Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) announced Tuesday that he believes President Trump should get to choose a replacement for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg regardless of whether he wins in November. The move clears the way for a vote this year by the GOP-led Senate on a nominee that Trump is expected to name at 5p.m. on Saturday.

The development cane as both the campaigns of Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden focused Tuesday on Rust Belt states Trump narrowly won four years ago. Trump head a rally in Pennsylvania, while Biden dispatched his running mate, Kamala D. Harris, to Michigan, while he held virtual fundraisers.

During a stop in Flint, Mich., Harris is highlighted t fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed more than 200,000 lives in the United States. Vice President Pence campaigned in New Hampshire, a state Democrat Hillary Clinton narrowly won in 2016.

With 42 days until Election Day …
  • Biden’s moderation contrasts with Democratic rage as a fight looms over the Supreme Court vacancy.
  • Democrats are largely powerless to stop the GOP from confirming Trump’s Supreme Court choice.
  • Trump says he will announce his Supreme Court pick by the end of the week after meeting with a top candidate for Ginsburg’s seat.
  • Biden leads Trump by eight percentage points nationally, 51 percent to 43 percent, according to a Washington Post average of polls. Biden’s margin is the same in Michigan and smaller in other key states: seven points in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, six in Arizona and two in Florida.
  • How to vote in your state: The Post’s guide to registering and casting your ballot.
September 22, 2020 at 9:38 PM EDT
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Trump jokes about violence against reporter, calls it a ‘beautiful sight’

By Colby Itkowitz

The president celebrated violence against a reporter, describing it as a “beautiful sight” when one was hurt while covering the demonstrations against racial injustice.

Trump’s amusement when retelling his version of the events could be interpreted as him encouraging violence against the press.

Describing the National Guard clearing the streets of Minneapolis, where protests and riots broke out over the death of George Floyd, Trump described a reporter being thrown “aside like he was a little bag of popcorn.

I mean, honestly, when you watch the crap that we’ve all had to take so long, when you see that it’s — actually you don’t want to do that. But when you see it, it’s actually a beautiful sight. It’s a beautiful sight,” Trump said.

Trump also joked about “an idiot reporter” who got “hit on the knee with a canister of tear gas.”

And he went down. ‘I’ve been hit. I’ve been even hit,’ ” Trump said mockingly.

September 22, 2020 at 8:59 PM EDT
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Trump says Supreme Court justices ‘will set policy for 50 years’

By Colby Itkowitz

President Trump, talking about his upcoming pick for the Supreme Court, confirmed that many Republicans think policy can be achieved via the judiciary rather than the gridlocked legislative branch.

“You know, the appointment of a United States Supreme Court justice was much more important to the voters than I thought," Trump said. “And they’re right because they will set policy for 50 years.”

Trump described himself as “a blocking force” to protect the Second Amendment, claiming that it would be “obliterated” if Democrats were in charge.

Republicans have for many years sought to stack the federal courts with conservative judges who, once confirmed, serve for life.

September 22, 2020 at 8:26 PM EDT
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Cindy McCain formally endorses Biden, who ran on presidential ticket against her late husband in 2008

By Colby Itkowitz

Biden revealed during a fundraiser Tuesday that Cindy McCain, widow of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), would formally endorse him for president in response to the alleged derogatory comments Trump made about U.S. troops.

Several hours later, Cindy McCain confirmed it with a tweet explaining that her decision was about putting country over party.

“My husband John lived by a code: country first. We are Republicans, yes, but Americans foremost. There’s only one candidate in this race who stands up for our values as a nation, and that is @JoeBiden,” she tweeted.

Cindy McCain effectively threw her support behind Biden in August when she recorded a video for the Democratic convention about Biden and her husband’s friendship. But the formal endorsement of Biden, who ran on the presidential ticket in 2008 against her husband, is a significant political move that gives Biden a boost in Arizona, one of the red states Democrats think they can win.

A recent Atlantic report that examined Trump’s alleged disregard for the military revisited Trump’s disdain for McCain. During the 2016 campaign, the president had dismissed McCain’s status as a “war hero,” stating he preferred people who were not captured. When McCain died in 2018, Trump allegedly said, “We’re not going to support that loser’s funeral,” according to the Atlantic.

September 22, 2020 at 8:21 PM EDT
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Trump goes after Rep. Ilhan Omar, suggesting America isn’t her country

By Colby Itkowitz

Trump told a Pennsylvania crowd he’s going to win Minnesota because of Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Somali refugee whose family obtained asylum in America when she was a child, and made a remark about her not being American that is reminiscent of one critics decried as racist last year.

“They say he’s telling us how to run our country. How did you do where you came from? How is your country doing?” Trump says about Omar. “They’re going to tell, she’s going to tell us, she’s telling us how to run our country.”

The comment is similar to one Trump made in July 2019 about four minority congresswomen when he said they should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” Of the four women he was referring to, Omar was the only one not born in the United States.

Later, Omar hit back at Trump, tweeting: “Firstly, this is my country & I am a member of the House that impeached you. Secondly, I fled civil war when I was 8. An 8-year-old doesn’t run a country even though you run our country like one.”

September 22, 2020 at 7:27 PM EDT
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Kamala Harris: Trump will never say 'Black lives matter’

By Chelsea Janes

Kamala D. Harris, sitting in a barbershop chair in the middle of a Detroit parking lot, told a socially distanced gathering of Black men that Trump “will never say Black lives matter.”

“When we look at this election, there are some very clear differences. Donald Trump will never use the term ‘Black lives matter.' He will never say that,” Harris said. “He will say that African countries are, well, you know the term he used. He will say that when people are protesting for justice, they’re equal on both sides. Fine people.”

Harris took questions from the small group of attendees and covered a variety of issues, including Biden’s plan to rethink the criminal justice system, increase minority access to capital and invest in Title I school districts. She also reiterated her concerns about the Trump administration’s efforts to roll back the Affordable Care Act, as well as Biden’s plan to expand it.

As she has at many events recently, Harris also pointed out that many people who contracted the novel coronavirus and survived could have lingering lung damage that will constitute a preexisting condition and that those people will not be able to get adequate health insurance if the Trump administration no longer requires coverage for people with preexisting conditions.

“If Donald Trump has his way, they can be denied” coverage, Harris said.

Many of Harris’s trips since being named to the Democratic ticket have centered on Black voters, particularly Black women. Last month, she made a virtual visit to Michigan that included a roundtable with Black women and encouraged them to mobilize their communities to vote.

Her trip Tuesday began with stops at businesses in the Detroit area and continued with brief remarks at a “get out the vote” rally at the Detroit Pistons Performance Center.

September 22, 2020 at 7:05 PM EDT
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Trump says nine justices needed before election to deal with voting lawsuits

By Colby Itkowitz

Trump said he wants his Supreme Court nominee confirmed before the election to deal with voting-related cases that could rise all the way to the nation’s highest court.

“We need nine justices. You need that with the unsolicited, millions of ballots they’re sending,” Trump said to reporters before departing the White House for a campaign rally. “It’s a scam, it’s a hoax, and the Democrats know it better than anyone else.”

“Doing it before the election would be a very good thing because you’re probably going to see [court cases] because what they’re doing is they are trying to sow confusion and everything else,” Trump added.

The president has previously tried to cast doubt on mail-in voting, claiming without evidence that it could lead to fraud.

There are already lawsuits pending that could go before the Supreme Court, including one in Pennsylvania over extending the mail-in ballot deadline. Republicans in the state have appealed a state court decision and have asked the Supreme Court to rule whether accepting days-late ballots is constitutional.

There are likely to be more partisan election cases that the Supreme Court is asked to weigh in on. If Trump’s nominee is confirmed, one-third of the court will be a Trump pick deciding on issues affecting the presidential election.

September 22, 2020 at 6:20 PM EDT
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Pennsylvania Republicans plan to appeal mail ballot deadline ruling to Supreme Court

By Amy Gardner

Pennsylvania Republicans will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to decide the legality of allowing voters to return mail ballots up to three days after Election Day, potentially queuing up the first partisan election case for the court to consider since the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The state’s top four legislative Republicans indicated in a court filing that they plan to ask the Supreme Court for an emergency stay to block a state court’s decision from taking effect in time for the fall election.

The Republicans filed a stay request with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Tuesday, writing that they planned to appeal to the country’s highest court, as well. It remains to be seen how the Supreme Court will handle the appeal.

The death of Ginsburg, heralded by liberals as a powerful champion for voting rights, has brought new uncertainty to the battle of election rules in 2020 playing out across the country.

September 22, 2020 at 6:14 PM EDT
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Foreign actors, cybercriminals could spread misinformation on 2020 vote, agencies warn

By Ellen Nakashima

Foreign actors and cybercriminals could create new websites, change existing ones or share social media content to spread false information in an attempt to discredit the electoral process and undermine confidence in U.S. democratic institutions, the FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency warned Tuesday.

In a joint statement, the agencies also stressed that the expected surge in mail-in voting due to the coronavirus could result in incomplete results on election night.

State and local officials typically require several days to weeks to certify final results, said the FBI and the CISA, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security. Foreign actors and cybercriminals could exploit that lag to spread disinformation that includes reports of voter suppression, cyberattacks targeting election infrastructure, voter or ballot fraud and other problems intended to convince the public that elections have been compromised, they said.

“The FBI and CISA urge the American public to critically evaluate the sources of the information they consume and to seek out reliable and verified information from trusted sources, such as state and local election officials,” their statement said. “The public should also be aware that if foreign actors or cyber criminals were able to successfully change an election-related website, the underlying data and internal systems would remain uncompromised.”

They recommended that voters seek information from trustworthy sources such as state and local election officials, verify who produced the content and consider the source’s intent.

September 22, 2020 at 4:32 PM EDT
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Republicans object to Senate resolution honoring Ginsburg’s life after Democrats include her dying wish

By Felicia Sonmez

Senate Republicans on Tuesday blocked a resolution recognizing the life of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg after Democrats added to the measure the late Supreme Court justice’s dying wish that she not be replaced until a new president is installed.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) introduced the resolution Tuesday afternoon, noting that Republicans had approached Democrats with the measure but that it ignored Ginsburg’s wish, words shared by her granddaughter.

“So we simply have added it to the exact same text of the resolution the Republicans gave us,” Schumer said. He added that Republicans’ words in recent days honoring Ginsburg’s life “will be totally empty if those Republicans ignore her dying wish and instead move to replace her with someone who will tear down everything she built.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) objected to the resolution and proposed modifying it to include a different Ginsburg quotation in which the justice said she disagreed with the notion of court packing, or expanding the Supreme Court to more than nine seats.

Schumer then spoke in objection to Cruz’s proposal, leaving the chamber back where it started.

“I believe Justice Ginsburg would easily see through the legal sophistry of the argument of the junior senator from Texas,” Schumer said. “To turn Justice [Ginsburg’s] dying words against her is so, so beneath the dignity of this body.”

September 22, 2020 at 3:32 PM EDT
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FDA to announce tougher standards for a vaccine that make it unlikely one will be cleared by Election Day

By Laurie McGinley and Carolyn Y. Johnson

The Food and Drug Administration is expected to spell out a new standard for an emergency authorization of a coronavirus vaccine as soon as this week that will make it exceedingly difficult for any vaccine to be cleared before Election Day.

The agency is issuing the guidance to boost transparency and public trust as it approaches the momentous decision of whether a prospective vaccine is safe and effective. Public health experts are increasingly worried that Trump’s repeated predictions of a coronavirus vaccine by Nov. 3, coupled with the administration’s interference in federal science agencies, may prompt Americans to reject any vaccine as rushed and potentially tainted.

The stakes are high: Polls show that the politicization of the race to develop a vaccine is taking its toll. The Pew Research Center recently reported that the percentage of people who said they would get the vaccine if it were available today has dropped to just over 50 percent from 72 percent in May.

September 22, 2020 at 3:24 PM EDT
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White House disparages Olivia Troye, ex-Pence aide who criticized Trump’s ‘flat-out disregard for human life’ during pandemic

By Felicia Sonmez and Josh Dawsey

Retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, an adviser to Vice President Pence, on Tuesday sharply criticized Olivia Troye, a former senior adviser on the White House coronavirus task force who recently said Trump’s response to the pandemic showed a “flat-out disregard for human life."

Troye, who worked as homeland security, counterterrorism and coronavirus adviser to Pence for two years, left the White House in August. She told The Washington Post last week that she plans to vote for Biden this fall because of her experience in the Trump White House.

Kellogg had previously called Troye a former employee who is “disgruntled that her detail was cut short because she was no longer capable of keeping up with her day-to-day duties.” On Tuesday, he went further, condemning her “disparagement” of the coronavirus task force and saying he approached Pence with concerns about her performance.

“Olivia Troye worked for me,” Kellogg said. “I fired her. The reason I fired her was her performance had started to drop after six months working on the task force as a backbencher. She was responsible for coordinating meetings, bringing people together. And when the performance level dropped off, I went to the vice president of the United States and recommended she leave. I’m the one that escorted her off the compound.”

He added: “I am very proud of the task force and the work it’s done. I am not proud of Olivia Troye.”

White House aides said Trump wanted Kellogg to address the media, and two officials said it was a mistake to resuscitate the story line. Those officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose private conversations.

Troye disputed Kellogg’s version of events Tuesday afternoon, saying in a tweet that it is “sad that Gen. Kellogg is telling a bald faced lie to protect the President.”

“I resigned on my own accord & was asked to stay,” she said. “He never escorted me out. He knows this. I wrote a note thanking all the colleagues who had worked so hard with me in spite of POTUS & I stand by that.”

Troye also included a photo of a commemorative coin that she said Kellogg gave her in August. “I received this as a gift from Gen Kellogg & as you can see I appreciated it! This gift is not the action of someone who did what Kellogg claims he did,” she said.

Troye has previously said that she wished she had spoken out internally more often and that she experienced many “sleepless nights” about her actions and time in the administration. She also said there regularly were suggestions from Pence’s top political advisers about his coronavirus remarks “that I could just not support, and it became harder and harder to push back."

September 22, 2020 at 3:14 PM EDT
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Agreement reached to extend ballot receipt deadline in North Carolina

By Elise Viebeck

The North Carolina State Board of Elections has agreed to count mail ballots if they are postmarked by Election Day and received up to nine days later, a legal win for voting rights advocates that will decrease the number of ballots rejected during the general election.

The board declared its intention to extend the ballot receipt deadline in a motion filed Tuesday in Wake County Superior Court. Joining with the North Carolina Alliance for Retired Americans and several individual plaintiffs who had sued the state over mail-voting restrictions, election officials announced several other changes ahead of Nov. 3, including a wider “cure” process to allow voters to fix problems with their mail ballots and drop-off locations to ease the return of ballots to be counted.

The board also clarified that ballots that are received without a postmark but whose path through the mail can be traced with BallotTrax or other tracking systems will be counted if they arrive by the new deadline. Previously, ballots had to arrive by Nov. 6 to be considered valid.

“Voters deserve certainty. Our board, both Democrats and Republicans, agreed unanimously to make these commonsense changes to our process amid the Covid-19 pandemic,” Damon Circosta, chair of the state board, said in a statement. “We have ensured that our election process is secure and accessible.”

The state outlined the policy changes in memos from the Board of Elections attached as exhibits to the motion.

In one such memo, the board clarified that signature matching is not required by North Carolina law and that the voter’s signature should “not be compared with the voter’s signature on file” during the process of verifying mail ballots. Voting rights advocates had expressed concerns that workers processing ballots might reject some over signatures that appeared mismatched if the rules were not clarified.

The motion must be approved by a judge.

September 22, 2020 at 3:01 PM EDT
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Where Trump and Biden stand on the issues

By Kevin Uhrmacher

In his reelection bid, Trump is touting his stewardship of the economy, promising a rapid coronavirus vaccine, and employing tough rhetoric on immigration and social unrest. His challenger, Biden, says he would reverse many of Trump’s actions and pursue ambitious proposals to address the pandemic, racial injustice and climate change. But as Trump has discovered, the most ambitious promises are often the toughest to accomplish in Washington.

The Washington Post compiled the candidates’ stances to inform readers about the issues defining the 2020 election. Both campaigns were given an opportunity to confirm or correct the characterizations. Biden’s campaign clarified several stances; Trump’s campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

September 22, 2020 at 2:58 PM EDT
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McConnell vows to press ahead on Trump nominee but is noncommittal on timeline

By Donna Cassata and Seung Min Kim

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that Republicans will move ahead on the confirmation process for Trump’s Supreme Court nominee but offered no specifics on the timing for a vote.

Speaking to reporters after the weekly GOP lunch, McConnell said Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) will lay out the plan for handling the nominee after Trump makes his announcement, which is widely expected on Saturday.

Other Senate Republicans indicated that they expect the nominee to be someone who has been vetted, most likely a federal judge.

“When the nomination comes out of committee, then I’ll decide when and how to proceed," McConnell said.

Trump has said he would like the Senate to vote before the Nov. 3 election, a quick turnaround on a nominee.

Republicans, who hold a 53-47 majority, have signaled they will vote to confirm Trump’s choice even though they don’t know who he will choose. Democrats are largely powerless to stop the GOP though they can slow down the process.

On Tuesday, Democrats invoked the two-hour rule, which restricts the times that most Senate committees and subcommittees can meet when the Senate is in session, to prevent committees from meeting. The move was a form of protest over the push to fill the Supreme Court vacancy within days of the election, according to a Democratic aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal decisions.