“Mr. Trump’s lawless, amoral and dishonorable ethos makes a mockery of the democratic accountability that is fostered through respect for law and our constitutional principles,” they write in an open letter today explaining their decision to endorse Joe Biden. “He has overtly refused to honor the independence of the judiciary, failed to acknowledge the authority of Congress and the corresponding constraints imposed on a president by the separation of powers, demonized the free press that speaks truth to power, and undermined due process and the fair administration of justice by relentlessly politicizing the investigation and enforcement of the criminal law.”
The signatories are Peter Keisler, Robert Kruger, Alan Charles Raul and J. Michael Shepherd, who were all appointed by Reagan to be associate White House counsels, as well as Nicholas Rostow, who was the legal adviser to the National Security Council. Raul and Rostow also served under President George H.W. Bush.
“Chanting ‘lock him (or her) up’ or ‘enemy of the people’ are statements we could not have imagined Presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush or George W. Bush – or any president before this one – uttering about a political opponent or about some of our leading news organizations,” they write. “Those ugly sentiments are the very antithesis of American ideals and echo the authoritarian tyrants that every previous president would have challenged.”
Their letter, shared exclusively with The Daily 202, highlights a few of Trump’s many departures from Reagan’s brand of Republicanism, which some conservatives hope can be reclaimed if the incumbent loses in four days. Among the starkest contrasts that many Reagan veterans see between the 45th and 40th presidents are Trump’s embrace of big government, softness toward a revanchist Russia, peddling of false moral equivalency, destructive trade wars, nativism and isolationism.
“We believe Joe Biden can help reverse the un-American miasma foisted upon the country by Donald Trump,” the Republicans write. “A President Biden could help heal the country’s civic, social and racial divisions by exhorting us all back toward our constitutional ideals and away from the demons that divide us. As President Reagan proposed in his famous Westminster Address, we need our leaders to rededicate themselves ‘to foster the infrastructure of democracy’ that Trump and his enablers have degraded.”
The letter was organized by Republican Voters Against Trump. One of the leaders of the initiative is Bill Kristol, who was chief of staff to Education Secretary Bill Bennett during the Reagan administration. The group has also collected scores of videos in recent months from other registered Republicans criticizing Trump. Among those who have recorded videos are alumni of the Trump administration, including former Department of Homeland Security chief of staff Miles Taylor (who outed himself this week as “Anonymous”); Elizabeth Neumann, another DHS alum; and Olivia Troye, Vice President Pence’s former homeland security and counterterrorism adviser.
Biden is not an obvious choice for people who worked in the Reagan White House Counsel’s Office to support. In the Senate for all eight years of Reagan’s presidency, the then-senator from Delaware opposed the bulk of Reagan’s legislative agenda and blocked conservative judicial nominees like Robert Bork in ways that still rankle many on the right. “While we may not agree with all policies of a Biden Administration,” they write, “we support Joe Biden with high expectation that he will be a president for all Americans.”
Trump and his “large ego” were viewed warily inside the Reagan White House, according to documents stored in the Reagan Library archives in Simi Valley, Calif. The New York developer even paid to run full-page ads in The Washington Post in 1987 criticizing Reagan’s foreign policy. Trump wrote: “Let’s not let our great country be laughed at anymore.”
In 1983, a request came in from a Trump associate for a presidential telegram congratulating Trump on the grand opening of Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue. A lawyer in the counsel’s office wrote “NO” and added that it would be inappropriate for Reagan to endorse a “commercial” venture. There were several other episodes like this.
To be sure, there are many Reagan administration alumni who back Trump, including Attorney General Bill Barr, the president’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and former attorney general Ed Meese, whom Trump gave the Presidential Medal of Freedom last year.
Other distinguished alumni of the Reagan White House Counsel’s Office include Chief Justice John Roberts, who was an associate counsel from 1982 to 1986. He is obviously not endorsing anyone in this election, although he has defended the independence of the judicial branch in the face of relentless attacks by the president on various judges.
Several Republicans from the old guard with backgrounds in the law have spoken up in the homestretch of this contest. On Tuesday, 20 former U.S. attorneys — all of them Republicans — called Trump “a threat to the rule of law in our country” and supported Biden. The letter was signed by prosecutors appointed by every GOP president from Dwight D. Eisenhower to Trump. Dozens of GOP national security experts signed a full-page newspaper ad in August endorsing Biden over Trump.
The Trump campaign brushes aside the various Republican defections as irrelevant and notes that polls show the Republican rank-and-file overwhelmingly back the president. “No one should be surprised establishment elitists are supporting Joe Biden,” said Trump campaign spokesman Hogan Gidley.
Several other former Republican elected officials have also endorsed Biden, including former Arizona senator Jeff Flake and former Ohio governor John Kasich. So has Cindy McCain, the widow of 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain. The 2012 GOP nominee for president, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), said this week that he did not vote for Trump. But he declined to tell CNN whether he cast a ballot for Biden or someone else. George W. Bush has not publicly endorsed either candidate, but the New York Times reported in August that the former president and his wife, Laura, would not support Trump’s reelection.
The five Reagan alumni end their open letter by expressing hope that Biden can break what they see as a fever that grips Washington that is different from the virus. “While President Trump has fomented hatred and sowed distrust, we hope a President Biden will evoke Reagan’s shining city on a hill ‘teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace’ and re-connect us with the ‘better angels of our nature,’” they write. “Trump is responsible for breaking our common bonds, and Biden is especially well positioned to restore them.”
The Trump agenda
Gray wolves could go extinct because Trump is ending Endangered Species Act protections.
“The Trump administration announced Thursday that it is stripping gray wolves of their Endangered Species Act protections in the Lower 48 states, ignoring an outcry from conservation groups and scientists who say the animals will be slaughtered as a result and might not survive,” Darryl Fears reports. “Interior Department Secretary David Bernhardt said state wildlife agencies will assume control of managing an estimated 6,000 wolves, mostly in three Midwestern states — Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. About 1,800 gray wolves are present in other states such as Oregon, California and Washington. The population is up from 1,000 when gray wolves were listed as endangered starting in 1967 … But their population is still so depleted that thousands of acres of historical wolf habitat in Utah, Colorado and Maine is uninhabited by any wolves.” Conservation groups promised to sue.
Trump has stripped protections from 29.6 million acres of federal lands and waters – an area slightly larger than Pennsylvania. He has weakened or wiped out more than 125 rules and policies aimed at protecting the nation’s air, water and land since taking office, with nearly 40 more rollbacks underway, according to an in-depth analysis by Juliet Eilperin, Brady Dennis and John Muyskens.
As a candidate four years ago, Trump criticized President Barack Obama for using executive orders. Then he embraced them. Trump’s 193 orders to date exceed the 147 issued by Obama in his first term. “But presidential scholars said the most notable difference is Trump’s eagerness to embrace a tool that most presidents have treated more as a last resort — stretching the boundaries of executive authority in ways likely to outlast him, whether through policies that endure or greater leeway for future presidents to deploy executive power,” Anne Gearan reports. “Despite facing numerous court challenges, beginning with the entry ban, Trump has also successfully expanded presidential power in part by classifying immigration and some environmental and other issues as matters of national security.”
A top Interior official has controversial views on race. He used a white supremacist website to support them. Jeremy Carl called Black Lives Matter a racist organization in articles written before his appointment this month. He also cited an opinion by Jared Taylor, who said Black people destroy any civilization they control. (Fears)
A record 90,000 new daily infections were reported in the U.S.
Cases are surging in every battleground state. “In the 13 states deemed competitive by the Cook Political Report, the weekly average of new cases reported daily has jumped 45 percent over the past two weeks, from fewer than 21,000 on Oct. 14 to more than 30,000 on Oct. 28,” Harry Stevens reports. “Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Pennsylvania have all hit new weekly average highs in recent days, and in Florida and Georgia, case counts are growing again after having fallen from summer highs. The rising coronavirus caseloads have been especially alarming in Minnesota and Wisconsin, as well as in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, all places that had managed to avoid the worst of the deadly surges this summer. Even in New Hampshire, a state where the pandemic has remained relatively subdued, case counts are on the rise in recent weeks. As states Trump depended on to defeat Hillary Clinton in 2016 post record numbers of new daily cases, the president continues to minimize the threat of the virus.”
Quote of the day
The Trump administration has let nursing homes off the hook for infection-control violations.
“At the outset of a looming pandemic, just weeks after the first known coronavirus outbreak on U.S. soil, the woman responsible for helping to protect 1.3 million residents in America’s nursing homes laid out an urgent strategy to slow the spread of infection,” Debbie Cenziper, Joel Jacbos and Shawn Mulcahy report. “In the suburbs of Seattle, federal inspectors had found the Life Care Center of Kirkland failed to properly care for ailing patients or alert authorities to a growing number of respiratory infections. At least 146 other nursing homes across the country had confirmed coronavirus cases in late March when Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, vowed to help ‘keep what happened in Kirkland from happening again.’ … But the government inspectors deployed by CMS during the first six months of the crisis cleared nearly 8 in 10 nursing homes of any infection-control violations even as the deadliest pandemic to strike the United States in a century sickened and killed thousands, a Washington Post investigation found.
“Those cleared included homes with mounting coronavirus outbreaks before or during the inspections, as well as those that saw cases and deaths spiral upward after inspectors reported no violations had been found, in some cases multiple times. All told, homes that received a clean bill of health earlier this year had about 290,000 coronavirus cases and 43,000 deaths among residents and staff, state and federal data shows. That death toll constitutes roughly two-thirds of all covid-19 fatalities linked to nursing homes from March through August. Patient watchdog groups acknowledge that not every outbreak could have been prevented, even with adequate infection-control practices in place. But as the pandemic raged, the number of homes flagged for infection-control violations remained about the same as last year.
“The facilities that were cited for breakdowns often escaped significant penalties … The inspections follow a three-year push at CMS to ease rules long considered burdensome to the nursing home industry, whose lobbyists and leaders include former politicians and government insiders. Even before the coronavirus crisis, the agency took steps to limit the use of some fines and strike an Obama-era mandate requiring nursing homes to bring on at least part-time infection preventionists.”
States lack the funding necessary to distribute a potential vaccine.
“State officials have been planning in earnest in recent weeks to get shots into arms even though no one knows which vaccine will be authorized by the Food and Drug Administration, what special storage and handling may be required and how many doses each state will receive,” Lena Sun reports. “Despite the uncertainties over timing of vaccine approval and number of initial doses, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is asking states to be prepared to ‘preposition’ doses in key locations throughout the country. … As part of that effort, the CDC is asking states to provide by Tuesday critical information, including a list of each jurisdiction’s top five sites capable of receiving and administering a vaccine that must be stored at ultracold temperatures of minus-70 Celsius (minus-94 Fahrenheit). …
"Local officials still need to recruit thousands of people to staff vaccine clinics and enroll and train providers. They also have to ramp up information technology and data systems to track vaccine inventory and ordering to ensure people get the correct doses at the right times — most vaccines will require two shots — and to monitor for adverse events. … States and territories have received $200 million from the CDC to do planning … In the next emergency supplemental funding package, they are asking Congress for at least $8 billion for coronavirus vaccination and $500 million for seasonal influenza vaccine operations … Recruiting and training workers for coronavirus vaccination campaigns will cost at least $3 billion. Another $1.2 billion will be needed for cold supply chain management, $1 billion for arranging additional vaccination sites and $500 million for data information system upgrades.”
Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s children’s school in South Bend, Ind., was hit by a fourth coronavirus case.
A member of the school's faculty was previously diagnosed after Barrett, her family and their friends attended the Sept. 26 superspreader event in the Rose Garden at which Trump announced her nomination. “There is no known link between the White House ceremony and an uptick in cases at the school and in the South Bend community — but some residents, including members of the Notre Dame faculty where Barrett has taught in the law school, are concerned,” Tom Hamburger reports. “The Notre Dame faculty Senate is expected to meet in closed session in coming weeks to consider a long delayed resolution of ‘no-confidence’ against the university’s president, the Rev. John I. Jenkins, who did not wear a mask at the White House as recommended by a strict campus public health policy. He later tested positive for the virus. Earlier this month, the university’s student Senate passed a resolution ‘formally disapproving’ of Jenkins’ for violating university rules and setting a poor example."
- Vice President Pence has been absent from the White House’s coronavirus task forces calls with all 50 governors for over a month, even amid the surge in cases. Pence was not expected to be on today's call today either, Politico reports.
- Clemson football star Trevor Lawrence tested positive. The junior quarterback, a leading candidate to go No. 1 in next year’s NFL draft, will miss his top-ranked team's Saturday game against Boston College. (Des Bieler)
- A ninth-grade boy was probably the source of an outbreak that sickened nearly three-quarters of the students and staff at a faith-based overnight summer school retreat in southeastern Wisconsin, according to a CDC report. (Darren Sands)
- The D.C. region saw 2,492 new infections on Thursday, the highest number since early August. (Dana Hedgpeth and Rachel Chason)
- California health officials identified their first case of simultaneous coronavirus and flu infections. (Antonia Farzan)
- A state trooper assigned to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) security detail started dating one of the governor’s daughters. He was quickly transferred to a post near the Canadian border. (NY Post)
Trump called off plans to appear at the Trump International Hotel on election night.
Instead, he will likely stay at the White House, per the New York Times: “Advisers had said privately that Mr. Trump was going to appear at his namesake hotel in Washington for an election night party for which his campaign had sent out multiple fund-raising solicitations to his supporters. … It was unclear why the plans had changed. But the prospect of the president appearing on the night of the election at the hotel was certain to reinforce concerns about Mr. Trump mingling the office with his business. It would also reinforce questions about whether the hotel would be in violation of Washington coronavirus restrictions limiting gatherings to 50 people. And a party would have to be paid for by the campaign, which is facing a cash crunch in the final weeks of the race.”
- Trump is openly musing about losing and pondering becoming what he despises most: A loser. (Toluse Olorunnipa)
- Walmart has removed gun and ammunition displays from thousands of U.S. stores, citing concerns of “civil unrest.” A spokesman for the world's largest retailer said: “We have moved our firearms and ammunition off the sales floor as a precaution for the safety of our associates and customers.” (Abha Bhattarai)
- On Election Day, DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency will launch a 24/7 virtual war room, to which election officials across the nation can dial in at any time to share notes about suspicious activity and work together to respond. The operation will run for days or weeks until winners are clear in most races — and potentially until the election is formally certified in December. (Joseph Marks)
- The FBI arrested two men, including the self-proclaimed leader of a white supremacist group called the Base, as part of a pre-election crackdown on extremism in Michigan. Three weeks ago, the bureau said it foiled a plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D). (Detroit News)
Both candidates are seeking to shore up support from Latino voters.
“The Trump campaign unveiled a television ad targeting Latinos in South and Central Florida, Arizona and Nevada that drew a connection between the hopes of immigrant communities and the president’s pandemic response,” Jose Del Real, Amy Gardner and Jenna Johnson report. “Biden announced Thursday that he would sign an executive order on the first day of his presidency establishing a task force to find the parents of what advocates say are 545 minors who are still separated from their families as a result of Trump’s immigration crackdown at the U.S.-Mexico border. Biden’s plan is featured in a new digital ad highlighting what the campaign says were ‘inhumane’ conditions at the border. The efforts come as some Democratic consultants worry that early turnout among Latinos in some key states is lagging expectations so far."
- More than 9 million people have voted early in Texas, surpassing the total number of ballots cast in the state in 2016. (John Wagner)
- Biden’s team is making a special push in the closing days to find and motivate Democrats who voted in 2012 but stayed home in 2016. (Annie Linskey)
- Young people are voting early in hordes. Data suggest eligible voters under 30 could break their historic 2008 turnout, when it peaked at 48 percent when Obama was elected. (Michelle Ye Hee Lee)
- Wisconsin’s Republican Party said hackers stole $2.3 million from its account that was being used to help Trump. (AP)
- Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) canceled his final debate with Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff and will instead attend an event with Trump. (CNN)
The 8th Circuit ruled that Minnesota must set aside ballots received after Election Day.
“Under a federal appeals court panel decision issued Thursday evening, Minnesotans must return mail-in ballots by Tuesday to ensure they are counted, upending plans the state had advertised to keep counting absentee ballots postmarked by Election Day for another week,” Aaron Davis reports. “Trump campaign spokeswoman Thea McDonald called the decision a major victory. The decision came on the eve of scheduled visits to the state by Trump and Biden."
- Trump is speaking today at the airport in Rochester, Minn., which is home to the world-famous Mayo Clinic. The city's mayor and the hospital are alarmed about the president's rally, which will disregard state health guidelines calling for limiting crowds to 250 people. The mayor is urging elderly people to stay away, and the hospital is suggesting people get tested if they go. (Forum News)
- Two people who attended Trump's rally at the airport in Gastonia, N.C., have tested positive. (WBTV)
- Trump's Thursday rally in Tampa resulted in 17 attendees needing medical attention because of the heat, with a dozen being taken to the hospital. This happened two days after 30 people who attended Trump's rally in Omaha, Neb., needed medical attention after transportation issues resulted in hundreds being stuck for hours in below-freezing temperatures. Seven were taken to a hospital. (NBC)
- Biden also campaigned in Tampa on Thursday. “Trump just held a superspreader event here again,” Biden said at a drive-in rally. "If Florida goes blue, it’s over.” (Colby Itkowitz)
- Quinnipiac polling finds Biden up three points in Florida and Trump up one point in Iowa. Both findings are within the margin of error. The same poll puts Biden up seven points in Pennsylvania and five points in Ohio.
For Americans battling covid-19, options to vote are dwindling.
“Some will be required to get doctor’s notes or enlist family members to help. Others, in isolation, will need to have a witness present while they vote. Planned accommodations — such as officials hand-delivering ballots — may prove inadequate or could be strained beyond limits,” Neena Satija reports. “Sudden illness is an impediment to voting every election year, typically for a small number of Americans. Many provisions to help those voters apply exclusively to people who are hospitalized. … A swath of Americans larger than the population of Wyoming or Vermont will probably contract the disease in the 10 days leading up to Nov. 3. … ‘We’re very concerned about it,’ said Julie Houk, an attorney for the nonpartisan Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. ‘People who are isolating and being careful to protect public health should not be penalized in this election for doing what medical experts are saying they should do.’”
Trump unveiled a new set of punitive measures against Iran.
The pre-election move, which includes sanctions for petrochemical sales, could complicate efforts if Biden takes office and attempts to rejoin the nuclear agreement with the country. (Carol Morello)
- When a Justice Department lawyer exposed the CIA’s secret role in drug cases, leadership in the intelligence community retaliated, Ronan Farrow reports in the New Yorker.
- A previously unreported classified study produced by the CIA in 2018 concluded that drug-trafficking groups have gained effective control over about 20 percent of Mexico. Mexico's murder rate is four times the rate in the U.S. (Mary Beth Sheridan)
- Taiwan is fretting over how a Biden administration would deal with China. (Gerry Shih)
- Emmanuel Macron announced the deployment of 3,000 to 7,000 members of France’s anti-terror security force through Sunday after what he described as an “Islamist terror attack" in Nice, where a man killed three people inside a basilica. The dead included a 60-year-old woman, whose throat was slashed in the church; a 55-year-old man, stabbed to death inside the church; and a 44-year-old woman, who died in a restaurant across the street after fleeing. (James McAuley)
Trump keeps impugning Biden's faith. He responded in an op-ed for the Christian Post.
“My Catholic faith drilled into me a core truth – that every person on earth is equal in rights and dignity, because we are all beloved children of God. We are all created ‘imago Dei’ – beautifully, uniquely, in the image of God, with inherent worth. It is the same creed that is at the core of our American experiment and written into our founding documents – that we are all created equal and endowed by our creator with inalienable rights,” Biden writes. “As a country, we have never been perfect nor free of prejudice. We’ve never fully lived up to those ideals, but we’ve never walked away from them. … As president, these are the principles that will shape all that I do, and my faith will continue to serve as my anchor, as it has my entire life.”
- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) wants to be Treasury secretary and plans to make her case to Biden. “Other leading contenders for the Treasury slot include Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard; Sarah Bloom Raskin, a former Treasury Department official; and Roger Ferguson, former Federal Reserve vice chairman and current CEO of financial services giant TIAA,” Politico reports.
- Far-left writer Glenn Greenwald resigned from the Intercept over a dispute about a Biden piece. He said editors wanted him to remove sections critical of the Democratic nominee. The Intercept, which has run many negative stories about Biden, strongly rejected the claims. “He was asked to support his claims and innuendo about corrupt actions by Joe Biden with evidence,” editor in chief Betsy Reed emailed Jeremy Barr and Elahe Izadi.
America's racial reckoning
- A lawyer for Walter Wallace Jr.'s family said the 27-year-old Black man was clearly suffering mental distress when Philadelphia police officers fatally shot him this week. But he said Wallace's relatives are not demanding murder charges in the case, saying the police officers lacked the training to handle the encounter. (Maura Ewing, Robert Klemko and Mark Berman)
- The Fraternal Order of Police, the nation’s largest police union, posted a photo to its social media site taken during the ongoing protests over Wallace's death. The picture showed a Black toddler clinging to a police officer, and the union claimed the child had gotten lost during the protests and was found walking barefoot by officers. But lawyers for the boy’s family say that story is a total fabrication, and the child was yanked from the back seat of an SUV by police officers after busting its windows and violently arresting and injuring his mother, who was later released without charges. (Katie Shepherd)
- Waukegan, Ill., officials released video of the fatal police shooting of Marcellis Stinnette, a Black teenager, and his girlfriend, Tafara Williams. (Mark Guarino)
- “The Justice Department decided more than a year ago to effectively shut down its civil-rights investigation into the high-profile killing of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old Black boy carrying a pellet gun who was shot by a Cleveland police officer in 2014,” the New York Times reports. “Career prosecutors had asked in 2017 to use a grand jury to gather evidence in their investigation, setting off tensions inside the department. In an unusual move, department supervisors let the request languish for two years before finally denying permission in August 2019, essentially ending the inquiry without fully conducting it."
- DOJ will allow local police to wear body cameras on federal task forces. Still, officers and agents in the FBI, ATF, DEA and U.S. Marshals Service will not wear body cameras at any time. (Tom Jackman)
- Unaccompanied migrant children suffer an “inhumane and cruel experience” while in the custody of Customs and Border Protection, according to a new report. The nonprofit group Americans for Immigrant Justice conducted interviews with nearly 9,500 minors, about one in eight of all those who were apprehended by CBP last year. Of the children screened, 895 said they had been verbally abused by CBP officers, while 147 said they were subjected to physical abuse. (Teo Armus)
- The Virginia Military Institute’s Board of Visitors voted to remove the school’s prominent statue of Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson, as pressure builds for the state-supported military school to address allegations of racism. (Ian Shapira)
- A conspicuous Confederate flag flying over Interstate 95 in Stafford County, Va., was removed by its backers this week to make way for a Virginia Department of Transportation project to ease traffic snarls along a congested stretch of highway. (Michael Laris)
Social media speed read
Chris Christie is on Cameo, an app that allows users to pay celebrities for personalized video messages. He fell for two pranks, including one set up by Montana Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney (D), who is running for governor. Cooney's campaign manager asked the former chairman of the Republican Governors Association to record a video asking the Republican nominee for governor, Rep. Greg Gianforte, to return home to New Jersey, where he is originally from:
Trump insiders feel uncertain:
Videos of the day
Glenn Kessler, the director of our Fact Checker unit, tallies the lowlights of the 2020 race – from the primaries through the finish line:
“The Daily Show’s” Jordan Klepper went to what may be his final Trump rally:
Stephen Colbert made it clear that ending the pandemic is not one of Trump’s accomplishments:
And Seth Meyers took a look at the last few days of the Trump campaign: