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Democrats Call on Postmaster DeJoy to Resign: Live Updates for the 2020 Election

Credit…Rachel Wisniewski/Reuters

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.

Credit…Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times

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.

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Protesters Gather Outside Postmaster General’s Home

Demonstrators say changes recently made by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a major donor to Trump campaigns, undercut the Postal Service and threaten Americans’ right to vote.

[pots and pans banging, airhorns blaring] [sirens]

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Demonstrators say changes recently made by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a major donor to Trump campaigns, undercut the Postal Service and threaten Americans’ right to vote.CreditCredit…Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA, via Shutterstock

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.

Credit…Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

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.”

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

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.

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

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.

Credit…Bryan R. Smith/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

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?

This past week, when Mr. Biden debuted with his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris, they had only the cameras and a group of journalists to wave to.

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.

One of the most powerful speeches of the 2016 Democratic convention came from Khizr Khan, the father of a Muslim American soldier who was killed while serving in Iraq. Mr. Khan denounced Mr. Trump’s campaign message, and Mr. Trump proceeded to attack Mr. Khan and his wife, igniting a political firestorm. Will a similar dynamic play out next week?

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

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.

Credit…Eric Baradat/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

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.

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

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.

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Harris’ rise gives California a shot at serious national power

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.”

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US 2020: Postal service warns of delays in mail-in vote count

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The US Postal Service (USPS) has warned that millions of mail-in votes may not arrive in time to be counted on the presidential election day, 3 November.

In letters to states across the country last month, the agency said “certain deadlines… are incongruous with the Postal Service’s delivery standards”.

Critics have blamed the new USPS head – a loyal supporter of President Donald Trump – for a slowdown in deliveries.

A record number of people are expected to vote by mail due to the pandemic.

But on Thursday, Mr Trump said he was blocking additional funding for the USPS to help with election issues, because he opposed mail-in voting.

He has repeatedly said mail-in ballots will lead to voting fraud – and give a boost to his rival Democrat Joe Biden. Experts say the mail-in voting system – which is used by the American military and by Mr Trump himself – is safe from tampering.

Former President Barack Obama strongly criticised what he described as Mr Trump’s “attempts to undermine the election”, writing on Twitter that the administration was “more concerned with suppressing the vote than suppressing a virus”.

Meanwhile, Congress’s two top Democrats – Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer – called on the president to stop his “assault” on the postal service and “allow the 2020 election to proceed without his sabotage tactics”.

Their comments come as a poll by Axios/ Survey Monkey found that three quarters of Republican voters plan to vote in person, while more than half of Democratic voters plan to use a mail vote.

Private delivery services Fedex and UPS have both rejected calls to help ease the pressure on the postal agency.

Meanwhile, the USPS has reportedly begun removing mail sorting machines – many of which would normally be used to process ballots during the election – according to Vice.

What did the USPS say?

The USPS, which has long been in financial trouble and carries about $160bn (£122bn) in debt, sent letters to states across the US in July. It warned that it could not guarantee that all votes cast by mail would arrive on time to be counted. At least 15 states have received a letter, according to NBC News.

In a letter to Pennsylvania’s secretary of state, the USPS said mail-in ballots requested one week before the 3 November election – allowed under the state’s election laws – may not reach their destination on time because the state’s deadlines are too tight for its “delivery standards”.

USPS General Counsel Thomas Marshall said a “mismatch” between Pennsylvania’s laws and the mail system’s delivery capabilities “creates a risk that ballots requested near the deadline under state law will not be returned by mail in time to be counted under your laws as we understand them”.

The letter was made public on Thursday as Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar asked the state’s supreme court to allow ballots to be counted as long as they were received up to three days after the election. Currently, votes are discarded if they are received after election day.

Pennsylvania is a battleground state, which Mr Trump won by less than 1% in the 2016 election. Other battleground states, including Florida and Michigan, also received letters, according to US media reports.

The Democratic governor in Pennsylvania’s neighbouring New Jersey announced on Friday that the state would pre-emptively send ballots to every registered voter in the state. The process of sending out ballots is known as universal mail-in voting, and has been adopted in nine other US states.


Avoiding delays?

By David Willis, BBC North America correspondent

American voters have been here before of course. In the year 2000, the entire US presidential election result was decided by a few hundred contested votes in the state of Florida, after ballots were scrutinised and sometimes rejected, and the process dragged on for weeks.

President Trump has said he wants a clear result on election night, not a contest that drags on through the courts. But by blocking the allocation of badly needed funding to the beleaguered US postal service, Mr Trump is potentially paving the way to a series of drawn-out legal battles that could stretch on for weeks.

According to reports here, conservative groups are marshalling a massive legal effort aimed not only at limiting the allocating of postal ballots, but challenging results that prove unfavourable to them on election night.

In possibly the harshest criticism of his successor to date, Barack Obama has accused Donald Trump of attempting to “kneecap” the US postal service in order to discourage people from voting, while Mr Trump’s Democratic rival Joe Biden has accused the man he is seeking to replace of launching an “assault on democracy”.


What’s the background?

Critics say changes made by the new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy – a major Republican donor – like clamping down on overtime and halting late delivery trips have led to an increase in mail waiting times.

But Mr Trump told Fox News he was blocking additional funding for the financially troubled agency, because he opposes mail-in voting.

“Now they need that money in order to make the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” he said. “Now, if we don’t make a deal, that means they don’t get the money. That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting, they just can’t have it.”

Amid the funding controversy, the 300,000-member National Association of Letter Carriers union on Friday endorsed Mr Biden, warning that the “very survival” of the USPS was at stake.

Mr Trump’s campaign has not yet responded.

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COVID-19 in Illinois updates: Here’s what’s happening Thursday

Illinois public health officials Thursday announced 1,834 new known cases of COVID-19 and 24 additional confirmed deaths. The state has now logged 200,427 cases overall and 7,696 confirmed deaths.

According to a new federal report, at least 24 children in Illinois have come down with a rare but severe illness linked to COVID-19, placing Illinois among the top seven states in the country for the number of cases.

Illinois, Pennsylvania, Louisiana and California each had between 21 and 30 cases from March to July, according to an article released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts had more than 31 incidences each.

The illness — called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) — can generally appear two to four weeks after the onset of COVID-19 in a child or adolescent.

On Wednesday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker again warned that the state might reimpose stricter measures to slow the spread of the highly contagious disease as trends continue to move in the wrong direction. He urged local officials to “impose greater mitigations on a targeted basis to bring down the number of infections or the positivity rate.”

“Otherwise, it will only be a matter of time before the state will be forced to step in and roll things back on a regional basis, something none of us wants,” Pritzker said.

Here’s what’s happening Thursday with COVID-19 in the Chicago area and Illinois:

1:46 p.m.: Two restaurant employee relief funds offering Chicagoans millions of dollars in aid

Against the backdrop of the economic blow dealt to the restaurant industry by COVID-19, and predictions of more closings to come, two new funds were announced Thursday to help employees. The Illinois Restaurant Association and Southern Smoke have established emergency assistance funds that aim to directly help restaurant industry workers.

The Illinois Restaurant Association Educational Foundation Restaurant Employee Relief Fund was created through donations from Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, Telemundo, Associated Beer Distributors of Illinois, EMPLOYERS (a small business insurance specialist), personal donations, corporate partnerships and proceeds from Chicago Gourmet’s upcoming “Go Gourmet” Dining and Virtual Event Series. Anyone can contribute and IRAEF is taking donations now.Applications go live in October.

“This fund expands upon the IRAEF’s efforts to ensure the future of our restaurant community statewide,” said Sam Toia, president and CEO of the Illinois Restaurant Association, in a press release. “While the development of aspiring industry professionals remains the IRAEF’S core mission, it is urgent that we do all we can to secure the stability of our current workforce to ensure opportunities for those to follow.”

1:24 p.m.: Say goodbye to the giant green frog. Chicago’s Rainforest Cafe is closing for good ahead of schedule.

he giant green frog peering down at traffic from the top of Chicago’s Rainforest Cafe may not have much more time on his perch.

The kid-friendly restaurant in the Near North neighborhood closed sooner than expected after it shut down during the coronavirus pandemic.

12:49 p.m.: Illinois congressman calls for federal ban on electronic cigarettes, citing study that shows link to COVID-19

Citing a study showing a correlation between vaping and COVID-19, an Illinois congressman is calling for a federal ban on all e-cigarettes — though a vaping industry advocate called it a publicity stunt.

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Democrat from Schaumburg and chairman of the House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, wrote a letter to the Food and Drug Administration this week calling for the agency to “clear the market of all e-cigarettes, temporarily, for the duration of the coronavirus crisis.”

The letter repeated a request the representative made on April 1 after preliminary studies made similar findings.

But Krishnamoorthi said the case for a ban is stronger following a study that found that young people ages 13-24 who had ever used e-cigarettes were five times more likely to develop COVID-19.

12:05 p.m.: Illinois reaches more than 200,000 known cases of COVID-19

Illinois public health officials Thursday announced 1,834 new known cases of COVID-19 and 24 additional confirmed deaths. The state has now logged 200,427 cases overall and 7,696 confirmed deaths.

12:02 p.m.: Illinois among top seven states for rare childhood syndrome linked to COVID-19

At least 24 children in Illinois have come down with a rare but severe illness linked to COVID-19, placing Illinois among the top seven states in the country for the number of cases, according to a new federal report.

Illinois, Pennsylvania, Louisiana and California each had between 21 and 30 cases from March to July, according to an article released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts had more than 31 incidences each.

The illness — called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) — can generally appear two to four weeks after the onset of COVID-19 in a child or adolescent. Symptoms can include a rash, fever, red eyes, swollen hands and feet, vomiting and abdominal pain. It’s an inflammatory illness, meaning the body’s immune system revs up and begins to attack healthy tissue.

10:34 a.m.: From cabdrivers to concession cashiers, workers supported by Chicago’s airports wonder when — or if — they’ll go back.

The taxi industry was already having a tough time competing with ride-share companies like Uber and Lyft. The COVID-19 pandemic brought a whole new level of pain.

In normal times, Chicago’s airports are reliable, year-round economic engines for the city. More than 105 million passengers traveled through O’Hare International Airport and Midway Airport last year, and the city is pumping $8.5 billion into an expansion project at O’Hare that will help it attract even more.

Those millions of travelers bring more than tourism dollars and business for airlines. They support an entire network of businesses around Chicago’s airports, from catering companies that prepare in-flight meals to airport shops and restaurants where passengers kill time before boarding to airport hotels and car rental agencies.

As a rise in COVID-19 cases nationwide stalls signs of growth, companies and workers alike are realizing what many assumed would be short-term pain isn’t going away anytime soon.

10:14 a.m.: ‘Band and choir — there’s inherently aerosol spread with that.’ Educators try to create meaningful, in-person arts education during COVID-19.

In the band room, students emptied spit valves, some played shared instruments and others worked closely in small practice rooms. During choir rehearsal, dozens engaged in breathing exercises together. And onstage, theater students projected their voices and sang at the top of their lungs. What arts education looked like just months ago seems unfathomable in the age of COVID-19.

While many arts education programs will be online for at least a portion of this school year, some schools are grappling with how to safely provide in-person arts education during a pandemic.

10:13 a.m.: Here’s what to know about kids and COVID-19 as some return to school

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently reported that nearly 180,000 children tested positive for COVID-19 in the last month, a 90% increase in a four-week period in child cases nationwide.

Of those child cases, 97,000 were reported in the latter half of July, a nationwide increase of 40% in two weeks coinciding with the reopening of schools in certain parts of the South and Midwest.

As parents prepare their children for the new school year, here’s what we know about kids and the coronavirus: contraction, transmission, symptoms and how Illinois compares to the stark nationwide trend.

9:09 a.m.: Trump says funds for US Postal Service to deal with mail ballots is sticking point in coronavirus aid negotiations

Americans counting on emergency coronavirus aid from Washington may have to wait until fall.

Negotiations over a new virus relief package have all but ended, with the White House and congressional leaders far apart on the size, scope and approach for shoring up households, re-opening schools and launching a national strategy to contain the virus.

President Donald Trump’s top negotiator, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, tried to revive stalled talks Wednesday, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer dismissed the “overture,” saying the Trump administration is still refusing to meet them halfway. Congressional Republicans are largely sitting out the talks.

“The White House is not budging,” Pelosi and Schumer said in a joint statement.

9:06 a.m.: Parents are turning on each other as schools debate reopening plans for fall during coronavirus pandemic

It’s the newest front in America’s parenting wars.

Parents, forced to figure out how to care for and educate their children in a pandemic, are being judged and criticized on message boards and in backyard meetups and virtual PTA meetings. If parents send their children to schools that reopen, are they endangering them and their teachers? If they keep them home, are they pulling support from schools and depriving their children? If they keep working while schools are closed, are they neglecting their children in a time of need? If they hire someone to help with remote school, are they widening achievement gaps and contributing to inequality?

But the shaming, scholars say, is distracting from the larger societal issues underlying the problem. Parents have been left stranded with very little in the way of support.

8:53 a.m.: Three reasons stocks are soaring despite the coronavirus’ economic toll

The stock market is not the economy.

Rarely has that adage been as clear as it is now. An amazing, monthslong rally means the S&P 500 is roughly back to where it was before the coronavirus slammed the U.S, even though millions of workers are still getting unemployment benefits and businesses continue to shutter across the country.

The S&P 500, which is the benchmark index for stock funds at the heart of many 401(k) accounts, ended Wednesday at 3,380.35 after briefly topping its closing record of 3,386.15 set on Feb. 19. It’s erased nearly all of the 34% plunge from February into March in less time than it takes a baby to learn how to crawl.

The U.S. and global economies have shown some improvements since the spring, when business lockdowns were widespread, but they are nowhere close to fully healed. The number of virus cases continues to rise across much of the United States, and federal and local politicians for the most part lack a strategy to contain it. Many industries, such as airlines, hotels and dining, could take years to recover from the damage.

8:28 a.m.: New US jobless claims fall below 1 million for first time in 5 months

The number of laid-off workers applying for unemployment aid fell below 1 million last week for the first time since the pandemic intensified five months ago yet still remains at a high level. The viral pandemic keeps forcing layoffs just as the expiration of a $600-a-week federal jobless benefit has deepened the hardships for many.

The Labor Department said applications fell to 963,000, the second straight drop, from 1.2 million the previous week. The decline suggests that layoffs are slowing, though last week’s figure still exceeds the pre-pandemic record of just under 700,000.

6 a.m.: Want to vote by mail in Illinois? Here’s how.

Election Day is scheduled for Nov. 3, but many Illinois residents have already requested mail-in ballots, an option state officials encourage for all registered voters this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

By mid-July, Chicago election officials had received a record-high 121,000 applications for mail-in ballots, and that was before the effects of a new state law kick in that will see every Illinois resident who voted in recent elections automatically getting an application to vote by mail.

6 a.m.: ‘Nine times out of 10, I was completely brushed off’: Black Chicagoans confront bias in health care, hope for change

Many Black Chicagoans have had negative experiences when seeking medical care: times a doctor didn’t believe them, dismissed their concerns or didn’t fully explain their options.

Sometimes racial prejudices are obvious. But even well-meaning medical providers can act differently toward Black patients because of a phenomenon known as implicit bias, which is bias that can surface automatically and, often, unconsciously when encountering a person of another race, gender or group.

When it occurs in medicine, it can have devastating consequences for patients, and may be one factor leading to worse health outcomes for Black people, such as higher rates of deaths from COVID-19, experts say.

Those higher death rates, along with the recent death of George Floyd in Minnesota and the unrest that followed, have spurred many organizations to act. In the Chicago area, three dozen health systems — including all the city’s biggest hospitals — recently announced plans to ramp up their efforts to fight racism, including by focusing on anti-racism and implicit bias training for doctors, nurses and other employees. The effort is part of the city’s Racial Equity Rapid Response Team.

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Here are five stories from Wednesday related to COVID-19.

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Postal Service: Trump says he opposes funding USPS because of mail-in voting

By directly linking USPS funding to mail-in voting, Trump is fueling allegations that he is trying to manipulate the postal system for political gain. The pandemic has led to record-shattering levels of voting-by-mail, but Trump has tried to restrict the voting method because he says it will hurt his re-election and Republicans across the board.

During an interview on Fox News, Trump said that if USPS does not receive the additional $25 billion funding request that Democrats included in the ongoing stimulus negotiations, then he believes the Post Office won’t be able to handle the influx of mail-in ballots in the upcoming election.

“They want three and a half billion dollars for something that’ll turn out to be fraudulent, that’s election money basically. They want three and a half billion dollars for the mail-in votes. Universal mail-in ballots. They want $25 billion, billion, for the Post Office. Now they need that money in order to make the Post Office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” Trump said, repeating his false claims that mail-in voting would be “fraudulent.”

“But if they don’t get those two items that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting because you they’re not equipped to have it,” Trump added.

Trump has criticized mail-in voting for months, baselessly asserting that it will lead to voter fraud.

There is not widespread voter fraud in US elections, and nonpartisan experts say neither party automatically benefits when states expand access to mail-in voting.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded to Trump’s claims during an interview on MSNBC, saying the $25 billion for USPS was proposed by the agency’s Board of Governors, not Democrats.

“In the legislation we have $25 billion, that is the number that is recommended by the Board of Governors of the US postal service,” Pelosi said in the interview, also noting that “a bipartisan Board of Governors, 100% appointed by Donald Trump, they recommended $25 billion dollars.”

Pelosi added that in previous congressional bills on the coronavirus, “the President has stood in the way of any money for the postal service.”

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s campaign called Trump’s comments an “assault on our democracy,” in a statement.

“”The President of the United States is sabotaging a basic service that hundreds of millions of people rely upon, cutting a critical lifeline for rural economies and for delivery of medicines, because he wants to deprive Americans of their fundamental right to vote safely during the most catastrophic public health crisis in over 100 years,” Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement.

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat, said in a tweet that Trump’s comments are “voter suppression, plain and simple.”

The President had previously stated that USPS would not have the ability to handle the increase in mail-in votes that will be sent in this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, a claim the Postal Service has rebuffed.

“The Postal Service has ample capacity to adjust our nationwide processing and delivery network to meet projected Election and Political Mail volume, including any additional volume that may result as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic,” the agency said in a statement.

David Becker, executive director of the nonpartisan Center for Election Innovation and Research, said Trump’s attacks on USPS hurt voters, including many of his own supporters who vote-by-mail.

“He’s openly encouraging his voters to use that, but he’s hurting those same voters by opposing bipartisan efforts to provide enough funding to ensure all voters in those states, including his own, can vote by mail without problems,” Becker said.

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Kamala Harris Picked as Joe Biden’s V.P.: Live Updates

Video

transcript

transcript

Kamala Harris Is Biden’s V.P. Pick. Here’s What to Know About Her.

Joseph R. Biden Jr., the presumptive Democratic nominee, selected Senator Kamala Harris of California as his running mate. She is the first Black woman and the first person of Indian descent to be nominated for national office by a major party.

A barrier breaking prosecutor with a love for grilling, “I will repeat—” roasting and music. “one nation under a groove.” She ran for president. I am running for president of the United States going head to head with Biden over school busing. You know, there was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools. And she was bused to school every day. And that little girl was me. But she later endorsed him. Now California senator Kamala Harris is Joe Biden’s pick for vice president. “Racial justice is on the ballot in 2020” And Joe Biden is on the ballot in 2020. So who is she. Harris has a history of being the first. May be the first to do many things, but make sure you’re not the last. In 2010 she was the first woman and person of African and South Asian descent to become California’s attorney general. I’ve decided to become a prosecutor because I believed that there were vulnerable and voiceless people who deserved to have a voice in that system. And in 2016 she became the first black senator from California. Now she is the first black woman and first person of Indian descent to be nominated for national office by a major party. So what is she known for in Washington. So my question to you— Harris serves on four senate committees and is perhaps best known for her tough questions. It makes me nervous— Is that a ‘no’? Is that a ‘yes’? Can I get to respond please ma’am. No, sir. No no. And some of her policy priorities criminal justice reform and racial justice legislation after the killing of George Floyd in police custody. Harris returned to the Senate with new purpose. Black Americans want to stop being killed. She found clarity here that she was missing as a presidential candidate. We should have things like a national standard for excessive use of force. But she’s faced criticism from progressive activists over her record as a prosecutor including her push for higher cash bills for certain crimes and for refusing to support independent investigations for police shootings as recently as 2014. So what’s her dynamic with President Trump. She’s called Trump’s border wall— His vanity project. and him— that guy in the wizard of Oz. You know, when you pull back the curtain, it’s a really small dude. Most recently Harris criticized Trump for ordering an aggressive military response to peaceful protesters in Washington for a photo op. turning the US military on its own people. This is not the America that people fought for. Trump has said little about her except for this tweet when she dropped out of the presidential race. Harris ran an unsteady presidential campaign that ended before the first primaries. We are all in this together. But she is among the best known black women in American politics This is our house. now and may appeal to both moderates and liberals. Her proponents hope her experience in law enforcement will help her face the unique challenges of the moment, I voted. but her previous public feud with Biden could cast a shadow on their United front.

Joseph R. Biden Jr., the presumptive Democratic nominee, selected Senator Kamala Harris of California as his running mate. She is the first Black woman and the first person of Indian descent to be nominated for national office by a major party.CreditCredit…Jenna Schoenefeld for The New York Times

Joseph R. Biden Jr., who has selected Senator Kamala Harris of California as his vice-presidential running mate, will appear with her in Delaware on Wednesday. He has embraced a former rival who sharply criticized him in the Democratic primaries but emerged after ending her own campaign as a vocal supporter of Mr. Biden and a prominent advocate of racial-justice legislation after the death of George Floyd in late May.

Ms. Harris, 55, is the first Black woman and the first person of Indian descent to be nominated for national office by a major party, and only the fourth woman in history to be chosen for one of their presidential tickets. She brings to the race a far more vigorous campaign style than Mr. Biden’s, including a gift for capturing moments of raw political electricity on the debate stage and elsewhere, and a personal identity and family story that many find inspiring.

Mr. Biden announced the selection over text message and in a follow-up email to supporters: “Joe Biden here. Big news: I’ve chosen Kamala Harris as my running mate. Together, with you, we’re going to beat Trump.”

After her own presidential bid disintegrated last year, many Democrats regarded Ms. Harris as all but certain to attempt another run for the White House in the future. By choosing her as his political partner, Mr. Biden may well be anointing her as the de facto leader of the party in four or eight years.

Shortly after Mr. Biden announced his choice, a top surrogate for the Trump campaign recalled a heated exchange between Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris during a Democratic debate in June of 2019 on the issue of race.

At the time, Ms. Harris criticized Mr. Biden for his collegial rapport with segregationist senators and Mr. Biden’s opposition to school busing in the 1970s. The debate clash drew scrutiny to Mr. Biden’s record on racial equality and gave a lift to Ms. Harris in presidential polls that she could not sustain.

“Not long ago, Kamala Harris called Joe Biden a racist and asked for an apology she never received,” Katrina Pierson, a Trump campaign adviser, said in a statement. “Clearly, Phony Kamala will abandon her own morals, as well as try to bury her record as a prosecutor, in order to appease the anti-police extremists controlling the Democrat Party.”

“She is proof that Joe Biden is an empty shell being filled with the extreme agenda of the radicals on the left,” the statement continued.

On Tuesday, the Biden campaign sent a warning shot ahead of a selection that many Democrats feared would lead to attacks aimed at whichever woman Mr. Biden ultimately chose.

Mr. Biden’s campaign seized on a statement from a spokeswoman for the Trump campaign in which she said that the former vice president had sold “his soul to the radical left” and asserted that his running mate, whomever it ends up being, would do the same.

Ms. Harris, a pragmatic moderate who spent most of her career as a prosecutor, was seen throughout the vice-presidential search as among the safest choices available to Mr. Biden. She has been a reliable ally of the Democratic establishment, with flexible policy priorities that largely mirror Mr. Biden’s, and her supporters argued that she could reinforce Mr. Biden’s appeal to Black voters and women without stirring particularly vehement opposition on the right or left.

After leaving the presidential race in December, Ms. Harris turned her attention back to the Senate and found new purpose amid a wave of nationwide protests this spring against racism and police brutality. She marched beside protesters and forcefully championed proposals to overhaul policing and make lynching a federal crime, often speaking with a kind of clarity that had eluded her in the presidential primaries on economic issues like health care and taxation.

Reporting was contributed by Neil Vigdor and Matt Stevens.

Several of the women who were on Mr. Biden’s running mate short list but were not selected quickly began to coalesce around the party’s ticket after the former vice president announced that he had picked Ms. Harris.

Susan E. Rice, the former national security adviser to President Barack Obama, vowed to work on behalf of the ticket after learning that she had not been selected as Mr. Biden’s running mate.

“As I have said from the outset, I will do my utmost to assist Joe Biden to become the next president of the United States and to help him govern successfully,” Ms. Rice wrote on Twitter.

Representative Karen Bass of California commended Mr. Biden on his selection of Ms. Harris.

“Her tenacious pursuit of justice and relentless advocacy for the people is what is needed right now,” Ms. Bass tweeted.

Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts cited Ms. Harris’s role during the 2008 financial crisis as a moment of strength for her Senate colleague.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

A new national poll released Tuesday shows Mr. Biden maintaining a 10-point lead over Mr. Trump, with just 4 percent of voters remaining undecided.

The poll, conducted by Monmouth University, showed Mr. Biden garnering the support of 51 percent of registered voters and Mr. Trump earning 41 percent. A small share of support went to third-party candidates and the rest were undecided.

Mr. Biden’s lead was about the same as he had in a late-June survey by the same pollster, in which Mr. Biden was ahead of Mr. Trump by 12 percentage points.

The Monmouth Poll was conducted by telephone from Aug. 6 to Aug. 10 and has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.

In Wisconsin, a swing state won by Mr. Trump in 2016, Mr. Biden led the president by six percentage points in a Marquette Law School poll of registered voters that was released on Tuesday.

Six percent of those polled said that they would not vote for either Mr. Trump or Mr. Biden, 3 percent were undecided and 1 percent would not disclose their choice for president.

Mr. Trump’s job approval ratings continued to slide in Wisconsin, particularly on his handling of the coronavirus pandemic — 58 percent of those polled said they disapproved of his response to the health crisis. The poll had a margin of error of 3.9 percentage points.

Credit…Jenn Ackerman for The New York Times

In the weeks before Minnesota’s congressional primary on Tuesday, volunteers for Representative Ilhan Omar’s re-election campaign did something highly unusual: They went door knocking.

In any other year, going door to door to speak with voters in person would be a given. But during the coronavirus pandemic, the traditional methods of identifying, organizing, persuading and turning out voters have been upended.

Some Republican campaigns, including Mr. Trump’s, have resumed in-person campaign activities. But most Democratic candidates, including Mr. Biden, have largely switched to a sort of virtual ground game to connect with voters through phone calls and text messages.

Ms. Omar’s campaign quietly returned to door-knocking in the beginning of July, with new protocols. Volunteers would wear masks. They would ring a doorbell and then step back at least six feet. They would carry safety kits that included hand sanitizer.

“There’s an element that just can’t be re-created not being in person,” said Claire Bergren, Ms. Omar’s campaign manager.

Even Ms. Omar herself briefly hit the pavement.

Her primary is in the spotlight on Tuesday, as she hopes to continue a string of victories by progressive candidates nationwide. She faces a well-financed challenge from Antone Melton-Meaux, a lawyer who has raised more than $4 million.

Ms. Omar, an unabashed progressive who has at times run afoul of some party leaders, won the support of House Democrats like Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her re-election efforts. Mr. Melton-Meaux has tried to cast her as a national lightning rod too controversial for the district.

Mr. Melton-Meaux nearly matched Ms. Omar’s fund-raising over all and outraised her in the most recent cycle, sounding alarms that the race could be closer than expected. Polls opened at 8 a.m. Eastern time and close at 9 p.m.

The race has also been transformed by the killing of George Floyd, in Ms. Omar’s district. She has been a leading voice in advocating systemic changes such as restructuring police departments, while her opponents have focused on more incremental reforms.

Credit…John Bailey/The Rome News-Tribune, via Associated Press

The Republican Party is going to find out just how big a QAnon problem it has on Tuesday when a primary runoff is decided in a northwest Georgia district, where polls opened at 7 a.m. Eastern time.

The favorite in the race in the 14th Congressional District is Marjorie Taylor Greene, a gun-rights activist who is an unabashed supporter of QAnon, a fringe group that has been pushing a convoluted pro-Trump conspiracy theory. Lined up against her is John Cowan, a physician who is no less conservative or pro-Trump, but who does not believe QAnon’s theory that there is a “deep state” of child-molesting Satanist traitors plotting against the president. The winner is a near lock to be elected to Congress in the overwhelmingly Republican district.

The F.B.I. has labeled QAnon a potential domestic terrorism threat, and the conspiracy theory has already inspired real-world violence. Yet its supporters are slowly becoming a political force with more than a dozen candidates who have expressed some degree of support for the theory, running for Congress as Republicans.

Most are expected to lose. Yet all present a fresh headache for Republican leaders.

The party, while already struggling to distance itself from conspiracy theories steeped in racist and anti-Semitic messaging, also cannot afford to turn off voters who share those conspiratorial views if it hopes to retain the Senate and retake the House.

A victory for Ms. Greene would make that balancing act far harder. She has been caught in Facebook videos making a series of offensive remarks about Black people, Jews and Muslims. And unlike some other QAnon-linked candidates, she has made no effort to soft-pedal her support for the conspiracy theory. She recently called it “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take this global cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles out.”

Yet she nonetheless won 40 percent of the vote in the district’s Republican primary in June. Mr. Cowan won 21 percent, and the remainder of the votes were split between seven other candidates.

Credit…John Spink/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, via Associated Press

As voting takes place in Georgia and Wisconsin on Tuesday — polls opened at 7 a.m. Eastern in Georgia and 8 a.m. Eastern in Minnesota — attention will be on the election systems just as much as the candidates.

These two battleground states struggled to hold earlier primary elections amid the pandemic; while Tuesday’s elections will probably have lower turnout, they will still be a test of the voting apparatus.

In Wisconsin, which was the first state to hold a large, statewide election as the pandemic was surging in early April, the coronavirus is still near peak levels, but the elections system appears to be on more solid footing. One of the key causes of the long, mask-clad lines in Milwaukee in April was a shortage of poll workers, which led the city to consolidate 180 polling locations down to five.

On Tuesday, about 170 voting sites will be open in Milwaukee, or roughly 95 percent of the regular sites. The state also activated the National Guard, which will be dressed in plain clothes, to be on standby should there be any emergency shortages on Tuesday.

In Georgia, where about 60 percent of the state’s counties are holding elections, the turnout isn’t expected to reach levels at which long lines would be a problem as they were during the primary. The state’s most populous county — Fulton County — also opened an early voting location at State Farm Arena in Atlanta to help alleviate Election Day surges.

The absentee ballot deadlines, which required a ballot to arrive by close of business on Friday, remain unchanged from the primary election in June.

A Republican running for Congress in Connecticut was arrested Monday night and dropped out of the primary campaign just hours before voters went to the polls on Tuesday, the authorities and state party officials said.

The candidate, Thomas Gilmer, was charged with strangulation and unlawful restraint in connection with a “possible domestic assault,” the police in Wethersfield, a Hartford suburb, said in a statement.

In a post on Twitter, the Connecticut Republican Party said Mr. Gilmer had ended his campaign.

Mr. Gilmer, a businessman, had won the Republican Party’s endorsement in May but faced a primary challenge today from Justin Anderson, a lieutenant colonel in the National Guard. In November, the primary winner will take on the longtime Democratic incumbent, Representative Joe Courtney, who was re-elected by a 62-to-35-percent margin in 2018.

Credit…Wethersfield Police Department

Mr. Gilmer, 29, could not be immediately reached for comment Tuesday morning.

The police said they were contacted in July about the episode that led to Mr. Gilmer’s arrest. The authorities did not provide any additional details.

Gabe Rosenberg, a spokesman for Connecticut’s Secretary of State, said the office had not received formal notice of Mr. Gilmer’s withdrawal from the race as of Tuesday morning.

Thousands of absentee ballots have already been mailed out, Mr. Rosenberg said, and if Mr. Gilmer wins Tuesday’s primary, he would remain on the November ballot unless he formally withdraws.

Republicans might be able to nominate someone to replace Mr. Gilmer if he wins and withdraws, depending on the timing, Mr. Rosenberg said.

Credit…Charles Sykes/Invision, via Associated Press

The Democratic National Convention will play out like a star-studded Zoom call next week, anchored by nightly prime-time keynote speeches, with Michelle Obama appearing on Monday, Jill Biden on Tuesday, Barack Obama on Wednesday, and Mr. Biden’s acceptance speech on Thursday, according to a schedule of events.

The convention, originally planned for Milwaukee, then forced into a cramped virtual format by the coronavirus, has been a logistical nightmare for planners who have had to grapple with wary television networks, daunting technical challenges and the omnipresent, low-grade threat of a disruption by Mr. Trump.

The schedule, provided by Democratic officials involved in the planning, above all else reflects Mr. Biden’s chief political goal: uniting the jostling progressive and establishment wings of the Democratic Party behind an elder statesman who has spent the last several months courting skeptical progressives.

The first-night schedule reflects that big-tent objective. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Mr. Biden’s main rival for the nomination — and still the standard-bearer of the populist left — has been given a keynote slot, just before Mrs. Obama speaks, and after Andrew M. Cuomo, the moderate governor of New York, delivers what is expected to be a scathing attack on Mr. Trump’s handling of the pandemic.

After the formality of a virtual delegate vote on Tuesday, Mr. Biden’s running mate, whom he announced will be Kamala Harris, will address the convention on Wednesday.

About three-quarters of all American voters will be eligible to receive a ballot in the mail for the 2020 election — the most in U.S. history, according to a New York Times analysis. If recent election trends hold and turnout increases as experts predict, roughly 80 million mail ballots will flood election offices this fall, more than double the 2016 figure.

The rapid and seismic shift can be traced to the coronavirus pandemic. Concerns about virus transmission at polling places have forced many states to make adjustments on the fly that — despite President Trump’s protests — will make mail voting in America more accessible this fall than ever before.

“I have a hard time looking back at history and finding an election where there was this significant of a change to how elections are administered in this short a time period,” said Alex Padilla, the California secretary of state and chairman of the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State.

Most of the changes are temporary and have been made administratively by state and local officials, using emergency powers. Over all, 24 states and the District of Columbia have in some way expanded voter access to mail ballots for the 2020 general election.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

After repeatedly throwing a wrench into plans for the Republican National Convention this summer, Mr. Trump on Monday tried to offer something tantalizing about the upcoming gathering, saying that his renomination speech would take place either at the White House or the Civil War battlefield in Gettysburg, Pa.

“We will announce the decision soon!” Mr. Trump teased in a Twitter post.

It was perhaps a predictable move by the first president to be credited as an executive producer of a network reality show while sitting in office.

But whether Mr. Trump will actually deliver a nationally televised address in Gettysburg — the site of the Civil War’s bloodiest battle, a place memorialized in 1863 by Abraham Lincoln as hallowed ground — remains an open question.

The battlefield, where Mr. Trump gave an indoor campaign speech in 2016, is federal property run by the National Park Service. This presents the same ethical conundrums his re-election team will face if the president delivers the speech from the South Lawn of the White House.

In private, Mr. Trump has expressed to aides more interest in delivering his address at the White House, in part because of the ease of arranging the speech, set for Aug. 27, in a short time frame.

The president is not subject to the Hatch Act, a Depression-era law that prohibits federal employees from engaging in political activities while on the job. But everyone who works for him is. By delivering a speech with the Gettysburg battlefield as a backdrop, experts said, Mr. Trump would risk putting park rangers and other park employees at risk of a violation.

Credit…Bryan Woolston/Reuters

People with low incomes who are eligible to vote are much less likely to do so in national elections than those with higher incomes, and are more often constrained from casting ballots by transportation issues, illness or other problems out of their control, according to a study released Tuesday by the Poor People’s Campaign.

The study, by a Columbia University researcher, found that only 46 percent of potential voters with family incomes less than twice the federal poverty line voted in the 2016 presidential election, compared with 68 percent of those with family incomes above twice the poverty line.

Notwithstanding the practical hurdles lower-income voters face, the reasons voters across the economic spectrum most often cited for staying home were the same: disillusionment with the candidates, campaign issues and the political process writ large.

“They’re saying that they’re not voting because people are not speaking to their issues and that they’re just not interested in those candidates,” said the researcher, Robert Paul Hartley, an assistant professor of social work. “But it’s not that they couldn’t be.”

Though poor and low-income people turned out in large numbers in recent some state and local elections like the 2019 Kentucky governor’s race, the Rev. William J. Barber II, co-chairman of the Poor People’s Campaign, a nonpartisan coalition advocating to increase the power of the poor, said that the over 40 percent of Americans with lower incomes remained a largely untapped political force.

“The only way you can expand the electorate in this country is to expand among poor and low-wealth people,” he said.

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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.

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Trump’s big power move leaves workers in limbo

While the President claims to have stepped in to protect American workers, his actions may not deliver the help Americans need — especially since his memorandum on unemployment benefits actually lowers federal payments from the $600 level under a previous Congressional package and his order for “assistance to renters and homeowners” does not extend the eviction moratorium that has already expired. His decision to unveil the measures Saturday in a rambling, hyper political news conference at his New Jersey golf club, playing to a gallery of well-heeled members, bolstered the impression of a political stunt.

Initial indications of the flaws of Trump’s actions make it even clearer that answers for Americans relying on federal money after losing jobs in the pandemic will only come with a resumption of negotiations. That is a process that could take weeks until Trump and Democrats reassess the political fallout of the clash and one side decides it has to break for political reasons.

The President’s move, for instance, to defer payroll tax contributions for some Americans is already faltering amid Constitutional arguments that only Congress sets tax policy and signs of wariness among many companies and the fear of saddling employees with a big end-of-year bill if deductions are halted.

Meanwhile, Trump’s plan to extend special federal unemployment benefits, albeit at a lower level, rests on states finding more money for laid-off workers and is sure to be undercut by the busted budgets of governors who have seen treasuries cleaned out by the fight against the coronavirus.

“Well, if they don’t, they don’t,” Trump said on Saturday about governors agreeing to his plan. “That’s up to them. But if they don’t, they don’t. That’s going to be their problem. I don’t think their people will be too happy. They have the money.”

These and other deficiencies of the executive actions mean that two goals — getting money quickly to struggling Americans and stimulating the economy — are unlikely to be improved much by his attempted show of force.

By Sunday evening, after a day of negative reaction from the states, the President appeared to be rowing back his demands for governors to contribute 25% of extended unemployment benefits. He only succeeded in adding more confusion.

“We have a system where we can do 100% or we can do 75%, they pay 25, and it will depend on the state,” Trump told reporters before returning to the White House from his resort in New Jersey. “And they will make a application. We will look at it, and we’ll make a decision.”

‘We’ve had it’

Still, the President may be banking on a short-term political payoff — which may explain his refusal to get involved directly in the original negotiations — a move that allowed him to pose as the powerful figure sweeping in to solve the problem.

“I’m taking executive action. We’ve had it. And we’re going to save American jobs and provide relief to the American workers,” Trump said on Saturday, repeatedly and, either by accident or design, misleadingly referring to the actions, which lack the weight of congressionally-passed law, as “bills.”

From a political perspective, after months taking heat over his botched pandemic leadership, Trump at least looked proactive and tried to position himself as a voice for working Americans as he trails in Midwestern swing states.

But if already obvious deficiencies in his executive action strategy do materialize and money fails to reach the unemployed quickly, the saga may only reinforce his reputation for incompetence.

And long-term, Trump’s moves could do much more than just harm his own political standing. Many of the measures he signed come with serious long-term consequences — cutting the payroll tax could worsen the already shaky finances of Social Security — that will unfold years after Trump leaves office.

And they involve power grabs that challenge Constitutional norms — but that are ruled legal by a White House Counsel’s office that often accommodates Trump’s belief that a President can do what he wants.

Praise from many Republicans over Trump’s move also reflected the hypocrisy of many conservatives who raised the alarm when President Barack Obama flexed executive power but meekly go along with this President’s own far more flamboyant power grabs.

Confusion from Trump’s own advisers

One of Trump’s top economic advisers, Larry Kudlow, threw out a bewildering collection of figures — ranging from $700 to $800 to $1,200 — apparently conflating the maximum ceiling of state and federal benefits and a payroll tax holiday — that represent an absolute best cast scenario for the President’s scheme.

Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, Kudlow said the White House hadn’t even asked which states could afford to pay $100 a week to workers in benefits — the amount Trump is demanding states shoulder as part of his plan for a reduced $400 in federal payments.

What will Trump's executive actions actually do? Everyone is confused

“We will probably find that out today and tomorrow,” Kudlow said.

Trump’s memorandum calls on states to pay out 25% of the total federal unemployment benefit of $400. But if a state does not have the money and can’t pay, it won’t receive the other $300 from the federal government and workers will only be left with existing state unemployment benefits. States will also have to set up an entirely new system to deliver the additional aid.

New York’s Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday that Trump’s initiative was “laughable.”

“You can’t now say to states who have no funding, you have to pay 25% of the unemployment insurance,” the governor said.

Even Republican Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio — a must-win state for Trump in November — said on “State of the Union” that he’s not yet sure if his state will take the federal money for unemployment.

A risk for Democrats

Democrats are also taking a risk in this stimulus mess but appear to think that on principle and on politics, they still have an upper hand. Their hopes of coming out of the clash ahead depend on voters concluding that Republicans are trying to low ball workers in their time of need. But if a majority of Americans take the position that the lack of a deal is a typical foul up in Congress with both sides playing politics, Democratic leaders may have miscalculated less than three months before Election Day.

In either case, and whether Trump is being disingenuous or not, the spectacle of politicians squabbling while millions of laid-off Americans struggle is not a good look for either party at a fraught national moment.

Pelosi calls Trump's coronavirus relief executive actions 'absurdly unconstitutional'

House Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Trump’s actions, which required the federal government only to study the issue of rent forgiveness — far short of the President’s claims of an eviction moratorium, were characterized by “meagerness” and “weakness.”

“Either the President doesn’t know what he’s talking about — clearly, his aides don’t know what he is talking about — or something’s very wrong here about meeting the needs of the American people at this time,” Pelosi said on “State of the Union” on Sunday.

Administration officials argued that federal unemployment payments of $600 a week were acting as a disincentive for people to get back to work — despite the fact that the coronavirus is still raging in many regions, forcing local officials to impose limits on business activities in an effort to get it under control.

While Trump claimed to be standing between millions of Americans and penury, Pelosi accused the White House of callously underestimating the toll of the crisis on Americans.

“We were willing to say, we will come down a trillion. That doesn’t mean the needs of the American people have gone down. It just means that we recognize that they have a disdain for the needs of the American people,” Pelosi told CNN’s Dana Bash, attempting to justify her party’s unwillingness to compromise on the specific amount of weekly federal benefits.

“That’s why they question whether people even need the $600. They say to me, ‘Some people just don’t want to pay rent.’ We’re like: ‘Well, you know what? Most people do.'”

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Trump says he’s open to allowing unemployed to get enhanced benefits without states paying part of the cost

His comments come just one day after he signed a memorandum that would require states to agree to enter into a financial arrangement with the federal government for any unemployed person living there to get any of the additional benefits.

Under the memorandum, the federal government would require states to pick up the tab for 25% (or $100) of the $400 additional benefit each person may able to receive weekly in additional aid — an initiative that was immediately criticized by several governors because of how financially strapped many states are due to the coronavirus.

But Trump said Sunday it was possible that the federal government could pick up the entire cost if governors make a request.

“We have a system where we can do 100% or we can do 75%, they pay 25, and it will depend on the state,” he said to reporters before returning to the White House from his resort in New Jersey. “And they will make a application. We will look at it, and we’ll make a decision.”

“So you know, they may be, they’ll pay nothing in some instances or maybe they’ll — a little bit like the National Guard, like the National Guard, as you know. Sometimes we’ll pay all of it depending on the tragedy, or whatever it may be, the disaster,” he said. “Sometimes the state will pay 40%, 25%, 10% or nothing — depending on how it works out.”

Several experts told CNN there are major questions about how many states may be able to afford the extra cost. If a state says that it does not have the funds or does not want to enter into the agreement with the federal government, the unemployed people in that state would receive zero dollars in the extra benefits (they would still receive the normal state unemployment insurance).

Also, because Congress has not authorized an extension of extra federal unemployment assistance, the state will have to set up an entirely new system to deliver the additional aid, which could take months.

Trump’s memorandum on enhanced unemployment benefits was just one of four items he tried to exert executive action on this weekend after Democrats and the White House were unable to reach an agreement on a broad stimulus package.

The other three actions he signed include a memorandum on a payroll tax holiday for Americans earning less than about $104,000 a year, an executive order on “assistance to renters and homeowners” and a memorandum on deferring student loan payments.

The President claimed Sunday the response has been “mostly positives,” stating “we’ve been largely praised.”

While many Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have celebrated Trump’s package of executive actions, he’s faced sustained criticism from Democrats and at least one congressional Republican.

Both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer criticized Trump’s executive actions as “meager” and accused the President of not grasping the severity of the current crisis.

“We’re disappointed that instead of putting in the work to solve Americans’ problems, the President instead chose to stay on his luxury golf course to announce unworkable, weak and narrow policy announcements to slash the unemployment benefits that millions desperately need and endanger seniors’ Social Security and Medicare,” Pelosi and Schumer said in a statement.

Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska said in a statement Saturday, “The pen-and-phone theory of executive lawmaking is unconstitutional slop.”

“President Obama did not have the power to unilaterally rewrite immigration law with DACA, and President Trump does not have the power to unilaterally rewrite the payroll tax law. Under the Constitution, that power belongs to the American people acting through their members of Congress.”

This story has been updated with additional information about reaction to the President’s executive actions.

Posted on

Trump signs executive actions after stimulus talks break down on Capitol Hill

But that memorandum on enhanced unemployment benefits — 25% of which states are being asked to cover — has more strings attached than the White House acknowledged and is seen as a cumbersome effort that may not help a lot of the unemployed.

The other three actions he signed include a memorandum on a payroll tax holiday for Americans earning less than $100,000 a year, an executive order on “assistance to renters and homeowners” and a memorandum on deferring student loan payments.

“I’m taking action to provide an additional or extra $400 a week and expanded benefits, $400. That’s generous but we want to take care of our people,” Trump said about his memorandum on unemployment benefits at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.

But it’s more complicated than that. A state must agree to enter into a financial arrangement with the federal government for any unemployed person living there to get any of the additional benefits. And the federal government is requiring states to pick up the tab for 25% (or $100) of the $400 additional benefit each person may able to receive weekly in additional aid.

Up to $44 billion from the Disaster Relief Fund would be made available for “lost wage assistance” to supplement state payments, according to the memorandum issued by the White House shortly after Trump’s news conference.

But when asked about the President’s executive action asking states to pay 25% of the $400 unemployment relief, an official from a northeastern state run by a Democratic governor laughed. “We don’t have that money,” the official said.

This official went on to say that they were not given any heads up on this executive action and that in the wake of the pandemic, their funds are completely tapped.

In fact, states have asked Congress to provide them with an additional $500 billion to help shore up their budgets, which have been crushed by the loss of tax revenue amid the pandemic. This has been one of the main points of contention between Democrats, who want to allocate additional aid, and Republicans, who don’t want to bail out what they say are badly managed states.

Fact check: Trump makes multiple false claims about Covid-19 relief as he signs executive actions

The millions of Americans who’ve filed for jobless benefits have drained several states’ unemployment benefits trust funds. Already, 10 states have borrowed nearly $20 billion from the Treasury Department to cover their share of payments, which typically last 26 weeks.

Several experts told CNN there are major questions about how many states may be able to afford the extra cost. If a state says that it does not have the funds or does not want to enter into the agreement with the federal government, the unemployed people in that state would receive zero dollars in the extra benefits (they would still receive the normal state unemployment insurance).

Also, because Congress has not authorized an extension of extra federal unemployment assistance, the state will have to set up an entirely new system to deliver the additional aid, which could take months. The memorandum signed by Trump was not an unemployment insurance benefit and would not come through the unemployment insurance program already instituted in states.

Michelle Evermore, an unemployment expert at the National Employment Law Project and one of the nation’s leading experts on unemployment, told CNN she considered the chances of this effort helping many of the newly unemployed due to Covid “low.”

“This is a brand new program, it’s an assistance program for lost wages, it requires the creation of an entirely new administrative system. The states that don’t get the program set up as quickly as other states aren’t going to get any funding because it will run out,” Evermore said.

Lastly, according to the memorandum, an individual can only receive the $300 federal benefit if he or she first qualifies for $100 in aid from their state. Evermore said this will cut out a large group of people. “There are so many problems with people getting a benefit under this,” she told CNN.

When asked by a reporter on Saturday why $400 instead of the previous $600, Trump responded, “This is the money they need, this is the money they want, this gives them a great incentive to go back to work.”

Trump administration officials and Republicans haven’t wanted to continue the $600 supplement, which expired July 31 and was part of the historic expansion to the nation’s unemployment benefits program lawmakers passed in late March, because they say it could disincentivize people’s return to work. When combined with state benefits, about two-thirds of workers make more than they earned at their former jobs, a University of Chicago study found. GOP lawmakers initially floated giving the jobless a $200 supplement for at least two months and then a payment that would provide 70% of the laid-off worker’s former wage, when added to state benefits.

Democrats, on the other hand, say the economy is still weak and the jobless need the $600 to pay their bills.

Partisan finger-pointing and ‘unconstitutional slop’

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell praised Trump’s executive actions and continued the partisan finger-pointing, blaming Democrats for having “sabotaged” talks.

“Struggling Americans need action now. Since Democrats have sabotaged backroom talks with absurd demands that would not help working people, I support President Trump exploring his options to get unemployment benefits and other relief to the people who need them the most,” McConnell said in a statement Saturday.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer criticized Trump’s executive actions, describing them as “meager” and accusing the President of not grasping the severity of the current crisis.

“We’re disappointed that instead of putting in the work to solve Americans’ problems, the President instead chose to stay on his luxury golf course to announce unworkable, weak and narrow policy announcements to slash the unemployment benefits that millions desperately need and endanger seniors’ Social Security and Medicare,” Pelosi and Schumer said in a statement.

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden called Trump’s actions “half-baked.”

“This is no art of the deal,” Biden said in a statement. “This is not presidential leadership. These orders are not real solutions. They are just another cynical ploy designed to deflect responsibility. Some measures do far more harm than good.”

Trump said he believes that the unemployment aid will be “rapidly distributed,” even though there are potential challenges over the legality of his executive action.

Democrats are likely to challenge the executive actions in court. Trump first laid out the executive actions at a hastily called news conference on Friday at his New Jersey golf club, where he said he wasn’t concerned about the legality of the actions he promised.

At least one Republican criticized Trump’s efforts at executive policy making, specifically in regards to the payroll tax.

“The pen-and-phone theory of executive lawmaking is unconstitutional slop,” Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska said in a statement Saturday night. “President Obama did not have the power to unilaterally rewrite immigration law with DACA, and President Trump does not have the power to unilaterally rewrite the payroll tax law. Under the Constitution, that power belongs to the American people acting through their members of Congress.”

Payroll taxes

The payroll tax cut is one of Trump’s favorite tax moves that both parties had opposed, including in the latest stimulus bill. One of his memoranda calls for deferring the employee portion of payroll taxes — 6.2% for Social Security and 1.45% for Medicare — for workers making less than $100,000 a year through the rest of 2020.

Coronavirus has already dealt a blow to Social Security's finances. Trump's payroll tax holiday could make it worse

If he’s reelected, Trump said, he plans to forgive the taxes and make permanent cuts to the payroll taxes.

“I’m going to make them all permanent,” he said.

Otherwise, presumably, workers would have to pay the taxes at the end of the year.

The controversial measure, however, wouldn’t do anything to help the unemployed and would likely weaken the already strained finances of Social Security and Medicare.

Trump also said Saturday his administration was looking at additional income tax and capital gains tax cuts for American taxpayers.

“We are going to be looking at capital gains for the purpose of creating jobs and income taxes is self-explanatory, and it will be income tax for middle income and lower income people, but middle income people who pay a lot of income tax, you have tax inequality. I’m saying that as a Republican, and you do have tax inequality,” Trump said.

He did not provide further details.

This story has been updated with additional developments.

CLARIFICATION: This headline and story have been updated to reflect that Trump signed one executive order and three memoranda.

Manu Raju, Kevin Bohn and Sarah Mucha contributed to this report.