President Trump held a news conference at the White House in which he responded to a question about whether he would agree to a peaceful transfer of power by saying, “Well, we’re going to have to see what happens." Earlier in the day, he predicted the election would end up in the Supreme Court.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden made an appeal Wednesday to Black voters in North Carolina, promoting his plans for improving education and housing disparities as he made his first trip to the battleground state since the primaries. Later, he issued a statement urging peaceful protests in response to no officer being charged with murder in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor.

With 41 days until Election Day …
  • Allegations of racism have marked Trump’s presidency and become a key issue as the election nears.
  • Trump appears to have secured a Senate majority for his Supreme Court pick, even before naming one.
  • A Washington Post-ABC poll finds Trump and Biden in tight races in Florida and Arizona.
  • 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, five in Arizona and one in Florida.
September 23, 2020 at 9:51 PM EDT
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Democrats, and Mitt Romney, blast Trump over refusal to guarantee peaceful transition

By Colby Itkowitz

Democratic lawmakers and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) responded sharply to Trump’s refusal to commit to a peaceful transition of power, condemning the president’s comments about a foundational tenet of democracy.

Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), who led the House’s impeachment inquiry against Trump, tweeted: “This is how democracy dies.”

“A president so desperate to cling to power that he won’t commit to a peaceful transition of power. That he seeks to throw out millions of votes. And a Republican Party too craven to say a word. But we will fight back. America belongs to the people,” Schiff tweeted.

Romney, who was the Republican presidential nominee in 2012 and the sole GOP senator to vote for removing Trump from office during the impeachment process, criticized the president’s comments as “both unthinkable and unacceptable.”

“Fundamental to democracy is the peaceful transition of power; without that, there is Belarus,” Romney wrote on Twitter, referring to the recent election in that country that Western leaders have called fraudulent. “Any suggestion that a president might not respect this Constitutional guarantee is both unthinkable and unacceptable.”

While other congressional Republicans said nothing, many Democratic lawmakers were quick to condemn the president and call on their GOP colleagues to do the same.

“The peaceful transfer of power is the very foundation of our democracy and our constitutional system. This is not a joke. It’s chilling,” Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) said. “Republicans in Congress need to speak up now — for the sake of our democracy.

Sen. Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.), who ran for president in this year’s Democratic primary, wrote: “Members of all parties must condemn this open assault on our democracy. No context can excuse this. No talking points from the podium tomorrow can erase it. We are well past the point where partisanship must give way to patriotism.”

Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) accused Trump of laying the groundwork since July to reject the election results and noted that she had been seeking assurance from Pentagon officials that they’d ensure the transfer of power if Trump loses and refuses to concede.

“The President can’t successfully refuse to accept the results of the election without a number of very senior officials aiding him,” she tweeted. “To the Attorney General, Secretary of Defense, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Secretary of Homeland Security: History is coming for you, and you will have to make a choice.”

Others held up the president’s comments as motivation for people to vote.

“Trump is already using the myth of mail-in ballot fraud as an excuse to not accept the results of the election” said Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) “To defeat him, we need the largest mobilization possible and a decisive margin. Our democracy is at stake.”

September 23, 2020 at 9:17 PM EDT
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Biden urges peaceful protests, calls for police reforms in wake of Breonna Taylor decision

By Matt Viser

Biden tonight urged protesters to be peaceful and pressed for police reforms in the wake of the decision to charge only one police officer in connection with the shooting of Breonna Taylor, and none directly with her killing.

In a statement released by his campaign, Biden did not address whether he thought the decision was the correct one.

“A federal investigation remains ongoing, but we do not need to wait for the final judgment of that investigation to do more to deliver justice for Breonna. We know what is necessary,” Biden said. “We need to start by addressing the use of excessive force, banning choke holds, and overhauling no-knock warrants.”

“We must continue to speak Breonna Taylor’s name, support her family still in grieving and never give up on ensuring the full promise of America for every American,” he added.

Trump, during a White House news conference, praised Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron (R), saying he is doing “a fantastic job” and is “a star.” Trump read a statement from Cameron saying that “justice is not often easy. … If we simply act on emotion or outrage, there is no justice. Mob justice is not justice.”

“I think it was a terrific statement,” Trump added. “He’s handling it very well.”

Earlier, Biden had been reluctant to comment. He said would try to learn more on his flight home to Wilmington, Del., and the campaign released the statement after he landed.

He did call for protesters to be peaceful, mirroring comments that he had made during a round of local TV interviews following a campaign event this afternoon.

“If there are going to be protests, they should be peaceful protests,” he told WRAL-TV. “Breonna Taylor’s mom, God love her, has gone through hell. And she should not have to be in a situation where — I’m sure just like the other folks who have been victimized, does not want to see burning, looting, anything like that. I pray it be peaceful, they be peaceful protests.”

September 23, 2020 at 8:14 PM EDT
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Biden asserts his mental, physical fitness ahead of next week’s debate

By Matt Viser

Biden again brushed back against any criticism that he is mentally or physically unfit for the presidency, pointing instead at President Trump’s own challenges ahead of their debate next week.

“Watch me. Look at him,” Biden said in an interview with WRAL-TV in Raleigh, N.C. “I’m not the guy who, by the way, said that the problem with the Civil — with the Revolutionary War was we didn’t have enough airports.”

“I’m not the guy who said that the attack that took down the trade towers was on 7/11,” he added.

Biden also poked fun at Trump’s struggle to walk down the ramp after delivering a commencement address at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y.

“I’m not the guy who says inject bleach in your arm,” Biden said. “And I do know the difference between truth and lies, between good and bad, between hope and fear. Just watch me. And make your decision.”

Asked about his debate preparations, Biden said “I’m used to dealing with bullies.”

“Again, just watch me,” he said. “I’ve not been a bad debater. We’ll see. I’m going to insist we talk about the president’s failures. He’s going to want to make it personal. He’s going to want to get in the mosh pit.”

During the interview, Biden also again declined to take a position on adding more Supreme Court justices. He has been opposed to the concept in the past, but some Democrats are arguing they should threaten to expand the court if Republicans fill the Supreme Court vacancy.

“What I’m not going to do, I hope you’ll understand, is play the president’s game,” Biden said. “He wants to change the subject.”

“What I am going to say is that I urge the Democrats to go out and campaign like the devil to make it clear what the president has done, what he’s attempting to do — and he’s probably going to be able to do — and make it clear that that’s going to cause women their health care, because they’re going to take away the Affordable Care Act,” Biden said, referring to the confirmation as a foregone conclusion.

He said Democrats should focus on that threat to health care, which will again be before the Supreme Court just after the election.

“People are going to lose their health care,” Biden said. “And particularly women. And that’s why. That’s why we should be out making this a campaign issue and make sure that we change it.”

September 23, 2020 at 7:18 PM EDT
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Trump refuses to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses

By Colby Itkowitz

Trump refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election, asserting that if he doesn’t win, it will be because of fraudulent mail-in voting. There is no evidence of widespread fraud in voting by mail.

“Well, we’re going to have to see what happens. You know that I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots and the ballots are a disaster — " Trump began when asked during a White House news briefing whether he’d ensure a peaceful transition.

“I understand that, but people are rioting, do you commit to making sure that there’s a peaceful transferral of power?” the reporter pressed.

“Get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very — we’ll have a very peaceful, there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There’ll be a continuation,” Trump said. “The ballots are out of control. You know it. And you know who knows it better than anybody else? The Democrats know it better than anybody else.”

The president seems to be referring to, as he has for months now, the massive uptick in people voting by mail this fall rather than in person amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Trump continues to claim, with no evidence, that Democrats are supporting widespread mail-in voting to corrupt the results.

Trump has previously been asked whether he would accept the results of the election and has refused to commit to doing so. He also refused to say whether he’d accept the results in 2016, which then-Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton called “horrifying."

His opponent this time responded incredulously when told of Trump’s latest comments.

“What country are we in? I’m being facetious," Biden said. "I said what country are we in? Look, he says the most irrational things. I don’t know what to say.”

September 23, 2020 at 6:37 PM EDT
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Florida attorney general requests FBI investigation of Michael Bloomberg

By Michael Scherer

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody asked the FBI to review a recent fundraising effort by former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg to pay the debts of Black and Hispanic former felons so they can vote in the upcoming election.

Moody, a Republican, argues in a letter sent Wednesday to federal and state law enforcement agencies that the effort may have run afoul of Florida law, which outlaws the offering of incentives to vote in a particular manner. She wrote that she had been asked by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) to review the Bloomberg effort.

Allies of Bloomberg dismissed the letter as a continuation of Republican attempts to block the impact of a 2018 constitutional amendment in the state that granted voting rights to most former felons. The Republican-controlled legislature subsequently passed a law that required those former felons to pay all fees, fines and restitution payments before they could vote again.

“I think that it is a naked, blatant attempt to disenfranchise those ex-felons that by a vote by Florida voters were enfranchised, and to seek to criminalize those who would provide the resources that were required unnecessarily to protect their right to vote,” said the Rev. Al Sharpton, the founder of the National Action Network.

Bloomberg’s advisers announced Tuesday that they had raised $16 million for an effort by the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, which has for months been fundraising to pay the fees of former felons. A Bloomberg adviser made clear that the intent of his effort was to activate “tens of thousands of voters who are predisposed to vote for Joe Biden.”

Desmond Meade, the founder of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, says his group is strictly nonpartisan and does not share Bloomberg’s goal of electing any candidate or party in November. Before Bloomberg’s involvement, Meade said the group raised about $7 million from 44,000 donors to pay off the debts of former felons.

The idea of seeking a criminal investigation of Bloomberg, who has pledged at least $100 million to elect Biden in Florida, was raised Tuesday night by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), a close ally of Trump, in an appearance of Fox News.

American Civil Liberties Union senior staff attorney Julie Ebenstein, who brought a lawsuit to strike down the state law requiring debt payment for former felons seeking a vote, said the state of Florida has not previously objected to the practice of fundraising for that purpose.

“There is certainly no doubt in my mind that a third party can pay someone’s legal financial obligations. Certainly it was something that the state was aware of,” she said. “Florida itself created a system where people have to pay their debts in order to vote and now they are objecting to paying their debts.”

A Bloomberg spokesman, who declined to speak on the record, dismissed the effort as a political ploy.

September 23, 2020 at 5:37 PM EDT
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Va. voters don’t need witnesses for mail-in ballots. But the instructions aren’t always clear.

By Patricia Sullivan

Some Virginia voters who received absentee ballots by mail this week were left scratching their heads at the included instructions, which told them they didn’t need witness signatures this year to make their ballots count — but, if they wanted their ballots to count, they needed witness signatures.

Virginia voters do not have to have a witness signature on their absentee ballots this fall.

State and local elections officials acknowledge the problem but point to late changes to Virginia law eliminating the commonwealth’s long-standing witness-signature requirement for absentee voting this year as a reason for the confusion.

“It’s not as clear as it should be, no question about that,” Bob Brink, chair of the state board of elections, said of Virginia’s voter instructions. “We hope that [voters] will turn to a combination of the department’s instructions on our website and instructions to call their local registrars. I hope that will alleviate any confusion.”

September 23, 2020 at 4:57 PM EDT
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Analysis: Americans don’t expect to know who won the presidency on Nov. 3 itself

By Philip Bump

About half of voters say they will vote in person on Election Day, 6 in 10 say they will vote in person either on or before the election, and a third plan to vote by mail or absentee ballot, according to a Quinnipiac University poll.

Broken down by party, half of Democratic voters plan to vote by mail and more than half of Republicans plan to vote in person. Quinnipiac’s results offer a stark example of how that will affect the vote-counting: Those planning to vote in person on Election Day prefer Trump by 22 points, while those planning to vote by mail prefer Biden by 42 points.

In other words, Trump may end the evening Nov. 3 with a lead, thanks to those in-person votes. But as the absentee votes are counted, that lead may fade, leading to a broad Biden win. Again: Quinnipiac has Biden winning by 10 points overall, even if votes cast on Election Day have him down by more than 20.

The good news is that most Americans don’t think we will know who won the election on Nov. 3 itself — including Democrats and Republicans in equal measure.

September 23, 2020 at 4:03 PM EDT
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Trump predicts election ‘will end up in the Supreme Court’

By Colby Itkowitz

Trump directly tied the confirmation of a Supreme Court justice to the presidential election, predicting that cases challenging the results would end up before the nation’s highest court.

“I think this will end up in the Supreme Court. And I think it’s very important that we have nine justices,” Trump said when asked if he felt an urgency to fill the seat before the election due to the possibility of lawsuits around voting.

Trump, who has warned baselessly of voter fraud and corruption in the upcoming election, said: “It’s better if you go before the election, because I think this, this scam that the Democrats are pulling, it’s a scam, the scam will be before the United States Supreme Court. And I think having a 4/4 situation is not a good situation."

The “scam” he’s referring to is the decision by most states to allow most Americans the option to vote by mail in the face of the coronavirus pandemic when people might be scared to vote in person. There is no evidence that mailing in ballots will lead to the kind of widespread corruption Trump has suggested.

Trump then said an election case that goes before the Supreme Court should get a vote of “eight nothing or nine nothing."

“But just in case it would be more political than it should be, I think it’s very important to have a ninth justice.”

September 23, 2020 at 3:46 PM EDT
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Judge rejects Eric Trump’s claim that he can’t meet with investigators until after the election

By Shayna Jacobs

NEW YORK — A state judge on Wednesday ordered Eric Trump to be deposed no later than Oct. 7 in the New York attorney general's examination of the Trump Organization's financial practices, rejecting a protest by President Trump's son who has said he is too busy to meet with investigators until after November's election.

The ruling was handed down by New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron after nearly two hours of arguments in a lawsuit brought by state investigators conducting the civil investigation. The president’s company is managed by his two sons, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr.

September 23, 2020 at 3:36 PM EDT
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Biden maintains national lead over Trump in new Quinnipiac poll

By Felicia Sonmez

A new Quinnipiac University poll shows Biden maintaining a wide lead over Trump nationally, with the former vice president winning the support of 52 percent of likely voters to the president’s 42 percent.

“Voters think Biden is smarter, more honest, more level headed, and cares more about Americans than the president. And that, in part, translates into a ten-point lead,” Quinnipiac University polling analyst Tim Malloy said in a statement.

The survey shows that 94 percent of likely voters who have selected a candidate say their minds are made up, while 5 percent say they might change their minds.

The poll was conducted Sept. 17-21 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points.

September 23, 2020 at 3:31 PM EDT
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Biden hosts economic summit, pledges to elevate Civil Rights Division

By Matt Viser

Speaking in Charlotte, on Wednesday, Biden focused on the economic vulnerability of African Americans, outlining his previous proposals for racial equity while pledging to elevate the Civil Rights Division if he is elected.

At what was billed as a “Black Economic Summit,” he addressed the growing racial unrest around the country and the potential to spur change in public policy.

“Average people have gone, ‘My lord, holy mackerel. I didn’t know it was this bad,'” Biden said.

During his remarks, a grand jury in Jefferson County, Ky., indicted a former police officer on three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor during a drug raid in March. Biden did not mention the case directly.

Biden talked about infusing more money into historically Black colleges and universities and touted a plan that would allow anyone from a family making less than $125,000 to go to a public college free.

At one point, he stopped and said he kept a list of his major funding proposals and how he’d pay for them, pulling a notecard out of his pocket. He argued for tax code changes that would raise taxes on corporations and the wealthy — but he also tried to make clear he was not going as far, politically or rhetorically, as his former Democratic primary rival Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

“You think I’m making it like, you know … Bernie Sanders, ‘Billionaires are bad.’ That’s not the problem,” Biden said, casting his proposal as a more modest increase in the tax rate for the wealthiest Americans to 39.4 percent. “I’m not trying to punish anybody. It’s time everybody pay their fair share.”

At the end, Biden said he would allow one more question, saying with a laugh, “I could really do yes or no if you ask me an easy question.” The question was about how the Department of Justice would operate differently under him.

“This has been the most corrupt administration to modern American history,” Biden said. “The Justice Department’s turned into the president’s private law firm.”

On cases and prosecutions, Biden said, “the Justice Department will be totally independent of me.” But he said that the Civil Rights division would be elevated and would have “a direct office within the White House.”

“I’d make sure there’s a combination of the Civil Rights Division having more direct authority inside the Justice Department and be able to investigate, than in fact it has now,” Biden said.

“But I get asked the following question, ‘If in fact you get elected, would you prosecute Trump?’” Biden added. “The answer is I’m not going to pursue prosecuting anybody. I’m going to do what the Justice Department says should be done.”

September 23, 2020 at 3:11 PM EDT
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Kamala Harris: ‘Breonna Taylor and her family deserve justice yesterday, today and tomorrow’

By J. Freedom du Lac

Sen. Kamala D. Harris, the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, reacted to news of the grand jury’s report in the Breonna Taylor case as she arrived for a Senate Intelligence Committee briefing in Washington.

“I haven’t read it fully yet, but there’s no question that Breonna Taylor and her family deserve justice yesterday, today and tomorrow,” Harris told reporters.

Harris has been outspoken about the Taylor case. In May, she and Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Ga.) sent a letter to the Justice Department asking for a federal investigation into the deadly shooting.

A grand jury in Jefferson County, Ky., earlier Wednesday charged Brett Hankison, a former Louisville police detective, with three counts of wanton endangerment in the first degree. Hankison, one of the officers involved in the March 13 shooting death of 26-year-old Taylor, was fired by the department in June, with a termination letter saying he “wantonly and blindly” shot 10 times into Taylor’s apartment.

September 23, 2020 at 2:51 PM EDT
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With eye toward Florida vote, Trump tells Bay of Pigs veterans that there will 'very soon’ be a ‘free Cuba’

By Felicia Sonmez and John Wagner

President Trump delivered remarks Wednesday in honor of veterans of the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, a failed operation by Cuban exiles opposed to Fidel Castro’s revolution that was covertly financed and directed by the U.S. government.

The event comes as Trump is making outreach to Cuban Americans a key component of his campaign in Florida, a state he almost certainly must win to prevail in the electoral college.

Speaking in the East Room of the White House, Trump declared there will “very soon” be a “free Cuba,” adding, “It’s happening very fast.”

“My administration stands with every citizen of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela in their fight for liberty, and we work for the day when this will become a fully free hemisphere and it will be — for the first time in human history — a fully free hemisphere, and we will have it. … A lot of things are going on right now that I can’t tell you about, but I will be soon,” Trump said.

He added the Treasury Department will prohibit U.S. travelers from staying at properties owned by the Cuban government and will further restrict the importation of Cuban alcohol and tobacco.

President Barack Obama reestablished diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba, and lifted a number of trade and travel restrictions. Trump came to office vowing to reverse those measures and has tightened both travel and trade.

“The Obama-Biden administration made a weak, pathetic, one-sided deal with the Castro dictatorship that betrayed the Cuban people and enriched the communist regime,” Trump said Wednesday. “I canceled the Obama-Biden sellout to the Castro regime.”

He also took aim at those on the left, telling the crowd: “Today, we proclaim that America will never be a socialist — or communist — country.”

Democrats responded by calling the speech “a desperate and hypocritical attempt by Trump to pander to Cuban-American voters in Florida.”

“American citizens are already banned from traveling to Cuba because of the coronavirus, and Trump has privately sought to do business with the country for years and ignored the embargo,” Democratic National Committee spokesman Enrique Gutierrez said in a statement. “He’s filed trademarks with the Cuban government to make money on golf courses, hotels, and more — but now that he’s lagging in the polls, he’s just using our foreign policy for his own political gain.”

A couple of recent polls showed Trump leading with Latino voters in Florida. An NBC-Marist poll two weeks ago said Trump was "leading sizably among Latinos of Cuban descent, and with Biden just slightly ahead among all other Latinos in the state.”

Karen DeYoung contributed to this report.

September 23, 2020 at 1:43 PM EDT
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Trump holds narrow lead among senior sunshine voters

By Emily Guskin

Arizona and Florida are destinations for many retirees who often seek sunshine and lower costs of living. One-quarter or more of registered voters in each state are 65 or older, a group that also has an outsize impact as they turn out at higher rates.

According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll released Wednesday, in Florida, Trump has a narrow edge over Biden, 52 percent to 44 percent, among likely voters 65 and older. The eight-point edge is considered narrow because of the larger margin of error as a result of the sample size of the subset. In 2016, Trump won seniors in Florida by a 17-percentage-point margin, according to network exit polling.

The Post-ABC poll found that in Arizona, Trump also narrowly leads Biden among seniors, by 10 points, 54 percent to 44 percent. Trump won voters 65 and older by 13 points in 2016 in Arizona.

Senior registered voters in both states are more likely to be White and to lean toward the Republican Party than younger voters.

About 8 in 10 senior registered voters in both states are White, a stark contrast from younger voters. In Arizona, about half of voters under 40 are White. In Florida, just about 4 in 10 voters under 40 are White.