On the eve of the first presidential debate, President Trump delivered an address Monday on coronavirus testing as his campaign grapples with the fallout from a bombshell report that he avoided paying income taxes for years. Trump has not disputed the facts of the report but has criticized its “bad intent.”

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has no public events scheduled Monday but has dispatched his running mate, Sen. Kamala D. Harris, to the battleground state of North Carolina, where she highlighted what’s at stake in the fight playing out in Washington over Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.

With 36 days until the election …
  • Trump avoided paying taxes for years, largely because his business empire reported losing more money than it made, the New York Times reported. Trump called the Times story “fake news” but did not take issue with any specific details.
  • Democrats are focusing the battle over the Supreme Court vacancy on the fate of the Affordable Care Act under Trump.
  • With five weeks left, Trump is playing defense in states he won in 2016.
  • 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 smaller in other key states: seven points in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania; five in Arizona; and one in Florida.
  • Here’s what to know about the 2020 presidential debates.
September 29, 2020 at 8:26 PM EDT
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Democratic events platform sees surge in activity related to debate, Ginsburg’s death

By Isaac Stanley-Becker

Tuesday’s presidential debate has powered more activity in a single week on Mobilize, the Democratic events and volunteer platform, than recorded on the digital tool in its more than three-year history, according to data provided to The Washington Post.

The platform has been averaging 93,000 sign-ups per day in the lead-up to the first encounter between President Trump and Joe Biden, said Mobilize’s co-founder and CEO, Alfred Johnson. Much of the activity was geared specifically toward the debate, with users signing up for virtual watch parties.

But the flurry of activity reflects a broader increase in engagement as the presidential contest kicks into high gear, Johnson said. Mobilize data suggests the recent death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the rush by Republican leadership to fill her vacancy on the Supreme Court marked a turning point, with 951,000 people signing up for 2.3 million events or actions in September alone.

Virtual watch parties are pathways to volunteer involvement, Mobilize’s data indicate, and about 20 percent of attendees also donate money to a political campaign. The platform said 62 percent of people taking action using Mobilize are women, and the most active age cohort is those between 25 and 34.

Online organizing has grown in importance for Democrats as they have curtailed in-person campaigning in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The Trump campaign, meanwhile, says it is operating a more vigorous on-the-ground effort.

“Instead of in-person door-knocking, we’re doing virtual house parties and text banks and friend-to-friend outreach that can be done remotely,” Johnson said. “The level of contact, for instance to reach out to voters who may not have turned in their absentee ballots, is unlike anything we’ve seen before, and it’s just happening in a different form.”

September 28, 2020 at 7:11 PM EDT
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Harris warns Barrett could help Republicans strike down Roe v. Wade

By Chelsea Janes

In her first remarks since Trump made his nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court official, Harris said the president and his party “are not interested in hearing the will of the people,” who would rather wait until after the presidential election to see Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat filled.

“We’re not even debating whether the Senate should hold hearings on a nominee in an election year,” she said. “We’re not in the middle of an election year — we’re in the middle of an election, an ongoing election. Almost a million Americans have already voted.”

Harris continually framed the nomination of Barrett as a decision made not only by Trump but also “his party,” implicating other Republicans in a nomination she said will almost certainly result in the overturning of the Affordable Care Act and loss of health insurance for millions of Americans. Barrett has been on record criticizing Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.’s decision to uphold the ACA.

But while Democrats such as Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) have tried to limit themselves to that health-care-centric argument so far — thereby avoiding a full-fledged reckoning on the more polarizing issue of abortion — Harris did not dodge that question Monday.

“If nothing else, the voters should be very clear about one thing,” Harris said. “President Trump and his party and Judge Barrett will overturn the Affordable Care Act, and they won’t stop there. They have made clear that they want to overturn Roe v. Wade and restrict reproductive rights and freedoms.”

“Judge Barrett has a long record of opposing abortion and reproductive rights,” she said. “There is no other issue that so disrespects and honors the work of Justice Ginsburg’s life than undoing the seminal decision in the court’s history that made it clear a woman has a right to make decisions about her own body.”

Harris’s critique is particularly noteworthy given her unique position in the Supreme Court nomination process. The senator from California exploded onto the national scene in part thanks to her pointed questioning of Brett M. Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearings in 2018 — questioning that dealt, in part, with the issue of abortion rights.

Because she is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Harris will also be asking questions during Barrett’s hearings. Monday, she told reporters she plans to be there. She also said she expects to meet with Barrett.

“I’m sure that’s going to happen. We’ll see how it works out,” Harris said. “… I haven’t made a plan one way or another.”

September 28, 2020 at 6:53 PM EDT
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In wake of an opponent’s death, Rep. Angie Craig files complaint to keep election date as scheduled

By Felicia Sonmez and David Weigel

Rep. Angie Craig on Monday filed a federal complaint calling for her reelection race to take place as scheduled in November, after the death last week of another candidate threw the timing of the election in doubt.

“Today, I filed a federal complaint to ensure that the election in #MN02 will proceed as required by federal law and that my constituents will not be without Congressional representation in 2021,” the Minnesota Democrat said in a tweet, encouraging supporters to “please continue to mark your ballot in this race.”

The move follows the death last week of Adam Weeks, the nominee for the Legal Marijuana Now Party, with the election involving Craig, Republican nominee Tyler Kistner and Weeks already underway.

Under state law, votes in the 2nd Congressional District race will not be tallied in November. Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon (D) said in a statement last week that according to a measure passed in 2013, “the law is clear” on how the state should proceed: “If a major party nominee dies within 79 days of Election Day; a special election will be held for that office on the second Tuesday of February.”

Craig said in a statement Monday that “the process currently in place would deprive Minnesotans of their seat at the table at a time when critical legislation affecting our state will be debated.”

The date of federal elections has been set at the first Tuesday of November for nearly 150 years, by Congress. If Minnesota’s law were superseded, votes that started being cast this month might be tallied; if seated, the winner would serve for a month before a special election.

The race is likely to be competitive: Trump narrowly won the district south of the Twin Cities with 46 percent of the vote in 2016, edging out Hillary Clinton in a race with a high share of votes for third-party candidates.

September 28, 2020 at 6:21 PM EDT
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Harris calls for civil rights inquiry into handling of Breonna Taylor case

By Chelsea Janes

Harris said Monday she believes the Justice Department should conduct a civil rights inquiry into the case of Breonna Taylor, the Louisville woman shot dead by police in her home earlier in the year.

“There needs to be a civil rights investigation of what they did,” the Democratic vice-presidential nominee said Monday in Raleigh, N.C. “We’re just going have to keep fighting, and we’re going to keep saying her name. We say her name not just to say her name, but we say her name to motivate action.”

Harris made the comment during a roundtable with Black voters at a Raleigh barbershop when an attendee asked what can be done to equalize accountability in law enforcement agencies across the country. After saying that a Biden-Harris Justice Department would engage in pattern-and-practice investigations of law enforcement agencies and prosecutors’ offices and put resources into consent decrees, Harris brought up Taylor’s case.

In the days since Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron (R) announced that none of the officers involved in the shooting would face charges for Taylor’s death, Harris has declined to say whether she would have charged the officers in a similar situation, saying she “didn’t have all the facts.”

Monday, as before, Harris called the decision “a gut punch.”

Harris also addressed revelations about Trump’s tax returns, as published by the New York Times on Sunday, including that the president paid just $750 in taxes in 2016. She began her closing remarks with her usual critique of him before breaking into laughter.

“The man pays $750? Come on now. On top of all of that?” she said. “Adding insult to injury.”

September 28, 2020 at 6:05 PM EDT
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Trump’s debts and foreign deals pose security risks, former intelligence officials say

By Greg Miller and Yeganeh Torbati

Security teams at U.S. spy agencies are constantly scouring employee records for signs of potential compromise: daunting levels of debt, troubling overseas entanglements, hidden streams of income and a penchant for secrecy or deceit to avoid exposure.

Trump would check nearly every box of this risk profile based on revelations in the New York Times from his long-secret tax records that former intelligence officials and security experts said raise profound questions about whether he should be trusted to safeguard U.S. secrets and interests.

The records show that Trump has continued to make money off foreign investments and projects while in office; that foreign officials have spent lavishly at his Washington hotel and other properties; and that despite this revenue he is hundreds of millions of dollars in debt with massive payments coming due.

September 28, 2020 at 5:42 PM EDT
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How Trump’s taxes compare to those of other presidents

By Christopher Ingraham

In 1977, President Jimmy Carter had a problem, presidential tax historian Joseph Thorndike said. Carter’s federal tax burden for 1976 had been zeroed out by a massive investment tax credit he earned for purchasing equipment and buildings related to his peanut farm.

Carter was upset, as he told The Washington Post at the time, because he had a “strong feeling” that wealthy people like him should pay at least some taxes. So he voluntarily paid the Treasury Department $6,000, the equivalent to 15 percent of his adjusted gross income and slightly more than the 14 percent paid by average taxpayers that year.

How times have changed.

On Sunday, the New York Times reported Trump paid $750 in federal income tax his first year in office, the lowest first-year tax payment of any president since at least Carter and, in raw dollar terms, significantly less than what the average middle-class American family pays.

September 28, 2020 at 4:25 PM EDT
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Courts view GOP fraud claims skeptically as Democrats score key legal victories over mail voting

By Elise Viebeck

For six months, the rules for how Americans can vote during the coronavirus pandemic have been locked in court battles while states across the country rushed to embrace mail ballots.

Now, with just weeks to go before the Nov. 3 election, voting rights advocates and Democrats have advanced on key fronts in the legal war, scoring victories that make mail voting easier, ensure votes cast by mail are counted and protect the wide distribution of mail ballots in some states.

A review by The Washington Post of nearly 90 state and federal voting lawsuits found that judges have been broadly skeptical as Republicans use claims of voter fraud to argue against such changes, declining to endorse the GOP’s arguments or dismissing them as they examined limits on mail voting. In no case did a judge back Trump’s view — refuted by experts — that fraud is a problem significant enough to sway a presidential election.

September 28, 2020 at 3:45 PM EDT
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Pelosi says Trump’s reported debt is ‘a national security question’

By Felicia Sonmez and Seung Min Kim

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Monday that Trump’s hundreds of millions of dollars in debt as reported by the New York Times is “a national security question,” adding that the American public “has a right to know” the identities of Trump’s creditors.

“This president appears to have over $400 million in debt. … To whom? Different countries? What is the leverage they have?” Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in an interview on MSNBC. “So, for me, this is a national security question.”

The Times report, published Sunday, shows that the business empire the president brags about has struggled and that, in the next few years, Trump will be required to pay about $421 million in loans and other debts.

On MSNBC, Pelosi added that “it’s so strange that in 2017, the president paid $750 in federal taxes, and he paid over $300,000 in taxes to … other countries that we know of. It may be more.”

“We take an oath to protect and defend,” Pelosi said. “This president is the commander in chief. He has exposure, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. To whom? The public has a right to know.”

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), meanwhile, focused less on the amount Trump reportedly paid in taxes and more on why the IRS has been taking years to complete its audit.

“The thought that comes to my mind is how come it’s taking the IRS so long to get the audits done,” Grassley told reporters at the Capitol on Monday afternoon. “I am concerned that the IRS is not getting their work done.”

Asked whether he is concerned about how much Trump owes the federal government, Grassley replied, “I want to wait until the IRS gets done so I know how much he owes.”

As chairman of the tax-writing Finance Committee, Grassley is one of two lawmakers on Capitol Hill empowered to request Trump’s tax returns.

September 28, 2020 at 3:09 PM EDT
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Pennsylvania GOP lawmakers ask Supreme Court to stop voting accommodations

By Robert Barnes

Pennsylvania’s Republican legislative leaders asked the Supreme Court on Monday to stop a decision of the state’s high court to count mail-in ballots received up to three days after Election Day.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in Democrats’ favor on a number of mail-voting rules: permitting voters to turn in ballots via drop box in addition to using the U.S. Postal Service; allowing ballots to be returned up to three days after Election Day; and blocking a Republican effort to allow partisan poll watchers to be stationed in counties where they do not live.

Republicans asked the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in only on the ruling pushing back the deadline for mail ballots to arrive. The state court said such ballots must be counted if they are postmarked by Nov. 3 — and even if they are not, “unless a preponderance of the evidence” shows that the ballots were mailed after Election Day.

September 28, 2020 at 2:42 PM EDT
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White House eschews outside ‘sherpa’ in Supreme Court confirmation process

By Seung Min Kim

The White House is eschewing a traditional outside “sherpa” to guide Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett through the Senate confirmation process, relying on top West Wing officials instead to lead the effort.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Counsel Pat Cipollone, working in close consultation with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), will effectively serve as Barrett’s guides through the process, according to a senior White House official who was not authorized to comment publicly about the matter and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Administrations often enlist outside help for high-profile nominees, particularly candidates for the Supreme Court, to help steer the confirmation process through the Senate on the White House’s behalf. Two former GOP senators, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Jon Kyl of Arizona, took on the role for Trump’s first two Supreme Court picks, Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh.

But Meadows and Cipollone have a well-developed relationship with senators and an existing coordination system, particularly after the impeachment trial in the Senate earlier this year, the White House official said. Meadows was still a House lawmaker then, but he was one of the president’s chief defenders on Capitol Hill during the impeachment process.

And Barrett is already a familiar face to many Senate Republicans, who had advocated for Trump to nominate her.

September 28, 2020 at 1:27 PM EDT
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What we know — and still want to know — about Trump’s company

By David Fahrenthold

On Sunday, the New York Times revealed that it had obtained Trump’s tax returns for much of the past 20 years — a trove of never-before-seen financial data from inside the president’s private business.

Trump had refused to release those returns himself, unlike all other recent presidents. And he had gone to the Supreme Court to stop both Congress and the Manhattan district attorney from obtaining them.

The Times’s story shows one reason Trump might have wanted to keep the returns secret. It said he had paid just $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and again in 2017 — and no federal income taxes at all in many previous years. The reason: Trump’s businesses routinely reported losing more money than they made, a fact that saved him on his taxes but belied the gold-plated chief executive image he presented to the public.

Trump called the New York Times story “fake news” but did not dispute any specific element of it. The Trump Organization, which Trump still owns, said that he has paid millions in “personal taxes” — a category that could also include other taxes such as Social Security and Medicare taxes.

September 28, 2020 at 1:22 PM EDT
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Nearly three-quarters of voters plan to watch first debate, poll finds

By John Wagner

Nearly three-quarters of the country’s registered voters plan to watch the first presidential debate live from Cleveland on Tuesday night, according to a Monmouth University poll.

Many of them might be tuning in for entertainment more than help in deciding how to vote, however.

While 74 percent say they plan to watch, just 3 percent say they are very likely to hear something that will affect their vote. Another 10 percent say that is somewhat likely, while 87 percent say that is not likely.

The findings are similar to those in 2016 ahead of the first faceoff between Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton. That year, 75 percent said they planed to tune in to the first debate and few said their votes were likely to change.

The Monmouth poll also finds 46 percent of registered voters approve of Trump’s plan to try to fill the Supreme Court vacancy by the election, while 51 percent disapprove.

September 28, 2020 at 1:20 PM EDT
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Biden campaign seeking to blunt Trump’s appeal to Black male voters

By Eugene Scott

Trump performed better with Black male voters in 2016 than any recent Republican nominee has, and Biden is trying to prevent that from happening again in 2020.

The Biden campaign is rolling out initiatives to draw more support from Black male voters. Harris, the party’s vice-presidential nominee, will meet with Black men in Raleigh, N.C., on Monday after speaking about the Biden campaign’s plans to improve the lives of Black men by reducing incarceration rates, building wealth, increasing employment numbers and protecting voting rights, among other topics. She also spoke with Black men in Detroit and Flint, Mich., last week.

In 2016, Trump’s outreach effort to win Black Americans’ votes was centered around the question: “What do you have to lose?”

The idea was that life in Black America was already so difficult under Democratic leadership that it couldn’t get much worse. But the Biden campaign is hoping to communicate how things have gotten worse — and how those problems could be exacerbated under four more years of Trump.

Through several projects, the campaign will attempt to make the argument that Trump’s responses to anti-racism protests and the police shootings of Black men is inflammatory and further divides the nation.

Historically, most Black men have backed the Democratic nominee in presidential elections.

More than 80 percent of Black men voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, according to exit polls. And while Biden is expected to win most Black male voters, his campaign is hoping to decrease Trump’s popularity with the group.

Trump won 13 percent of Black male voters in 2016, and his campaign has targeted the group in 2020, hoping to decrease Biden’s overall support with Black Americans in key states such as North Carolina, Florida and Ohio.

The Biden campaign is also releasing digital, TV and radio ads appealing to Black men through a program called “Shop Talk.” The ads feature Black men in barbershops talking about their various concerns, including criminal justice reform, police violence against Black men and a lack of trust in the current administration.

The program was started after a White police officer shot Jacob Blake, a Black man, in Kenosha, Wis., and has featured Rep. Cedric L. Richmond (D-La.), Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes (D), CNN panelist Bakari Sellers and hip-hop producer Jermaine Dupri.

September 28, 2020 at 12:41 PM EDT
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Trump’s campaign denies he considered adding his daughter to the ticket

By John Wagner

The president’s campaign Monday denied an account in a forthcoming book by a former senior Trump aide that in 2016, Trump considered making his daughter Ivanka his running mate and conducted polling about the prospect.

The anecdote is included in a book to be published Oct. 13 by former Trump deputy campaign manager Rick Gates. Gates writes that Trump argued the Republican base would embrace the idea and that his team polled it twice.

“This is not true and there was never any such poll,” Tim Murtaugh, the Trump campaign’s communications director, said in a statement Monday.

Trump raised the prospect of naming his daughter as his running mate in a December 2015 television interview — but insisted he was floating the idea in jest.

“I’m thinking about making Ivanka vice president,” Trump said during a morning interview on ABC’s “Live with Kelly & Michael.” He quickly added: “I’m kidding, I’m kidding.”

Eric Trump also pushed the idea in a July 2016 television interview.

“She’s got the beautiful looks, right?” he said of Ivanka Trump while on “Fox & Friends.” “She’s got — she’s smart. She’s smart, smart, smart. … She’s certainly got my vote.”

President Trump also touted his daughter’s political prospects during an August rally in New Hampshire.

Trump said Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Biden’s running mate, is “not competent” enough to become the first female president, suggesting that Ivanka would be a much better fit.

“They’re all saying, ‘We want Ivanka!’” Trump said, pointing to supporters near the stage. “I don’t blame them.”