Politics News

Trump, Biden to face off from Nashville in final presidential debate of 2020

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty ImagesBy LIBBY CATHEY, ABC News

(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) -- President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee, face off in the final presidential debate of the 2020 election cycle from Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee on Thursday night, marking the candidates’ last chance to pitch themselves to tens of millions of voters in primetime before Nov. 3.

The stakes are high: Trump must make his case as polls show him trailing nationally and in several battleground states key to his reelection hopes. At the same time, Biden has a platform to solidify his lead and avoid any major mistakes with Election Day just 12 days away.

Biden has spent the week hunkered down in Wilmington, Delaware, to prepare -- what he's done before other debates -- while Trump has seemingly done less to prepare, telling reporters on Wednesday, "I do prep, I do prep," without elaborating. Earlier this week, Trump said that answering journalists' questions is the best kind of preparation.

Thursday's debate was supposed to be the candidates' third matchup but is instead the second of only two presidential debates this election. Trump refused to participate in the second debate when it was moved to a virtual format following his COVID-19 diagnosis. The candidates ultimately participated in dueling town halls instead.

In the wake of that cancelled second showdown and a chaotic first debate before it, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced earlier this week it would mute candidates’ microphones at certain points Thursday to avoid interruptions in an apparent effort to take back control of the event.

“We're not making a new rule. We're just enforcing the rule that both candidates agreed to right in first place,” the debate commission co-chair Frank Fahrenkopf told CNN.

Trump and Biden will now have two minutes each of uninterrupted time to speak at the beginning of every 15-minute segment of the 90-minute debate. After the first four minutes of each segment, both of their microphones will be open by event production staff, Fahrenkopf said. The moderator will not have control of the candidates' mics at any point.

The president has attacked the integrity of the debate commission and its chosen moderators in recent weeks, deeming it all "crazy" and "unfair," leading John Danforth, a Republican who has served on the commission since 1994 and represented Missouri in the Senate for three terms, to write in a Washington Post op-ed that Trump's attack on the debate commission is an attack on the election itself.

Biden, meanwhile, has called the rule change "a good idea" and said it appears to him that Trump is going to focus on "personal attacks" during their final showdown.

The Trump campaign made an 11th-hour demand that the debate focus on foreign policy, as opposed to the topics chosen by the moderator, NBC News White House Correspondent Kristen Welker, though the campaigns agreed months ago to allowing the moderator to choose the topics. Welker chose the topics of race, national security, leadership, America's families, COVID-19 and climate change.

Amid continued COVID-19 concerns, the Cleveland Clinic has designated the Health Corporation of America to work with doctors from the White House and from Biden’s team to test the candidates ahead of the debate. At a NBC News town hall last week, Trump claimed he didn’t remember whether he’d been tested on the day of the first debate, which took place before his first positive COVID-19 test was reported.

Thursday night's debate also comes as early voting records shatter across the country with more than 43 million ballots already having been cast in the general election and as Trump looks to reenergize his base while he trails Biden in the polls.

ABC Television Network coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET with a one-hour special, Trump vs. Biden: The Final Presidential Debate - A Special Edition of 20/20. ABC News Live will begin previewing the debate at 7 p.m. The debate begins at 9 p.m. and ABC News' political team will provide context and analysis on both platforms following the debate.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Senate Republicans move Barrett Supreme Court nomination toward final vote

Official White House Photo by Andrea HanksBy ALLISON PECORIN and TRISH TURNER, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- The nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the late liberal icon, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, sailed through the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday with no Democratic support, setting the stage for a full Senate confirmation vote on a timeline not seen this close to an election in U.S. history.

Committee Democrats boycotted the vote and instead placed poster-size pictures of Americans who they say would be hurt by a Justice Barrett, who might potentially cast a deciding vote striking down the Affordable Care Act and its mandated coverage for those with preexisting conditions, a Democratic source with knowledge of the matter told ABC News.

The Supreme Court is poised to hear a GOP attorneys-general challenge to the Obama-era law on Nov. 10, a suit that the Trump Administration has joined and Democrats sought to make their central line of questioning during Barrett’s confirmation hearings last week.

Despite objections from Democrats, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to tee up a key procedural test vote for Sunday, with final confirmation expected Monday night.

Democrats have fought to slow the nomination, arguing that the person who replaces Ginsburg should be selected by whoever wins the November election, a precedent they say was set by Senate Republicans who in 2016 blocked President Barack Obama's nominee to the court. Obama appointed Judge Merrick Garland to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative star, eight months before Election Day, but McConnell steadfastly refused to consider the nominee, citing the proximity to the vote. McConnell and Senate Republicans would not even meet with Garland.

"You could not design a set of circumstances more hypocritical than this," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Wednesday of McConnell's decision to move forward with a vote on Barrett. "The truth is that the Republican majority is perpetrating the most rushed, most partisan, least legitimate process in the long history of Supreme Court nominations."

But Republicans have argued that GOP control of both the Senate and the White House makes Barrett's nomination proceedings different from Garland's, giving them an imperative to act quickly.

Normally, on average, it takes the Senate about 70 days from formal nomination to full Senate confirmation for a Supreme Court appointee. President Donald Trump’s first nominee, Neil Gorsuch, was confirmed in 65 days. By comparison, Barrett’s nomination -- if she is confirmed Monday, as expected -- will have taken 30 days.

The Democrats' Thursday boycott will deny the Republican-led panel the necessary number of members present to cast a vote, according to committee rules, but Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham has indicated that he would waive those rules and hold the vote, regardless of whether any member of the minority is present.

Graham has been committed to an Oct. 22 vote on Barrett for weeks now, and no level of protest by Democrats is expected to deter him. The South Carolina senator, facing a tight reelection race back home, has campaigned on a promise to "fill the seat."

Liberal groups have clamored for more of a protest from Democrats for weeks, pushing lawmakers to boycott the hearings altogether. But Senate rules leave very few tools open to the minority to delay proceedings or a vote.

Democrats sought, instead, to use last week's confirmation hearings to paint Barrett as a threat to health care, abortion access, voting rights civil liberties and even democracy itself.

Barrett dodged repeated attempts by Democrats to get her to commit to recusing herself from election-related matters if the outcome of the 2020 election were to be decided by the Supreme Court, as Trump has predicted.

"Your participation -- let me be very blunt -- in any case involving Donald Trump's election would immediately do explosive, enduring harm to the court's legitimacy and to your own credibility," Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said to Barrett during her hearings. "You must recuse yourself."

Barrett said she would "consider it" but pushed back on the insinuation that she might rule favorably for the president merely because he nominated her.

"I certainly hope that all members of the committee have more confidence in my integrity than to think that I would allow myself to be used as a pawn to decide this election for the American people," Barrett said.

Issues related to the election were front and center for Democrats who fear Trump is looking to secure a justice favorable to him on the court before Nov. 3. They pressed Barrett on simpler questions, like whether the president could unilaterally delay the date of the election -- something that, by law, only Congress can do -- and whether the president should commit to leave office peacefully, something Trump has appeared to question.

But the judge dodged. As she did throughout her three days before the committee, Barrett said that she could not weigh in on matters that might come before the court. She said she was merely following the "Ginsburg rule," providing "no hints, no previews, no forecasts,” as the late justice had famously done at her own confirmation hearings in the 1990s.

Still, this didn't stop Democrats from pressing Barrett on a slate of liberal priorities, chief among them the fate of the Affordable Care Act.

Committee Democrats repeatedly drilled Barrett on an academic critique Barrett -- then a Notre Dame professor -- made of Chief Justice Roberts' decision to uphold the Act in 2012.

"In filling Judge Ginsburg's seat, the stakes are extraordinarily high for the American people both in the short term and for decades to come," Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said. "Most importantly, health care coverage, for millions of Americans, is at stake with this nomination."

But Barrett, sticking to her originalist legal philosophy, said she could only commit to thoroughly reviewing the merits of health care cases that came before her.

"I am not hostile to the ACA," Barrett repeatedly insisted to lawmakers. "I apply the law, I follow the law. You make the policy."

Barrett also made waves when she said she did not believe that Roe v. Wade, the landmark case allowing for women to access abortion care, was not a so-called "super precedent," something so established that it would likely never be overturned.

But the judge -- over and over -- demurred, alarming abortion rights groups.

Asked by Feinstein if she agreed with her mentor, Scalia, that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided, Barrett wouldn't show her hand.

"If I express a view on the precedent one way or another, whether I say I love it or hate it, it signals to litigants I might tilt one way or another in a pending case," she said, while also claiming that she would chart her own course on the highest court, despite her admiration for Scalia.

Republicans used the hearings to champion Barrett, a devout Catholic and mother of seven, as a trailblazer for conservative women and a well-qualified nominee, and repeatedly sought to draw Democrats into a fight about her faith. But Democrats refused.

"To my friends across the aisle, I would say that the American people are no more afraid of the ideas of a Catholic woman than they are of the words splattered on a protest poster being held by a liberal woman," Sen. Marsha Blackburn, D-Tenn., said.

Republicans looked to dispel concerns about the impact that Barrett's Catholic faith might have on her ability to rule impartially.

"Can you set aside whatever Catholic beliefs you have regarding any issue before you?" Graham asked.

"I have done that in my time on the 7th Circuit. If I stay there I'll continue to do that," Barrett said. "If I'm confirmed to the Supreme Court, I will do that still."

Thursday's Judiciary Committee vote will put the Senate on track to confirm Barrett before Election Day, something the Senate majority leader said Republicans have a duty to do.

"We've heard Democrats try to take hostage our very institutions of government to stop this precedent-backed process from moving forward, but none of the distortions could even begin to cloud the incredible qualifications of the nominee," McConnell said. "The full Senate will turn to Judge Barrett's nomination as soon as it comes out of committee."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


How will Biden deal with Trump's personal attacks at Thursday's debate?

Heidi Gutman/ABC NewsBy MOLLY NAGLE, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Former Vice President Joe Biden has hunkered down in Delaware ahead of his final turn on the debate stage with President Donald Trump -- a high stakes and highly anticipated match-up that will serve as the second and final time voters will see the two candidates go head-to-head.

Despite there being only a dozen days left before final ballots are cast, Biden has remained solidly focused on debate prep this week, meeting with advisors in Wilmington, Delaware, in lieu of public campaigning, even as Trump eschews traditional debate preparation in favor of barnstorming battleground states.

Biden’s team, led by his former chief of staff Ron Klain, has remained tight-lipped about their debate preparation ahead of Thursday’s matchup and any lessons they have taken from the first debate last month, which quickly spiraled into a shouting match between the candidates.

While the debate commission has taken steps to mitigate a repeat of that chaotic clash, allies and advisors to Biden say they aren’t expecting much of a change from Trump or Biden heading into Thursday night.

“I think Joe Biden is prepared for a completely unconventional debate in which the President of the United States does not act presidential [for] one minute. And the challenge is to not be distracted by the Trump show, and to make sure that Joe effectively puts out his positive vision,” Sen. Chris Coons, (D-DE) told ABC News.

An aide to Biden said the former vice president plans to again focus on his message to viewers at home, but would not be shy about standing up to Trump’s interjections when necessary, especially given reports of the president’s planned personal attacks on Biden and his family.

“I hope he's gonna come prepared to talk about what he's for. But my guess is, he's kinda signaling that it's all going to be about personal attacks. Because he doesn't want to talk about why he's taking away health care at the very time we're in the middle of a pandemic,” Biden said in an interview with ABC affiliate WISN-TV Tuesday.

Attacks on Biden’s family have proven to be a touchy topic for him in the past, but the advisor to the former vice president pointed to how he handled the president’s mentions of Hunter Biden in the last debate as a guidepost for how he would handle any attacks Thursday.

“My son, like a lot of people, like a lot of people you know, had a drug problem. He's overtaken it. He's fixed it. He's worked on it. And I'm proud of him,” Biden said defending his son during the September debate when Trump evoked his past drug use.

While some Democrats have suggested Biden should invoke the president’s own children, and questions over their own business dealings in response to Trump’s attacks, Biden allies don’t expect him to take that approach.

“One of the things I love about Joe Biden, he doesn’t take on or talk about other people’s kids,” Biden’s running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, said Thursday when asked about his debate prep.

“I doubt he'll go there, but I certainly wouldn't blame him if he did. It is striking--talking about glass houses,” Coons said, referring to the president’s attacks on Biden’s family.

“At the end of the day, Joe's got to show that he’s focused just completely on helping the American people get out of the mess that Donald Trump has gotten us into," Coons said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Florida sheriffs, FBI investigating emails threatening voters

golubovy/iStockBy LUKE BARR, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Florida law enforcement and the FBI are investigating threatening emails allegedly sent from outside the United States to registered Democrats. The emails claimed to be from by a member of the Proud Boys, according to authorities, something the group denies.

According to sheriff's offices in both Brevard County and Alachua County, the sender claims to belong to the "alt-right" group and be in possession of a voter's personal information.

The Brevard County Sheriff's Office said the email addressed the voter by name, then stated: "We are in possession of all your information. You are currently registered as a Democrat and we know this because we have gained access into the entire voting infrastructure. You will vote for Trump on Election Day or we will come after you."

"In America, every registered voter is afforded the right to participate in the electoral process and deserves to do so without intimidation or influence," Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey said. "Please know that everyone in our community is safe to go to the polls throughout the election process, and while these emails appear concerning, the investigation to date has determined the emails originated from outside the continental United States and are not considered a valid threat."

The Proud Boys have denied any involvement in the incident.

"It definitely wasn't us," Enrique Tarrio, international chairman of the Proud Boys, told ABC News.

"Proud Boys never use a mass e-mail or mass SMS system to even relay messages to our own supporters, let alone emails from a voter roll, which is apparently where they got that from," Tarrio said. "We'd never do that, and I hope that this person does a long time in prison for doing it, 'cause they did intimidate voters."

The Alachua County Sheriff's Office wrote in a Facebook post that the threatening emails may just be a scam. Sgt. Frank Kinsey told ABC News they're still investigating the origins of the emails.

"It's going to be a digital forensics investigation, and tracking back that information through the Internet and see what kind of cookies or little crumbles we can find, piecing it all together," Kinsey added. "We are working with our federal partners in exchanging information in order to work on finding the origin."

The FBI said in a statement to ABC News, in part, that "standard practice is to neither confirm nor deny any investigation," but that the bureau does "take all election-related threats seriously."

Chris Krebs, director of the Cybersecurity Infrastructure Agency, a branch of the Department of Homeland Security, said in a tweet the agency was aware of the emails and "not a moment too soon."

Krebs urged Americans to visit the department's Rumor Control page, which is designed to debunk disinformation tactics aimed at voters in the buildup to Election Day.

John Cohen, former acting undersecretary at the Department of Homeland Security and an ABC News contributor, said that "regardless of how the e-mail was sent out, the effect will be the same -- potentially thousands of voters may feel intimidated and scared to vote."

"Law enforcement is investigating a number of scenarios," Cohen added, "whether this email originated domestically, whether it was terrorism, or whether it originated abroad by a foreign entity or individual that was able to compromise the Proud Boys' account."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


DNI: Russia, Iran have obtained voter data in election interference campaign

Oleksii Liskonih/iStockBy ALEXANDER MALLIN and LUKE BARR, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Senior national security officials alerted the American public Wednesday that Iran and Russia have both obtained voter data in their efforts to interfere in the 2020 U.S. election.

"This data can be used by foreign actors to attempt to communicate false information to registered voters that they hope will cause confusion, sow chaos, and undermine your confidence in American democracy," Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said in a surprise news conference Wednesday evening.

Ratcliffe also announced that Iran was separately behind a series of threatening emails that were found to be sent this week to Democratic voters, which he said was "designed to intimidate voters, incite social unrest and damage President Trump."

Alireza Miryousefi, spokesman for the Iranian Mission to the U.N., denied the allegations to ABC News.

"Unlike the U.S., Iran does not interfere in other country's elections. The world has been witnessing U.S.'s own desperate public attempts to question the outcome of its own elections at the highest level," he said. "These accusations are nothing more than another scenario to undermine voter confidence in the security of the U.S. election, and are absurd. Iran has no interest in interfering in the U.S. election and no preference for the outcome. The U.S. must end its malign and dangerous accusations against Iran."

Florida law enforcement and the FBI previously had said they were investigating the threatening emails allegedly sent from outside the United States to registered Democrats. The emails claimed to be from by a member of the Proud Boys, according to authorities, something the group denies.

According to sheriffs' offices in both Brevard County and Alachua County, the sender claimed to belong to the "alt-right" group and said they were in possession of a voter's personal information.

The Brevard County Sheriff's Office said the email addressed the voter by name, then stated: "We are in possession of all your information. You are currently registered as a Democrat and we know this because we have gained access into the entire voting infrastructure. You will vote for Trump on Election Day or we will come after you."

President Donald Trump in the first presidential debate stirred controversy when, in response to a question about whether he condemned white supremacists, he told the "Proud Boys" to "stand back and stand by." Many argued the moment could serve to energize fringe members of the group to carry out acts of violence against opponents of the president.

"Iran has been a savvy follower of U.S. politics and saw the 'Proud Boys moment' in the last debate as an opportunity to build a narrative that would cast Trump supporters as threatening violence against Democratic voters," a senior administration official told ABC News, reacting to Ratcliffe's statement that Iran's actions were in part to damage Trump.

Google said spam filters stopped 90% of the emails sent as part of Iran's alleged election interference.

“We and others have seen evidence that an operation linked to Iran sent inauthentic emails to people in the U.S. over the past 24 hours," Google said in a statement overnight. "For Gmail users, our automated spam filters stopped 90% of the approximately 25,000 emails sent. Additionally, this morning we removed one video file on Drive and one video on YouTube with fewer than 30 views, and terminated the associated Google accounts. We referred the matter to the FBI and will continue to work with law enforcement and others in the industry to identify and remove any related content.”

Ratcliffe additionally accused Iran of distributing content including a video implying individuals "could cast fraudulent ballots, even from overseas."

"This video and any claims about such allegedly fraudulent ballots are not true," Ratcliffe said. "These actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries. Even if the adversaries pursue further attempts to intimidate or attempt to undermine border confidence, know that our election systems are resilient and you can be confident your votes are secure."

FBI Director Christopher Wray separately appeared at the news conference to assure Americans that the bureau will not tolerate attempts at foreign interference in the U.S. election, and would alert the American people when appropriate when it discovers such activity.

"When we see indications of foreign interference or federal election crimes, we are going to aggressively investigate and work with our partners to take appropriate action," Wray said. "You should be confident that your vote counts. Early, unverified claims to the contrary should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism."

The White House reacted late Wednesday, taking a shot at former President Barack Obama and the president's election opponent in the process.

"Unlike the Obama-Biden Administration, President Trump has and will always put America First," White House press secretary Judd Deere said in a statement. "He has directed the FBI, DOJ, and defense and intel agencies to proactively monitor and thwart any attempts to interfere in US elections, and because of the great work of our law enforcement agencies we have stopped an attempt by America’s adversaries to undermine our elections."

The announcement followed a joint statement by the Senate Intelligence Committee chairs Marco Rubio and ranking member Mark Warner concerning election security.

"Our adversaries abroad seek to sow chaos and undermine voters' belief in our democratic institutions, including the election systems and infrastructure that we rely on to record and properly report expressions of the voters' will," the statement said. "They may seek to target those systems, or simply leave the impression that they have altered or manipulated those systems, in order to undermine their credibility and our confidence in them."

Former top Department of Homeland Security official and ABC News contributor John Cohen said the announcement shows "we are not doing enough to protect our election process."

"Tonight we have learned that foreign entities were able to access voter registration information and send intimidating emails to American voters that were intended to influence how they vote," Cohen said. "The president needs to take this threat seriously, stop spreading Russian disinformation and he needs to tell his allies on Capitol Hill to stop chasing conspiracy theories and instead start focusing on protecting America from foreign attacks."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Election 2020 updates: 'I think the mute is very unfair': Trump on debate mics

Kameleon007/iStockBy LIBBY CATHEY, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- With 13 days to go until Election Day, and President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden racing toward Nov. 3, voters are turning out in record numbers to cast their ballots early.

Roughly 38 million Americans have already voted in the 2020 election, reflecting an extraordinary level of participation and interest despite unprecedented barriers brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

In the final weeks of campaigning, the president remains on defense as his approval rating drags. He's hosting rallies this week mostly in states he won in 2016 including Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Georgia.

Biden, maintaining a lead in national polls -- his largest of the election, according to FiveThirtyEight's average -- has no public events on his schedule this week so far ahead of Thursday's final presidential debate with Trump. Staying off the trail ahead of debates is a pattern for the former vice president.

Polls indicate a huge pre-Election-Day edge for Biden and a sizable Trump advantage among those who plan to vote on Nov. 3 itself. Trump has sowed doubt in the mail-in ballot process -- and imminent election results -- for months.

The rhetoric between candidates is expected to heat up ahead of their second and final showdown in Nashville.

All 50 states plus Washington, D.C., currently have some form of early voting underway. Check out FiveThirtyEight’s guide to voting during the COVID-19 pandemic here.

Here is how the day unfolded Wednesday. All times Eastern:

Oct 21, 9:28 pm
Trump urges North Carolina to open up despite surging cases


President Donald Trump spoke to a jam-packed crowd of supporters Wednesday evening during a campaign rally in Gastonia, North Carolina, pleading for them to get out and vote.

“So get your friends, get your family, get your neighbors, get your co-workers, get your boss -- rip him out of the seat. And get out and vote. Gotta get out and vote," he said.

Speaking for over an hour, the president made it clear that he needs the support of North Carolina to win the election in 13 days.

"With your help, your devotion, and your drive, we are going to keep on working, we are going to keep on fighting, and we are going to keep on winning, winning, winning," Trump said.

North Carolina is surging with COVID-19 cases and is among 31 states where cases are high and remaining high, according to an analysis of data from The COVID Tracking Project. But the president is still putting public pressure on Gov. Roy Cooper to open the state and once again claiming that Democrats are playing politics with the pandemic and will reopen if they win on Election Day.

“I love this state. You gotta get your governor to open up your state here," he said. "Got to get him to open up -- open up your state, governor. It’s time. It’s been long enough. Watch, Nov. 4, 'North Carolina, we are opening up.' Nov. 4. They are only doing this for political reasons.”

Trump is also still running with his viewpoint that cases are spiking because there is more testing being done in the U.S., however, test positivity numbers are also surging in many areas of the country.

“That’s all they put on because they want to scare the hell out of everyone," he said. "And you know, the more testing you have, the more cases. They say 'cases are up.' Yeah, testing is up. We have more testing than India, China and almost every other country put together. You could say it’s ridiculous. At the same time, we did a good job.”

In an odd moment, he also downplayed the severity of son Barron Trump’s diagnosis with coronavirus, saying he recovered “12 seconds later.”

“In fact, you know, Barron had it," he said. "Like about 12 seconds later, 'How's he doing?' 'Oh, he’s recovered.'"

The president also referenced his predecessor’s return to the campaign trail Wednesday, ridiculing him for his delayed endorsement of Joe Biden during the Democratic primary.

“You know, [Barack] Obama is now campaigning," he said, drawing boos for the 44th president. "Even though he refused to support Biden. I mean ... even after Biden sort of semi-won -- he semi-won -- he wouldn’t do it. He just -- it took forever but now he’s campaigning for him."

Oct 21, 8:46 pm
Supreme Court blocks curbside voting in Alabama

The U.S. Supreme Court moved to block curbside voting in Alabama Wednesday night, suspending -- for now -- a lower federal court order that had mandated state officials provide the accommodation for voters with disabilities during the pandemic.

The decision came from the court's five conservative justices who voted to grant the stay. The liberals -- Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan -- dissented.

"Plaintiff Howard Porter, Jr., a Black man in his seventies with asthma and Parkinson’s Disease, told the District Court: '(S)o many of my (ancestors) even died to vote. And while I don’t mind dying to vote, I think we’re past that -- we’re past that time.' Election officials in at least Montgomery and Jefferson Counties agree," wrote Sotomayor in a written dissent.

"They are ready and willing to help vulnerable voters like Mr. Porter cast their ballots without unnecessarily risking infection from a deadly virus. This Court should not stand in their way," she wrote. "I respectfully dissent."

Alabama officials had opposed implementation of curbside voting, which has not been common practice during elections. The state argued in court documents that it would "cause confusion and much harm" and potentially compromise ballot secrecy.

The ruling signals the high court's continued deference to state legislatures and local election officials in setting election policy and an aversion to having federal courts impose new rules so close to Election Day.

Oct 21, 8:37 pm
DNI: Russia, Iran have obtained voter data in election interference campaign


Senior national security officials alerted the American public Wednesday that Iran and Russia have both obtained voter data in their efforts to interfere in the 2020 U.S. election.

"This data can be used by foreign actors to attempt to communicate false information to registered voters that they hope will cause confusion, sow chaos, and undermine your confidence in American democracy," Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said in a surprise news conference Wednesday evening.

Ratcliffe also announced that Iran was separately behind a series of threatening emails that were found to be sent this week to Democratic voters, which he said was "designed to intimidate voters, incite social unrest and damage President Trump."

Oct 21, 6:59 pm
Obama warns against Democratic complacency


At the drive-in rally, Obama also issued a stern warning against Democratic complacency and said that the election has to be a decisive win as Trump sows doubts in its results.

"I don't care about the polls. There were a whole bunch of polls last time. Didn't work out," Obama said. "Because a whole bunch of folks stayed at home and got lazy and complacent. Not this time. Not in this election."

He went on to outline his belief that voting is the only remedy to right the wrongs of the Trump administration.

"In the end, Pennsylvania, that's what voting is about. Making things better, not making things perfect. But putting us on track so that, a generation from now, we can look back and say 'things got better starting now,'" Obama said. "Voting is about using the power we have and pooling it together to get a government that's more concerned and more responsive and more focused on you and your lives."

"I'm asking you to believe in Joe's ability, in Kamala's ability, to lead this country out of these dark times and help us build it back better because we can't abandon those who are hurting right now," he added.

Obama left the stage to Bruce Springsteen's "Land of Hope and Dreams" and put back on his mask which read "vote."

"Honk if you're fired up. Honk if you're ready to go," Obama said to blaring horns as he closed out the rally. "Are you fired up? Are you ready to go? Let's go make it happen. I love you, Philadelphia."

It was Obama's most critical speech of Trump yet.

Oct 21, 6:19 pm
Supporters blare horns as Obama takes the stage in Philadelphia


Former President Barack Obama arrived at a drive-in rally at Citizens Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies, to encourage early voting and emphasize down-ballot races in the battleground state.
 
"Man, it is good to be back in Pennsylvania," Obama said in his first day of in-person campaigning for Biden. He immediately took a swipe at Trump, speaking to his rally in Erie Wednesday night in which Trump delivered a shorter-than-usual speech before urging voters to turnout early.

"Apparently he complained about having to travel here. Then he cut the event short. Poor guy. I don't feel that way. I love coming to Pennsylvania," Obama said. "You guys delivered for me twice, and I am back here tonight to ask you to deliver the White House for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris."

Obama went on to criticize Trump's leadership, hitting the administration's attacks against the Affordable Care Act without having a replacement health care plan and what he called its mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic.
 
"Presidents up for re-election usually ask if the country is better off than it was four years ago. I'll tell you one thing, four years ago, you'd be tailgating here at the LINC instead of watching a speech from your cars," Obama said.

"Donald Trump isn't suddenly going to protect all of us. He can't even take the basic steps to protect himself," he added.

The former president weaved insults of the president in with compliments of his former vice president.

"Now, he did inherit the longest streak of job growth in America, but just like everything else he inherited, he messed it up," Obama said. "Joe sees this moment not just as a chance to get back to where we were but to finally make long overdue changes so that our economy actually makes life a little easier for everybody."

Obama's remarks were met with honks of approval as roughly 200 cars sat parked in a semicircle around the stage. Several attendees moved to sit on top of and around their cars to get a better view of the stage.

Prior to the event, Obama also made a brief stop at a community organizer event, where Biden-Harris supporters were handing out signs, buttons and hand sanitizers to a local North Philadelphia neighborhood.

Oct 21, 5:45 pm
Trump on muted debate mics: 'I think the mute is very unfair'


President Trump continued to complain about Thursday night's debate, saying it's "very unfair" that the candidates' mics will be muted at points, when he spoke briefly to reporters as he departed the White House Wednesday on his way to North Carolina for another campaign rally.

"I think the mute is very unfair, and I think it's very bad they're not talking about foreign affairs, they're supposed to be talking about foreign affairs, and I think the anchor is a very biased person -- her parents are very biased -- but that's my life," Trump said.

Asked about his preparations for the debate, the president said, "I do prep, I do prep" but did not elaborate.

-ABC News' Jordyn Phelps

Oct 04, 4:37 pm
Obama holds roundtable in Philadelphia with Black leaders


Ahead of this evening’s drive-in rally, Obama made his campaign debut at a roundtable with Black community leaders in North Philadelphia to talk about what’s at stake in this election and encourage voter turnout.

"The answer for young people, when I talk to them, is not that voting makes everything perfect, it's that it makes things better,” Obama said, wearing a mask while he spoke.

"The government’s us, of, by, and for the people. It wasn’t always for all of us. But the way it’s designed, it works based on who's at the table. And if you do not vote, you are not at the table," Obama said. "If you're at the table, then you're part of the solution."

"I really want to emphasize to young people as much as possible, look, in ‘08 when I was elected, we had the highest African American turnout in history. But it was still only about 60%. When people say voting doesn't make a difference, we’ve never tried what it would look like if it was 80% voting or 90% voting," he added.

Black voters remain an overwhelmingly Democratic-leaning constituency, but a notable reduction in their support could still be a problem for Biden, according to an analysis from ABC's partners at FiveThirtyEight. Older Black voters look as if they’ll vote for Biden by margins similar to Clinton’s in 2016, while Trump’s support among young Black voters has jumped from around 10% in 2016 to 21% in UCLA Nationscape’s polling.

Oct 21, 4:05 pm
Obama touches down in Philadelphia to campaign for Biden


Former President Barack Obama has touched down in Philadelphia ahead of a drive-in rally at Citizens Bank Park at 6 p.m. to campaign for Biden in-person for the first time in the 2020 cycle.

In 2016, Obama delivered Hillary Clinton's final pitch in Philadelphia as well -- at a rally for thousands the night before Election Day on Independence Mall. Amid this year's pandemic, Obama will speak to a much smaller crowd.

The event is ticketed without public access and is expected to draw over 200 cars, which will be assembled in a semi-circle around the stage. Supporters will be able to listen to Obama speak over their car radios.

Obama is expected to emphasize down-ballot races, encourage early voting and offer an appeal to Black voters.

Oct 21, 3:12 pm
FiveThirtyEight launches interactive election map


ABC's partners at FiveThirtyEight have launched an interactive map where users can pick the winner of each state or district to see how FiveThirtyEight's election forecast changes.

Take Florida as an example. If Biden wins Florida, his chances of winning the Electoral College shoot up to greater than 99%, which could be important on Nov. 3 because Florida generally counts its votes quickly and election offices might be able to determine who won the state on election night. But if Trump wins Florida, his Electoral College chances rise to 39% making the race practically a toss-up.

ABC's partners at FiveThirtyEight have launched an interactive map where users can pick the winner of each state or district to see how FiveThirtyEight's election forecast changes.

Here's an example of what that looks like, and Nate Silver's write up on how to use the tool here.

Oct 21, 12:35 pm
Maryland man charged for threats to kidnap and kill Biden and Harris


A Maryland man has been charged for making threats to kill and kidnap Biden and Harris.

James Dale Reed, of Frederick, Maryland, allegedly left a threatening note on the doorstep of a home displaying Biden/Harris signs in the front yard.

Reed was captured by the home’s ring camera. He is charged for making threats against a major candidate for president and vice president.

-ABC News’ Jack Date


Oct 21, 11:15 am
More than 75,000 votes cast in-person in Wisconsin's 1st day of early voting


Early in-person voting continues in Wisconsin after a record first day with 75,519 votes being cast Tuesday and some voters showing up to their polling sites before dawn with folding chairs, snacks and medication to stand in line.

The early voting period in Wisconsin lasts through Oct. 30, though the schedule is different in every municipality and is expected to bring a surge of absentee ballots in a state already boasting strong turnout: As of this morning, Wisconsin voters have cast nearly 40% of the total votes counted in the state in 2016.

Because Wisconsin voters fill out absentee ballots in-person, election clerks in the state won't start counting these votes until Election Day, so the timing of the results could vary depending on the staff available to each municipality.

In Madison, the City Clerk said 6,000 poll workers are signed up, compared with 3,000 for the 2016 election, and they "do not anticipate running any later than usual." Meanwhile, over in Milwaukee, the chair of the Milwaukee Democrats has been telling voters they should be prepared to wait until Nov. 11 so that people aren't concerned by delays.

-ABC News' Cheyenne Haslett


Oct 21, 12:00 pm
Early voting turnout shatters records, more than 40 million cast


With less than two weeks until Election Day, early voting continues to hit record numbers across the country.

More than 40 million votes have already been cast and at least 84 million ballots have been requested in the 2020 general election, according to the United States Elections Project, spearheaded by University of Florida political expert Michael McDonald.

At this point in 2016, 5.6 million votes had been cast.

The unprecedented early voting numbers can be attributed to the coronavirus pandemic as well as an increase in voter interest. Voters are more eager to cast a ballot ahead of Election Day where polling sites could be viewed as overcrowded during pandemic standards.

-ABC News’ Kelsey Walsh


Oct 21, 10:31 am
Trump campaign trailing behind Biden in funding, new filings show


Trump's reelection campaign committee is entering the critical final stretch with just $63 million left in the bank -- a significant financial deficit for the incumbent compared to his cash-flushed challenger, 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.

Seven months later, Biden's campaign committee closed out September with $177 million in the bank, which is nearly triple his rival's total.

Trump's money supply also reflects how dramatically his fundraising is withering.

In all, the president's campaign, the RNC and their joint committees raised a total of $248 million in September and ended the month with $251 million on hand, compared with the $325 million they had at the end of August.

The Biden campaign, the Democratic National Committee and their joint operations in comparison, raised a total of $364.5 million in September and entered the crucial last month of the race with $432 million on hand, which is nearly twice as much as Trump and Republicans.

-ABC News’ Will Steakin, Kendall Karson and Soo Rin Kim


Oct 21, 8:58 am
DNC launches multilingual ad campaign to reach AAPI voters in battleground states


The Democratic National Committee is launching a multilingual print, digital and radio advertising campaign to reach roughly one million Asian Americans and Pacific Islander or AAPI voters in battleground states, making a clear play for voters of color less than two weeks from Election Day. Earlier in the month, they released ads targeting African American voters.

The ad buy is the first multilingual ad campaign targeting AAPIs that the DNC has launched this cycle and will run in Chinese, English, Hindi, Korean, Telugu/Urdu and Vietnamese. Ads will run in national publications such as the Korea Times, Nguoi Viet and World Journal, as well as local outlets in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin.

“Democrats are meeting AAPI voters where they are and in the language, they speak by making historic investments to ensure AAPIs across the country have the information they need to make their plan to vote," DNC Chair Tom Perez said in a statement to ABC News.

The six-figure targeted ad buy, is a part of a larger investment by the DNC focused on get-out-the-vote ads in constituency media.

Oct 21, 8:57 am
Why Obama still matters to both Biden and Trump


It's a classic political moment -- the still-popular former president hitting the trail for his loyal former deputy, helping to close strong for the man he wants to see continue his legacy.

But even if former President Barack Obama was filling a stadium as opposed to its parking lot on Wednesday, this would not be a moment for nostalgia among Democrats.

As Obama makes his first in-person campaign visit on behalf of Biden on Wednesday in Philadelphia, it's worth remembering how vital the former president is to the political identity of both Biden and Trump.

Obama has been an omnipresent force this campaign, if often slightly off-stage. Biden's references to "Barack and I" helped carry him through primaries where Obama stayed neutral, and Trump's rants about "Obamagate" and other exaggerated alleged transgressions are part of his greatest-hits rally rotation.

Obama on Wednesday is expected to emphasize down-ballot races and speak directly to Black men, amid signs that Biden is underperforming in that demographic. Younger Black voters in particular are a concern for the Biden campaign, which sees potential victory in turnout in Philadelphia, Detroit and Milwaukee -- to say nothing of Charlotte, North Carolina and Atlanta.

A "drive-in car rally" with honks and high beams do not make the visuals anyone could have predicted for Obama's return to the trail.

But the former president is a potent political force -- something both Biden and Trump can agree on.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Trump's disconnect on Russia 'frustrating and counterproductive': H.R. McMaster

Alex Wong/Getty ImagesBy ADAM KELSEY, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Former national security adviser H.R. McMaster expressed frustration Wednesday with President Donald Trump's public posture toward Russia, characterizing the commander-in-chief's statements and doubts about the United States' electoral process as "disconnected" from the actions and policies of his administration.

McMaster told ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl and Political Director Rick Klein that he believed the administration "affected the most significant shift in U.S. foreign policy since the end of the Cold War" during his tenure, including "a competitive approach to China rather than a policy of cooperation (and) engagement."

But as for its stance regarding Russia, McMaster described Trump as out-of-sync.

"We had significant shifts on our approach to Russia, which, of course, is completely disconnected from the president's public statements about Russia, which is frustrating and counterproductive," he said on the "Powerhouse Politics" podcast.

Trump's political career, from the launch of his presidential run five years ago through these final days of his first term, has been marred by criticism of his relationship with Russia, including his open admiration of President Vladimir Putin, questions about his personal interactions and business dealings with Russian nationals and the allegation that his campaign colluded with the nation to interfere in the 2016 election. On the final point, special counsel Robert Mueller did not find "sufficient to charge any member of the campaign with taking part in a criminal conspiracy," related to election interference.

During Wednesday's interview, McMaster addressed continued Russian election interference, arguing that Trump should be "taking credit" for the strides the U.S. took following the 2016 cycle, rather than his choice to "raise doubts about our electoral process."

"We got exponentially better at protecting our election process, exponentially better at countering this Russian campaign of disruption, disinformation and denial. We have new organizations with bright, capable people working on this," he said. "So it's perplexing to me why the president won't be just straight up about the threat from Putin and Russia."

McMaster succeeded Michael Flynn as national security adviser 33 years into his military career, during which he rose to the rank of lieutenant general. During his nearly 14 months at the White House, McMaster said he felt his "duty" was "to tell the president what he doesn't want to hear" and implement his subsequent decisions, as opposed to aides who are "advancing their own objectives" or those who believed they were "saving the country, maybe the world, from the president."

"I did my best to serve the president and the country," he said, when pressed by Karl about what an adviser is to do when a president makes decisions counter to their personal judgement. "I wasn't going to hold back ... I didn't care. I wasn't trying to keep my job. I wasn't trying to get a next job."

"I concluded, you know, as a historian in particular, that the greatest disservice not only to the country, but also to the president himself, would be if I held back, if I didn't tell him what he didn't want to hear," said McMaster, who has a Ph.D. in American history and currently lectures at Stanford University. "And so that's what I did for 13 months."

The retired lieutenant general used that lens as he contextualized politics' current polarization during the interview and offered potential remedies for the government and the media.

"None of these problems that we're facing are going away while we're at each other's throats," he said. "We should probably be focused on doing our part to bring our society back together and to -- and to try to build a better future for generations of Americans to come."

"We have to restore our pride. We have to restore our confidence. A big part of that is we have to be confident in common sources of authoritative information," he added.

McMaster noted that during his more than three decades in the Army, he never voted, so as "to keep that bold line in place" between the military "and partisan politics." Now that he has retired however, he revealed that the 2020 election marks a personal first.

"I voted for the first time in my life," he said.

But as for whether he cast his ballot for the president, McMaster maintained some military discipline:

"I voted now and will continue to vote and will never tell anyone ever how I voted," he said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Minnesota attorney general launches investigation into company accused of hiring armed guards as poll watchers

Stephen Maturen/Getty ImagesBy LUKE BARR, ABC News

(MINNEAPOLIS) -- Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison on Tuesday said his office was opening an investigation into a Tennessee-based company that has been accused of recruiting armed guards as poll watchers.

Ellison said he was looking into Tennessee-based Atlas Aegis, which allegedly sent advertisements for armed security personnel on Election Day and "post election support missions," according to a lawsuit filed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Minnesota and League of Women Voters of Minnesota.

Ellison said it is against Minnesota's constitution for companies to hire private armed forces and to intimidate voters at the polls.

“Minnesota and federal law are clear: no one may interfere with or intimidate a voter at a polling place, and no one may operate private armed forces in our state," Ellison said. "The presence of private ‘security’ at polling places would violate these laws. It would make no one safer and is not needed or wanted by anyone who runs elections or enforces the law. For these reasons, my office is formally investigating Atlas Aegis."

Atlas Aegis has not responded to ABC News' request for comment about Ellison's investigation or the lawsuit.

According to the lawsuit, Atlas Aegis posted an advertisement on Facebook seeking former U.S. Special Operations personnel to protect businesses, polls and residences from "looting and destruction." The post has since been deleted.

The lawsuit cites an interview Atlas Aegis Chairman Anthony Caudle gave to The Washington Post confirming the authenticity of the Facebook post.

Caudle tells The Post the armed security personnel would not be seen unless there was a problem and that some of the personnel would be there to protect against Antifa.

“They’re there for protection, that’s it,” he said. “They’re there to make sure that the Antifas don’t try to destroy the election sites.”

Experts say that Antifa is more of an ideology than an organization.

"It's not one specific organization with a headquarters and a president and a chain of command," according to Mark Bray, a history professor at Rutgers University and author of "The Anti-Fascist Handbook." "It's a kind of politics. In a sense, there are plenty of Antifa groups, but Antifa itself is not a group."

FBI Director Christopher Wray echoed that sentiment to members of the House Homeland Security Committee last month.

"It’s a movement or an ideology," Wray said.

At another congressional hearing, he said, "Antifa is a real thing. It is not a fiction."

According to John Cohen, a former acting undersecretary at the Department of Homeland Security and ABC News contributor, this behavior is part of a larger pattern law enforcement is seeing.

"One of the top concerns facing law enforcement during this election cycle is that individuals or groups will ... engage in activities intended to intimidate and suppress people from voting," Cohen said.

He went on, "Departments across the country should be planning on how they are going to deal with these types of situations should they occur in their jurisdictions."

ABC News' Alexander Mallin contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Jill Biden says she feels 'positive energy' about race but 'not taking anything for granted'

Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty ImagesBy MOLLY NAGLE, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Former second lady Jill Biden says with less than two weeks until Election Day, her husband, former Vice President Joe Biden, and his campaign are not taking anything for granted and urged people to make their voices heard.

"I feel a lot of really positive energy but we're not taking anything for granted. And I hope ... that your viewers know that, and everybody, everybody gets out there and votes," Biden said on ABC's The View on Wednesday.

As Biden’s campaign enters the final days, Biden is in a winning position by all traditional metrics.

National polling shows Biden with a strong lead over President Donald Trump and in a tight race with the president in key battleground states. The campaign also recently announced it broke its own fundraising record, bringing in an unprecedented $383 million in September and closing out the month with $177 million in the bank, which is nearly triple Trump’s total.

Still, Biden’s campaign manager, Jen O’Malley Dillon, warned against getting comfortable with an unpredictable opponent like Trump.

"We have just a handful of days left to decide the course of this election and the future of our country. We cannot become complacent because the very searing truth is that Donald Trump can still win this race, and every indication we have shows that this thing is going to come down to the wire," O’Malley Dillion wrote in a memo to supporters.

In the days leading up to the final presidential debate between Biden and Trump Thursday night, Biden has hunkered down in Wilmington, Delaware, prepping with advisers for his tussle with Trump after their raucous first debate.

Trump has signaled his plans to attack Biden’s family, and his son Hunter in particular, but on Tuesday Jill Biden argued that would be a distraction.

"The American people don't want to hear these smears against my family. The American people are struggling right now. I mean, they're in the midst of all this chaos. They're trying to figure out how to put food on the table, you know, they don't have jobs, they need health care. Americans don't want to hear this," Biden said, before praising her husband for speaking directly to voters during the first debate.

"Donald Trump just ranted and I don't even know what he was doing up there. So, this time, the commission has said that they will mute the mics, and they'll each get their two minutes to speak and so the American people will clearly see their choice," she continued.

While the former vice president prepares, Jill Biden has hit the campaign trail hard for her husband, becoming one of his most active surrogates . On Tuesday alone, she took part in four events in the critical state of Michigan.

All told, she has headlined roughly 25 events in eight battleground states in October -- including Florida, Georgia and Texas -- in addition to a steady flow of virtual events during the final stretch of her husband’s third presidential run.

The Biden campaign has taken a different tact from Trump’s when it comes to the trail. While the former vice president and his surrogates have begun holding drive-in rallies to speak to voters in a socially distanced manner, the president has continued a string of large, in-person rallies as COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the country .

"I think it's totally irresponsible that people are going to these rallies and they're not wearing masks, they're not socially distancing," Jill Biden said of Trump’s campaigning. "It's irresponsible and people will die because of this."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Twitch stream encouraging people to vote becomes one of platform's most-viewed

Savusia Konstantin/iStockBy CATHERINE THORBECKE, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez turned to the wildly popular gaming platform Twitch to encourage young people to vote, and became one of the platform's most-viewed streams of all time on Tuesday evening.

The Democratic congresswoman from New York live-streamed herself playing Among Us, a space-themed game, on Tuesday evening and at its peak drew in 435,000 live viewers, according to Twitch.

This cemented her in the top five on the record board for Twitch's most concurrent viewers on a stream, according to gaming site GinX.

Twitch confirmed AOC’s stream as one of the "biggest" in a comment to ABC News, but said gaming icon Ninja, who live-streamed a Fornite session with rapper Drake in 2018 was still in the No. 1 spot.

Fellow progressive Democratic congresswoman Ilhan Omar, also joined in on the gaming session on Tuesday, along with some of Twitch's most-popular gamers, including Myth.

Since the live version ended and the video was posted on Twitch, Ocasio-Cortez's stream went on to garner some 4.7 million views total.

"Thank you all so much for joining my first ever Twitch stream, I guess I hope it’s not the last, I’m still kind of getting my bearings out here so we’ll see," Ocasio-Cortez said on Twitch.

"First things first, if you are able to vote, we are here -- IWillVote.com. Make sure that you make your voting plan. If you can’t vote, if you’re under the age of 18, if you're this that or the other ... make sure you talk to someone who can vote and direct them to IWillVote.com and make sure they get their voting plan in place," she added.

 

Thank you so much for joining, Myth! I’m so excited this is your first time voting!

I had a blast. Thanks @IlhanMN, @pokimanelol, @hasanthehun, @DisguisedToast, @mxmtoon, @Jack_Septic_Eye, @Hbomberguy, @DrLupo, @Valkyrae, @Gusbuckets, @Corpse_Husband, @MoistCr1TiKaL & @israhirsi https://t.co/L02lZwWpjz

— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) October 21, 2020

 

She encouraged those who made a voting plan or convinced someone they knew to make a voting plan to "drop a little something in the chat," as she played the video game.

Moreover, Ocasio-Cortez learned about the U.K.'s national healthcare system from a fellow player abroad, asking, "So you go to the doctor and then what happens, do you just walk up and say I need help? How does that work? I can’t even imagine that interaction without a credit card or some sort of cash payment."

 

AOC talks healthcare with @Hbomberguy, who is from the UK, where healthcare is free. pic.twitter.com/3wMUZXpuF7

— Brennan Murphy (@brenonade) October 21, 2020

 

This is not the first time politicians have dappled in the gaming world. Presidential candidate Joe Biden's campaign made headlines last week for his unexpectedly ornate island in the game Animal Crossing.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Biden campaign deploys top surrogates while candidate preps for final debate

Heidi Gutman/ABCBy JOHN VERHOVEK and MOLLY NAGLE, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- As former Vice President Joe Biden stays off the campaign trail in the days leading up to Thursday's final presidential debate, a stable of surrogates spanning the ideological spectrum of the Democratic Party has been crisscrossing the country to get the nominee's message out in the race's final days.

Biden's absence on the trail ahead of his final debate clash with President Donald Trump has drawn criticism from Republicans, who have sought to cast the nominee as "hiding in his basement." But it also gives Democrats a chance to highlight an array of voices who could help them juice turnout in key battleground states in the waning days of the campaign.

One of those key figures, former President Barack Obama, is set to make his first in-person campaign appearance on behalf of Biden this cycle at a drive-in event in Philadelphia on Wednesday, an appearance where he is expected to highlight the historic stakes of this election and emphasize the urgency of voting early. He will also discuss the importance of down-ballot races, according to an Obama aide.

A consistent presence on the campaign trail this month has come from a duo that likely knows the Democratic ticket better than anyone -- the candidates' spouses.

Biden's wife, Dr. Jill Biden, has headlined roughly 25 events in eight battleground states in October -- including Florida, Georgia and Texas -- in addition to a steady flow of virtual events. Douglas Emhoff, Vice-Presidential candidate Kamala Harris' husband, has also hit a diverse slate of over a dozen battleground states this month, with many events centered around early voting.

Biden himself has visited eight different battleground states in October, including multiple visits to Florida, Michigan and Pennsylvania -- three states pivotal to his chances of defeating Trump.

Several of Biden's former Democratic rivals have also hit the trail to stump for the ticket, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Andrew Yang and Pete Buttigieg holding events across battlegrounds states on behalf of Biden and Harris.

"I think there's a lot of folks who have voted Republican their whole lives, out of habit if nothing else, who are starting to say, 'Wait a minute, this isn't me,'" Buttigieg said during a campaign stop in Stockbridge, Michigan, on Monday, hoping to peel off GOP voters.

The strategy, some Democrats say, is one way to reinforce the idea of a united front in the final days of a bruising campaign that has seen the Republican incumbent seek to create cracks in Biden's coalition.

"They are role-modeling a vision of unity and bringing all voices to the table. It is also a very strong contrast to Trump, who has not grown his base in any way. In addition, this strategy makes it difficult for a Trump to split the Democratic base that Biden has built," Amanda Renteria, the national political director for Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign, told ABC News.

"Momentum is the driving factor at this point. [Surrogates] will be in every key district and keep the energy up as lines continue to form. This year is also an important year because people have so many unusual pressures on them, so the extra energy, support, headlines and events are even more critical," Renteria added.

In the days leading up to the debate, Biden's team of surrogates have zeroed in on the make-or-break Rust Belt states of the Midwest, with both Jill Biden and Buttigieg making trips to Michigan ahead of the debate, and Sanders expected to join the list of surrogates stumping in Pennsylvania on Sunday.

Out on the trail amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Biden and his long list of surrogates have had the additional challenge to connect with voters in the key state in a socially-distanced manner. The campaign has largely turned to drive-in rallies to replicate the traditional campaign trail feel following their success with the model during the final night of the Democratic National Convention in August.

Biden campaign aides point to the COVID-safe rallies, which often feature cars decorated with signs of support for the Democratic ticket and rounds of honks rather than applause from invite-only crowds, as an energetic boost for the campaign that for months existed in an exclusively virtual state.

Still, the Biden campaign has continued to find success in some virtual aspects of the campaign, getting a boost from famous faces in virtual fundraising.

In the week before the debate, the campaign hosted a virtual grassroots fundraiser with the cast of the hit musical Hamilton -- the best-attended fundraiser to date with 120,000 participants -- and assembled portions of the Avengers cast Tuesday for a Q&A event with Harris.

All told, the Biden Victory fund is expected to hold 41 virtual fundraisers before Oct. 30 with a host of surrogates, including Clinton, Justin Timberlake, Cindy McCain and David Letterman.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Trump trailing behind Biden in funding, weeks before Election Day, new filings show

NoDerog/iStockBy WILL STEAKIN, KENDALL KARSON and SOO RIN KIM, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- 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 campaign committee closed out September with $177 million in the bank, which is nearly triple his rival's total.

Trump's money supply, which was reported just one day after he flew to Newport Beach, California for a fundraiser in between stops across the battleground map for back-to-back rallies, also reflects how dramatically his fundraising is withering.

Trump's team raised more than $1.5 billion since January 2019 but has burned through $1.3 billion of that and is now struggling to go toe-for-toe with their Democratic counterparts when it matters most.

Further underscoring Trump's money woes, his campaign committee started the month of September with more than $121 million -- double his total just 29 days later.

During the month of September, the campaign brought in $81 million but spent nearly $126 million, according to the disclosure report filed to the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday evening. Meanwhile, the Biden campaign reported bringing in and spending roughly $282 million.

The $63.1 million on hand for the Trump campaign doesn't reflect all the money available to spend for the president's reelection campaign, which is a combined effort between the campaign, the Republican National Committee and two joint fundraising committees: Trump Victory and Trump Make America Great Again Committee.

Trump Victory, which raises big-dollar donations that get transferred to the campaign and the Republican National Committee, reported a much larger amount in cash on hand earlier this month ($90 million) than in previous months.

Still, the Trump team's financial resources have significantly dwindled compared to Biden's.

In all, the president's campaign, the RNC and their joint committees raised a total of $248 million in September and ended the month with $251 million on hand, compared to the $325 million they had at the end of August.

The Biden campaign, the Democratic National Committee and their joint operations, in comparison, raised a total of $364.5 million in September and entered the crucial last month of the race with $432 million on hand, which is nearly twice as much as Trump and Republicans.

And from July through September, while Biden and the DNC's two joint fundraising committees raised $457 million after spending $82 million, Trump and the RNC's two joint fundraising committees raised $355 million after spending more than $190 million.

The newest financial filings paint a bleak picture for the president and offer a more extensive view of his campaign's cash troubles. The president's team has been diverting spending from crucial battlegrounds, canceling more than $2 million worth of airtime in Ohio earlier this month. Biden and his ally groups are also now spending double the amount Trump and his supporters are spending on television and radio ads.

From Oct. 20 through Nov. 3, the Biden campaign, the DNC and pro-Biden outside groups have reserved a total of $155 million of airtime, twice the $83 million that the Trump campaign, the RNC and pro-Trump outside groups have reserved during the same period, according to ad spending data from media research firm CMAG.

"The Trump campaign has all the resources we need going into the home stretch of this election," Trump campaign spokesperson Samantha Zager said in a statement. "As Hillary Clinton proved when she outspent us 2-to-1 in 2016, no amount of money can buy the presidency -- voters have to be enthusiastic about casting their ballot for a candidate, and that's only happening for President Trump."

The Trump campaign on Monday announced a new $55 million ad blitz for the final two weeks, some of which is reflected in the $83 million total; but even with that last-minute boost, pro-Trump efforts in the final stretch of the race are expected to lag behind Biden's.

The president's cash problems in the final days of the election present a sharp fall for a team that has worked to craft and project an image of a campaign that is an "unstoppable juggernaut."

For well over a year, the Trump campaign used fundraising numbers and cash-on-hand figures to portray uncontested enthusiasm and support for the president.

When Trump narrowly outraised Biden in April, then-Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale tried to downplay the Biden campaign's first massive fundraising haul, writing on Twitter that the former vice president "just had his 1st month as the apparent Dem nominee, which is when the big early money comes in," and boasting that the president "still beat him in fundraising."

Parsacle touted that they still had "a massive cash advantage ($255M COH), better operation, more enthusiasm...The enthusiasm gap is real and it is wide!"

But since then, the Trump campaign has trailed Biden in fundraising each month -- and in the final days before Election Day, that advantage has evaporated along with the Trump campaign's bluster of unleashing a "Death Star" attack on its rivals.

In its place, Trump has started arguing on the campaign trail, "If you can win for less money that's a good thing, not a bad thing."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


2020 early voting data shows record numbers across the nation

adamkaz/iStockBy KELSEY WALSH, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- With two weeks until Election Day, early voting has begun in all 50 states plus Washington, D.C. In the states reporting data, at least 31 million votes have been cast in the 2020 general election.

Early voting continues to hit record numbers across the nation. As of Oct. 16, all 50 states plus Washington, D.C., have some form of early voting underway. At this time in 2016, 5.6 million votes had been cast. In other words, 20% of voters have already cast their ballot compared to the 2016 election.

More than 37.9 million votes have already been cast and at least 84 million ballots have been requested, according to the United States Elections Project, spearheaded by University of Florida's political expert Michael McDonald.

The unprecedented early voting numbers are a factor of the coronavirus pandemic as well as an increase in voter interest. Voters are more eager to cast a ballot ahead of Election Day where polling sites could be viewed as overcrowded during pandemic standards. The 2020 general election has more voting options than ever before.

Nine states have already seen over one million ballots cast, including California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia.

Texas has the most votes already cast at 4,069,976. California follows the lead with 3,580,284 absentee ballots cast.

North Carolina, a crucial battle ground state, has seen an increase of votes over the past few days with 1,853,535 votes casted. Sixty percent of voters have already voted in North Carolina compared to the same period in 2016.

Florida had cast 2,495,904 votes before early in-person voting began. On Monday, Florida saw a one-day turnout of a million voters. The Sunshine State now has 3,033,702 ballots cast.

On Tuesday, early in-person voting kicked off in Wisconsin. The state has already seen about four times more absentee ballots cast and five times as many ballots requested as compared to this time last year, and as trends indicate across the nation and within the state, the start of early voting is likely to bring in another big wave of voters.

California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington conduct predominantly all-mail elections, meaning all active registered voters are mailed a ballot without requesting them. Some of these states had this before the pandemic, but other states have adapted to the current times.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


DHS rolls out effort to combat election disinformation, urges 'patience' on results

3dfoto/iStockBy LUKE BARR, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, a branch of the Department of Homeland Security, said on Tuesday that it's rolling out a website designed to debunk disinformation tactics aimed at voters in the buildup to Election Day.

One such example cited by the CISA is that if reporting sites suffer an outage on election night, vote totals will be lost or manipulated, which is false, DHS said. Cyber disruptions won't change vote totals.

"Anticipating attempts along these lines, CISA and the FBI recently released a series of Public Service Announcements describing some of the tactics the bad guys might use, the security measures in place to stop them and the steps you can take to spot -- and stop -- foreign influence," CISA Director Chris Krebs said in a statement.

At a briefing with reporters on Tuesday, Krebs said that no foreign country has changed a vote thus far.

"We have not seen any adversary, anyone with that sort of capability -- to be able to change a vote in the outcome of the election at the national scale is incredibly difficult to accomplish," Krebs explained.

At that same briefing, the No. 2 at DHS, Ken Cuccinelli, urged patience when it comes to vote counting.

"There is very good chance that we will not know the winner of the presidential election, for instance, on election night itself," the acting deputy secretary of Homeland Security said. "And that's not because something isn't working. It's because of the additional security measures in place and the additional process time because of the changed way people are voting due to COVID."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Top Marine general removed after being investigated over use of a racial slur

United States Marine CorpsBy LUIS MARTINEZ, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- The two-star U.S. Marine Corps general in charge of all Marines in Europe and Africa has been relieved of command following an investigation into his alleged use of a racial slur, according to a U.S. official.

Gen. David Berger, the commandant of the Marine Corps, relieved Maj. Gen. Stephen Neary of his command of Marine Forces Europe and Africa due to a "loss of trust and confidence in his ability to serve in command," the Marines announced Tuesday.

Neary had assumed the role of the top commander of Marine forces in Europe and Africa on July 8.

Though no official reason was given for why Neary was relieved of command, a U.S. official confirmed to ABC News that accounts of his alleged use of a racial slur, first published by Stars and Stripes, were what prompted his removal.

The military newspaper reported two weeks ago that Neary was under investigation for the alleged use of a racial slur in August in Germany.

The Marine Corps confirmed at the time that it was aware of the allegations and that appropriate actions, "regardless of rank," would be taken if the allegations were substantiated.

According to an updated Stars and Stripes article published on Tuesday, Neary was at an outdoor physical training event for Marines at his headquarters where music was being played over loudspeakers. A witness to the incident told Stripes that after hearing some of the musical artists use a racial slur, Neary asked junior Marines nearby how they would feel if he used the word.

The witness told Stars and Stripes that his comment stunned the young Marines who said that even if Neary "was attempting to be instructive about the taboo nature of the word, it came as a shock to hear it from a white general officer."

The investigation into the incident continues, but enough information had emerged that led Berger to relieve Neary of his command, the official told ABC News.

A spokesman for U.S. Marine Forces in Europe and Africa referred ABC News to the Marine Corps statement.

Col. James T. Iulo will serve as the acting commander of U.S. Marine Forces Europe and Africa until a replacement is identified, according to the Marines.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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