• Another Day, Another Trump Tweetstorm

    Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Zuma

    Clearly, our president is having a Normal One. Today, he unleashed a tweetstorm in which he dunked on the very lukewarm “October surprise” of Hunter Biden’s laptop, made fun of the 79-year-old Dr. Anthony Fauci for throwing out a less-than-perfect first pitch at a Washington Nationals game, and called Chris Cuomo a name so offensive to the CNN anchor as to have sent him into a public tirade in the past.

    Internally, Trump has kept up his schtick of lying and denying any discord among his staff as he makes a last-ditch effort to convince swing-state voters to sign up for another four years of chaos and misery.

    It’s going to be an exhausting two weeks ahead of the election. Buckle up.

    This post was brought to you by the Mother Jones Daily newsletter, which hits inboxes every weekday and is written by Ben Dreyfuss and Abigail Weinberg, and regularly features guest contributions by our much smarter colleagues. Sign up for it here

  • We May Not Know the Winner on Election Night. Democrats Stress That’s Okay.

    Election workers set up voting booths on Thursday at an early voting site in Orlando, Florida. Early voting in the state begins on Monday.Paul Hennessy/Getty

    In a press call on Sunday, Senate Democrats stressed that the best way overcome President Donald Trump’s effort to undermine the integrity of the upcoming election is voting—and voting early.

    Democrats organized the call to discuss a new report that makes clear that the winner of the presidential race may not be known on election night because it will take time to count mail-in ballots, which are expected to favor Democrats. “That is okay,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.). “The key thing is we’re going to count the votes.”‘ 

    Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) emphasized the same point. He also focused on Trump’s baseless claims that the election is being rigged against him. “I think that almost everybody in America now knows that Donald Trump lies a lot,” he said. One of Trump’s worst lies, Sanders continued, is that there is a massive amount of voter fraud in the United States.

    Sanders pointed to an op-ed from last month by Benjamin Ginsberg, a longtime Republican election lawyer. “The truth is that after decades of looking for illegal voting, there’s no proof of widespread fraud,” Ginsberg wrote. “At most, there are isolated incidents — by both Democrats and Republicans. Elections are not rigged.”

    As Mother Jones’ Pema Levy has written, Sanders has taken a leading role in warning that America’s democracy is in danger in this election:

    With this speech [at the Democratic National Convention], he not only signaled his concern, but put himself forward as the ambassador for these fears. By bridging between the wonks on Twitter and the voters, and using his own popularity among the party’s left to ring alarm bells, Sanders is setting himself up to hold those in power accountable with—he hopes—a mass of Americans mobilized behind him.

    The Democrats’ report divides states into four groups based on when ballots need to be received by and whether those ballots can be processed before the election. In swing states like Arizona and Florida, ballots need to be received by Election Day and can be processed in advance, meaning that it’s more likely that the winner of those states will be known on election night. At the other end of the spectrum is Pennsylvania, which does not permit advance processing and counts mail-in ballots that are post-marked by Election Day but arrive later.

    The need to even put out the report is indication of just how bleak things have become under Trump. One line simply states, “Democrats support free and fair elections.”

    Read the report below:

  • Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Says Trump Is Inciting “Domestic Terrorism”

    Screenshot "State of the Union"/CNN

    Less than two weeks after the FBI charged six men with plotting to kidnap and potentially assassinate Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a frenzied crowd at a Trump rally chanted “Lock her up!” on Saturday. President Donald Trump responded to his supporters in Muskegon, Michigan, by saying, “Lock ’em all up.” 

    In a Sunday appearance on Meet the Press, Whitmer said it was “incredibly disturbing that the president of the United States—10 days after a plot to kidnap, put me on trial, and execute me, 10 days after that was uncovered—the president is at it again, and inspiring, and incentivizing, and inciting this kind of domestic terrorism.”

    “It is wrong. It’s got to end,” the governor continued. “It’s dangerous not just for me and my family, but for public servants everywhere.”

    Whitmer made a similar call on Twitter on Saturday.

    As Mother Jones has reported, the FBI charged six men earlier this month with conspiring to kidnap Whitmer, while the state of Michigan charged seven others with “providing support for terrorist acts.” The men charged had a history of posting far-right memes on social media that glorified violence. 

    The plot to kidnap Whitmer was highly specific. As Vox wrote based on an affidavit from an FBI special agent: 

    Over the summer, the men trained in tactics and weaponry at the home of one of the militia group’s members. They discussed storming the Michigan Capitol but soon concluded that Whitmer would be more vulnerable at either her vacation home or the governor’s official summer residence. “It’s a perfect fuckin’ setup. Out of everywhere that she resides, this is the only one that’s probably actually feasible,” one plotter said in a recorded conversation.

    Several of the men attempted to buy explosives that they planned to use to distract the police during the kidnapping, according to the affidavit. The person they tried to purchase them from turned out to be an undercover FBI agent.

    On Sunday, Lara Trump defended her father-in-law on CNN. “He wasn’t doing anything, I don’t think, to provoke people to threaten this woman at all,” she said. “He was having fun at a Trump rally.”

    Whitmer, though, has paid the price for this “fun,” as a favorite target of the president’s for months. With just two weeks before Election Day, President Trump consistently trails former Vice President Joe Biden in the crucial swing state. 

  • Puerto Rico’s Leading Newspaper Just Backed Biden in Historic Endorsement

    President Donald Trump tosses paper towels into a crowd in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, in 2017.Evan Vucci/AP

    Puerto Rico’s leading newspaper, El Nuevo Día, has endorsed Joe Biden in what his campaign says is the first presidential endorsement in the paper’s 50-year history.

    In an editorial published on Sunday, El Nuevo Día concluded that the Trump administration “has shown an overwhelming amount of inattention, disdain and prejudice against our people.” Along with President Donald Trump’s infamous paper towel throwing, it mentions the president asking about whether the United States could trade Puerto Rico for Greenland. More broadly, the editorial catalogues his disastrous response to Hurricane Maria. (For more on this front, be sure to read Mother Jones reporter AJ Vicens.)

    After Cuban Americans, Puerto Ricans are the second largest group of Latino voters in Florida, where polls show Biden only slightly ahead of Trump. Compared to Cubans, Puerto Ricans are much more likely to support Biden, but they’ve tended to vote at lower rates. Biden traveled to the Orlando area last month to make his pitch to Puerto Rican voters.

    In contrast to Trump’s actions, El Nuevo Día wrote that Biden has promised to create a Puerto Rico working group that would report directly to the president, expand Puerto Ricans’ access to Medicaid and food assistance, and increase federal funding for education on the island.

    The editorial concludes by stating that endorsing Biden puts El Nuevo Día on the side of “our most democratic values” and in opposition to the “politics of hate, division and chaos that President Trump and a significant part of the Republican Party have supported.”

    “The world is a much more dangerous and unsustainable place, in large measure, because of this President’s domestic and international policies,” the editorial argues. “The votes from our extended homeland in favor of Biden’s Plan for Puerto Rico will make our island and the world safer and more prosperous places for everyone.”

    Read the editorial in English and Spanish here.

  • Early Results Are In: More People Watched Biden’s Town Hall Than Trump’s


    When 2020 Democratic nominee Joe Biden and President Donald Trump held dueling town halls on different networks at the same time, it seemed safe to assume that more people would tune in for reality show presidential pyrotechnics than the even-keeled former vice president discussing policy. But the Nielsen ratings show that most Americans opted to keep their blood pressure low Thursday night.

    Biden’s town hall on ABC averaged about 13.9 million viewers, while Trump’s town hall, which aired on three different channels—NBC News, CNBC, and MSNBC—averaged 13.1 million viewers, according to early Nielsen ratings.

    The Nielsen ratings count only viewers who watched through their TV sets, not the many thousands who streamed the programs online. The final ratings will be released later this afternoon.

  • Trump Once Again Dismisses Masks and Ducks on Whether He Tested Before Debate

    Evan Vucci/ZUMA

    President Trump burst onto NBC’s town hall stage on Thursday, his first major television appearance since testing positive for COVID-19, by dismissing face masks, blaming military families for potentially infecting him with the virus, and refusing to say whether he had been tested on the day of the first presidential debate. 

    The string of responses, which came in rapid-fire succession at the start of the event, captured a president unwavering in some of the most widely condemned aspects of his response to the pandemic, even after his own positive diagnosis, a White House outbreak, and his poll numbers continuing to fall.

    “I’m okay with masks, I tell people to wear masks,” Trump told NBC’s Savannah Guthrie, before quickly undermining his own claim by falsely asserting that a recent study had concluded that 85 percent of people who use face coverings contract the virus. He added, “People with masks are catching it all the time. Despite testing positive for the virus earlier this month, Trump has been seen on multiple occasions continuing to decline to wear a face covering.

    At another point, Trump once again suggested that it was likely Gold Star family members who had attended a White House event on September 27—not his own reckless behavior—that were likely responsible for his diagnosis. In fact, public health officials, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, have blamed a Rose Garden event celebrating the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, where Republican lawmakers and top Trump administration officials gathered in close quarters without a mask, for likely being the “superspreader” event behind the White House outbreak.

    “They came up to me,”  Trump said, “and they would hug me, and they would touch me, and I’m not going to not let them.” When directly asked if he had been tested for COVID-19 on the day of the first presidential debate, Trump repeatedly deflected and claimed, “I don’t know. I don’t even remember.”

    Asked once more, the president again ducked. “Possibly I did, possibly I didn’t.”

  • Donald Trump Sounds So Happy Describing How His Government Killed a Man

    Fritz Nordengren/ZUMA Wire

    With less than three weeks until Election Day, President Donald Trump abruptly pivoted from his closing campaign message that Osama Bin Laden is actually still alive to praise US Marshalls for killing a murder suspect in Oregon last month.

    Trump, speaking at a rally in Greenville, North Carolina, on Thursday afternoon, described the death of Michael Reinoehl, an antifa activist who had been suspected of shooting a Trump supporter in Portland in late August and was confronted by US Marshalls a few weeks later. What exactly happened in that confrontation is still unclear, but there are significant reasons to be skeptical of the official government narrative; the New York Times reported last month that “[i]n interviews with 22 people who were near the scene, all but one said they did not hear officers identify themselves or give any commands before opening fire” and killing Reinoehl.

    “I said, ‘What happened?’ ‘Well we haven’t arrested him,'” Trump said, recalling his conversations with local authorities.

    “Two days, three days went by, we sent in the US Marshalls, took 15 minutes it was over. Fifteen minutes it was over, we got him,” Trump continued. “They knew who he was, they didn’t want to arrest him, and 15 minutes that ended.”

    Fifteen minutes, that ended.

    There’s not really any way to spin it: Trump is describing the killing of a suspect like it was a mob hit that he ordered. He thinks it’s great what happened. This isn’t some pablum about bravery-in-the-line-of-duty and all that. He’s praising the principle of it—the efficiency with which a suspect was “removed” (to use Attorney General Bill Barr’s phrasing). Fifteen minutes, over and done with, nice and clean—as if he were discussing the Bin Laden raid or the hunting of a bear. Who needs a trial, when you can end it in 15 minutes?

    These comments have been making the rounds on social media, but I think they have been slightly misread as Trump saying that the “they” who didn’t want to arrest him were the US Marshalls. It’s easy to get confused on that point, because the US Marshalls didn’t arrest him and killed the man instead. But the “they” here refers to the local law enforcement authorities in Oregon. It’s an important distinction, not because it’s in any way exculpatory—armed agents of the state killed a man who had not been convicted of anything!—but because it’s actually the heart of this whole standoff between the federal government and local authorities, in Portland most famously, but in New York City and Washington, DC, as well.

    Trump is saying that Democratic officials are refusing to do their jobs and cowering to the anarchists, and only the strong man in the White House can cut through the political correctness to restore security. Michael Reinoehl is what you get, he is saying, and what he got was just and deserved. In doing so, he is placing the story of a US Marshall raid in the same space as Kyle Rittenhouse crossing state lines with a rifle to shoot two people in Kenosha, and of the McCloskeys waving firearms at protesters in St. Louis. If you will not act, then others will. In this case, the vigilante killers are federal law enforcement officers. This is both the nadir of law and order, and the truest definition of what it means.

    There is just so much of this every day. Sometimes reading the news in the Trump era feels like driving on that highway from Twister—you are just trying to stay on course and dodge the cows, and as a simple survival mechanism don’t have time to dwell on any of it. But the crowd cheering here is chilling, and the president hailing a deadly raid by state security forces is dangerous and ominous as hell.

  • The Supreme Court Just Allowed the Trump Administration to Suspend the Census

    Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post/Zuma

    The Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed the Trump administration to abruptly halt the US census, setting aside a lower court order that had extended Census Bureau operations through Oct. 31.

    As I wrote in September:

    To make up for delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the Census Bureau had initially extended the enumeration period—in which the agency attempts to count every US household that has not already responded to the census on its own—until Oct. 31. But in July, following the Trump administration’s addition of several political appointees to the Census Bureau, the agency announced that it would cut the enumeration period short to Sept. 30, leaving census organizers scrambling to get everyone in their communities counted and adding further confusion to a census that has been riddled with controversy and uncertainty.

    In September, a federal court ordered the Census Bureau to continue its enumeration until the original deadline of Oct. 31. The Supreme Court today placed a stay on that ruling, in part because the government has argued that the current enumeration deadline will prevent it from meeting the Dec. 31 statutory deadline for reporting the results of the census to the president.

    Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented, writing, “Meeting the deadline at the expense of the accuracy of the census is not a cost worth paying, especially when the Government has failed to show why it could not bear the lesser cost of expending more resources to meet the deadline or continuing its prior efforts to seek an extension from Congress.”

    This is a breaking news story and will be updated.

    This post was brought to you by the Mother Jones Daily newsletter, which hits inboxes every weekday and is written by Ben Dreyfuss and Abigail Weinberg, and regularly features guest contributions by our much smarter colleagues. Sign up for it here.

  • What if the Election Results Are Actually Not Very Dramatic at All?

    Last night, the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Miami Heat in Game Six of the NBA Finals, securing the franchise’s 17th championship. Two days earlier, the Heat had won a nail-biter. Game 5 had all the drama you want in a big match. I’m a Lakers fan. For me it was very stressful. I never wavered that ultimately my team would win the series but I did spend the time in between those two games anticipating drama. I also did what all people do: I prepared myself for a loss. “Well, there is still Game 7,” I reminded myself constantly. In the end, Game 6 was a rout. The Lakers led by more than 30 for much of it. At some point in the third quarter one of the ABC broadcasters said something like, “My hope for the Heat is not that they’ll be happy with the result of the game, obviously, but that they can be proud to have not given up.” There were 20 minutes left to play. It was somewhat surreal preparing myself for a game of inches that then doesn’t transpire. 

    Sometimes getting caught up in the polls of this election can produce a similar experience. Every indication is that Joe Biden is on pace to win convincingly on November 3. Of course there’s a lot of time left to play and—as Philip Bump notes in today’s Washington Post—something that has only a 14 percent chance of happening still happens quite a lot. And of course in the real world it makes no difference who wins the NBA title, but it very much does matter what happens in an election. So no one, least of all me, is thinking anything like that ABC broadcaster writing the Heat off in the third quarter. 

    Everyone has spent every day since election night 2016 psyching themselves up and going through the emotional process of anticipating a nail-biter. But what if it isn’t a nail-baiter? 

    In the end, the Lakers won the game by 16. The outcome wasn’t ever in doubt but they did let the Heat get back in. Ultimately it doesn’t matter if they’d won by 13 or 130. But elections aren’t zero-sum, which is one of the many reasons this analogy is flawed, and the referees are only impartial in one of these contests. The Democrats could take the Senate; the election could be close enough that it ends up in the courts; the Democrats could win Texas and President Obama’s inaccurate prediction that the GOP’s “fever would break” after the 2012 election could come true; and of course, the polls could be wrong or people could change their minds. There are no election outcomes that are simple and straightforward enough to fit in a headline.

    It’s a cliche that every election is “the most important of our lives,” but it’s also true. I can’t think of an election in the last 20 years that didn’t have profound consequences. I don’t think you can either. And when the stakes are so high, everyone wants to do something. 

    There’s nothing Heat fans or Laker fans can do to affect the outcome of games. But that doesn’t stop us from wearing our lucky jerseys as we watch. And again it doesn’t ultimately matter what happens in those events, but it does in elections, and there are very real things people can do. We are not passive viewers in a democracy. That is especially true when democracy itself is under attack by authoritarianism. Too often in the United States people sit on the sideline. But not this year. Democrats and Republicans have both been donating to their parties at historic clips. They’re volunteering and making phone calls, and voting early and triple-checking their ballots. Maybe one of the consequences of this awful year is that it’s giving us the civic participation we should have every year. Maybe when times are better and the consequences less obviously severe, it will happen again. And then again. And people won’t remember what it was like when the fate of the country was left to only the most active subsection of citizens.

    “There is everything in life but hope,” Katharine Hepburn says in James Goldman’s The Lion in Winter. “We’re both alive,” Peter O’Toole responds, “and as far as I know that’s what hope is.”

    This post was brought to you by the Mother Jones Daily newsletter, which hits inboxes every weekday and is written by Ben Dreyfuss and Abigail Weinberg, and regularly features guest contributions by our much smarter colleagues. Sign up for it here.

  • Bernie Sanders Is Working to Turn Out Young Voters—Even if Biden Keeps Bashing Socialism

    Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) speaks to college students in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on October 5, 2020.Dominick Sokotoff/Sipa via AP

    On Sunday evening, the pop star Halsey shared a video starring herself and Bernie Sanders with her 21.4 million followers on Instagram. The post, “Bernie and Halsey Discuss America,” promised an “intimate conversation” with the Vermont senator “to discuss the future of America” and “why they’ll be voting for Joe Biden in November.”

    Over the course of eight minutes, Sanders and his 26-year-old host chastised billionaire greed and spoke of the urgent need to address wealth and income inequality. Halsey wondered what a Biden administration would do to address the issue, thinking aloud whether a wealth tax might be one way to “start small.” Sanders didn’t say one way or the other whether he agreed—though he, not Biden, supported a wealth tax during the primary. “The best way we can spend federal dollars is in early childhood education and child care,” Sanders replied.

    “Biden has a great deal of empathy as a human being,” he added. “He is more than aware of the suffering that is taking place in our country right now.”


    View this post on Instagram


    I sat down with @BernieSanders to bring you the first of many more episodes like this one. Register to Vote @ Vote.Org

    A post shared by halsey (@iamhalsey) on

    Such stunts are familiar territory for the 79-year-old senator, who joined millennial celebrity supporters like hip-hop star Cardi B for similar ventures during his second run for the presidency. Now, of course, Bernie Sanders is no longer running for president, and his agenda is not the one Biden promises to promote if he wins the White House. But he is desperately trying to convince the youths—a core constituency of his primary supporters with a spotty track record of going to the polls—to show up and vote for Biden.

    Speaking directly to young voters is a theme Sanders has hammered since he returned to public campaign events two weeks ago to boost the Democratic presidential nominee. On Monday, Sanders traveled to Michigan to stump on Joe Biden’s behalf, devoting his remarks to assuring young voters who may be skeptical of Biden that the former vice president would be “the most progressive president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt.” On Thursday, Teen Vogue will host Sanders for a virtual town hall “focused on the stories of young people who are living through unprecedented times.”

    This is part of a concerted strategy Sanders has undertaken to shore up support among the demographics who chose him over Biden in the primary, according to Faiz Shakir, who managed Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign. Even once Biden began to run away with the nomination after the South Carolina primary, the Vermont senator continued to outperform Biden with Latinos and young voters (even though the latter didn’t show up to the polls in the numbers Sanders had hoped for.) Since Sanders left the race, Biden has adopted some planks of Sanders’ platform, such as a promise to cancel at least some portion of student debt for all borrowers. “He’s trying to detail what Biden’s platform would actually mean for working people,” Shakir explained of Sanders’ strategy for helping Biden. “There are important progressive gains for people on the table.”

    To be clear, there’s no indication Biden needs too much of Sanders’ help with the youth vote. He has his own youth-focused grassroots efforts and a legion of Gen Z and millennial celebrity surrogates—including Taylor Swift, who made her first-ever presidential endorsement on Biden’s behalf. The most recent New York Times/Siena College poll found that 66 percent of voters age 18-29 have a favorable opinion of Biden—a rating considerably higher than what Hillary Clinton enjoyed leading up to the general election four years ago. That enthusiasm seems destined to put Biden over the finish line with a coalition that powered Barack Obama’s 2008 “youth-powered” victory.

    But that hadn’t been true even as recently as June, when another New York Times/Siena College poll found that just roughly half of voters age 18–29 had a favorable view of the former vice president. In the heat of the Democratic primary, a February Quinnipiac University poll found that only 34 percent of voters age 18–34 viewed Biden favorably—compared to Sanders, of whom 60 percent said they approved.

    Some of that shift might be in thanks to Sanders, explains Ben Wessel, the executive director of NextGen America, a youth-focused super PAC. In polling and focus groups with young voters in swing states, NextGen found that motivation to vote for Biden increased when young people learned about the Biden-Sanders unity task forces, an effort in which Biden allies worked with Sanders’ allies to make his platform more progressive. That was especially true for those who had been less enthusiastic about the former vice president. They also responded well when the more progressive aspects of Biden’s platform—such as his support for debt-free college and a transition to clean energy by 2035—are emphasized. “Young people really like the idea that Joe Biden said he was going to listen to the progressive wing of the party,” Wessel says.

    Some of Sanders’ former supporters have leaned on their own come-to-Biden moment as a way to connect with others who might be feeling the same way. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), a key Sanders surrogate, has pleaded with her massive following to mobilize on Biden’s behalf. “Voting for Joe Biden is not about whether you agree with him,” she said in an Instagram video last month. “It’s a vote to let our democracy live another day.” A 19-year-old Sanders supporter started the Instagram account Settle for Biden when Sanders dropped out of the presidential race. Since then, it’s drawn nearly a quarter of a million followers with posts that emphasize the progressive planks of Biden’s platform and memes that both empathize with disappointed liberals—while also encouraging them to get over it.


    View this post on Instagram


    Let’s unite our party and work toward our common goals: mainly, defeating Donald Trump.

    A post shared by Settle for Biden (@settleforbiden) on

    Lately, though, Biden has taken great pains to distance himself from Sanders. “I am the Democratic Party right now,” Biden said during last Tuesday’s debate after Donald Trump scoffed that socialists would “dominate” Biden when he took the White House. During an NBC town hall on Monday night, Biden drew a sharper contrast with the Vermont senator, reminding viewers that he’s “the guy who ran against the socialist.”

    Biden has his reasons for drawing the contrast: For every young voter who needs to hear Biden adopted Sanders’ vision, there’s a moderate voter who craves the opposite assurance. Sanders aides, for their part, have fumed over Biden’s statements. One privately mused to me earlier this week that there’s probably a more respectful and subtle way for Biden to make his point.

    But for Sanders, for whom Trump’s reelection conjures memories of family members who died in Nazi-occupied Poland, the abuse is worth enduring. This is why he bowed out of the 2020 race as soon as it was clear he would not be the Democratic presidential nominee. It’s why his DNC delegates, after causing a self-described “shitshow” in 2016, limited their infighting to disputes over the party’s platform and quietly united behind Biden once it had been settled. And it’s why Sanders returned to the campaign trail late last month to deliver an ominous speech warning of Trump’s refusal to promise a peaceful transfer of power.

    Sanders’ interests, of course, go beyond ousting Trump. The organizing that goes into getting Biden over the finish line has the added benefit of reenergizing progressives around his platform—a prerequisite for mounting meaningful intraparty fights, should Biden win the White House and Democrats regain control of the Senate. Sanders previewed his playbook during his speech in New Hampshire last weekend, diverging from his prepared remarks to note that he’ll become chairman of the Senate’s health subcommittee if Democrats assume control of the chamber. “Trust me, that the health care industry and the drug companies will understand a very new reality when that happens.”

    Sam Van Pykeren contributed reporting.

  • Kamala Harris’ Facial Expressions Show What it Means to Be a Woman in the Workplace

    If you missed the vice presidential debate tonight, you didn’t miss too much. Honestly, you’ll get the idea by watching this great video from my colleague Mark Helenowski: 

  • Mike Pence Showed Just How Hard It Is to Defend Donald Trump

    C-Span/ZUMA Wire

    The most memorable elements of Wednesday’s vice presidential debate had little to do with the campaign itself. One of the top Google search results was pink-eye. At one point, a fly landed on Mike Pence’s head and stayed there for two minutes before disappearing—as if it, too, had somewhere it would rather be.

    The VP debate shouldn’t move the needle—it never does—but it does offer a glimpse of two campaigns at radically different places right now. And right now, the Trump campaign just doesn’t have a lot in its tank. Pence, far more so than Trump in his debate last week, stuck to his message and hit the talking points like he’d practiced them in a mirror. He spoke directly to “the American people” a few times, furrowed his brow when he wanted to look disappointed (which was often), and even said something nice about Sen. Kamala Harris, congratulating her on her selection to the ticket. But his performance showed just how weak the Republican ticket’s hand really is right now.

    On COVID-19, which Pence was tasked with leading the administration’s response to, the vice president struggled to land a punch. Like Trump before him, Pence invoked the Obama administration’s handling of the H1N1 pandemic of 2009. The White House botched that pandemic badly, Pence claimed, adding that if the virus had been as deadly as COVID-19, two million people could have died. That’s a pretty big if! Asking voters to blame Joe Biden for what happened to them in an alternate universe than the one in which they lived only underscores how flimsy Pence and Trump’s record is on this pandemic. Is a counterfactual about swine flu really the best they can do? At this point, it seems like it.

    A similar problem occurred when Pence tried to attack Biden for opposing an early shutdown on travel from China. Pence explained that the travel restriction had bought the country critical time by which to prepare for a pandemic. But that’s only a good message if the country then subsequently prepared for the pandemic. As Harris rightly noted, Trump spent months downplaying the virus, killing time instead of using it. “They knew what was happening and they didn’t tell you,” she said. It’s tough to rebut something the president bragged about on tape. Pence did his best to pick and choose stats and moments that would demonstrate leadership, but there’s not really anything he can say that can reverse what Trump has done. More than 210,000 people are dead. This is all they’ve got.

    When the conversation shifted to the Supreme Court, Pence downplayed the charge that Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett would support overturning Roe v. Wade. (Barrett’s position is, in fact, pretty clear; she even signed onto a newspaper advertisement in the past calling for the decision to be overturned.)

    Instead, Pence preferred to redirect the Supreme Court question to Harris, trying to pin her down on whether she and Biden would pack the court if Barrett is confirmed and the Democrats win the White House. It’s not a bad question, actually, and the Democratic ticket has been cagey about its answer. (Harris didn’t provide one.) Court-packing would certainly be a big departure for Democrats and the Supreme Court, but does anyone really think the election is going to hinge on it? It’s a desperation play you call when the things the election actually is about are trending in the wrong direction. And perhaps the kind of argument you lean on when the decision to move forward with the nomination is as unpopular as it is.

    The best card in Pence’s hand—the one that at one point they believed made them favorites for reelection—was the economy. Pence repeatedly invoked the strength of the American economy for much of Trump’s term, and highlighted the flawed recovery out of the Great Recession (which, as Harris noted, Biden was responsible for shepherding in the Obama administration). This was a slam-dunk case at one point—an argument that fit on the proverbial bumper sticker. But it’s not 2019 anymore. The economy is a disaster, Disneyland is shut down, the airlines are in hell, most of the restaurants in my city are on the chopping block, and there’s a looming eviction crisis that Washington is doing nothing to avert. At this point, trying to brag about the economy is only reminding voters how bad things have gotten—and how much worse they’ll likely get.

    Pence was characteristically unflappable, and after watching Trump, it’s sort of surreal to see someone as relentlessly on-message and well-prepped as he was. But there just wasn’t much Pence could do on Wednesday. These are some problems even Regeneron can’t fix.

  • “They’re Coming for You”: Kamala Harris Slams Trump and Pence on Preexisting Conditions

    Jack Gruber/Pool/CNP/Zuma

    Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) took multiple opportunities during Wednesday night’s vice presidential debate to call attention to the Trump administration’s attempts to undo Obamacare and strip 23 million Americans of their health insurance.

    “If you have a preexisting condition—heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer—they’re coming for you,” Harris said. “If you love someone who has a preexisting condition, they’re coming for you. If you are under the age of 26 on your parents’ coverage, they’re coming for you.”

    President Trump has repeatedly claimed that he is going to somehow protect coverage for people with preexisting conditions while actively chipping away at the legislation that enacted those protections in the first place. He’s now supporting a lawsuit seeking to eliminate Obamacare altogether. After the election, the Supreme Court will decide whether changes that Trump’s tax law made to the Affordable Care Act invalidate the landmark health legislation in its entirety. The appointment of Amy Coney Barrett, who has criticized Obamacare in the past, could potentially tilt the Supreme Court toward the side of the Republican attorneys general who filed the Trump-backed lawsuit.

    Vice President Mike Pence replied to Harris, “President Trump and I have a plan to improve health care and protect preexisting conditions for every American.” Trump has repeatedly promised to come up with a replacement for Obamacare—but he’s never even come close.

    Watch the video below:

  • Things Sure Do Feel Dystopian These Days!

    A couple poses for a photo in front of the Golden Gate Bridge, which is obscured by wildfire smoke.Wu Xiaoling/Xinhua/Zuma

    I don’t know if it’s because I just moved to a new city, but I feel like my tether to reality is growing looser by the minute.

    The last four years felt dystopian. The last six months, doubly so. And the last week? Hoo, boy.

    Our president is infected with the deadly virus whose seriousness he has downplayed ever since the necessary shutdowns started tanking the economy on whose prosperousness his 2020 presidential campaign hinged. Now, we have no reliable source of information on Trump’s health. His untrustworthy physician claims that Trump has been “symptom-free” for 24 hours. Trump’s (by my count) more than 50 original tweets in the last 24 hours appear symptomatic of, well, something.

    Is this what it feels like to live in a democracy sliding toward authoritarianism? If Biden is elected, what will Trump’s time as a lame duck look like? Could 2021 be even worse than 2020?

    At least we can watch this video of Hamlet the mini pig going down the stairs to get oatmeal. As my colleague Molly Schwartz says, “Seeing that pig jump with unadulterated joy into that oatmeal never fails to make me smile.”

    This post was brought to you by the Mother Jones Daily newsletter, which hits inboxes every weekday and is written by Ben Dreyfuss and Abigail Weinberg, and regularly features guest contributions by our much smarter colleagues. Sign up for it here.

  • Trump Is Now Fundraising Off His COVID Lies

    Donald Trump holds his face mask in his hands on the White House balcony after he returned from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.Alex Brandon/AP

    In a fundraising email sent to supporters Tuesday morning—titled “Best I’ve felt in 20 years!”—President Trump continued to downplay the threat of the coronavirus while seeming to suggest that therapeutics alone could defeat the disease that has claimed more than 210,000 American lives.

    “Don’t be afraid of Covid,” the email says. “Don’t let it dominate your life! This is the greatest country in the world, and under the Trump Administration, we have developed some really great drugs and knowledge. WE WILL BEAT THIS, TOGETHER!”

    The email is a continuation of the president’s theatrical performance of good health, even as he appeared to gasp for breath outside the White House Monday night. There is still no vaccine or known cure for the virus, though Trump has had access to a superb level of care and experimental treatments that have been denied to most Americans who have suffered from the disease. But instead of resting and getting better, Trump promises in his email to get back to work.

    “Now, I am fired up and ready to KEEP FIGHTING FOR YOU!,” it says. “This is the FINAL STRETCH of the Election and we can’t take any days off.” Still, it is unclear what, if anything, Trump is doing to protect the virus from spreading within the White House, where countless housekeepers work in close proximity to the president. Trump’s resistance to even the most basic precautions against COVID-19 took symbolic form when the president, presumably still infectious, removed his mask while standing on a White House balcony Monday evening.

    Trump’s last official outing before announcing his COVID-19 diagnosis was a campaign fundraising event in New Jersey, where he flouted social distancing guidelines. As my colleague Russ Choma reported:

    President Donald Trump, who announced on Friday that he had tested positive for COVID-19, did not wear a mask during a Thursday afternoon campaign fundraiser at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club, according to a person who was at the club. Trump mingled with the crowd of about 150 donors, at one point going table-to-table to shake hands with attendees, according to the source, who asked not to be identified. This behavior is typical for Trump when he visits the club—members often approach him to shake hands and chat. But this time, Trump may have been contagious.

    Read the full fundraising email below:

  • After Trump’s Reckless Joyride, Biden Delivers a Dose of Common Sense About the Next Debate

    Saquan Stimpson/Zuma

    One day after President Trump, sick with the coronavirus, defied social distancing guidelines and common sense by taking a ride in an SUV with his security detail to wave at his supporters, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden delivered a statement that would be unsurprising if there were anything normal about this election year.

    “Listen to the science,” he said, when asked whether he would participate in another presidential debate. “If the scientists say that that it’s safe, and that the distances are safe, then I think that’s fine. I’ll do whatever the experts say is the appropriate thing to do.”

    Watch the video:

  • “You Have Become a Symbol of Your Own Failures”: CNN’s Jake Tapper Rips Trump’s Coronavirus Response

    The days following Donald Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis have been a microcosm of his entire approach to the virus: delay, obfuscation, and outright lies. However genuinely frightening it is to see the President of the United States be laid low by a deadly virus, it’s also maddeningly predictable. This is a president who constantly downplayed the spread of the coronavirus and mocked the idea of wearing masks as “politically correct.” To some, the image of him finally wearing a mask—as he boarded a helicopter to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center—was an inevitable result of his inability to abide by the safety guidelines his own government has promulgated.

    To others, including CNN host Jake Tapper, it was just damn infuriating.

    “The Americans who don’t listen to science or medicine, who think masks are too intrusive, who pack bars, who willfully risk spreading the virus, you are making it worse for all of us,” Tapper said in a blistering rant on CNN’s State of the Union. “You are extending how long this pandemic will last. And, it is tragic to say, many if not most of you are taking your cues from the leader of the free world.”


    Tapper noted that Trump chose to attend a fundraiser in New Jersey on Thursday despite having been in close contact with one of his advisers, Hope Hicks, who had just tested positive for the virus. Instead of avoiding the event, where attendees mingled indoors and mostly did not wear masks, Trump went anyway. Hours later, he announced that he and Melania Trump had tested positive. That would be the height of the scandal if not for Trump’s physician, Sean Conley, bizarrely implying in a Saturday press conference that Trump tested positive on Wednesday. (He walked those comments back shortly afterward.) If that were the case, Trump would have willfully attended an outdoor rally in Minnesota and a fundraiser—which partly took place indoors—while knowing he had the virus. That’s unfathomably reckless behavior, yet for anyone who’s watched Trump in the past five hours, it’s hardly surprising. 

    “Sick and isolated, you have become a symbol of your own failures, failures of recklessness, ignorance, arrogance—the same failures you have been inflicting on the rest of us,” Tapper concluded. “Get well, and for the rest of us who don’t get to go to Walter Reed, get well and get it together.” 

  • Trump’s Campaign: Screw What You’ve Seen With Your Own Eyes, We’ve Been Super Safe

    White House

    You don’t need me to tell you this: The Trump campaign gaslights you every day. That’s even more the case with a president holed up in hospital signing blank pieces of paper. On Sunday morning, the campaign took to TV in an attempt to wave its hands and make reality, poof, disappear.

    You’ve all seen the photos of the White House Rose Garden event last weekend, where Trump administration members and its supporters mingled maskless to celebrate the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. You’ve all seen Trump fans gleefully crammed cheek-by-jowl into rallies. And you’ve heard Trump himself deny the severity of the pandemic, including during last Tuesday’s debate: “We’ve had no negative effect,” he lied about his rallies (Herman Cain?) while mocking Biden for wearing a mask. Just one night before he announced his own diagnosis, Trump told a virtual event “the end of the pandemic is sight” after spending the afternoon in New Jersey raising money, maskless.

    But in Trump campaign land, the president and his team have been the paragon of safety. When pressed by George Stephanopoulos about lax requirements at Trump rallies on his ABC show on Sunday, campaign official Jason Miller said they have, actually, been super safe, and accused Biden of using masks as a “prop.”

    “Hasn’t the cavalier approach to masks and social distancing at these rallies been a mistake?” Stephanopoulos asked Miller. “Will it change going forward?”

    “We give everyone coming to rallies or events, we give them a mask. We check their temperature,” Miller said. “It hasn’t been cavalier at all.”

    But the attack on reality didn’t stop there. “I would say that with regard to Joe Biden, I think too often he’s used the mask as a prop,” Miller said. “He could be 20, 30 feet away from the nearest person and still have the mask on. That’s not going to change anything that’s out there.”

    In other words, to answer Stephanopoulos’s question more directly: No, nothing will change going forward.

  • Watch Trump Emerge from the White House and Fly to Hospital After Testing Positive

    Sarah Silbiger/CNP via ZUMA Wire

    President Donald Trump was airlifted to Washington D.C.’s Walter Reed Military Medical Center Friday evening on Marine One after announcing he was sick with COVID-19 just hours earlier. The president’s hospitalization marked an escalation in his medical care, at the end of a day in which White House officials downplayed the severity of his illness by projecting the image of a man still at work and in control. The White House said that his stay at Walter Reed will last several days. Earlier, the president’s doctor announced that he had received an experimental antibody drug.

    Trump emerged from the White House around 6:15pm, on foot. He waved at reporters and gave a thumbs up, before boarding the helicopter for the short twilight flight, a historic visual moment for a presidency that has staked out a denialist position on the virus since the start of the pandemic. He didn’t take questions, and he was wearing a mask. The entire trip was broadcast live by news cameras, making for a dramatic scene as Marine One flew across the D.C. sunset.

    Watch the video below:

  • I Don’t Know How You Should Feel About the News, but I Know It Pertains to You

    Everett Collection/Shutterstock

    Donald Trump has the coronavirus and as I was sitting down to write this, news broke that he is being moved to Walter Reed from the White House. I don’t really have much to add about this. It’s all so surreal. The president who downplayed the viral illness destroying his country and killing its citizens gets infected with said disease. We long ago left The West Wing territory and are now on the verge of entering Scandal territory. 

    I hope he gets better. The coronavirus is awful and I hope he makes it out okay, despite my misgivings about his presidency and him as a person. My other hope is this: I hope the supporters of his who have refused to heed the dire warnings of scientists and medical professionals worldwide are shook by this. I hope they have a “come to Jesus” moment. 

    Monika Bauerlein, our CEO, and David Corn, our Washington bureau chief, have much better thoughts that are far more interesting than that, and you should read both their posts. But I’ll ramble a bit more first.

    There’s a scene in the David Rabe play Hurlyburly (which I’m now going to describe from memory because I can’t find a free copy of the script, so these quotes are probably not 100 percent accurate) where the main character has had a total meltdown, driven mad by drugs, loneliness, and cable news. He is rambling to himself when suddenly another character shows up and the main character tries to explain his conundrum.

    “I don’t know what pertains to me and what doesn’t.”

    “Everything pertains to you, Eddie. This is all part of the flow, of which, you know, we are a part. And everything pertains to everything, one way or another.”

    “But there is death and destruction in the word! Axe murderers and plane crashes! How am I supposed to feel about that?”

    “I don’t know,” she says. “But I was just saying that they all pertain to you.”

    I’ve thought about that scene a bunch this year when we can all feel like that main character. I don’t have an answer. David Rabe didn’t either when he wrote the play. And that’s okay. There’s a famous Catholic quote that comes to mind: “I believe that the desire to please you,” the monk Thomas Merton prayed, “does in fact please you.”

    Sometimes you can’t answer something, but the fact that you want to answer it is an answer in and of itself. 

    This post was brought to you by the Mother Jones Daily newsletter, which hits inboxes every weekday and is written by Ben Dreyfuss and Abigail Weinberg, and regularly features guest contributions by our much smarter colleagues. Sign up for it here