves, dried leaves on the ground, it just sets it up. It’s really a fuel for a fire. So they have to do something about it.”
Just to reiterate: climate experts have blamed the recent surge in wildfires along the west coast on record levels of heat and drought, which have been attributed to climate change.
Trump has landed in California, where he will receive a briefing on the west coast wildfires, which have already claimed at least 35 lives.
“There has to be good, strong forest management, which I’ve been talking about for three years with the states, so hopefully they’ll start doing that,” Trump said.
Climate experts have said the recent surge in US wildfires is not due to poor forest management, but rather extreme heat and drought along the west coast.
Moments ago, Democratic nominee Joe Biden warning the fires represent the devastating effects of climate change and criticizing Trump as a “climate arsonist.”
Joe Biden closed his climate speech by noting he continues to pray for Americans on the west coast who have been affected by the wildfires.
“We see the light through the dark smoke. We never give up. Always,” Biden said.
With that, the Democratic nominee concluded his speech without taking any questions from reporters.
Biden criticizes Trump as a 'climate arsonist' as wildfires rage
Democratic nominee Joe Biden appears to be unveiling a new attack strategy against Trump, arguing the president’s climate policies represent a direct threat to the country.
Biden took direct aim at Trump’s baseless claims that the Democrat’s proposals were aimed at abolishing the suburbs.
“You know what is actually threatening our suburbs? Wildfires are burning our suburbs in the West,” Biden said. “If we have four more years of Trump’s climate denial, how many suburbs will be burned in wildfires?”
Biden went on to say, “If you give a climate arsonist four more years in the White House, why would anyone be surprised if we have more of America ablaze?”
Biden: Climate change is 'not a partisan phenomenon'
Joe Biden criticized Trump for injecting politics into his natural disaster response, after one former senior administration official said last month that the president previously wanted to withhold wildfire relief from California because it did not vote for him.
“Here’s the deal: Hurricanes don’t swerve to avoid red states or blue states. Wildfires don’t skip towns that vote a certain way. The impacts of climate change don’t pick or choose,” Biden said. “That’s because it’s not a partisan phenomenon. It’s science.”
Biden once again argued Trump had “failed the most basic duty to a nation” because he had failed to protect the American people.
“This is another crisis, another crisis that he won’t take responsibility for,” Biden said, comparing Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic to his response to climate change.
Altering an attack line from the president, Biden went on to say, “It’s clear that we’re not safe in Donald Trump’s America.”
In his speech on the wildfires, Democratic nominee Joe Biden argued America had to take decisive action to address climate change.
“We have to act as a nation,” Biden said. “It shouldn’t be so bad that millions of Americans live in the shadow of an orange sky and are left asking, is doomsday here?”
The Democratic nominee noted the wildfires were part of a recent pattern of devastating natural disasters, ranging from hurricanes to intense drought.
“I know this feeling of dread and anxiety extends well beyond the fires,” Biden said. “It’s happening everywhere, and it’s happening now — and it affects us all.”
Biden delivers remarks on wildfires and climate change
Democratic nominee Joe Biden is now addressing the west coast wildfires and climate change in a speech at the Delaware Museum of Natural History.
Biden said he was praying for those in California, Oregon and Washington state who had been affected by the wildfires.
The Democratic nominee lamented the “undeniable acceleration of the punishing reality of climate change on our planet and our people.”
Today so far
Here’s where the day stands so far:
- Trump is traveling to California to receive a briefing on the wildfires, which have already claimed the lives of at least 35 people. The president will also participate in “a Ceremony Recognizing the California National Guard.”
- Joe Biden will soon deliver remarks on the wildfires. The Democratic nominee will give a speech on the wildfires and the “urgent need to address the climate crisis” in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware.
- Trump dismissed concerns about the possible spread of coronavirus at his indoor rally in Nevada this weekend. “I’m on a stage and it’s very far away,” the president told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “And so I’m not at all concerned.” But that comment did not address the threat posed to the thousands of Trump supporters who attended the rally in Henderson, Nevada.
The blog will have more coming up, so stay tuned.
South Dakota attorney general kills a man in car accident
The attorney general of South Dakota, Jason Ravnsborg, struck and killed a man on Saturday night while driving home from a Republican fundraising dinner.
The Republican governor of South Dakota, Kristi Noem, said during a press conference yesterday that Ravnsborg had been involved but uninjured in a fatal car accident, but she did not provide further details.
The South Dakota department of public safety said this today, per the Rapid City Journal:
Ravnsborg, a 44-year-old from Pierre, was driving a sedan westbound on U.S. Highway 14 on Saturday night. He told the Hyde County Sheriff’s Office that around 10:30 p.m. he hit a deer a mile west of Highmore.
The release does not say if Ravnsborg stopped to confirm that he hit a deer or inspect his vehicle for damage. It also doesn’t say if Ravnsborg called 911, the non-emergency line or someone from the office. The Journal has requested audio recordings of this call and all other calls related to the crash.
The body [of] Joe Boever, a 55-year-old from Highmore, was discovered the next morning. The release does not say where Boever was found and who found him.
ABC News will host a town will with Trump tomorrow, two days before Joe Biden participates in a CNN town hall in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
ABC said in a statement, “Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos will anchor the event, which will provide uncommitted voters a chance to ask the President their important questions before voting.”
The event will be held in Philadelphia, so both Trump and Biden will be in Pennsylvania this week, as the two politicians seek to win over undecided voters in the crucial swing state.
Trump won Pennsylvania by less than 1 point in 2016, becoming the first Republican presidential candidate to carry the state since 1988.
But recent polls have shown Biden leading Trump by several points in Pennsylvania, buoying Democratic hopes that he will flip the state in November.
In his August conversation with Bob Woodward, Trump was also clearly more focused on the US economy than Americans’ health.
In the audio released by CNN, the president asks Woodward, “So you think the virus totally supersedes the economy?”
”Oh, sure. But they’re related, as you know,” Woodward replied.
“A little bit, yeah,” Trump replied.
”Oh, a little bit?” Woodward asked.
“I mean, more than a little bit. But the economy is doing -- look, we’re close to a new stock market record,” Trump said.
When Woodward told Trump that there were parts of the book he would not like, the president again said, “You know the market’s coming back very strong, you do know that.”
“Yes, of course,” Woodward said.
“Did you cover that in the book?” Trump asked.
Democratic nominee Joe Biden has repeatedly insisted that the economy will not truly rebound until the country gets the virus under control.
According to the jobs report released by the labor department earlier this month, 29 million Americans are currently receiving some form of unemployment aid.
Trump to Woodward: 'Nothing more could have been done'
Speaking to journalist Bob Woodward last month, Trump insisted he could not have done anything more to help the country amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Woodward, whose new book “Rage” is being released tomorrow, said during the conservation that the presidential election would be a race between Trump, Joe Biden and “the virus.”
According to audio released by CNN, Trump responded by insisting he had “acted early” to mitigate the spread of the virus. “Nothing more could have been done,” Trump told Woodward.
But the president’s early response to the pandemic has been widely criticized, with many experts saying the US wasted time in expanding testing and contact tracing resources.
Trump himself also admitted to Woodward in March that he had worked to downplay the seriousness of the virus.
Overall, the president spoke to Woodward 19 times for his book, representing a total of nearly 10 hours of conversation.
Vice President Mike Pence is about to speak to a few hundred supporters in a conference room in Janesville, Wisconsin.
Attendees’ chairs were spaced a few feet apart, but most people there were not wearing masks as they awaited the vice president’s arrival.
The event comes one day after Trump addressed thousands of supporters at an indoor rally in Henderson, Nevada, attracting criticism from Democratic officials in the state.
Nevada’s Democratic governor, Steve Sisolak, said in a statement, “The President appears to have forgotten that this country is still in the middle of a global pandemic.”
Vice President Mike Pence has arrived in the crucial swing state of Wisconsin, which Trump won by less than 1 point in 2016.
The vice president will hold a campaign rally in Janesville, Wisconsin, and another in Bozeman, Montana, later today.
Joe Biden’s deputy campaign manager, Kate Bedingfield, released a statement denouncing Pence’s visit to Wisconsin.
“President Trump admitted he intentionally downplayed the virus and misled the American people, and Wisconsin continues to pay the price -- in lost jobs, lost businesses, and lost lives,” Bedingfield said.
After House speaker Nancy Pelosi acknowledged she has not spoken to Trump about the wildfires, MSNBC anchor Craig Melvin asked this: have you and the president stopped talking entirely?
“Well, I’ve spoken to his representatives,” Pelosi said, noting Trump has indicated his advisers represent him in the negotiations over the next coronavirus relief package, which remain stalled.
Reports suggest the president and the Democratic speaker have not spoken since last October, as the House impeachment inquiry was intensifying.
So as the country faces a global pandemic, a national reckoning over racism and devastating wildfires, the president and the speaker of the House are simply not communicating.
House speaker Nancy Pelosi said she has not spoken to Trump about the wildfires, which are ravaging her home state of California.
Pelosi said she had no complaints about the federal assistance her state has received to help combat the fires, but the Democratic speaker criticized Trump for ignoring the devastating effects of climate change.
“it’s really quite sad,” Pelosi said of Trump’s approach to climate change.
The speaker also denounced the president for holding an “anti-science rally” in Nevada over the weekend.
Very few people wore masks at Trump’s large indoor rally in Henderson, Nevada, yesterday -- with one glaring exception.
The AP has the details:
Eager to project a sense of normalcy in imagery, Trump soaked up the raucous cheers inside a warehouse. Relatively few in the crowd wore masks, with one clear exception: Those in the stands directly behind Trump, whose images would end up on TV, were mandated to wear face coverings.
The president spent months refusing to issue a recommendation to wear face masks, despite mounting evidence that they help limit the spread of coronavirus.
Trump finally did urge Americans to wear masks in July, describing the use of masks as an act of patriotism. However, the president has consistently been seen not wearing a mask in public since he issued that recommendation.
In his first interview since serving as a star witness in Trump’s impeachment trial, Alexander Vindman said he considered the US president to be a “useful idiot” for Vladimir Putin.
The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg asked Vindman, a former official on Trump’s National Security Council, if he thought Trump was a Russian intelligence asset.
Vindman replied, “President Trump should be considered to be a useful idiot and a fellow traveler, which makes him an unwitting agent of Putin.” By “fellow traveler,” Vindman said he meant both Trump and Putin oppose many democratic norms.
“They may or may not have dirt on him, but they don’t have to use it,” Vindman said, when asked if he thought Trump was being blackmailed by Putin.
“They have more effective and less risky ways to employ him. He has aspirations to be the kind of leader that Putin is, and so he admires him. He likes authoritarian strongmen who act with impunity, without checks and balances. So he’ll try to please Putin.”
Vindman went on to say, “In the Army we call this ‘free chicken,’ something you don’t have to work for—it just comes to you. This is what the Russians have in Trump: free chicken.”
Read the full Atlantic story here: “Alexander Vindman: Trump Is Putin’s ‘Useful Idiot.’”
Trump dismisses concerns about coronavirus spread at Nevada rally
Trump dismissed concerns about the possible spread of coronavirus at his indoor rally in Henderson, Nevada, this weekend.
“I’m on a stage and it’s very far away,” the president told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “And so I’m not at all concerned.”
Of course, that comment does not address the potential threat posed to the thousands of his supporters who attended the rally.
“I’m more concerned about how close you are, to be honest,” Trump told the Review-Journal reporter, who said she was socially distanced from the president.
Trump said he did not believe he was subject to an order from Nevada’s Democratic governor, Steve Sisolak, mandating that gatherings be limited to 50 people.
The president attacked Sisolak as “a political hack” who was trying to control the November elections in his state, even though the Nevada secretary of state is a Republican.
“The governor totally controls it,” Trump said. “That’s okay, he wants to play the game, we’ll play the game.” (Recent polls show the president trailing by several points in Nevada, which Hillary Clinton won in 2016.)
Sisolak said in a statement, “Tonight, President Donald Trump is taking reckless and selfish actions that are putting countless lives in danger here in Nevada. ... The President appears to have forgotten that this country is still in the middle of a global pandemic.”
Bob Woodward continued his publicity tour on Monday, speaking to NBC’s Today, again defending his decision to save tapes of Trump admitting to playing down the coronavirus threat for his new book, which arrives with more than 190,000 dead in the US.
Regarding foreign policy, NBC played a hitherto unheard tape of Trump discussing his relationships with autocratic and repressive world leaders.
“I get on very well with Erdoğan,” Trump said, referring to the president of Turkey. “Everyone says ‘what a horrible guy’ but for me it works out. It’s funny, the relationships I have, the tougher and meaner they are, the better I get along with them. Explain that to me someday, OK, but maybe it’s not a bad thing.
“The easy ones are maybe the ones I don’t like as much or don’t get along with as much.”
Woodward said “the president just controls foreign relations unilaterally. And he has decided, ‘Oh, I’m gonna get along with Putin, I’m gonna get a long with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, MBS. I’m gonna try to get along with Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, but not South Korea and he just smears South Korea, time and time again in my interviews.”
This is Joan Greve in Washington, taking over for Martin Belam.
Trump will receive a briefing on the wildfires in the California later today, but the president is currently busy tweeting his complaints about the November election.
Trump, who is still in Nevada after this weekend’s campaign events there, has already sent roughly 50 tweets this morning.
In one of them, Trump echoed accusations from his campaign that Joe Biden is using a teleprompter during interviews and said, “His handlers and the Fake News Media are doing everything possible to get him through the Election. Then he will resign, or whatever, and we are stuck with a super liberal wack job that NOBODY wanted!”
That last insult appears to be directed toward vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released last month showed Harris was the only person on a major party’s presidential ticket this year with a positive approval rating.
Speaking of that coronavirus relief plan – or lack of it – Margaret Somers as written for us this morning, asking how is such unnecessary suffering justified?
The 31 million Americans struggling with unemployment today are not a whit less desperate and fearful now that Mitch McConnell’s “skinny” Covid-19 relief bill failed to pass the US Senate. Thursday’s performative theatrics did little more than provide cover to vulnerable Republicans and add one more day to the now six weeks since Senate Republicans refused to extend the extra $600 in Covid-related weekly jobless benefits. With McConnell sounding all but liberated from any more pressure to show compassion before the election, and the media’s attention pinned to shinier Trumpian objects, it is even more imperative to refocus on the crisis at hand and to dig beneath the hollow excuses for such demonstrable indifference on the part of lawmakers. It is time to find an answer to how is such unnecessary suffering justified?
According to the Republicans, the aid is “too generous” and “disincentivizes” the unemployed from seeking work. So perverse are the effects of these benefits, they argue, that it is actually workers gaming the system who are slowing the economic recovery, not the Covid-driven loss of millions of jobs. That these charges persist despite significant evidence to the contrary testifies to the power of the conservative creed that few things in life are more perilous than excess government compassion
And that’s your lot from me this morning, I’m handing over to Joan Greve in Washington. See you tomorrow.
Secretary of the treasury Steve Mnuchin has been on the airwaves this morning, making a fairly wide-ranging set of points.
On the prospect of some kind of coronavirus relief bill still getting passed, he said there still could be a deal.
“I will continue to work on this. I’ve told the speaker I’m available anytime to negotiate, no conditions,” he told CNBC in an interview, referring to US House speaker Nancy Pelosi.
On the broader economic picture he said “Now is not the time to worry about shrinking the deficit or shrinking the Fed’s balance sheet.”
He also confirmed that the new deadline for the sale of TikTok is 20 September. Oracle has won the bidding to purchase the US operation of the video-sharing app fromChina-based ByteDance, beating out Microsoft to the deal. Mnuchin said that after a review by the Committee on Foreign Investment, a recommendation will be made to President Donald Trump.
New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has just posted a long thread on social media to announce that she is to attempt to introduce “sweeping legislation” to help veterans with diseases linked with exposures to burn pits and other toxins.
She says that during military operations in the last two decades the military used open burn pits to dispose of garbage and other waste, causing servicemen to live and breathe in what she describes as “a toxic cocktail of dust, smoke, and debris”. The practice is forbidden domestically.
She goes on to say “I led a hard fight to get our 9/11 heroes the care they needed. Like our 9/11 heroes, these veterans answered the call of duty—fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere—and were made sick by their service.”
Maanvi Singh in Oakland has our latest on the west coast wildfires:
Nearly all the dozens of people reported missing after a devastating blaze in southern Oregon have been accounted for, authorities said as crews battled wildfires that have killed at least 35 from California to Washington state.
The Democratic governors of all three states say the fires are a consequence of climate change, taking aim at Donald Trump ahead of his visit Monday to California for a briefing. Joe Biden planned to address the fires and the climate crisis during a speech in Wilmington, Delaware.
Flames up and down the west coast have destroyed neighborhoods, leaving charred rubble and burned-out cars, forcing tens of thousands to flee and casting a shroud of smoke that has given Seattle, San Francisco and Portland some of the worst air quality in the world.
The smoke filled the air and spread to nearby states. While making it difficult to breathe, it helped firefighters by blocking the sun and turning the weather cooler as they tried to get a handle on the blazes, which were slowing in some places.
But warnings of low moisture and strong winds that could fan the flames added urgency to the battle. The so-called red flag warnings stretched from hard-hit southern Oregon to northern California and extended through Monday evening.
As well as visiting California to meet Gov. Newsom and be briefed on the wildfires, president Donald Trump has a campaigning stop in Arizona today, seen as a must-win state for him. Reid Wilson at The Hill has a scene-setter for that visit, writing:
A new survey released Monday morning shows Trump in deep trouble in Arizona. The survey, conducted by Phoenix-based OH Predictive Insights, shows former Vice President Joe Biden leading Trump by a 52 percent to 42 percent margin.
It is the eighth consecutive public poll that has showed Biden leading in Arizona and Biden has led in 17 of the last 20 polls. A CBS News poll released Sunday showed Biden leading by a smaller three-point margin, 47 percent to 44 percent.
The latest poll underscores the foundations of Biden’s lead over Trump, in both national and swing-state surveys: He is winning about the same percentage of voters as Hillary Clinton did in 2016 among groups that lean toward Democrats, but he is doing substantially better among groups that chose Trump over Clinton four years ago.
But Wilson also quotes the Trump campaign shrugging off the figures. “This is not a serious poll and it is not remotely accurate,” said Tim Murtaugh, the campaign’s communications chief.
Tom McCarthy has an analysis piece for us this morning setting out that it is just 50 days until a US election that both sides see as an existential struggle.
If Biden can win in Florida, most analysts believe, an electoral college victory is probably his. But the added uncertainty of mail-in voting creates an extra opportunity for Trump to sow chaos, his critics believe, envisioning scenarios in which Trump declares premature victory or denies the election result outright.
The Biden campaign announced in July that it had hired an army of 600 lawyers to fight any election night “chicanery” by Republicans.
The Trump campaign has struggled to respond, in part because it is running low on money. Last week it was revealed that after raising nearly $1bn, the campaign had spent most of it, apparently dumping hundreds of millions of dollars last spring into online searches for potential future donors. In multiple swing states, the Biden campaign is outspending the Trump side by millions on influential TV ad spots.
Fox News are touting as an exclusive this morning that the White House is to host a ‘Made in America’ event next month to show off American-made products. It would be the fourth such event of the Trump presidency and is expected to be held on 5 October. Brooke Singman writes:
A White House official told Fox News that Lockheed Martin, based in Maryland, which participated in the event last year, will feature its products during this year’s showcase as well, while companies from 49 other states will be first-time participants.
“Over the past four years, President Trump has taken unprecedented action to empower American workers, bring manufacturing jobs back to the country, increase the production of domestic-made goods, and energize the American economy,” White House spokesman Judd Deere told Fox News.
“The president looks forward to hosting incredible companies and their American-made products representing all 50 United States at the White House next month for what has become an annual event,” Deere added.
NBC’s Today show has been making a lot this morning of having Bob Woodward on to promote sales of his book Rage. Host Savannah Guthrie pushed the journalism veteran again on why he did not publish his information about what Donald Trump had said about the coronavirus. He’s stuck to his line that in February he thought Trump was talking about China, and that by the time there were a significant number of cases in the US, everybody knew that it was airborne and dangerous. He says:
In May, three months later, I learned the key piece of evidence that on 28 January, 10 days before that February call, the President was warned by his national security adviser in a top secret meeting that the virus is going to be the greatest national security threat to your presidency, and then his deputy Matthew Pottinger stepped up with details, explaining that the pandemic was coming.
This still, of course, doesn’t explain why Woodward didn’t make it public until a few days ago, if he had found that out in May. And as Guthrie points out in her questioning, regardless of the sourcing of Trump’s information or the timing of when Woodward found out about it:
He tells you on 7 February, this is five times worse than the flu, is deadly, and it’s airborne. And in the weeks following he was saying things like ‘this is just a flu, it will just disappear’, so you knew right then and there there was a contradiction between the public statement, and what he had told you.
You can watch the clip here:
And refresh your memory of what the book says here: Five key revelations in Bob Woodward’s Trump book, from Covid to Kim ‘love letters’
There’s a bit more from the interview here as well:
There’s 50 days to go until the US election, and some mornings I wake up in a cold sweat imagining that I’ll be live blogging the results coming in for at least fifty days afterwards, such is likely to be the complexity and the dispute over the results of an election that the current president has already described as “rigged”.
Shane Goldmacher reports for the New York Times this morning on how Joe Biden is creating a legal war room team, such is the expectation that there will be a lot of court battles before the result is decided. He writes:
Legal battles are already raging over how people will vote — and how ballots will be counted — this fall during the pandemic, and senior Biden officials described the ramp-up as necessary to guard the integrity of a fall election already clouded by President Trump’s baseless accusations of widespread fraud.
The new operation will be overseen by Dana Remus, who has served as Biden’s general counsel on the 2020 campaign, and Bob Bauer, a former White House counsel during the Obama administration who joined the Biden campaign full-time over the summer as a senior adviser.
Remus and Bauer outlined a multipronged program that will include some elements common to past presidential campaigns, such as fighting off voter suppression and ensuring people understood how to vote, and some more unique to 2020, such as administering an election during a pandemic and guarding against foreign interference.
As Goldmacher notes, the process of voting is especially complicated because of the coronavirus exanding the ability to vote by mail, all the time while the president has “repeatedly and falsely accused that process of being riddled with fraud, even as he himself has voted by mail in the past”.
You can read it here: New York Times – Biden creates legal war room, preparing for a big fight over voting
Daniel Strauss in Washington has an analysis piece for us this morning, looking at how Joe Biden aims to make the election about Covid-19 as much as possible. He writes:
The president and his aides have been more eager to focus on the economy, their attacks on Biden, foreign policy announcements, dark warnings of civil unrest and false predictions of a coming socialism should Biden win.
To a degree, the varying levels of eagerness to talk about coronavirus is understandable for both campaigns. Polling has shown voters broadly view Biden as the better candidate to handle the coronavirus pandemic while voters think the economy is in safer hands with Trump.
“The president has done a very bad job in this. There is no metric on which the president can actually claim he’s done a good job on Covid,” said Dr Zeke Emanuel, who served as a special adviser for health policy at the Office of Management and Budget for the Obama administration. “We haven’t done a good job on testing, on ventilators, on PPE, on access to Remdesivir. Nothing. He hasn’t prepared the country for a vaccine.”
Last night Michigan’s lieutenant governor blasted Trump over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic in the US – directly calling him a liar.
Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II said: “Donald Trump is a liar who has killed people, straight up. We cannot afford another four years of this man at the helm. There are literally millions of lives at stake.”
He was speaking at a virtual event for progressive voters called “Fighting for Justice in Michigan”. Michigan will be one of the key battlegrounds in November’s US election. The state has had at least 123,075 cases and 6,912 deaths from coronavirus, and is currently averaging around 800 new cases a week.
Police use tear gas on protesters in Lancaster, Pennsylvania following fatal police shooting of Ricardo Munoz
Associated press are reporting that police deployed tear gas on a crowd of people protesting earlier this morning after an officer shot and killed a man in Pennsylvania while responding to a domestic disturbance call.
Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Lancaster following the shooting death of Ricardo Munoz, 27, on Sunday afternoon. The crowd formed outside the police station, where the department stated multiple buildings and government vehicles were damaged by demonstrators.
Munoz was fatally shot after coming out of a home and chasing the officer with a knife, police said. Body camera video showed the officer fire several shots at Munoz, who then falls to the ground. The officer was placed on administrative leave.
The Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office was leading the investigation. District Attorney Heather Adams acknowledged the protests in a news release late Sunday and called for calm.
“We ask that acts of protest remain peaceful as violence and destruction of property will become headlines and serve no purpose for the safety and wellbeing of our citizens and neighborhoods,” Adams stated.
As for the use of “chemical munitions” against protesters early Monday, the police department said in a statement that the crowd was given several warnings to disperse before the gas was deployed.
The crowd “failed to follow the instructions,” police stated, adding that items including glass bottles, gallon jugs filled with liquid, parts of plastic road barricades and more had been thrown at officers.
Donald Trump has tweeted this morning accusing the Joe Biden campaign of lying in a campaign ad.
Quoting conservative media personality Lori Hendry, Trump added “Biden Handlers know this is a lie!” to her tweet about the advert on Trump’s social security plans.
On 4 September the Washington Post fact-checked the advert, and rated it as untrue, saying:
Democrats ginned up a letter from the chief actuary to describe a plan that does not currently exist. Trump certainly suggested he might eliminate the payroll tax, but then he pulled back from that idea and reiterated that any diversion for a payroll tax holiday would come out of general funds.
The Washington Post’s fact-checkers have, so far during the Trump administration, counted 20,055 false or misleading claims made by the president.
The CBS News Asia correspondent Ramy Inocencio has suggested that the first China heard about the departure of US Ambassador Terry Branstad from Beijing was when they saw secretary of state Mike Pompeo’s tweets earlier. You imagine that might not go down terribly well at a time when relations are already strained.
Jason Wilson has been in Portland for us, reporting on how social media disinformation about the US west coast blazes appears to be spreading faster than the fire itself. He writes:
Photojournalist Nathan Howard was on assignment for a picture agency south-east of the fire-menaced foothill town of Estacada, Oregon, on Thursday afternoon when a man angrily approached him on a rural roadside.
The man insisted the photographer was a looter, Howard said, and despite his repeated attempts to identify himself as a journalist, the man began yelling and became so agitated that “it was like his eyes were popping out of his head”. The man eventually allowed Howard to get in his car and leave, but gave chase as Howard drove north.
Then a second truck approached from the opposite direction, Howard said, and parked horizontally across the highway, blocking both lanes. A man climbed from the truck and pointed a loaded assault rifle at Howard through his car’s windshield, and again accused him of looting, his finger on the trigger.
Wilson reports that this is just one of the real life consequences of the wave of disinformation on social media about the cause of the wildfires. Many rumors baselessly claim that the fires were lit by political activists, either the far-right group the Proud Boys or the leftist activists known as antifa.
You can read his full, and somewhat worrying, report here: Social media disinformation on US west coast blazes ‘spreading faster than fire’
US ambassador to China Terry Branstad to retire
The US ambassador to China is leaving his post, the embassy has confirmed. Terry Branstad will retire and leave Beijing early next month. The 73 years old former governor of Iowa leaves at a time when relations are strained, notably over bilateral trade, allegations about information security, and the coronavirus pandemic.
Earlier, before the move was confirmed, secretary of state Mike Pompeo thanked Ambassador Branstad on Twitter for his more than three years of service.
“Ambassador Branstad has contributed to rebalancing US-China relations so that it is results-oriented, reciprocal, and fair”, Pompeo wrote.
Branstad was embroiled in a recent controversy when China’s official People’s Daily newspaper rejected an opinion column that he had submitted. It wasn’t clear if his apparent departure was related to the piece.
Pompeo tweeted last week that China’s ruling Communist Part refused to run Branstad’s op-ed while the Chinese ambassador to the United States is free to publish in any US media outlet.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian responded that Branstad’s article was full of loopholes, seriously inconsistent with facts and wantonly attacks and smears China.
The US Embassy had contacted the People’s Daily asking that it be printed in full without any edits by 4 September.
The Chinese foreign ministry has in the past described Branstad as an “old friend of the Chinese people”. He first forged ties with President Xi Jinping several decades ago when Xi visited Iowa.
The other coast of the US has also got natural disaster worries, with the prospect of more storms. Forecasters from the National Hurricane Center in Miami said Tropical Storm Sally is expected to become a hurricane on Monday and reach shore by early Tuesday, bringing dangerous weather conditions, including risk of flooding, to a region stretching from the western Florida Panhandle to southeast Louisiana.
Sally could produce rain totals up to 24 inches (61 centimeters) by the middle of the week, forecasters said. Its maximum sustained winds Monday morning were 60 mph (95 kph) report the Associated Press.
“That system is forecast to bring not only damaging winds but a dangerous storm surge,” said Daniel Brown of the Hurricane Center. “Because it’s slowing down it could produce a tremendous amount of rainfall over the coming days.”
This isn’t the only storm in the Atlantic basin. Paulette gained hurricane status late Saturday and was expected to bring storm surge, coastal flooding and high winds to Bermuda, according to a US National Hurricane Center advisory. Tropical Depression Twenty strengthened into Tropical Storm Teddy on this morning, and was expected to become a hurricane later in the week, forecasters said.
A mandatory evacuation has already been issued in Grand Isle, Louisiana, ahead of Sally. On Saturday, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell issued a mandatory evacuation order for Orleans Parish residents living outside of the parish’s levee protection system. All northern Gulf Coast states are urging residents to prepare.
“It is likely that this storm system will be impacting Alabama’s Gulf coast. While it is currently not being predicted as a direct hit to our coastal areas, we know well that we should not take the threat lightly,” said Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey. She urged residents to prepare and stay informed of the storm’s path in the coming days.
It’s very easy to fall into the trap of viewing everything through the prism of partisan politics, but that does appear to be happening with the west coast wildfires at the moment.
Lindsay Whitehurst and Sara Cline have written for the Associated Press about the conflict between Donald Trump and local Democratic party politicians.
Numerous studies in recent years have linked bigger wildfires in the US to global warming from the burning of coal, oil and gas. Democratic governors say the historic wildfires in California, Oregon and Washington state are a consequence of climate change, while the Trump administration has blamed poor forest management.
Trump is headed to McClellan Park today, a former air base just outside Sacramento, California, and California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office said he would be meeting with Trump.
The governors have been blunt: Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Sunday called climate change “a blowtorch over our states in the West. It is maddening right now that when we have this cosmic challenge to our communities, with the entire west coast of the United States on fire, to have a president to deny that these are not just wildfires, these are climate fires,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Sunday on ABC’s This Week.
As Newsom toured a ghostlike landscape destroyed by flames Friday, he had called out the “ideological BS” of those who deny the danger. “The debate is over around climate change. Just come to the state of California, observe it with your own eyes,” he said.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has said that about 500,000 acres typically burn each year, but just in the past week, flames have swallowed over a million acres, pointing to long-term drought and recent wild weather swings in the state.
“This is truly the bellwether for climate change on the West Coast,” she said Sunday on CBS’ Face the Nation. “And this is a wake-up call for all of us that we have got to do everything in our power to tackle climate change.”
At a rally in Nevada, Trump blamed the way states have run the land, saying “it is about forest management.” White House adviser Peter Navarro echoed that Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union, saying that for many years in California, “particularly because of budget cutbacks, there was no inclination to manage our forests.”
Millions of dollars are spent on forest management every year in Western states. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti accused Trump of perpetuating a lie that only forest management can curtail the massive fires seen in recent years. He pointed to drought and the need to reduce carbon emissions.
“Talk to a firefighter, if you think that climate change isn’t real,” the Democratic mayor said on CNN’s State of the Union.
Warnings of low moisture and strong winds could fan the flames in hard-hit southern Oregon to Northern California and last through Tuesday.
Good morning, welcome to our live coverage of US politics for Monday. Here’s a quick catch-up on where we are, and a look forward to what we might expect later in the day.
- Donald Trump’s first indoor rally since June defied Covid laws. The Nevada event in front of a mostly mask-less crowd breached the state’s 50-person limit and the Trump administration’s coronavirus guidelines. He also boasted about getting the ‘Bay of Pigs Award’ – which doesn’t exist.
- 399 new coronavirus deaths and 33,369 new cases were reported in the US yesterday. Weekend numbers tend to be a little lower for admin reasons.
- The death toll from wildfires choking the west coast of the US continued to rise.
- The president will be in California this morning to get a briefing on the wildfires. He then heads to Phoenix, Arizona to take part in a Latinos for Trump Coalition Roundtable.
- Secretary of state Mike Pompeo appears to have indicated this morning that US ambassador to China Terry Branstad is leaving his post.
- There’s been unrest in Lancaster, Pennsylvania leading to police using tear gas after protests over the fatal police shooting of Ricardo Munoz yesterday.
I’m Martin Belam, and I’ll be with you for the next couple of hours. You can get in touch with me via [email protected]