WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — President Donald Trump says Democrats are the reason you haven’t received a second direct payment from the government.
As of now, negotiations have stalled out on a coronavirus aid package both sides agree should include a check for Americans. Republicans blame Democrat. And as you might imagine, Democrats blame Republicans.
On Friday, Trump tweeted he’s directed the Treasury Department to get ready to send direct payments to all Americans but “DEMOCRATS ARE HOLDING THIS UP!”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pressed the case for funding for the U.S. Postal Service, rental assistance, food aid and rapid testing for the virus at her weekly press event, blasting Republicans as not giving a damn and declaring flatly that “people will die” if the delay grinds into September.
“Perhaps you mistook them for somebody who gave a damn,” Pelosi said when asked if she should accept a smaller COVID-19 rescue package rather than endure weeks of possible gridlock. “That isn’t the case.”
All of the chief combatants have exited Washington after a several-day display of staying put as to not get blamed for abandoning the talks. The political risk for Trump is continued pain in U.S. households and a struggling economy — both of which promise to hurt him during campaign season. For Democrats, there is genuine disappointment at being unable to deliver a deal but apparent comfort in holding firm for a sweeping measure instead of the few pieces that Trump wants most.
Across a nearly empty Capitol, the Senate’s top Republican sought to cast the blame on Pelosi, whose ambitious demands have frustrated administration negotiators like White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.
“They are still rejecting any more relief for anyone unless they get a flood of demands with no real relationship to COVID-19,” said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. McConnell has kept the talks at arm’s length, nursing deep divisions among Republicans on the foundering relief measure.
Among the items lost is perhaps $10 billion in emergency funding for the Postal Service to help improve service as its role in the fall election takes on greater importance, given an expected surge in mail voting because of the coronavirus pandemic. Trump is against $3.4 billion demanded by Pelosi for helping states with the crush of mail-in ballots.
Trump seemed to take advantage of the stalemate to press his case against voting by mail. He said Thursday on Fox Business Network’s “Mornings with Maria” that among the sticking points were Democrats’ demand for billions of dollars to assist states in protecting the election and to help postal workers process mail-in ballots.
“They need that money in order to have the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” Trump said. “If they don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting because they’re not equipped to have it.”
The White House and congressional leaders are far apart on the aid for shoring up households, reopening schools and launching a national strategy to contain the virus, which has infected more than 5.2 million people in the United States and has killed more than 166,000, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
All indications are talks will not resume in full until Congress resumes in September.
For Americans, that means the end of a $600 weekly unemployment benefit that has expired, as has a federal ban on evictions. Schools hoping for cash from the federal government to help provide safety measures are left empty-handed. States and cities staring down red ink with the shattered economy have few options.
Trump’s executive actions appeared to provide a temporary reprieve, offering $300 in jobless benefits and some other aid. But it could take weeks for those programs to ramp up, and the help is far slimmer than what Congress was considering. More than 20 million Americans risk evictions, and more are out of work.
The Democrats said they are waiting for the White House to put a new offer on the table: “We have again made clear to the Administration that we are willing to resume negotiations once they start to take this process seriously,” they said in a statement.
But Mnuchin shot back with his own statement, saying, “The Democrats have no interest in negotiating.”
A newly released audio recording of Cambridge professor Stefan Halper revealed that the “Spygate” figure harbored ambitions of being President Trump’s secretary of state even after serving as an FBI informant against Trump’s campaign.
The revelation was made by former State Department official Steven Schrage on Sunday, who shared a recorded conversation he claims was between himself and Halper on Jan. 10, 2017, showing the FBI informant hoped to join the highest levels of the Trump administration after Trump’s surprise victory over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Schrage, who claims to have spoken with U.S. Attorney John Durham in his inquiry of the Russia investigation and who has broken his yearslong silence during back-to-back interviews with Maria Bartiromo on Sunday Morning Futures on Fox News, also said Halper later told him that the professor had been offered the ambassadorship to the Philippines under Trump.
“But you have no desire to go back in, unless there’s something, there’s nothing that would appeal to you?” Schrage said during the purported January 2017 discussion, which he told Bartiromo he was recording as part of his Ph.D. dissertation discussions with the Cambridge professor.
“They’ve already given it away,” Halper said. “They’ve already given it away: secretary of state.”
Schrage then asked if that would be Halper’s “dream job.”
“Um, it be a good job to have. I’d enjoy it, yeah,” Halper said. “I would be happy with deputy [secretary of state], as well.”
A report on the FBI’s Russia investigation released by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz in December said the bureau concealed significant information provided by Halper, a confidential human source who was dubbed “Source 2.” Halper, 75, a Virginia resident and Cambridge professor, worked as an FBI informant in 2016 and recorded discussions with at least three Trump 2016 campaign members: campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, campaign associate Carter Page, and campaign co-chairman Sam Clovis. While Halper worked for the FBI, he received thousands of dollars from the Pentagon ostensibly for academic research.
When Halper’s role as an FBI informant was leaked to the media in May 2018, it led to accusations from Trump and Republicans that the Obama administration used Halper as part of an illegal effort to spy on the Trump campaign, dubbed “Spygate” and later “Obamagate” by allies of the president. The recorded denials of Russian collusion made by Page and Papadopoulos were never passed to the FISA court.
Schrage shed new light on Halper’s apparent desire to try to insinuate himself into Trump’s orbit, with Schrage claiming, “I was quite shocked, and he had mentioned he claimed he had met with Ivanka Trump, other things he was pushing very hard for administration posts in different ways.”
Schrage added, “The question is: did the FBI know, did the top leaders of the FBI know, that a spy was trying to infiltrate different positions in the Trump administration?”
In 2018, Axiosreported that Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro “recommended appointing Stefan Halper … to a senior role in the Trump administration” during the presidential transition period, asking that Halper be considered “for ambassador roles in Asia.” A White House official told Axios that Halper visited the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in August 2017 for a meeting on China and “pitched himself for an ambassadorship in Asia.” A White House official told the outlet that “recommending outside policy experts for roles within the administration is a pretty typical and routine action for White House officials.”
Last week, Schrage revealed another Halper recording he claimed was from the same day in January 2017, in which Halper said he did not think retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, then Trump’s incoming national security adviser, was “going to be around long.” A couple of days later, a Washington Post story by David Ignatius containing classified leaks about Flynn’s conversation with the Russian ambassador and speculation about possible Logan Act violations was published. Schrage has strongly suggested that Halper had some foreknowledge of that report, telling Bartiromo, “I don’t think he had any independent reason to expect that this would happen to Flynn.” He did not provide firm evidence.
Schrage, who invited Page to a Cambridge University seminar in the summer of 2016 and appears to be the reason Halper met Page, has looped Halper into a group he calls “the Cambridge Four.” He wrote in journalist Matt Taibbi’s Substack newsletter that the group is rounded out by British ex-spy and discredited dossier author Christopher Steele, former MI6 Director Sir Richard Dearlove, and Halper and Dearlove’s associate, former MI5 official Christopher Andrew. Halper organized the Cambridge Intelligence Seminars, gatherings of academics and intelligence officials, and Dearlove has called Steele’s reputation “superb.” Recently declassified footnotes indicate Steele’s anti-Trump dossier may have been compromised by Russian disinformation.
Rep. Devin Nunes of California, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, told Bartiromo in July 2019 that Schrage need to be scrutinized and said, “The fact that he hasn’t come forward in two-and-a-half years is highly suspect.”
Svetlana Lokhova, a Russian-born British citizen, claimed in a 2019 lawsuit that Halper “embroiled an innocent woman,” Lokhova herself, “in a conspiracy to undo the 2016 presidential election.” Halper demanded the federal court have claims labeling him a “spy” and “rat f—er” be dismissed and his accuser be sanctioned by the judge. The lawsuit was dismissed in February, but Lokhova filed an appeal.
Lokhova attended a Cambridge seminar in 2014 that was also attended by Flynn, then-President Barack Obama’s Defense Intelligence Agency director, who later played a prominent role in Trump’s campaign and was swept up in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Lokhova attended as a graduate student and claimed Halper used this dinner as a pretext to spread false rumors about her and Flynn.
Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa has pushed for information about Halper’s role getting paid tens of thousands of dollars by the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment while acting as an FBI informant dispatched to speak with members of the Trump campaign.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic leaders on Saturday discussed whether to reconvene the House, which is currently in recess, to address the Postal Service crisis. Pelosi and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, on Sunday invited Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and the chairman of the Postal Service Board of Governors, Robert Duncan, to testify at a hearing next Monday.
“The hearing will examine the sweeping operational and organizational changes at the Postal Service that experts warn could degrade delivery standards, slow the mail and potentially impair the rights of eligible Americans to cast their votes through the mail in the upcoming November elections,” they said in a statement. “The Postmaster General and top Postal Service leadership must answer to the Congress and the American people as to why they are pushing these dangerous new policies that threaten to silence the voices of millions, just months before the election.”
Trump has asserted without evidence that universal mail-in voting would lead to widespread voter fraud — fearmongering rhetoric that comes as he trails former Vice President Joe Biden in several national and battleground-state polls. There’s no evidence of widespread voter fraud, though White House chief of staff Mark Meadows countered on Sunday that “there’s no evidence that there’s not, either.” Only nine states have universal mail-in voting.
Even in an active pandemic that has infected 5.3 million Americans and killed more than 169,000 people in the U.S., 80 percent of registered voters who support or lean toward supporting Trump would rather vote in person, according to a Pew Research Center survey. Nearly 60 percent of voters who support or lean toward supporting Biden would prefer to vote by mail.
The pandemic has also disproportionately affected people of color, many of whom vote for Democrats over Republicans. Trump won 57 percent of white voters in 2016, according to exit polls, but only 8 percent of Black voters, 28 percent of Hispanic voters and 27 percent of Asian voters.
Meadows said the president’s issue wasn’t voting by mail, but rather mailing ballots to every registered voter in the country — “even those that don’t request it.” He argued that voter rolls were inaccurate and that ballots could be sent to old addresses or dead people’s homes, potentially leading to the actual residents voting more than once.
It’s “asking for a disaster,” Meadows said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” noting that Trump had already requested his absentee ballot to vote in Florida, a critical swing state.
“We want to make sure that every vote counts but that only one vote counts. And so, when you look at that, this debate is really over a process,” he continued. “A number of states are now trying to figure out how they’re going to go to universal mail-in ballots. That’s a disaster, where we won’t know the election results on Nov. 3 and we might not know it for months.”
Democrats have noted that five states — Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington — have voted largely or entirely by mail for years, with few problems. They’ve also pointed out that people who want to cast ballots in another person’s name would be subject to prosecution for using a fake signature.
New Jersey Democrats highlighted fraud in a May special election in which four people were charged as evidence that the system works, though nearly 20 percent of the ballots in that vote-by-mail election were disqualified because of mistakes in how they were completed.
“I actually have some optimism from that that actually people tried to screw with the system and they failed,” Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey said on “Fox News Sunday.” He added that the individuals were caught, indicted and would pay a price.
Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said that voter fraud is “incredibly rare,” but that when it’s done by mail, “the reason why it’s so easy to find out is because you literally have a paper trail.”
Trump allies pointed to recent primary elections in New York state — where it took six weeks to declare Maloney the winner — as a harbinger of what’s to come in November if most of America votes by mail.
In a nightmare scenario that Meadows laid out for Republicans, Pelosi would choose the next president if there’s no declared winner by Jan. 20. And Jason Miller, a senior Trump campaign adviser, said Democrats were trying to rush through a system that takes years to properly implement.
“We’ve seen where dogs and even cats have received official communications from registrars, from secretary of states,” Miller said on ABC’s “This Week.” “It takes a long time for states to be able to put this together safely and securely. And to go and to rush this through, it’s a disaster waiting to happen.”
Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, said a friend of his in New Jersey who was recently married received a ballot in both her new name and her maiden name. He also invoked Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, who said there was “no reason” Americans couldn’t vote in person as long as they wore a mask and followed social-distancing guidelines.
“I think what President Trump wants is a fair system,” Kushner said on CBS’ “Face the Nation. “If you have a tried-and-true system, where there are some security mechanisms built in, that’s acceptable. But you can’t have a new system and expect Americans to have confidence in the election.”
Democrats have said the Postal Service issue isn’t just about voting, noting that the agency also delivers medicine for seniors and paychecks for workers. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), however, appeared on three of the political talk shows, where he accused Trump of trying to suppress votes by defunding and destroying the post office.
“He wants to sabotage the Postal Service because he does not want many millions of people to be able to vote through mail-in ballots,” Sanders said of the president on CNN. “That’s not me. That is exactly what he said.”
Sanders added on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Trump was “sabotaging our democracy.”
“I guess that he thinks that a suppressed vote, a lower voter turnout, will work for him and that it will help him win the election,” he told host Chuck Todd.
Democrats and Republicans did agree on one thing, though: Congress needs to act.
Pelosi is considering bringing the House back from recess early to pass Postal Service legislation, though the measure would be focused on the agency’s organizational issues, not funding. And on Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer urged his Republican counterpart, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, to bring the upper chamber back to take up any such bill the House passes.
Meadows suggested that he was ready to make a deal, be it narrow legislation on Postal Service funding or a package that included stimulus aid to Americans and an extension of the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses.
“We’ll pass it tomorrow,” Meadows said of such a package. “The president will sign it and this will all go away, because what we are seeing is Democrats are trying to use this to their political advantage.”
When Cat Brooks casts her vote for president in about 80 days, the Oakland, California-based organizer and former Democratic Socialists of America-endorsed candidate for mayor will vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris — without joy or enthusiasm.
“I’m not a fan of Kamala Harris,” Brooks said Wednesday, less than 24 hours after Biden named the California senator and former state attorney general as the Democratic Party’s vice presidential nominee.
“I’m not a fan of how she treated the families of victims of police violence, I’m not a fan of how she failed to keep police accountable for violence,” she added. “I’m frustrated that once again, as a Black woman, I don’t get to walk into the voting booth excited, and I have to choose the lesser of two evils.”
Moderate modern-day civil rights movements like the Poor People’s Campaign, co-founded by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., have warmly welcomed Harris’s nomination as an historic moment that reflects real opportunity. And even some militant and far-left organizers and activists recognize in Harris at least a chance of meaningful reform.
But Brooks’ attitude reflects a feeling common among many other activists working on defunding the police, de-incarceration, and other racial-justice reforms under the broad umbrella of the Black Lives Matter coalition — including many who took to the streets after George Floyd’s killing at the hands of Minneapolis police.
Barring an unforeseen turnaround, Harris’ critics from the left, some of whom maintain that the former prosecutor’s embrace of her background as a “top cop” is a disqualifying, will go to the polls and cast reluctant votes for the Biden-Harris ticket without volunteering for the campaign or offering much vocal support. And that may be a best-case scenario.
Harris’ record as a prosecutor is complicated. She was one of the first to support drug-diversion offenders and risked her career by refusing to pursue the death penalty for a cop-killer. She’s also the “top cop” who refused to prosecute police implicated in their own killings, fought to uphold the death penalty, and oversaw wrongful prosecutions she’s yet to explain.
Restorative justice is all about second chances, and some believe Harris deserves hers. Some of the people declaring “Kamala is a cop” and refusing to support the ticket “are the same people saying they believe in restorative justice,” said Dorsey Nunn, a formerly incarcerated man who now serves as executive director Legal Services for Prisoners With Children.
Nunn was one of the organizers of a first-of-its-kind candidates’ town hall last fall, held in the old Eastern State Penitentiary in Pennsylvania, moderated by former prisoners. Harris made headlines a few months earlier for skewering Joe Biden, her future running mate, over his coauthoring of the 1994 crime bill — one key decision that, scholars argue, filled prisons with Black people and undid many of the Civil Rights Movement’s victories.
Coming to prison, to face the kind of people she’d put there, meant Harris risked the same treatment. Harris was one of only three candidates to attend. “She showed up in a way that other people don’t show up,” Nunn said. “That was worth something.”
What might also be worth something would be some outreach from the Biden-Harris campaign to critics working in criminal-justice reform, or some honest reckoning with Harris’ record. Yet so far, Harris has not demonstrated much interest in rapprochement with her left critics.
In her first speech as Biden’s running mate, Harris did not mention George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, or any victims of police violence. She offered a nod to the “people of every age and color and creed who are finally declaring in one voice that yes, black lives matter,” but also embraced her prosecutorial record, boasting that she’d taken on drug cartels and human traffickers.
While Harris is progressive by most district attorneys’ standards, she was regressive and pro-police often enough to not deserve her self-applied label as a “progressive prosecutor,” as University of San Francisco law professor Lara Bazelon wrote in a New York Times op-ed last year. She fought to uphold the death penalty, and also demonstrated a tendency to push bad cases, like the wrongful prosecution of San Francisco actor and musician Jamal Trulove. Using bad evidence ginned up by police, Harris’ DA office sent Trulove to prison for a murder he did not commit, a mistake that later cost taxpayers $13 million in a civil rights settlement.
Trulove offered his own endorsement of his former persecutor via Instagram on Thursday, but, like Brooks and others, he couched it as more anti-Trump than pro-Harris. “My reservations with her are not bigger than this election,” he said. “At the end of the day, I’m not going to fall into that Trump trick bag, and I suggest you don’t either. Y’all make sure man y’all going to rock the vote for Biden and for Kamala.”
If Harris would account for these missteps, she might win over skeptics like Brooks.
“She could apologize to the families of hundreds of victims of police violence murdered on her watch. She could do that.”
“She could apologize,” Brooks said. “She could say, ‘I was wrong.’ She could apologize to the families of hundreds of victims of police violence murdered on her watch. She could do that.”
None of these critiques can be news to the Biden and Harris campaign, but activists and academics contacted for this article were unaware of any outreach to the more radical segments of the Black Lives Matter movement, even though Harris spent more than a year running for president and months as a VP pick-in-waiting.
“I personally haven’t heard of any dedicated outreach from Kamala Harris or her circle to left critics and organizers doing the work on police and prisons,” said Shanti Singh, a San Francisco-based tenant organizer who worked on the Bernie Sanders campaign (and on successful police-reform campaigns before that).
“They’re just telling us to shut up and vote for them,” Singh added. “I doubt Kamala’s approach will break that mold.”
At the same time, a Biden-Harris ticket represents the best opportunity to enact meaningful criminal-justice reform, particularly if Democrats also manage to break the deadlock in the Senate. “This could be her big moment, to be the face of criminal justice reform on the national stage,” said USF’s Bazelon. “I want her to take to Washington people who are truly progressive and pushing the envelope — not the same old centrist cast of former DAs and U.S. attorneys.”
If Harris plans to do that, she hasn’t said so publicly. Lurking in the ambiguity is the specter of the past. If Joe Biden built prisons as the crime bill’s energetic author, Kamala Harris eagerly filled them. That is not something reform advocates will ever forget.
“I personally don’t feel very enthusiastic about seeing Kamala Harris on the ballot,” said Taina Vargas-Edmond, the Los Angeles-based cofounder of Initiate Justice, which organizes prison inmates and their family members. “She’s a self-described progressive prosecutor, but those of us who are progressive [prison] abolitionists are very disappointed in her.”
And so the Biden-Harris campaign appears poised to march toward November without the energy or the enthusiasm of this summer’s mass marches. If Harris pivots again toward the center, and the tough-on-crime top cop appears again, the ticket may be lucky just to get votes.
“I don’t plan on knocking on any doors, and I don’t know of any activist organizers planning on doing any active campaign work,” Vargas-Edmond said. “I don’t really know of anyone excited about this.”
CORRECTION Aug. 15, 2020, 2:45 p.m.:An earlier version of this article stated incorrectly that Sen. Kamala Harris did not say “Black lives matter.” According to a transcript of her speech, Harris said: “People of every age and color and creed who are finally declaring in one voice that yes, Black lives matter.”
Cover: U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris delivers remarks after presumptive Democratic presidential nominee former Vice President Joe Biden spoke on August 13, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Forget the balloon-drops, backslapping and cheering crowds: This year’s Democratic National Convention, beginning Monday, will be an almost entirely virtual event, as the party faithful gather around computer screens and TVs to celebrate Joe Biden as their presidential nominee.
Originally scheduled as an in-person event in Milwaukee, the convention has instead changed to something resembling a four-day Zoom
meeting thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. Biden will accept the nomination on Thursday from his home state of Delaware, and speakers including vice-presidential pick Kamala Harris and party stars like Bill Clinton and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will be addressing fellow Democrats via video instead of onstage in Wisconsin.
But voters and investors will find plenty to chew on from four nights of prime-time speeches, including how Biden attempts to unite progressives and establishment Democrats and how he might further detail economic policies.
The event’s speaking schedule is a nod to Biden’s effort to bring a disparate party together. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who battled Biden for the nomination, has been given a speaking spot, as has fellow progressive Ocasio-Cortez.
See:The Obamas, AOC and Kamala Harris: Here’s who’s speaking to the Democratic convention and when.
“I think the progressives are going to fall into line because they just want to defeat [President Donald] Trump,” said J. Wesley Leckrone, a political scientist at Widener University in Pennsylvania.
Biden’s task for his speech is to project a “competency and presidential air that shows that he can unite the country,” Leckrone said.
Trailing Biden in national and swing-state polls as well as betting markets, Trump is attacking the former vice president as beholden to the left of his party, as exemplified by the likes of Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez. That’s despite Biden’s rejection of policies like Medicare for All, which Sanders championed.
Trump has charged that the Biden-Harris ticket could sink stock markets
and the economy — though at least one analyst has said that it’s a Democratic sweep of the White House and Congress that would be best for the economy in the long run. Wall Street, what’s more, was reassured by Biden’s pick of Harris over a more-liberal vice-presidential contender such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Now read:A Biden-Harris sweep would be best for economy, says Fidelity International.
Biden’s policy proposals include expanding Obamacare by offering a public-insurance option; increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour; spending $2 trillion over four years on clean-energy projects; and free COVID-19 testing.
Also read:Joe Biden wants a $15 minimum wage — will the coronavirus pandemic make that more likely?
John Briggs, head of strategy, Americas, for NatWest Markets, told MarketWatch that he’ll be listening for more clues about Biden’s regulatory agenda.
“Part of the boost to the economy early in Trump’s administration was not just the tax cuts, but the big drop in regulation,” said Briggs, “along with just the general tone from the top on business.”
“I’m going to be looking for things like, does [Biden] sound like he’s moving far into re-imposing a lot of regulations?” he said.
have rebounded since their March lows. At the same time, however, millions of Americans are out of work as the coronavirus continues to pound the economy, with U.S. unemployment remaining at more than 10%.
Such grim statistics give Biden an opening, says Leckrone.
“The economy — that was what Trump had going for him before all this started,” Leckrone said. “But now, [Biden] can start reaching out and saying, ‘I know what you’re going through right now, I grew up in that environment, and we’re going to build back.’” Biden frequently references his middle-class upbringing, and called Harris a “fearless fighter for the little guy” when he announced her as his running mate.
Democratic-convention speakers will give remarks each night from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern.
Republicans will re-nominate Trump during the week of Aug. 24, and the president is planning his acceptance speech for Aug. 27.
Also see:Trump says his executive actions led to stock market’s gain.
With Joe Biden leading in many public polls, and Democrats getting ready to kick off their national convention on Monday, President Trump’s drive to create confusion and undermine confidence in the election is accelerating, as he attacks mail-in voting and praises his postmaster general despite criticism over mail service and an investigation opened by the Postal Service’s inspector general.
In an appearance on CNN on Sunday, Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, defended the president’s opposition to universal mail-in ballots, which Mr. Trump has called “the mail-in scam,” making charges without evidence that efforts by states to help people vote by mail in the pandemic would lead to widespread voter fraud — a claim that even some Republicans dispute. Mr. Trump has said that higher voter participation would hurt Republican candidates.
When CNN host Jake Tapper pushed back, saying, “there’s no evidence of widespread voter fraud,” Mr. Meadows said, “there’s no evidence that there’s not, either.”
Responding to reports that several mail-sorting machines had been removed, among several recent moves by the Postal Service that have caused mail delays, Mr. Meadows claimed that no mail-sorting machines would be taken off line before Election Day and insisted that the notion that they would be was a false “political narrative by my Democrat colleagues.”
In an interview with CBS News on Sunday morning, Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and a senior adviser, also claimed that a universal mail-in system would be prone to errors and possible fraud.
“I have a friend in New Jersey who just got married, and she got sent two ballots, one in her old name and one in her new name,” he said. “If you have a tried and true system, where there are some security mechanisms built-in, that’s acceptable. But you can’t have a new system and expect Americans to have confidence in the election.”
Pressure continues to grow on the postmaster, Louis DeJoy, a Republican megadonor and ally of the president, who has said he is modernizing the money-losing agency to make it more efficient. Among his moves have been cuts to overtime for postal workers, restrictions on transportation and the reduction of the quantity and use of mail-processing equipment.
Speaking at a news conference in Bedminster, N.J., Mr. Trump praised Mr. DeJoy. “I can only tell you he’s a very smart man,” he said. “He’ll be a great Postmaster General.”
Protesters gathered outside Mr. DeJoy’s apartment in Washington on Saturday and called for his resignation, saying changes under his purview have undercut the Postal Service and threatened the ability of Americans to vote by mail.
The Postal Service’s inspector general, Tammy L. Whitcomb, said Friday she had opened an investigation into complaints that leading Democrats have filed against Mr. DeJoy. Also on Friday, Bill Pascrell Jr., a Democratic congressman from New Jersey, asked his state’s attorney general to open a criminal inquiry into what he called Mr. Trump’s attempts to sabotage the election by undermining the Postal Service.
In letters sent in July to all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Thomas J. Marshall, the general counsel for the Postal Service, told most of them that “certain deadlines for requesting and casting mail-in ballots are incongruous with the Postal Service’s delivery standards.” Mr. Marshall urged those with tight schedules to require that residents request ballots at least 15 days before an election — rather than the shorter periods currently allowed under the laws of many states.
In interviews on the Sunday morning talk shows, White House and Trump campaign officials distanced themselves from a false, racist conspiracy theory about Kamala Harris that President Trump advanced last week, and Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey defended Ms. Harris’s record on criminal justice.
“Let the work that she’s done speak for her,” Mr. Booker said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” noting that he had worked with Ms. Harris on several criminal justice reform bills. “As a guy that’s been in the trenches with her on every major issue relating to everything from policing to re-entry, she has been one of the great voices in the Senate helping us to gain ground and move ahead.”
Ms. Harris’s actions as a prosecutor, including as district attorney of San Francisco and attorney general of California, drew criticism from the left both during her presidential campaign and after Joseph R. Biden Jr. chose her as his running mate last week.
But much of the attention to her over the past few days has focused not on her record or her political views, but on the false argument — amplified in a Newsweek op-ed by a conservative law professor — that she might not be eligible to be vice president because her parents were immigrants. She was born in Oakland, Calif., and is eligible. (Newsweek apologized on Saturday for publishing the op-ed, saying it was “being used by some as a tool to perpetuate racism and xenophobia.”)
Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, was one of the first of Mr. Trump’s top advisers to acknowledge this unequivocally. Asked on CNN whether he accepted the fact that Ms. Harris was eligible, he said, “Sure.” When the host, Jake Tapper, asked if that meant yes, he said, “Yes, I do, yeah.”
Two other Trump advisers said his campaign was not interested in “pursuing” the issue, but chafed when pushed to straightforwardly acknowledge Ms. Harris’s eligibility.
“It’s not something that anyone in our campaign is talking about,” Jason Miller said on ABC. When George Stephanopoulos pointed out that a legal adviser to the campaign, Jenna Ellis, had retweeted a post that questioned Ms. Harris’s eligibility, Mr. Miller said: “She wasn’t speaking for the campaign. I am.”
Steve Cortes, another senior Trump campaign adviser, made similar comments on “Fox News Sunday.” When asked why Mr. Trump did not explicitly disavow the conspiracy theory, Mr. Cortes said, “I don’t know why it’s incumbent upon him to opine on legal scholarship of the Constitution and the 14th Amendment.”
The Constitution’s language is unambiguous: Anyone born in the United States is a citizen.
Top Democrats called on Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and Robert Duncan, the chairman of the United States Postal Board of Governors, to testify before Congress before the end of the month to answer why they are advancing “dangerous new policies” that pose “a grave threat to the integrity of the election.”
The demand, issued by Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the minority leader, comes as the Postal Service has warned states that it may not be able to meet their deadlines for delivering last-minute mail-in ballots. The warning is the latest development in a growing controversy over Mr. DeJoy’s handling of vote-by-mail operations as President Trump rails against the practice.
“The Postmaster General — a Trump megadonor — has acted as an accomplice in the president’s campaign to cheat in the election, as he launches sweeping new operational changes that degrade delivery standards and delay the mail,” the lawmakers said in a statement. “The Postal Service itself has warned that voters — even if they send in their ballots by state deadlines — may be disenfranchised in 46 states and in Washington, D.C., by continued delays.”
Under the leadership of Mr. DeJoy, the Postal Service is undergoing cuts to its operations that appear to have led to slower and less reliable delivery, creating deep unease even among some Republican lawmakers from largely rural mail-dependent states. Mr. DeJoy has framed the changes as essential to modernize an agency suffering billion-dollar losses. Democratic lawmakers have accused the president of sabotaging the Postal Service as a means of voter suppression and have started multiple investigations into the delays.
Ms. Pelosi and other top Democrats in the House have begun discussing bringing lawmakers back early from their summer recess to address the issues.
Protesters in Washington on Saturday called for Mr. DeJoy’s resignation, saying he was undercutting the Postal Service and threatening Americans’ ability to vote.
About 100 people gathered in the wealthy residential neighborhood of Kalorama outside Mr. DeJoy’s apartment complex. Another protest was scheduled for Sunday afternoon outside Mr. DeJoy’s Greensboro, N.C., home.
President Trump’s younger brother Robert S. Trump died Saturday night at age 71. The White House did not say what the cause was, but he had been in poor health for some time.
In a statement, the president said Robert Trump was “not just my brother, he was my best friend.”
“He will be greatly missed, but we will meet again,” he said.
President Trump visited his brother at a Manhattan hospital on Friday, and on Saturday, when Robert Trump was not expected to live much longer, the president called into the hospital from his Bedminster, N.J., golf club.
In a statement posted to Twitter on Sunday morning, Joseph R. Biden Jr. expressed his condolences to the president and his family. He wrote, “Mr. President, Jill and I are sad to learn of your younger brother Robert’s passing. I know the tremendous pain of losing a loved one — and I know how important family is in moments like these. I hope you know that our prayers are with you all.”
Robert Trump, who took blood thinners, had experienced brain bleeds after a recent fall, according to a family friend.
He had no children, but he helped raise Christopher Hollister Trump-Retchin, the son of his first wife, Blaine Trump. Besides the president, his survivors include his second wife, Ann Marie Pallan, and his sisters, Maryanne Trump Barry and Elizabeth Trump Grau. His brother Fred Jr. died in 1981.
“You could consider him the quietest of Trumps,” Michael D’Antonio, a Trump biographer, said. “He was glad to stay out of the spotlight.”
A new ABC News/Washington Post poll shows that a majority of Americans — including a quarter of Republicans — approve of Kamala Harris as Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s running mate.
Over all, 54 percent of respondents said they approved of the choice of Ms. Harris, compared with just 29 percent who disapproved. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
The results among Democrats were 86 percent to 8 percent, and the results among Republicans were 25 percent to 55 percent. The margin of error is higher in these subgroups.
Another poll released Sunday, from NBC News and The Wall Street Journal, showed Mr. Biden leading President Trump 50 percent to 41 percent, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.
That poll showed widespread disapproval of Mr. Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic: 61 percent said the United States’ response had been unsuccessful. Voters said they trusted Mr. Biden more on the coronavirus, health care, race relations and immigration, but trusted Mr. Trump more on the economy.
President Trump and his supporters often argue that his sinking poll numbers don’t tell the whole story — that he will win re-election in November thanks to “hidden” voters who don’t want to admit to pollsters that they like him.
These voters do exist, but both Republican and Democratic pollsters said they thought it unlikely that there were enough of them to sway the outcome of the election.
There is no question that some Trump supporters won’t identify themselves to friends or co-workers. “But I’m still not convinced that not telling your business associate or the people in your Rotary Club or the people in your country club is the same thing as not telling a pollster,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster.
If poll respondents really were holding back, said David Winston, a pollster who works with congressional Republicans, they would probably tell pollsters they were undecided, not that they were supporting Mr. Trump’s opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr. — and polls have not shown an unusual number of undecided voters.
The possibility that Americans are hiding their true intentions from pollsters has provided an irresistible sense of intrigue to presidential elections before, even though there are few confirmed examples where it made a difference. Political experts compare such speculation to the quadrennial predictions of a brokered convention, which has not occurred since 1952.
Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota, a close Trump ally, appears to be the first state lawmaker to decline federal support designed to aid unemployed workers.
“South Dakota is in the fortunate position of not needing to accept it,” Ms. Noem said in a statement, praising the president’s leadership during the economic recovery effort. She said South Dakota had already recovered nearly 80 percent of the job losses associated with the coronavirus pandemic, and credited the state’s rebound with its decision to never shut down in the first place.
“South Dakota is the only state in the nation that didn’t have extended benefits kick in because our insured unemployment rate has been the lowest in the nation,” she said. “South Dakota is open for business — that applies to our business owners and their employees.”
Under an executive order signed by Mr. Trump last week, the president bypassed Congress in order to deliver emergency aid to unemployed Americans. His order diverted billions of dollars from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to unemployed Americans in order to add at least $300 a week to the benefits they are receiving from the federal government. Ms. Noem said her state would not be accepting that additional federal support.
The Democratic National Convention kicks off Monday, and the uncertainties around it are legion.
Can a virtual political convention unfolding in the midst of a pandemic be compelling? How will the speakers inject energy into their performances when they have no audience cheering them on? Will the American people tune in, or is everyone sick of their screens?
Here are five questions to consider — around convention logistics and more traditional political issues alike — heading into a critical week for Democrats.
Can the Democrats unite their party — and win over any Republicans? Despite the extraordinary circumstances of this year’s event, more traditional convention imperatives — energizing the party and engaging swing voters — remain, too. Monday will offer a vivid illustration of the broad coalition the Democrats are hoping to assemble.
Michelle Obama, the former first lady, is the headliner, but the lineup also includes both Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s progressive primary rival, and former Gov. John Kasich, Republican of Ohio.
As Mr. Biden seeks to excite skeptical liberals while reaching out to moderates disillusioned with President Trump, Monday will demonstrate how Democrats hope to thread that needle.
Will the technology cooperate? When Mr. Biden held a “virtual town hall” event in March, things did not go exactly as planned. Since then, America has settled in to communicating via video, but the technology risks at the convention are real. Will the satellite feeds hold? Will prominent participants accidentally mute — or unmute — themselves? Will anyone be interrupted while recording at home by well-meaning visitors, “BBC dad”-style?
The remote style of the convention, however, also brings opportunity. Speakers have been encouraged to seek out interesting locations for their backdrops. Who will claim the most iconic spot?
Can the candidates create any drama? Some politicians — Mr. Biden chief among them — thrive off audience reaction. How will he and other speakers build to crescendos and electrify viewers when there is no enthralled crowd cheering them on?
Will any new faces emerge? Conventions offer an unmatched platform for up-and-coming politicians to leave an impression in front of a national audience — just ask Barack Obama, whose keynote address at the 2004 convention was a pivotal moment in his rapid ascent from state senator to U.S. senator to president.
Even in a virtual format, there is still plenty of opportunity to get on people’s radar across the country. Who will make the most of that chance?
How will Trump respond? One thing is certain: The convention will place a lot of attention on a lot of Democratic politicians who are not fond of Mr. Trump. And Mr. Trump is unlikely to be restrained in his commentary next week.
President Trump on Saturday accused Democrats of refusing to fund the United States Postal Service as he faced intense criticism from Democrats who say slowdowns in mail delivery, the removal of sorting machines and other changes are threatening the integrity of the general election.
Speaking at a news conference at his golf resort in Bedminster, N.J., Mr. Trump also continued to rail against mail-in voting, calling it “a catastrophe.” But he did not directly say whether he supported the removal of mail-sorting machines and other changes made under the leadership of his postmaster general, Louis DeJoy.
“I don’t know what he’s doing,” Mr. Trump said. “I can only tell you he’s a very smart man. He’ll be a great Postmaster General.”
Democrats have, in fact, pushed for a total of $10 billion for the Postal Service in talks with Republicans on the coronavirus response bill. That figure, which would include money to help with election mail, was down from a $25 billion plan in a House-passed coronavirus measure.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and House Democratic leadership have begun discussing bringing the chamber back early to address the issues with the Postal Service, a move that would cut short the annual summer recess. While the House is not scheduled to return for votes until Sept. 14, Democratic leaders could call lawmakers back in the next two weeks, two people familiar with the talks said on Saturday.
Among the legislative options under consideration include a measure put forward by Representative Carolyn B. Maloney of New York, the chairwoman of the House Oversight Committee, that would prohibit agency leadership from enacting any operational changes that were in place before Jan. 1 or once the public health crisis subsides. Such changes would include ending overtime pay or any measures that would delay mail. Lawmakers are also discussing adding language to the bill that would ensure all ballot-related mail is considered First Class Mail and treated as such.
While Democrats have been fighting to include funding for the Postal Service in a coronavirus relief package, it is unlikely that Democrats would act on a standalone funding bill, said the two people, who asked for anonymity in order to disclose details of private discussions, because the current crisis the agency is facing is tied to policy, not funding.
President Trump will travel to the battleground state of Pennsylvania on Thursday to deliver remarks attacking Joseph R. Biden Jr. just a few miles from the former vice president’s childhood home, a few hours before Mr. Biden is scheduled to take the stage at the Democratic National Convention.
The Trump campaign said Saturday that Mr. Trump will discuss “Joe Biden’s record of failure” in remarks he will deliver in Old Forge, Pa., roughly six miles southwest of Scranton, Pa., where Mr. Biden grew up. He will offer his comments around 3 p.m. on Thursday, the campaign said.
A spokesman for Mr. Biden on Saturday called Mr. Trump’s event a “sideshow” and “a pathetic attempt to distract from the fact that Trump’s presidency stands for nothing but crises, lies and division.”
Mr. Biden is scheduled to accept the Democratic nomination on the last day of the party’s online convention and deliver his own speech Thursday night around 10 p.m.
Mr. Trump’s planned stop in Pennsylvania on Thursday will cap a week in which he is scheduled to swing through Minnesota, Wisconsin and Arizona — all states that could also be potentially up for grabs in the fall — and attack Mr. Biden on the economy and immigration during a key week for Democrats.
Vice President Mike Pence is also scheduled to travel to Wisconsin on Wednesday, where the Trump campaign said he will criticize Mr. Biden over his record on taxes and trade.
In addition to featuring remarks by Mr. Biden and his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris of California, the Democratic National Convention will feature prime-time keynote speeches by Michelle Obama on Monday, Jill Biden on Tuesday and Barack Obama on Wednesday.
The Trump campaign is launching an aggressive four-day digital advertising campaign that will take over some of the internet’s most conspicuous real estate during the three marquee days of the Democratic National Convention — a nearly all-digital event.
Adhering to the president’s penchant for focusing attention on himself during major Democratic events, the Trump campaign will be taking over the banner of YouTube for 96 hours starting on Tuesday, the second day of the convention, an expensive and far-reaching digital gambit.
The campaign will also blanket the home pages of The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and FoxNews.com with Trump campaign ads. Even non-convention programming will be inundated with Trump ads, as the campaign has bought premium, or “unskippable,” ads on sites like Hulu.
The campaign amounts to “high-seven figures,” a significant sum to spend online in such a short period of time, and could top $10 million (a few digital ads are sometimes charged extra based on engagement). The takeover of the YouTube banner and the news sites’ home pages are national buys, while the spending for Hulu and others will be in swing states.
Trump campaign officials said they were able to grab the digital slots because the Democrats, who moved their original convention date, had not purchased the time for the original week in July, nor for the new one beginning on Monday.
House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) called on Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to testify at an urgent hearing in the post office.
“Over the past several weeks, there have been startling new revelations about the scope and gravity of operational changes you are implementing at hundreds of postal facilities without consulting adequately with Congress, the Postal Regulatory Commission, or the Board of Governors,” Chairwoman Maloney wrote. “Your testimony is particularly urgent given the troubling influx of reports of widespread delays at postal facilities across the country—as well as President Trump’s explicit admission last week that he has been blocking critical coronavirus funding for the Postal Service in order to impair mail-in voting efforts for the upcoming elections in November.”
The House Oversight Committee also called on Robert M. Duncan, the Chairman of the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors to testify. The hearing is scheduled for Monday, August 24th at 10 AM ET.
Congress might not be able to get legislation through Mitch McConnell’s Republican Senate majority, but they do have the power to bring unbearable public pressure on those who executing Trump’s conspiracy to slow down the mail.
The Trump administration ignores document requests from Congress, so it is likely that the House will have to compel DeJoy to testify.
Hearings like this one are exactly what needs to happen. There has to be a drumbeat of negative attention to stop Trump.
The Oversight Committee hearing is the first step in stopping the President from wrecking the USPS to steal an election.
Mr. Easley is the founder/managing editor and Senior White House and Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association
But some progressives — particularly those who supported Sanders in the 2016 and 2020 Democratic primaries — disagreed with the decision to pick Harris, some citing her prosecutorial past as an issue, saying it doesn’t meet the moment with Black Lives Matter protests in full swing.
Sanders‘ former national press secretary, Brianna Joy Gray, took to Twitter to call out the decision, stating: “The contempt for the base is, wow.“
When asked about the differing reactions within his own base, Sanders said, “The overwhelming majority of progressives understand that it is absolutely imperative that Donald Trump be defeated.”
“A lot of my supporters are not enthusiastic about Joe Biden. You know why? I ran against Joe Biden,” Sanders said.
“But I think there is overwhelming understanding that Donald Trump must be defeated, Biden must be elected. And that the day after he’s elected we’re going to do everything we can to create a government that works for all of us and not the 1 percent and wealthy campaign contributors.”
Sanders will speak Monday night in support of the Biden ticket at the Democratic National Convention.
If Harris truly is the “last voice in the room,” as Biden suggested she would be when he introduced her in Delaware on Wednesday, her influence — and California’s — could be profound. Reagan brought Caspar Weinberger, Ed Meese and Lyn Nofziger from California to Washington. And in heavily Democratic California, there are far more Democrats where those figures came from.
“California has been too often irrelevant in national politics since Ronald Reagan left in 1988,” said Ace Smith, who was a top strategist on Harris’ presidential campaign.
“With a major Californian ascending in a national office, that just has ripple effects,” he said. “My prediction: More Californians in higher positions in the coming decades than you’ve seen literally since the Reagan era.”
In California this week, Democratic politicians who disliked Harris resigned themselves to her success, privately recasting their criticisms of her in more favorable lights. Those who have supported her for years saw their prospects improve. Everyone imagined a Washington that might not sneer at the state’s energy or water challenges, or suggest its wildfires could be prevented by raking.
Describing what he called a Washington “prejudice against California” — a recoiling from the state’s economic and cultural status in the world — Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said, “I think with a vice president from California, you’re not going to see that kind of disinterest or disdain for the West.”
“We’ve always had, at least in the last half-century, tremendous legislative power,” Schiff said. The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, among other influential lawmakers, come from California. “But what we’ve lacked is power in the executive branch, and with Kamala, we will now have both.”
It’s not just California poised to gain influence if Biden and Harris win. Though the state is hardly representative of every state west of the Rockies, it does anchor the liberal coast. In Washington, Jamal Raad, a veteran Democratic strategist who advised that state’s governor, Jay Inslee, in his presidential campaign last year, said, “It’s frankly preposterous that it’s taken this long for someone from the West to be chosen for the ticket.”
For Republicans, the idea of a California Democrat in the White House is a nightmare. Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel called Harris “an extreme San Francisco liberal,” recalling years of criticism in which Republicans have put down Democrats by yoking them to the liberal reputation of the state.
But even that practice is no longer as effective for the GOP as it was a decade ago, when California was in the throes of its budget crisis and its liberal approach to issues such as gay marriage and marijuana were not so broadly accepted elsewhere.
In a tacit acknowledgment of the changing landscape, Trump campaign officials privately expressed before Harris’ selection that they would have preferred Biden pick another contender. Susan Rice, the former national security adviser, would have allowed Trump to relitigate the Benghazi scandal, a major feature of the 2016 presidential campaign. A more progressive selection, such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren, would have done more than Harris’ California pedigree to paint Biden as beholden to the party’s left flank.
Geography certainly didn’t factor into Biden’s thinking. California is so heavily Democratic that Biden could have carried the state in November with a stuffed animal as his running mate. And though campaign strategists have largely abandoned the idea that a vice presidential nominee can deliver a major battleground state, had Biden thought he needed a geographical lift, he could have selected Rep. Val Demings of Florida, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan or Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin.
Instead, California got Harris. And if she becomes vice president, said Antonio Villaraigosa, the former mayor of Los Angeles, “We’ll have somebody in the White House.”
“I think it’ll benefit California,” he said. “This is her base.”