The willingness of hundreds of career officers to break with tradition and speak out on behalf of one candidate reflects beliefs, on both sides, that the nation faces an uncertain future.
Documents show funding for a host of health programs is at risk under the president’s order targeting liberal strongholds.
Natalie Pontius is an interior decorator, married, with two children, and is a University of Georgia alumna. She was born and raised in Atlanta but moved to the city's exurbs with her family several years ago, drawn to the region's quality of public education. In November, she's voting for Donald Trump.The decision was a no-brainer."The riots, the push to defund the police -- that's not the direction our country needs to go," Pontius, 48, said. "I feel like the Democratic Party is continually trying to come up with ways to divide us."She believes that Trump, on the other hand, "is looking out for me as a person."National polling has consistently shown that white college-educated voters are supporting Joe Biden for president. But in Georgia, even as major demographic and population shifts have pulled the state leftward in recent years, a majority of such voters remain firmly in Trump's camp.Recent polling shows that these voters have helped Trump maintain his razor-thin lead over Biden for Georgia's suburban vote. Their continued support is critical to the president's chances in the state, whose 16 electoral votes are essential for his path to reelection and where polling shows the two candidates neck-and-neck overall.Georgia may be in the Deep South, but a steady, decadeslong influx of young, educated and nonwhite voters, coupled with a shrinking population of white voters without degrees -- whose support helped fuel Trump's victory in 2016 -- have put the state increasingly in play for Democrats. From historic turnout rates among infrequent and first-time voters in support of Stacey Abrams in the 2018 gubernatorial race to Lucy McBath's triumph over Karen Handel in Newt Gingrich's former congressional district that same year, down-ballot Democrats have proved the party's viability in the Trump era.For the president, that has made maintaining the loyalty of white, Republican-leaning degree-holders like Pontius all the more important. In a New York Times/Siena College survey Tuesday, Trump and Biden were tied at 45% among likely voters in Georgia, but Trump led Biden among college-educated white voters by 12 percentage points (although that is a significant contraction from 2016, when Trump won the same group by 20 percentage points).According to more than a dozen such voters in and around Atlanta, what's currently keeping them from jumping ship is not so much a deep affinity for Trump but a fear of "lawlessness" taking root should Democrats take the White House. Trump has spent much of the past few months stoking those fears, his campaign sending texts with such warnings as "ANTIFA THUGS WILL RUIN THE SUBURBS!"Polling suggests that in many battleground states where protests turned violent this summer, that message hasn't broken through. But in Georgia, many voters said Trump's "law-and-order" appeals had struck a nerve, and almost all cited a fear that the call among some progressives to "defund the police" would materialize during a Biden presidency.Biden has said that he has no desire to defund the police, and Amanda Newman acknowledges that. But Newman, 51, who lives in the suburbs and works at a law firm in midtown Atlanta, also thinks that Biden's personal views are irrelevant -- that a vote for Biden is in fact a vote for his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, as well as for progressives in the Democratic Party like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who have pushed for policies like the Green New Deal."I don't think Joe Biden has an opinion until somebody tells him what it is," she said.Newman said she's been put off by Trump at multiple moments in the past four years, calling him at times "unpresidential" and comparing him to "a 2-year-old pitching a fit in a candy store." But she said she feared how "radical" and "crazy" the Democrats had become."The building I work in, they destroyed some of the windows on the ground floor," she said. "I can't imagine being a single female having to drive home from work at night or anywhere in Atlanta."Atlanta saw its share of unrest in the aftermath of George Floyd's death at the hands of Minnesota police in May: Violent protesters set fire to and looted retail stores, restaurants, museums and more across a large swath of downtown. And in February, it was in South Georgia that armed white men pursued and killed Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, prompting outrage nationwide."It's been very unnerving," said Lori Mullee, 54, referring not to police brutality or Arbery's death but to the "riots in my backyard." Mullee, a University of Georgia graduate, works in marketing and lives in Stone Mountain, a small city in the Atlanta suburbs that in August was essentially put on lockdown as white supremacist groups and far-left counterprotesters clashed at the city's Confederate monument.Mullee said she used to exercise in the state park surrounding the monument but no longer feels comfortable doing so. (As for the monument itself, she said she did not support efforts to "take down history.") She is voting for Trump in part, she said, because she feels the left has stoked division in cities like hers and beyond.It's not all that surprising that educated white voters in Georgia support Trump. As a recent article in FiveThirtyEight noted, such voters are traditionally more conservative than in other parts of the country. But according to Michael Thurmond, the Democratic chief executive of DeKalb County, it also reflects the degree to which Trump's fear-based message has penetrated the electorate. Biden's success in Georgia, he said, depends on whether he is seen as taking that fear seriously.Democrats could still chip away at Trump's margins with such voters, Thurmond argued, in part by dispelling the notion that supporting racial justice and opposing "rioting and looting" are somehow at odds."You don't have to choose," he said. "But Republicans know that you can sell fear at a very low price. And they've taken the defund-the-police message to mean we don't want any police, which is ridiculous."At the same time, Thurmond said, "we haven't done a very good job in defining what it does mean."Thurmond pointed to McBath as someone trying to wrest the issue back from Republicans. She once again faces Handel in her reelection bid in Georgia's 6th District, among the best-educated congressional districts in the country, and has repeatedly emphasized that she does not want to defund the police."That has never come out of my mouth," she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution last week.That Biden's own insistence against defunding the police hasn't resonated as deeply with white degree-holders in Georgia is in part a function of resources. With multiple true battleground states up for grabs, from Florida to Pennsylvania, Democratic strategists acknowledged that there's only a moderate incentive to divert cash and time to places like Georgia and Texas, tight as the polling may be. Ultimately, Biden has a number of paths to 270 electorate votes should he lose Georgia; Trump, however, has a much narrower path.Trump has visited the state multiple times since taking office, including a rally Friday in Macon. September alone saw campaign swings from Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump. On Sept. 25, the president appeared in Atlanta as part of his Black Voices for Trump initiative, which he launched in the state last fall. During the Republican National Convention, the campaign featured Vernon Jones, a Black Democratic state representative supporting Trump. Following the convention, Jones called on his party to "condemn Black Lives Matter and then antifa."Brian Robinson, a Republican strategist in Georgia, is hopeful that the new Supreme Court vacancy will allow Trump to solidify any incremental gains he has made through his law-and-order message."You're hearing people now saying that they don't like Trump, but that the Supreme Court opening has reminded them why it's important to have a Republican in the White House," he said. "It's another example of people who were wavering before but are now back firmly with Trump."Republicans are also confident that there remain many college-educated white voters whose support for Trump is not reflected in the polls. Indeed, some voters interviewed from the 6th District said images of the riots unfolding across the country this fall had bolstered their support for Trump but declined to speak on the record, saying they feared being stigmatized by their colleagues or neighbors."I do think the polling here is very deceptive," said Jake Evans, 31, an attorney in Atlanta. "Especially in Atlanta, you'll go to dinner with moderate or right-leaning voters who would never say in their workplace that they're voting for Trump, but when you're in private, it's all day, every day."Republican and Democratic pollsters alike, while acknowledging their plausibility, believe there is little evidence that "hidden" Trump voters are numerous enough to affect an election outcome. That Trump's campaign seems to be banking on them at least in part, however, to deliver a win in Georgia, is yet more testament to how in a state that hasn't sent a Democrat to the White House since 1996, every vote counts."I do think Trump is going to win our electoral votes," Robinson predicted. "But it's not going to be a landslide."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company
MACON, Ga. -- President Donald Trump held a rally in Georgia on Friday, 18 days before the November general election. It wasn't a good sign for him.That Trump is still campaigning in what should be a safely Republican state -- and in others that should be solidly in his column like Iowa and Ohio -- is evidence to many Democrats that Joe Biden's polling lead in the presidential race is solid and durable. Trump spent Monday in Arizona, too, a state that was once reliably Republican but where his unpopularity has helped make Biden competitive.For some Democrats, Trump's attention to red states is also a sign of something else -- something few in the party want to discuss out loud, given their scars from Trump's surprise victory in 2016. It's an indication that Biden could pull off a landslide in November, achieving an ambitious and rare electoral blowout that some Democrats think is necessary to quell any doubts -- or disputes by Trump -- that Biden won the election.On one level, such a scenario is entirely plausible based on the weeks and the breadth of public polls that show Biden with leads or edges in key states. But this possibility runs headlong into the political difficulties of pulling off such a win, and perhaps even more, the psychological hurdles for Democrats to entertain the idea. Many think that Trump, having pulled off a stunning win before, could do it again, even if there are differences from 2016 that hurt his chances.This much is clear: Landslide presidential victories have become rare -- the last big one was in 1988, and a more modest one in 2008 -- and Trump is still ahead of or running closely with Biden in many of the states he won in 2016 when the margin of error is factored in.Democrats see flipping states like Texas and Georgia as key to a possible landslide; Texas hasn't voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1976, and Georgia since 1992. A New York Times and Siena College poll published Tuesday found Biden and Trump tied among likely voters in Georgia."Until Democrats win a statewide election, we're not a purple state," said Brian Robinson, a Republican political consultant in Georgia. "We may be a purpling state. But until they win, this is a red state."It is just such a historic rout of Trump that some Democrats increasingly believe is necessary to send a political message to Republicans, a moral one to the rest of the world, and serve a key logistical purpose: getting a clear Electoral College winner Nov. 3, rather than waiting for an extended ballot counting process.To many, a commanding victory that sweeps Democrats to control of the Senate as well would set the stage for a consequential presidency, not just one that evicts Trump."What they're going to need in order to move the country forward is to demonstrate that a ton of people are with him and are aligned with his agenda," said Maria Teresa Kumar, chief executive officer at Voto Latino, a voter mobilization group that has endorsed Biden. "That the people want to address climate change in a big bold way. They want to address health care in a big bold way. And they want to address education in a big bold way."She added: "The only way to make Republicans find a spine is if this is a massive turnout election."For a party still traumatized by the ghosts of 2016, overconfidence and overreach are the last things most Democrats feel or want to project."This race is far closer than some of the punditry we're seeing on Twitter and on TV would suggest," read a memo last week from Biden's campaign manager, Jennifer O'Malley Dillon. "In the key battleground states where this election will be decided, we remain neck and neck with Donald Trump."But even some Republicans have begun talking about a possible drubbing in a second Blue Wave that would power Biden to a huge Electoral College victory and help Democrats retake the Senate.Last week, one Republican, Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, warned constituents of a possible "Republican bloodbath" in November, earning the ire of the president in the process. Conservative media mogul Rupert Murdoch has told friends he expects Biden to win in a landslide, according to a published report he did not deny.Biden's campaign has also stepped up travel to and investment in states that were expected to be out of reach for Democrats -- sending Jill Biden to Texas and scheduling events for Sen. Kamala Harris and her husband in Georgia and Ohio before a staffer tested positive for coronavirus and her travel schedule was limited.But perhaps the biggest sign of an expanded Democratic map is the signals coming out of the Trump campaign as he finds himself in places like Macon rather than trying to expend resources in states Hillary Clinton won in 2016.The subtle shift in thinking among some Democrats -- that the goal for Election Day should not only be to defeat Trump but to do so by a large margin -- is about setting the tone for the post-Trump era.A crushing Electoral College victory, the thinking goes, would deliver an unmistakable rejection of Trump's political brand and minimize the impact of Trump's rhetorical war against mail-in ballots and any attempts to undermine the legitimacy of the election.Biden, a cautious moderate, without the limitless charisma of President Barack Obama, who has portrayed himself as more a transitional figure than a transformative one, might seem an unlikely figure to produce a political tsunami. He has balked at progressive litmus test issues such as the Green New Deal or expanding the number of Supreme Court justices.But Waleed Shahid, a spokesman for Justice Democrats, which seeks to add left-wing Democrats to Congress by challenging more moderate incumbents, said his group is at peace with Biden's current positioning; the goal is to create a movement so vast that Biden has to shift his thinking. This election is the first step, he said."Lincoln was not an abolitionist, F.D.R. not a socialist or trade unionist, and L.B.J. not a civil rights activist," Shahid said. "Three of the most transformative presidents never fully embraced the movements of their time, and yet the movements won because they organized and shaped public opinion."He added: "A major victory would help provide Democrats even more of a mandate to govern through the bold policy unseen since the era of F.D.R. and L.B.J."And Biden, for all his low-key style, has shown signs of thinking big. After all, he promised during the primary not just to win but to beat Trump "like a drum" and restore the "soul of the nation" with a robust rejection of the white grievance politics the administration has embraced.Jon Ossoff, the Democratic candidate in one of the two contested Senate races in Georgia, said he appreciated Biden's greater investment in the state. He argued that a Democratic victory in the state would represent more than an additional Senate seat or 16 electoral votes in a presidential election. He said it would break the Republican vise grip on the South and beat back the "Southern Strategy" of racial division that has kept the region solidly Republican for decades.A win, Ossoff said, would prove "it is no longer possible to divide Southerners on racial lines in order to win elections. Because there will be a multiracial coalition that is demanding more progressive leadership."In a recent interview, former presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke made a similar case in regard to his home state of Texas."Texas, more than any other state, has the ability to decide this on election night," he said. "And what would be so powerful, and have so much political and poetic justice, is if the most voter-suppressed state in the union, with such a diverse electorate, turned out in the greatest numbers that put Joe Biden over the top."The last two weeks have also mobilized a particular wave of optimism among Democratic political operatives based on Trump's erratic performance in the first debate and Biden's surging lead in amassing financial resources for the campaign finale.On Friday, a group of progressives launched a new super PAC for the campaign's final stretch, investing $2.5 million to flip Georgia. The group, called New South, had a clear message for Biden and Democrats: The future of the party is here and the moment to embrace it is now."In Georgia, two Senate races are up for grabs, we have the opportunity to clinch the election for Biden and Harris, and we can flip the state House heading into the crucial redistricting," said Ryan Brown, who leads the group. "Both the stakes and the possibilities of the Georgia elections this year warrant our attention and this large-scale investment."However, voters in both parties reflect tempered expectations shaped by 2016 and Georgia's political history.Robinson, the Republican operative, said he believes polling has oversampled Democratic constituencies."We have seen for years polls showing Democrats tied or ahead in the middle of October," Robinson said. "The media gets in a tizzy, and the Democrats get confidence, and then the Republicans win."He said, "If the polls are tied in Georgia, that means the Republicans are winning."Dennis Jackson, a 58-year-old Democrat who voted early in Atlanta a day before Trump's rally, shared Robinson's skepticism, after the heartbreak of the 2016 election and the 2018 governor's race, when Democrat Stacey Abrams lost to Republican Brian Kemp by a narrow margin."More people are getting involved," Jackson said, "but some people don't know how this goes. I do."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company
On Sept. 23, Dr. Stephen M. Hahn left a virtual meeting of the White House's coronavirus task force to take a call from the president's chief of staff, Mark Meadows.Meadows was angry with Hahn, head of the Food and Drug Administration, for pushing new guidelines for vaccine developers, according to two senior administration officials familiar with the call who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it. The FDA wanted to require two months of follow-up data to make sure a vaccine was safe and effective, all but ensuring one would not be ready by Election Day as President Donald Trump had promised.Meadows told the commissioner the White House would not sign off on the guidance because it was unnecessary and would delay vaccine approval, so he should drop it, the officials said.Hahn had been overruled by the White House before, most notably when the agency caved to the president's desire to authorize malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 despite a lack of evidence. This time, stung by embarrassing scientific misstatements he made at a news conference in late August and concerned about the imperiled scientific credibility of the agency, Hahn would not be as obedient.Meadows; Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and senior adviser; and the president himself have called Hahn directly to urge him to speed up emergency authorization of vaccines and treatments, according to the two senior administration officials.But despite the White House refusal to approve the new vaccine guidance document, the FDA published the guidelines in briefing materials to an advisory committee that will discuss them Thursday, effectively making them official. And nearly two weeks after Trump called the antibody treatment he received when sick with COVID-19 a miraculous "cure" and said that he had authorized it, the FDA has not yet approved it.Internally, Hahn has tried to erect a shield between his staff and White House officials, asking that all calls be routed directly to him and not to his staff. His situation is especially fraught because Trump has openly accused the FDA of engaging in political ploys to harm his reelection chances. Alex M. Azar II, the secretary of health and human services and Hahn's direct superior, has also questioned Hahn's motives in some conversations with the White House, according to multiple officials.A senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, denied that Hahn and Meadows were deeply at odds over the vaccine guidance, saying "the two have a good relationship." Meadows' only concern was that changing the guidance in the middle of ongoing clinical trials could confuse vaccine makers, said the official, who noted that the White House eventually approved it.Alyssa Farah, the White House communications director, said, "The White House has always encouraged the FDA to follow the science and their expert medical viewpoints while also encouraging the FDA to work around the clock to help advance therapeutics and ultimately a vaccine that will save American lives." An FDA spokesman also said that the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services "continue to support the science-based decisions of the agency's career professionals."In what might be the final months of the Trump administration, and close enough to the election to make his firing unlikely, Hahn seems to be trying to save the FDA from the fate of its sister agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, whose scientists have been stripped of much of their authority and independence in responding to the pandemic."It's better late than never, but I do think we can see a lot of damage has been done," said Dr. Jesse L. Goodman, the FDA's chief scientist from 2009 to 2014. "And I don't think they are out of the woods yet."It has been a bleak year for the FDA and morale is low, according to interviews with high- and midlevel employees over the past six months. FDA scientists and policymakers have questioned whether Hahn could preserve their scientific integrity in the face of a president who openly calls them untrustworthy actors of the deep state.Over the past few tumultuous months, Hahn has commiserated with Dr. Robert R. Redfield, director of the CDC, who has also been widely criticized for failing to stand up to the White House. At a late September birthday party for Seema Verma, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services administrator, Redfield and Hahn joked about quitting together to open a restaurant, according to several people who were there.To many FDA scientists, Hahn, an oncologist and former hospital administrator with no experience in Washington, has been a disappointing leader for much of his 10-month tenure. Under his leadership, the FDA authorized hydroxychloroquine for hospitalized COVID-19 patients despite a lack of evidence, only to reverse the decision once the drug was tied to severe side effects.In late August, on the eve of the Republican convention, Hahn made a significant error at a news conference with the president announcing the approval of plasma treatments for COVID-19. The commissioner greatly exaggerated the benefits of the treatment, angering the scientific community. He publicly corrected the record."I think that was really a wake-up call about the legacy of his leadership," said Goodman, now a professor of medicine and infectious diseases at Georgetown University.Indeed, the plasma debacle seems to have been a turning point for Hahn and agency scientists dismayed by the White House's efforts to influence the FDA's actions. Within days, Hahn demoted the new FDA spokeswoman, Emily Miller, who had arranged the White House appearance and also ousted John E. (Wolf) Wagner, who had been installed by White House appointees to run the agency's communications shop.Soon after the plasma announcement, Hahn told top scientists at the FDA that he would handle White House calls in an effort to create what he called a "cocoon" around the agency, according to multiple agency officials who asked not to be identified.Many polls have shown a growing public distrust of the first coronavirus vaccines, and FDA scientists worried that the perception of political meddling in the vetting process would jeopardize their widespread uptake.On Sept. 10, eight high-level directors at the FDA took the unusual step of writing a joint statement, published in USA Today, warning that real or perceived political interference could destroy the agency's credibility with the public. Hahn tweeted his support of the statement and later that day noted that new vaccine guidelines were coming.Some regulators at the FDA were worried about companies rushing early trial data to the agency before enough had been collected to make sound judgments about safety and efficacy. Pfizer's chief executive, Dr. Albert Bourla, had repeatedly dangled the prospect of an early readout of Pfizer's trial data by late October.A growing number of pharmaceutical companies and medical groups were also privately appealing to FDA regulators to give more clarity about what it would take to earn an emergency authorization. The criteria for such authorizations are vague, essentially just calling for potential benefits to outweigh the risks.In early September, a small team of experts in the FDA's Office of Vaccines Research and Review drafted new guidelines, to make its standards unmistakable to drugmakers and reassure jittery Americans that the agency would not cut corners when assessing a vaccine's safety and effectiveness, including after granting an emergency authorization.Within days of submitting the guidelines to the White House, FDA scientists began to fear they would never be made public -- Trump attacked them in a news briefing -- and began discussing how to get them out. They settled on an idea that would most likely draw less attention: including them in the briefing materials for an outside group of vaccine experts scheduled to meet Oct. 22.The maneuver was unusual: Briefing materials for outside advisory groups are typically posted just a few days ahead of the meeting. FDA regulators had expected to provide the guidelines there well after they had been cleared by the White House. But as West Wing officials stalled, agency scientists began to discuss using the upcoming meeting to their advantage.They slipped a condensed version of the guidelines into the appendix of the committee's briefing materials, with reordered paragraphs and a new title, describing it as a summary of advice already given to companies. Dr. Peter Marks, the agency's top regulator for vaccines, has called the recommendations "aspirational" in what some saw as a deliberate effort to downplay their importance to those officials who might obstruct them.Privately, some White House officials argued that the pharmaceutical industry was not in favor of the guidelines. But in fact, executives from Johnson & Johnson and Merck, each with vaccine candidates, called for their release. The biotech industry's trade organization wrote a public letter to the Department of Health and Human Services asking Azar to quickly publish the guidelines and make them available to the public, and Oct. 6, Bourla, Pfizer's top executive, wrote on Twitter that he had faith in the FDA's ability to set standards.The same morning, the FDA's briefing materials were quietly posted online. The White House was given only about an hour's notice, according to a senior administration official. Later that day, the White House surprised top FDA officials and abruptly cleared the guidelines, which were then posted to the FDA website.Scientists at the Food and Drug Administration celebrated on video calls. It was a win for career civil servants -- and for the pharmaceutical industry, which played an important part in helping the agency get the guidelines cleared, some experts said."We think of the coalition of careerists of Dr. Hahn's that struck back, but there were also scientists in industry," said Daniel Carpenter, a professor at Harvard University. "Very few people in industry are going to want to appear as if they were pushing for a product on the president's timeline."The agency's buoyant mood was quickly tempered with trepidation. New disputes continue to emerge: The FDA and the health department have recently tangled, for instance, over whether it is possible to characterize an emergency use authorization for a vaccine as a form of provisional licensure so that Medicare would cover recipients.The commissioner's office has been rampant with rumors that Hahn will be fired, according to three senior administration officials. Although some consider it highly unlikely the president would risk the negative press from such a move, others aren't so sure."The usual rules don't apply to this administration," said Coleen Klasmeier, a former FDA lawyer who is now a partner at Sidley Austin. "My conclusion is nobody is particularly safe, even now."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company
President Donald Trump's reelection campaign committee is entering the critical final stretch of his second bid for the White House with just $63 million left in the bank -- a significant financial deficit for the incumbent compared to his cash-flushed challenger, Joe Biden, the latest campaign disclosure reports show. The sum was a stunning reversal for a campaign that in the spring boasted $180 million more on hand than Biden and Democrats, as the former vice president was coming out of a competitive primary as the presumptive Democratic nominee. Seven months later, the Biden's campaign committee closed out September with $177 million in the bank, which is nearly triple his rival's total.
A U.S. federal appeals court on Tuesday left in place North Carolina's plan for counting absentee ballots that arrive after Election Day, dealing a setback to President Donald Trump's re-election campaign. In a 12-3 decision, the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals denied a bid to halt the North Carolina State Board of Elections from tallying ballots postmarked by Nov. 3 that arrive before Nov. 12. The Trump campaign, the North Carolina Republican Party, and others had sued over the timetable, saying that it violated the state's election code.
One Monday evening last month, Hillary Clinton and Sen. Kamala Harris, and two actors who portrayed them on "Saturday Night Live," Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph, gathered for a virtual fundraiser benefiting the Biden campaign. By all accounts, the livestream was a smashing success: About 100,000 people watched and donated. The event raised $4.4 million.That same night, Joe Biden beamed into a more intimate affair of fewer than two dozen people: a $500,000-per-ticket fundraiser hosted by billionaire financier Haim Saban. It raised even more: $4.5 million.While Biden's campaign has trumpeted the small donations flooding in at record rates, the elite world of billionaires and multimillionaires has remained a critical cog in the Biden money machine.From Hollywood to Silicon Valley to Wall Street, Biden's campaign has aggressively courted the megadonor class. It has raised almost $200 million from donors who gave at least $100,000 to his joint operations with the Democratic Party in the last six months -- about twice as much as President Donald Trump raised from six-figure donors in that time, according to an analysis of new federal records.As the size of checks has grown, the Biden campaign has become less transparent, declining so far to disclose the names of its most influential fundraisers, people known as bundlers who gather large checks from friends and business associates and then deliver them to the campaign.Biden legally must disclose the contributors themselves. And his donor roll includes some of the wealthiest and most prominent Americans: Jeffrey Katzenberg, the Hollywood producer, and his wife, Marilyn Katzenberg, gave $1.4 million. Sean Parker, the tech entrepreneur, and his wife, Alexandra Lenas, gave $1.2 million. And Reed Hastings, the Netflix chief executive, and his wife, Patty Ann Quillin, gave $1.4 million. Top executives with investment, private equity and venture capital firms like Blackstone, Bain Capital, Kleiner Perkins and Warburg Pincus all contributed handsomely.This parade of industry giants delivered a surge in donations even as the progressive base of the Democratic Party agitates against the influence of billionaires and corporate titans. A group of progressives, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, signed a letter last week that reads like a warning shot to a potential Biden administration, urging the Senate to reject any future executive branch nominations of corporate lobbyists or corporate executives."Joe Biden says this is 'Scranton versus Park Avenue' but then he's raising hundreds of millions of dollars from the Park Avenue types," said Tyson Brody, a former research director for Sen. Bernie Sanders who is supporting Biden this fall but wants to see less influence for wealthy donors.Progressives have mostly set aside their differences with Biden to focus on the shared goal of defeating Trump, including over campaign finance. But should he win, Biden is expected to face pressure from the left on a range of issues, including climate change, expansion of the Supreme Court and elimination of the Electoral College."Joe Biden is running against the most corrupt and dishonest president in our history, and has done so while maintaining a standard of transparency and integrity that is far above how his opponent has conducted himself this campaign," said T.J. Ducklo, a spokesman for Biden.For Biden, six-figure donors have been critical in delivering him a surprise financial advantage over Trump. The Democratic challenger entered October with $180 million more in the bank than Trump combined with their political parties -- coincidentally almost the same amount that $100,000-plus contributors have given him.Yet as Biden has vacuumed up giant checks, his campaign has quietly curtailed some of the transparency measures that he had pioneered in the primaries, when he became the first candidate to open up big-money fundraisers to the press. To further loosen some donor wallets, the Biden campaign has been holding closed-door events with some of the candidate's top policy advisers, offering access to potential key decision-makers in a Biden administration.And Biden has broken with the precedent of the past four Democratic presidential nominees and declined to reveal the identities of some of the most important money-raisers in the general election: those bundlers who gather checks on behalf of the campaign."It's troubling that the public is in the dark about these people because they are often promoted to ambassadorships, or other prominent positions in the administration or receive government contracts," said Michael Beckel, an investigator and research director for Issue One, a group that pushes for campaign-finance transparency.After being contacted this week by The New York Times, the Biden campaign said it would disclose its bundlers by the end of the month.Biden is still disclosing more about who is funding his campaign and how much access those donors are getting than Trump, who has kept his fundraisers with big contributors entirely behind closed doors, including some events held at his own businesses where he simultaneously profits.Trump began by self-funding his 2016 campaign during the primaries, vowing to be independent and decrying the influence of major contributors. Instead, he has relied entirely on the largesse of others in his reelection. And he has declined to name his bundlers in 2016 and 2020.Many campaign reformers see Biden as a stark improvement over Trump but hoped he would clear a higher bar."Transparency is key for accountability," Beckel said.Biden's campaign does carefully tally what bundlers raise, and there are various tiers for Biden's bundlers to achieve; the highest level (a "Biden Victory Partner") is set at $2.5 million, according to an internal campaign document and people familiar with the process.The other levels: $50,000 ("Protector"), $100,000 ("Unifier"), $250,000 ("Scranton Circle"), $500,000 ("Philly Founder"), and $1 million ("Delaware League"). Each level on Biden's national finance committee gets added perks, such as exclusive staff briefings and the promise of a post-election event.Biden has disclosed his bundlers only once, burying the announcement on the Friday after Christmas 2019 during the primary season. He revealed 235 people who had raised at least $25,000. Biden has raised more than $1.2 billion since then without additional disclosure.Four years ago, by contrast, Clinton regularly released her list of $100,000 bundlers.Biden officials note that their candidate has actually raised more online from grassroots supporters in recent months than from big donors, and that virtual events have reduced the level of access for six-figure checks down to a Zoom screenshot."As president, Vice President Biden is committed to ensuring that government always puts the public interest first," Ducklo said.In the 2020 primary, Biden opened up all his fundraisers to a small group of reporters, known as a press pool, who could attend and listen to his remarks. The move was partly an effort to blunt criticism from his more progressive rivals, Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who declined to hold big-donor events, casting them as corruptive. Other rivals eventually followed Biden's lead.Yet after Biden became the presumptive nominee and the donation limit skyrocketed -- from $2,800 in the primary to more than $700,000 now, including party funds -- his campaign pulled back on its transparency. Instead of allowing that press pool to watch virtual events with the biggest donors, there has often been only a call-in line provided, obscuring the ability to see who is attending.Rufus Gifford, Biden's deputy campaign manager, called the change "a new format as we enter a new phase of the general election campaign" after it was first implemented unilaterally for a Wall Street fundraiser in May.The policy change received little public or political pushback. So it stayed.Since then, Biden's campaign has also cut off press access to some of his full discussions with his biggest donors, with aides declaring the candidate would engage in a "virtual photo line" after only a couple of questions. In reality, the private conversations between Biden and his financiers can last as much as an hour longer, according to participants, including the one with Saban.The campaign has also been offering access to Biden's policy brain trust for donors willing to pay to attend virtual events and "conversations," according to event invitations.Among those who have been featured are Tony Blinken, Biden's former national security adviser; Jake Sullivan, a top domestic policy adviser; Stef Feldman, the campaign's policy director; Biden's chiefs of staff when he was vice president (Ron Klain, Steve Ricchetti and Bruce Reed) and Michele Flournoy, a possible pick to lead the Defense Department.All those events are kept private; donors must pay extra for a more intimate "clutch" with the featured Biden adviser.Some events are quite targeted, featuring a top economic adviser like Ben Harris (twice in recent days) or Reed (on "the future of energy"). The donation level to attend one clutch this month for an event advertised as "Making Government Great Again: A Virtual Conversation With Two Biden Alums on Leading and Managing the Federal Workforce" was $10,000 or $25,000.Brody, the former Sanders aide, said the sessions allowed the wealthy "special access to the people who set the rules" and an exclusive policy preview."Wouldn't you like a ticket to hear from your future regulator what they're going to do to your industry?" Brody asked. "That's what they're doing."Biden does not accept money from federal lobbyists. But the Democratic National Committee does, and as Politico first reported, Biden's advisers have appeared at some virtual fundraisers organized by lobbying firms -- including Ricchetti, his campaign chairman and a former lobbyist."The country is in an existential crisis," said Steve Elmendorf, a lobbyist and Democratic fundraiser. "Anyone who wants to help get rid of Donald Trump we ought to invite on the team."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company
The majority leader told fellow GOP senators he is "encouraging" the White House to wait until after the election to make a deal.
The California senator angered liberal groups after she praised Trump's Supreme Court nominee and the GOP senator in charge of confirmation hearings.
"Nobody cares about Hunter Biden," said Frank Luntz, who argued that the Trump campaign is focusing on all the wrong issues, The Hill reports.
Looking to undermine rival Joe Biden two weeks before the election, President Donald Trump’s campaign has seized on a tabloid story offering bizarre twists to a familiar line of attack: Biden’s relationship with Ukraine. The origins of the story also trace back to Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who has repeatedly pushed unfounded claims about Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.
Fox News host Sean Hannity took his already over-the-top promotion of the Hunter Biden laptop story to new heights on Tuesday night, setting up a camera outside Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s house and calling for Biden to “walk outside” and do a live interview to “answer these pressing questions.”Over the past few days, Trumpworld has gone all-in on Trump personal attorney Rudy Giuliani’s “October surprise”—a series of New York Post stories centered on materials purportedly from Hunter Biden's laptop that supposedly show “smoking gun” evidence of corruption on the part of the Bidens. The emails that have been disseminated so far, however, do not show any direct wrongdoing.While conservative media has run wild with the story of the supposed corruption involving China and the Ukrainian gas company Burisma, mainstream outlets have shown restraint in reporting it out, due to questions about the provenance of the supposed laptop and materials, Giuliani’s reputation as a hatchet man for President Donald Trump, and concerns it could be part of a targeted disinformation campaign. Credibility concerns around the story reportedly even exist within the Post itself, as reporters declined to have their bylines on the initial story and have decried the “flimsy” journalistic standards of the report.Hannity kicked off his program by noting that Fox News—whose news division reportedly passed on the story initially because of its lack of credibility—is now reporting that a law enforcement official says the FBI concurs that Hunter Biden’s emails and laptop aren’t part of a Russian disinformation plot. He then addressed the former vice president through the camera while the screen showed Biden’s darkened house.“Joe Biden, you have a lot of questions to answer,” Hannity declared. “It’s time for you to answer them. What did you know? When did you know it? Did you take a cut of your son’s seedy international pay for play schemes?”The informal Trump adviser then issued his challenge to the ex-veep.“I know it’s 9 p.m. Eastern, Joe, but if you are still awake, we have a camera right outside of your house—right there, right now,” he exclaimed, pointing forward. “You could walk outside of your house, leave your basement bunker, step out and answer these pressing questions. We will be happy to hear you out.”Moments later, with the camera still focused on Biden’s home, the pro-Trump host said the emails show “Joe and Hunter Biden’s scheme might be legitimate” before touting a supposedly damning photograph of the Bidens with a Kazakh oligarch.“This picture obtained by the New York Post allegedly shows Joe and Hunter alongside that Kazakh oligarch who wired Hunter Biden and his firm $142 grand earmarked for a brand new car,” Hannity said. “And now Fox News cannot independently verify the photograph but, guess what? Joe said he never spoke to his son about his overseas business dealings. So Joe, do you care to explain the picture?” Notably, the Post also reported they were unable to independently verify the photograph, but still decided to publish it.“Joe, if this is a really big smear campaign as you suggested over the weekend when you got one hard question that wasn’t about your milkshake—you can come outside, that’s Joe Biden’s house, his bunker is inside and the outside light is on,” Hannity said, once again pointing through the screen. “Come out and tell us why. Now we’re all ears, you have a full hour of the show. It’s all yours.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
With two weeks until Election Day, the clock is ticking for Republicans as Democrats reprise their successful midterm strategy of warning that the administration and the GOP want to end mandated coverage for preexisting medical conditions.
“We've got to get the attorney general to act,” the president said in a telephone interview with “Fox & Friends.” “He's got to act. And he’s got to act fast.”
Like so many modern election sagas, it started with a tweet.In 2019, Jena Griswold, the newly installed secretary of state in Colorado, saw a tweet falsely claiming that her state's election system had been hacked, using a picture of voting equipment as evidence."It wasn't equipment that we even use in the state of Colorado," Griswold, a Democrat, said. Though her office was able to contact Twitter and take the tweet down within an hour, the flare-up was yet another reminder of just how pervasive election misinformation had become since the 2016 presidential election.To prevent deceptive tweets, doctored videos and other forms of misinformation from undermining Colorado's elections, Griswold is starting a new initiative that will run ads on social media and expand digital outreach to help voters identify foreign misinformation.The operation in Colorado comes as Griswold and other secretaries of state are bracing for a deluge of misinformation about voting as Election Day draws closer, forced to defend a decentralized election system that has shown a particular weakness to the effects of rumors and outright lies.In September, the FBI issued a joint statement with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, part of the Department of Homeland Security, warning that foreign actors and cybercriminals are likely to "spread false information in an attempt to discredit the electoral process and undermine confidence in U.S. democratic institutions."Griswold's new initiative builds on an operation she set up this year within the secretary of state's office. She hired Nathan Blumenthal, a former counterterrorism official at the Department of Homeland Security, to run the three-person operation, which in turn has hired outside vendors to help identify misinformation online, whether it is going viral on social media or lurking on obscure message boards.The office will also buy Google ads against relevant search terms whenever a piece of misinformation begins to gain attention in an effort to help slow its spread. For example, if someone were to claim Colorado's ballots were lost in a fire, the office could buy ads off searches for "Colorado ballot fire" and get the top results, with the ads providing real information. And it is kicking off a public awareness campaign using Facebook ads that will direct voters to check the secretary's website, using the tagline "Opinions are fun, facts are better."Yet while Griswold is undertaking this new effort, and statewide election officials in states like California and Ohio operate similar programs, not all states have set up operations to combat misinformation.That is partly because state election offices are among the most overworked and underfunded public agencies in the country, especially this year. When multiple nonpartisan organizations estimated that state offices would need approximately $2 billion in funding for the 2020 election, Congress gave them just $400 million as part of its pandemic relief efforts.Major social media platforms have taken up some of the slack with their own plans to halt the spread of misinformation. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have all cracked down on pages promoting the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory, and Twitter said it was changing some basic features to slow the way information flows on its network.But Griswold faulted both the federal and corporate responses to misinformation."Absolutely not enough is being done," she said. "We have a lack of leadership in the White House and the Senate. We have good pieces of legislation just sitting in the queues that have not been moved forward."In 2018, Alex Padilla, secretary of state of California, created the first state-level anti-misinformation operation, the Office of Election Cybersecurity.It established a statewide email distribution list from the secretary's office to inform voters about misinformation. It also created VoteSure, an initiative that established a reporting mechanism for misinformation and ran voter-education ads on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.Since 2018, Padilla said, one of the toughest challenges has been the sheer volume of misinformation about elections."There is a number of persons behind it, both foreign and domestic, and the technology to amplify so quickly; it's frustrating to feel like you're constantly playing catch up," Padilla, a Democrat, said. "But we've been fairly successful in directing people toward the official reliable information."Misinformation and security experts said that the initiatives by secretaries of state like Griswold were needed in the effort to shore up faith in elections but that they were also indicative of how the issue had not been properly addressed at the federal level."It's great that state election officials have taken a proactive approach to combat disinformation," said Melissa Ryan, chief executive of Card Strategies, a consulting firm that researches misinformation. "But it isn't their job, and it's work done on top of their likely already strained capacity."There is an advantage to running such operations at the state level. Local election officials are more likely to be familiar to voters in their own state and therefore can be effective messengers against misinformation."I think this is exactly the sort of operation that all secretaries of state should be running," said Nina Jankowicz, a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. "Local officials are often more highly trusted than their federal counterparts."Frank LaRose, secretary of state of Ohio, has confronted situations similar to the one Griswold faced in Colorado. In 2019, he recalled, a social media user posted deceptively edited video online, trying to show that he was able to vote multiple times in Ohio."Our foreign adversaries know they can't hack elections, but they can hack voters," LaRose, a Republican, said. "When it takes its ugliest form is when it encourages people to self-disenfranchise, to make people not want to vote, and that's where a lot of our efforts have been focused."Soon after the 2019 incident, he began instructing members of his office to make misinformation the top priority in their portfolio. He also set up an email address to report misinformation and directed the election offices in all 88 counties in Ohio to sign up for verified Twitter accounts and .gov websites to prevent spoofing. And he began reaching out to trusted community leaders, particularly in minority communities, who could help him get the facts out when misinformation began to take hold.Griswold has been making similar connections with groups in Colorado, such as Mi Familia Vota, a national Latino voting group, and the Ministerial Alliance, a group of Black religious leaders in Colorado.But she is also looking beyond Election Day, recognizing that the period of potential uncertainty when results are still being counted is just as vital to combating misinformation as the months leading up to it."This isn't going to stop when the election stops," Griswold said. "It's very important that as a nation we really stand up to push back against one of the biggest threats to our democracy and our election system."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company
A full 50 percent of President Trump’s supporters now believe the bizarre, false claims of the extremist conspiracy theory known as QAnon.
"It is no secret that this election is more contentious than in years past," Terence Monahan, the New York City Police Department's Chief of Department told a briefing. Monahan said there has been no intelligence pointing to the prospect of violence surrounding the contest between U.S. President Donald Trump and his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, but that the force would be ready for whatever may occur. In line with previous elections, a member of the police force would be present at each of the 1,201 polling stations across the city on election day, Monahan said.
The Justice Department said Monday that President Donald Trump should not be sued personally for having denied a rape allegation because he made the statement while acting in his official capacity as president.Lawyers for the government made the argument as they defended Attorney General William Barr's decision to intervene in a defamation lawsuit filed in a New York court against Trump by E. Jean Carroll, a writer.Carroll has said that Trump raped her in a department store two decades ago and then falsely denied the attack while in office, branding her a liar and harming her reputation.But Justice Department lawyers say that even though the allegation concerns an incident that occurred decades before Trump became president, his denial was still an official act because he "addressed matters relating to his fitness for office as part of an official White House response to press inquiries.""Given the president's position in our constitutional structure, his role in communicating with the public is especially significant," the Justice Department wrote, adding, "The president's statements fall within the scope of his employment for multiple reasons."On Sept. 8, the Justice Department took the highly unusual step of seeking to intervene on Trump's behalf even though the lawsuit concerns a claim of defamation stemming from an event that allegedly occurred in the 1990s, long before Trump became president.Using a law designed to protect federal employees from defamation suits when they perform their duties, Barr sought to transfer the lawsuit from state court to U.S. District Court in Manhattan and to substitute the federal government for Trump as the defendant.That maneuver, if approved by a judge, would have the practical effect of dismissing Carroll's lawsuit because government employees enjoy immunity from most defamation claims.Earlier this month, Carroll's lawyers attacked the effort in court papers, asking a federal judge, Lewis A. Kaplan, to reject it."There is not a single person in the United States -- not the president and not anyone else -- whose job description includes slandering women they sexually assaulted," Carroll's lawyers wrote.In its filing Monday, however, the Justice Department argued that Trump had not slandered Carroll but merely rebutted her allegations. That fell within the scope of his official role as president, the department said, because a claim of rape -- even a false one -- could have an impact on his job.Carroll's allegations "sought to call into question the president's fitness for office and a response was necessary for the president to effectively govern," the Justice Department said. "The president's challenged statements were directly relevant to his role as president and leader of the executive branch."The controversy over the case even arose during a presidential campaign event last week, when the Democratic candidate, Joe Biden, alluded to it, among other examples, to accuse Trump of treating the Justice Department "as if it's your own law firm.""'I'm being sued because a woman's accusing me of rape. Represent me. Represent me,'" Biden said sarcastically, as if speaking in the president's voice, adding, "What's that all about?"A day after the requested transfer of the case, Barr told reporters in Chicago that it was routine to substitute the government as the defendant in lawsuits against federal officials and that the action was taken at the White House's request."The law is clear," Barr said. "It is done frequently. And the little tempest that's going on is largely because of the bizarre political environment in which we live."In their court papers attacking the government's move, Carroll's lawyers, Roberta A. Kaplan and Joshua Matz, acknowledged that while it may be typical for the government to take the place of low-level federal employees like letter carriers when they are sued, it was not normal to do so for the president.Carroll, a longtime advice columnist for Elle magazine, wrote in a book published last year and in excerpts in New York magazine that Trump attacked her in a dressing room in the luxury Manhattan department store Bergdorf Goodman in the mid-1990s.According to Carroll's account, Trump had stopped her and said, "Hey, you're that advice lady!"She claimed Trump threw her against a wall, pulled down her tights, opened his pants and raped her.In response, Trump denied that he had ever met Carroll and accused her of lying, adding, "She's not my type." In a written statement, Trump also said Carroll was "trying to sell a new book."He added, "It should be sold in the fiction section."In her lawsuit, filed in November, Carroll said Trump's defamatory statement had led her to lose goodwill and the support of her readers.The defamation suit is a legal tactic that at least one other woman, Summer Zervos, a former contestant on "The Apprentice," Trump's reality television show, has adopted in an effort to force the president to give a sworn deposition about her allegation that she was sexually harassed. Several women accused Trump of sexual harassment and assault during the 2016 election; he denied all the allegations, calling them liars.In the Carroll lawsuit, Trump, initially represented by private lawyers, tried to delay the case on grounds that as a sitting president, he was immune to civil lawsuits in state court.But in August, a New York state judge, Verna L. Saunders, denied his request. She cited a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court this summer, which rejected a claim by Trump that, as president, he was immune from a state criminal investigation. That dispute arose after the Manhattan district attorney's office subpoenaed Trump's accountants for his tax returns.The judge's ruling meant that Trump would have to provide a DNA sample, as requested by Carroll's lawyers, to determine whether it matched material on the dress Carroll said she was wearing during the encounter.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company
The hosts of Fox & Friends sat back and remained silent on Tuesday morning as right-wing radio host Tony Katz repeatedly ridiculed Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s well-known stutter.During an interview on President Donald Trump’s favorite morning show, co-host Ainsley Earhardt brought up the Commission on Presidential Debates’ decision to allow for the candidates’ microphones to be muted during Thursday’s presidential debate—a direct reaction to Trump’s repeated interruptions during the first debate.After Katz, a frequent Fox News guest, said that this was a “miserable idea” and wondering aloud why they don’t just use “shock collars” while they’re at it, he then took aim at the former vice president and his speech impediment.“The bigger story here is that we are the ones that we don’t get to hear President Trump or Vice President Biden,” he declared. “They are going to hear each other. So now you have Vice President Biden with Donald Trump disagreeing with him or interrupting him possibly and all you will hear is a stuttering Vice President Joe Biden.”“Haven’t we heard enough stuttering Vice President Joe Biden?” Katz continued with his mockery. “Is this really the imagery the Democratic Party wants to put out there? It’s a mistake on their part more than anything.”Despite Katz having just made fun of the ex-veep’s stutter, the hosts ignored his comments. Instead, co-host Brian Kilmeade immediately joined in with Katz on blasting the debate commission’s decision.“I also think it’s disrespectful for a future president or current president to be muted by some moderator or reporter at any time,” Kilmeade grumbled. “I think it’s a bad policy.”Katz is just the latest conservative to openly mock Biden over his lifelong struggle with stammering, something the former vice president has spoken candidly about while offering advice to other stutterers.Former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders apologized last year after taunting Biden for stuttering during a Democratic primary debate, claiming she was unaware of his speech impediment. And the president’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump also insisted she didn’t know the former vice president has a stutter after she was recently called out for poking fun at Biden’s speaking ability.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
The person taking the oath of office Jan. 20 will face an economic mess.That will be true whether that's Joe Biden or Donald Trump, and true whether or not the off-and-on negotiations over a new round of pandemic relief yield anything.Given mass failures of small businesses and continuing astronomical numbers of people filing for jobless benefits, the president will face a situation uncannily similar to the crisis Biden and President Barack Obama faced a dozen years earlier. If it is Biden who comes to power, along with Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, he will have something rare: the chance to look at the lessons of recent history and have a do-over.Obama's first legislative priority, the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, shows what can go wrong when the government spends money on a mass scale to fix an economic crisis. Mainstream economists judge that the legislation helped stabilize financial markets and start an economic expansion that would last a decade. But it also proved underpowered and politically toxic, with lasting consequences for Obama's presidency.It offered fuel for the president's enemies to portray him as a profligate deficit spender. Yet it was also insufficient to generate a robust recovery; the unemployment rate the month of the 2010 midterm elections was 9.8%, nearly as high as it had been a year earlier. That combination of a weak recovery with the perception of wasteful spending helped Republicans retake the House of Representatives.Most voters never agreed with the view of economists that the recession would have been worse if not for the stimulus bill. In 2010, for example, only 35% of Americans in a Pew survey believed that the legislation had helped keep unemployment from getting worse. By contrast, 80% of economists surveyed in 2012 said the legislation had resulted in a lower jobless rate that year.The lesson: If you are going to shoot your shot at fixing the economy, you had best go big enough to not merely stop it from collapsing, but also to get a boom underway. Failure will doom an administration to unpopularity and stymie a broader agenda.The same economic challenges will apply if Trump is reelected, though the likely policy approach would be different. In negotiations over pandemic relief spending, the administration has embraced help for businesses, including protecting them from virus-related legal liability. And many Republican senators have opposed a new large-scale stimulus, despite tweets from the president advocating it. His allies have argued that the administration's strategy of deregulation and low taxes will create a robust recovery as public health concerns ebb.Jon Lieber, an analyst who tracks U.S. politics for Eurasia Group, projects that a Trump victory and Republican retention of Senate control would result in pandemic-related stimulus of around $600 billion. Democrats are looking at much more, with Lieber projecting $2.5 trillion to $3.5 trillion in the event of a Biden victory and a Democratic retaking of the Senate.The scale of that possible fiscal action reflects a consensus among liberal-leaning economists -- including those advising Biden: that the risk of doing too little to get the economy back on a path to prosperity is greater than the potential downside of doing too much."We have much better tools for tamping down growth that is too fast than we have the tools to boost an economy that's too weak," said Wendy Edelberg, director of the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution and a former chief economist at the Congressional Budget Office. "Once our economy gets into a slow-growth, grinding scenario, it is very difficult to change that course."At the same time, a sharp drop in interest rates even as budget deficits have risen has led many centrist and left-leaning economists to worry less about debt than they did in the Obama years. And Republican support for a $1.5 trillion tax cut in 2017 and a $2.2 trillion pandemic relief bill this past spring have helped reduce sticker shock over 13-figure cost estimates.Edelberg published a paper with Louise Sheiner this month estimating that $2 trillion in fiscal stimulus would bring the economy back to its pre-pandemic growth path by the third quarter of 2021. In the absence of any action, they estimate, it could take as long as a decade.Biden has cited his work on the 2009 stimulus bill, boasting of his work to prevent fraud and of the role the recovery act played in supporting state and local governments and clean energy. In discussing his 2021 agenda, he has promised "the kinds of investment that will stimulate the economy" and "to get back to full employment fast and help build back better than before."Those who advise him say he is aware of the historical echoes."Joe Biden doesn't want to come into office and sit on a sloggy economy for four, six, eight quarters," said Jared Bernstein, who advised Biden during his vice presidency and does so now. "If he gets the chance, I suspect there will be real motivation to do this deeply, effectively and quickly."In particular, Bernstein said, a Biden administration would seek "high-multiplier" policies that funnel money to people and businesses that need it and are likely to spend it, helping funds circulate through the economy quickly to fuel growth.The Obama administration's miscalculations were both political and economic. The economy was in such free fall over the winter of 2008-9 that estimates of the shortfall in economic activity that fiscal stimulus might seek to replace were constantly behind the curve. A deeply unpopular bank bailout, passed by the Bush administration but implemented by the Obama team, fueled outrage, and many voters conflated the two. Political advisers in the White House believed that if they sought more than $1 trillion in fiscal aid, the political backlash would be so severe as to risk getting nothing.Both political and economic aides misunderstood some of the ways politics and economics could intersect in a severe recession like that one."We absolutely thought that Congress would want to do multiple high-profile rounds of stimulus if the economy was worse than expected," said Jason Furman, an Obama economic adviser who is now at Harvard. "We thought Congress running for re-election in 2010 would want to be seen doing something to help the economy so they could campaign on it. We didn't realize how unpopular it was going to be by then."Details of a Biden stimulus would depend on what, if any, fiscal action is enacted before January; how the economy evolves between now and then; and the size of any Senate majority Democrats might obtain (if Republicans retain the chamber, a stimulus would be curtailed significantly). Campaigning, Biden has emphasized relief efforts that would include significant help for green energy, low-income households, and state and local governments. It would probably be similar to the $3 trillion pandemic relief legislation that House Democrats passed in the spring, Biden allies and outside analysts said.A crucial question for any Biden stimulus would be how Democrats approach legislative strategy in the Senate.In 2009, the Obama administration secured a 60-vote supermajority in the Senate needed to overcome a Republican filibuster by winning over three Republicans. But that would be an unappealing pathway should Biden find himself in a similar spot in early 2021.Even if Democrats were to win the Senate, it would probably be a narrow majority, meaning more Republicans would be needed to get to 60 "yes" votes for stimulus. There are also fewer centrist Republicans today whose votes are likely to be available in 2021.And the history of 2009 applies. Negotiations with Republicans led to a smaller bill and one with more components that Obama's aides viewed as ineffective. The three Republican votes, in other words, displayed little bipartisanship, and diluted the bill's economic impact.In 2021, a Democratic Senate would have two options to go it alone. It could use "reconciliation," a budget process that allows tax and spending legislation to be enacted with a simple majority vote. But this would put strict limits on what the bill could do, ruling out many regulatory or other provisions that the Senate parliamentarian might declare ineligible.Then there is the option of eliminating the 60-vote filibuster rule, which would open the door for more expansive policymaking on all fronts, but could prove politically unpopular and would have far-reaching consequences for how Congress works.That's unlikely to happen right away, said Lieber, the Eurasia Group analyst and a former adviser to Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader: "They need to set up the political argument first that, 'We tried working with Republicans on the puppy dogs and grandmas act and they filibustered it, and then the ice-cream-for-everyone act and they filibustered that.' "A central tension for Democrats would be between a focus on policies that get money out the door quickly and can seed a speedy economic rebound, versus those that take place more slowly but can create more lasting change.To many in the Biden orbit who lived through the toxic politics of the 2009 stimulus, the urgency of doing more than papering over a rough patch in the economy is a particularly vivid lesson."There was a mantra in 2009 of stimulus being 'timely, targeted and temporary,' " said Heather Boushey, president of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth. "That seemed right for the problem we were solving then. This problem feels different because it's unearthed these really important structural challenges that need to be solved."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company
President Donald Trump’s sprawling political operation has raised well over $1 billion since he took the White House in 2017 — and set a lot of it on fire. Trump bought a $10 million Super Bowl ad when he didn’t yet have a challenger. Aides made flashy displays of their newfound wealth — including a fleet of luxury vehicles purchased by Brad Parscale, his former campaign manager.
President Donald Trump pushed into arguably the most important state on the electoral map on Tuesday, opting for a rally in Pennsylvania instead of formal debate practice two days ahead of the final presidential debate that may be his last, best chance to alter the trajectory of the 2020 campaign. Democrat Joe Biden took the opposite approach, holing up for debate prep in the leadup to Thursday's faceoff in Nashville.
Fifty-two percent of adults say they don't trust what President Trump has said about his health since testing positive for Covid-19 in the NBC News|SurveyMonkey Weekly Tracking poll.
“Until solar and wind power take more of the energy load, I like not paying an arm and a leg to heat my house.”
“It is imperative to ramp down greenhouse gas emissions as quickly as possible.”
“Any kind of ban on fracking would cause severe damage to our stressed economy.”
“Climate scientists are urging us to leave all fossil fuels in the ground so that they’ll never be burned. That includes natural gas.”
“Any immediate economic repercussions to the economy can be offset if oil-and-gas companies are made to pay their fair share.”