with Mariana Alfaro

“Fox News Sunday” anchor Chris Wallace, who is moderating the first presidential debate in Cleveland next Tuesday night, plans to devote 15-minute segments to each of these six topics: the Supreme Court, covid-19, the economy, race and violence in our cities, the records of President Trump and Joe Biden and the integrity of the election.

The list, which Wallace said is in no particular order and subject to change, reflects the cascade of crises buffeting the United States in 2020 and a vacancy on the high court that injects additional layers of uncertainty 41 days before the election. Notably absent from the list is foreign policy and climate change, despite the fires blazing in the West and the hurricane-induced flooding in the Southeast. 

It is apropos, with more than 200,000 Americans now dead from the novel coronavirus, that this is the first debate ever hosted by a hospital: The Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve University agreed to bring the debate to a shared health campus after the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., pulled out due to concerns about the contagion.

If Notre Dame had not canceled in late July, the first debate would be happening in the city where Amy Coney Barrett lives and, on a campus, where she has taught law since 2002. Even after being confirmed in 2017 to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, the judge has continued teaching a class at Notre Dame. Notre Dame’s president even put out a statement on Saturday, a day after the late justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, to endorse Barrett as a potential nominee.

All indications suggest that Barrett, a 48-year-old mother of seven, continues to have the inside track to replace RBG. “Two advisers to the president said that Barrett remained the front-runner, and that Trump was telling others on Tuesday that he was likely to pick her,” Anne Gearan, Seung Min Kim, Josh Dawsey and Robert Costa reportTrump tweeted that he plans to make his announcement on Saturday. Some of his political advisers are urging the president to hold off on making up his mind until after he meets with Miami-based Judge Barbara Lagoa of the 11th Circuit, whom they argue would help Trump carry Florida in November.

After Republican members on the Senate Judiciary Committee huddled privately on Tuesday, Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is tentatively planning to schedule the confirmation hearing for the week of Oct. 12 and a committee vote near the end of the following week, with a vote on the floor before Halloween. That is a very aggressive timeline, and Democrats acknowledge there is not much they can do to slow it down. 

Senate Republicans have essentially already locked down the votes to confirm her – sight unseen after Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) announced that he is willing to vote for a nominee. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), who has a rocky relationship with Trump but sits on the Judiciary Committee, called Trump earlier this week to lobby hard for Barrett while Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) called Trump to tell him that Lagoa could help him not just with Latinos in Florida but also Arizona and Texas, which could become competitive.

Wallace will presumably ask a process question about Trump rushing to fill Ginsburg’s seat before the election after his party blocked President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, from getting a confirmation hearing after justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016. Those answers from Trump and Biden will be predictable. Perhaps Wallace might ask Biden whether he backs Democratic calls to expand the court. Biden opposed doing so during the primaries, but many liberal activists have become quite agitated around this, and he demurred when asked about court packing on Monday by a local Fox affiliate in Wisconsin. 

If Trump announces Barrett over the weekend, there could be questions next Tuesday night related to her record on abortion, gun control and LGBTQ rights. She joined a dissent on a ruling that found unconstitutional an Indiana law banning abortions sought because of the sex or disability of a fetus. The other judges noted that courts have followed the Supreme Court precedent that does not allow questioning a woman’s reasoning for an abortion before viability. Barrett disagreed. She also dissented from a panel that upheld the government’s right to withhold a gun permit from a felon, whom she said had served his sentence and did not pose a danger.

A court with six conservatives could force Chief Justice John Roberts to change his incrementalistic tendencies. Our Supreme Court beat reporter, Robert Barnes, games out the impact Barrett could have on jurisprudence: Both Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh already have joined Justices Clarence Thomas and Sam Alito in expressing impatience with the court’s previous rulings on abortion. All have called for reexamining some of the court’s decisions involving strict boundaries between government and religious organizations and have said it is time for the court to examine whether local gun-control laws violate the Second Amendment. Barrett has signaled that she agrees on those points.

The Supreme Court has not had a liberal majority since Earl Warren was chief justice. Since 1969, Republican presidents have named 14 justices, compared with four from Democrats. Former Senate GOP staffer Mike Davis, who runs an outside group that advocates for Trump’s judicial selections, tweeted that Trump’s coming selection “will transform the 5-4 John Roberts Court to the 6-3 Clarence Thomas Court. And he will get 3 or more Supreme Court picks in his 2nd term — along with flipping every circuit court. Because we’re still not tired of winning.”

Ginsburg voted to narrowly tailor religious exemptions to LGBTQ rights. Legal observers across the ideological spectrum expect that Barrett would do the opposite. “When Barrett was nominated for the 7th Circuit, Lambda Legal wrote a letter opposing her nomination, citing her decision to deliver a lecture paid for by the conservative Christian organization Alliance Defending Freedom as well as a letter she signed publicly supporting ‘marriage and family founded on the indissoluble commitment of a man and a woman,’” Samantha Schmidt and Sarah Pulliam Bailey report.

Assuming that Trump is going to pick her, Senate Democrats are already having a marathon series of conference calls to strategize about the savviest way to oppose Barrett. These senators want to make clear that they’re not maligning her Catholic faith. But they also want to define her as too extreme and outside the mainstream to deserve a lifetime appointment on the highest court in the land.

CNN notes that, during her confirmation hearing for the circuit court, two Democratic senators and two Republican senators questioned Barrett over a 1998 Notre Dame law article she co-authored that said the following: “The Catholic Church's opposition to the death penalty places Catholic judges in a moral and legal bind. It seems to us, then, that the proper approach to this kind of case morally and legally – is for the observant Catholic judge to recuse himself after trial and before the sentencing hearing. It would probably be appropriate to give the parties prior notice that he intends to do so if the trial ends in conviction.” Barrett answered that her religious views will not interfere with her ability to be an impartial judge.

Speaking of someone from South Bend, Pete Buttigieg is playing the role of Vice President Pence in mock debates with Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.). “Buttigieg was selected to play the role of Pence because of his familiarity with the vice president, who was governor of Indiana when Buttigieg was mayor of South Bend. Buttigieg often talked about Pence on the campaign trail, using him as a foil especially on religion,” Bloomberg News reports. “Buttigieg received a speaking slot at the Democratic National Convention, was added to the transition team’s advisory board and is expected to join the administration if Biden wins.”

Scott Walker is serving as Pence’s foil during practice sessions, effectively playing the role of Harris. Four years ago, the then-Wisconsin governor also pretended to be Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) in dress rehearsals with Pence. Democratic lawyer Bob Barnett was Kaine’s stand-in for Pence last time.

Biden said last week that he has multiple people, not just one, playing the role of Trump in practice sessions. But he and his aides have declined to name them. Four years ago, then-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie played the part of Hillary Clinton in debate practice with Trump. NBC reported two weeks ago that Trump has not held a single mock debate session and had no plans to stage a formal practice round. He feels that his regular give-and-take with reporters on the White House lawn prepares him sufficiently. Meanwhile, Trump continues to portray Biden as a doddering fool and peddling ludicrous conspiracy theories that his Democratic challenger takes performance enhancing drugs.

Biden and Trump will debate again in Nashville on Oct. 15 and in Miami on Oct. 22. Ostensibly foreign policy and national security will be more of a focus in one of those other two encounters. The second debate moderator will be C-SPAN political editor Steve Scully, and the third will be NBC’s Kristen Welker, a co-anchor of “Today Weekend.” USA Today’s Susan Page will moderate the V.P. matchup. All four debates will begin at 9 p.m. Eastern and last 90 minutes, without commercial interruptions.

The coronavirus

As the U.S. surpassed 200,000 deaths, rising case numbers spurred warnings of an autumn surge.

“Organizations that track the virus, including The Washington Post, have logged recent increases in case numbers and test positivity rates,” Joel Achenbach and Karin Brulliard report. "Hospitalizations and deaths remain lower nationally than at their midsummer peak, but those numbers always lag several weeks behind trends in new infections. Twenty-seven states and Puerto Rico have shown an increase in the seven-day average of new confirmed cases since the final week of August … Minnesota, Montana, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, Wisconsin, Wyoming and Utah set record highs Monday for seven-day averages. … Michael T. Osterholm, a University of Minnesota epidemiologist, said: ‘I think we’re just in the beginning of what’s going to be a marked increase in cases in the fall. And it won’t be just a testing artifact, either. This is real.’”

From California’s Imperial Valley to suburban Boston, the virus has killed more than 36,500 Latinos.

"Workers at Midwestern meatpacking plants and on construction sites in Florida are getting sick and dying of a virus that is exacerbating historic inequalities in communities where residents, many of whom are ‘essential’ workers, struggle to access health care. The undocumented are largely invisible,” Arelis Hernández reports. “The disparities are particularly acute in Texas, where people who identify as Hispanic or Latino comprise 40 percent of the state’s population. They are more likely to be hospitalized, face financial ruin or die of the virus than their White neighbors, experts said. The burden on Hispanics is diverse, affecting recent migrants to Houston, natives of San Antonio, indigenous immigrants in Austin, Dallas business owners or those who called the Borderlands their home before it was Texas. … When Texas reworked its coronavirus data in July, it added 600 additional virus deaths — 47 percent of which were Latinos.”  

The FDA will announce tougher standards for a vaccine, decreasing chances one will be cleared by Election Day.

“The agency is issuing the guidance to boost transparency and public trust as it approaches the momentous decision of whether a prospective vaccine is safe and effective,” Laurie McGinley and Carolyn Johnson report. “The guidance, which is far more rigorous than what was used for emergency clearance of hydroxychloroquine or convalescent plasma, is an effort to shore up confidence in an agency that made missteps during the pandemic. While it is being reviewed by the White House Office of Management and Budget, elements of it are already being shared with vaccine makers. Under it, the FDA would ask manufacturers seeking an emergency authorization — a far quicker process than a formal approval — to follow participants in late-stage clinical trials for a median of at least two months, starting after they receive a second vaccine shot. … 

“As a sign the vaccine works, the agency also is likely to look for at least five severe cases of covid-19 … in the placebo group for each trial, as well as some cases of the disease in older people. These standards, plus the time it will take companies to prepare their applications and the agency to review the data, make it highly improbable any vaccine will be authorized before the election. The agency has previously said any vaccine would have to be 50 percent more effective than a placebo. … Moderna and Pfizer began their trials on July 27, and took about a month to enroll 15,000 people, the halfway point for their planned enrollment of 30,000 people. The trials are designed for people to receive their second shot either three or four weeks later. Two months of follow-up would make it unlikely the companies would have enough data before mid-November.” 

  • A single-shot vaccine from Johnson & Johnson has entered the final stages of testing in the U.S. as part of an international trial that could recruit up to 60,000 people. The vaccine is the first that aims to protect people with a single dose and it is the fourth to enter the large, Phase 3 trials in the U.S. J&J predicted that there may be enough data to have results by the end of the year and said the company plans to manufacture 1 billion doses next year. (Carolyn Johnson) 
  • More than 5,000 U.S. troops will take part in a covid-19 early-detection study. If successful, the study could point the way to a widely used method of detecting symptoms even before a patient feels sick. (WSJ
  • Trump's politicization of science has taken a severe toll on public confidence: Pew recently reported that just over 50 percent of Americans said they would get the vaccine if it were available today, down from 72 percent in May.
  • The CDC issued Halloween guidelines that warn against typical trick-or-treating and crowded costume parties. (NPR)
  • Democrats are calling for an investigation into the Pentagon’s misuse of covid-19 relief funds. Following our reporting that money appropriated for fighting the coronavirus went instead toward purchasing drone technology and body armor, Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) called for a formal investigation reviewing the legality of DOD diversions. (Aaron Gregg and Yeganeh Tobarti)
  • White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told agency heads that many of their White House liasions will be replaced after the election. “John McEntee, the president's 30-year-old former body man who now runs hiring for the government, has … been systematically purging or reassigning agency officials deemed insufficiently loyal to Trump," Axios reports. "[He] has been making significant staffing changes inside top federal agencies without the consent — and, in at least one case, without even the knowledge — of the agency head. … Trump expressed delight at McEntee's efforts … Some of McEntee's moves have backfired — with media outlets printing articles about young, unqualified picks and others with a public history of incendiary or homophobic statements.”
Reopening colleges likely fueled the pandemic significantly. 

Researchers at a number of universities, including Indiana University and Davidson College, estimated that “an extra 3,200 cases a day occurred in the U.S. that likely wouldn’t have happened had schools kept classes online,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “To determine whether college reopenings influenced case counts in the larger community, the researchers used cellphone GPS tracking data to look at the movements of people — including an influx of students — and calculated the infection rates of the surrounding county from mid-July to mid-September, before and after students showed up. They found little uptick in case counts for those communities where students moved back to be near campus, but were taking classes online. The biggest surge came near schools with in-person instruction, with particular spikes in places where students came from hot-spot zones elsewhere in the country.” 

  • Notre Dame and Wake Forest postponed their football game due to positive tests at Notre Dame. This is the 18th game postponement or cancellation in college football since the season started. (Chuck Culpepper)
  • A 29-hour meeting ended with the Miami school board voting to reopen schools next month with a staggered return for five-days-a-week instruction. The fourth-largest school district in the country started last month with all-remote learning. It does not appear that hybrid arrangements will be allowed under the new plan. (Valerie Strauss)
  • A huge party delayed a Sudbury, Mass., school’s reopening because the entire student body had to quarantine yet again for 14 days. Now, police have charged two parents and their teenager for hosting the party. So much vitriol has flowed at the couple that authorities are urging locals to accept that the family will now face some justice in court. (Tim Elfrink)
Capitol Hill Baptist sued the D.C. government to resume in-person worship services.

“A large, prominent evangelical Capitol Hill church late Tuesday filed a legal challenge to the District, alleging the city government is violating the First Amendment by facilitating and tolerating massive anti-racism protests but forbidding worship services — indoor or outdoor — of more than 100,” Michelle Boorstein reports. This is the first legal challenge by a religious organization to Mayor Muriel Bowser's restrictions. "The suit, filed in U.S. District Court, notes that Bowser appeared at a huge anti-racism rally in June, that the city police have been assigned to such events and that her office has not enforced its own ban on outdoor gatherings of more than 50 people. … The suit comes at a complicated time for Capitol Hill Baptist, which has no online ministry and says in its suit that worshiping together in person is required for a ‘biblically ordered church.’ The 132-year-old, largely White, conservative congregation has spent much of the year in intense internal conversation about racism, politics, the overwhelming White evangelical support for President Trump, and what it all means for the Christian witness. … The vote Sunday at a members meeting to pursue litigation was 402 in favor, 35 against … 

“On Tuesday, Montgomery County loosened pandemic-related restrictions on religious institutions at the request of faith leaders. … Capitol Hill Baptist has been meeting for several months in a field outside a Virginia church. The motion said the church wants to negotiate with large outdoor venues to hold services but can’t if the city won’t give it a waiver.”

  • Tony Spell, the pastor of a megachurch in Baton Rouge, who held no-mask services, missed his hearing after refusing to wear a mask in court. Spell faces misdemeanor charges for repeatedly violating an emergency order from Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards. (Jaclyn Peiser)
  • Thomas Wright Jr., a Virginia legislator who tested positive for the virus, warned his fellow churchgoers that he might have exposed them. But his colleagues in the state House say he didn’t issue the same warning to them. (Laura Vozzella)
  • Six New York neighborhoods with large Orthodox Jewish communities are witnessing a worrisome surge in infections. City health authorities said 20 percent of all cases citywide were found in those neighborhoods. (Antonia Farzan)
  • California is relaxing some restrictions as the state’s positivity rate falls below 3 percent for the first time since the pandemic began, though wildfires have also led to a decline in testing. The number of people being hospitalized for coronavirus-related complications is at its lowest level since April. (Farzan)
Finland will deploy coronavirus-sniffing dogs at the Helsinki Airport.

The voluntary canine tests will deliver results within 10 seconds and require less than a minute of travelers’ time, a University of Helsinki researcher said. Researchers worldwide are studying canine tests, with some arguing that changes in health can affect the way people smell, and dogs may be able to pick up scents and detect an infection. (Rick Noack

And the German airline Lufthansa plans to start offering rapid tests for passengers in October. The new antigen tests will initially be available for first-class and business-class passengers only, since supplies are limited, Reuters reports. The company is also considering the possibility of opening testing sites at airports in the U.S. and Canada.

More on the election

A new Post-ABC poll shows tight races in Florida and Arizona.

“In Florida, likely voters split 51 percent for Trump to 47 percent for Biden, while registered voters split 47 percent for Trump to 48 percent for Biden. In Arizona, Trump’s margin is even smaller at 49 percent to Biden’s 48 percent among likely voters. Among Arizona’s registered voters, Trump is at 47 percent and Biden at 49 percent. All these differences are within the polls’ margins of sampling error,” Scott Clement, Dan Balz and Emily Guskin report. “The poll also shows a close Senate race in Arizona, with Democratic nominee Mark Kelly at 49 percent to Republican Sen. Martha McSally’s 48 percent among likely voters. Kelly has a five-point edge among registered voters, 50 percent 45 percent. There appear to be few crossover voters, with only 4 percent of likely voters who back Trump or Biden indicating they would flip to the opposite party in the Senate race.” 

Trump and Biden are in a dead heat in Georgia, a state Trump carried by five points in 2016, according to a new poll for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution by the University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs, with the two tied at 47 percent support among likely voters.

Trump's campaign knocks on doors. Biden's doesn't. North Carolina illustrates the asymmetry. 

Annie Linskey went door-knocking with Trump campaign volunteers in Fayetteville, N.C., to illustrate how the president is running a traditional, normal field program while the Biden campaign has essentially ceded that ground. If Biden loses, Annie's story will be one of the important primers to help explain what happened. Democrats spent years making a huge deal about the importance of get-out-the-vote programs, but they've been exceedingly cautious, even as much of society has eased back toward a new normal. Restaurants are booked, farmers markets are full and art museums have reopened. A lot of Democrats on the ground in the Tar Heel State, both at the activist and strategist level, are perturbed at Biden's sluggishness and the lack of intensity in his operation.

Trump’s organization has knocked on roughly 845,000 doors in North Carolina, some of the 6.1  million voter contacts the operation has made in the state. Biden staff and volunteers have made about 5  million phone calls, held 2,500 virtual phone banks and set up 10 person coalition teams to work with various communities, including veterans, faith leaders and students at historically Black colleges. Biden has also sent videos to Black churches.

On Wednesday, Biden will return to North Carolina for the first time since early this year, following pressure from local Democrats who, like others in key states, have worried that the former vice president’s campaign has lost a sense of urgency. … Voting started first in North Carolina, where absentee ballots went out to voters who requested them starting Sept. 4. By Sept. 20, about 13 percent of registered voters had requested a ballot, and less than 16  percent of those requests came from GOP voters.”

Cindy McCain endorses Biden, citing Trump’s disparagement of the troops. 

“The widow of Senator John McCain of Arizona formally endorsed [Biden] for president on Tuesday, praising the ‘character and integrity’ of her late husband’s longtime friend and colleague while voicing her unease with Trump,” the Times reports. “Ms. McCain, who spoke in a video at the Democratic convention last month, said in a telephone interview that she had been uncertain about how public a role she would play in this year’s campaign. But after reading reports this month that described Mr. Trump denigrating members of the military, she said, she became ‘more and more frustrated’ with the president. ‘The most important thing that moved me a great deal was talking about troops’ being ‘losers,' ’ Ms. McCain said. … ‘I want my president to have my back, and I don’t believe that’s the case right now.’ … Ms. McCain said she was planning to actively help Mr. Biden and would participate in virtual campaign events and join him when he appears in Arizona, which is seen as a swing state this year.” 

A Senate GOP report fails to show how Hunter Biden’s Ukrainian board role changed U.S. policy.

“Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) co-authored the report,” Karoun Demirjian, Tom Hamburger and Paul Sonne report. “The GOP report concludes that ‘Hunter Biden’s position on Burisma’s board was problematic and did interfere in the efficient execution of policy with respect to Ukraine,’ while charging that he and other Biden relatives ‘cashed in on Joe Biden’s vice presidency.’ But at the same time, the report states that ‘the extent to which Hunter Biden’s role on Burisma’s board affected U.S. policy toward Ukraine is not clear.’ … Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates accused Johnson of trying ‘to subsidize a foreign attack against the sovereignty of our elections with taxpayer dollars.’ … 

“Johnson has had contact with … former diplomat Andriy Telizhenko, who once worked as a consultant for Blue Star Strategies, a lobbying firm that worked on behalf of Burisma. … Democrats have suggested that Telizhenko may be functioning as a conduit for others to funnel Kremlin-backed conspiracies to congressional investigators. Johnson and Grassley have said that they vetted all of Telizhenko’s information through other sources.” 

  • Facebook deleted several fake Chinese accounts targeting Trump and Biden, the social network’s first takedown of Chinese accounts aimed at U.S. politics. The number of accounts was small and their reach minimal, Facebook said, adding that it couldn’t determine whether the pages had any affiliation with the Chinese government. (Craig Timberg)
  • The U.S. is scrambling to reach a nuclear deal with Russia before the election. U.S. officials presented a proposal to Russia two weeks ago, which would extend the soon-to-expire New START pact for a limited time while negotiating a replacement treaty. But the Russian government has given U.S. negotiators little direct feedback outside of public commentary. Frustrated, the top U.S. negotiator issued an ultimatum: The “price of admission” for Russia to secure the deal with the U.S. will go up if the Kremlin doesn’t agree to new terms before the presidential election. (Paul Sonne and John Hudson)
  • Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was discharged from the German hospital that treated him a month after being poisoned. While a complete recovery is feasible, “it remains too early to gauge the potential long term effects of his severe poisoning,” the hospital said in a statement. Navalny intends to return to Russia after he has recovered. (Loveday Morris)
  • Russian trolls have a simpler job nowadays than in 2016: They just have to quote Trump, mostly about the dangers of mail-in ballots. (NYT)
  • “Nine current and former officials said in interviews that CIA Director Gina Haspel has become extremely cautious about which, if any, Russia-related intelligence products make their way to Trump’s desk,” Politico reports. “Last year, three of the people said, Haspel tasked the CIA’s general counsel, Courtney Elwood, with reviewing virtually every product that comes out of Russia House, which is home to analysts and targeters who are experts in Russia and the post-Soviet space, before it ‘goes downtown’ to the White House. One former CIA lawyer called it ‘unprecedented that a general counsel would be involved to this extent.’ Four of the people said the change has resulted in less intelligence on Russia making its way to the White House." 
  • Trump’s ex-Russia adviser Fiona Hill said that the U.S. is increasingly seen as an “object of pity” by the world, including its allies, “because they are so shocked by what’s happening internally, how we’re eating ourselves alive with our divisions.” (CNN)
Pennsylvania Republicans plan to appeal a mail-ballot deadline ruling before the Supreme Court. 

“The state’s top four legislative Republicans indicated in a court filing that they plan to ask the Supreme Court for an emergency stay to block a state court’s decision from taking effect in time for the fall election. The Republicans filed a stay request with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Tuesday, writing that they planned to appeal to the country’s highest court, as well,” Amy Gardner reports. “Last week, 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 are trying to use the Green Party to their advantage again. In Wisconsin, a GOP elections commissioner and lawyers with ties to Republicans tried to aid attempts by current Green Party presidential candidate Howie Hawkins to get on the state’s ballot, which were ultimately unsuccessful. In Montana, state regulators found that the GOP violated campaign finance laws in an effort to boost the Green Party in five down-ballot races. (NYT)

Biden is chronically late.

“On a recent Friday, he’d already apologized for the delayed start to a speech, then taken more questions than expected at a subsequent press conference,” the AP reports. “When it was finally over, Biden’s motorcade sped away quickly enough to leave behind one of the journalists traveling with it. But as the line of armored, black SUVs reached Biden’s home in suburban Wilmington, it suddenly reversed course and headed back out — this time to a nearby M&T bank branch. Biden’s next event was already supposed to be underway, a virtual fundraiser with National Democratic Finance Chair Chris Korge. Instead, he lingered at an ATM. The former vice president later told the donors gathered online that he was sorry to have been waylaid by a ‘significant press conference.’ He omitted the stop to withdraw pocket money. …

“He was more than 90 minutes late to a speech and another press conference in Wilmington last week, and arrived at a CNN town hall in Pennsylvania the following day with barely 20 minutes to clip on a microphone and prepare to go on air. Afterward, his motorcade was already in motion but had to stop as Biden hopped out to chat up a group of firefighters. When Biden spoke at Philadelphia’s Constitution Hall on Sunday, his remarks began 25 minutes late.”

Wild anecdote: Chris Lehane, a former political adviser to President Bill Clinton, recalled being the head of the College Democrats at Amherst College in 1989, when then-Sen. Biden visited for what was supposed to be a 45-minute speech. Instead, he spoke for hours, holding personal chats with nearly everyone in the room and staying so long that a storm blew in and his flight was canceled. Biden headed back to the dorms with everyone else, ordered beer and pizza and slept in a common area that night, under a poster of Bob Marley. 

Quote of the day

“I beat the socialist,” Biden told a local Fox affiliate in Wisconsin. "That’s how I got the nomination. Do I look like a socialist? Look at … my whole career. I am not a socialist."

Other news that should be on your radar

Mine executives privately bragged about their influence over elected officials.

A direct line to the White House, but routed through a third party to hide it from public view. Easy access to Alaska’s governor, as well as the state’s two U.S. senators. A successful push to unseat nine Republican state lawmakers who opposed their plan to build a massive gold and copper mine — the biggest in North America — near Bristol Bay in Alaska. Those were some of the boasts made by two top executives of a company trying to build the Pebble Mine in videotapes secretly recorded by an environmental group,” Juliet Eilperin reports. “It was a rare glimpse into the private discussions surrounding the company’s heated campaign to win federal permits for the project, which environmentalists say will destroy a pristine part of Alaska and decimate its world-famous sockeye salmon fishery. 

“The conversations were secretly recorded over the past month and a half by the nonprofit Environmental Investigation Agency. Posing as potential investors in the mine, EIA investigators conducted Zoom calls in which the mine’s sponsors detailed how they sought to curry favor with elected politicians from Juneau to Washington, D.C. The tapes feature separate conversations with two key men behind the project — Roland Thiessen, chief executive of the Canadian-based Northern Dynasty Minerals, and Tom Collier, chief executive of its U.S. subsidiary, Pebble Limited Partnership. … Thiessen described both of the state’s Republican U.S. senators, Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, as politicians who might make noises about the project to appear sensitive to environmental concerns but ultimately won’t stand in their way. … 

Collier, who worked as chief of staff to Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt during the Clinton administration, said that he registered as an independent in Alaska but was ‘a well-known Republican fundraiser’ in the state. … ‘Now, having said that, it’s entirely possible that we may have Biden as a president, and if we do, I’m gonna brush off my Democratic credentials and start using them a little more actively than I do,’ he added. Collier will get a roughly $4 million bonus if the mine receives a favorable Record of Decision from the [Army Corps of Engineers] and another $8.4 million if the permit can withstand a legal challenge.”

  • Tropical Storm Beta drenched Texas and Louisiana with significant flooding in Houston. “Slow-moving Beta isn’t going anywhere soon, the waterlogged atmospheric eddy unloading copious Gulf moisture in a swath from the Middle Texas coastline to the mid-South,” Matthew Cappucci and Jason Samenow report
  • The week started with major coastal flooding in Charleston, S.C., despite the day being sunny. “The culprit was King Tide flooding, which occurs when the moon is closest to the Earth in its orbit. It is often enhanced in the fall and winter because of prevailing winds pushing water onshore. Nowadays, it’s not uncommon for coastal cities to see two or three of these larger events per year, and sea level rise due to human-caused climate change is making it even worse,” Cappuci reports
Louisville is preparing for protests that could turn violent.

Buildings have been boarded up and highway access restricted in Kentucky's largest city as residents brace for a possible announcement from the state attorney general on whether charges will be filed against officers involved in the death of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman,” Kevin Williams, Tim Craig and Mark Berman report. “Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer (D) declared a state of emergency Tuesday in anticipation of an announcement and ‘the potential for civil unrest.’ Law enforcement leaders have canceled days off for police, and officers were told to prepare to work 12-hour shifts. Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron (R) has given no public indication of when he will conclude his four-month investigation of the drug raid that led to the fatal shooting of Taylor in her apartment shortly after midnight March 13.” 

An officer who was shot during the Taylor search said he and other officers “did the legal, moral and ethical thing that night” when they fired their weapons while searching Taylor’s apartment.  In a six-paragraph, late-night email sent to more than 1,000 of his colleagues, Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly blamed Fischer, Public Safety Chief Amy Hess and former Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad for failing police officers “in epic proportions for their own gain and to cover their asses,’” the Courier Journal reports

  • A Black Lives Matter mural in Pittsburgh was defaced again. Officials said they’re looking for two men who were captured shooting paint balls at the mural. One was wearing a Confederate flag sweatshirt and a Trump cap. (Darren Sands)
  • Three men and one woman were arrested in connection with the death of a Black man whose body was found burning in a ditch in Iowa. Officials said an investigation into the man’s death has revealed “no evidence” that the acts were motivated by the victim’s race. (CNN)
  • Dutch lawmakers demanded answers from Pete Hoekstra, the U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands, after the Trump appointee held a private event for the Forum for Democracy, a rising right-wing political party, at the U.S. Embassy in The Hague. They see it as a potential breach of international law, which prohibits interference in domestic politics. (Adam Taylor)
  • A hospital in rural Georgia where activists said ICE detainees were subjected to hysterectomies said that just two of those procedures were performed there. (Nick Miroff)
  • Indigenous demonstrators protesting the construction of the border wall clashed with federal agents at the Arizona-Mexico border, temporarily halting machines from erecting steel panels through their ancestral homeland. (Teo Armus)
A government shutdown next week has been averted. 

The House overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan spending deal after a breakthrough in negotiations between Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. The 359-to-57 vote sends the legislation to the Senate, which could take it up later this week and send it to Trump. White House officials say they don’t want a shutdown, and Trump is expected to sign the bill, though he’s wavered at the last minute in such scenarios in the past,” Erica Werner reports. In exchange for Democrats agreeing to pump funds into a farm bailout program Trump wanted, Pelosi secured about $8 billion for a variety of nutrition programs, including for schoolchildren affected by the pandemic. This deal would keep the government funded through Dec. 11. 

  • A new rule being pushed by Eugene Scalia’s Labor Department could make it harder for gig and contract workers to have employment rights. “Labor advocates say the proposal would raise the threshold for contract workers, which includes gig workers, to be considered employees, a category that comes with significantly more protections,” Eli Rosenberg reports.
  • The Government Accountability Office estimated that nearly 9 million people didn’t get stimulus payments they were entitled to – and wondered why that the Treasury Department and IRS have not done more track them down. (Michelle Singletary)  

Social media speed read

Trump lashed out at Cindy McCain after she endorsed Biden:

Vice President Pence's national security adviser, retired general Keith Kellogg, claimed that he fired Olivia Troye – who endorsed Biden last week – and escorted her out of the White House. But there is no documentation of this, and Troye notes that he gave her a commemorative coin on her last day:

Trump held a rally in Pittsburgh with no social distancing and a playlist that included the song “In the Air Tonight”:

Videos of the day

“Late Night’s” Amber Ruffin wasn’t surprised that some boats in a Trump boat parade capsized: 

Stephen Colbert said the results of Trump’s disregard for human life are becoming clear: