with Brent D. Griffiths

Good Tuesday morning. We're 21 days away from the election. Tips, comments, recipes? Reach out and sign up. Thanks for waking up with us. 

At the White House

IMMUNE TO CHANGE: President Trump and some of his top administration officials, campaign surrogates and Capitol Hill lawmakers are still flouting health guidelines to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, even after the president himself and many in his orbit came down with the disease.

Last night, Trump held his first rally in the crucial swing state of Florida after his doctor declared he had tested negative on consecutive days and was no longer contagious.  But the president was not seen wearing a mask, which his own health officials say is the best current protection against the virus, and neither were many of his supporters.

Earlier in the day, his chief of staff, Mark Meadows, balked at talking to reporters when he was asked to socially distance and keep his mask on. And Trump's son, Eric, along with top ally Rudy Giuliani held campaign events that didn't strictly observe such health guidelines as there is an uptick in positive cases around the country.

With just 21 days until the election, Trump's rally in Sanford, Fla., marked the first of many events the president has asked his campaign to pack into his schedule — despite the public safety risks that mass gatherings present. After being hospitalized a week ago with the virus, Trump seemed unconcerned by the possibility of spreading the virus throughout the crowd of his supporters, some of whom went unmasked.

  • “I went through it, now they say I'm immune, I feel so powerful — I'll walk into that audience, Trump said. “I'll walk in there and kiss everyone in that audience. I'll kiss the guys and the beautiful women and — everyone. I'll just give you a big fat kiss. There is something nice --- I don't have to be locked up in my basement, and I wouldn't allow it to happen anyway. When you're the president, you can't lock yourself in the basement and say, ‘I’m not going to bother with the world.'
  • You've got to get it out — and it's risky — but you've got to get out. But it does give you a good feeling when you can beat something and now they say you're immune. I don't know how long — some people say for life, some people say for four months. I mean every time I think about it, every time I hear them, it gets shorter and shorter because they want it to be as bad as possible. But it is a great feeling. ”

Fact check: There is no evidence of immunity to the coronavirus once you've been been infected, according to the Centers for Disease Control: “Contrary to media reporting today, this science does not imply a person is immune to reinfection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in the 3 months following infection.” 

  • In fact, news broke yesterday that “a 25-year-old was infected twice with the coronavirus earlier this year, scientists in Nevada have confirmed," NPR's Rebecca Hersher reports. “It is the first confirmed case of so-called reinfection with the virus in the U.S. and the fifth confirmed reinfection case worldwide.”
  • “The cases underscore the importance of social distancing and wearing masks even if you were previously infected with the virus, and they raise questions about how the human immune system reacts to the virus,” per Hersher.

Reality check: Americans from both parties broadly support mask wearing in public to mitigate the virus's spread. And the science shows that masks work: a CDC report released last week found the number of coronavirus cases declined by approximately 75 percent in Arizona after mask wearing was enforced in the state, along with the “limitation of public events; closures of bars, gyms, movie theaters, and water parks; reduced restaurant dine-in capacity."

Like father like son: Eric Trump rallied in Menomonee Falls, Wis., for his dad on Monday. “Trump, jumping from subject to subject like his father, spoke to about 200 supporters in a basement party room at the bowling alley. There was no social distancing although some of the attendees wore masks,” The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Bill Glauber reports. 

The president is due in Janesville in the critical state over the weekend, per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Sophie Carson: “The event comes less than two weeks after Trump was released from the hospital for coronavirus treatment and is part of a renewed push by the Trump campaign to court Wisconsin voters as the Nov. 3 presidential election draws closer,” Carson reports. "Wisconsin's coronavirus outbreak continues to rank among the worst in the country." 

  • Wisconsin, along with North and South Dakota, are the leading states in the country with new cases per capita: “What worries me is we haven’t learned our lessons,” Ali Mokdad, a professor of health metrics sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle, told the Associated Press's Adam Geller and Stephen Groves. ”He cited data, compiled by the company Premise, showing mask usage at 39% in Wisconsin and 45% in the Dakotas, both below the U.S. average of 50%."
  • “People let down their guard. They said, ‘It’s not us. It’s big cities,’" Mokdad said. “But eventually, like any other virus, it’s going to spread. Nobody lives in a bubble in this country.”
  • Last week, “the state surpassed 3,000 new virus cases for the first time on Thursday, more than 200 above its previous daily record, set earlier this month,” per Geller and Groves.

And Rudy Giuliani, sans mask, spoke to “about 75 Trump supporters — many of them wearing masks with an Italian flag and the words Save Columbus — squeezed shoulder-to-shoulder into the campaign’s Northeast Philadelphia office Monday night,” the Philadelphia Inquirer's Juliana Feliciano Reyes and Julia Terruso report.

  • The event was originally scheduled to occur in a much larger space — the 15,000-square-foot 2300 Arena — but the campaign was forced to relocate when the arena’s owners canceled Sunday night after finding out the event was a Trump rally,” according to Feliciano Reyes and Terruso. “Co-owner Christy Bottie said the event had been described as a private fund-raiser for a local politician. She said she didn’t want to host any event that might jeopardize her business.”
  • “'There’s just a whole lot of things that come with a Trump rally,' Bottie said, mentioning potential protesters and COVID risks."
  • Giuliani told supporters in the packed room  “people don't die of this disease anymore.” According to the Pennsylvania Health Department's coronavirus dashboard, there have been 200 reported deaths in the state since Oct. 1.

Less than 11 full days after testing positive for the coronavirus, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) participated in Monday's confirmation hearing for Trump Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, “delivering an opening statement in person — with no mask — and periodically whispering to his GOP colleagues,” according to our colleague Paul Kane. 

Midday, Meadows made headlines for refusing requests to wear his mask while talking to reporters outside the hearing room in the crowded hallway. “I'm not going to talk through a mask,” he said, walking away from reporters. An estimated 70 people attended the afternoon session — a breach of “D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s orders against over 50 people meeting at an indoor gathering, PK notes. 

  • the pandemic will serve as the constant backdrop for these hearings, from the lighthearted moments of senators battling technology as they appear remotely to the very question of whether the hearings risk becoming another super-spreading event.

Other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, like Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) stayed home to deliver their statements via a videoconference. Cruz tested negative for the virus and has not exhibited any symptoms but attended a debate party with Lee; Tillis, who was at Barrett's nomination ceremony at the White House, tested positive for the virus. 

  • “That split-screen image summed up the Republican response to a pandemic that has killed more than 214,000 Americans — caution from some, pre-coronavirus behavior from others — as well as the confusion about the medical protocols, both on Capitol Hill and throughout America, more than seven months after the virus started spreading across the nation,” PK writes.

Not having it: News outlets have started to balk at covering the president as he hits the campaign trail because of lax safety protocols.

“The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post are among the major outlets that have declined to assign reporters to travel with Mr. Trump as he returns to the trail this week, saying they do not have assurance that basic precautions will be taken to protect reporters’ health,” the New York Times's Michael Grynbaum reports

  • “Among the concerns raised by reporters: Many flight attendants and Secret Service agents on Air Force One have not worn masks; White House aides who tested positive for the coronavirus, or were potentially exposed, are returning to work before the end of a two-week quarantine; and the campaign has instituted few restrictions at the raucous rallies that Mr. Trump is now pledging to hold on a regular basis until Election Day.”
  • “Journalists say they are being asked to choose between their responsibility to cover major events and ensuring the health of themselves and their families, per Grynbaum.

Context: “Some of Trump’s aides and associates initially hoped that his coronavirus diagnosis would help focus him on the pandemic, allowing him to emerge as a sympathetic figure with a newfound sense of seriousness and empathy,” our colleagues Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey, Sean Sullivan, and Toluse Olorunnipa report. That, so far, has not happened.” 

The president's campaign rallies and travel pose the risk of creating more super-spreading events. Most recently, the president's mask-free ceremony at the White House announcing Barrett''s nomination was deemed a “super spreader” event by top infectious-disease expert Anthony S. Fauc, who warned that Trump's rallies are restarting at an especially precarious time.

  • “It's really going in the wrong direction,” Fauci said, pointing to the rise of covid-19 cases around the country. “If there's anything we should be doing, it's doubling down on the public health measures that we've been talking about for so long … We're entering to the cool months of the fall and ultimately the cold months of winter and that's just a recipe of a real problem if we don't get things under control before we get into that seasonal challenge. ”

The campaign

BIDEN SAYS HE'S ‘NOT A FAN OF COURT PACKING’:  Joe Biden "who for weeks has avoided saying whether he supports expanding the Supreme Court, said Monday that he is “not a fan” of the idea that has gained steam in his party’s liberal wing," Sean Sullivan reports.

  • "I’ve already spoken on — I’m not a fan of court packing. But I’m not — I don’t want to get off on that whole issue,” Biden said in an interview with WKRC TV in Cincinnati. “I want to keep focused.”
  • Biden added Trump “would love nothing better than to fight about whether or not I would in fact pack the court or not pack the court.” He criticized Trump for trying to get [Barrett[ confirmed to the high court so close to an election.

Context: Court packing has come to the fore because of the pre-election push to confirm Barrett, who critics say is a threat to the Affordable Care Act and abortion rights. Some progressives have demanded that a Biden administration respond by expanding the number of seats on the Supreme Court itself to allow a Democratic president to alter the balance of power if Barrett is confirmed. Biden has angered some by refusing to say what he would do if he won.

  • This shouldn't be too surprising: "I think it’s a bad idea,” Biden aid in August 2019 during a trip to Iowa. “It will come back to bite us. It should not be a political football.”

What Biden has previously said:

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden initially dodged questions in October 2020 about whether he would pack the court before saying he opposed it. (The Washington Post)

THIS MAY BE WHY: “The Democratic presidential nominee is closing out his campaign with an increasingly aggressive pitch to moderate voters, seeking to capitalize on anger at Trump and cement a broad base of support anchored in the center of the political spectrum,” Sean reports this morning.

  • Just take a look at where he's stumping: “Biden's strategy was apparent on Monday as he campaigned in Ohio, a state Trump won decisively four years ago thanks to White working-class voters. In the waning days of the campaign, Biden is trying to convince these swing voters that Trump let them down amid signs that the president’s support has eroded. Over the next three days, Biden will make a similar case in the crucial — and potentially decisive — battleground states of Florida and Pennsylvania, beginning with a speech aimed at seniors [this afternoon].”

He's bluntly distancing himself from the left: “Still, there are signs that Biden will face fewer defections from the left on Election Day than Hillary Clinton did four years ago. There has been less grumbling from liberal leaders and activists, and third-party candidates have gained less traction with them compared with 2016,” our colleague writes.

  • “In an area like this, people don’t ask for Medicare-for-all. They don’t ask you to do the Green New Deal," Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Penn.) told our colleague. Lamb flipped a GOP-held seat in 2018. "They ask you to help them keep the health insurance that they have. And if you can do anything to make it cost a little bit less or make their drugs cost a little bit less, great.”

On the Hill

BARRETT VOWS TO BE APOLITICAL, DEMS ATTACK ON ACA:  In her first day of confirmation hearings on the Hill, Barrett "presented herself to the nation as a humble and apolitical judge, opening a pandemic-altered Senate confirmation hearing that Democrats tried to make as much about health care, covid-19 and Trump as about Barrett’s qualifications,” Robert Barnes, Seung Min Kim and Derek Hawkins report.

Democrats acknowledge there's little they can do to stop the confirmation: “So they seemed determined to use the hearings to portray Republicans as a threat to the Affordable Care Act and the nomination as a last-ditch effort to save Trump should next month’s election lead to litigation in the Supreme Court,” our colleagues write.

  • Barrett rarely strayed from her prereleased remarks: “The policy decisions and value judgments of government must be made by the political branches elected by and accountable to the people,” said Barrett, a Notre Dame law professor who for the past three years has served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. “The public should not expect courts to do so, and courts should not try.”

What's next?: Senators will begin questioning Barrett later this morning. Her already accelerated confirmation timeline is now expected to be even quicker with steps toward a committee vote expect to begin Thursday morning, before the final day of hearings wraps up, per the New York Times. Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has said a final floor vote would come Oct. 29.

The Senate Judiciary Committee began an acrimonious Supreme Court confirmation hearing for Judge Amy Coney Barrett on Oct. 12. (The Washington Post)

Barrett's nomination may be the only thing holding the GOP together: “Fear of Trump remains high in GOP circles, and Republicans know that their fate is inexorably tied to the president’s own results. Yet at the moment, it’s not clear Trump has the juice within his party to cut a big spending deal with Democrats. Meanwhile, there is near unanimous support for Barrett, the type of Supreme Court nominee that Senate Republicans would have confirmed for a President Rubio or a President Cruz,” Politico's Burgess Everett and John Bresnahan report.

What to expect today: “The proving ground, though, lies ahead, as the same Democrats try to make the case against Barrett in their question-and-answer sessions. The implications of that bear not just on the Supreme Court, but also in the 2020 election,” The Post's Aaron Blake writes this morning.

  • More details: “Two points are worth making in this moment,” he writes, 1. Democrats’ recent past in such situations isn’t terribly confidence-inspiring, and 2. Their strategy of focusing on the Affordable Care Act much more than abortion and Roe v. Wade is both an unhappy consequence of that and a questionable tactic."

In the media

The nuclear threat has risen under Trump: “North Korea’s new road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile, paraded through the streets of Pyongyang this past weekend, has underscored a worrying reality: The global threat from nuclear weapons and menacing missiles has grown since Trump entered office, despite his administration’s fitful efforts to control them,” Paul Sonne reports.

At struggling Jack Yates High, George Floyd pinned his dreams on sports: “Floyd had long seen sports as his path out of the poverty, crime and drugs of Houston’s Third Ward. At 6 feet 6 inches, he excelled at basketball and then football, and his talents repeatedly gave him a shot at a different life. But, just as often, Floyd’s shaky education stood in his way,” Laura Meckler reports from Houston in second installment of The Post's “George Floyd's America” series.

California GOP installed unofficial ballot drop-off boxes: “California’s secretary of state and attorney general sent a cease-and-desist letter to Republican Party leaders on Monday following reports that GOP officials were encouraging voters to drop ballots into unofficial boxes that state officials contend are illegal,” Katie Shepherd report.

Remembering Roberta McCain: “McCain, an independent-minded oil heiress who was married to one of the Navy’s highest-ranking officers and who displayed characteristic pluck when she took to the presidential campaign trail at age 96 on behalf of her son, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, died Oct. 12 at her home in Washington. She was 108,” Emma Brown writes in The Post's obit.

  • “Mrs. McCain was the gregarious and stylish center of gravity for her family, which was near the center of American military and political power for more than a half-century. Her father-in-law, John S. McCain Sr., a four-star Navy admiral, commanded forces in the Pacific during World War II; her husband, John S. McCain Jr., another four-star Navy admiral, led the U.S. invasion of the Dominican Republic in 1965 and commanded U.S. forces in the Pacific during the Vietnam War.”

Remembering Joe Morgan: Morgan, a Hall of Fame second baseman who helped power the Big Red Machine, the Cincinnati team that dominated the National League in the 1970s, and went on to introduce himself to a younger generation of fans as a sportscaster for ESPN, died Oct. 11 at his home in Danville, Calif. He was 77,” Harrison Smith writes in The Post's obit.

  • An all-time great: “Mr. Morgan was widely considered one of the greatest second basemen to play the game, and labeled the very best by baseball historian and statistician Bill James. At 5-foot-7 and 160 pounds, he was relatively small — two inches shorter than his idol Nellie Fox — but became known for his excellence in hitting, stealing and fielding. In a 1976 cover story, Sports Illustrated rated him ‘the most complete player in baseball.’"