“Presidents up for reelection usually ask if the country is better off than it was four years ago,” Obama said. “I’ll tell you one thing: Four years ago, you’d be tailgating here at the Linc instead of watching a speech from your cars.” As dozens of cars honked with approval, Obama continued: “The only people who are truly better off than they were four years ago are the billionaires who got his tax cuts.”
Calling it “the Linc” was the sort of localized touch that Obama’s speechwriters used to always pepper into his remarks but which President Trump, who usually lacks message-discipline and struggles to stick to any script, almost never bothers with.
I’m not sure which cliche football metaphor best describes Obama’s performance on Wednesday night in Philly: Was he a free safety catching pick-sixes? A quarterback connecting with Biden in the end zone? A defensive end sacking the other team’s quarterback? A coach giving a pep talk during a timeout in the fourth quarter?
Whatever position he was trying to play, most of his lines on Wednesday night felt fresh. Obama has not been ubiquitous on the stump this year as a result of the pandemic, and he’s kept a low public profile since his Democratic convention speech in August. He was biting, and did not hide his anger, but he used humor to deliver his most devastating zingers. He was also plainly defensive over his own record. Here are Obama’s top 10 daggers from his 36-minute speech:
1) Shredding Trump’s covid-19 response
“Donald Trump isn’t going to suddenly protect all of us. He can’t even take the basic steps to protect himself.”
Eight months into the pandemic, new cases are rising again in most of the country, at least 220,000 Americans are dead and more than 100,000 small businesses have closed. Another 787,000 people filed new unemployment claims last week, according to data released Thursday from the Labor Department, and another 345,440 made claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which is for gig and self-employed workers. The total number of people on unemployment right now is 23.1 million.
Obama noted that South Korea identified its first case on the same day as the United States, and their per capita death toll is 1.3 percent of America’s. “They’ve got a government that is actually paying attention,” he said.
2) Teeing up a contrast between Trump and Biden
“Joe is not going to screw up testing. He’s not going to call scientists idiots. He’s not going to hold a superspreader event at the White House.”
Obama has taken to referring to his eight years in the White House as “the Obama-Biden administration,” which is the phrase that Biden used throughout the primaries. He emphasized that his administration, which kept a 2014 Ebola outbreak in Africa from getting out of control in the United States, took a series of steps to help the next administration prepare.
“We literally left this White House a pandemic playbook that would have shown them how to respond before the virus reached our shores,” Obama said. “They probably used it to prop up a wobbly table somewhere. We don’t know where that playbook went.”
3) Highlighting a double standard
“Can you imagine if I had a secret Chinese bank account when I was running for reelection? You think Fox News might have been a little concerned about that? They would have called me ‘Beijing Barry.’”
Obama said he thinks that he paid more than $750 in federal income taxes when he was a 15-year-old scooping ice cream at Baskin-Robbins. He highlighted recent New York Times reports that the president paid just $750 in personal income taxes in 2016 and 2017 and that he maintained a secret bank account in China.
4) Connecting the dots
“Joe knows that the first job of a president is to keep us safe from all threats, foreign, domestic or microscopic. When the daily intelligence briefings flash warning signs about a virus, a president can't ignore them. He can't be AWOL. Just like when Russia puts bounties on the heads of our soldiers in Afghanistan, the commander-in-chief can't be missing in action.”
There have been so many damning revelations about Trump over the past few months that it’s easy to lose track. Obama drew attention to the alleged Russian bounties paid for the murder of our Marines, as well as the Atlantic story about negative comments Trump has reportedly made about members of the military. And the AWOL line was an allusion to Trump avoiding service in Vietnam. “Joe Biden would never call the men and women of our military suckers or losers,” Obama said. “Who does that? He knows these heroes are somebody's children, somebody's spouse, somebody's dad or mom.”
Trump has denied making any of these statements. He has also said that the U.S. intelligence, which includes evidence of money transfers, relating to Russia trying to get the Taliban to kill our troops was not strong enough to raise the issue with Vladimir Putin during any of their recent phone calls.
5) Effectively employing mockery
“You'll be able to go about your lives [if Biden wins] knowing that the president is not going to retweet conspiracy theories about secret cabals running the world or that Navy SEALS didn't actually kill bin Laden. Think about that. The president of the United States retweeted that! Imagine! What? What?”
Trump defended this retweet during his NBC town hall last week. “I do a lot of retweets,” the president said. “Frankly because the media is so fake and so corrupt, if I didn't have social media … I wouldn't be able to get the word out.” To which NBC’s Savannah Guthrie replied: “The word is false.”
Speaking in Philadelphia, Obama often sounded more bemused than angry by this kind of behavior from Trump. Obama ripped his successor for saying “not much” when he was asked what he would have done differently about responding to the pandemic. Obama asked: “Really? Really?” It was reminiscent of the “really?” refrain on “Saturday Night Live.”
That was a reminder that Obama has a once-in-a-generation political talent for this kind of humor.
Obama also spoke to the deep sense of fatigue that many Americans feel after four years of nonstop drama from Trump, whom he likened to a “crazy uncle.” The former president argued that these kinds of retweets wouldn’t be acceptable from a high school principal, yet people routinely defend Trump and say that’s just the way he is.
6) Trolling Trump
“Donald Trump likes to claim he built this economy, but America created 1.5 million more jobs in the last three years of the Obama-Biden administration than in the first three years of the Trump-Pence administration. How you figure that? … Now, he did inherit the longest streak of job growth in American history but just like everything else he inherited, he messed it up.”
Taking a dig at Trump for not being self-made was one of several moments when it seemed like Obama was trying to get into the president’s head. He also suggested the president is lazy and noted that Trump could be the first president since Herbert Hoover to see net job loss while in power.
Obama also said that Americans are tuning out of Trump’s reality TV show. This seemed to be a reference to the ratings being higher for Biden’s town hall last Thursday on ABC than for Trump’s town hall at the same time on NBC. “His TV ratings are down, so you know that upsets him,” Obama said. “This is not a reality show. This is reality.”
About an hour after he finished talking in Philadelphia, Trump went after his predecessor in North Carolina. Trump, who was a registered Democrat until 2009, became popular on the right by embracing birtherism and suggesting falsely for years that Obama was really from Kenya. “There was nobody that campaigned harder for crooked Hillary Clinton than Obama, right? He was all over the place,” Trump said at his rally. “I think the only one more unhappy than crooked Hillary that night was Barack Hussein Obama.”
7) Personnel is policy
“When Joe and Kamala are in charge, they're not going to surround themselves with hacks and lobbyists. … That, more than anything, is what separates them from their opponents.”
Obama made the case that all of Trump’s antics distract most people from “the truly destructive actions that his appointees are doing all across the government,” which directly affect people’s lives. In his extended riff, the former president attacked Andrew Wheeler, David Bernhardt, Eugene Scalia, Betsy DeVos and Seema Verma – though not by name.
“The Environmental Protection Agency that's supposed to protect our air and our water is right now run by an energy lobbyist that gives polluters free reign to dump unlimited poison into our air and water. The Labor Department that's supposed to protect workers and their rights right now is run by a corporate lobbyist who's declared war on workers. … The Interior Department that's supposed to protect our public lands and wild spaces … right now is run by an oil lobbyist who’s determined to sell them to the highest bidder. You've got the Education Department, that's supposed to give every kid a chance, being run by a billionaire who guts rules designed to protect students from getting ripped off by for-profit colleges and stiff-arms students looking for loan relief in the middle of an economic collapse. The person who runs Medicaid right now is doing their best to kick people off of Medicaid, instead of sign them up. Come on.”
8) Highlighting promises not kept
“They keep on promising, ‘We're going to have a great replacement.’ … It's been coming in two weeks for the last 10 years. Where is it? Where is this great plan to replace Obamacare? They've had 10 years to do it. There is no plan!”
Protecting the Affordable Care Act is a central part of the Democratic closing argument. It was the focus of Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearing last week. Obama poked fun at Trump’s well-known penchant for saying that he is going to release a detailed plan to address some problem “in two weeks.” This has happened several times around health care. But no detailed plan ever materializes.
“They've never had one,” Obama said. “Instead they've attacked the Affordable Care Act at every turn, driving up costs and driving up the number of uninsured. Now, they're trying to dismantle your care in the Supreme Court, as we speak, as quickly as they can in the middle of a pandemic with nothing but empty promises to take its place. It's shameful.”
9) Defending his own record
“Listen, listen: I understand why a lot of Americans can get frustrated by government and can feel like it doesn't make a difference. Even supporters of mine, during my eight years, there were times where stuff we wanted to get done didn't get done and people said, ‘Well, gosh, if Obama didn't get it done, then maybe it's just not going to happen.’”
People who have talked with him say Obama is acutely sensitive to, and annoyed about, some of the critiques that were leveled at him by the more liberal candidates during the Democratic primaries this cycle. When he’s talked about his legacy lately, he often seems to come at it with a little bit of a chip on his shoulder. Wednesday night was no different.
“Look, government is not going to solve every problem, it's true,” he explained. “Every elected official is going to make some mistakes. This is a big complicated country and the system's designed so that change happens slowly. It doesn't happen overnight.”
Obama said he had “firsthand experience” with Republican obstruction and the way “special interests” tried to “stop progress” before making a case that voters need to work within the system, “The fact that we don't get 100 percent of what we want right away is not a good reason not to vote,” said the onetime community organizer. “It means we've got to vote and then get some change and then vote some more and then get some more change, and then keep on voting until we get it right.”
10) Connecting protesting to voting
“We've seen Americans of all races joining together to declare in the face of injustice that Black lives matter – no more, but no less – so that no child in this country feels the continuing sting of racism. … We can’t abandon those protesters who inspired us. We’ve got to channel their activism into action.”
This was an interesting way to talk about the Black Lives Matter movement. That he felt compelled to say Black lives do not matter any more or less than any other kinds of lives reflected the first Black president’s continuing cautiousness in talking about race.
After all, it was in Philadelphia where Obama delivered the most important speech of his 2008 presidential campaign on this very subject. Trying to win the Pennsylvania primary, Obama delicately addressed racial inequality and responded to the controversy surrounding the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who had presided over his wedding to Michelle Obama. Speaking on Wednesday, Obama did not mention the landmark speech at the National Constitution Center. But he did harken back to 12 years ago, and he closed with a twist on one of his catchphrases from that election. “Honk if you’re fired up,” Obama told the people in their cars. “Honk if you’re ready to go.”
Tune in for our debate coverage.
Biden was not with Obama at the rally because he was at his house half an hour away in Wilmington, Del., preparing for his second and final debate against Trump. I will join Libby Casey in The Washington Post newsroom tonight for a debate preview live show from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern. You can watch the debate, which is in Nashville, on our home page. And then join us for analysis afterward from 10:30 to 11:30 p.m. (Watch here.)
More on the election
Biden said he would form a bipartisan commission to study adding more justices to the Supreme Court.
In an interview that will air Sunday on “60 Minutes,” excerpts of which CBS released Thursday, the Democratic nominee said he would create a bipartisan commission to study the court system “because it’s getting out of whack.” Since Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, he has avoided answering whether he would want to expand the Supreme Court by adding more justices, but he said this group would look at that issue among others and make recommendations within 180 days. “What I will do is I’ll put together a national commission of bipartisan commission of scholars, constitutional scholars, Democrats, Republicans, liberal, conservative,” Biden told Norah O’Donnell, adding that it would “go well beyond” examining the size of the court. (John Wagner)
- The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced the nomination of Barrett to the Supreme Court with solely Republican support, as Democrats boycotted the Thursday vote in protest of what they viewed as an illegitimate confirmation process. The vote was 12-to-0, with no Democrats present to officially register their objections. (Seung Min Kim and Paulina Firozi)
- Barrett served for three years on the board of a private Christian school that barred admission to children of same-sex parents and made it plain that openly gay and lesbian teachers weren’t welcome in their classrooms. (AP)
Five states have already cast more early votes than Trump received in 2016.
“[M]ore than 40 million ballots have already been cast in the United States, according to the United States Elections Project — nearly 3 for every 10 votes cast in total in the 2016 presidential race,” Philip Bump reports. “It’s tricky to read too much into those numbers. We don’t know, for example, if these are voters who otherwise wouldn’t have cast a ballot. In many states, we don’t know who these voters are, though in states with partisan breakdowns of returned ballots the majority are often from Democrats. This may be like 2016, in that a big surge in Election Day voting for Trump gives him the margins he needs. But it’s bad news for Trump at least to the extent that all of these ballots have been cast as he trails in the polls by a significant margin.”
- “Almost 21,000 Election Day polling places have been eliminated heading into the 2020 U.S. election, a drastic dip in voting locations driven by a heavy shift to mail voting, coronavirus-related consolidations, cost-cutting measures, and voter suppression,” Vice’s Cameron Joseph and Rob Arthur tabulate.
- In a 12-to-3 ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit rejected Republican efforts to block North Carolina’s six-day deadline extension for mail-in votes, calling the measure a “common sense change” at a time when the USPS is overwhelmed. (Ann Marimow)
- The U.S. Supreme Court sided with Alabama state officials who banned curbside voting, which was intended to accommodate individuals with disabilities and those at risk from the pandemic. The court issued the order without explanation and over the dissent of its three liberal justices. (NPR)
- A Trump campaign spokesperson said two men dressed as armed security guards who set up a tent outside an early voting location in St. Petersburg, Fla., were not hired by the campaign. The men had identified themselves as workers for the president’s campaign. (WFLA)
- TikTok, known for its short-form viral videos, has announced a series of policy changes restricting the types of content it would allow, including a crackdown on QAnon supporters and hate speech. (NYT)
- Need a tonic during these turbulent political times? Spend some time with the stories of Americans who having been lining up around the country to vote and make sure their voices are heard.
New polls show Biden in a strong position heading into the debate.
Gallup pegs Trump's job approval rating at 43 percent, down from 49 percent earlier this year. Obama’s Gallup approval rating was 52 percent at this point in the 2012 election. George W. Bush's rating was 48 percent in 2004 when votes were cast, the lowest ever for an incumbent who won.
“The poll finds an improvement in Americans' satisfaction with the way things are going in the United States – to 19% from 14% in September,” writes Gallup’s Jeffrey Jones. “The current satisfaction rating remains well below the historical average of 36%. It is similar to the levels Gallup measured around the time of the 1980 and 1992 presidential elections that saw incumbents Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush defeated for a second term in office. The lowest satisfaction recorded in a year when an incumbent was reelected was 33% in 2012. Republicans are responsible for the improved satisfaction ratings this month, with 39% satisfied, up from 26% in September. Meanwhile, independents (14%) and Democrats (5%) remain highly dissatisfied with the state of the nation.”
- A Washington Post-Schar School poll of Virginia shows Biden leads Trump 52 percent to 41 percent among likely voters, roughly double Clinton’s margin of victory in the state in 2016.
- A USA Today-Suffolk poll of Pennsylvania puts Biden ahead by seven points, 49 percent to 42 percent. "I feel safe with Joe Biden, it's like having your dad watching over," said Lisa Laws, 61 of Strafford, who was one of the respondents.
- A CNN-SSRS poll has Biden up 10 points in Pennsylvania, 53 percent to 43 percent, among likely voters. CNN’s poll of Florida shows Biden at 50 percent and Trump at 46 percent among likely voters, which is right at the margin of error.
- A batch of Fox News polling puts Biden ahead by five points in Pennsylvania (50-45) and Wisconsin (49-44) among likely voters. The Democrat leads by 12 points in Michigan (52-40) and trails by three points in Ohio (48-45), which is within the margin of error. Biden’s advantage in the Fox polling is outside the margin of error in Michigan, but not in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Notably, Trump has improved his standing in the latter two states since their polling last month.
- Other polls show swing states moving in Biden’s direction: A Quinnipiac survey of Texas shows a Trump and Biden tied at 47 percent among likely voters. In their late September poll of the Lone Star State, Trump led 50 percent to 45 percent
- A Monmouth poll of Iowa has Trump at 48 percent among registered voters and Biden at 47 percent. Trump led Biden in Monmouth’s September poll by 50 percent to 44 percent. Biden pulls ahead when different likely voter models are applied.
- A New York Times-Siena poll of Iowa puts Biden ahead 46 percent to 43 percent among likely voters, with 7 percent saying they were undecided or refusing to name a preference.
Quote of the day
"I don't care about the polls. There were a whole bunch of polls last time. That didn't work out,” Obama told voters in Philadelphia.
NBC’s Kristen Welker will moderate tonight debate.
“At 44, she is 29 years younger than Chris Wallace … Susan Page, 69, moderated the one and only vice-presidential debate,” Jeremy Barr notes in a new profile. “Welker worked the local television station circuit for more than a decade after graduating from Harvard University in 1998. … After making it to the big leagues of NBC News, in 2009, Welker became a White House correspondent just two years later. Throughout the Trump administration, she has made a name for herself in the White House briefing room, where she aggressively presses Trump administrations officials. During a June 2018 briefing with then-Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, Welker grilled her about the whereabouts of young children who were separated from their parents … In January of this year, Welker added on a regular hosting gig as co-anchor of the weekend edition of ‘Today,’ which, quite ironically, Trump praised her for.” (The Democratic National Committee previews the debate with a memo criticizing Trump’s foreign policy record.)
The Trump campaign has squandered staggering amounts of money.
“Corey Lewandowski, an informal adviser, has bragged to others about how elaborate the stages were at various Trump events. Some of the campaign’s expenses — such as $500,000 worth of fireworks over the White House, a Super Bowl ad, and banners flown over the shorelines of beach towns — were seen as unnecessary by some in the campaign. The campaign also has continued to spend money on family salaries and for office space in Trump Tower in New York, where the president no longer goes,” per Sean Sullivan, Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Anu Narayanswamy and Josh Dawsey.
“In recent weeks, however, the campaign has limited many of its trips to using a smaller Air Force One in a bid to save money. The campaign is charged by the seat, and the number of aides has been limited on the trips. Aides also have cut some television reservations, including in competitive states. Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien has complained to others that when he took the reins of the campaign, there was not a formalized budget and he did not realize what a dire situation he was in.”
A stat from the FEC reports speaks volumes about the dueling approaches of the campaigns: Biden spent more than $37,000 on communication services provided by Zoom, which it uses for virtual events, including fundraisers. The Trump campaign spent $143 in Zoom subscription fees.
Trump has been making more than 50 false or misleading claims every day.
“It’s only gotten worse — so much so that the Fact Checker team cannot keep up,” write Glenn Kessler, Sal Rizzo and Meg Kelly. “As of Aug. 27, the tally in our database that tracks every errant claim by the president stood at 22,247 claims in 1,316 days. Note the date. That was when he gave his speech accepting the Republican presidential nomination. We’ve been able to update the database only to that point as of today — so already we are eight weeks behind.”
There's a bear in the woods
The president may terminate the FBI director.
“Trump and his advisers have repeatedly discussed whether to fire [Chris Wray] after Election Day — a scenario that also could imperil the tenure of Attorney General William P. Barr as the president grows increasingly frustrated that federal law enforcement has not delivered his campaign the kind of last-minute boost that the FBI provided in 2016,” Devlin Barrett and Josh Dawsey report. “The conversations among the president and senior aides stem in part from their disappointment that Wray in particular but Barr as well have not done what Trump had hoped — indicate that Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, his son Hunter Biden or other Biden associates are under investigation … In the campaign’s closing weeks, the president has intensified public calls for jailing his challenger, much as he did for Hillary Clinton … Trump has called Biden a ‘criminal’ without articulating what laws he believes the former vice president has broken.
"People familiar with the discussions say Trump wants official action similar to the announcement made 11 days before the last presidential election by then-FBI Director James B. Comey, who informed Congress he had reopened an investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server … Trump emphasized the point in an interview Tuesday with Fox News … The president was alluding to information about Hunter Biden recently touted by Trump’s private lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, and based on the contents of a laptop computer purportedly belonging to the former vice president’s son. … Senior FBI officials are wary of repeating moves that were sharply criticized as unfair and inappropriate. …
“Trump considers Wray one of his worst personnel picks … White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows also has sharply criticized Wray in internal discussions, as has another top Trump adviser, Dan Scavino … Meadows has expressed frustration that Wray will not declassify more documents relevant to the FBI’s 2016 probe of Russia’s election interference, though federal law enforcement officials have not been told specifically what documents Meadows wants … Trump has publicly and privately vented about what he sees as Wray’s lackluster statements about the Russia investigation, antifa and voter fraud.
“The attorney general has been drawn into some of those disputes as the president has complained that a hoped-for report from Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham, who is scrutinizing the Russia investigation’s origins, is not expected to surface before Election Day. … Trump was so focused on the Durham report that he would turn up the television volume when segments would air about it … Trump has told allies that he once believed Barr would deliver ‘scalps’ in the form of Durham’s findings, according to an adviser who recently spoke to Trump about it. ‘But they aren’t doing s---,’ the president said, according to this person. … Conservative allies of the president have escalated their campaign against Wray on television and through social media, with some calling for him to be fired. Wray has largely stayed away from meetings with the president, officials said.”
The U.S. government says Iran was behind threatening emails sent to Democratic voters.
“U.S. officials on Wednesday night accused Iran of targeting American voters with faked but menacing emails and warned that both Iran and Russia had obtained voter data that could be used to endanger the upcoming election,” Ellen Nakashima, Amy Gardner, Isaac Stanley-Becker and Craig Timberg report. “The disclosure by Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe at a hastily called news conference marked the first time this election cycle that a foreign adversary has been accused of targeting specific voters in a bid to undermine democratic confidence — just four years after Russian online operations marred the 2016 presidential vote. The claim that Iran was behind the email operation, which came into view on Tuesday as Democrats in several states reported receiving emails demanding they vote for President Trump, was leveled without specific evidence. Other U.S. officials … stressed that Russia still remained the major threat to the 2020 election. … The emails claimed to be from a pro-Trump group called the Proud Boys, but evidence had mounted that they in fact were the work of another, hidden actor."
U.S. agencies are mounting a major effort to thwart Russian interference.
“For months American military cyber-operators, aided by intelligence from the National Security Agency (NSA), have been targeting Russian spies to disrupt their plans by repeatedly knocking them off the Internet, confusing their planners and depriving them of their hacking tools. The goal is to prevent them from attacking U.S. voting systems,” Nakashima and Timberg report. “A vital missing ingredient, however, has been messaging from the top, such as a declaration from the president that the United States will not tolerate efforts — in particular from the Kremlin — to interfere in the election. And disinformation experts say that Trump has reinforced Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attempts to stoke American social divisions with Trump’s inflammatory and unfounded remarks about racial and cultural issues, the novel coronavirus and the security of voting by mail. But officials say even if Trump is not publicly voicing support for agencies’ efforts, he is not impeding them, and the NSA, FBI and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have made securing the election a top priority.”
Explicit photos and emails purportedly belonging to Hunter Biden were circulating in Ukraine last year as Giuliani traveled to Kyiv to search for dirt on him. “The emails’ alleged availability, which has not been previously reported, comes to light in the wake of Giuliani’s recent claims that he obtained private photos and emails of Hunter Biden from a broken laptop abandoned in Delaware,” Time Magazine reports. “The two people who said they were approached with Hunter Biden’s alleged emails last year did not know whether any of them were real and they declined to identify who was behind the offers, the first of which came in late May 2019 and the second in mid-September 2019. The two people said they could not confirm whether any of the material presented to them was the same as that which has been recently published in the U.S.”
Giuliani was duped by the “Borat” sequel.
“In the upcoming ‘Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,’ a surprise sequel to the 2006 hit, the actress playing Borat’s daughter poses as a television journalist and interviews Giuliani at a hotel about the administration’s coronavirus response. She invites him to join her for a drink afterward and, once she removes his microphone, he lies down on the bed and sticks his hand down his pants,” Sonia Rao reports. “Giuliani called the video a ‘complete fabrication’ and said he was tucking in his shirt ‘after taking off the recording equipment.’ … Of course, Sacha Baron Cohen’s antics rarely fly under the radar these days, and a report emerged in July that Giuliani had called the police on the comedian after he stormed into the hotel room wearing a wig and pink bikini to stop the interview. But nobody — probably including Giuliani, even after he identified Cohen — knew that hidden camera footage of the incident would wind up in [the movie], streaming Friday on Amazon. … Just as Giuliani reaches into his trousers, a bikini-clad Borat arrives and exclaims, ‘She 15.’"
More on the coronavirus
Health Secretary Alex Azar has spent weeks openly plotting against FDA chief Stephen Hahn.
“Azar has vented to allies within the Health and Human Services Department about his unhappiness with the top official in charge of the vaccine process, and discussed the prospect of seeking White House permission to remove him,” Politico reports. “During some of those conversations, he’s gone as far as to float potential replacements for Hahn … The discussions come amid deep frustration with Hahn over his insistence that a Covid-19 vaccine meet stricter-than-normal safety standards … White House officials are unlikely to greenlight Hahn’s firing in the next two weeks despite their own reservations about him, five current and former administration officials said, over concerns about the optics of removing an FDA commissioner soon after his agency ruled out a pre-election vaccine.”
The CDC expands the definition of “close contact.”
“The CDC had previously defined a ‘close contact’ as someone who spent at least 15 consecutive minutes within six feet of a confirmed coronavirus case. The updated guidance, which health departments rely on to conduct contact tracing, now defines a close contact as someone who was within six feet of an infected individual for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period,” Lena Sun reports. “The update comes as the United States is ‘unfortunately seeing a distressing trend, with cases increasing in nearly 75 percent of the country,’ Jay Butler, the CDC’s deputy director for infectious diseases, said Wednesday at CDC headquarters in Atlanta, in the first news conference administration officials permitted in more than eight weeks. People may be tired of the advice, Butler said, but mask-wearing is more important than ever this fall and winter as Americans head indoors, where transmission risks are greater. …
"The guidance about transmission of the coronavirus … had been discussed by CDC scientists for several weeks, according to a CDC official … Then came unsettling new evidence in a report published Wednesday. CDC and Vermont health officials discovered the virus was contracted by a 20-year-old prison employee who in an eight-hour shift had 22 interactions — for a total of over 17 minutes — with individuals who later tested positive for the virus. ‘Available data suggests that at least one of the asymptomatic [detainees] transmitted’ the virus during these brief encounters, the report said.”
After a college town’s outbreak, deaths at nursing homes skyrocketed.
“Mayor Tim Kabat was already on edge as thousands of students returned to La Crosse, Wis., to resume classes this fall at the city’s three colleges. When he saw young people packing downtown bars and restaurants in September, crowded closely and often unmasked, the longtime mayor’s worry turned to dread,” Juliet Eilperin, Brady Dennis and Chris Mooney report. “Now, more than a month later, La Crosse has endured a devastating spike in coronavirus cases — a wildfire of infection that first appeared predominantly in the student-age population, spread throughout the community and ultimately ravaged elderly residents who had previously managed to avoid the worst of the pandemic. For most of 2020, La Crosse’s nursing homes had lost no one to covid-19. In recent weeks, the county has recorded 19 deaths, most of them in long-term care facilities. Everyone who died was over 60."
- Mayhem ensued after Puerto Rico shuttered both of its 911 call centers after several employees tested positive. People were told to call the island’s emergency management agency if they needed help. But when you call that number, you get a recording telling you to call 911. (AP)
- Scientists are using feces to track outbreaks. Across the United States, experts analyze sewage water to determine how intense outbreaks might be, given limits on testing, and to predict where the next one might be brewing. (Miriam Berger)
- The virus has claimed 2.5 million years of potential life in the United States. Harvard geneticist Stephen Elledge tabulated the ages of Americans known to have died of the virus and added up the number of years they might have lived had they reached a typical life expectancy. (NYT)
- U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who is charged with illegally entering a Hawaii public park that was closed because of the virus, will plead not guilty. (AP)
- In July, Alabama Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth (R) attacked the state’s mask rules as an “overstep.” Now, he’s tested positive. Ainsworth, who also attacked mandatory business closures, got tested after a member of his church group came down with the contagion. (Tim Elfrink)
- New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) abruptly left the stage during a news conference after learning that a staffer had just tested positive. A spokesperson later said that the governor attended a small outdoor gathering at a Hoboken bar on Saturday, overlapping for about 15 minutes with his deputy chief of staff. (Antonia Farzan)
- Chris Christie, Murphy's predecessor, lamented the polarization of mask-wearing and said he is “lucky to be alive." The former presidential candidate, who helped Trump prepare for the first debate, admits that his decision to not wear a mask during the Sept. 26 superspreader event in the Rose Garden could have been fatal for others. (WSJ)
Ireland became the first European country to reimpose a nationwide lockdown.
With new cases surging across the continent, Ireland's six-week lockdown includes a raft of new restrictions. But schools will remain open. (Karla Adam)
- After Spain surpassed 1 million total cases, the country's health minister said the virus has gotten out of control and called for drastic measures. France surpassed 1 million cases this morning. Germany logged 11,200 new cases in the past 24 hours, the first time its daily tally has topped 10,000. (Farzan)
- A Brazilian volunteer in Oxford's vaccine trial died but reportedly did not receive the experimental vaccine because he was in the control group. The safety committee recommended the trial continue. (Terrence McCoy, Heloísa Traiano and Carolyn Johnson)
- England will include the ethnicity of each individual on death certificates going forward in an effort to address the unequal impact of the pandemic. (Rick Noack)
Purdue Pharma agreed to plead guilty to federal criminal charges.
“The Justice Department announced a historic $8.3 billion settlement Wednesday with OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma, capping a long-running federal investigation into the company that, for critics, became a leading symbol of corporations profiting from America’s deadly addiction to opioid painkillers,” Meryl Kornfield, Christopher Rowland, Lenny Bernstein and Devlin Barrett report. “Purdue Pharma agreed to plead guilty to three felonies. But state authorities and families who have lost loved ones to its products said the Justice Department’s terms, which include a $225 million civil settlement with the billionaire Sackler family that once ran the firm, are too lenient. … Administrations often seek to resolve significant cases as they near the possible end of their time in office, and with Election Day drawing near, the Trump administration has pushed to finalize a number of such matters this month. A multibillion-dollar settlement with Goldman Sachs over alleged financial misdeeds is expected to be announced later this week.”
The new world order
Nigerian protesters say security forces opened fire against them.
“Ten people died and dozens were wounded after uniformed men took aim at demonstrators the night before at a Lagos toll gate plaza, Amnesty International said, a clash captured from multiple angles on social media. The violence followed two weeks of largely peaceful demonstrations that prompted Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari to dissolve the undercover police unit at the center of the dispute and that critics have long blasted as abusive,” Danielle Paquette reports. “But hundreds returned to the streets Wednesday — despite a 24-hour curfew enforced by riot officers — and thousands more joined solidarity marches in other countries, saying past attempts at ending police brutality in Nigeria had fallen short. Protesters in Lagos, a metropolis of approximately 20 million, said they would not stop until wrongdoers in law enforcement are brought to justice. … The military said there were no soldiers at the scene of the violence, tweeting on its official account: ‘Fake News!!!’”
- The Trump administration is considering labeling some of the most prominent humanitarian organizations in the world as “anti-Semitic," including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Oxfam. The proposal, which could come to fruition as early as this week, has prompted sharp opposition from career officials in the State Department, who say it would be a gift to authoritarian governments that have long sought to delegitimize human rights groups for their work exposing mass atrocities and crimes against humanity. (John Hudson)
- Trump envoy Richard Grenell, the former acting director of national intelligence, met secretly last month with a representative of Nicolás Maduro’s regime in Mexico City to try to negotiate the Venezuelan dictator’s peaceful exit from power. According to sources familiar with the meeting, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the rest of the State Department weren’t told about the trip beforehand. (Bloomberg News)
- A stampede in eastern Afghanistan killed at least 11 elderly women who were seeking visas to leave the country following an eight-month hiatus due to restrictions related to the pandemic. (Sharif Hassan)
- Breaking an old taboo, Pakistan is beginning to reckon with its powerful military, even as the U.S. and other foreign governments seek help from Pakistani generals in salvaging Afghan peace talks amid growing Taliban violence. In the past month, an alliance of 11 political parties called the Pakistan Democratic Movement has formed and held two large rallies, calling on Prime Minister Imran Khan to resign and demanding that the military stay out of politics. The movement includes the country’s two major parties, which have been fierce rivals for decades. (Pamela Constable)
- France is mourning the death of Samuel Paty, a middle school history teacher who was beheaded after having shown his students caricatures of the prophet Muhammad during a lesson on free expression. France posthumously granted him its highest award, the Légion d’Honneur, and commemorated in a national ceremony at the Sorbonne University in Paris. (James McAuley)
Social media speed read
The president’s lawyer was at the top of the Drudge Report:
If this 102-year-old could vote, so can you:
And Quibi, the streaming service that promised users “quick bites” of video programming, shut down. The mobile-oriented company, which raised $1.5 billion, was launched at the start of a pandemic that will long outlast it:
Videos of the day
Stephen Colbert asked those planning to vote for Trump to consider the suffering of the families separated by his administration at the border:
Seth Meyers took a look at Trump’s fight with “60 Minutes”:
“The Daily Show's” Michael Kosta asked expert liars to analyze Trump's debate performance: