The Daily 202: Trump tries frantically to make up lost ground with seniors, promising free medicine and checks

Other polls released over the last week show Biden leading among voters 65 and older, including in the battlegrounds of Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Pew’s survey was in the field from Wednesday, the day after the first presidential debate, through Monday, the day Trump checked himself out of Walter Reed after his three-night stay in the hospital. Pew’s unusually large sample size of 10,543 registered voters means smaller margins of error for subgroups, which allows for deeper analysis.

Trump and many of his top advisers see his weakness among seniors as an existential threat to his hopes for a second term, and the president is demanding that his aides use all the levers of the federal government to woo older voters who have drifted away during the final 25 days of the campaign.

The president tweeted a two-and-a-half minute video Thursday afternoon of himself speaking directly to seniors, whom he referred to as “MY FAVORITE PEOPLE IN THE WORLD.”

“I’m a senior,” the 74-year-old said to the camera. “I know you don’t know that. Nobody knows that. Maybe you don’t have to tell them, but I’m a senior.”

Trump said he was “very sick” when he went to the hospital, but the experimental antibody treatment he received helped him feel better immediately. He promised that he’s going to make sure that other seniors can also access the medicine he got by pushing the FDA to immediately authorize its emergency use. 

“They like to say ‘the vulnerable,’ but you’re the least vulnerable, but for this one thing, you are vulnerable. And so am I. But I want you to get the same care that I got,” Trump said. “You’re going to get the same medicine, you’re going to get it free, no charge, and we’re going to get it to you soon. … All free! … I do know what I’m doing. The seniors are going to be taken care of, and then everybody is going to be taken care of.”

Assuming the medication gets approved for wider use, doctors say there will not be enough doses to make it widely available and note that there are potentially significant side effects. Just as importantly, Trump cannot distribute any medicine free of charge unless he agrees to a coronavirus relief deal with Congress, something he has sent mixed messages about all week. Evan Hollander, a spokesman for the Democratic majority on the House Appropriations Committee, said Trump is lying: “Without new legislation, the Trump administration cannot make covid-19 treatment available for free.” 

About 4 in 5 of the 212,000 Americans killed by the coronavirus have been over the age of 65. This group is less antsy about getting workers back into offices or kids back into school. Many seniors have sacrificed a great deal, foregoing time with loved ones to avoid potential exposure to a virus they know is more likely to kill them.

After temporarily halting negative ads against Trump while he was hospitalized, the Biden campaign unveiled several new commercials on Friday morning, including a few 30-second spots aimed at seniors. “Trump’s pushing to slash Medicare benefits. He’s proposed eliminating the funding source for Social Security, a plan that would drain Social Security by 2023,” a narrator says in one of the new ads, which will run in 16 states. “Joe Biden will protect Medicare, and he’s proposed a plan to increase Social Security benefits. The choice is clear.”

Biden, 77, and Trump, 74, are the two oldest major party nominees for president ever. Trump was the oldest man ever elected president. Biden would break his record. Network exit polls show Al Gore, in 2000, was the last Democratic presidential candidate to win among seniors.

Biden pollster John Anzalone believes health care, Social Security and Biden’s frequent talk about bipartisanship have also played a major role in luring seniors, in addition to the coronavirus. He told Greg Sargent this week that the campaign’s research has found seniors remember that Biden made a good-faith effort to negotiate with GOP senators when he was vice president. Anzalone added that seniors feel like they “know” Biden because he’s been on the national stage for so long and that they tend to be perceive him as moderate, empathetic and trustworthy.

Trump unexpectedly announced during a speech in North Carolina on Sept. 24 that his administration would send $200 discount cards to 33 million seniors to help them defray the cost of prescription drugs. The declaration surprised even some of his own health officials because an earlier effort to convince the pharmaceutical industry to pay for such cards collapsed. “Nobody has seen this before. These cards are incredible,” Trump said at the Sept. 24 event, adding they “will be mailed out in coming weeks.”

Working with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Trump’s appointees at Health and Human Services are now scrambling to get the $7.9 billion operation activated before Election Day, according to five officials and draft documents obtained by Politico: “The administration is seeking to finalize the plan as soon as Friday and send letters to 39 million Medicare beneficiaries next week, informing seniors of Trump’s new effort to lower their drug costs, although many seniors would not receive the actual cards until after the election,” Dan Diamond reports.  “The $200 cards — which would resemble credit cards, would need to be used at pharmacies and could be branded with a reference to Trump himself — would be paid for by tapping Medicare’s trust fund. … Career civil servants have raised concerns about the hasty plan … ‘It’s turning into this last-minute, thrown-together thing,’ said another HHS official involved in the effort.”

A planning document says it would cost about $51 million to create and distribute the cards, and it will cost $19 million to send letters to seniors before the election to tout the plan. 

White House officials have pressed the health department this week on aspects of the planned cards, such as the design, which could include some reference to Trump’s name,” per Politico. “Some of the president’s advisers have grown attached to the idea of a drug policy that Trump could physically tout, one current and one former official said. ‘This idea was kicking around for months,’ said a former HHS official, who recalled discussions of the so-called ‘Trump cards’ in summer 2019. ‘It was kind of a joke among pharma lobbyists for a long time.’”

Bigger picture, Trump has moved in recent weeks with increasing urgency to unlock federal spending to shore up key voting blocs ahead of the election. For example, he is also trying to push more bailout money to farmers to shore up his standing in the Midwest, signed a letter to go in boxes of food being made available to hungry families and endorsed hurricane relief for Puerto Rico that he has opposed for years in order to improve his chances of winning Florida. (Trump tweeted in the third person late Thursday night: “Donald J. Trump is the best thing to ever happen to the people of Puerto Rico.”)

“This drive has only intensified since Trump left the hospital this week,” Jeff Stein reports. “He is now prodding Congress to send another round of $1,200 stimulus checks to millions of Americans, similar to the ones sent earlier this year with his name on them. Trump’s latest efforts to throw money at key electoral constituencies — with or without congressional approval — stand out as uniquely aggressive in the modern presidency, according to longtime budget experts.”

White House spokespeople insist that all Trump’s pre-election efforts have “nothing to do with politics” and that it’s “absolutely ridiculous” to suggested otherwise. If you believe them, I have ocean-front property in Arizona that I would love to sell you. And, if you buy before the election, I will give you a big discount.

“Clearly, he is trying to buy the election in a way nobody has ever done before, at least not in my lifetime,” said Bill Hoagland, the former Republican staff director for the Senate Budget Committee.

Quote of the day

“I’m back because I’m a perfect physical specimen, and I’m extremely young,” Trump said in a phone call to Fox Business. “And so I am lucky that way.”

More on the coronavirus

The Nobel Peace Prize goes to the U.N.’s World Food Program for efforts to combat hunger amid the pandemic. 

The WFP, which was established in 1961, has become the primary international organization for people dealing with hunger — at a time when climate change and prolonged conflicts in the Middle East and Africa are exacerbating the challenge, Michael Birnbaum and Chico Harlan report. “Millions in Syria and Yemen depend each month on the WFP for survival. The organization says that more than 800 million people are chronically hungry, most of them living in conflict-stricken areas. … The organization has 17,000 staff worldwide, works in some 80 countries, and says it has more than 20 ships, 92 planes, and 5,600 trucks on the move on any given day.”

Announcing the prize in Oslo, Berit Reiss-Andersen, the chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said that they hoped the prize would spur governments around the world to contribute more to the operations of the organization, which says that at current funding levels, 265 million people globally will go hungry. “Multilateral cooperation is absolutely necessary to combat global challenges,” she said. “Multilateralism seems to have a lack of respect these days, and the Nobel Committee definitely wants to emphasize this aspect.” 

She did not call out Trump by name, but it seemed to be an unmistakable reference to his administration, which has questioned and criticized, among other groups, the United Nations, the European Union, the World Health Organization and the World Trade Organization. “Trump had been nominated for the prize by far-right Norwegian politicians, a fact he trumpeted in campaign advertising, but which carried no meaningful weight, since a wide group of people are free to nominate whomever they wish,” per Birnbaum and Harlan. “Trump had long sought the laurel, though given his unpopularity in Norway, where the decision is made, an award always seemed like a long shot.”

Trump says he wants to hold a rally on Saturday night.

Calling into Sean Hannity’s Fox News show on Thursday night, and coughing at times, Trump said: “I think I’m going to try doing a rally on Saturday night if we have enough time to put it together, but we want to do a rally probably in Florida on Saturday night. I might come back and do one in Pennsylvania the following night. … I feel so good.” (Fox News medical contributor Marc Siegel will interview Trump for an interview to air tonight on Tucker Carlson’s show at 8 p.m. Eastern. Siegel, in New York, will question Trump, who will be at the White House, for the president’s first on-camera interview since he announced his diagnosis.)

“But even as he has asserted that he’s ‘clean’ and does not believe he is contagious, his doctors have offered only limited information about his condition,” Toluse Olorunnipa, Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey report. ”It remains unclear when the president last tested negative for the virus — a question White House officials dodged for a fifth consecutive day Thursday. White House doctors have also declined to release information about the viral load detected within the president. White House physician Sean Conley, who has released only brief memos describing Trump’s status since Monday, said earlier this week that he would like to monitor the president through this coming weekend to ensure his health does not relapse. On Thursday, Conley said he believed Trump was on track to safely return to public engagements by Saturday. … 

While Trump has been working from the Oval Office, many West Wing staffers are working remotely and steering clear of the president and colleagues who are infected. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Trump’s social media director, Dan Scavino, are among the few officials who have spent time with Trump in recent days. … While [Vice President] Pence’s aides believe he fared well in his sole debate this year, some were frustrated that Trump spent the next morning creating a fresh set of controversial headlines that quickly eclipsed his running mate’s time in the spotlight. … 

Despite the president’s decision to pull out of the Oct. 15 town hall after it went virtual, Trump’s campaign is eager for an opportunity to debate Biden, aides said. Trump’s initial response — to pull out of the town hall with Biden — came before he had talked the issue through with advisers. … Some aides have struggled to get Trump to understand that a debate, which is likely to draw more than 60 million viewers, is far more impactful than a rally that airs exclusively to a Fox News audience of less than 4 million … Advisers have been conveying to Trump the importance of using his time in isolation to project a sense of compassion and present himself as a sympathetic character. Instead, Trump has continued to act like a brawler and create controversial headlines. During his interview with Fox Business, Trump suggested he may have contracted the virus from Gold Star families who had visited the White House and could not keep themselves from hugging and kissing him. …

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) said he had not been to the White House in several weeks in part because of its lax public safety measures amid the pandemic. ‘I haven’t actually been to the White House since August the 6th, because my impression was their approach to how to handle this is different from mine,’ he said at an event in Kentucky. ‘And what I insisted that we do in the Senate, which is to wear a mask and practice social distancing.’ The Senate went into recess this week after three senators tested positive for the coronavirus — including two who had been at crowded, unmasked events at the White House recently.”  

Guests that Trump may have exposed to the virus are scattered across America.

“With no systematic effort to trace or advise the hundreds of guests at the Rose Garden ceremony and other events in the surrounding days, many made their way home and resumed their busy schedules, according to interviews with more than 40 people who attended events with the president between Sept. 25 and Oct. 1, when Trump announced he had tested positive,” Isaac Stanley-Becker, Rosalind Helderman, Dawsey and Amy Gardner report. “Guests of the president and his campaign returned to at least 20 states, often by plane. They visited college campuses and sat across the dinner table from elderly parents. They attended church and addressed crowds at indoor conventions, including on the topic of election security. Upon learning they may have been exposed, some chose to quarantine or get tested. Others were waiting instead to see if they developed symptoms — despite months of warnings from scientists that it is possible to be contagious without feeling ill. And in many cases, the attendees said they were not worried, expressing faith in the health precautions taken by their hosts despite the outbreak.” The CDC is still playing a limited role. 

A conservative activist who attended the Sept. 26 ceremony for Amy Coney Barrett – and who sat just feet away from 11 attendees, including Trump, who have since tested positive – failed to isolate at home in accordance with CDC guidelines. Instead, she’s traveling across the country in a bus tour to rally support for Barrett. Penny Nance is traveling as part of the “Women For Amy” campaign of the Concerned Women for America group that she runs. So far, she’s appeared at events in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. There are nearly 30 more stops ahead. (Teo Armus)

Trump is pushing the FDA to quickly clear antibody treatments, erroneously calling them a “cure.” 

Trump and Meadows have called FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn to urge him to accelerate the agency’s review of a promising but unproven covid-19 therapy that the president received nearly a week ago and has credited with his rapid recovery. The drug is a cocktail of laboratory-made antibodies made by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Carolyn Johnson, Laurie McGinley and Dawsey report. Trump is also pushing for the authorization of a similar drug made by Eli Lilly. Both drug companies applied for emergency clearance on Wednesday. “Critics say that by inserting himself again into the approval process for treatments — as he did with hydroxychloroquine and convalescent plasma — Trump risks further undermining trust in regulators and confusing Americans since his own hopeful story may not reflect how the drug works for others. …

Experts say Trump is also overstating the evidence — in this case boasting that the drugs are a panacea, despite the fact the evidence so far is suggestive that they are helpful in reducing symptoms over several days, not 24 hours; reducing the levels of virus in people’s bodies; and decreasing the need for follow-up medical visits. His actions also risk disappointing Americans who may be unable to get the drugs. ‘The fundamental problem with monoclonal antibodies is there’s not enough worldwide capacity to produce enough of them to have a real impact on the disease,’ said Ezekiel Emanuel, a health policy expert who is advising the Biden campaign. ‘Yes, they might be great, but for a small number of patients.’ … Both the Regeneron and Eli Lilly drugs are being tested in clinical trials, and no one knows if the former helped Trump recover, whether it did so in addition to all the other treatments he received or whether he would have recovered on his own as part of the natural course of the disease.”

The NIH’s former top vaccine expert, Rick Bright, said he resigned this week because Trump has so heavily politicized the pandemic response. “The administration has in effect barred me from working to fight the pandemic,” Bright writes in an op-ed for today’s newspaper. “The country is flying blind into what could be the darkest winter in modern history. Undoubtedly, millions more Americans will be infected with the coronavirus and influenza; many thousands will die. Now, more than ever before, the public needs to be able to rely on honest, non-politicized and unmanipulated public health guidance from career scientists.”

  • China said it will join Covax, an international effort to distribute coronavirus vaccines to about two-thirds of the world population by 2022. China, along with the U.S. and Russia, had previously declined to join the World Health Organization-led program. (Gerry Shih)
  • Researchers in Hong Kong are poised to begin human trials of an experimental vaccine for both the coronavirus and influenza. The dual candidate will be delivered to participants in the form of a nasal spray similar to those already being used to immunize people against the flu. Early-stage trials are expected to begin next month and will enroll roughly 100 volunteers. (Antonia Farzan)

The White House continues sending mixed signals about a new aid package. 

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) spoke by phone Thursday afternoon to discuss prospects for a comprehensive economic relief bill, as White House communications director Alyssa Farah told reporters that the administration does not support legislation of that kind, Erica Werner and Jeff Stein report. “Farah’s comments appeared to contradict what Pelosi had just heard from Mnuchin — which was that Trump supported reaching a more comprehensive deal, Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said. … The exchange clouded prospects for a deal of any kind, comprehensive or otherwise, less than four weeks before the November elections. Pelosi and Mnuchin had been discussing a package in the range of $1.6 trillion to $2.2 trillion before Trump pulled the plug on talks Tuesday — a decision he backpedaled on several hours later. … By Thursday morning Pelosi made her demands for a new, broader package clear. She nixed the idea of passing a stand-alone bill to help solely the airline industry.” (Amtrak warned that an additional 2,400 jobs will be cut without more federal aid.

  • Citing the 25th Amendment, Democrats want a panel to review the president’s fitness for office. Pelosi and Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.) plan to introduce legislation today that would create a commission to “help ensure effective and uninterrupted leadership” in the presidency. “Congress’s role in this, however, is limited,” Felicia Sonmez reports.
  • The U.S. debt is now projected to be larger than the economy. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that for fiscal year 2020, which ended Sept. 30, the U.S. deficit was $3.13 trillion – or 15.2 percent of gross domestic product. The government spent $6.55 trillion and took in $3.42 trillion. That’s triple what it was in 2019, and the highest share of the GDP has been since just after World War II. (CNN)

Orthodox Jewish leaders sue New York over new restrictions. 

“Members of the Hasidic Jewish community are deeply upset over new restrictions announced by New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) earlier this week to contain the spread of the coronavirus, and they feel targeted by how the rules specifically single out houses of worship,” Sarah Pulliam Bailey reports. “Several synagogues and rabbis have filed a lawsuit asking for a temporary restraining order to bar the state of New York from enforcing its restrictions, saying the limits disrupt the religious observance of tens of thousands of Orthodox Jews, ‘depriving them of their religious worship and holiday observance.’ Other faith groups and congregations have also challenged similar coronavirus restrictions across the country. On Thursday, the Catholic diocese of Brooklyn filed a separate lawsuit against Cuomo for closing churches in certain neighborhoods where coronavirus rates have spiked. …

Earlier this week, a crowd of Hasidic Jewish protesters set fire to masks and attacked a photojournalist in Borough Park. … Public officials say they are trying to curb a worrisome increase in infections in parts of Brooklyn and Queens. The city’s overall positivity rate for coronavirus has been around 1 percent for more than two months but it has risen to above 3 percent in recent weeks, prompting the governor’s actions. If it continues to rise, it could cause the city to reverse course in its reopening efforts.”

  • After Arizona cities instituted their own mask mandates, infections fell 75 percent. (Farzan)
  • The NFL rescheduled the Patriots-Broncos game for Monday and the Titans-Bills game for Tuesday after more players for New England and Tennessee tested positive. (Mark Maske)

All the president’s men

Top GOP fundraiser Elliott Broidy charged with acting as a foreign agent.

“Broidy has been charged in a criminal information with conspiring to act as a foreign agent as he lobbied the Trump administration on behalf of Malaysian and Chinese government interests, an indication he is likely to soon plead guilty in the case to resolve the allegations against him,” Matt Zapotosky reports. “Prosecutors unsealed the 31-page information against Broidy on Thursday, outlining how they believe he took millions in undisclosed money to end a U.S. investigation into a billion-dollar embezzlement of a Malaysian state investment fund and, separately, to return outspoken Chinese exile Guo Wengui to his home country. … Broidy — according to the information, previous court documents and people familiar with the matter — directly made entreaties to high-level people in the Trump administration or others close to it, including Trump’s then-chief of staff, Reince Priebus; his former deputy campaign chairman, Rick Gates; and the president himself. … 

Guo is a vocal online critic of that country’s government and is wanted by authorities in Beijing on charges of fraud, blackmail and bribery. He has denied those charges and said they are politically motivated. In the past few years, Guo has been closely aligned with Stephen K. Bannon, Trump’s former campaign chief and top White House strategist. Bannon was on Guo’s yacht off the coast of Westbrook, Conn., when Bannon was arrested last month on charges he defrauded donors to a group that claimed to be building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. … 

“Broidy met with Trump at the White House in October 2017 … Prosecutors alleged that in a show of influence, Broidy in June 2017 personally asked Trump to play a round of golf with then-Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who was later convicted on charges in Malaysia … and sentenced to 12 years in prison. … Despite Broidy’s entreaties to high-ranking White House and National Security Council officials — and Trump’s agreement to the game, according to the information — no golf game ultimately took place, though Razak did meet with Trump at the White House.”

It’s not been a great run for the guys Trump installed to run fundraising efforts on his behalf at the RNC: Broidy resigned as deputy finance chairman for the Republican National Committee in 2018 after allegations that he paid a former Playboy model $1.6 million in exchange for her silence about a sexual affair – and his demand, according to her, that she get an abortion after he impregnated her. Trump’s then-personal attorney Michael Cohen arranged the settlement, Broidy acknowledged at the time. Cohen also resigned as a deputy RNC finance chair that year before he pleaded guilty to bank fraud, tax evasion and campaign finance violations committed on Trump’s behalf. Casino mogul Steve Wynn was the RNC finance chairman after Trump took office, but he too resigned in 2018 after being accused of sexual harassment and assault, accusations he denies. Another deputy finance chair at that time was Louis DeJoy, who is now mired in his own controversies as the postmaster general.

A federal watchdog agency concluded that Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue violated the Hatch Act by advocating for Trump’s reelection during an August trip to North Carolina. The Office of Special Counsel called on Perdue to reimburse the government for costs associated with his participation in the event. The USDA did not respond to requests for comment. (AP)

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, the former GOP congressman, has not kept promises he made during his confirmation hearing to steer clear of politics, current and former intelligence officials say. Ratcliffe recently declassified documents that included sensitive intelligence about Russians discussing HIllary Clinton in 2016. “He is cherry-picking intelligence, and seriously risks exposing sources and methods for absolutely no reason other than to promote and protect the president before the election,” said Marc Polymeropoulos, a former CIA officer who oversaw operations in Europe and Russia. (Shane Harris)

Trump is angry at Attorney General Bill Barr for not filing charges against his perceived enemies before the election. The president is peeved that U.S. Attorney John Durham has not wrapped up his criminal probe into the origins of the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. “Trump is also said to blame Barr for comments from FBI Director Chris Wray on election fraud and mail-in voting that don’t jibe with the president’s alarmist rhetoric,” the AP reports.

Divided America

The FBI charges six men with plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. 

Federal and state officials revealed that they had thwarted a plot to kidnap Whitmer, unsealing charges against 13 people who they say were involved in various plans to attack law enforcement, overthrow the government and ignite a civil war, Zapotosky, Devlin Barrett and Abigail Hauslohner report. “Officials said the conspiracy — which was supposed to come to fruition before the election — seemed to be an ominous indication of how America’s civil unrest has energized violent extremists. The plotters, according to an FBI affidavit, seemed to be motivated at least in part by their belief that state governments, including Michigan’s, were violating the Constitution. One of those involved complained in June that Whitmer (D) was controlling the opening of gyms — an apparent reference to coronavirus shutdown restrictions — and others were involved in a militia group that had contemplated targeting police in their homes, authorities said. They trained together with firearms and experimented with explosives, authorities said. … 

The arrests come as federal and local law enforcement are particularly attuned to the possibility of politically motivated violence in the final month before the election. … Before they could attack, law enforcement moved in, arresting some as they pooled money for more explosives, officials said. Six of those were charged federally, and the rest were charged in state court, though officials announced the cases together. … The FBI is investigating potential domestic terrorists around the country and trying to determine whether any of those people are planning acts of violence before or after the election.”

Trump has attacked Whitmer for months, and he tweeted “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” in April: “In an afternoon news conference, Whitmer defended the restrictions she imposed … while taking direct aim at Trump. Just last week, she noted, the president had, during a debate, ‘refused to condemn white supremacists and hate groups like these two Michigan militia groups.’ … The FBI said in the affidavit that it became aware that people were discussing an overthrow of the government from social media postings in early 2020, and in June, two of those ultimately charged met with more than a dozen others in Ohio … In that meeting, the FBI alleged, the group discussed both peaceful and violent tactics and ultimately decided it needed to increase its numbers, according to the affidavit. One in the group, Adam Fox, then contacted a local militia group the FBI already had been monitoring with an informant over concern that it was plotting to kill police officers … In a June 14 phone call, according to the affidavit, Fox talked of needing ‘200 men’ to storm the Capitol building in Lansing to take hostages, including Whitmer. He said they would try Whitmer for ‘treason’ before the election in November.”

Both sides of the abortion debate are certain that Amy Coney Barrett would roll back Roe v. Wade. 

“Barrett heads into her confirmation hearings next week with a detailed record that has led many liberals and conservatives to believe she would support restricting, if not outright overturning, the landmark decision that guarantees a woman’s right to an abortion,” Seung Min Kim reports. “But as her nomination fight unfurls in an increasingly heated election season, top Republicans — from Trump to individual senators — appear to be playing down the impact Barrett’s confirmation would have on the fate of abortion rights in the United States. In a pair of general-election debates, both Trump and Pence danced around the question of the law and abortion access … And in the Senate, an upstart conservative Republican’s push to confirm justices who view Roe as wrongly decided is causing visible discomfort among his GOP colleagues who believe Supreme Court nominees should face no such litmus test in their confirmation process. … 

A Fox News poll released this week found that 61 percent of registered voters said the Supreme Court should let the ruling stand, while 28 percent said it should be overturned … In private one-on-one meetings with senators, Barrett has been discreet on the question of precedent … Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) said he noted to Barrett that the late Justice Antonin Scalia — whom she clerked for and said ‘his judicial philosophy is mine, too’ — was a fierce critic of Supreme Court decisions that established a constitutional right to privacy. Asked by Coons whether she agreed with Scalia, Barrett demurred during their phone call, according to the senator.” 

  • The Supreme Court put on hold a Trump administration request to require women seeking the drugs for medication abortions to visit a doctor’s office or clinic. The case was sent back to a Maryland federal judge who had lifted the rule during the pandemic. (Robert Barnes) 
  • Biden again declined to answer on Thursday when asked if he would support expanding the Supreme Court beyond nine justices if Republicans confirm Barrett. “You will know my opinion on court-packing when the election is over,” Biden told reporters at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. (Amy Wang)
  • “Barrett did not include on her Senate Judiciary disclosure forms a notable case in which she was one of two lead attorneys: defending a Pittsburgh steel magnate accused of helping drive a major Pennsylvania Hospital System into bankruptcy,” NBC News reports.

Both parties are preparing for the possibility of a contested election. 

Pelosi has recently spoken in multiple meetings about preparing for a situation in which neither candidate attains the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency, which would throw the outcome to the new Congress in January. “She has also directed some of her members to be ready if GOP legislatures in states with narrow margins or unfinished counts seek to appoint their own electors, a situation Democrats hope to head off with an obscure law from the 19th century that allows Congress to intervene,” Amy Gardner, Rachael Bade and Elise Viebeck report. “An uncharted battle over who the next president will be, after a campaign that has roiled and exhausted Americans, could severely test the nation’s faith in its election system — and undermine the principle that the president should be selected by voters rather than Congress or the courts, experts said. … Biden’s continued strength in national and battleground-state polls has heartened Democrats, who are hopeful that he will win by such a large margin that it will be pointless for Trump to challenge the results. …”

There are lots of reasons the results of the White House race might not be available on election night: “Wisconsin and Pennsylvania do not permit local election officials to begin processing mail ballots until Election Day. During Pennsylvania’s June primary, some counties were still counting ballots more than two weeks after voting had ended. And roughly two dozen states plan to allow ballots to arrive days after Nov. 3, including the key battlegrounds Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina and Iowa. … Even in states where counting is completed on Nov. 3, a very close margin is likely to prompt the campaigns to scrutinize ballots for opportunities to challenge their eligibility … Congress’s role, meanwhile, will hinge on whether any difference-making disputes remain unresolved by Dec. 14, when all states’ electors are required to cast their votes. … The House has chosen the president this way only twice — in 1801 and 1825.” 

  • A federal judge blocked an order from Ohio’s Republican secretary of state that would’ve required counties to install ballot drop boxes only at their election office. (CNN)
  • An Iowa man who was arrested for stealing a Biden yard sign in July was then caught stealing newspapers that detailed his theft. Peter De Yager, 70, pleaded not guilty to two misdemeanor charges for fifth-degree theft and trespassing when caught taking the yard sign. But then he was caught by several store managers stealing newspapers and was even ordered to pay a $105 fine to a shop that accused him of theft. After pleading guilty to newspaper theft, he also pleaded guilty to stealing the sign. (Des Moines Register)

ICE agents stopped a jogger in Boston. Authorities want answers.

“Bena Apreala, a 29-year-old Black man, was jogging in the West Roxbury neighborhood in Boston on Tuesday afternoon when he was stopped by at least three men in plainclothes, bulletproof vests and face masks. ‘Without identifying himself, [an officer] started asking me for identification, asking me where I was from,’ Apreala told WYCN,” Jaclyn Peiser reports. Apreala “questioned why he’d been stopped since he’s a U.S. citizen. It was only when Apreala started recording the interaction that the men let him continue on his run. As video of the incident spread on social media, the mayor of Boston, as well as city, state and national lawmakers, demanded an investigation into ICE’s actions.”

The mother of a Black teenager killed by Wisconsin police was hospitalized after being arrested at a protest in Wauwatosa. “I can’t believe y’all did this to me – y’all killed my son,” Tracy Cole said in a live stream of her arrest as she pleaded with officers while they handcuffed her for failing to follow a curfew. “I can’t breathe. … He hit me in my head and pulled my hair, one of these cops over here. And my head is bleeding.” An unseen officer responded, “Well, that’s too bad.” Cole and her daughters were joining a second night of protests after Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm decided on Wednesday not to charge the officer who shot and killed Alvin Cole, 17, in February after he allegedly refused orders to drop a gun. (Katie Shepherd)

Hurricane Delta strengthened to Category 3 and is expected to make landfall in Louisiana today.

“The storm will create multiple storm hazards along the northern Gulf Coast, including storm surge inundation, damaging winds, flash flooding and tornadoes,” Matthew Cappucci and Jason Samenow report. “Hurricane warnings are up from High Island, Tex., to Morgan City, La. It includes the same region ravaged by Hurricane Laura in late August. Laura caused an estimated $14 billion in damages and is the costliest weather disaster in 2020 to date.  … Projections suggest the center of Delta will pass as close as 10 to 15 miles east of Lake Charles, where only tarps protect thousands of roofs and power was just restored.” 

Social media speed read

Trump tweeted that Whitmer has “done a terrible job” and chastised her for not offering gratitude to “my Justice Department” for foiling the plot against her. Whitmer thanked the U.S. attorneys involved in the case and praised the FBI agents as “fearless.”

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), who lost her legs in combat while on a mission in Iraq, lashed out at Trump for appearing to blame Gold Star families for getting the coronavirus:

A Democratic firm visualized how much bigger early voting is this year compared to previous elections:

Videos of the day

Jordan Klepper went to Trump’s Pennsylvania rally, which took place a few hours after the Rose Garden gathering now called a super-spreader event:

Seth Meyers said Trump is having an election-induced meltdown: 

And Stephen Colbert wondered if this really is the best time for Egyptologists to open sarcophaguses:

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