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Trump's bizarre new claim: Biden is not just my foe but 'against God'

President Donald Trump speaks Thursday at a Whirlpool

President Donald Trump speaks Thursday at a Whirlpool manufacturing facility in Clyde, Ohio. Credit: Getty Images / Scott Olson

Keeping the faithful?

For President Donald Trump's embattled campaign, the pressure grows to energize support among political conservatives within the churches.

Speaking in odd sentence fragments on Thursday in Ohio — where he trails in polls — the president said of challenger Joe Biden: "No religion, no anything, hurt the Bible, hurt God. He's against God."

Not that Trump has been more articulate in matters of faith before. In his first campaign, he couldn't name a Bible verse that he liked when asked. Months later, in a speech at Liberty University, he cited the New Testament book pronounced "Second Corinthians" as "Two Corinthians."

Vice President Mike Pence's appeal this week pushed the agenda, but in a less simple-minded way. “Look, we have great respect for the institution of the Supreme Court of the United States,” Pence told the Christian Broadcasting Network on Wednesday. “But Chief Justice John Roberts has been a disappointment to conservatives ... ”

Despite two court nominations so far, Trump & Co. is suggesting he needs another term to fill vacancies so the top court issues anti-abortion rulings. Pence declared: "The destiny of the Supreme Court is on the ballot in 2020.” Democrats make the same pitch, from the opposite direction.

If he wins, Biden, who supports abortion rights, would become the first Catholic president since John F. Kennedy. As a rule, American Catholics do not form a political bloc. Surveys indicate that their votes tend to reflect the electorate as a whole.

In an interview on EWTN, a Catholic cable network, Trump said this week: “Well, I think anybody having to do with, frankly, religion, but certainly the Catholic Church, you have to be with President Trump when it comes to pro-life, when it comes to all of the things. These people are going to take all of your rights away, including Second Amendment, because, you know, Catholics like their Second Amendment. ... And pro-life is your big thing." Trump did not mention that U.S. constitutional amendments, like abortion practices, are not abolished by presidents.

Biden: Attack is 'shameful'

In response to Trump's claim, Biden said: "Like so many people, my faith has been the bedrock foundation of my life: it's provided me comfort in moments of loss and tragedy, it's kept me grounded and humbled in times of triumph and joy. And in this moment of darkness for our country — of pain, of division, and of sickness for so many Americans — my faith has been a guiding light for me and a constant reminder of the fundamental dignity and humanity that God has bestowed upon all of us."

"For President Trump to attack my faith is shameful. It's beneath the office he holds and it's beneath the dignity the American people so rightly expect and deserve from their leaders," he added.

Another COVID-19 cancellation

Ohio's state motto, taken from the Gospel of Matthew, says: "With God All Things Are Possible."

As fate would have it, Gov. Mike DeWine, who was scheduled to meet with Trump at the airport in Cleveland, instead returned home Thursday after testing positive for the coronavirus. As fate also would have it, DeWine tested negative later in the day. He's due for a further test on Saturday.

As of Wednesday, Ohio had 96,305 coronavirus cases. Nearly 3,600 people in the state have died of it. Trump has downplayed testing as key to curbing the virus. In contrast, DeWine, a Republican, is known for aggressive policies to stem the infection rate. "We want to wish him the best," Trump said. "He'll be fine."

Despite months of mixed signals on face coverings, Trump donned a black mask as he toured a Whirlpool appliance factory in Clyde, Ohio. He bashed Democrats in an "official" speech to employees there and told supporters: "We've been good to each other." Biden issued a statement before Trump's taxpayer-funded jaunt, slamming the administration's "horrific mismanagement" of the pandemic.

Law & Order: NYS

While fighting in court for Trump's tax documents, the Manhattan District Attorney's Office also has subpoenaed his longtime lender, Deutsche Bank, which suggests that its criminal investigation of Trump's business is expanding. 

And on Thursday, the New York State Attorney General's Office, which successfully pursued Trump's charitable foundation for wrongdoing, moved to dissolve a steadfast political ally of the president, the National Rifle Association, reports Newsday's Michael Gormley. State AG Letitia James announced a lawsuit alleging financial misconduct by NRA leaders.

Separately, Biden said that if he's elected, he wouldn't interfere with the Justice Department if it were to pursue criminal charges against Trump after he left office. But the former vice president added it's "not very ... good for democracy to be talking about prosecuting former presidents."

More D.C. discord for GOP

Much has been made of the glaring internal divisions among Republicans over how to proceed on a new coronavirus relief bill. On Thursday, those in the party who focus on legal policy regarding protests and disorder again revealed a different rift.

Before a Senate committee, acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf testified about his role in sending federal agents to the protests in Portland, Oregon. He said his predecessors from the Bush administration, Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff, were “dead wrong” about their concerns that the current administration’s response was off the mark. The department was created in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), meantime, prodded Wolf about the effects of chemical irritants that federal forces used liberally to disperse crowds.

New Biden quote dissected

The implications of a Biden statement regarding ethnic politics sparked discussion on Thursday, with the Trump camp doing its best to sell it as an implied insult.

"Unlike the African American community, with notable exceptions, the Latino community is an incredibly diverse community with incredibly diverse attitudes about different things," Biden said. "You go to Florida, you find a very different attitude about immigration than you do in Arizona. So it's a very diverse community."

Biden made the comment during an interview hosted by the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and the National Association of Black Journalists. The question had to do with how he'd engage with Cuba and the differing immigration concerns between Cuban Americans and Venezuelan Americans.

Katrina Pierson, a Trump campaign adviser, said in a statement that Biden "tells a group of Black reporters that ‘you all know’ that Black people think alike. There’s a reason Joe Biden can’t count on the support of Black voters and it’s because of his plantation owner mentality."

But a Biden aide said the presumptive Democratic nominee was talking about the diversity of political opinion of immigrants from different nations, not cultural diversity within a U.S. group.

More coronavirus news

See a roundup of the latest pandemic developments from Long Island and beyond by Newsday's Bart Jones and Matthew Chayes. For a full list of Newsday's coronavirus stories, click here.

What else is happening:

  • Initial supplies of any successful coronavirus vaccine are now expected to fall short of what is needed nationally, even for high-priority groups like health care workers, in a new blow to Trump's campaign promise.
  • The federal government must buy certain drugs solely from U.S. manufacturers, under a Trump executive order issued late Thursday.
  • Trump said he has reimposed a tariff of 10% on some aluminum products imported from Canada, which vowed "countermeasures."
  • A federal judge dismissed House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's lawsuit seeking to overturn his chamber's adoption of proxy voting by members.
  • Stimulus talks haven't progressed in Congress, and Trump again is threatening to act on his own. Options are limited for what he can really do.
  • The Justice Department has moved to seize property from a powerful Ukrainian oligarch whose name emerged in dealings that led to Trump's impeachment.
  • Trump issued an executive order that seems bent on further pressuring Chinese-owned TikTok into a sales deal with a U.S. company.

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