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Democratic nominee Joe Biden on Wednesday announced that his campaign and the Democratic National Committee raised $383 million in September, a massive sum that leaves him flush with cash in the final weeks of the election. His running mate, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), questioned Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, at her confirmation hearings.

Trump sought to shore up support in Iowa, holding a rally in a state he won comfortably four years ago, while Vice President Pence campaigned in Michigan, another Midwestern battleground state that was key to the Republican ticket’s electoral college win in 2016.

With 20 days until Election Day …
  • First lady Melania Trump on Wednesday revealed that her teenage son, Barron, had also tested positive for the novel coronavirus, but that they both have now tested negative.
  • NBC said it will host a town-hall event with Trump in Miami on Thursday, setting up dueling events with Biden and the president on a night when the two nominees were set to meet for their second debate.
  • Less than three weeks before Election Day, Trump’s lack of a consistent and coherent closing argument is alarming some Republicans.
  • Barrett declined to share her legal views on abortion rights, voting rights and the Affordable Care Act during her final day of facing questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee.
  • Biden leads Trump by 12 percentage points nationally, 54 percent to 42 percent, according to an average of national polls since Oct. 1. Biden’s margin is smaller in key states: eight points in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, seven in Michigan, and three in Arizona and Florida.
2:23 a.m.
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Biden, Democrats raise record-busting $383 million in September

By Colby Itkowitz

Biden announced on Twitter that his campaign and the Democratic National Committee raised $383 million in September, a massive sum that leaves him flush with cash in the final weeks before the election.

The amount raised in one month beat the Democrats’ record-shattering haul in August of $364.5 million.

The former vice president on Wednesday tweeted a video of him calling a grass-roots donor named Trimicka, a special-education teacher, to personally thank her and tell her first about the sum raised.

“I want you to know, nobody knows this, you know how much money we raised in the month of September? $380 million,” he tells her as she cheers. “That’s more money than I’ve ever raised in my whole life. 5.5 million donors, like you, I’m really humbled by it.”

Biden’s campaign manager, Jen O’Malley Dillon, tweeted that $203 million of September’s money came from online donors. Going into the last month of campaigning, the Biden campaign has $432 million on hand, she said.

The Trump campaign hasn’t shared its September fundraising numbers yet. In August, Trump’s team and the Republican National Committee raised $210 million, about $150 million less than Biden and the Democrats.

2:19 a.m.
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Harris says Biden campaign is making plans to combat election interference

By Chelsea Janes

Hours after wrapping up a second day of questioning with Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, vice-presidential nominee Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) sat for one of her lengthiest television interviews since being named to the Democratic ticket in August.

Appearing on the “Rachel Maddow Show” on MSNBC, she reiterated her claims that the Trump administration’s failure to handle the covid-19 pandemic is one of the greatest failures of any administration in history. She also reiterated something she told the Senate Judiciary Committee in hearings on Tuesday: That she believes the confirmation process is illegitimate because it is occurring while voters are voting in the presidential election.

Asked what she would say to voters scared about the limits a Supreme Court with a 6-3 conservative majority after the addition of Barrett could implement on civil rights, Harris acknowledged the danger.

“The only point that I can make to hopefully relieve some of that righteous fear is we have an election coming up, and it’s not only about the White House, it’s about the Senate. I’ve been in the United States Senate now for three years,” Harris said. “The Senate makes decisions about who will be in these lifetime positions on these courts. And it’s there that these decisions will ultimately be made.”

But as she encouraged voting as a remedy to those concerns, Harris also acknowledged what she called “obstacles” being thrown in front of voters in “many states.”

In keeping with the theme of voter suppression, Maddow listed a variety of contingency plans being put into place by legal associations around the country, including the American Bar Association’s offer of legal counsel to Justice Department members who could be ordered to do things that interfere with the election and military lawyers’ similar offer to members of the military who may be directed to take action against protesters with whom they do not agree.

She then asked Harris whether the Biden campaign was working on similar “contingency plans” ahead of the election.

“We are,” Harris said, before adding that “our democracy is always going to be as strong as the American people’s willingness to fight for our democracy.”

1:16 a.m.
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Trump to give highest civilian honor to wrestling champion Dan Gable, beloved in battleground Iowa

By Colby Itkowitz

Trump announced at a rally in Iowa, a must-win state for his path to reelection, that he was awarding Olympic wrestling champion Dan Gable, a beloved Iowan, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Trump invited Gable onstage, saying,I’m immune, and I can’t give it to you, so that’s good,” referring to his coronavirus infection, despite scientists’ uncertainty about immunity.

Gable won the gold medal in wrestling at the 1972 Olympics. He coached at the University of Iowa, leading his wrestlers to 15 national titles in 21 years. He also served as head coach for the U.S. Olympic wrestlers in 1980, 1984 and 2000, when the U.S. won seven gold medals in wrestling.

Trump joked that he looked at Gable and said to himself, “I’m telling you, I could take him, but I better not try it.”

“He’s the pride of Iowa,” Trump said.

During his presidency, Trump has given the nation’s highest civilian honor to 17 people, including golf legend Tiger Woods, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh and economist Arthur Laffer.

1:13 a.m.
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Trump points to son’s asymptomatic infection while urging school reopening

By Hannah Knowles

President Trump on Wednesday night pointed to his youngest son’s positive test for the coronavirus before urging students’ return to schools.

It was the latest example of how his family’s recovery from the virus — linked to the deaths of more than 200,000 Americans — has only emboldened his push for a nationwide return to normalcy.

Barron Trump tested positive for the virus at roughly the same time as his parents but was asymptomatic and has since tested negative, first lady Melania Trump revealed Wednesday in a post online.

Speaking later at an event, the president said his son had the coronavirus “for such a short period of time, I don’t think he even knew he had it.”

“Because they’re young and their immune systems are strong and they fight it off, 99.9 percent,” Trump said.

“Within like two seconds it was: Barron is just fine now, he’s tested negative,” Trump continued, before adding: “We gotta get the kids back to school … Get 'em back. Get 'em back.” He went on to discuss his own coronavirus diagnosis, saying it was “a little tough, and you have a temperature and you don’t feel good.”

The president left the hospital last week and has tested negative for the virus, his doctor said.

The president has been using his illness, just weeks ahead of the November election, to reinforce his message that the country is “turning the corner,” downplaying the virus’s threat even as cases are rising again nationwide.

Health experts, including leading infectious-disease expert Anthony S. Fauci — a member of the White House coronavirus task force — have expressed concern that, in the wake of Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis, members of the public may not take the virus as seriously as they should.

12:58 a.m.
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Majority of voters could cast ballots before Election Day for the first time in U.S. history

By Amy Gardner and Elise Viebeck

With less than three weeks to go before Nov. 3, more than 14 million Americans have already voted in the fall election, reflecting an extraordinary level of participation despite barriers erected by the coronavirus pandemic — and setting a trajectory that could result in the majority of voters casting ballots before Election Day for the first time in U.S. history.

In Georgia this week, voters waited as long as 11 hours to cast their ballots on the first day of early voting. In North Carolina, nearly 1 in 5 of roughly 500,000 who have returned mail ballots so far did not vote in the last presidential election. In Michigan, more than 1 million people — roughly one-fourth of total turnout in 2016 — have already voted.

The picture is so stark that election officials around the country are reporting record early turnout, much of it in person, meaning that more results could be available on election night than previously thought.

12:35 a.m.
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Biden, addressing Muslim Americans, says Trump ‘fans the flames’ of hate

By Sean Sullivan

At the end of a day of mostly lying low, Biden addressed Muslim Americans in a prerecorded video in which he took sharp aim at Trump and promised to chart a different course as president.

“I know you haven’t always gotten the respect or representation you deserve. We’ve seen what happens when a president fans the flames. Hate crimes on the march. More kids bullied in school. The rise of anti-Muslim bigotry,” Biden said. His comments were played in a virtual event hosted by the organization Muslim Advocates.

“I’m going to appeal to the best of us, not our worst side,” Biden said.

Biden held no in-person campaign events Wednesday. He spoke at a virtual fundraiser in the afternoon, where he revealed that he spoke to investor Warren Buffett.

“Just got off the phone with Warren Buffett and talking about how … we’re in a position, unlike we were 50, 70, 80 years ago, to lead the whole damn world in a way that no one else can. There’s no limit to America’s future. The only thing that’s going to tear America apart is America itself,” Biden told donors.

Biden had been scheduled to debate Trump for the second time on Thursday. But Trump’s covid-19 diagnosis and unwillingness to debate virtually scrapped those plans.

Instead, Biden and Trump will appear in dueling televised town halls.

12:05 a.m.
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Trio of challenges create daunting barrier to Trump’s reelection

By Toluse Olorunnipa and Josh Dawsey

Less than three weeks before election day, President Trump’s lack of a consistent and coherent closing argument is alarming some Republicans, raising fears among his allies that his undisciplined approach to campaigning could render him a one-term president.

With more than 10 million Americans already casting their ballots and millions more beginning to tune in to the race, Trump is engaged in a frenetic attempt to define his Democratic rival Joe Biden, win over skeptical voters and delegitimize the election results if he is unsuccessful.

In the final stretch of the race, a trio of long-standing challenges have converged to create a daunting barrier to Trump’s reelection: The inability to drag down Biden’s favorability ratings, the lack of a clearly articulated second-term agenda and an enduring pandemic that continues to upend American life.

11:29 p.m.
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Federal judge blocks part of North Carolina ballot ‘cure’ process, allows extended return deadline

By Elise Viebeck

A federal judge on Wednesday blocked North Carolina from allowing voters to use affidavits to fix mail ballots returned without a witness signature, ruling the policy would effectively nullify the state’s central method for ensuring ballots are authentic.

In a second ruling, District Judge William L. Osteen Jr. declined to block the state’s extended deadline for returning mail ballots despite what he called its “likely unconstitutionality,” arguing that it was more important to avoid confusion among voters less than three weeks before Election Day.

The simultaneous decisions highlighted the tangle of litigation over North Carolina’s proposed settlement last month of a lawsuit that sought to lower barriers to mail voting during the pandemic.

The state announced Sept. 22 that it would count mail ballots if they are postmarked by Election Day and received up to nine days later and agreed to let voters “cure” deficient mail ballots by completing and returning an affidavit, even if the deficiency was missing a witness signature. North Carolina verifies ballots by requiring witnesses to observe voters completing them; the witnesses must print their name and address and provide a signature for the ballot to count.

But as litigation proceeded in multiple courts, another federal judge put the “cure” process on hold for all deficient ballots, leaving at least 6,800 votes — including more than 3,300 from people of color — in limbo for more than a week.

Under Osteen’s rulings, voters may still use affidavits to “cure” small deficiencies with their ballots, such as an incomplete witness address. And the judge grudgingly ruled that mail ballots postmarked by Election Day that arrive within nine days will count, writing that he was bound to avoid “judicially created confusion” over the rules so close to Nov. 3. Voters who return a ballot without a witness signature will be required to complete a new ballot.

It is possible a higher court could weigh in; an appeal from state election officials is pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit.

Early voting begins in the state on Thursday.

Maya Smith contributed to this report.

11:01 p.m.
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Analysis: As Trump’s chief conspiracy theory suffers a major blow, he reaches for more desperate ones

By Aaron Blake

It was a crystallizing moment in our current political reality: The president, staring down an increasingly likely reelection loss, saw one of his favorite conspiracy theories about his 2020 opponent crumble. As we were learning that, he was lodging even-more far-flung and desperate conspiracy theories.

Trump has regularly grasped at conspiracy theories seeking to damage his political opponents. But even by his standards, his recent efforts have been remarkable.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday evening that a Trump-backed Justice Department probe into the unmasking of Michael Flynn and others had quietly closed with no criminal charges or even a report to substantiate Trump’s and his allies’ allegations of a Watergate-style conspiracy.

But on the same day, Trump was promoting the idea that the Obama administration, including Joe Biden, had members of the U.S. military murdered and that the official story of Osama bin Laden’s killing was a hoax.

10:50 p.m.
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Harris invokes John Lewis’s legacy to press Barrett on voting rights

By Ann Marimow

Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) invoked the legacy of the late congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis to press Barrett on her views about voting rights. After the Supreme Court in 2013 invalidated a key section of the Voting Rights Act that targeted states with a history of discrimination, Harris said that nearly two dozen states passed new restrictive voting laws.

Harris asked Barrett several times whether she agreed with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who wrote in his majority opinion in Shelby County v. Holder that “voting discrimination still exists; no one doubts that.”

Barrett declined to express an opinion, saying “these are very charged issues.”

“Are you saying that you refuse to agree with a known fact?” Harris asked the judge.

Barrett replied, “I think racial discrimination still exists” in the U.S., and added, “we have seen evidence of discrimination this summer.”

10:12 p.m.
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Biden campaign mocks Trump for saying he’d ‘kiss everyone’ at recent rally

By Felicia Sonmez

The Biden campaign released a video Wednesday mocking Trump for his declaration at a campaign rally this week that he’d “kiss everyone” in the crowd.

Trump made the remark while telling supporters in Florida on Monday that he felt “so powerful” after returning home to the White House from the hospital because of his covid-19 diagnosis.

The video, which was produced in the style of an old black-and-white horror movie and features ominous background music, includes footage of Trump telling the Florida crowd: “I’ll walk in there. I’ll kiss everyone in that audience. I’ll kiss the guys and the beautiful women and the — everybody. I’ll just give you a big fat kiss.”

It suggests that Trump is “The Super Spreader” and reminds viewers to wear a mask and socially distance to slow the spread of the virus.

The clip is the latest sign of the divergent approaches the Trump and Biden campaigns have taken toward the president’s diagnosis. Trump has emphasized his speedy recovery and his doctors’ assessment that he is no longer contagious, while Biden has focused on what he describes as the president’s “reckless” behavior and the still-unanswered questions surrounding his diagnosis — including the date of Trump’s last negative test before he tested positive earlier this month.

9:58 p.m.
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Landmark case legalizing birth control is not ‘going anywhere,’ Barrett says

By Ann Marimow

Barrett called it “shockingly unlikely” that any state or federal lawmakers would reinstate bans on birth control and said the Supreme Court decision legalizing contraception is not “in danger of going anywhere.”

Barrett’s comments came in response to questions from Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.), who contrasted her record with that of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. He also tried to tie Barrett to the views of her mentor, the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who thought Griswold v. Connecticut was wrongly decided.

Barrett said of the 1965 case striking down a ban on contraception, “I think Griswold is not going anywhere unless you plan to pass a law prohibiting couples, all people, from using birth control."

Barrett called the question academic “because it seems unthinkable that any legislature would pass such a law.”

Even so, she declined to say directly whether states could make contraceptives illegal because of the right of privacy outlined in Griswold that was later key to the 1973 decision legalizing abortion in Roe v. Wade.

Coons noted that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said during his confirmation hearings that he agreed with the court’s conclusion in the case, as did Justice Clarence Thomas.

9:23 p.m.
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GOP governor of Massachusetts won’t be voting for Trump

By Colby Itkowitz

A spokeswoman for Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said in a statement that the Republican governor “cannot support” Trump, clarifying a comment made by the governor earlier in the day that he “may take a pass on that one,” referring to voting in the presidential election.

“The governor cannot support Donald Trump for president and is focused on seeing Massachusetts through the pandemic,” Baker spokeswoman Lizzy Guyton said. “He’ll leave the election analysis to the pundits.”

The news isn’t such a surprise given that Baker, who governs in a deep blue state, didn’t vote for Trump or Hillary Clinton in 2016, and is among a small club of Republican governors who have been openly critical of the president. Some Never Trump Republicans even wanted Baker to challenge Trump in the GOP presidential primary, but he wasn’t interested.

8:32 p.m.
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Barron Trump tested positive for the coronavirus, Melania Trump reveals

By Colby Itkowitz

In an essay posted on the White House website, first lady Melania Trump revealed that her teenage son, Barron, had also tested positive for the novel coronavirus when she, her husband and many of the president’s closest advisers contracted the virus a few weeks ago.

She wrote that her son was asymptomatic and that she had experienced “body aches, a cough and headaches, and felt extremely tired most of the time.” They have both now tested negative, she said.

The first lady said she went a “more natural route,” forgoing medicine in favor of diet and nutritional supplements, a stark contrast to her husband who was given experimental drugs and has been promoting them ever since.

The first lady, who notably did not mention her husband in any meaningful way in the post, wrote that she used the time while she was sick and her husband was in the hospital to reflect on her own family and the “hundreds of thousands of people across our country who have been impacted by this illness that infects people with no discrimination.”

“We are in unprecedented times — and with the election fast approaching, it has been easy to get caught up in so much negative energy,” she added.

Later in the piece, she wrote that for her, “the most impactful part of my recovery was the opportunity to reflect on many things — family, friendships, my work, and staying true to who you are.”