President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden traveled Monday to battleground states — Ohio and Wisconsin, respectively — as the drama over replacing Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg continues to play out in Washington. In remarks at an aluminum foundry, Biden criticized the president over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic while also making an appeal to Trump voters, telling them, “You will be seen, heard and respected by me.”

Trump met Monday with Amy Coney Barrett, who is at the top of his Supreme Court shortlist. He also told reporters that he will “probably” nominate a replacement for Ginsburg on Saturday, after services for the justice are held. Ginsburg will lie in repose at the Supreme Court on Wednesday and Thursday and lie in state Friday at the Capitol.

With 43 days until Election Day …
September 21, 2020 at 10:03 PM EDT
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Trump says he, not Biden, will ‘end the pandemic’ if elected in November

By Felicia Sonmez and Anne Gearan

In remarks at a rally in Swanton, Ohio, on Monday night, Trump declared that the course of the coronavirus pandemic will hinge on the results of the November election, arguing that he — not Biden — is the candidate best poised to protect the country.

The pandemic has claimed the lives of nearly 200,000 people in the United States since February, and Trump has come under blistering criticism for his handling of the crisis.

“On November 3rd, Ohio will decide whether we end the pandemic and return to record prosperity, or whether we allow sleepy Joe Biden and his group of incompetents to delay the vaccine [and] shut down the country,” Trump told supporters.

Biden has advocated that any vaccine be equitably distributed and that its development be free from political pressure; contrary to Trump’s claim, he has not said the vaccine should be delayed.

The president also claimed, incorrectly, that the virus mainly affects older people with heart problems — contradicting what he told Washington Post associate editor Bob Woodward in an interview in March.

“Now we know it,” Trump said Monday night in Ohio. “It affects elderly people, elderly people with heart problems and other problems. That’s what it really affects.”

He added: “In some states, thousands of people — nobody young. Below the age of 18, like, nobody. They have a strong immune system, who knows? Take your hat off to the young, because they have a hell of an immune system. But it affects virtually nobody. It’s an amazing thing."

In a March 19 call with Woodward, Trump acknowledged that he had publicly played down the risk posed by the virus and said it affects “plenty of young people” as well as the elderly.

“Now it’s turning out it’s not just old people, Bob,” Trump told Woodward. “But just today, and yesterday, some startling facts came out. It’s not just old, older.”

September 21, 2020 at 9:22 PM EDT
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Media outlets should be cautious in calling 2020 election results, Stacey Abrams says

By Meryl Kornfield

News organizations should wait before pronouncing the president-elect on election night, Georgia’s 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nominee, Stacey Abrams, said Monday.

“I’ve been working to call upon the media to not call the election,” Abrams said at the Atlantic Festival in a virtual interview. “No one should be allowed to declare victory until we actually have information.”

That information may take time to gather, Abrams said, especially as the coronavirus pandemic has made voting more challenging. Abrams, who founded Fair Fight, a national voting rights organization based in Georgia, said her own plan to vote by mail in Georgia’s June primary hit a snag when her ballot envelope became stuck shut. She said she knew the rules said she had to vote in person.

“Delays in counting votes does not signal that someone has cheated, or that the system is rigged,” Abrams said, referring to Trump’s declaration — long before the first votes were cast — that the November election will be fixed. “What it signals is that the system is working; it should take time to count ballots, it should take time to verify.”

“We have to have the patience of our process, because that’s what our democracy demands in a pandemic,” Abrams added.

September 21, 2020 at 9:09 PM EDT
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Biden’s moderation contrasts with Democratic rage as court fight looms

By Annie Linskey and Matt Viser

Joe Biden on Monday lamented the 200,000 U.S. deaths from in the coronavirus pandemic, discussed the importance of unions, warned of the health risks posed by President Trump’s rallies, and touted his roots in Scranton, Pa.

But over nearly 30 minutes, speaking in a small industrial city in Wisconsin, he never mentioned the Supreme Court vacancy or the political earthquake that has followed the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

It was the clearest sign yet of Biden’s belief that most voters are not animated by the divisive fight that is consuming many in Washington. His approach contrasts sharply with the bubbling anger among many Democrats over Republican tactics regarding the Supreme Court, a fury that began on the left but is seeping into the party’s mainstream.

September 21, 2020 at 8:27 PM EDT
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Trump says he will announce Supreme Court pick by end of week after meeting with a top candidate for Ginsburg seat

By Seung Min Kim, Josh Dawsey and Robert Costa

Jockeying over Trump’s next Supreme Court pick ramped up Monday as the president pledged to unveil his candidate to replace Ginsburg by the end of the week and conservative groups began aligning behind a push to quickly confirm the eventual nominee.

Trump continued to sound out advice from senior White House officials, key Senate Republicans and conservative leaders about his Supreme Court choice, who if confirmed would cement a conservative majority on the court for years. The momentum appeared to grow behind Barrett, who met with Trump at the White House on Monday, according to two people familiar with her visit.

She is a favorite of religious conservatives and is already battle-tested after going through a ferocious confirmation fight in 2017 for her seat on the appeals court. But Trump aides and allies continue to push other candidates, with Judge Barbara Lagoa of the 11th Circuit considered the other top contender.

September 21, 2020 at 8:26 PM EDT
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Biden says Trump rushing Supreme Court confirmation would be ‘a violation of the spirit of the Constitution’

By Matt Viser

Biden argued that Trump should not move forward on a Supreme Court nomination, saying doing so “is a violation of the spirit of the Constitution.”

While Biden did not bring up the topic during his speech in Wisconsin, he was asked about it during a round of interviews with local stations and reiterated his opposition to Trump filling the Supreme Court vacancy this close to an election.

“We’re in the middle of an election,” Biden told WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee. “By the time that vote comes up, if it comes up, there will have been close to 40 percent of people that have already voted. It’s a violation of the spirit of the Constitution to suggest that it should not wait until the outcome of the election.”

Biden said that if Trump wins, he could make the appointment. But if he loses, Biden should be allowed to fill the seat with his own nomination.

Biden pressed on how the current circumstance is different from 2016, when he and other Democrats argued that Obama should be allowed to fill a vacancy (Republicans, who controlled the Senate, never held hearings on Obama’s nominee).

“In 2016, there were nine months left to go!” Biden said. “It wasn’t in the midst of an election. There’s a big difference. It’s never happened before in the midst of an election going on right now.”

Biden reiterated he would nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court, but he declined to name a list of those he has in mind.

“I have a number of people on that list,” he said. “But it is inappropriate for me to name that list.” He said naming current judges would draw into question any decisions they made from the bench, and they would face criticism without a way to defend themselves.

“What he’s doing here is trying to change the subject,” Biden said of Trump. “He wants the discussion about who I want to appoint.”

When asked whether voters have a right to know his potential nominees, Biden responded, “They will, if I’m elected. They’ll know in plenty of time.”

September 21, 2020 at 7:53 PM EDT
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Democrats largely powerless to stop GOP from confirming Trump’s court choice

By Paul Kane and Rachael Bade

Senate Democrats and their liberal allies confronted the grim reality Monday that they have no path to blocking Trump’s pending Supreme Court nomination other than a political pressure campaign that peels away a minimum of four GOP votes.

Deep into their sixth year in the minority, Democrats can use some procedural tactics that might briefly slow the confirmation process, but if at least 50 Republicans approve of Trump’s pick to replace Ginsburg, that nominee is certain to be seated.

Publicly, Democrats vowed to fight with every fiber in the Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings and on the Senate floor, as the liberal alliance of outside interest groups began planning how to mount a campaign that would try to turn Republicans against the nominee. But the process ahead leaves no room for error, and even a perfectly executed pressure campaign could still fall short.

September 21, 2020 at 7:51 PM EDT
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Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), facing tough reelection bid, signals he will back Trump court nominee

By Donna Cassata

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), one of the most vulnerable Republicans seeking reelection in November, signaled Monday that he will back Trump’s pending nominee for the Supreme Court.

“When a President exercises constitutional authority to nominate a judge for the Supreme Court vacancy, the Senate must decide how to best fulfill its constitutional duty of advice and consent,” Gardner said in a statement. “I have and will continue to support judicial nominees who will protect our Constitution, not legislate from the bench, and uphold the law. Should a qualified nominee who meets this criteria be put forward, I will vote to confirm.”

Gardner is one of two Republicans running for reelection in a state Democrat Hillary Clinton won in 2016. The other senator, Susan Collins of Maine, has said the Senate should not consider a Trump nominee until after the Nov. 3 election.

September 21, 2020 at 7:05 PM EDT
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Trump delivers political speech attacking Biden at Ohio union event that was funded by taxpayers

By Anne Gearan

President Trump attacked Democratic opponent Joe Biden as “the dumbest senator” and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) as a communist during an official presidential event in Ohio that was billed as a meeting with union workers, the latest example of piggybacking reelection politics on his official travel as president.

The event at an airport near Dayton was squeezed in ahead of a scheduled political rally later Monday in Swanton, Ohio. Trump trails Biden slightly in Ohio, a state he won handily in 2016. Trump’s pair of speeches Monday come just more than a week before he and Biden will meet for the first presidential debate, in Cleveland on Sept. 29.

In Dayton, Trump touted his record in creating jobs and bringing manufacturing business back from overseas, but mostly delivered his standard campaign rally attacks on Biden. Taxpayers pay travel and other expenses for the president’s official events on the road.

“This wasn’t a rally, this was a group of people, workers,” Trump said after the Dayton event had run more than an hour. “We’ve had a lot of fun but it’s serious business,” he said, before mentioning the date of the election and delivering an attack on mail-in ballots.

He also said the leaders of North Korea, Russia, China and Iran want Biden to win because he would be more pliant.

Trump said a senator he did not identify had told him more than two decades ago that Biden, then a senator from Delaware, was the “dumbest” member of the Senate. Democrats have a “communist” ideology that goes farther than the socialism some Democrats espouse, and named Warren’s views as “toward the c-word.”

September 21, 2020 at 6:54 PM EDT
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Sen. Grassley says he won’t oppose hearings on Ginsburg successor

By Felicia Sonmez and John Wagner

Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said Monday that he will not oppose the Senate moving forward with confirmation hearings and a vote on Trump’s nominee to succeed Ginsburg, declaring that he will “evaluate the nominee on the merits, just as I always have.”

“Over the years, and as recently as July, I’ve consistently said that taking up and evaluating a nominee in 2020 would be a decision for the current chairman of the Judiciary Committee and the Senate Majority Leader. Both have confirmed their intentions to move forward, so that’s what will happen,” Grassley said in a statement.

As other Republicans have done in recent days, he drew a distinction between 2016 — when Senate Republicans blocked consideration of Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland — and the situation currently facing the country in the wake of Ginsburg’s death, arguing that “the American people’s voices in the most recent election couldn’t be clearer.”

“While there was ambiguity about the American people’s will for the direction of the Supreme Court in 2016 under a divided government, there is no such ambiguity in 2020,” Grassley said.

Grassley was Senate Judiciary Committee chairman until last year, when he handed the gavel to Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) in order to helm the Senate Finance Committee. In an interview with Fox News Channel in 2018, Grassley said that he would not allow a hypothetical Supreme Court vacancy to be filled in 2020 “if I’m chairman.”

“No, because I pledged that in 2016, that if the ball’s the same as it is. Now, if somebody else is the chairman of the committee, they’ll have to decide for themselves. But that’s a decision I made a long time ago,” he said at the time.

Grassley also said in a call with Iowa reporters in July that he would recommend to Graham not to hold a confirmation hearing on any potential nominee.

“I would have to tell him that I wouldn’t have a hearing,” Grassley said, according to the Des Moines Register. “But if he decides to have a hearing, that’s his decision. And then whether or not the nominee would come up on the floor before the election would be Chairman McConnell’s decision, and you would have to ask him what he’s going to do in that regard.”

September 21, 2020 at 6:15 PM EDT
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Trump says decision on Ginsburg successor will ‘probably’ come Saturday

By Felicia Sonmez

In an exchange with reporters upon leaving the White House on Monday afternoon, Trump said he will “probably” make public his decision on a successor to Ginsburg on Saturday.

He also reiterated that he is considering five women for the position. And he said that holding a Senate confirmation vote before the November election would send “a good signal” and demonstrate “solidarity and lots of other things.”

“I’d much rather have a vote before the election, because there’s a lot of work to be done,” Trump said. He added: “So, let’s say I make the announcement on Saturday — there’s a great deal of time before the election. That’ll be up to Mitch in the Senate. … I’m just doing my constitutional obligation.”

He added that he has already spoken with some of the women on his shortlist and will be meeting in person with some.

September 21, 2020 at 6:06 PM EDT
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Trump met with Amy Coney Barrett at White House on Monday, officials say

By Seung Min Kim and Josh Dawsey

Trump met Monday with U.S. Circuit Court Judge Amy Coney Barrett at the White House, according to two officials familiar with the meeting.

Barrett, 48, is at the top of Trump’s list to succeed Ginsburg. Trump considered her in 2018 to replace retired justice Anthony M. Kennedy but reportedly said he was saving her for Ginsburg’s slot.

September 21, 2020 at 6:03 PM EDT
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Federal judge extends ballot deadline in Wisconsin, citing state’s chaotic primary

By Elise Viebeck

Lamenting Wisconsin’s tumultuous primary in April, a federal judge ordered the state on Monday to count mail ballots if they are postmarked by Election Day and received within one week, handing Democrats their latest victory in the legal battle over voting rules before the election.

Judge William M. Conley of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin issued a preliminary injunction that also ordered the state to extend its online and mail-in voter registration deadline from Oct. 14 to Oct. 21. He said voters who requested but did not receive mail ballots must have the option of accessing replacement ballots online or via email between Oct. 22 and Oct. 29.

“Election workers’ and voters’ experiences during Wisconsin’s primary election in April, which took place at the outset of the COVID-19 crisis, have convinced the court that some, limited relief from statutory deadlines for mail-in registration and absentee voting is again necessary to avoid an untenable impingement on Wisconsin citizens’ right to vote, including the near certainty of disenfranchising tens of thousands of voters relying on the state’s absentee ballot process,” Conley wrote in a 69-page opinion.

The judge stayed his ruling for one week to allow for the defendants to appeal, writing: “NO voter can depend on any extension of deadlines for electronic and mail-in registration and for receipt of absentee ballots unless finally upheld on appeal.”

The suit was brought by the Democratic National Committee against the Wisconsin Elections Commission. The Republican-controlled Wisconsin legislature, as well as the Republican National Committee and the state Republican Party, intervened.

Asked whether the RNC planned to appeal the decision, spokeswoman Mandi Merritt said the party “continues to monitor this case and are weighing our appeal options."

“We won on appeal in this case in the primary and we expect to win on appeal again,” she said in a statement Monday.

This spring, the Supreme Court intervened in the Wisconsin primary and overrode a plan by the Democratic governor to extend absentee voting for one week. The decision split the court 5 to 4 along ideological lines.

The court also ordered that absentee ballots count if they were postmarked by the day of the election but received within a certain time frame.

September 21, 2020 at 5:40 PM EDT
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Threats and invective hurled at health director who sought to postpone Trump’s Tulsa rally, emails show

By Josh Partlow

Three days before President Trump’s first indoor campaign rally during the coronavirus pandemic — at an arena in Tulsa in June — the director of the Tulsa Health Department marveled at the wave of abuse that was cresting in his direction.

“It’s been crazy since the announcement of the presidential rally,” Bruce Dart wrote to Lori Freeman, a colleague who led an association of local public health officials. “It’s amazing how people strike out against anyone who they assume is not supportive of the president instead of listening to our messaging around staying safe in this pandemic.”

“You’re doing a fabulous job,” Freeman wrote back. “Be strong (as will I).”

Tulsa’s experiences before and after the Trump rally show the difficulty that many communities face in balancing the desire to protect residents from the pandemic while catering to a president and Republican Party that have consistently cast doubt on and flouted health recommendations.

September 21, 2020 at 5:08 PM EDT
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Analysis: Supreme Court fight highlights the new political reality of America under minority rule

By Philip Bump

The rationalization of Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) for why Senate Republicans planned to abandon their fervent no-Supreme-Court-nominations-in-a-presidential-election-year principle — b. 2016, d. 2020; may it rest in peace — was revealing primarily for what it left out.

“In 2014, the American people elected a Republican majority of the Senate to put the brakes on President Obama’s judicial nominations,” Cotton said on “Fox News Sunday.” “In 2018, we had a referendum on this question. Just a month before the 2018 midterms, we had the vote on Justice [Brett M.] Kavanaugh. There could not have been a clearer mandate, because the American people didn’t just reelect Republicans, they expanded our majority. They defeated four Democratic senators who voted against Justice Kavanaugh. They reelected the one Democratic senator who did vote for Justice Kavanaugh.”

The aforementioned shifts came — not coincidentally — six years after the two elections in which Barack Obama won his first and second terms. In other words, those were elections (2008 and 2012) in which Democrats fared well, leveraging broad presidential turnout to increase their position in the Senate. Six years later, a number of incumbents faced tricky reelection fights without the benefit of a presidential campaign turning people out. The four senators who lost reelection were all serving in states that Trump won in 2016. Speaking of 2016, which Cotton ignores, Democrats gained two seats.