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COVID task force vet hits Trump's 'disregard for human life,' backs Biden

Joe Biden is seen on a giant screen

Joe Biden is seen on a giant screen next to the stage while he speaks at a CNN drive-in town hall event Thursday in Moosic, Pa. Credit: Getty Images / Drew Angerer

More Trump alumni want him gone

An aide to Vice President Mike Pence until last month announced Thursday that she will vote for Democrat Joe Biden because of her experiences in the Trump White House and on the coronavirus task force.

Olivia Troye, who was a senior adviser for the group addressing the pandemic, told The Washington Post that President Donald Trump's response to the virus crisis showed a "flat-out disregard for human life" because his "main concern was the economy and his reelection."

Troye served as Pence's adviser on homeland security, counterterrorism and the coronavirus for two years. She described herself as a lifelong Republican who voted for every one of the party’s nominees before 2016. Troye did not vote for Trump that year because she didn’t like his rhetoric, but she said, "I got past it and accepted he was our president."

Now she has made a video for Republican Voters Against Trump. "At this point, it's country over party," Troye said in the ad released Thursday afternoon. She also alleged that in one task force meeting, Trump — speaking of supporters at his rallies — said, "Maybe this COVID thing is a good thing. I don’t like shaking hands with people. I don’t have to shake hands with these disgusting people." The White House denied the remark.

The White House and Pence dismissed Troye's comments as coming from a "disgruntled" former employee. Trump was asked about her account before he traveled to a Thursday night rally in Wisconsin. He said she was "terminated" and wrote "the most beautiful going-away letter."

Trump went on to say, without evidence, that "anytime somebody leaves our big, massive government … they get coerced into saying bad things." A contrasting view on Troye from Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the task force, on MSNBC: a "good person" and "important to the team."

Meanwhile, Politico reports that Josh Venable, former chief of staff to Education Secretary Betsy Devos, has joined a Republican group supporting Biden that was started by former Department of Homeland Security official Miles Taylor.

Biden: Trump 'close to criminal' on COVID

In a CNN town hall event Thursday night, Biden went after Trump again and again over his handling of COVID-19, calling Trump's downplaying of the pandemic "close to criminal" and his administration "totally irresponsible."

Biden ridiculed Trump's excuse that he played down the virus's deadliness months ago to avoid panicking Americans. "The idea that you are not going to not tell people what you have been told, that this virus is incredibly contagious — seven times more contagious than the flu — you breathe the air and you get it sucked into your lungs — what has he done?"

The Democratic presidential nominee said he was impressed with Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for "standing up" to Trump to urge mask-wearing to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. "The rank-and-file people, the scientists are solid and they're serious," Biden said told the audience. "But you've seen how the president has tried to push things through and put a lot of pressure on them."

Biden also hit Trump for trying "to throw into question the legitimacy of the election." He added with a smile: "If the president had even remote confidence he was likely to win the election, he wouldn't be doing this."

Voter participants stayed with their cars for the socially distanced drive-in event in the parking lot of a minor league ballpark in Moosic, Pennsylvania, near Biden's hometown of Scranton. The Democrat played up his modest roots to draw a contrast to Trump, the heir to a real estate fortune who portrays himself as a champion of the working class.

"We are as good as anybody else," Biden said of himself and others from Scranton. "And guys like Trump, who inherit everything, and squandered what they inherited, are the people I've always had a problem with. Not the people who are busting their neck." (Click here and here for fact-checks.)

Janison: Churning out fiction

As polls show Biden with the edge in key states, Trump keeps screaming "fix," conjuring up plots to rig the election against him.

Every day, plain facts emerge that mar Trump's tales and alibis and his denials about skulduggery on his behalf, writes Newsday's Dan Janison. On Thursday, FBI Director Christopher Wray warned that Russia, in an encore of its 2016 performance to help Trump, is issuing a steady stream of false propaganda against Biden.

Repeatedly since 2017, the White House peddles one story, and its appointees tell quite another under oath on Capitol Hill. If the nefarious "deep state" were undermining Trump, surely we'd have heard documented details by now. Given that the two major parties in each state jointly control the means of balloting and vote counting and reporting across the country, there remains no reason to predict results will be rigged either way.

Wray, in Capitol Hill testimony, also undercut the talk by Trump and Attorney General William Barr that the greatest danger of extremist violence comes from the left. Wray said that in recent years, most has come from the far right, with white supremacists to blame for the largest portion of slayings.

Trumpifying U.S. history

Trump intensified efforts to appeal to his core base of white voters on Thursday by downplaying the historical legacy of slavery in the United States and by blasting efforts to address systemic racism as divisive, The Associated Press reports.

In a Constitution Day speech at the National Archives, he characterized demonstrations against racial injustice as "left-wing rioting and mayhem" that "are the direct result of decades of left-wing indoctrination in our schools. It’s gone on far too long." He called it an effort to shame schoolchildren over parents’ "whiteness."

Trump has cracked down on anti-racism training sessions in federal agencies. He said Thursday that he will soon sign an order to establish a "1776 Commission" to promote patriotic education. The panel would back a "pro-American curriculum that celebrates the truth about our nation’s great history."

The move is a response to education materials that were derived from The New York Times’ "1619 Project," which highlights the long-term consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans.

Shooting into his own tent

Barr blasted his own Justice Department's career prosecutors as a "permanent bureaucracy" that all too often abuses its power to go after high-profile targets in a process he likened to "headhunting."

The attorney general — praised by Trump for intervening to ease up in the prosecutions of his allies Michael Flynn and Roger Stone — defended exercising his prerogative to overrule subordinates. "Letting the most junior members set the agenda might be a good philosophy for a Montessori preschool, but it's no way to run a federal agency," Barr said at an event hosted by Hillsdale College in Northern Virginia on Wednesday night.

Barr also drew sharp condemnation from Democrats for describing pandemic-lockdown orders as the "greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history" other than slavery. Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, the No. 3 House Democratic leader and a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, told CNN that Barr’s remarks were "the most ridiculous, tone-deaf, God-awful things I’ve ever heard" because they wrongly equated human bondage with a public health measure aimed at saving lives.

The Justice Department on Thursday confirmed a report that it has considered bringing criminal charges against city officials in Portland, Oregon, who did not comply with Trump administration demands to crack down on protest violence. Separately, Justice officials have disputed reports that Barr asked the department's civil rights division to explore charges against Seattle's Mayor Jenny Durkan for letting protesters set up an autonomous zone earlier in the summer.

The New York Times reported that Barr told federal prosecutors in a call last week that they should consider sedition charges against rioters and others who committed violent crimes at protests.

More coronavirus news

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

What else is happening:

  • Trump's comments Wednesday that "blue state" fatalities bloated the U.S. COVID-19 death toll were denounced as "demented" by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. "If you close your eyes and pretend that half of the country doesn't exist, some might think you didn't do such a spectacularly awful job," Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on the Senate floor. Biden tweeted at Trump: "The job is to be president of all Americans. For the love of God start acting like it."
  • Former model Amy Dorris has joined the dozens of women who have accused Trump of past sexual assaults. Dorris told The Guardian that Trump grabbed her outside a bathroom at his VIP box during the 1997 U.S. Open tennis tournament, groped her all over and forced his tongue down her throat. Via his lawyers, Trump denied it.
  • A federal judge in Washington state on Thursday granted a request from 14 states to temporarily block operational changes blamed for slowing mail delivery. The judge said Trump and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy are "involved in a politically motivated attack on the efficiency of the Postal Service" that could disrupt the election.
  • Lawyers for Trump's son say Eric Trump is too busy campaigning for his dad to comply with a subpoena from an investigation into the family’s business practices by New York Attorney General Letitia James. Eric Trump wants to do it after the election, they said.
  • Without naming Trump, a New York Times op-ed by his former director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, criticized efforts to undermine confidence in the election. "We must firmly, unambiguously reassure all Americans that their vote will be counted, that it will matter, that the people’s will expressed through their votes will not be questioned and will be respected and accepted," Coats wrote.
  • Trump’s luxury properties have charged the U.S. government more than $1.1 million in private transactions since he took office — including for Secret Service room rentals at his Bedminster, New Jersey, club this spring while it was closed at the height of the pandemic, The Washington Post reported.

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