October 1, 2020

2020 Election Live Updates: Biden Campaign Releases Full Video of Conversation With Obama

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ImageBarack Obama and Joseph R. Biden Jr. in the Rose Garden the day after the presidential election in November 2016.
Credit…Al Drago/The New York Times

With release of Biden video, Obama takes another step into the campaign arena.

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. leaned on his top surrogate Thursday morning, releasing a video conversation with President Barack Obama that cast the current occupant of the White House as unworthy in hopes of boosting Mr. Biden’s chances of replacing him.

Mr. Biden and Mr. Obama covered several topics in the wide-ranging, nearly 16-minute conversation, including President Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, health care, the economy and systemic racism.

“You can’t separate out the public health crisis from the economy,” Mr. Obama said. “If you want the economy growing, people have to feel safe.”

Mr. Biden responded: “What you did, and what all great presidents do, is persuade.”

The conversation was “socially distanced,” with the two men seated in leather armchairs some 10 feet apart, as Mr. Biden continues to contrast himself with Mr. Trump, who has only recently embraced certain coronavirus mitigation tactics such as occasionally touting face masks.

The video represents another careful step into the public arena by Mr. Obama, who is desperate to see Mr. Trump defeated but has sought to let the Democratic Party chart its own course. Mr. Biden’s campaign released several clips online as teasers to build anticipation, highlighting Mr. Obama’s still broad appeal.

One of those excerpts focused on health care, and featured Mr. Biden reflecting on a deeply personal subject: when his son Beau Biden was dying of brain cancer.

That experience, Mr. Biden said, underscored the importance of the Affordable Care Act.

“I used to sit there and watch him in the bed and in pain and dying of glioblastoma,” Mr. Biden said of his older son, who died in 2015. “And I thought to myself, what would happen if his insurance company was able to come in, which they could have done before we passed Obamacare, and said: ‘You’ve outrun your insurance. You’ve outlived it. Suffer the last five months of your life in peace. You’re on your own.’”

“You and I both know what it’s like to have somebody you love get really sick, and in some cases to lose somebody,” Mr. Obama told Mr. Biden. “But that loss is compounded when you see the stress on their faces, because they’re worried that they’re being a burden on their families. They’re worried about whether the insurance is going to cover the treatments that they need.”

He added: “I couldn’t be prouder of what we got done. Twenty million people have health insurance that didn’t have it because of what we did.”

The tone of the conversations cast the much younger former president in the role of mentor conferring a kind of secular blessing on his 77-year-old former governing partner. Mr. Obama told Mr. Biden that his candidacy represented a chance to restore government “that cares about people.’’

“Because policy is important, laws are important, budgets are important,” Mr. Obama said. “But you know what’s important also, is what kind of values are you communicating.”

“Bingo,’‘ Mr. Biden said.

After days of Republican criticism of Liz Cheney, Trump joins in.

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

Mr. Trump joined conservative allies on Thursday in assailing Representative Liz Cheney, a leading House Republican who has come under fire this week amid accusations that she is not loyal enough to the president.

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Updated 2020-07-23T15:03:47.673Z

Ms. Cheney, a staunch conservative from Wyoming and the party’s third-ranking House leader, has largely supported Mr. Trump but diverged in recent weeks by backing Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, urging Americans to wear masks and calling on the administration to stand up to Russia amid reports of bounties on American troops.

A half-dozen fellow conservatives berated her on Tuesday at an extraordinary closed-door session, saying she was hurting the party by speaking out on issues at odds with Mr. Trump. At least one, Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida, one of the president’s most vocal allies, called on her to step down as chairwoman of the House Republican Conference.

Mr. Trump on Thursday reposted a Twitter message from Mr. Gaetz making that demand and added his own criticism, essentially painting Ms. Cheney as a warmonger.

“Liz Cheney is only upset because I have been actively getting our great and beautiful Country out of the ridiculous and costly Endless Wars,” he wrote on Twitter. “I am also making our so-called allies pay tens of billions of dollars in delinquent military costs. They must, at least, treat us fairly!!”

The president also retweeted a post by Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, a regular antagonist of Ms. Cheney. “We should all join @realDonaldTrump in advocating to stop our endless wars,” the tweet said. “Liz Cheney not only wants to stay forever, she’s leading the fight to try to stop him from leaving. Unacceptable.”

Bloomberg’s gun control group is investing $15 million to help Democrats up and down the ballot.

Credit…Chet Strange for The New York Times

Michael R. Bloomberg’s gun control organization is making an initial $15 million investment in digital advertising in eight states, where it aims to help Democrats flip three Senate seats, wrest control of state legislatures and lift Mr. Biden to victory in Florida.

The group, Everytown for Gun Safety, has pledged to spend $60 million in all during the 2020 campaign.

The opening investment includes $5 million earmarked for Florida, the lone state where Everytown plans advertising in the presidential contest; $3.5 million in Texas, where the group is focusing on six House races; and $1 million to $1.5 million in Arizona, Iowa and North Carolina — three states where it will advertise in Senate races — as well as Minnesota and Pennsylvania.

The group is also planning an initial $500,000 investment in Georgia, where in addition to the state legislative contests the group will advertise on behalf of Representative Lucy McBath, a suburban Atlanta Democrat who used to work as an Everytown spokeswoman.

Though the coronavirus pandemic and protests over racial disparities in policing have dominated Americans’ attention this summer, John Feinblatt, Everytown’s president, said in an interview that he believed gun violence remained hugely important to voters.

“Post-Covid, our polling tells us it’s more critical to voters than ever,” Mr. Feinblatt said.

Trump tries to defend his cognitive abilities by repeating five words, again and again.

Long defensive about challenges to his mental sharpness, Mr. Trump again brought up a cognitive test on Wednesday night that he claims he aced. He offered extended details of how he performed on one of the questions designed to test short-term memory, by repeating several times a series of words: “Person. Woman. Man. Camera. TV.”

In the interview, with a medical analyst for Fox News, Mr. Trump recalled taking a test known as the Montreal Cognitive Assessment, or MOCA, at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. The White House has not disclosed details about when the president underwent the testing or why.

As he had earlier on Sunday in an interview with Chris Wallace on Fox, Mr. Trump sought to defend his mental fitness for office while attacking the acuity of Mr. Biden.

The president said the MOCA questions got progressively harder, and he cited one of the final ones, in which he was asked to repeat a string of words, and then was quizzed later to see if he still recalled them.

“OK, now he’s asking you other questions, other questions, and then, 10 minutes, 15, 20 minutes later they say, ‘Remember that first question — not the first — but the 10th question? Give us that again. Can you do that again?’” Mr. Trump said. “And you go: ‘Person. Woman. Man. Camera. TV.’ If you get it in order, you get extra points.”

“They said nobody gets it in order,” Mr. Trump continued. “It’s actually not that easy, but for me, it was easy. And that’s not an easy question. In other words, they ask it to you, they give you five names and you have to repeat ’em. And that’s OK. If you repeat ’em out of order, it’s OK, but, you know, it’s not as good. But when you go back about 20, 25 minutes later and they say go back to that — they don’t tell you this — ‘Go back to that question and repeat ’em, can you do it?’ And you go: ‘Person. Woman. Man. Camera. TV.’

Marc K. Siegel, the professor of medicine at New York University who conducted the interview, did not ask any follow up questions.

In a shift, more Republican governors issue mask mandates.

Credit…Eric Albrecht/The Columbus Dispatch, via Associated Press

The announcements piled up one after the other this week.

Mr. Trump, who has often disparaged face masks, urged Americans to wear them. The day after, on Wednesday, the Republican governors Mike DeWine of Ohio and Eric Holcomb of Indiana both imposed statewide mask mandates.

Assuming Mr. Trump will stick to a consistent message is never a solid bet, but a broader shift is coming into focus regardless of whether he himself continues to support mask-wearing. As the coronavirus rages across the country, with caseloads increasing in many states, Republican officials are starting to accept what public health experts have been saying for a long time: Masks are one of the best tools available to reduce the spread of the virus in the absence of a vaccine.

This shift is far from universal. Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia not only refused to impose a statewide mask mandate but forbade local officials from issuing their own, and Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida has resisted a mandate even as his state has become an epicenter of the pandemic. But the shift is real, and it corresponds with polling showing overwhelming public support for masks.

A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday showed that 80 percent of Texas voters agreed with the mask mandate imposed by Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican. A national poll from Politico found that 53 percent of registered voters strongly supported mask mandates, and an additional 19 percent somewhat supported them. And while there was a significant partisan divide — Democrats were much more likely than Republicans to approve of the mandates — support was well over 50 percent in both parties.

The pandemic-era campaign trail presents a new challenge for Trump’s team.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

As Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden thrash through the challenges of holding conventions, big rallies and debates as the coronavirus continues to surge across the country, it has become clear that the limitations have forced their campaigns to try new tactics.

Case in point: Mr. Trump’s campaign has been sending out daily “question of the day” emails to reporters, suggesting topics they should raise with Mr. Biden out on the campaign trail. Here’s one: “How many police officers need to be assaulted in the streets of Portland by radical left-wing mobs for you to condemn it?”

The Trump campaign is hardly the first to try to plant leading questions with reporters trailing an opponent. The goal for Mr. Trump, who has been on the defensive this summer, is to get Mr. Biden to address on camera what Republicans see as his vulnerabilities. It was no coincidence that the question about Portland dovetailed with Mr. Trump’s announcement on Wednesday that he planned to dispatch federal law enforcement officials to more cities led by Democrats to respond to social unrest and crime.

But what if there are no reporters following Mr. Biden on the campaign trail? What if there is no Mr. Biden traveling around the country? Mr. Trump’s tactic might be somewhat more effective in normal times, when reporters could get close enough to sneak in a few questions.

But in these days of Covid-19, Mr. Biden is not walking along rope lines of supporters or strolling off any stages, the kind of open spaces where reporters could waylay him for a few questions. This dynamic could surely change in the months ahead, but for now, the real question of the day may be whether Mr. Trump’s question of the day is like that tree falling in a forest.

Bernie Sanders renews his call to supporters: Get behind Biden.

Senator Bernie Sanders on Wednesday night again urged his most loyal supporters to unite behind Mr. Biden, saying the moment demanded they “engage in coalition politics” even as he encouraged them to continue fighting for a progressive agenda.

“I understand we do not agree with Joe Biden on all of the issues — believe me, I know that, I ran against Joe Biden,” he told hundreds of delegates on an evening Zoom call. “But at this moment, what we need to do is engage in coalition politics with the goal of defeating Trump.”

His remarks, just weeks before a pared-down Democratic National Convention is set to take place, served as both a call to action and an attempt to rally supporters who remain disappointed in his primary loss.

Since Mr. Sanders withdrew from the presidential race in April — and even when he was a candidate — he has been adamant about supporting the eventual Democratic nominee against Mr. Trump, urging his supporters to fall in line behind Mr. Biden.

He and many aides have been eager to avoid a repeat of 2016, when some of his supporters — fueled in part by his acrimonious race against Hillary Clinton — viewed the race as rigged and vowed never to support Mrs. Clinton.

On Wednesday, Mr. Sanders mobilized his supporters to back progressive candidates down the ballot and to continue their quest to push the party leftward. He specifically highlighted the work his supporters had done on six so-called unity task forces that he had formed with Mr. Biden, which released their recommendations two weeks ago.

“We have been making progress,” he said. “We’ve got to keep up the pressure.”

Right-wing media personalities amplify Trump’s ‘law and order’ campaign message.

Credit…Nicholas Kamm/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

To his legions of listeners, Rush Limbaugh calls the demonstrators in Portland, Ore., “anarchists” who “hate Americans and America.” He recently made an ominous prediction: “I can see secession coming.”

On Fox News, Sean Hannity describes the scene in Portland as “a literal disaster area.”

On Wednesday, Breitbart News — which features a “Riot Crackdown” page on its website — published an article declaring, “Now would be a real good time to do whatever is necessary to obtain a permit to legally carry a handgun.”

Right-wing outlets and conservative media stars have seized on the weekslong protests in Portland as a rallying cry for law and order, warning their viewers to fear for their safety and blaming Democratic leaders for failing to restore peace.

Their commentary — beamed out daily to millions — has increasingly mirrored the fear-laced messaging of Mr. Trump and his re-election campaign, which has warned that a Biden presidency would usher in chaos and routine violence in the streets. With the November election looming, Mr. Trump has pledged to send forces to Chicago, Detroit, New York, Philadelphia and other major cities.

Democratic officials have called the federal deployment in Portland, where agents have used militarized tactics like firing tear gas at protesters and have pulled some demonstrators into unmarked vans, authoritarian and dangerous. “This is an attack on our democracy,” said Portland’s mayor, Ted Wheeler.

But conservative pundits, typically no fans of an overreaching government, have not recoiled at the federal interference. Instead, they have thrown their full support behind the agents, loudly applauding the Trump administration for superseding city and state authorities.

Reporting was contributed by Maggie Astor, Peter Baker, Sydney Ember, Reid J. Epstein, Trip Gabriel, Michael M. Grynbaum, Thomas Kaplan, Adam Nagourney and Katie Rogers.