Winner or loser takes all?
President Donald Trump on Wednesday wasn't allowing for the possibility that he could lose a fair election to Joe Biden.
Trump refused at an evening news conference to commit to a peaceful transfer of power should Biden win. "We're going to have to see what happens," he responded. From there, he went on to repeat his claim, still bereft of evidence, that expanded mail-in balloting will result in massive fraud against him. (See a video clip.)
"You know that I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots, and the ballots are a disaster," he said. If states "got rid" of them, he said, there'd be no worries and apparently no need for a transition because he'd win.
"You’ll have a very peaceful — there won’t be a transfer, frankly," Trump said. "There’ll be a continuation. The ballots are out of control, you know it, and you know, who knows it better than anybody else? The Democrats know it better than anybody else."
Biden's campaign responded: "The American people will decide this election. And the United States government is perfectly capable of escorting trespassers out of the White House." Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted: "President Trump: You are not a dictator, and America will not permit you to be one." Sen. Mitt Romney, the Utah Republican, tweeted: "Fundamental to democracy is the peaceful transition of power; without that, there is Belarus."
Trump suggested he would look ultimately not to the count of presidential ballots from America's voters but to the count of a Supreme Court decision reviewing the fraud claims he is threatening to make. That's one reason why he wants to rush through the Senate confirmation of a soon-to-be-nominated ninth justice to succeed the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg before the election.
"I think this will end up in the Supreme Court," Trump told reporters at a White House event on social media. "I think this scam that the Democrats are pulling, it's a scam, this scam will be before the United States Supreme Court and I think having a 4-4 situation is not a good situation, if you get that. I don’t know that you’d get that. I think it should be 8-0 or 9-0. But just in case it would be more political than it should be, I think it’s very important to have a ninth justice."
A Trump under oath
A New York judge ruled on Wednesday that the president's son Eric Trump must testify in a state investigation into his family’s business practices and can't put off his appearance until after the election.
Judge Arthur F. Engoron ruled that the president's middle son had to sit for a deposition no later than Oct. 7. Engoron said he found the Trump Organization executive vice president's protests about his "extreme travel schedule" to campaign for his father's election were "unpersuasive."
New York Attorney General Letitia James went to court to enforce Eric Trump’s subpoena after his lawyers abruptly canceled a July interview. Her office is focused on whether the Trump Organization lied about the value of its assets in order to get loans or tax benefits.
Janison: Smears fall flat
Trump's GOP allies keep swinging and missing in their efforts to craft a scandal meant to derail Biden, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.
A Senate Republican report on an investigation led by Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin failed to back up assertions that the former vice president acted improperly to support his son Hunter Biden's business activities in Ukraine.
Last week, the credibility of the Biden-Ukraine theories pushed by the president's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani suffered another blow when the Treasury Department sanctioned a source, Andrii Derkach, as an agent of Russian intelligence. Two past associates from Giuliani's gumshoeing are under indictment.
Trump has been eagerly awaiting the outcome of an investigation ordered by Attorney General William Barr into the origins of the Russia investigation. That probe's credibility faced new questions when a prosecutor on the case abruptly resigned. Her ex-colleagues told the Hartford Courant that she was concerned about political pressure on her team to hand up a report before it was ready.
More comically, there is the constant use of manipulated videos that are easily debunked by real ones. Eric Trump, among others, tweeted out a clip purporting to show that Biden said "I lost that line," suggesting a TelePrompTer failed while he was getting fed answers — a Trump campaign trope — during a Telemundo interview. The full clip instead shows Biden said "I lost that lady" when a video of a viewer asking a question went dark. He went ahead to tell his answer to the host.
And bigotry for all?
In unguarded moments with senior aides, according to The Washington Post, Trump has maintained that Black Americans have mainly themselves to blame in their struggle for equality.
After phone calls with Jewish lawmakers, Trump has muttered that Jews "are only in it for themselves" and "stick together" in an ethnic allegiance that exceeds other loyalties, officials told the newspaper. Trump’s private musings about Hispanics match the vitriol he has displayed in public. The Post said its reporting was based on interviews with more than two dozen current and former officials, including some who have had daily interactions with the president.
Officials who tried to defend Trump said he shouldn't be considered racist because he's offensive to so many others, including women. "This is a guy who abuses people in his Cabinet, abuses four-star generals, abuses people who gave their life for this country, abuses civil servants," a former senior White House official said. "It’s not like he doesn’t abuse people that are white as well."
But with the election in the homestretch, Trump is demonstrating awareness that coded racial terms and gestures can animate substantial portions of his political base, including apocalyptic warnings that a Democratic victory would doom suburbs and his moves to roll back anti-racism initiatives.
Speaking to an overwhelmingly white crowd at a Minnesota rally last week, he praised their "good genes" and claimed Biden had a plan to flood the state with "refugees from Somalia, from other places all over the planet."
Polls: Sunbelt tightening
A pair of Washington Post-ABC News polls showed tight races in two swing states, Florida and Arizona.
In Florida, likely voters split 51% for Trump to 47% for Biden, while registered voters split 47% for Trump to 48% for Biden. In Arizona, Trump led 49% to 48% among likely voters, while Biden has a 49%-47% edge with registered voters.
Two national polls — by Quinnipiac University and Marquette University — found Biden with 10-point leads.
Trump: No brakes on vaccine
Trump accused the Food and Drug Administration of playing politics following reports the agency is planning to outline stricter guidelines for evaluating a coronavirus vaccine. The FDA wants to build public confidence that decisions on safety and effectiveness won't be politically motivated.
"That has to be approved by the White House. We may or may not approve it. That sounds like a political move," Trump said during his news conference, referring to the FDA's publication plan. "I think that was a political move more than anything else."
Trump has repeatedly predicted that a vaccine will be ready by Election Day, contradicting top government health officials.
Dr. Anthony Fauci told The Atlantic that a pair of recently departed Health and Human Services officials — Michael Caputo and Paul Alexander — tried to censor what government scientists said about the coronavirus.
"Caputo enabled Alexander," Fauci said in an email. "Alexander is the one who directly tried to influence the CDC (he may have succeeded, I cannot really say) and even me (I told him to go take a hike)."
Meanwhile, CNN reported that Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, has thought about quitting because of Trump's elevation of Dr. Scott Atlas, who has no expertise in infectious disease but whose views are more to Trump's liking.
More coronavirus news
See a roundup of the latest pandemic developments from Long Island and beyond by Newsday's Robert Brodsky and Matthew Chayes. For a full list of Newsday's coronavirus stories, click here.
What else is happening:
- Trump declined to weigh in directly on the state decision to charge only one of three Louisville police officers involved in the shooting death of a Black woman, Breonna Taylor — and only in the wanton endangerment of a neighbor. Instead, Trump quoted Kentucky's Republican attorney general, Daniel Cameron, who announced the decision and said, "Justice is not often easy." Trump also praised Gov. Andy Beshear for sending the National Guard to Louisville.
- Biden urged protesters of the Taylor decision to go about it peacefully, saying "violence is never acceptable." Biden called for people to wait for the results of a federal investigation.
- Vice President Mike Pence and Ivanka Trump brought the president's law-and-order campaign message to Minneapolis, showing support for law enforcement in the city where George Floyd's death sparked worldwide protests.
- Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of Homeland Security, told senators at his confirmation hearing on Wednesday that white supremacist extremists represent a deadly domestic terrorist threat. He denied a whistleblower's assertion that he suppressed a report that said so.
- Trump reacted angrily after a reporter at his news conference remarked that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle "essentially encouraged" support for Biden. Said Trump: "I'm not a fan of hers. I wish a lot of luck to Harry, he's going to need it." The Duke and Duchess of Sussex urged Americans to "reject hate speech" and vote but did not explicitly endorse anyone.
- Cindy McCain, the widow of John McCain, followed up on her endorsement of Biden by telling The New York Times she would participate in virtual campaign events and join Biden when he appears in Arizona. Trump tweeted an assortment of swipes against the late senator, called Biden "McCain's lapdog" and said, "Cindy can have Sleepy Joe!"
- Trump on Wednesday banned U.S. citizens from bringing home rum or cigars from Cuba and from staying at Cuban government-owned hotels, as he sought to boost support from Cuban American voters in Florida.