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The campaign was playing out Friday across several states that President Trump won four years ago but that appear competitive in the closing stretch of the race. Trump had events in Florida, where he was making an appeal to seniors, and in Georgia, while Vice President Pence visited North Carolina.

Democratic nominee Joe Biden said in a television interview that he plans to make his views on expanding the number of justices on the Supreme Court known publicly “in the next several days," and his comments will be pegged to a vote in the Senate on the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett. His running mate, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), is staying off the campaign trail as a precaution after two people in her orbit tested positive this week for the coronavirus.

Former president Barack Obama announced that he will be campaigning in Philadelphia on Wednesday.

With 18 days until Election Day …
October 16, 2020 at 10:17 PM EDT
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Biden vows more clarity on expanding the Supreme Court is coming soon

By Sean Sullivan

Biden said in a television interview that he plans to make his views on expanding the number of justices on the Supreme Court known publicly “in the next several days,” and his comments will be pegged to a vote in the Senate on the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett.

“I’m going to make clear my position in the next several days when they vote on this nominee,” Biden told Fox 2 in Detroit. He added, “I will lay out exactly what my view is.”

Biden’s comments built on his remarks in a Thursday night town hall hosted by ABC News, in which he signaled for the first time that he would take a position before the Nov. 3 election.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has set up an Oct. 22 vote on Barrett’s nomination, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said he will begin full Senate consideration of her confirmation the following day. The schedule suggests a final vote on it could come on Oct. 27.

For now, Biden said, the focus should be on Republican efforts to confirm Barrett on the eve of the election, a move Democrats roundly oppose.

The anger with the Republican strategy has prompted a renewed Democratic debate about whether party leaders should respond by adding more seats to the court and seek to fill them with liberal justices, should they have control of Congress and the White House next year.

Biden suggested that he might embrace other reforms aside from expanding the court, which he opposed in the primary. But he was vague and did not specify what alternatives he might embrace.

“I’ve not been a fan of packing the court. But what might happen is that we have to take a look at how this all works out to determine whether there’s other means by which we should take a look at how to make sure that this kind of thing doesn’t happen,” he said.

In the ABC town hall, Biden said he was open a mandate for coronavirus vaccines, once they are safe and available, but added that he would probably not be able to enforce that as president. He told Fox 2 he didn’t think that was something that could be mandated.

October 16, 2020 at 9:23 PM EDT
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Sen. Perdue called out for mocking Sen. Kamala Harris’s first name, echoing Trump

By Meryl Kornfield

Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) on Friday drew the condemnation of his opponent after mispronouncing the first name of Democratic vice-presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), the senator’s colleague of nearly four years.

“This kind of vile, race-baiting trash talk is what President Trump has unleashed from sitting Republican members in the Senate,” Democrat Jon Ossoff said in an interview with Joy Reid on MSNBC.

Speaking before the president arrived at a campaign rally in Macon, Ga., Perdue said, “Ka-MA-la, KA-ma-la, Kamala-mala-mala, I don’t know, whatever,” seeming to pause for a smattering of laughs. His campaign wrote in a statement that Perdue “simply mispronounced Senator Harris’s name, and he didn’t mean anything by it” — despite calls that the mix-up was purposeful.

October 16, 2020 at 9:13 PM EDT
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Melania Trump takes aim at former adviser and close friend in essay

By Jada Yuan

Melania Trump, who has rarely given interviews to the press and is often circumspect in revealing information about her private life, released a personal essay Friday on the official White House website that rails against the “pettiness” of the press and “self-serving adults” who spread lies about her that distract from her work with children. Much of the essay is aimed against a former adviser and close friend who wrote a memoir about the demise of their friendship.

It is the second personal essay the first lady has released in the past two days, and a surprising deviation from the reticence that has been her norm over the past three and a half years. Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s press secretary, tweeted a link to the essay Ccing CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times and The Washington Post. The previous essay, released on Wednesday, revealed that Barron Trump had the coronavirus and said that her own covid-19 infection had given her “a lot of time to reflect.”

The first lady does not name Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, the former adviser, but her references are clear. Last month, Winston Wolkoff released her tell-all memoir, “Melania & Me,” and over the past couple of weeks has released damning, profanity-laden recordings of phone conversations she had with the first lady. The recordings have featured the first lady complaining about having to decorate the White House for Christmas, stating that she believes migrant children who claim they are fleeing gang violence in their own countries were coached to say that, and calling Stormy Daniels, the adult film actress who has said she slept with President Trump, a “porn hooker.”

Winston Wolkoff has said she started recording her conversations with the first lady after being “thrown under the bus” by the Trump administration during a scandal involving spending on Trump’s $107 million inauguration. This is the first response to Winston Wolkoff delivered by the first lady rather than by Grisham. In her essay, the first lady confirms that the recordings are real, but says they were “out of context.”

“We all know that more often than not, information that could be helpful to children is lost in the noise made by self-serving adults,” the first lady writes, complaining about the news outlets who “eagerly covered salacious claims” made by Winston Wolkoff. Trump says Winston Wolkoff “hardly knew me,” and that she wrote “a book of idle gossip trying to distort my character.” She suggests Winston Wolkoff look at “her own dishonest behavior” — without offering examples — and repeats a line Grisham has used since the book published, that the book was “an attempt to be relevant.”

Of the press, she writes that “outlets chose to focus their coverage on pettiness over my positive work.” But she only mentions her Be Best initiative for children once and does not detail its accomplishments.

First lady historians have found the essay perplexing.

The written essays or news releases that Melania Trump has favored over in-person interviews “have the advantage of allowing her more control and minimizing mistakes or misinterpretations,” says Lauren A. Wright, a political scientist at Princeton University, “but it also really limits the potential impact of this as a moment of relatability and compassion, which the White House could really use.”

Wright says she’s stumped about the first lady’s motives. “I think almost every time I have wondered if she’s doing something to help the campaign or her husband, I’ve been wrong,” she says. “A lot of her public statements instead seem geared toward bolstering her own reputation.”

“I have wondered for months now, before she was diagnosed with covid, why the Trump campaign did not have Mrs. Trump do at least a few campaign events. She’s more popular than he is,” said Myra Gutin, a professor at Rider University and a historian of first ladies.

Melania Trump concludes the essay by writing, “I look forward to working with you closely over the next four years.”

October 16, 2020 at 9:13 PM EDT
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Climate change a top issue at next debate

By Brady Dennis and Dino Grandoni

As scientists predict that 2020 will be the hottest year on record, climate change will be among the six topics that will be the focus of next week’s debate between President Trump and his Democratic rival, former vice president Joe Biden, according to the Commission on Presidential Debates.

The 15 minutes set aside for the segment will mark the most amount of time President Trump will have been questioned about climate change during his presidency, as well as the most time devoted to the topic in a presidential debate.

Kristen Welker of NBC News, the moderator for the Oct. 22 event in Nashville, also plans to ask questions about the coronavirus, national security, race, leadership and “American families,” the commission said.

A majority of registered voters said climate change will be a very (42 percent) or somewhat (26 percent) important issue in their decision this election, according to a Pew Research poll conducted in August. But party divisions are strong; while 68 percent of voters supporting Biden said it was very important, just 11 percent of Trump supporters said the same, the Pew poll found.

Last month during the first presidential debate, moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News added a surprise climate change question, after being criticized for leaving it out of initial plans.

The candidates spoke about it for about 10 minutes, although Trump, who has previously called climate change “a hoax,” did not directly address it. Instead, he spoke about wanting “crystal clean water and air” and blamed the wildfires in California and Oregon on “forest management.”

Biden has proposed the most ambitious plan to address climate change of any major-party nominee.

October 16, 2020 at 8:17 PM EDT
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Biden on Trump: ‘What the hell’s the matter with this guy?’

By Sean Sullivan

Biden concluded his trip to Michigan with a drive-in rally in Detroit, where he renewed his attacks on Trump.

“All the president does, Trump does, is fan the flames of hatred and division in this country, telling the Proud Boys in a debate with me, when I said ‘Will you condemn them?’ he said, ‘I’ll tell them to stand back and stand by,’ ” Biden said. “What the hell’s the matter with this guy?”

Biden spoke at the Michigan State Fairgrounds. Roughly a hundred cars donned with miniature Biden-Harris flags attended. They honked their horns in approval as he spoke.

The Democrat is trying aggressively to flip Michigan, which Trump narrowly won in 2016. Democrats hope a coalition that includes strong turnout from African American voters and White suburban and rural swing voters who have turned against Trump, among others, will propel them to victory.

October 16, 2020 at 7:49 PM EDT
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FCC eyes social-media regulation amid mounting election-year pressure

By Tony Romm

Less than three weeks before the election, the Federal Communications Commission signaled it may seek to regulate social media companies for they way they police political content online.

But the agency’s announcement left some critics seething, fearing the agency had acted in response to months of public pressure from the White House. Democrats blasted the agency, and the party’s senior-most official at the FCC raised the prospect of political interference.

“The timing of this effort is absurd," said Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. "The only logical conclusion is that the agency is acting at the behest of the president to intimidate platforms in the late days of the campaign. That’s not right. The FCC has no business being the president’s speech police.”

The FCC specifically has targeted Section 230, which for decades has shielded Silicon Valley from major legal liability. Ajit Pai, the FCC’s Republican chairman, unveiled his plans to “clarify” the scope of those protections hours after Facebook and Twitter took the rare step of limiting the reach of a New York Post story about Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his family, angering President Trump and his top supporters.

October 16, 2020 at 6:48 PM EDT
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Abortion rights group calls for ouster of Sen.Feinstein from top Democratic post on Judiciary Committee

By Seung Min Kim

A top abortion rights group heavily involved in the efforts to defeat Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation to the Supreme Court is calling for the ouster of Sen. Dianne Feinstein as the Judiciary Committee’s top Democrat.

The statement from the head of NARAL Pro-Choice America further fuels a liberal backlash against Feinstein (Calif.), who has been a target of criticism during the Trump presidency for being far too passive in battling the administration and particularly its judicial nominees.

Liberal activists were particularly irate at Feinstein’s praise of Republicans, particularly Committee Chairman Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), for how they had conducted the confirmation hearings for Barrett, which concluded Thursday. She is expected to be confirmed later this month.

October 16, 2020 at 6:27 PM EDT
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State Department signals it will keep most details of its spending at Trump’s properties hidden until after election

By David Fahrenthold, Jonathan O'Connell and Josh Partlow

The State Department says it has about 450 pages of records showing government spending at President Trump’s properties. But this week, it signaled that it plans to release only two of those pages before the November election — leaving voters in the dark about the full scope of taxpayer payments to the president’s company.

The State Department announced the decision to release just the two pages late Thursday in an email to The Post, which had filed a public-records lawsuit earlier this year, seeking any records showing State Department payments to Trump properties.

The State Department pays for hotel rooms and other expenses when foreign leaders visit Trump properties, and when federal employees, such as Secret Service agents, follow Trump and his family to the president’s overseas clubs. But it’s impossible to tell how much the department has spent in total, because it has released detailed records for only the first few months of Trump’s presidency.

October 16, 2020 at 6:22 PM EDT
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Biden said he’s tested ‘every day.’ Here’s how often he’s actually done it.

By Sean Sullivan

Toward the end of his town hall on ABC News on Thursday night, Biden brought up the frequency of his coronavirus tests.

“By the way, before I came up here, I took another test, I’ve been taking it every day, the deep test, you know, the one, they go in both,” said Biden, gesturing toward his nose.

According to the results released by his campaign from Oct. 2 to Oct. 15, Biden had not been tested every day. He received nine tests during that time. Each was negative for the coronavirus, according to the campaign.

Asked about the comment, a Biden aide said he was referring to Wednesday and Thursday, when he received a test each day. Biden was also tested Friday. Every result was negative, according to the campaign.

On Oct. 2, Trump disclosed that he was diagnosed with covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. The next day, Biden’s campaign said that moving forward, it would release the results of every test that he took. The Biden aide said the campaign has done that.

Biden’s test schedule has varied, according to the aide, who noted that he has done more travel in recent days. The aide spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk more freely.

Trump’s testing regimen is clouded in much more uncertainty. In his town hall on NBC, he refused to say definitively whether he was tested on the day of his debate with Biden.

October 16, 2020 at 5:48 PM EDT
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In Michigan, Biden likens alleged plot to kidnap Whitmer to ISIS tactics

By Sean Sullivan

Campaigning in Michigan on Friday, Biden brought up what law enforcement officials say was the thwarted extremist plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), comparing it to the actions of Islamic State militants and accusing President Trump of fueling their anger and violent inclinations.

“We’re grateful to the FBI and law enforcement who discovered these domestic terrorists and stopped them. And make no mistake: That’s who they are, domestic terrorists. Flat terrorists,” Biden said. He added, “It’s the sort of behavior you might expect from ISIS.”

“When the president tweeted ‘liberate Michigan, liberate Michigan,’ that’s the call that was heard. That’s the dog whistle,” Biden said. Trump had been critical of the state’s restrictions, implemented to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Whitmer, who helped introduce Biden on Friday, has made similar comments, prompting Trump to respond to her with accusations that Democrats have not done enough to condemn extremist groups on the left.

Biden’s comments came at the start of a speech inside a recreation center near Detroit focused on health care. The former vice president slammed Trump’s widely criticized response to the pandemic and his efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“Americans don’t panic. Donald Trump panicked — that’s who panicked,” Biden said in a raised voice. He was making a reference to Trump’s response to the pandemic and stated reason for playing it down.

“On top of that, he’s still trying to take away your health care,” Biden added, citing Trump-backed efforts to undo the ACA.

October 16, 2020 at 5:18 PM EDT
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Supreme Court will review Trump plan to exclude undocumented immigrants from calculations for congressional seats

By Robert Barnes

The Supreme Court announced Friday that it will review President Trump’s attempt to exclude undocumented immigrants when calculating how congressional seats are apportioned among the states.

The unprecedented proposal would have the effect of shifting both political power and federal funds away from urban states with large immigrant populations and toward rural and more Republican interests.

A three-judge panel in New York said that Trump’s July 21 memorandum on the matter was “an unlawful exercise of the authority granted to” him by Congress. It blocked the Commerce Department and the Census Bureau from including information about the number of undocumented immigrants — it is unclear how those numbers would be generated — in their reports to the president after this year’s census is completed.

October 16, 2020 at 5:00 PM EDT
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From QAnon to dictators, Trump embraces those who embrace him back

By Ashley Parker

The question from NBC’s Savannah Guthrie should have been an easy one.

Would President Trump denounce QAnon, the broad and outlandish conspiracy that, as she put it, argues that “Democrats are a satanic pedophile ring, and that you are the savior of that.”

“Can you just once and for all state that that is completely not true?” Guthrie asked Trump Thursday night during an hour-long NBC town hall.

But Trump could not quite bring himself to denounce the group.

He feigned ignorance. (“I know nothing about QAnon”). He offered light praise. (“I do know they are very much against pedophilia”). He tried to change the topic. (“Why aren’t you asking me about the radical left?”).

And then, finally, the president offered more mild approbation for the group, many of whose members support him and are visible at his rallies with their QAnon signs and homemade T-shirts.

“What I do hear about it is they are very strongly against pedophilia, and I agree with that,” Trump said. “I do agree with that, and I agree with it very strongly.”

Denouncing white supremacy and groups like QAnon, which the FBI has deemed a domestic terrorism threat, used to be considered Politics 101 — akin to kissing babies and posing with the butter cow at the Iowa State Fair. But since announcing himself as a presidential candidate more than five years ago, Trump has struggled to condemn everyone from white supremacists to dictators and global strongmen.

Instead, Trump’s approach is almost purely transactional, guided by a quid-pro-quo embrace of just about anyone who embraces him back.

October 16, 2020 at 4:21 PM EDT
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Alaska an unlikely battleground as Trump lead shrinks and Democrats eye Senate pickup

By Colby Itkowitz

Republicans have comfortably counted on Alaska’s three electoral votes for decades; the last time the state picked a Democrat for president was in 1964.

But polls in the state show Biden narrowing the gap, trailing Trump by six points among likely Alaska voters, according to a New York Times/Siena College poll.

In 2016, Trump handily beat Hillary Clinton in Alaska, 51 percent to 36 percent. Biden has sliced that by half, as the new poll shows Trump currently up over Biden 45 percent to 39 percent. Another 8 percent of likely Alaska voters support Libertarian candidate Jo Jorgensen.

Perhaps of even greater concern to Republicans is the risk that they could lose a Senate seat in the conservative state. Incumbent GOP Sen. Dan Sullivan is leading his Democratic challenger, Al Gross, 45 percent to 37 percent, though Democrats are investing in the race as a long-shot pickup opportunity that, if successful, could help them win the Senate majority.

Gross, who will appear on the ballot as a Democrat but identifies as an independent, heavily outraised Sullivan in the third quarter, bringing in nearly $9 million to Sullivan’s just over $1 million. Outside Democratic groups are also pouring money into the race, with nearly $10 million spent to shore up Gross or attack Sullivan, according to the Opensecrets.com database. Outside GOP groups have spent nearly $5 million in opposition to Gross, but hardly anything in support of Sullivan.

October 16, 2020 at 3:20 PM EDT
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Obama to hold first campaign event for Biden in Philadelphia next week

By Colby Itkowitz

Former president Barack Obama is heading out on the campaign trail next week for his first in-person event of 2020, lending his tremendous star power to Biden and Harris in the final weeks of the election.

Obama will hold an undisclosed event for his former vice president on Wednesday in Philadelphia, a city where Democrats need high voter turnout to capture Pennsylvania’s coveted 20 electoral votes. The Obama/Biden ticket won the state easily in 2008 and 2012, but Trump shocked election prognosticators by eking out a narrow win over Hillary Clinton there in 2016.

Dispatching Obama first to Pennsylvania is a signal of how crucial the state is to Biden’s path to victory.

As the election nears, Obama seems to be allowing himself more room to attack his successor.

Appearing this week on “Pod Save America,” the popular podcast among liberals hosted by several alumni of the Obama White House, the former president took Trump to task on a number of fronts, including the false “birther” conspiracy theory and his approach to foreign policy.

“The guy just decided he wanted attention, like whether it was to promote ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ or whatever, he sort of looked and saw what was being said and he said, ‘Oh, if that’s what folks want, I can do that with even less inhibition. I don’t need a dog whistle, I’m just going to go ahead and say it,'” Obama said.

Obama also said Trump lacked “the patience and the focus” to be a serious actor on the international stage.