Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden excoriated President Trump on Friday over a report in the Atlantic that the president called U.S. soldiers wounded or killed in war “losers” and “suckers.” Biden called the report “disgusting” and said it was additional evidence that Trump is unfit for office. Trump denied the report, calling it “fake.”

With less than two months remaining until Election Day, Trump touted a new jobs report as evidence of a rebounding economy. But in a speech in Delaware, Biden argued that Trump is being callous to the fate of lower-income workers who are being disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

Here are some significant developments:
11:36 p.m.
Link copied

North Carolina begins sending out mail ballots

General-election voting kicked off Friday as North Carolina began mailing out more than 650,000 absentee ballots — far more than the number requested at this point in 2016 and a preview of the deluge of mail-in ballots likely to hit voting offices around the country this fall.

States have seen a surge in requests for absentee ballots as voters seek alternatives to in-person voting because of the coronavirus pandemic. North Carolina is the first state to send out absentee ballots, but by mid-September, at least 20 other states will also begin mailing out ballots.

The early start, coupled with the record-setting number of people expected to vote by mail in many states, means that an unusually large number of voters could cast their ballots long before Election Day on Nov. 3. In North Carolina, where any eligible voter can request an absentee ballot, voters can return their ballots as early as next week.

Read story here.

11:32 p.m.
Link copied

Marine veteran secures Democratic nomination in close House race in Massachusetts

Marine veteran Jake Auchincloss will be the Democratic nominee in Massachusetts’s 4th Congressional District, resolving a crowded primary that was too close to call Tuesday night. The Associated Press on Friday projected Auchincloss the winner over Jesse Mermell, a more liberal candidate who was locked in the tight race.

Auchincloss, 31, is the heavy favorite to win a district that Rep. Joe Kennedy won easily for four terms. Kennedy lost Tuesday in his primary challenge against Sen. Edward J. Markey. Hillary Clinton carried the seat by 24 points, and Republican nominee Julie Hall, a retired Air Force officer, came out of the party’s primary with just $20,547 left to spend.

In a year when the Democratic Party’s left ousted three incumbents, Auchincloss’s victory may move the Massachusetts delegation marginally to the right. The Newton city councilor previously registered as a Republican and supported Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, who is popular with Democrats. Mermell and three other candidates, who split the left’s vote, supported Medicare-for-all, as did Kennedy, while Auchincloss favored more incremental reforms.

If he wins, Auchincloss will also be the second member of the delegation to arrive in Congress after securing less than 25 percent of the vote in a multi-candidate primary. Rep. Laurie Trahan, who represents the city of Lowell, triumphed in a crowded 2018 race with just 22 percent of the vote, beating a more liberal candidate by 52 ballots. The back-to-back defeats have bolstered left-wing campaigning for ranked-choice voting, which could be implemented in the state by 2022 if a ballot measure, Massachusetts Question 2, passes in November.

11:08 p.m.
Link copied

Trump blasts ex-staff chief John Kelly as ‘exhausted’ and a flop

Trump described former chief of staff John F. Kelly as “exhausted” by the demands of a job he wasn’t up to, saying Friday that he had fired Kelly as a failure.

Trump’s criticism came as Kelly, a retired four-star Marine general, is among the aides whose role and interactions with Trump were described in an Atlantic report Thursday that claimed Trump had repeatedly called members of the military “suckers” or “losers.” Trump and White House aides vigorously denied the story.

Trump was asked why Kelly has not been among former aides who have come forward to deny the story on the record. Kelly is present for some of the scenes depicted.

“He didn’t do a good job,” Trump said. “And ultimately he was petered out. He was exhausted. He wasn’t even able to function in the last couple of months.”

“I told him, ‘John, you’re going to have to go,’” Trump said.

Kelly, who was Trump’s second chief of staff, left the post on Jan. 2, 2019, after serving a year and 154 days, the longest tenure for a Trump chief of staff thus far.

The Atlantic report depicts a scene between Kelly and the president at the graveside of Kelly’s son, who died at age 29 in Afghanistan, on Memorial Day 2017. Trump reportedly said: “I don’t get it. What was in it for them?” A person with knowledge of the conversation confirmed the account to The Washington Post and said Kelly came to understand that Trump could not grasp the concept of sacrifice for something greater than yourself.

Trump suggested that Kelly might have been a source for the report, though he was not asked directly whether he believed that to be true.

“There are people that are jealous. There are people that are upset that they’re not here anymore,” Trump said, adding later: “But I don’t know that it was him. I haven’t seen that.”

10:13 p.m.
Link copied

Trump to give Medal of Freedom to football coach Lou Holtz, who spoke at Republican convention

Trump announced during a news briefing that former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz, who was in the room, will receive the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Trump said that he received many recommendations from athletes, coaches and other politicians to honor Holtz, and that he looked at those and Holtz’s “life, career, what he’s done for charity,” and determined that he deserved the honor.

Holtz spoke at the Republican National Convention and made headlines for challenging Biden’s faith, calling him a “Catholic in name only.” He also called the Biden-Harris ticket “the most radically pro-abortion campaign in history.”

Notre Dame distanced the school from Holtz’s comments, saying that “we Catholics should remind ourselves that while we may judge the objective moral quality of another’s actions, we must never question the sincerity of another’s faith, which is due to the mysterious working of grace in that person’s heart. In this fractious time, let us remember that our highest calling is to love.”

8:59 p.m.
Link copied

McConnell says voters shouldn’t worry about their votes not being counted

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) struck a very different tone on mail-in voting than President Trump, assuring a constituent that no matter how they vote their vote will be counted.

“I don’t think people ought to worry about their vote not counting,” McConnell said Friday when asked whether he has concerns about mailed ballots. “And I would encourage people: They’ve got three options in Kentucky. You can vote early, you can vote on Election Day, or you can drop it in the mail.

“So I would encourage people not to worry about your vote not counting. Choose which option is the best for you, but be sure and vote,” he added.

McConnell’s attempt to ease voter anxieties runs counter to Trump, who has predicted, without evidence, that the increase in mail-in ballots this year will bring chaos, uncertainty and corruption to the election. McConnell’s suggestion that voters choose one voting option also conflicts with Trump, who this week advocated for voters to vote once by mail and once in person to make sure their vote is counted.

The GOP leader said the U.S. Postal Service “can handle this,” referring to the influx of mailed ballots, but said he supported giving the agency an additional $10 billion to make sure. Democrats had wanted to give the Postal Service $25 billion to handle the extra mail.

7:47 p.m.
Link copied

Defense Secretary Esper says Trump has ‘highest respect’ for military

Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper defended the president against accusations that he’s spoken disparagingly about U.S. troops, but did not directly rebut the claims first reported by the Atlantic.

“President Trump has the highest respect and admiration for our nation’s military members, veterans and families,” Esper said in a statement. “That is why he has fought for greater pay and more funding for our armed forces.”

Esper was in France in 2018 when the president canceled a planned visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris, blaming bad weather. But the Atlantic article cites sources saying the president didn’t see the value in visiting the site where U.S. troops killed in World War I are buried and that he’d called those killed in war “losers.”

A Pentagon official said Esper was there, though he wasn’t part of the delegation traveling with Trump. Esper remembers a flight to the cemetery being canceled because of bad weather and “never heard any other such allegations as those in the Atlantic until today,” the official said.

5:52 p.m.
Link copied

Biden says Trump is callous to impact of pandemic on lower-income workers

Biden on Friday accused Trump of a callous disregard for the disparate economic impact of the pandemic on blue-collar workers, saying he isn’t interested in their situations because “it doesn’t affect him or his class of friends.”

Biden delivered his remarks in Delaware on a day that Trump touted a new report that the U.S. economy added 1.4 million jobs in August, sending the unemployment rate below 10 percent for the first time since March.

Biden said the report provides a “glimmer of hope” but argued that it masks the hardships still being experienced by lower-income workers, including many who can’t telework, and said the pandemic is exacerbating divisions between the rich and the poor.

“The economic inequities that began before the downturn have only worsened under this failed presidency,” Biden said. “When the crisis started, we all hoped for a few months of a shutdown that would be followed by rapid economic turnaround. No one thought they’d lose a job for good or see small businesses shut down en masse. But that kind of recovery requires leadership, leadership we didn’t have and still don’t have.”

“The economic pain remains unrelenting for millions of working people of every race and background,” Biden added.

He also argued that Trump’s “malpractice” during the pandemic “is still holding us back.”

“We all know it didn’t have to be this bad,” Biden said. “It didn’t have to be this bad to begin with if the president just did his job. It’s almost like he doesn’t care. It doesn’t affect him because it doesn’t affect him or his class of friends.”

Biden said a president facing a crisis should be summoning congressional leaders and others to the Oval Office to work together.

“Bottom line, Mr. President: Do your job, get off your golf course and out of the sand bunker,” Biden said. “Call the leaders together in the Oval Office, sit with them and make a deal. Make a deal that delivers for working Americans.”

5:47 p.m.
Link copied

A visibly angry Biden assails Trump over ‘disgusting’ allegations in Atlantic article, calls on him to apologize

Biden, his voice raised, responded personally to the claims made in an explosive Atlantic article about Trump’s view of the military, saying that when his son Beau Biden volunteered to serve, “he wasn’t a sucker.”

Trump is accused, among other comments, of referring to soldiers killed or injured in war as “losers” and “suckers.” Biden said if the “disgusting” allegations are true, Trump owes an apology to every military family.

“President Trump has demonstrated he has no sense of service, no loyalty to any cause other than himself,” Biden said. “I’m always cautioned not to lose my temper. This may be as close as I’ve come in this campaign.”

The president was asked earlier if he owed service members and veterans an apology. Trump said no, because the claims in the article weren’t true.

Biden took questions from reporters, the first of which was what the former vice president believed Trump’s alleged remarks said about “his soul and the life he leads.”

“How would you feel if you had a kid in Afghanistan right now? How would you feel if you lost a son, daughter, husband, wife? How would you feel for real?” Biden said, his voice emotional.I probably — I’ve just never been as disappointed in my whole career with a leader that I’ve worked with, president or otherwise.

“If the article is true, and it appears to be based on other things he’s said, it is absolutely damnable. It is a disgrace.”

5:44 p.m.
Link copied

Biden cites endorsements from law enforcement officials; Trump announces backing of Fraternal Order of Police

The Biden campaign on Friday released the names of more than 190 past and present law enforcement officials who have endorsed the Democratic ticket, a move intended to blunt Trump’s attempts to frame the election around law-and-order issues.

Trump has been endorsed by multiple associations of law enforcement officials, and Biden felt compelled to respond to Trump’s efforts with a speech this week addressing unrest and violence.

Biden’s list includes U.S. attorneys, state attorneys general and local district attorneys as well as police and sheriff’s department officials from around the country.

“Joe Biden has always stood on the right side of the law and is offering a much-needed vision for our nation,” said of the endorsers, Tom Manger, a retired Montgomery County, Md., police chief and former president of the Major Cities Chiefs Association. “I’ve worked with Vice President Biden for years and know that he can heal the divide in our country. He has condemned violence of all kinds, and there is no question that I would feel safe in Joe Biden’s America.”

Later Friday, the Trump campaign countered by touting an endorsement by the National Fraternal Order of Police, which it called “America’s oldest and largest law enforcement labor organization representing over 355,000 members.”

“A GREAT HONOR, THANK YOU!” Trump subsequently tweeted.

4:44 p.m.
Link copied

Trump calls Atlantic piece a ‘fake story’; Biden releases ad attacking Trump over it

Trump continued to rail against a story first written by the Atlantic that claims the president has frequently disparaged the military, calling it a “fake story” as the Biden campaign released an ad attacking Trump over the allegations.

In the Oval Office, Trump was asked whether he owed service members and veterans an apology for the accusations leveled in the article, among them that he had referred to those killed or injured in war “losers.”

Trump derided the Atlantic, calling its reporting a “disgrace,” adding, “especially because I’ve done more for the military than almost anyone else.”

“To me they’re heroes,” Trump said about U.S. service members. “It’s even hard to believe how they can do it, the level of bravery, and to me they are absolute heroes.”

The Biden campaign released an ad with images of U.S. troops, as comments Trump allegedly made about the military appear over them. There are no words spoken, just a somber instrumental.

“Mr. President, if you don’t respect our troops, you can’t lead them,” Biden tweeted with the ad.

Trump announced he’ll be holding a 5 p.m. news conference at which he is likely to be asked again about the accusations.

Earlier Friday, Trump tweeted about the report, accusing the Atlantic of making it up “in order to gain some relevance.”

“Story already refuted, but this is what we are up against,” Trump tweeted. “Just like the Fake Dossier. You fight and and fight, and then people realize it was a total fraud!”

Though the president claims the Atlantic story has been disproved, senior-level officials confirmed several of the accounts to The Washington Post and other news outlets.

2:44 p.m.
Link copied

Trump excoriated in call coordinated by Biden campaign for reported insults to military

Two U.S. lawmakers who served in the military and the father of a slain soldier excoriated Trump on Friday following a report by the Atlantic that the president has called U.S. soldiers injured or killed in war “losers” and “suckers” and questioned the country’s reverence for them.

During a conference call organized by the Biden campaign, Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) said she was “appalled” but “not shocked” by the report, which the White House has denied. She said Trump has long demonstrated a lack of respect for military sacrifice.

“He doesn’t understand other people’s bravery and courage because he’s never had any of his own,” said Duckworth, a retired Army National Guard lieutenant colonel who suffered severe combat wounds in Iraq, causing her to lose both of her legs.

That sentiment was echoed by Khizr Khan, the father of an Army captain who was killed in 2004 during the Iraq War.

“Words count because they tell us who they are,” Khan said of Trump. “He is incapable of understanding service, valor and courage. His soul cannot conceive of integrity and honor. … His soul is that of a coward.”

Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.), a former judge advocate in the Marines who prosecuted cases of rape and sexual assault, devoted most of his remarks to praising Biden for his support of military members and their families.

“I don’t want to waste any more breath on acknowledging the things this person has said or not said,” Lamb said of Trump.

Separately Friday, the group VoteVets released an ad featuring six Gold Star families who recounted losing their loved ones and said they were not “losers” or “suckers” — two words Trump reportedly used, according to the Atlantic.

2:02 p.m.
Link copied

Georgia congressional candidate poses with rifle, says she’s targeting ‘socialist’ congresswomen

Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Republican candidate for a Georgia congressional seat and professed QAnon believer, has posted a photo of herself on Facebook bearing a rifle, along with a pledge “to go on the offense” against a group of minority congresswomen known as “the Squad.”

“Hate America leftists want to take this country down,” Greene, whom Trump called “a future Republican star,” says in the post, which includes photos of Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.).

“Politicians have failed this country. I’m tired of seeing weak, Establishment Republicans play defense,” Greene says. “Our country is on the line. America needs fighters who speak the truth. We need strong conservative Christians to go on the offense against these socialists who want to rip our country apart. Americans must take our country back.”

Adherents of the QAnon conspiracy believe Trump is battling a cabal of “deep state” saboteurs who worship Satan and traffic children for sex.

Greene, who has endorsed the baseless theory and made a slew of other racist remarks on video, won a Republican primary runoff in Georgia’s 14th Congressional District, last month. Her victory, in a northwestern swath of the state that has favored Republicans by wide margins, sets her up to become QAnon’s first devotee in Congress.

The day after the runoff, Trump hailed Greene as a “future Republican Star,” tweeting that she is “strong on everything and never gives up - a real WINNER!” He did not endorse in the runoff.

1:25 p.m.
Link copied

Trump touts report showing drop in unemployment rate

Trump on Friday touted a report showing the U.S. economy added 1.4 million jobs in August, sending the unemployment rate below 10 percent for the first time since the pandemic began.

“Great Jobs Numbers!” Trump tweeted. “1.37 Million Jobs Added In August. Unemployment Rate Falls To 8.4% (Wow, much better than expected!). Broke the 10% level faster and deeper than thought possible.”

The job growth was in line with most analysts’ expectations, as the economy has shown signs of rebounding from the economic carnage left by closures aimed to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The job gains were driven by hiring in government, particularly temporary Census workers, who accounted for 238,000 new jobs — more than 1 out of 6 for every job added. Other sectors that have been hard hit by the pandemic showed signs of growth, including retail, which added 249,000 positions; leisure and hospitality, which added 174,000 jobs, primarily in restaurants, bars and other food establishments; and education and health services, which gained 147,000 jobs.

Biden plans to deliver remarks Friday in Delaware on the economic fallout from the pandemic.

12:35 p.m.
Link copied

Pompeo warns of ‘real risk’ associated with mail-in balloting

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Friday that there is a “real risk” associated with widespread mail-in balloting, echoing a talking point that the Trump campaign has repeatedly hammered as it seeks to discredit a method more frequently used by Democrats than Republicans.

Pompeo, a former Republican congressman from Kansas, was asked during an appearance on Fox News’s “Fox & Friends” whether he shares Trump’s concerns.

“It’s a little out of my lane as secretary of state, but it’s a matter of logic,” Pompeo said. “If states change the rules and try on the fly in this election, where we expect there will be enormous turnout, and on the fly change the rules for the first time and just mail ballots to people that are on the mailing list, on the voter rolls, there’s real risk. And the American people deserve to have an election that they can have confidence in.”

Pompeo said he and other administration officials want an election that is “free and fair and that every ballot is counted appropriately.”

U.S. secretaries of state have typically steered clear of partisan politics. Pompeo drew criticism last month when he delivered remarks to the Republican National Convention from Jerusalem.

Trump and his campaign surrogates have repeatedly pressed the argument that mail-in balloting invites fraud, even though studies have shown little evidence of that in the past.

In a Fox News appearance earlier Friday, Lara Trump, a campaign adviser and Trump daughter-in-law, said Americans should be “very, very worried” about states that are sending mail-in ballots to all registered voters.

“I think people are right to be terrified of this universal vote-by-mail situation,” she said. “You have no idea who receives these things. We’ve seen instances where there have been cats that have been dead for 12 years receiving ballots in the mail.”

The Fox News interviewer did not challenge that claim, for which Lara Trump provided no evidence.