with Mariana Alfaro

A forthcoming report from the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law at the University of Pennsylvania, prepared in partnership with Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, is sharply critical of Attorney General Bill Barr.

The authors gave me a first look at their 277-page report, which is scheduled for publication next week, and focuses on nine areas, including the misleading summary Barr initially offered of special counsel Bob Mueller’s conclusions; the Justice Department’s handling of the whistleblower complaint related to President Trump’s infamous call with Ukraine’s president; his intervention in politically sensitive prosecutions, such as the cases of former Trump advisers Roger Stone and Michael Flynn; the deployment of federal agents and troops against protestors, including the order to clear Lafayette Square; the firing or reassignment of U.S. attorneys, especially in the Southern District of New York; his role in trying to block the publication of material unflattering to the president, such as former national security adviser John Bolton’s memoir; the politicization of several offices within the department, in particular the Office of Legal Counsel; and his resistance to congressional oversight, including subpoenas.

The meatiest, and perhaps most timely, chapter focuses on Barr’s support for investigating the origins of the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Several of the authors have backgrounds in national security and intelligence, and they express fear that the ongoing investigation by U.S. Attorney John Durham of Connecticut, ordered up by Barr, could have chilling effects on collecting and disseminating information about potential foreign interference amid the 2020 election.

“There is a grave danger to the Intelligence Community from politicized DOJ investigations, intimidation and potential prosecutions,” the authors argue. “The use of a criminal investigation is ill-suited to examining the process of foreign intelligence analysis, poses unnecessary risks to intelligence sources and methods, intimidates and alienates foreign intelligence analysts, and chills the analytic process in a way likely to undermine the candor essential to producing the best intelligence information for national policymakers. The cumulative effects are likely to increase the attrition of talented intelligence personnel and neutralize the concept of ‘speaking truth to power’ that is essential to the effective use of intelligence in national policy decisions. All of this weakens prospective U.S. intelligence capabilities to the advantage of Russia and other adversaries in competition with the interests and goals of the United States.”

Barr’s spokespeople at the Justice Department did not respond to three requests for comment. The attorney general has vigorously defended the propriety of all his actions since taking office early last year. He testified last year that he thinks “spying did occur” on the Trump campaign in 2016 and has repeatedly cast doubt on whether there was proper predication for the investigation. He has said that – as the nation’s chief law enforcement official – he has an obligation to pursue wrongdoing, if there was any. He recently delivered a fiery speech that criticized career prosecutors for the zealousness with which they have pursued certain targets of investigations and defended the politicization of the Justice Department on his watch.

The three chairs of the 10-member working group that prepared this document over several months are University of Pennsylvania law professor Claire Finkelstein, the faculty director of the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law; University of Minnesota law professor Richard Painter, who served as the chief White House ethics lawyer under President George W. Bush; and Noah Bookbinder, the executive director of CREW, a liberal-leaning watchdog group, and a former federal corruption prosecutor.

The bipartisan working group includes several members with significant national security backgrounds, including Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker, who served as general counsel of the National Security Agency and Central Intelligence Agency; George Croner, who oversaw signals intelligence and FISA compliance in the operations division of the NSA’s general counsel’s office; Stuart Gerson, a former acting attorney general who ran the DOJ’s civil division under George H.W. Bush; Richard Meyer, who taught law at West Point after 22 years in the Army, including as a military intelligence specialist; and Shawn Turner,who was communications director for the director of national intelligence. Donald Ayer, who was deputy attorney general under Bush and Barr’s boss at one point, was a consultant for the project.

It is unknown whether Durham will issue any findings about his probe before Election Day, but Barr has not ruled out that he would announce something during the homestretch of the campaign. “The Attorney General appears to be determined to use the Durham investigation as a publicity tool in order to justify President Trump’s conduct in the 2016 campaign and to discredit the investigation of Robert Mueller,” the report says. “All signs point toward a politically orchestrated ‘October surprise.’”

Trump signed an executive order last year giving Barr broad authority to declassify government secrets, and the attorney general has used it. The Justice Department recently released a pair of documents that seemed designed to cast fresh doubt on the judgment of senior law enforcement officials who investigated possible links between Russia and the Trump campaign in 2016, showing that one of the FBI case agents thought prosecutors were out to “get Trump” and that a key source of allegations against the president had been previously investigated as a possible Russian asset.

Last month, a senior prosecutor working with Durham on his investigation resigned, raising concern that Barr was pushing the case toward some kind public announcement to benefit Trump ahead of the election. Durham’s investigators have reportedly asked witnesses about how the FBI handled the case after it came to have doubts about the credibility of Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer whose work the bureau relied on in part to obtain the secret court order to surveil Page.

The working group says it came to “the reluctant conclusion” that Barr is “using the powers” of the Justice Department to help get Trump reelected and cited several interviews that the attorney general has given to Fox News about the Durham investigation. The authors conclude with a list of 10 recommendations that they say would safeguard the rule of law, including ensuring more independence for future special counsels, requiring recusal of presidential appointees from matters involving his personal financial interests, staggered 10-year terms for U.S. attorneys and inspectors general, more autonomy for career prosecutors, additional independence for members of the intelligence community, more vigorous congressional oversight and requiring all Justice Department attorneys to comply with ethics advice from DOJ ethics officials. 

James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence under President Barack Obama, told the group in an interview quoted in the report that the questioning of intelligence analysts as part of a criminal probe into substantive foreign intelligence analysis issues has been “unprecedented.” Clapper said he could think of no other instance of such an inquiry during his 54 years in the intelligence world, and he complained that this will have a “very chilling effect” on analysts inside the agencies. “Fundamentally, prosecuting attorneys who have never served in the Intelligence Community have a different evidentiary bar,” said Clapper. “The intelligence community is supposed to tell the unvarnished truth as best it can, which is a hard enough job to start with.”

The coronavirus

It will be virtually impossible to spin this as anything but an epic disaster for the White House.

The United States has lost more people to the virus than any other country. But Trump cannot even control the outbreak in his own home and office. The new infections inside the White House, less than a month before the election, ensures that covid-19 will be the top issue in the election, and they have become a symbol of the administration's failure to lead on the pandemic for more than seven months. Last night, domestic policy adviser Stephen Miller joined the growing list of more than a dozen White House officials to test positive, in addition to the president and first lady. It did not have to turn out this way. For context: "Taiwan — the self-ruled island home to 23 million people — reported just eight new cases in the past week. More than a dozen countries have reported fewer than 10 new coronavirus cases in the past seven days, including several that have not reported any cases at all,” Siobhán O’Grady reports.

Senior Pentagon leaders are quarantining after a Coast Guard admiral tested positive following a White House visit. “The Sept. 27 ceremony, held on Gold Star Mother’s and Family’s Day with dozens of people in attendance, recognized the families of 20 deceased service members," Dan Lamothe and Missy Ryan report. “Most attendees did not wear masks or maintain social distancing … Adm. Charles W. Ray, the vice commandant of the Coast Guard, tested positive for the coronavirus on Monday, the service said in a statement on Tuesday. He had begun experiencing mild symptoms over the weekend, a week after attending the Gold Star event … Ray’s positive test forced several members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff into quarantine, including Army Gen. Mark A. Milley.”

  • Six states — Arkansas, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming — set records for coronavirus-related hospitalizations on Tuesday. A seventh, Oklahoma, reported its highest count of hospitalizations since late July. (Antonia Farzan and Jacqueline Dupree)
  • In the U.S., states — not science — decide what counts as a coronavirus outbreak. In places such as Iowa, a high threshold for declaring an outbreak keeps workers, students and parents in the dark. (Chris Mooney, Sarah Kaplan and Juliet Eilperin)
  • Surgeon General Jerome Adams was cited for breaking Hawaii’s covid-19 rules after visiting a closed park. He now faces a remote court date to answer charges that he violated state orders by entering the park, a misdemeanor offense that could result in up to $5,000 in fines, a year in jail or both. (Tim Elfrink)
  • Tony Fauci, the government's top infectious-disease expert, said another 300,000 to 400,000 Americans could die from covid-19 unless more precautions are taken. (Politico)
  • D.C. reported 105 new confirmed cases, the highest in a single day since June  3. City officials said it’s unclear whether the spike is tied to the White House becoming a hot spot. (Fenit Nirappil and Dana Hedpgeth)
  • Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.) said he tested positive after interacting with Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who was at the White House for the Supreme Court announcement. Carbajal and Lee live in the same building. (Politico)
  • DHS officials acknowledged that transfers of detainees between facilities holding immigrants “contributed to” covid-19 outbreaks and that poor communication made tracking and preventing the virus’s spread more difficult. In a draft report obtained by BuzzFeed News, the agency also said that the inability for adequate social distancing within these ICE detention centers contributed to the virus’s spread.
Trump abruptly cut off stimulus talks with Democrats until after the election.

The president ordered Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to stop negotiating with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “In a series of tweets less than 24 hours after he was released from a hospital, Trump accused Pelosi (D-Calif.) of failing to negotiate in good faith, after she rejected an opening bid from Mnuchin in their latest round of talks, Erica Werner and Jeff Stein report. "Trump’s surprising announcement stood in stark contrast with recommendations from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell, who had said in a speech hours earlier that more economic stimulus was needed to sustain the recovery. Trump’s tweets sent the stock market lower, as many businesses, households and investors had been hoping for a jolt of fiscal stimulus amid signs the economy had lost momentum. … 

“Trump’s declaration appeared to kill any near-term chance of new aid for millions of Americans who remain out work and at risk of eviction. Pelosi and Mnuchin spoke shortly after Trump’s tweets, and Mnuchin informed Pelosi that the negotiations were indeed over, according to Pelosi’s spokesman. Trump said he instead asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) ‘not to delay, but to instead focus full time on approving' [Barrett]. … [McConnell] said he agreed with the decision … Pelosi later speculated to Democratic colleagues on a conference call that the president’s sudden change in position might be connected to the steroids he’s taking … 

"Trump’s move disappointed some members of his party who were hoping to be able to deliver new relief to their constituents. … Even some of Trump’s top advisers have said that the economy is not doing well and that more assistance is needed. … Trump keeps shifting his position on how he plans to proceed. … After he announced Tuesday that the talks were off and that the economy was great, he wrote another Twitter post in the evening that suggested he actually supported the idea of more spending.” 

Trump’s decision to halt stimulus talks — which centered on an infusion of funds for the ailing airline industry — could have significant effects on voter judgments about who is best able to handle the economy, previously Trump’s strongest suit,” Matt Viser and Sean Sullivan report“Major airlines have operations in electorally important areas such as Dallas, Atlanta, Phoenix, Miami and Charlotte. In one sobering development for the Trump campaign, Biden’s lead in Pennsylvania grew to 12 percentage points, 54 percent to 42 percent, among registered voters, according to a new Monmouth University poll that was conducted after last week’s debate and released Tuesday. A Monmouth poll in late August had Biden up by four percentage points. … Trump’s campaign plans to battle back with a range of in-person events built upon the idea of swiftly returning to the pre-pandemic normal. Notably, however, its plan was released by campaign manager Bill Stepien, who is in isolation after contracting the coronavirus.”

Trump continues to resist the White House moving toward stronger safety precautions. 

“The White House offered an informal nod to coronavirus best practices Tuesday, with mask-wearing prevalent after months of flouting public health recommendations and new internal guidelines for interacting with Trump,” Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey report. “But the biggest source of resistance appeared to be Trump himself, who, despite having just come home from a three-night hospitalization, was defiant — lobbying to return immediately to work in the Oval Office, discussing an address to the nation as early as Tuesday evening and clamoring to get back on the campaign trail in the coming days. … [Trump’s team] tried to puzzle out if there was a way for him to safely return to the Oval Office on Tuesday but ultimately nixed the request … The White House has not changed its mask guidance and is still following CDC guidelines that recommend, but do not require, wearing a mask. … Career administration officials and mid-level and junior staffers say they are scared — nervous about coming into work and wary of being the next to test positive. … 

"A GOP group working to elect Senate Republicans conducted polling over the weekend in four states — Colorado, Georgia, Montana and North Carolina — as Trump was hospitalized. The president’s numbers dropped ‘significantly’ in every state, falling by about five points in all four. ‘The president is in real trouble,’ said one of the group’s operatives, who is also close to the White House."

Trump’s determination to fly to Miami for next week's debate is part of a pattern of recklessness.

“Several outside medical experts suggested that the president’s actions indicate he is unchastened by his own experience contracting a virus that has killed more than 210,000 Americans — or by the spreading infections among his own staff and supporters,” Amy Goldstein and Frances Stead Sellers report. “Trump’s removal of his mask moments after returning to the White House on Monday evening, and his subsequent assertion that he would appear at the debate ‘is irresponsible and reckless, and frankly that borders on malicious,’ said Michael Mina, a physician and assistant professor of epidemiology at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health." (Miami’s Republican mayor said Tuesday that Trump should not come to his city if he's still testing positive.)

  • Trump’s decision to visit his supporters outside Walter Reed over the weekend “was a gratuitous and dangerous political exercise that needlessly exposed his Secret Service agents — as well as their families," writes Joseph Petro, who spent 23 years in the Secret Service and held supervisory roles under President Ronald Reagan.
  • The incomplete medical information from the White House makes experts think Trump is worse off than is being acknowledged. “As a doctor who’s treated covid-19, the decision to use those three major agents — an antibody cocktail, an antiviral drug and a high dose of steroids — indicated one thing clearly to me: Trump must have been getting sicker in the hospital,” writes Kavita Patel, an internal medicine physician at Mary’s Center here in D.C. and a fellow at the Brookings Institution.
  • “Trump’s chickens come home to roost. So do America’s. A man reaps what he sows, and his country suffers along with him," writes Politico founding editor John Harris.
After weeks of delay, the White House reluctantly approved new FDA standards for a vaccine.

"The standards, which would be applied to an emergency use authorization for a vaccine, are the same as ones the agency proposed weeks ago. In many ways, they are similar to the standards for a traditional approval. But the White House, worried that the criteria would delay authorization of a vaccine, presumably beyond the Nov. 3 election, decided to sit on the guidance,” Laurie McGinley, Yasmeen Abutaleb and Carolyn Johnson report. “On Tuesday, tired of the delay, the FDA circumvented the White House by publishing the criteria online as part of a briefing package for a meeting with its vaccine advisory committee that is scheduled for Oct. 22. Shortly after the standards were published, the White House approved the vaccine guidance … The guidance is far more rigorous than what was used for emergency clearance of hydroxychloroquine … It is an effort to shore up confidence in the vaccine development process and the FDA, which has made missteps during the pandemic.” 

  • Whistle-blower Rick Bright, a senior vaccine scientist who said he was demoted this spring for complaining about political interference in science, resigned his government post on Tuesday, saying he had been sidelined and was left with nothing to do. (NYT
  • The rapid coronavirus tests deployed by the White House, manufactured by Abbott Laboratories, were given emergency clearance by the FDA only for people “within the first seven days of the onset of symptoms.” But experts note that they were used incorrectly to screen people who were not showing any signs of illness. This created a false sense of security. (NYT)
  • Ultra-Orthodox Jews took to the streets to protest new coronavirus-related restrictions in Brooklyn, one day after video showed police clashing with a large group at a holiday celebration. This week, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) ordered schools to close and shut down nonessential businesses in a handful of neighborhoods with especially high positive rates, while also imposing strict capacity limits on religious gatherings. (Teo Armus and Farzan

Quote of the day

“The pandemic isn’t a red- or blue-state issue,” Joe Biden said in Gettysburg, Pa. “It affects us all and can take anyone’s life. It’s a virus. It’s not a political weapon.”

Personnel is policy

An I.G. report says top DOJ officials were the “driving force” behind Trump's child separation policy. 

The draft report by Justice Department inspector general Michael Horowitz cites more than 45 interviews with key officials, emails and other documents to make the case that Jeff Sessions, the attorney general at the time, and other top law enforcement officials understood that the president's “zero tolerance” directive meant that kids, including infants, would be taken away from their parents, and they wanted that to happen because they believed it would deter future illegal immigration, the New York Times reports:

“The five U.S. attorneys along the border with Mexico, including three appointed by Trump, recoiled in May 2018 against an order to prosecute all undocumented immigrants even if it meant separating children from their parents. They told top Justice Department officials they were ‘deeply concerned’ about the children’s welfare. But [Sessions] made it clear what Mr. Trump wanted on a conference call later that afternoon, according to a two-year inquiry by the Justice Department’s inspector general into Mr. Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ family separation policy. ‘We need to take away children,’ Mr. Sessions told the prosecutors, according to participant’s notes. One added in shorthand: ‘If care about kids, don’t bring them in. Won’t give amnesty to people with kids.’ 

"Rod J. Rosenstein, then the deputy attorney general, went even further in a second call about a week later, telling the five prosecutors that it did not matter how young the children were. He said that government lawyers should not have refused to prosecute two cases simply because the children were barely more than infants." Sessions refused to be interviewed for the report, and Rosenstein defended himself in his interview with investigators.

  • “The Trump administration announced significant changes on Tuesday to the H-1B visa program for high-skilled workers, substantially raising the wages that U.S. companies must pay foreign hires and narrowing eligibility criteria for applicants,” the Times reports.
Trump’s SCOTUS nominee served as a “handmaid” for a group that's tried to conceal references to her role.

“While Amy Coney Barrett has faced questions about how her Catholic faith might influence her jurisprudence, she has not spoken publicly about her involvement in People of Praise, a small Christian group founded in the 1970s and based in South Bend, Ind.,” Emma Brown, Jon Swaine and Michelle Boorstein report. “Barrett has had an active role in the organization, as have her parents, according to documents and interviews that help fill out a picture of her involvement with a group that keeps its teachings and gatherings private. A 2010 People of Praise directory states that she held the title of ‘handmaid,’ a leadership position for women in the community, according to a directory excerpt obtained by The Post. … Former members including Art Wang, a member from the late 1980s until 2015, told The Post that handmaids, now known as ‘women leaders,’ give advice to other women on issues such as child rearing and marriage. … 

“Numerous references to Barrett and her family that previously appeared on People of Praise’s official website have since disappeared from the site. … Links to at least 10 issues of Vine & Branches that included mentions of Barrett or members of her family were removed from the site during the first half of 2017 … On May 8, 2017, Barrett was nominated by Trump to serve as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit.”

A delayed DHS report says Russia is most aggressively trying to inflame U.S. social and racial tensions.

The Department of Homeland Security’s first-ever homeland threat assessment also says white supremacists pose “the most persistent and lethal threat” to the country. “But while the body of the report makes clear that Russia is the primary foreign threat to the 2020 elections — an assessment shared across the intelligence community — the acting homeland security secretary, Chad Wolf, offers a different emphasis in the foreword, stating that China, Russia and Iran are all seeking to disrupt the election,” Ellen Nakashima and Shane Harris report. “That sentiment has renewed criticism that the Trump administration is seeking to draw a false equivalency between Russia’s and China’s efforts … The former acting head of DHS’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis, Brian Murphy, in a whistleblower complaint last month accused Wolf of directing him to play down intelligence reports on Russian interference to avoid making ‘the president look bad,’ and of seeking to modify the draft assessment’s section on white supremacy to make the threat appear less severe.”

  • Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny accused Vladimir Putin's Kremlin of poisoning him in his first video appearance since he nearly died. Navalny lost around 25 pounds and his hands sometimes shake, effects of nerve agent poisoning. He’s currently going through physical therapy and said it could be months before he is fully recovered. (Miriam Berger)
  • Facebook imposed sweeping new sanctions on QAnon, expanding its policy to remove all groups and pages affiliated with the conspiracy theory, as well as accounts on Instagram. The ban does not reach individual Facebook profiles or posts. (Craig Timberg and Isaac Stanley-Becker)

The election

In her first race, Kamala Harris learned how to become a political brawler.

When the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, who is debating Vice President Pence tonight in Salt Lake City, first ran for public office in 2003, she took on the incumbent district attorney for whom she had worked. Terence “Kayo” Hallinan – Kayo as in K.O. for knockouts – attacked her mercilessly, questioning whether she would investigate corrupt politicians and making light of her multi-year association with San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, whom she had dated and who gave her lucrative, taxpayer-supported jobs. “Harris, who was 38 years old at the start of the race, was relatively unknown,” Michael Kranish reports. "Speaking of Brown, Hallinan said: ‘He has an interest in having a friend in the district attorney’s office.’ Harris responded: ‘I will set up a public integrity desk dedicated to dealing with investigating and prosecuting cases involving corruption by any public official — be it Terence Hallinan or anyone else.’ … It is an approach she has honed ever since, and it has come to define her blunt-force, prosecutor-like manner of taking on an opponent.” People familiar with her preparations say Harris plans to spend much of tonight's debate highlighting differences between Trump and Biden, rather than confronting Pence.

  • Pence’s team ultimately agreed to a plexiglass barrier on his side of the debate stage tonight. The Commission on Presidential Debates said the vice president dropped his objections to a plexiglass barricade on his side of the stage for today’s debate after viewing the setup during a walk-through of the debate hall. (Scherer and Dawsey
  • Pence remained behind closed doors upon his arrival in Salt Lake City Monday with no public events Tuesday, hunkering down to prepare for Wednesday evening, with the exception of a family hike, per CNN. The White House said he tested negative yesterday for the coronavirus.
  • Biden has quietly reserved $6.2 million for an advertising blitz in Texas during the final weeks. “Viewers in Dallas-Fort Worth especially will have trouble avoiding his pitch, which also targets voters in the Houston, San Antonio and Austin markets," the Dallas Morning News reports
  • Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez, a pro-statehood Republican, endorsed Trump, even though she cannot vote in the presidential election and despite the president's shabby treatment of the island after Hurricane Maria in 2017. “Vázquez was supposed to travel to Central Florida and participate in a Trump campaign rally in Sanford last Friday. However, Trump’s rally was canceled after he tested positive," the Miami Herald reports.
More illicit texts emerged from the Democratic Senate candidate in North Carolina.

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) has the coronavirus, and his Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham is in hiding after revelations that he carried on an extramarital affair with a woman from California. Last night, the Associated Press published more messages that show that the relationship extended beyond suggestive texts, as was previously reported, to an intimate encounter as recent as July. In one text, the woman who confirmed the affair to the AP told her friend she was intimate with Cunningham at his house, where his family lived. “After privately fretting about Tillis’s standing for weeks, the GOP sees a potential game-changer in the revelations about Cunningham, a married father of two who has argued about the importance of character," Pam Kelley, Rachael Bade and Paul Kane report. “The Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with [McConnell], began airing an ad criticizing Cunningham for infidelity. … Yet Democrats in North Carolina and Washington remain steadfastly behind their embattled Senate candidate. They say Tillis’s covid-19 diagnosis — following his appearance at a crowded White House event with no social distancing and few masks — is the perfect example of the GOP’s bungled pandemic response.”

Other news that should be on your radar

  • Hurricane Delta is now Category 4 and will hit Louisiana later this week. Before that, it will deal a serious blow to Cancun and the Yucatán Peninsula. (Matthew Cappucci and Jason Samenow)
  • The 2nd Circuit ruled this morning that Manhattan's district attorney can enforce his subpoena for Trump's tax returns, rejecting a bid by the president’s lawyers to kill the request on grounds it's a malicious political ploy and potentially setting up another high-stakes showdown at the Supreme Court. (Shayna Jacobs)
  • The Nobel Prize for chemistry was awarded to American biochemist Jennifer Doudna and French scientist Emmanuelle Charpentier for their work developing CRISPR-Cas9, a method of genome editing. The tool is being used as a cancer therapy and helping to cure inherited diseases. (Ben Guarino)
  • Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google engaged in anti-competitive, monopoly-style tactics to evolve into four of the world’s most powerful corporate behemoths, according to an investigation by the House’s antitrust panel. The 450-page document, which caps a 16-month investigation, argues that the tech giants relied on dubious, harmful means to solidify their dominance in Web search, smartphones, social networking and shopping. Amazon's chief executive, Jeff Bezos, owns The Washington Post. (Tony Romm, Cat Zakrzewski and Rachel Lerman)
  • The St. Louis couple who aimed guns at Black Lives Matter protesters marching through their gated community this summer have been indicted on weapons and evidence-tampering charges. (Rachel Weiner)
  • Six years after the Islamic State beheaded American hostages on camera, two men have been charged in U.S. federal court for involvement in those deaths. “Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh were being flown Wednesday to the United States from Iraq,” Rachel Weiner and Nakashima report. “They will be prosecuted in federal court in Alexandria, Va. and are charged with hostage taking resulting in death, conspiracy to murder U.S. citizens outside the United States, conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, and related conspiracy charges.”
  • The Supreme Court will hear the case of three Muslim men who said they were placed on a “no-fly” list for years because they refused to become FBI informants. (Robert Barnes)

Social media speed read

Bea Lumpkin, 102, has voted in every election since 1940. She wasn’t going to let a pandemic stop her this year. She told Paulina Firozi that her grandson designed this PPE, which includes a fan and a filter, and provided her with a “whole pile” of reusable gloves:

We are bound to repeat history if we don’t learn from it: 

A lot has happened in the last seven months, but the president’s message has come full circle. He's back to comparing the coronavirus to the flu:

Videos of the day

Amanda Kloots, whose husband Nick Cordero, a Broadway actor, died from the coronavirus, reacted to Trump’s suggestion that getting infected is not a big deal: 

In a final pitch to voters, former first lady Michelle Obama rebuked Trump for mismanaging the health crisis and urged Americans to “vote for Joe Biden like your lives depend on it”:

Seth Meyers was appalled by Trump’s decision to take off his mask when he appeared on the White House balcony: 

And Stephen Colbert mocked Trump for reshooting his balcony scene: