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‘He better pick a Black woman’: Biden faces Whitmer backlash

“There are a lot of Black people mad at her [Whitmer] in this state,” Rollins told POLITICO, citing her record on Flint’s lead water crisis and education policy, particularly in Detroit.

As Biden prepares to announce his choice this week, Black women activists and operatives have launched an eleventh-hour campaign to pressure him. In a pair of open letters Monday and last week, they made the case that he needs strong African American turnout in swing states like Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania to win.

In all those states, a drop-off of Black voter turnout in 2016 compared to the 2012 and 2008 elections, when Barack Obama was on the ticket, helped Donald Trump become president. Dislike of Trump, they say, is probably not enough to motivate the large turnout needed to beat him.

Spokespeople for Whitmer and Biden declined to comment. Biden is expected to unveil his running mate in advance of the Democratic National Convention, which starts Aug. 17.

It’s not just Whitmer’s record that’s led activists and political leaders to speak out. They said they’re also chagrined by the positive press coverage of Whitmer compared to Black women on Biden’s shortlist: California Sen. Kamala Harris, Florida Rep. Val Demings, former Secretary of State Susan Rice, California Rep. Karen Bass and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.

“I don’t want to bash Whitmer, but I could not stand by quietly while we were putting these women, these Black women, out there to take all these hits,” Pamela Pugh, the elected vice president of the Michigan State Board of Education, told POLITICO.

The sentiment was echoed by Flint’s former mayor, Karen Weaver.

“They let Black women out there get beaten up in the media but they protected her. Nobody’s talking about what was promised in Flint that hasn’t happened,” Weaver said.

In the wake of the nationwide Black Lives Matter protests and Biden’s repeated stumbles over race, many activists thought a Black woman was a lock to be his running mate until the Whitmer news broke, said Latosha Brown, a co-founder of the group Black Voters Matter.

Brown said she was flummoxed by the late consideration of Whitmer because a Black woman would do a better job turning out African American voters, even in Michigan.

“If he picks the governor of Michigan, she might not be able to move the Black vote for him because a lot of people are upset with her,” Brown said.

“At the end of the day, if Joe Biden can’t get the white Midwestern vote, then we’re all up the damn creek,” she said. “The whole point of Black folks voting for him is he’s supposed to deliver the white people. If he can’t deliver the white Midwestern vote, like what the hell did we vote for you for?”

Jotaka Eaddy, who helped pen the Aug. 5 letter calling on Biden to pick a Black woman, pointed out that an African American running mate would also help with progressive whites and young and millennial voters.

“This will energize the base that will bring out a widespread demographic,” Eaddy said. “It’s not about Black voters sitting at home. It’s about the intensity and energy needed to secure the White House.”

Glynda Carr, co-founder Higher Heights, an advocacy group for Black women, said Biden could ruin the otherwise positive coverage of a running mate by not picking a woman of color. Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth and New Mexico Sen. Michelle Lujan Grisham are the only other women on Biden’s list who identify as neither Black nor white.

“If he doesn’t pick a Black woman, it’s going to be an awkward day for” the VP nominee, Carr said. “There’s going to be a lot of tension, people asking, ‘Why not?’”

Karen Finney, a veteran of Bill Clinton’s White House and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, said Biden will pay a steep price if he opts for Whitmer. It’s nothing personal against the Michigan governor, she said, but Black women have worked too hard and long for the Democratic Party to get passed over. African American female voters powered Biden’s victory in the South Carolina primary, a win that revived his campaign and put him on the path to the nomination.

“The Whitmer news reminded people that we need to keep being vocal, not just to push back on the attacks but to make it clear that the backlash, if he doesn’t pick a Black woman, is going to be severe,” Finney said.

Angela Rye, a top Black Lives Matter activist and the Congressional Black Caucus’ former general counsel, said the agitation is building.

“I’m at a fever pitch, a boiling point over this,” Rye said.

Rye cited a Sunday editorial by Pugh in the online publication Black Star News that laid out two major criticisms of Whitmer, concerning water policy in Flint and education policy affecting Detroit.

First, Pugh and others say, Whitmer under-delivered on promises to clean up the lead-poisoned water of the majority-Black city of Flint. And Whitmer initially fought a lawsuit that was especially important to Black people in Detroit “seeking a basic right to literacy, classrooms with books and teachers and school buildings with no heat in winter or air conditioning in summer,” Pugh wrote.

“There’s not enough ‘there’ there, first of all, when you compare Whitmer to these qualified women, which we unfortunately have to do,” Pugh told POLITICO.

A spokesperson for Whitmer responded to Pugh’s criticisms by noting that the city of Flint is in charge of pipe replacement, that its water quality is “well within federal testing requirements” and that “bottled water is available and is currently being provided to city residents by Nestle.”

But Rye said the governor’s explanation doesn’t cut it.

“Gretchen Whitmer, I don’t know her,” Rye added. “But here’s what I do know: Flint still doesn’t have clean water, and it was a campaign promise of hers,” Rye said. “In a climate where we experienced George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor and Elijah McLean and everyone else who has never even had a hashtag, how do you justify that pick?”

Biden’s defenders, who don’t want to publicly push back against the coalition of Black women advocates, point out that he has committed to nominate the first Black woman for the U.S. Supreme Court. They also note that if Whitmer is picked, Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II would be the first African American governor of the state.

But that’s little consolation for those who want a Black woman for VP, an issue that has taken on added importance in Biden’s selection process because of his advanced age, 77.

One of Whitmer’s biggest boosters in the state, Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes, who is African American, could not be reached for comment.

Adrianne Shropshire, executive director of the BlackPAC political group, said the concerns about Whitmer are “completely justified.” But she indicated she thinks a Whitmer pick is unlikely because it would be such a bad idea.

“I think the Whitmer leak was a red herring,” Shropshire said via text message. “It’s hard to imagine that with 4 top-tier Black women leaders, who are all not only uniquely qualified to be vice president but president, the Biden campaign would come out of this process saying ‘yeah, none of the Black women met our criteria.’ They’d have a lot of explaining to do and very little time to do it.”

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GOP senator subpoenas FBI over Russia, defends Biden probe

Republican Sen. Ron Johnson says he has subpoenaed the FBI to produce documents to his committee related to the Trump-Russia investigation

Republican Sen. Ron Johnson said Monday that he has subpoenaed the FBI to produce documents to his committee related to the Trump-Russia investigation.

The Wisconsin senator also defended a separate investigation he is leading into Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and Ukraine, even as Democrats say the probe has the effect of amplifying Russian propaganda and as U.S. intelligence officials say they have assessed that Russia is working to denigrate Biden ahead of the November election.

Johnson’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is one of multiple Republican-led Senate panels scrutinizing the FBI’s investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Another, the Judiciary Committee, has released a series of documents in recent weeks aimed at discrediting the probe, including material on Sunday that the chairman, Sen. Lindsey Graham, said raised questions about whether the FBI had misled Congress about the accuracy of information it received during the investigation.

The subpoena demands that the FBI produce by Aug. 20 the records that it gave to the Justice Department inspector general’s office, which concluded in a report last December that the Russia investigation had been opened for a valid reason but that the FBI had made significant errors during its surveillance of a former Trump campaign adviser.

The FBI said in a statement that it had received the subpoena and that the bureau had already been producing documents and information for Johnson’s committee. ”As always, the FBI will continue to cooperate with the Committee’s requests, consistent with our law enforcement and national security obligations,” the statement said.

In a separate statement on Sunday, the FBI said it was continuing to cooperate with the Judiciary Committee’s investigation.

The FBI also said it had “surged resources” to be able to continue producing documents to the committee on a rolling basis.

Johnson publicized the subpoena along with a more than 5,000-word open letter in which he sought to explain the basis for his scrutiny of the Russia investigation and to defend his Biden probe against allegations that he was amplifying Russian disinformation.

“I felt it was important to provide this explanation of my investigations because of the concerted and coordinated attacks on my efforts that I have interpreted as a ‘brush back pitch’ to deter my actions and preemptively marginalize my committee’s findings,” Johnson wrote in an email sent to reporters.

He said he was concerned that the media was preparing to taint his committee’s findings as an extension of Russian propaganda. Democrats in recent weeks have expressed alarm about the probe, and a statement Friday by William Evanina, the U.S. government’s chief counterintelligence official, called out by name a pro-Russia Ukrainian lawmaker who has spread leaked recordings about Biden meant to undermine the Democrat’s campaign.

Johnson denied Monday receiving information from that lawmaker, Andrii Derkach, or being part of any Russian disinformation effort.

“As always, almost all of the documents we are seeking and will make public are from U.S. sources,” Johnson wrote in the letter.

The Biden-Ukraine issue is a politically freighted one, particularly after President Donald Trump urged his Ukraine counterpart in a July 2019 phone call to investigate Biden and his son Hunter, who was a paid board member of a Ukraine gas company called Burisma Holdings. That phone call formed the basis of Trump’s impeachment by the House in December. He was acquitted by the Senate in February.

Hunter Biden has denied using his influence with his father to aid Burisma, and Biden has denied speaking with his son about his overseas business dealings.

Trump and his allies have raised questions about Biden’s move as vice president in 2016 to pressure the Ukrainian government to fire its top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, who had previously led an investigation into Burisma’s owner.

Biden was representing the official position of the U.S. government, a position that was also supported by other Western governments.


Follow Eric Tucker on Twitter at

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Go figure that RINO Ben Sasse is criticizing me again now that he’s won his primary

It pains me to agree with him in a dispute with a more genuinely conservative figure, but when the guy’s right, he’s right. And he’s right about Sasse finding his spine only when it’s politically convenient.

He is not, however, right about Sasse’s critique being “foolish.”

Let’s back up. If you missed yesterday’s post, Sasse dinged Trump in a statement this weekend for practicing Obama-style pen-and-phone executive unilateralism.

Lots of people, me included, wondered why Sasse wasn’t as much of a stickler about congressional prerogatives last year when Trump declared an emergency and started moving Pentagon money around to try to pay for the border wall. Could it be because he was facing a potentially rough Senate primary challenge from the right back then and is safely past that challenge now?

The president thinks so. And the president is right:

Sasse also declared last fall that there was “terrible stuff” in the White House transcript of Trump’s “quid pro quo” phone call with Ukraine’s president, but in the end he voted not just to acquit Trump at his impeachment trial but not to allow witnesses to testify. How would he have voted on that if he weren’t up for reelection this fall?

Meh, he probably would have voted the same way, knowing that he’ll have another Senate primary eventually. Superficially it feels unfair to dunk on Sasse for electoral calculations since all politicians make them, especially ones as young as him. What grates in his case is that his most memorable speeches as a senator have had to do with how Congress no longer functions effectively. “We need better, more independent leaders” isn’t just political boilerplate for Sasse, as it is with most pols, it’s his whole pitch. (Well, half of his pitch. Abortion and China are his two other hobbyhorses, as you know if you get press releases from his office.) Yet, when given multiple opportunities to go his own way on a big vote that might displease Trump, he put his career first and stayed in line.

He may disdain the Senate but he seems to like the prestige of being a senator enough to consider his deviations from Trumpist orthodoxy very carefully. This weekend’s complaint about “unconstitutional slop” comes at a moment of maximum political safety — Sasse is past his primary, he’s crossing a president who’s likely to lose this fall, he’s rebranding himself as a “constitutional conservative” in anticipation of the party’s ideological pivot next year, and his criticism of Trump has no policy implications that might piss off one side or the other. Eventually he’ll vote no on whatever relief package passes the Senate and burnish his “fiscal conservative” cred too, possibly with an eye to a presidential run in 2024. He deserved a Twitter brushback pitch from Trump for his cynicism.

He replied this afternoon, more tactfully than he did this weekend. “I care about you personally”?

Sasse isn’t wrong on the merits. Whether Trump’s orders are “unconstitutional slop” or just plain ol’ “slop” is less important than the fact that they move the country further towards a model in which Americans look to the president and the Supreme Court for all major policymaking, not to Congress. Down that path lies ruin, say Yuval Levin and Adam White, remembering Republicans’ righteous complaints about Obama’s DACA/DAPA overreach on immigration. What would Democrats say if a Republican president tried changing the law with the stroke of a pen, wondered Ted Cruz in 2014? Well, say Levin and White, here we are:

That is precisely what has now happened, and it is indeed wrong. But so far, most Republicans in Congress seem reticent to say so. As in the Obama years, the president’s party in Congress is all too eager to encourage an executive incursion onto legislative turf.

And thus, one kind of constitutional failure invites another: An absence of the necessary constitutional self-restraint on the part of the presidents is answered with an absence of the necessary constitutional assertiveness on the part of Congress. These are both failings of constitutional virtue.

And they are not the only such failures at the juncture of the two elected branches. They have emerged alongside Congress’s eagerness to delegate its power to administrative agencies and the Senate’s lack of interest in asserting its advice-and-consent powers (as the executive branch fills with “acting” officers in the Trump era just as it did with recess appointments in the Obama years).

Yep. And the hypocrisy goes both ways, of course. Watch below and you’ll find Nancy Pelosi experiencing a very belated constitutional awakening triggered by Trump’s executive orders. As for righties, they’ll end up splitting into two familiar groups on the propriety of his actions — the group that thinks if it was bad when Obama did it then it’s bad when Trump does it and therefore he shouldn’t do it, and the group that thinks if Obama did it then Trump should be allowed to do it irrespective of whether it was bad when Obama did it. Group two is bigger than group one at this point, possibly much bigger. Which is why Levin and White are worried, rightly.

Exit question via Axios: Did Trump try to set a “tax trap” for Biden with his executive action on the payroll tax? The idea might have been to bait Biden into declaring that he’ll undo Trump’s deferral of the tax as soon as he’s in office, which sets up Republicans to accuse Biden of wanting to hike everyone’s taxes. The problem with that “trap” in the context of the payroll tax, though, is that it also sets Biden up to claim that Trump wants to slash entitlements, an attack he’s already pursuing. If Trump wanted to set a political trap of dubious legality involving taxes, he would have been better off deferring the collection of a certain amount of income tax instead.

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Mijente Stayed Out of the 2016 Election. Here’s Why It’s Going All In This Time.

Hispanic voters will comprise 13% of the electorate this year—the largest nonwhite demographic group of eligible voters. Mijente’s “Fuera Trump” campaign aims to mobilize them for the November election.

“While I don’t think [Biden] has earned my support, I think we need to get Trump out. Sitting on the sidelines means that we’re letting this happen.” —Mayra Lopez

The 2020 presidential election is not turning out how progressives imagined now that their favorite candidates, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Ma.), have left the race. Left with former Vice President Joe Biden as the de-facto Democratic nominee, progressive organizations like Mijente, a national grassroots hub for Latinx and Chicanx organizing, are pivoting their strategy for November’s general election.

Mijente is an organization that gives young Latinx and Chicanx people the opportunity to develop organizing skills, increase their political awareness and build relationships with others who are invested in justice that is pro-Black, pro-Indigenous, pro-worker, pro-woman, pro-LGBTQ+ and pro-migrant. Mijente decided not to endorse Biden, but it’s not staying on the sidelines—there’s too much at stake. Though the organization endorsed Sanders in February, its members resolved to put their weight behind whichever candidate went up against Trump in November. For them, getting voters to the polls in November isn’t about putting Biden into office; it’s about getting Trump out. That’s the basis for Mijente’s “Fuera Trump” campaign.

The idea behind a negative campaign strategy like Fuera Trump is to get voters to vote against something or someone, rather than for it. Leading up to the 2016 general election, this strategy worked for Republicans: 53% of Trump voters cast their ballots for him as a way to demonstrate opposition to Hillary Clinton. Negative campaigning was less effective in mobilizing Democrats, however, given that only 46% of Clinton’s voters were cast as an anti-Trump statement. By comparison, in 2008 a majority of both Democratic and Republican candidates were positively motivated to turn out for their candidate.

The decision to enter the 2020 election with an electorally-focused negative campaign strategy is new for Mijente, which, since its founding in 2015, has focused on mobilizing around issues rather than candidates. The organization’s issue-based work includes, for instance, protesting the Department of Homeland Security’s cooperation with local and state police and demanding an end to the criminalization of migration, an end to private detention centers and abolishing Immigrations and Customs Enforcement; its protests and public advocacy have helped demonstrate to lawmakers that xenophobic policies will not easily glide by without a fight from Mijente’s members. Its movement work involves the difficult business of building a diffuse apparatus on the ground that’s strong enough to force officials to hear and heed political demands.

Grassroots organizing and electoral organizing diverge in a number of ways, says Mayra Lopez, a Chicago-based Mijente member, organizer and political strategist. Grassroots work is about mobilizing people by building relationships around shared values, for starters. “Community organizing is centered around leadership development and the issue,” Lopez says. “We’re not there to elect somebody just because we want to play politics. There always has to be a larger agenda: Electing this person is part of a bigger plan as to how we’re gonna achieve our goal.”

Mijente’s larger goal is to realize policies like the Green New Deal, universal healthcare and ending family separation and other means of terrorizing immigrants. However, while Mijente has traditionally prioritized issue-based grassroots organizing, it now recognizes how deep a threat the Trump presidency poses—and the electoral organizing needed to oppose that threat. Mijente political director Tania Unzueta realized when Trump was elected in 2016 that the organization had “missed an opportunity” to fight against him and what his candidacy represented. The Trump presidency has made people of color, Latinx people and immigrants more vulnerable than ever before.  

Mijente had decided to stay out of the 2016 presidential race for two reasons: the organization’s assessment that then-candidate Trump was not a credible threat, and that Hillary Clinton was not interested in their vision of justice because her platform promised a continuation of Obama-era anti-immigrant policies. After eight years of a Democratic administration that deported more people than any previous administration and expanded the use of detention centers, it didn’t seem to Mijente like things could get any worse with either Clinton or Trump in office.

But of course, things did get worse. “[We] misassessed the threat of Trump becoming president,” says Unzueta. In 2020, “We can’t make that same mistake,” she says. That means getting voters to turn out for Biden, by underscoring the harms of a continued Trump presidency. Even as Mijente is mobilizing members to vote as a way to create change, Mijente’s electoral strategy is still informed by its movement organizing background. Candidates aren’t heroes; they’re targets for organizers to push on their larger agenda. And voting isn’t just about showing up on November 3, but about taking action every day after—Mijente is working the long game. “We know that working within the institutions that oppress us is not going to save us,” Unzueta says. “We also know that ignoring these systems isn’t going to save us.”

Though Fuera Trump won’t break down American governing systems, Mijente is hoping the November election could usher in a candidate who has demonstrated his willingness to listen and move left on the issues at the top of Mijente’s priority list. In other words, Unzueta says, Fuera Trump is about pushing for change “within the state, outside the state and without the state.”

Though a presidential electoral strategy is new for Mijente, the organization has successfully used its issue-based organizing to mobilize voters against a county-level candidate in the past. In 2016, Mijente launched and won their first effort to boot someone out of office: Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a racist Republican who directed his department to racially profile and unconstitutionally detain Latinx people. Arpaio outspent his Democratic opponent by over $11 million and hadn’t lost a race in 24 years, but Mijente’s coalition-building and grassroots effort to engage voters by door-knocking and protesting in front of the sheriff’s office worked. The 2016 effort dubbed “Bazta Arpaio” succeeded even as Mijente was “fighting Republicans in a red state,” Unzueta says. Building a campaign strategy around demonstrating the harm of an elected official worked four years ago, and it could work in November.  

In order to replicate its 2016 successes, Mijente will need to use similar organizing skills to rally its base. “It’s about math,” Lopez says. Luckily for them, the math is on their side. Hispanic voters will comprise 13% of the electorate this year—the single largest nonwhite demographic group of eligible voters, according to Pew Research.

This year, Mijente is organizing and registering Latinx and Chicanx voters in states where the Democratic Establishment previously hasn’t done much outreach, such as Georgia, North Carolina and Kentucky. Mijente has seen firsthand the power of such grassroots organizing: In 2018, Mijente turned out young voters for Georgia’s gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, claiming to increase the Latinx vote by 300% more than the previous gubernatorial race. Unzueta says that Latinx voters in the state hadn’t previously been reached out to by the Democratic Party, and credits Mijente with the turnout, revealing what they have always known: that the Latinx and Chicanx vote matters.

A vote against Trump is not just a demonstration of values, but a protective measure for Mijente members who can’t vote. Voting is not a tool that’s available to every organizer or activist, including Lopez herself. Lopez is a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, recipient. Her immigration status means she’s not able to cast a ballot in November, and yet, her safety is dependent on getting Trump out of office.

While Mijente believes that voting often fails to create the major systemic change people need and instead results in incremental changes, the Trump administration has proved to be a big enough obstacle to issue-based organizing that voting against him (by casting a ballot for Biden) shifts power away from explicitly white supremacist leaders and to a legislator Mijente believes can be persuaded to enact policy changes aligned with their long-term issue-based organizing.

“While I don’t think [Biden] has earned my support, I think we need to get Trump out,” Lopez says. “At this moment we need to be present. Sitting on the sidelines means that we’re letting this happen.”

Ray Levy-Uyeda is a Bay Area-based freelance writer who covers justice and activism. Find her on Twitter @raylevyuyeda

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Copyright ©2020 by the INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS. As a 501(c)3 nonprofit, reader-funded publication, IN THESE TIMES does not oppose or endorse candidates for political office. (EIN: 94-2889692)

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Sens. Markey, Cruz clash over coronavirus relief: ‘It’s not a goddamn joke Ted’

Sens. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeySanders offers bill to tax billionaires’ wealth gains during pandemic Senate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Budowsky: Why I back Kennedy, praise Markey MORE (D-Mass.) and Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOn The Trail: Pence’s knives come out Pat Fallon wins GOP nomination in race to succeed DNI Ratcliffe The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association – Negotiators ‘far apart’ as talks yield little ahead of deadline MORE (R-Texas) on Monday clashed on Twitter over Markey’s proposal to send $2,000 monthly payments to every American for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic.

Markey in May introduced a bill with Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisHuffPost reporter: Biden’s VP shortlist doesn’t suggest progressive economic policies Hillary Clinton labels Trump coronavirus executive actions a ‘stunt’ Why Joe Biden needs Kamala Harris MORE (D-Calif.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersTrump is fighting the wrong war Michelle Obama, Sanders, Kasich to be featured on first night of Democratic convention: report The Memo: Trump team pounces on Biden gaffes MORE (I-Vt.) that would provide a $2,000 monthly payment to those making up to $100,000 per year during, and in the immediate aftermath of, the pandemic.

Markey’s tweet on Monday appeared to go beyond that proposal, calling for the payments to go to “every person in our country” during the pandemic, for three months after and retroactively to March. 

Cruz sarcastically responded to Markey about one hour later, retweeting Markey and noting sarcastically, “Why be so cheap?”

“Give everyone $1 million a day, every day, forever. And three soy lattes a day. And a foot massage,” Cruz wrote. “We have a magic money tree — we should use it!”

Markey continued the exchange shortly after, telling Cruz that he didn’t think aid for families should be made a “joke.”

“It’s not a goddamn joke Ted,” the Massachusetts senator wrote. “Millions of families are facing hunger, the threat of eviction, and the loss of their health care during a pandemic that is worsening every day. Get real.”

The social media back and forth comes as negotiations over the next coronavirus relief bill, which looked likely to include another round of direct payments to Americans, have all but collapsed.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump suggests some states may ‘pay nothing’ as part of unemployment plan Trump denies White House asked about adding him to Mount Rushmore Trump, US face pivotal UN vote on Iran MORE on Saturday signed three memos and an executive order targeted at providing relief despite the gridlock in Congress, though direct payments were not included.

Trump’s actions instead aimed to extend enhanced unemployment benefits, defer the payroll tax and provide relief on evictions and student loans. Democrats and some legal experts have questioned the legality of the orders.

Markey’s comments come as he is facing a stiff primary challenge from Rep. Joe KennedyJoseph (Joe) Patrick KennedyBudowsky: Why I back Kennedy, praise Markey The Hill’s Campaign Report: Even the Post Office is political now | Primary action tonight | Super PACS at war Markey offers apology to family of unarmed Black teen amid criticism MORE III (D-Mass.) in the upcoming Sept. 1 primary. While Markey has aimed to flex his progressive credentials, the RealClearPolitics average of polls shows Kennedy leading by 5 points.

Cruz, meanwhile, has joined other Tea Party members in making clear their opposition to a large relief package, even bucking their own party leadership. In response to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump signs executive orders after coronavirus relief talks falter Coronavirus deal key to Republicans protecting Senate majority Coronavirus talks collapse as negotiators fail to reach deal MORE’s (R-Ky.) initial $1 trillion proposal, Cruz declared he was a “hell no” and predicted the bill would balloon in cost.

McConnell’s proposal included a one-time $1,200 stimulus check with the same eligibility requirements as the payments in the March CARES Act: Those making up to $75,000 per year would receive the full amount, with the amount scaled down until it hit an income level of $99,000 per year, when it was phased out altogether.

Families also received $500 per dependent child as part of the March legislation.

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How Donald Trump has already handed Joe Biden a debate win

“Joe Biden is slipping. Now at the age of 77 years old and running for president for the third time, Biden is clearly diminished. Joe Biden does not have the strength, stamina and mental fortitude required to lead this country.”

And then there’s the Instagram and other social media feeds of people like Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, the president’s two oldest sons, which are filled with memes painting Biden as clueless — or worse.

The message is relentless and clear: The presumptive Democratic nominee is not mentally fit to be president. He’s not up to the job he is seeking.

All of which brings me to the three scheduled general election debates between Biden and Trump on September 29, October 15 and October 22.

As Axios’ Jonathan Swan — yes, the face meme guy — reported on Sunday, the Trump campaign sees the debates as increasingly important as the incumbent seeks a change in the operating dynamic of the race. Here’s what Swan reported:

“Among President Trump’s closest aides, these debates have taken on outsized importance to close the polling gap and get Trump within striking distance by Election Day. The Trump campaign views the debates as the crucial inflection points left before Nov. 3.

“‘I don’t think he [Trump] sees the debates as the last inflection points, but potentially the most important,’ said a source familiar with the results of the planning meeting. ‘I think he always thinks he can create an inflection point.'”

Which is true! There’s nothing obvious — short of some ahistorical VP pick by Biden that proves to be a cataclysm — that will change the race’s trajectory between now and the debates.

And now for the problem for Trump: Having spent months attacking Biden as barely there mentally, he has drastically lowered the expectations for the former vice president when it comes to debate performance.

Think about it: The image of Biden pushed by Trump is a guy who is totally out of it. Who is being controlled by forces he is unaware of. Who can’t stand on his own two feet (figuratively speaking). If Biden simply sounds moderately credible and conversant in the debates, that image is going to be upended. And at least some people who bought the Trump idea that Biden isn’t up to the job will be forced to reckon with the fact that, well, the former VP is someone who appears to a) be able to put two sentences together and b) knows where he is.

Those remarkably low expectations for Biden’s performance in the general election debates are a godsend for him. During the Democratic primary process — and its monthly debates — it became clear that the former Delaware senator was, at best, a mediocre debater. He tried to stuff 10 minutes of facts into a two-minute answer. He would change thoughts — and lines of argument — in the middle of a sentence. He would simply stop talking when his allotted time ran out. He would occasionally fade into the background, despite being the race’s front-runner.

In short: Joe Biden isn’t a terribly good debater. He may have his moments, but it’s just not his strong suit. Never has been.

Which makes Trump’s attempts to portray Biden as utterly out of it all the more confounding strategically. And why the Trump campaign is trying to reshape its messaging on Biden — and quickly.

“Joe Biden is actually a very good debater,” Trump White House aide Stephen Miller told The Washington Post over the weekend. “He doesn’t have as many gaffes as he does in his everyday interviews. I would make the argument that Joe Biden would even be the favorite in the debates since he’s been doing them for 47 years.”

You get the idea. Joe Biden can’t be both of those things. Either he is barely holding on or he is a gifted debater. Not both.

If Biden walks away from this trio of general election debates as the perceived victor, he should send Trump a “thank you” note. Seriously.

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Looters descend on downtown Chicago; more than 100 arrested

Hundreds of looters and vandals descended on downtown Chicago early Monday following a police shooting on the city’s South Side, smashing the windows of dozens of businesses and making off with merchandise, cash machines and anything else they could carry, police said.

Hours earlier, police shot a man after he opened fire on officers Sunday afternoon — an incident that apparently prompted a social media post urging looters to converge on the business district, Police Superintendent David Brown told a news conference.



Some 400 additional officers were dispatched to the area after the department spotted the post. Over several hours, police made more than 100 arrests and 13 officers were injured, including one who was struck in the head with a bottle, Brown said.

Brown dismissed any suggestion that the chaos was part of an organized protest of the shooting, instead calling it “pure criminality” that included occupants of a vehicle opening fire on police who were arresting a man they spotted carrying a cash register.

No officers were wounded by gunfire, but a security guard and a civilian were hospitalized in critical condition after being shot, and five guns were recovered, he said.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot agreed that the melee had nothing to do with a protest. “This was straight-up felony criminal conduct,” she said. “This was an assault on our city.”



The looting brightened the national spotlight that has been on Chicago for weeks after a surge in gun violence that resulted in more homicides in July than any month in decades. President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly criticized the city’s handling of the violence, recently ordered more federal agents to Chicago to take part in what Attorney General William Barr called “classic crime fighting.”

Further ratcheting up the tensions in the city was a video that circulated on Facebook hours before the looting that falsely claimed that Chicago police had shot and killed a 15-year-old boy. Posted at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, the video shows upset residents confronting officers near the scene where officers shot and wounded an adult suspect who they said had fired at them that day. By Monday morning, it had been watched nearly 100,000 times.

Witnesses to the looting described a scene that bore a striking resemblance to the unrest that unfolded when protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis devolved into chaos. Brown suggested that the lenient treatment of people arrested then played a role in what happened Monday.

“Not many of those cases were prosecuted to the full extent,” he said. “These looters, these thieves, these criminals being emboldened by (the lack of) consequences … emboldened to do more.”



At the same news conference, Lightfoot addressed the looters directly, telling them that police had collected a lot of surveillance video and other evidence that will be used to arrest and prosecute as many as possible.

“We saw you, and we will come after you,” she warned.

Videos of the vandalism showed huge crowds of people smashing their way into businesses and streaming out of the broken windows and doors with clothes and other merchandise. They loaded up vehicles and drove off, some leaving behind boxes of rocks that they had apparently brought to shatter the windows. Cash register drawers and clothes hangers were strewed about the streets, along with automatic teller machines that had been ripped from walls or pulled from inside businesses.

Stores miles from downtown were also ransacked, their parking lots littered with glass and boxes that once contained television sets and other electronics.

“This was obviously very orchestrated,” the Rev. Michael Pfleger, a prominent Roman Catholic priest and activist on the city’s South Side, told Chicago television station WBBM.

Train and bus service into downtown was temporarily suspended. Bridges over the Chicago River were lifted, preventing travel to and from the downtown area, and state police blocked some expressway ramps into downtown. Access was to be restored later in the day.

Brown said the department would maintain a huge presence in the downtown area indefinitely, telling reporters that all days off had been canceled until further notice.

On the South Side, police responded about 2:30 p.m. Sunday to a call about a person with a gun in the Englewood neighborhood and tried to confront someone matching his description in an alley. He fled from officers on foot and shot at officers, police said.

Officers returned fire, wounding the man, who was taken to a hospital for treatment. He was expected to recover. Three officers also were taken to a hospital for observation, the statement said.

Brown later said the 20-year-old man had a long criminal history, including arrests for domestic battery and child endangerment, He said a gun was recovered at the scene.

More than an hour after the shooting, police and witnesses said a crowd faced off with officers after someone reportedly told people that police had shot and wounded a child. That crowd eventually dispersed.

But police later came across the social media post about a caravan of cars “being prompted to go to our downtown to loot,” Brown said. “Within 15 minutes, we respond and almost immediately the caravan is in our downtown area.”


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US treasury secretary says Congress could reach deal if Democrats are ‘willing to be reasonable’ – live | US news

Confusion and controversy rise over coronavirus relief aid

That’s clear then. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany was asked how soon America’s unemployed will see the $400 a week of federal enhanced unemployment benefit that Donald Trump outlined via executive order at the weekend – down from the $600 a week they were getting before it expired in July amid a partisan impasse on Capitol Hill about further aid.

“We hope to see it quickly. Close to immediately,” McEnany just said at a briefing at the White House.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany speaks during a press briefing moments ago.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany speaks during a press briefing moments ago. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

She then noted that, actually, it will depend on states – whom the president has specified must pony up $100 of the $400 out of existing funds he says they have access to (which New York governor Andrew Cuomo said yesterday was “laughable”).

“A lot will depend on states applying,” McEnany said, noting that they had funds already distributed by Congress, but adding: “It will require an application process”. Which does not sound like close to immediately.

“We will be working around the clock and look to make sure there is no delay,” she added.

However there has already been a delay as it is more than a week since the last $600 was received, with no sign of a solid plan.

She blamed any delay on the Democrats.

This followed Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin earlier today saying the Trump administration and Congress could reach a coronavirus aid deal as soon as this week, while Democrats said the two sides have not spoken since talks collapsed last Friday, Reuters reported.

Eviction protections and enhanced unemployment assistance both expired at the end of July, slashing aid for more than 30 million people.

On Friday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the Dems would reduce their ask for a new relief bill from three trillion dollars to two trillion, if the Republicans would meet halfway by rising from one trillion to two trillion. Talks at that point ended.


It’s a busy Monday, let’s recap.

Black leaders to Biden: choose a Black woman VP


Breaking: Lebanon PM to announce government’s resignation

Mnuchin: Chaos in Congress avoidable if Dems were ‘reasonable’



Puerto Rico ballot shortage exposes voting risks

Good Day – It’s morning in the US, here’s what’s on tap


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As decision day nears, VP hopefuls rake in big money for Biden

Sen. Kamala Harris — who headlined two fundraisers alongside Biden and appeared at several other events — has raised more than $5 million, according to a source familiar with the total. And Sen. Tammy Duckworth has co-headlined three fundraisers with Joe and Jill Biden, and appeared at other events, bringing in more than $3 million for the campaign.

For the VP hopefuls and their donor backers, hosting events that generate eye-popping totals is “a flex,” or a means of showing off their political muscle, said one Democrat affiliated with one of the considered running mate candidates. Another Democrat aligned with a different VP contender called it a “measurable sign of enthusiasm behind certain people.”

Though Biden has said he’s looking first and foremost for a governing partner with whom he’s “simpatico,” fundraising prowess is unquestionably a plus.

“They’re going to park the VP in a basement and have them do nothing but media interviews and Zoom fundraising calls. Maybe they’ll let them out for bathroom breaks,” said Pete Giangreco, a Democratic strategist who has worked on nine presidential campaigns. “Raising money is going to continue to be a big deal, and if you’re looking for someone with a fundraising base, like Kamala Harris, or a real draw on a Zoom, like Tammy Duckworth, then they bring more assets to the table than someone who is a nontraditional pick.”

Notably, Susan Rice — a VP finalist who was national security adviser under President Barack Obama and has never run for office herself — hasn’t hosted any fundraisers for Biden. But she has headlined two fundraisers without Biden present, according to a source familiar with the events.

Biden’s delayed decision on a running mate isn’t slowing down the machinery to roll out the duo: The campaign is preparing for a high-dollar event, billed as “Introducing our Running Mate.” Tickets range from $500 to $250,000, according to an invitation obtained by POLITICO. Those paying $100,000 or more will get a pre-event meet-and-greet. Details for the fundraiser “will be sent to all confirmed participants 24-48 hours prior to the event,” the invitation read.

Fifteen of Biden’s fundraisers since March — or one of every five — have featured a person on Biden’s VP list, according to presidential fundraising pool reports and interviews. The events have collected more than $20 million.

Last week, California Rep. Karen Bass headlined an event for Biden, raising more than $2.2 million. A source familiar with the event said it exceeded the initial fundraising goal by more than double. Gretchen Whitmer, meanwhile, has hosted two fundraisers with Joe and Jill Biden. The Michigan governor has drawn renewed attention in recent days after she reportedly met with Biden for an in-person meeting, chartering a flight from Lansing, Mich., to Delaware.

Florida Rep. Val Demings, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms have all headlined one fundraiser alongside Joe or Jill Biden.

Raking in big cash for the nominee is not limited to vice presidential candidates, of course. Pete Buttigieg, his onetime rival in the Democratic primary who’s seen as a likely appointee in a Biden administration, has raised more than $6.7 million through events, emails and digital ads for the campaign, according to a source familiar with the total.

“They’re all trying to show off their fundraising abilities, and the advantage definitely goes to the more established candidates with broader bases,” said Doug Herman, a California-based Democratic consultant. “These are all folks who are auditioning for a spot, and this is a box that needs to be checked and they all need to demonstrate they can do it.”

Biden has nearly closed the fundraising gap with President Donald Trump. But after outraising the president two months in a row, Trump and the Republican National Committee topped Biden and the Democratic National Committee by nearly $30 million in July.

The fundraisers held by VP hopefuls also provide a platform for donors to pitch their preferred No. 2 to the Biden campaign.

Earlier this month, Gerald Acker, a Michigan-based attorney who led a fundraiser with Whitmer, told Jill Biden that “when she gets off this Zoom tonight and goes to see the vice president for dinner, the name she ought to take to him for vice president is Gretchen Whitmer,” according to the fundraisers’ pool report.

Florida state Sen. Annette Taddeo made a similar pitch to the former second lady in May on behalf of Demings. “Obviously, I’m trying to push for her, as a Floridian,” Taddeo said on a fundraising call. And before Sen. Amy Klobuchar took herself out of the running for vice president, a donor told the Minnesota Democrat and Biden on a May 5 fundraising Zoom call that “you look really great together.”

“Do donors lobby for the person they want? Yes. If their person wins, they know the VP now,” said one Democratic donor. “They’re going to show up for them in force.”

The semi-public exchanges at fundraisers between Biden and prospective vice presidential candidates are one of the few glimpses of the pair’s dynamic — another side effect of the coronavirus pandemic. One moment that raised eyebrows came when Biden told Harris on April 8: “I’m so lucky to have you as part of this, this partnership going forward, because I think … we can make a great deal of difference,” Biden said. “I’m coming for you, kid.”

Just last week, at a virtual grass-roots fundraiser, Biden apologized for talking too long in response to a question about dismantling systemic racism. Warren, Biden’s co-headliner for the event, interjected: “No! Don’t be sorry, I love everything you had to say.”

“It’s all through Zoom, and that makes it hard — I’m sure it makes the chemistry part of the decision harder,” said Taddeo, who was vetted and selected as Charlie Crist’s running mate during his unsuccessful 2014 Florida gubernatorial campaign.

The Biden campaign is also leaning on his various VP options to raise money online, primarily through emailed solicitations. In late July, during the end-of-the-month fundraising push, Biden’s campaign sent four emails signed by Rice, Duckworth, Harris and Warren.

Warren, with her vast email list, has been particularly helpful on this front. Biden has sent four email solicitations to Warren’s own email list of supporters, as well as lending her name to more than a half-dozen emails to Biden’s list. An email announcing her endorsement of Biden on April 15 broke Biden campaign records at the time.

With days until his announcement, Biden’s campaign is fundraising off the anticipation surrounding the selection. In an email last week, he told supporters they’re invited to a grassroots event. He said he’d be sending “the exact date, time and all the other details once they’re finalized, but I didn’t want to wait on giving you the opportunity to reserve your spot at this historic event.”

Natasha Korecki contributed to this report.

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Lindsey Graham Claims Declassified Docs Show FBI ‘Misled’ Congress on Steele Dossier

Newly declassified documents show that the FBI misled Congress regarding the reliability of the Steele dossier, Senator Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) said on Sunday.

The Senate Intelligence Committee, which Graham chairs, is currently conducting an investigation into the origins of the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane probe, whose stated aim was to uncover alleged collusion between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russian operatives.

One document released by the committee on Sunday is an FBI draft of talking points for a February 2018 Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on the Russia investigation. The talking points, uncovered by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, seek to give the impression that the Steele dossier’s “Primary Sub-Source” for intelligence was reliable.

The Primary Sub-Source “did not cite any significant concerns with the way his reporting was characterized in the dossier to the extent he could identify it,” according to the talking points.

However, the FBI knew in early 2017 that the Primary Sub-Source had cast doubt on the dossier’s claims that Trump-campaign officials and Russian operatives were working together. The Primary Sub-Source in fact told FBI agents in 2017 that there was “zero” corroboration for some of the allegations in the dossier.

The 2018 memo “clearly shows that the FBI was continuing to mislead regarding the reliability of the Steele dossier. The FBI did to the Senate Intelligence Committee what the Department of Justice and FBI had previously done to the FISA Court: mischaracterize, mislead and lie,” Graham said in a press release. “What does this mean? That Congress as well as the FISA Court was lied to about the reliability of the Russian sub-source. I will be asking FBI Director Wray to provide me all the details possible about how the briefing was arranged and who provided it.”

IG Horowitz’s report on the FBI’s attempts to obtain FISA warrants for former Trump-campaign adviser Carter Page revealed “at least 17 significant errors or omissions” in those applications.

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