While President Donald Trump announced in a TV interview this morning he’s pulling out of the next debate, citing organizers’ announcement that it would be virtual, who knows whether the door really is shut on the Oct. 15 showdown.
That’s what the Chicago member of the Commission on Presidential Debates, which sponsors and organizes the debates, tells The Spin. The ink was barely dry on the commission’s announcement about the changed format for the Oct. 15 debate, and Trump was on Fox Business News, saying: “I’m not going to do a virtual debate.” He raised concerns about being “cut off” or muted and said it’s not the right way to hold a debate.
The campaigns may offer the debate commission new ideas — perhaps even an outdoor location — that could be taken up by the organizers, said Newton Minow, a Chicago attorney and former Federal Communications Commission chairman.
“Anything can happen in the future — believe me, we’ve seen that this year 1/4 u201a” Minow told The Spin with a chuckle.
The commission announced that the candidates would be beamed in from remote locations for the debate “to protect the health and safety of all involved.” The changed format comes a week after Trump announced he had been diagnosed with COVID-19 and was subsequently hospitalized.
This morning, we learned U.S. Senate candidate Willie Wilson, a third-party candidate running against Democratic incumbent Dick Durbin, has tested positive for COVID-19 and now will quarantine for 10 days.
And more infighting at Chicago’s Police Department’s largest union. Kevin Graham, the former president of the Chicago lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, has been suspended from the organization for three years after leaving behind a tiny camera that continued to record in his old office unbeknown to successor and rival John Catanzara, officials say. Graham, who lost his bid for another term as FOP president earlier this year to Catanzara, has denied any wrongdoing.
Welcome to The Spin.
It all started with President Trump scoffing at the notion of a virtual debate with Democratic rival Joe Biden after organizers this morning announced the change in format for the Oct. 15 debate.
Now, Trump and Biden are tossing out new dates and formats, with each rejecting the other’s ideas, leaving the question of whether last week’s showdown would be their one and only before the Nov. 3 election.
“I’m not going to do a virtual debate,” Trump told Fox Business News, moments after the Commission on Presidential Debates announced the changes.
“That’s not acceptable to us. I beat him easily in the first debate,” the president said. “I’m not going to waste my time on a virtual debate. That’s not what debating is all about ... they cut you off whenever they want.”
The debate commission held a vote via videoconference yesterday and decided unanimously that candidates should debate from remote locations, Minow, the Chicago member of the debate commission, told The Spin.
Asked whether the president’s COVID-19 diagnosis and fears he may still be infectious played a role, Minow said: “Our thought process is based on safety first — and the medical advice. In view of the spread of the pandemic ... we felt safety required that we move to a virtual debate, which has happened before.”
He pointed to the third presidential debate in 1960 between then-Democratic candidate John F. Kennedy and Republican Richard M. Nixon, who were brought together via remote link from opposite coasts.
Told that Trump was irritated about the debate commission’s unilateral decision and that he thought it might give Biden a leg up, Minow said the organization is nonpartisan and that neither campaign was consulted.
Biden vs. Trump on the debates, an update via The Associated Press: After the president and his reelection campaign said this morning he was pulling out of the Oct. 15 matchup, Biden’s advisers suggested it could be pushed back a week to Oct. 22. Trump’s team accepted that date but said a third debate should happen on Oct. 29 — just before Election Day — and said it wouldn’t accept virtual substitutes. Biden’s team rejected the late October debate.
Strong or Shaky? Black turnout for Biden in these 3 Midwestern cities viewed as key in race vs. Trump – The Tribune’s Bill Ruthhart is on the campaign trail and writes, "When Democrats lost the presidency to Donald Trump four years ago, their biggest vote drop-offs were centered on a trio of Midwestern Rust Belt cities with large Black populations — Detroit, Milwaukee and Cleveland. This year, all three anchor battleground states that Democratic nominee Joe Biden hopes to reclaim for his party, and recent polls show him in the lead.
“But in 2016, Democrat Hillary Clinton led some of the same October polls in Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio only to lose them all,” Ruthhart writes, adding that in recent “interviews with more than 60 Black local elected officials, religious leaders, grassroots organizers and voters in visits to all three cities reflect a shakier situation — one where there is often little enthusiasm among African American voters for Biden and prevalent concerns that the campaign has to do more to improve turnout.” Read the rest of the story here.
Road to November: In Illinois’ graduated-income tax debate, both sides find threat of a tax on retirement benefits a powerful motivator with elderly voters – The Tribune’s Rick Pearson has the details here.
Chicago early voting locations 2020: Where to cast your ballot in the city, suburbs before Nov. 3: My Tribune colleagues Chad Yoder and Jonathon Berlin have the details here.
More on what you need to know about voting in Chicago’s suburbs: Sarah Freishtat takes a closer look in this Aurora Beacon-Beacon news piece.
In sum, the moderator needed to ask shorter, more direct questions of Republican Mike Pence and Democratic challenger Kamala Harris in last night’s vice presidential debate and rein them in when they veered off topic, says Todd Graham, the debate director at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale and an expert on presidential debates.
Moderator Susan Page, of USA Today, asked in a roundabout way whether Harris had talked to Biden and if Pence had talked to Trump about stepping into the role of president should either suffer a disability that makes them unable to run the country.
Pence ducked the question altogether, saying “let me go back” and defending the White House’s COVID-19 response, Graham points out, directing people to double-check the transcript here.
While Harris didn’t say she and Biden had a discussion, Graham argues, she did tick off a curriculum vitae that includes district attorney of San Francisco, attorney general of California and now a sitting U.S. senator representing California.
“She absolutely answered it because she said why she was qualified, she said what she’s done in her role as attorney general, that she’s a U.S. senator and the works she’s done there, which is all to show her answer to the question, ‘Yes I can take over,’” Graham said.
Before Biden’s running mate Kamala Harris made history as the first Black woman to appear on a vice presidential debate stage, four of Illinois highest-profile Black female politicians cheered her on in a watch party Wednesday night. Illinois Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton, Cook County state’s attorney Kim Foxx, Cook County clerk Karen Yarbrough and Illinois U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly joined Cameron Joost, state director for the Biden campaign, to make the case for the Biden-Harris ticket.
Echoing other Democrats over the past week, their arguments for Biden included stern lectures on President Trump and how the White House responded to its own coronavirus outbreak.
Stratton was grateful the president was on the mend but said, “I am discouraged, however, that his own experience with the virus did not result in a shred of empathy or compassion. … It is insulting. It is cruel. It is dangerous, and it is the latest chapter in the nightmare that we’ve all been forced to endure for these last four years.”
Foxx said she had hoped Trump’s diagnosis meant he’d be more understanding of the toll the coronavirus pandemic has inflicted on Americans. But instead, according to her, “What have we got? We’ve gotten a series of tweets over the last two days that have dangled resources in front of communities and then taking them back, conspiracy theories leveling out of allegations and accusations here, there and everywhere. We’ve got people wondering, Is this an issue of steroid rage, or someone who’s lost their grip on reality?” (Alice Yin)
Mayor Lightfoot issued a statement after last night’s debate, praising Harris, whom she met with in Chicago when the senator was still in the mix as a Democratic presidential candidate. “Kamala Harris exposed the profound leadership failures of the Trump-Pence administration. Platitudes and empty rhetoric by Mike Pence cannot paper over Donald Trump’s worst transgressions.
“Kamala Harris is committed to building our economy back better, protecting healthcare access and guaranteeing equity and justice for all Americans.”
Review: Late-night looks for laughs touched by COVID-19, upstaged by fly – My Tribune colleague Steve Johnson has the report here.
From the Tribune’s Rick Pearson: “Willie Wilson, the entrepreneur and frequent candidate for political office who is mounting an independent challenge to Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, announced Thursday he has tested positive for COVID-19 and will begin a 10-day quarantine.
“‘I am experiencing mild symptoms at this time. However, I am confident that we will beat COVID-19,’” said Wilson, 72, a food and medical service glove distributor who also has his own gospel orchestra and record distribution company.”
Pearson notes: “Wilson was at Chicago’s early voting site as it opened to voters on Oct. 1, strolling the line of voters and offering fist bumps.” Read the rest of the story here.
The latest on stimulus talks Washington: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she’s ‘at the table’ after Trump scrapped COVID-19 relief talks. Read the Associated Press story here.
Related: Cook County launches $20 million suburban mortgage assistance program as hope for more federal COVID-19 relief runs thin - The Tribune’s Alice Yin has the details here.
Illinois daily count of new COVID-19 cases tops 3,000 for first time since May: The Tribune’s Dan Petrella has the details here.
Illinois confirms COVID-19 outbreaks in 44 schools this school year but won’t say where they occurred: The Tribune’s Jennifer Smith Richards and ProPublica Illinois' Jodi S. Cohen have the details here.
‘Wisconsin is what happens when you politicize public health,’ Mayor Lightfoot says: The Tribune’s Gregory Pratt has the details here.
Chicago’s outdoor dining design competition winners announced: A cozy cabin, block modules and heated tables — The Tribune’s Grace Wong writes about it here.
Wilmette’s last American Legion post, named after a soldier who died during the pandemic of 1918, is disbanding: ‘COVID was the final straw’ — Karen Ann Cullotta has the details in the Pioneer Press.
Agents foiled a stunning plot to kidnap Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, authorities said Thursday in announcing charges in an alleged scheme that involved months of planning and even rehearsals to snatch her from her vacation home, the Associated Press reports in this piece.
The Tribune’s Gregory Pratt reports: Asked to react to the unfolding situation in Michigan, Chicago’s Democratic mayor said “it’s chilling” and added, “I think all roads lead back to Donald Trump.”
Lightfoot specifically singled out an April post where Trump tweeted, “Liberate Michigan!”
“Unfortunately, every single time he attacks a public official and I know this personally, there are those who take that as license to come after us,” Lightfoot said. “The level of hatred that has been spewed towards me every time the president or his spokesperson uses my name in public, not just attacking the city but me personally, and I know this is the experience of other mayors and other elected officials across the country.” Read the full Tribune story here.
City news: Mayor Lightfoot touts PepsiCo, JPMorgan Chase programs to boost lending, job training - The companies are pledging to do more in Chicago on both fronts. Gregory Pratt has the Tribune story here.
Owner of clout-heavy fuel distribution firm embroiled in federal corruption probe accused in bankruptcy court of lying under oath: Black Dog Chicago LLC and Amit Gauri “have been under fire since they were each named in federal search warrants and subpoenas filed in September 2019 in a sweeping political corruption investigation of former state Sen. Martin Sandoval and a number of suburban mayors and industry heavyweights, including Illinois' so-called Asphalt King, Michael Vondra,” the Tribune’s Jason Meisner writes. Read the story here.
With the nation’s highest court set to hear arguments in a case that could decide the fate of the Affordable Care Act next month, Illinois Democrats are warning that a repeal would mean 300,000-plus Cook County residents could lose insurance benefits, the Tribune’s Alice Yin writes.
The domino effect could put further strain on the already financially strapped Cook County hospital system, the county’s largest provider of uncompensated charity care.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said at a news conference with several Democratic congressmen this week: “Here’s the bottom line: The repeal of the ACA would not only financially cripple Cook County Health by dramatically increasing the amount of uncompensated health care we provide, it would be catastrophic — catastrophic — for the patients we serve.” Read the full story here.
From the Tribune’s Jeremy Gorner: “Kevin Graham, the former president of the Chicago Police Department’s largest union, was suspended from the organization for three years on Wednesday for leaving behind a tiny camera that continued to record in his old office while it was occupied by his successor, and not telling him about it, officials said.
“Graham, however, has denied any wrongdoing and plans to appeal the decision.
“In an interview with the Tribune Wednesday evening, Graham indicated the decision by the Chicago lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police was flawed since it was handed down by union officials aligned with John Catanzara, the current FOP president, who won Graham’s spot earlier this year by defeating him in an election.” Read the full story here.
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