Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden held a community meeting in Kenosha, Wis., after meeting at the Milwaukee airport with relatives of Jacob Blake, who was shot seven times by police in August. Blake joined the conversation by phone, Biden said.

President Trump held a campaign rally in Pennsylvania, another key battleground state. Speaking to the crowd at an airport hangar in Latrobe, Trump dismissed questions about his health. The travel comes two months before Election Day.

Trump and the White House also sought Thursday to clarify comments he made during his trip to North Carolina on Wednesday, when he suggested that those who vote by mail vote again in person. Trump said Thursday that he was merely suggesting that voters follow up to ensure that mail-in ballots are counted. The White House said he was not advocating breaking the law.

Here are some significant developments:
September 3, 2020 at 11:11 PM EDT
Link copied

Trump said U.S. soldiers injured and killed in war were ‘losers,’ magazine reports

By Colby Itkowitz, Alex Horton and Carol D. Leonnig

President Trump called U.S. soldiers injured or killed in war “losers,” questioned the country’s reverence for them and expressed confusion over why anyone would choose to serve, according to a new report that he denied and called a “disgrace.”

The report, published late Thursday by the Atlantic, cites four unnamed people with firsthand knowledge of Trump’s comments. It says Trump disparaged the military service of the late former president George H.W. Bush, objected to wounded veterans being involved in a military parade, and canceled a visit to Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018 because he didn’t care about honoring the war dead.

The White House released a sharply worded statement defending Trump — who has insulted POWs, traded barbs with grieving families of the war dead and said before he was president that avoiding sexually transmitted diseases was his own “personal Vietnam” — against accusations that he doesn’t respect the military.

“This report is false. President Trump holds the military in the highest regard,” White House spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said of the Atlantic’s reporting. “He’s demonstrated his commitment to them at every turn: delivering on his promise to give our troops a much needed pay raise, increasing military spending, signing critical veterans reforms, and supporting military spouses. This has no basis in fact.”

Returning to Washington after a campaign rally in Latrobe, Pa., Trump told reporters, “Everyone knows it’s false,” and added, “It’s just made up.”

A former senior administration official confirmed to The Washington Post that the president frequently made disparaging comments about veterans and soldiers missing in action, referring to them at times as “losers.”

In one account, the commander in chief told senior advisers that he didn’t understand why the U.S. government placed such value on finding soldiers missing in action because they had performed poorly and gotten caught and deserved what they got, according to a person familiar with the discussion who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations.

Read full story here.

September 3, 2020 at 8:44 PM EDT
Link copied

Trump claims unusual trip to medical center last year was not because of ‘mini strokes’

By Anne Gearan

President Trump made a joke of reports that he had been rushed to an Army medical facility last year, claiming Thursday that the unusual visit was routine and a way to use time he had to spare because he had spurned trade talks with China.

Trump has previously disputed reports that his weekend visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center last fall was the result of any emergency, but at a rally in Latrobe, Pa., he claimed that the trip was a fill-in because “I decided not to see China.”

Trump made an unscheduled trip to the hospital complex in Bethesda, Md., in November, a visit that remained shrouded in secrecy. The White House said he had undergone part of his routine annual physical.

Trump said his doctors asked him: “‘Sir, would you like to go over and do a physical? You have some time.’ You know why I had time? Some deal. Oh, it was China. I decided not to see China, because I didn’t like the way they were doing business.”

Trump had hoped to schedule trade talks with China in late 2019 to seal the initial phase of a new bilateral trade agreement. The two sides were far apart and Chinese authorities put off final discussions until January. A Phase 1 deal was signed then but is now largely sidelined by the economic and political effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump also claimed Thursday that states with Democratic governors that have maintained pandemic restrictions on people and businesses would suddenly lift those restrictions on Nov. 4, the day after the presidential election.

“We’ve done a great job. We haven’t been given credit for it,” Trump said of the U.S. response to the coronavirus.

The questions about Trump’s health follow a report in a new book by New York Times reporter Michael S. Schmidt, out Tuesday, regarding the president’s unexpected trip to Walter Reed last year. Schmidt reports that, in the hours before Trump’s trip, “word went out in the West Wing for the vice president to be on standby to take over the powers of the presidency temporarily if Trump had to undergo a procedure that would have required him to be anesthetized,” which raised questions about the trip’s purpose.

September 3, 2020 at 8:38 PM EDT
Link copied

Barr claims a man collected 1,700 ballots and filled them out as he pleased. Prosecutors say that’s not what happened.

By Matt Zapotosky

In his latest warning about the dangers of mass mail-in voting, Attorney General William P. Barr pointed to a case in Texas that he said highlighted the risk of fraud.

“Elections that have been held with mail have found substantial fraud and coercion,” Barr told CNN on Wednesday. “For example, we indicted someone in Texas, 1,700 ballots collected, he — from people who could vote, he made them out and voted for the person he wanted to. Okay?”

Federal prosecutors brought no such indictment. And while a Justice Department spokeswoman said Barr was referring to a local prosecution involving suspected mail-in voting fraud in a city council election, the assistant district attorney on that case said Barr’s description doesn’t match the facts.

“That’s not what happened at all,” said Andy Chatham, who is now in private practice.

“Unfortunately, it speaks volumes to the credibility of Attorney General Barr when he submits half-truths and alternative facts as clear evidence of voter fraud without having so much as even contacted me or the district attorney’s office for an understanding of the events that actually occurred,” he added later.

After being asked about Chatham’s account, Kerri Kupec, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said in a statement: “Prior to his interview, the Attorney General was provided a memo prepared within the Department that contained an inaccurate summary about the case which he relied upon when using the case as an example.”

September 3, 2020 at 8:10 PM EDT
Link copied

Harris says she won’t ‘stand by quietly’ if Pence abandons the truth in debates

By Chelsea Janes

At a virtual fundraising reception with Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) on Thursday, Democratic vice-presidential nominee Kamala D. Harris was asked how she will handle debating Vice President Pence, particularly if he abandons the truth.

“I intend fully to treat him with respect and the respect his office deserves,” Harris (D-Calif.) said, “but I’m also not going to stand by quietly if he, in whatever tone of voice, delivers lies.”

Earlier in the call, Harris told Kaine, the 2016 Democratic vice-presidential nominee, that she would be calling him soon to prepare for the upcoming debate. She also acknowledged Biden’s upcoming debates with President Trump and said neither she nor Biden will “back down from a good fight if it’s worth having.”

“I’m going to demand that we also speak truth on that stage so the American people can truly and accurately judge what is best for them,” Harris said. The vice-presidential debate is scheduled for Oct. 7 in Salt Lake City.

The fundraiser was one of three that Harris held Thursday afternoon, and hosts reported it raised $1.2 million for the Biden-Harris campaign.

September 3, 2020 at 8:05 PM EDT
Link copied

Trump claims ‘they want to take down all the statues’ in Washington

By Anne Gearan

Trump falsely said Thursday that Washington, D.C., has proposed removing the Washington Monument, as he returned to the culturally divisive issue of memorials to historical figures whose views, actions or role as enslavers have led some to reassess their worth.

Speaking at a rally in Latrobe, Pa., Trump largely recycled material about the strong stock market, though the Dow Jones industrial average dropped more than 800 points earlier in the day, and attacks on Democrats and the media.

“But how about this one. The Democrats yesterday came out with a plan, did you see now, they’re the D.C. Democrats, they want to change the name of the Washington Monument, perhaps take it down,” Trump said.

“Thomas Jefferson, pretty good, Thomas Jefferson, right? You can forget about ever hearing that name again. Abraham Lincoln, you could forget about it. They want to take down all the statues, or monuments,” Trump said.

Online posts have claimed that District of Columbia Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) proposed using her power to remove the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial in response to the death of George Floyd, a Black man, in police custody. Bowser’s office has said there is no truth to those claims.

A committee formed by Bowser released a report Tuesday recommending renaming or amending some monuments, parks, schools and buildings. Bowser removed a page from the document, which listed eight federal sites that the mayor could consider asking the federal government to “remove, relocate, or contextualize.”

Trump also used his speech to mock Biden for wearing a mask in accordance with public health guidelines for combating the coronavirus pandemic.

“Did you ever see a man that likes a mask as much as him?” he asked the crowd.

September 3, 2020 at 6:01 PM EDT
Link copied

Trump campaign ad touts ‘jobs’ at a plant that laid off most of its workforce this year

By David Weigel

A Trump campaign ad running in Minnesota touts the president’s commitment to “jobs” with a photo of Vice President Pence visiting a St. Paul steel mill.

But that mill has laid off most of its workers, as part of a drastic downsizing announced a year after Pence’s visit. Dave Hallas, a 41-year-old union worker at Gerdau Ameristeel, recognized the image immediately and shared his surprise in a Facebook post.

“I got home from work, I spent a few hours doing schoolwork for my online classes, and I turn on the TV,” Hallas said Thursday. “All of a sudden, it’s: Hey, that looks familiar!”

The ad, “Lawless,” is one in a series of Trump campaign spots that criticize Democratic nominee Joe Biden for a “weak response” to unrest after the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. The image of the steel plant appears as the president’s agenda is summed up as “jobs, not mobs.”

In March 2019, when Pence visited the mill, it employed 300 workers. The visit was part of the White House’s promotion of the USMCA, the update to NAFTA which at that point had yet to be signed.

“Gerdau is an example of how American steel is back,” Pence said, with much of the workforce in front of him and a few sharing his stage. “We are going to level the playing field, and Americans are going to win like never before.”

The revised USMCA was signed in January 2020. Two months later, Gerdau, a Brazil-based steel manufacturer, told employees that the St. Paul facility was being downsized. It would no longer melt or roll steel, and focus instead on finishing steel, a change that led to 222 layoffs.

Local media coverage of the layoffs had noted Pence’s visit, and Hallas, who is employed at the plant through April of next year, was surprised to see the plant in the TV spot. While the mill’s name was not featured in the image, Hallas recognized the setting, with a flag behind the vice president and steelworkers wearing their helmets in the crowd.

“The tag line is jobs,” wrote Hallas, who has worked at the mill for 18 years. “My mill that has been operating for over 55 years is now closed and it was not covid related. Failed promises.”

September 3, 2020 at 5:32 PM EDT
Link copied

Jill Biden to visit Minnesota amid renewed campaign focus on Midwest

By Felicia Sonmez and Matt Viser

Jill Biden, the wife of the Democratic presidential nominee, will travel next week to Minnesota, a trip that comes amid a broader push by Joe Biden’s campaign to focus on Midwestern battleground states.

The Minnesota stop on Sept. 9 is part of Jill Biden’s “Back-to-School Tour,” during which she “will meet with Minnesota families and public school educators,” the campaign said. Joe Biden will travel to Michigan the same day.

Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.), the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, held a virtual event Wednesday night aimed at Minnesota voters. Joe Biden’s campaign has also begun airing ads in the state one week earlier than planned that reminded voters of his background and plans.

Democrat Hillary Clinton narrowly won the state over Trump in 2016, and some Biden advisers consider Minnesota most likely to flip to Trump in November.

September 3, 2020 at 4:15 PM EDT
Link copied

Trump’s behavior ‘legitimizes the dark side of human nature,’ Biden says at Kenosha church

By Felicia Sonmez

After listening to several speakers — including a firefighter, a lawyer and a woman whose business was looted — Biden stood and addressed attendees at Grace Lutheran Church in Kenosha.

“I made a mistake about something. I thought you could defeat hate. It only hides,” said Biden, who like others was wearing a mask. “And when someone in authority breathes oxygen under that rock, it legitimizes those folks.”

He addressed the need to combat systemic racism in education, the economy and the criminal justice system and also said there should be zero tolerance of looting and property damage.

“You know what? Let’s get something straight here. Protesting is protesting, my buddy John Lewis used to say. But none of it justifies looting, burning or anything else. So regardless how angry you are, if you loot or you burn, you should be held [as] accountable as someone who does anything else. Period,” he said. “It just cannot be tolerated, across the board.”

Biden then took aim at Trump, criticizing the president’s “very fine people on both sides” remarks after the 2017 rally by self-proclaimed white nationalists in Charlottesville in which a woman was killed.

“No president has ever said anything like that,” Biden said. “The generic point I’m making is, it’s not all his fault. But it legitimizes the dark side of human nature.”

Trump’s remarks, he added, “also exposed what had not been paid enough attention to — the underlying racism that is institutionalized in the United States.”

September 3, 2020 at 4:01 PM EDT
Link copied

Blake’s uncle slams Trump over his divisive rhetoric

By Dan Simmons and Colby Itkowitz

Jacob Blake’s uncle, Justin Blake, criticized Trump at an impromptu rally in front of the Kenosha church where Biden was meeting with community members.

Justin Blake said he had met briefly with Biden, who talked about the need for change.

“The first word out of his mouth was ‘reform,’” Blake said about Biden. “That’s a start, a sliver of the cake. …That he mentioned reform is a hell of a thing, because the guy sitting there now is not even mentioning it.”

He further criticized Trump, saying four years of divisive, racially charged rhetoric has contributed to police shootings of young Black men, including his nephew.

“Don’t let some orange man break us all down and drive us into the gutter,” he said, prompting loud and sustained applause.

September 3, 2020 at 3:48 PM EDT
Link copied

Biden met privately with Blake’s family as Blake joined by phone from hospital

By Colby Itkowitz, John Wagner, Felicia Sonmez and Dan Simmons

Biden and his wife, Jill, met privately with members of Jacob Blake’s family for a 90-minute conversation that Blake himself joined by phone, according to the family’s lawyer, who said in a statement that Biden treated Blake, who was shot and paralyzed by police, with humanity and care.

“The family was grateful for the meeting and was very impressed that the Bidens were so engaged and willing to really listen. Jacob’s mother led them all in prayer for Jacob’s recovery,” said Ben Crump, the family’s attorney. “It was very obvious that Vice President Biden cared, as he extended to Jacob Jr. a sense of humanity, treating him as a person worthy of consideration and prayer.”

Crump said Biden spoke to the family about racial injustices in policing, changes needed in law enforcement to address those systemic issues, and the impact of Biden’s selection of a Black woman, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), as his running mate.

Biden “commiserated” with Blake, who remains in the hospital, about the pain he’s experiencing, Crump said.

The former vice president then participated in a community meeting in Kenosha, Wis., where Blake was shot in the back multiple times by police. He spoke at Grace Lutheran Church, a small brownstone structure in a neighborhood close to the city’s downtown, the site of boarded-up storefronts and burned-out car lots.

Biden, in remarks to the community, said Blake joined the conversation for about 15 minutes and “talked about how nothing was going to defeat him -- how whether he walked again or not, he was not going to give up."

“What I came away with was the overwhelming sense of resilience and optimism that they have about the kind of response they’re getting,” Biden said.

Trump visited Kenosha earlier in the week but did not meet with Blake’s family.

Ahead of Biden’s visit, a group of two dozen Black Lives Matter protesters marched down 60th Street, past the church, chanting “No Justice, No Peace.” Onlookers on both sides of the road cheered them, and cars honked their support.

Police trailed the impromptu parade, using their loud speaker to order the marchers onto the sidewalk. “This is an unlawful assembly,” an officer announced. “Please move to the sidewalk.” The marchers ignored the calls, stopping for a brief rally in front of the church before moving on.

September 3, 2020 at 2:49 PM EDT
Link copied

N.C. elections board discourages voters from checking status of mail-in ballots at polls on Election Day

By John Wagner and Felicia Sonmez

The North Carolina State Board of Elections on Thursday discouraged voters from coming to the polls on Election Day to verify that their mail-in ballots had been counted, a step Trump is advocating.

“The State Board office strongly discourages people from showing up at the polls on Election Day to check whether their absentee ballot was counted,” Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the board, said in a statement. “That is not necessary, and it would lead to longer lines and the possibility of spreading COVID-19.”

The statement was issued following Trump’s comments during a trip to North Carolina on Wednesday in which he suggested those who cast mail-in ballots vote again in person. On Thursday, he sought to clarify his remarks, saying he was merely advocating checking in at polling locations to ensure voters’ mail-in ballots were received and properly tabulated.

In the statement, Brinson Bell also stressed that voting twice — or asking someone to do so — is illegal.

“Attempting to vote twice in an election or soliciting someone to do so is a violation of North Carolina law,” she said.

By Thursday evening, the home page of the North Carolina State Board of Elections had been updated to include an all-caps banner at the top reading, “DOUBLE VOTING IS ILLEGAL."

Separately, Facebook said it would delete a video of Trump’s original comments in North Carolina.

“This video violates our policies prohibiting voter fraud and we will remove it unless it is shared to correct the record,” the company said in a statement.

Twitter, meanwhile, said it was placing a “public interest notice” on two of Trump’s tweets Thursday afternoon “for violating our Civic Integrity Policy, specifically for encouraging people to potentially vote twice.”

September 3, 2020 at 2:19 PM EDT
Link copied

Retropolis: Nancy Pelosi just entered history’s salon of politically perilous haircuts and hairdos

By Gillian Brockell

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was slammed by Republicans this week after Fox News obtained surveillance footage of her inside a San Francisco salon.

The problem? California stylists have been banned from working indoors for months because of the pandemic. Plus, the footage showed her with her mask pulled down around her neck.

The White House was all over it at White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany’s briefing on Thursday.

September 3, 2020 at 2:05 PM EDT
Link copied

Trump, Biden to commemorate 9/11 anniversary in Shanksville, Pa.

By Felicia Sonmez

Both Trump and Biden will commemorate the 19th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in Shanksville, Pa., next week, although it remains unclear whether the two White House contenders will cross paths at the ceremony.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Thursday that she had no details about the event but confirmed that Trump planned to be in Shanksville, where Flight 93 crashed in 2001, killing all 40 people aboard.

Trump last visited Shanksville two years ago, when he paid tribute to the passengers who disrupted the plan of terrorists to crash one of the hijacked planes into the U.S. Capitol.

September 3, 2020 at 12:31 PM EDT
Link copied

New Biden ad speaks to Black voters ahead of Kenosha visit

By Jose Del Real

Biden, ahead of his trip to Kenosha, Wis., on Thursday released an emotional new ad online that tells Black voters, “we’re listening.”

The Democratic presidential nominee is scheduled to meet Thursday with the family of Jacob Blake, the man who was shot by a Kenosha police officer and left paralyzed. Video of the incident, recorded and released on social media by a witness, has brought renewed national attention to the protests against police brutality and systemic racism across the country after a long summer of demonstrations.

“Why in this nation do Black Americans wake up knowing that they can lose their life in the course of just living their life,” Biden says in the ad’s opening moments.

“Part of the point of freedom is to be free from brutality from injustice, from racism and all of its manifestations,” says Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), his running mate.

Harris, who is of Black and South Asian heritage, features prominently in the ad, in which she details the campaign’s support for a national use-of-force standard for police officers. Federal funding for police departments, she said, would be contingent upon “the adoption of that standard.” She also said the campaign supports “reining in qualified immunity” for police officers.

The ad is running digitally in Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. It is part of a broader $45 million investment in digital and broadcast advertisements this week by the Biden campaign, and the campaign said it will begin running on cable in “top battleground markets” this weekend.