Trump Administration, Week 191: Friday, 11 September – Thursday, 17 September 2020 (Days 1,330-1,336)

 

Passages in bold in the body of the texts below are usually my emphasis, though not always. This is an ongoing project, and I update the site frequently during the day. Because I try to stay focused on what has actually happened, I usually let the news ‘settle’ for a day or so before posting. I hope readers will peruse the articles in full for a better understanding of the issues and their context; our democracy and our future depend on citizens who can distinguish between facts and falsehoods and who are engaged in the political process.

 

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Friday, 11 September 2020, Day 1,330:

 

Some Global Coronavirus Updates for Friday, 11 September 2020: Dr. Anthony Fauci Warns the Coronavirus Could Disrupt Life Until ‘Maybe Even Toward the End of 2021,’ The New York Times, Friday, 11 September 2020:

Many other significant developments are included in this article.

Some significant developments in the coronavirus pandemic on Friday, 11 September 2020: Dr. Anthony Fauci disagrees with Trump’s claim that the U.S. has ’rounded the final turn’ on coronavirus, The Washington Post, Kim Bellware, Meryl Kornfield, Derek Hawkins, Adam Taylor, Hamza Shaban, Darren Sands, and Hannah Knowles, Friday, 11 September 2020: “Top infectious-disease expert Anthony S. Fauci said Friday that he disagrees with President Trump’s claim that the United States has ’rounded the final turn’ of the coronavirus crisis, calling the country’s latest virus statistics ‘disturbing.’

Here are a few of the significant developments included in this article:

Election 2020 Updates: Court Ruling Deals Blow to Ex-Felons’ Voting Rights in Florida, The New York Times, Friday, 11 September 2020:

  • In a reversal, a federal appeals court says Florida felons must pay fines and fees before voting.

  • With 9/11 memorials transformed by the virus, Biden and Trump honor the dead.

  • A top aide assigned to scrutinize the Trump-Russia investigation resigns from the Justice Department.

  • The Department of Homeland Security, formed after 9/11, is accused of distorting intelligence to please Trump.

  • Some fast-growing militia groups are attracting veterans.

  • Senator Susan Collins of Maine, a vulnerable Republican, and Sara Gideon faced off in their first debate.

  • The Democratic challenger to a QAnon candidate in Georgia has dropped out.

Continue reading Week 191, Friday, 11 September – Thursday, 17  September 2020 (Days 1,330-1,336)

Federal appeals court blocks hundreds of thousands of felons in Florida who still owe fines and fees from registering to vote, The Washington Post, Lori Rozsa, Friday, 11 September 2020: “A federal appeals court on Friday ruled that hundreds of thousands of felons in Florida who still owe fines and fees may not register to vote, making it unlikely that they will be able to cast ballots in the upcoming presidential election. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta agreed with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) that the payment of fines and fees by ex-felons is part of their ‘terms of sentence’ and must be satisfied before they can vote. The decision comes less than a month before the presidential swing state’s Oct. 5 deadline to register to vote for November’s general election. ‘This is a deeply disappointing decision,’ said Paul Smith, vice president at the Campaign Legal Center, one of the groups that had sued over the rule. ‘Nobody should ever be denied their constitutional rights because they can’t afford to pay fines and fees.’… The decision in the populous swing state could have implications for the presidential election. In 2016, Donald Trump won Florida by about 1.3 percentage points, or fewer than 120,000 votes, and a recent NBC-Marist poll found that Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden are neck-and-neck in the state, each at 48 percent…. Voting rights advocates and many felons argued that the state has no system in place for people to find out what their debts are after they are released from prison. Some state attorneys have created streamlined systems to help figure that out, and the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition has worked with pro bono attorneys to help ‘returned citizens’ determine whether they owe any money. But few new voters have resulted from those efforts. The FRRC, which helped get Amendment 4 passed, has paid $4 million to help 4,000 people pay their fines and register. The effort to pay fines has attracted donations from names such as Michael Jordan and the Jordan Brand, which donated $500,000 to the FRRC, and More Than a Vote, which was co-founded by NBA superstar LeBron James and donated $100,000 to the group.” See also, Ex-Felons in Florida Must Pay Fines Before Voting, Appeals Court Rules. In a reversal, a court said Floridians who had completed sentences for felonies must pay fines and fees before voting. The State Constitution was amended in 2018 to restore their rights. The New York Times, Patricia Mazzei, Friday, 11 September 2020: “Four months after a federal judge ruled that it was akin to an unconstitutional poll tax for Florida to require that people with serious criminal convictions pay court fines and fees before they can register to vote, an appeals court narrowly overturned that decision on Friday. The court’s 6-4 ruling dealt a significant blow to civil rights groups that have fought to expand the voter rolls with hundreds of thousands of people who had completed prison time and parole for felony convictions. It also undermined what had seemed like a major referendum victory in 2018 and served as another reminder of the decisive role that a slew of legal cases could play before the presidential election.”

Exclusive: Trump political appointees interfered with reports of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Covid-19, Politico, Dan Diamond, Friday, 11 September 2020: “The health department’s politically appointed communications aides have demanded the right to review and seek changes to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s weekly scientific reports charting the progress of the coronavirus pandemic, in what officials characterized as an attempt to intimidate the reports’ authors and water down their communications to health professionals. In some cases, emails from communications aides to CDC Director Robert Redfield and other senior officials openly complained that the agency’s reports would undermine President Donald Trump’s optimistic messages about the outbreak, according to emails reviewed by POLITICO and three people familiar with the situation. CDC officials have fought back against the most sweeping changes, but have increasingly agreed to allow the political officials to review the reports and, in a few cases, compromised on the wording, according to three people familiar with the exchanges. The communications aides’ efforts to change the language in the CDC’s reports have been constant across the summer and continued as recently as Friday afternoon. The CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports are authored by career scientists and serve as the main vehicle for the agency to inform doctors, researchers and the general public about how Covid-19 is spreading and who is at risk. Such reports have historically been published with little fanfare and no political interference, said several longtime health department officials, and have been viewed as a cornerstone of the nation’s public health work for decades. But since Michael Caputo, a former Trump campaign official with no medical or scientific background, was installed in April as the Health and Human Services department’s new spokesperson, there have been substantial efforts to align the reports with Trump’s statements, including the president’s claims that fears about the outbreak are overstated, or stop the reports altogether. Caputo and his team have attempted to add caveats to the CDC’s findings, including an effort to retroactively change agency reports that they said wrongly inflated the risks of Covid-19 and should have made clear that Americans sickened by the virus may have been infected because of their own behavior, according to the individuals familiar with the situation and emails reviewed by POLITICO.” See also, Political Appointees Meddled in the ‘Holiest of the Holy’ Health Reports of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Trump loyalists at the Health and Human Services Department have been exerting influence on the Centers for Disease Control’s weekly reports on all disease outbreaks, the coronavirus and beyond. The New York Times, Noah Weiland, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, and Abby Goodnough, published on Saturday, 12 September 2020: “Political appointees at the Department of Health and Human Services have repeatedly asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to revise, delay and even scuttle weekly reports on the coronavirus that they believed were unflattering to President Trump. Current and former senior health officials with direct knowledge of phone calls, emails and other communication between the agencies said on Saturday that meddling from Washington was turning widely followed and otherwise apolitical guidance on infectious disease, the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports, into a political loyalty test, with career scientists framed as adversaries of the administration. They confirmed an article in Politico Friday night that the C.D.C.’s public morbidity reports, which one former top health official described on Saturday as the ‘holiest of the holy’ in agency literature, have been targeted for months by senior officials in the health department’s communications office. It is unclear whether any of the reports were substantially altered, but important federal health studies have been delayed because of the pressure.” See also, Trump political appointees seek greater control over reports on the coronavirus prepared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Washington Post, Lena H. Sun, published on Saturday, 12 September 2020: “Political appointees at the Department of Health and Human Services have sought to change, delay and prevent the release of reports about the coronavirus by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention because they were viewed as undermining President Trump’s message that the pandemic is under control. Michael Caputo, the top HHS spokesman, said in an interview Saturday that he and one of his advisers have been seeking greater scrutiny of the CDC’s weekly scientific dispatches, known as the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, for the past 3½ months. The adviser, Paul Alexander, has sent repeated emails to the CDC seeking changes and demanding that the reports be halted until he could make edits. The emails, first reported late Friday by Politico, describe the CDC documents, widely known as the MMWR, as being ‘hit pieces on the administration.’ Caputo confirmed the authenticity of the emails.”

Veterans Fortify the Ranks of Militias Aligned with Trump’s Views. The vast majority of veterans do not join militias, but some fast-growing militias have many veterans among their ranks. The New York Times, Jennifer Steinhauer, Friday, 11 September 2020: “Emboldened by President Trump’s campaign platform of law and order, militia groups have bolstered their strength before Election Day by attracting military veterans who bring weapons and tactical skills viewed as important to the organizations. The role of veterans in the newly proliferating militia groups — which sometimes are steeped in racism and other times steeped simply in antigovernment zealotry — has increased over the last decade, said a dozen experts on law enforcement, domestic terrorism and extremist groups. Although only a small fraction of the nation’s 20 million veterans joins militia groups, experts in domestic terrorism and law enforcement analysts estimate that veterans and active-duty members of the military may now make up at least 25 percent of militia rosters. These experts estimate that there are some 15,000 to 20,000 active militia members in around 300 groups.”

Pending Wisconsin Supreme Court decision on whether to add Green Party ticket to the presidential ballot upends election preparations, The Washington Post, Amy Gardner, Friday, 11 September 2020: “An imminent Wisconsin Supreme Court decision on whether the Green Party presidential ticket has qualified to appear on the state ballot has upended election preparations and raised the prospect of a last-minute addition that could benefit President Trump in a state he won by a hair in 2016. The pending court case comes after the Wisconsin Elections Commission declined on Aug. 20 to put presidential contender Howie Hawkins and his Green Party running mate, Angela Walker, on the Nov. 3 ballot because their signature petitions featured two different addresses for Walker. State election officials argued against letting the ticket on the ballot, saying the campaign failed to meet the requirements.”

Trump’s fusillade of falsehoods on voting by mail, The Washington Post, Salvador Rizzo, Friday, 11 September 2020: “More than 100 times this year, President Trump has peddled false claims or imaginary threats about voting by mail. The president may believe this disinformation campaign helps his chances of being reelected. But he is sowing confusion as states prepare for the Nov. 3 general election and is falsely accusing state officials of trying to rig the outcome. Trump also has encouraged people to vote twice, which is illegal. A mountain of evidence shows that mail voting has been almost entirely free of fraud through the decades, but Trump insists that it’s a recipe for disaster.”

Nora Dannehy, Connecticut prosecutor who was top aide to John Durham’s Trump-Russia investigation, resigns amid concern about pressure from Attorney General William Barr, Hartford Courant, Edmund H. Mahony, Friday, 11 September 2020: “Federal prosecutor Nora Dannehy, a top aide to U.S. Attorney John H. Durham in his Russia investigation, has quietly resigned — at least partly out of concern that the investigative team is being pressed for political reasons to produce a report before its work is done, colleagues said. Dannehy, a highly regarded prosecutor who has worked with or for Durham for decades, informed colleagues in the U.S. Attorney’s office in New Haven of her resignation from the Department of Justice by email Thursday evening. The short email was a brief farewell message and said nothing about political pressure, her work for Durham or what the Durham team has produced, according to people who received it. Durham, who has never even acknowledged that Dannehy was in Washington working for him, had no immediate comment on the resignation. Durham recruited Dannehy to join his team after he was appointed by Attorney General William Barr more than a year and a half ago to examine the FBI’s legal justification for a disputed counterintelligence investigation that looked for ties between President Donald J. Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russian efforts to meddle in the election.” See also, Top Aide in Review of Russia Inquiry Resigns From Justice Department. The resignation came amid increasing expectations that the department may disclose partial results from the review before it is completed but ahead of the presidential election. The New York Times, Charlie Savage, Katie Benner, Adam Goldman, and Neil Vigdor, Friday, 11 September 2020: “A top aide to the criminal prosecutor whom Attorney General William P. Barr assigned to scrutinize the Trump-Russia investigation has resigned unexpectedly from the Justice Department, a spokesman said Friday. It was not immediately clear why the official, Nora R. Dannehy — a trusted assistant to John H. Durham, the prosecutor leading the investigation and the U.S. attorney in Connecticut — stepped down. But The Hartford Courant, which first reported her departure, cited unidentified colleagues in Mr. Durham’s office as saying that she had expressed concerns in recent weeks about pressure from Mr. Barr to deliver results ahead of the presidential election in November.”

Updates on Wildfires in the West: Suspect Is Charged With Arson in Oregon Wildfire, The New York Times, Friday, 11 September 2020:

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) flew detainees to Virginia so the planes could transport agents to quell protests in D.C. A huge coronavirus outbreak followed. The Washington Post, Antonio Olivo and Nick Miroff, Friday, 11 September 2020: “The Trump administration flew immigrant detainees to Virginia this summer to facilitate the rapid deployment of Homeland Security tactical teams to quell protests in Washington, circumventing restrictions on the use of charter flights for employee travel, according to a current and a former U.S. official. After the transfer, dozens of the new arrivals tested positive for the novel coronavirus, fueling an outbreak at the Farmville, Va., immigration jail that infected more than 300 inmates, one of whom died. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the agency moved the detainees on ‘ICE Air’ charter flights to avoid overcrowding at detention facilities in Arizona and Florida, a precaution they said was taken because of the pandemic. But a Department of Homeland Security official with direct knowledge of the operation, and a former ICE official who learned about it from other personnel, said the primary reason for the June 2 transfers was to skirt rules that bar ICE employees from traveling on the charter flights unless detainees are also aboard.”

How Big Oil Misled the Public Into Believing Plastic Would Be Recycled, NPR Investigations, Laura Sullivan, Friday, 11 September 2020: “NPR and PBS Frontline spent months digging into internal [oil and gas] industry documents and interviewing top former officials. We found that the industry sold the public on an idea it knew wouldn’t work — that the majority of plastic could be, and would be, recycled — all while making billions of dollars selling the world new plastic. The industry’s awareness that recycling wouldn’t keep plastic out of landfills and the environment dates to the program’s earliest days, we found. ‘There is serious doubt that [recycling plastic] can ever be made viable on an economic basis,’ one industry insider wrote in a 1974 speech. Yet the industry spent millions telling people to recycle, because, as one former top industry insider told NPR, selling recycling sold plastic, even if it wasn’t true…. Here’s the basic problem: All used plastic can be turned into new things, but picking it up, sorting it out and melting it down is expensive. Plastic also degrades each time it is reused, meaning it can’t be reused more than once or twice. On the other hand, new plastic is cheap. It’s made from oil and gas, and it’s almost always less expensive and of better quality to just start fresh. All of these problems have existed for decades, no matter what new recycling technology or expensive machinery has been developed. In all that time, less than 10 percent of plastic has ever been recycled. But the public has known little about these difficulties.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s wife assigned State Department work on her husband’s behalf using private email account, McClatchyDC, Michael Wilner and Bryan Lowry, Friday, 11 September 2020: “Secretary of State Mike Pompeo assigned official government work to one of his top advisers through his wife, Susan, who used a private email account to relay his requests, according to newly released testimony. The spouse of a Cabinet member would not be expected to have a government email account if they are not employed by the government. But Susan Pompeo’s influence over official personnel and activities at the State Department, as a private citizen, has raised concerns on Capitol Hill and within the department. It has become part of an ongoing inquiry in the State Department inspector general’s office on the misuse of government resources.”

Chairperson of the House Homeland Security Committee issues subpoena to compel Chad Wolf, acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Secretary, to testify, The Washington Post, Donna Cassata, Friday, 11 September 2020: “The chairman of a House committee issued a subpoena Friday to compel Chad Wolf to testify next week after the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security declined to appear at a hearing on worldwide threats. Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said the panel had been in contact with the department since June to secure Wolf’s testimony along with that of FBI Director Christopher A. Wray and Chris Miller, director of the National Counterterrorism Center.”

Court-appointed adviser John Gleeson blasts ‘corrupt’ Department of Justice move to drop Michael Flynn casePolitico, Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein, Friday, 11 September 2020: “Former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s lies to the FBI are so clear — and their effect on the FBI’s Russia probe so obvious — that the Justice Department’s decision to drop the case can only be a pretext to help an ally of President Donald Trump, a court-appointed adviser to Judge Emmet Sullivan argued Friday. In an unsparing, 30-page brief, John Gleeson, tapped by Sullivan to argue against the dismissal of the case, suggests that the Justice Department’s arguments for letting Flynn off the hook conflict with its positions in other cases — and even in earlier rounds of the Flynn case itself — and therefore can only be chalked up to Trump’s pressure campaign. ‘There is clear evidence that this motion reflects a corrupt and politically motivated favor unworthy of our justice system,’ wrote Gleeson, a former federal judge in Manhattan who was appointed by President Bill Clinton.”

 

Saturday, 12 September 2020, Day 1,331:

 

Some Global Coronavirus Updates for Saturday, 12 September 2020: Trump Political Appointees at the Health and Human Services Department Have Meddled in the Weekly Disease Reports of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C.), The New York Times, Saturday, 12 September 2020:

Other significant developments are included in this article.

Trump Pressed for Plasma Therapy. Officials Worry That an Unvetted Vaccine May Be Next. The New York Times, Sharon LaFraniere, Noah Weiland, and Michael D. Shear, Saturday, 12 September 2020: “It was the third week of August, the Republican National Convention was days away, and President Trump was impatient. White House officials were anxious to showcase a step forward in the battle against the coronavirus: an expansion of the use of blood plasma from recovered patients to treat new ones. For nearly two weeks, however, the National Institutes of Health had held up emergency authorization for the treatment, citing lingering concerns over its effectiveness. So on Wednesday, Aug. 19, Mr. Trump called Dr. Francis S. Collins, the director of the N.I.H., with a blunt message. ‘Get it done by Friday,’ he demanded. It wasn’t done by Friday, and on Sunday, regulators at the Food and Drug Administration still had not finished a last-minute data review intended to ease N.I.H. doubts. But on Sunday night, the eve of the convention, the president announced, with the F.D.A.’s approval, that plasma therapy would be available for wider use, and he declared that it could reduce deaths by 35 percent, vastly overstating what the data had shown about the benefits. Mr. Trump’s call to Dr. Collins was a flash point in a pressure campaign by the White House to bend the nation’s public health agencies to his desire to show progress in the fight against a pandemic that has killed more than 192,000 people in the United States. And it was just one in a series of moments that have left scientists and regulators across the public health bureaucracy increasingly worried that the White House could exert greater pressure to approve a vaccine before Election Day, even in the absence of agreement on its effectiveness and safety.”

Election 2020 Updates: Biden and Harris target Latino voters; Trump prepares to rally in Nevada, The Washington Post, Amy B Wang, Saturday, 12 September 2020: “Following a relatively subdued day focused on the 19th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, President Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden continued their two different campaigning styles Saturday. Biden’s campaign released several new Spanish-language ads targeting voters in Florida, slamming Trump for everything from his response to the coronavirus pandemic to his rhetoric. Biden’s running mate, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), hosted a virtual roundtable afternoon with Latino voters in Arizona. Meanwhile, Trump is scheduled to hold a rally in Nevada, one of several his campaign has hosted despite the ongoing pandemic.

Here are a few of the significant developments included in this article:
  • An imminent Wisconsin Supreme Court decision on whether the Green Party presidential ticket has qualified to appear on the state ballot has upended election preparations and raised the prospect of a last-minute addition that could benefit Trump in a state he won by a hair in 2016.
  • A federal appeals court on Friday ruled that hundreds of thousands of felons in Florida who still owe fines and fees may not register to vote, making it unlikely they will be able to cast ballots in the coming presidential election.

Colorado’s Top Election Official Sues the Postal Service Over Election Mailer She Says Misleads Voters, The New York Times, Luke Broadwater and Kenneth P. Vogel, Saturday, 12 September 2020: “Colorado’s top election official filed a federal lawsuit on Saturday against the postmaster general and other Postal Service leaders, claiming that a mailer sent to voters in the state was an attempt to disenfranchise them by offering misleading information about how to vote by mail. The lawsuit, initiated by Jena Griswold, the secretary of state of Colorado, in Federal District Court, is the latest indication of broad concerns that have emerged in recent weeks over how the leadership of the Postal Service, including a group of Republicans installed by President Trump, is preparing for what is expected to be a record number of mail-in ballots in the run-up to November’s election.” See also, Colorado secretary of state sues United States Postal Service over election mailer she says misleads the state’s voters, CNN Politics, Kelly Mena, Leslie Perrot, and Kristen Holmes, Saturday, 12 September 2020: “Colorado’s secretary of state filed a lawsuit on Saturday against the US Postal Service, embattled Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and other USPS officials over a pre-election mailer that includes information she says will mislead voters in the state. The pre-election mailers, meant to inform Americans about voting by mail, advise voters to request a vote-by-mail ballot at least 15 days before Election Day and to return the official ballot at least seven days before. Those guidelines, however, don’t align with Colorado’s election policies. ‘These false statements will confuse Colorado voters, likely causing otherwise-eligible voters to wrongly believe that they may not participate in the upcoming election. This attempt at voter suppression violates the United States Constitution and federal statutes and must be stopped immediately,’ the complaint from Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold and filed in Federal District Court states. The lawsuit asks for a temporary restraining order to stop delivery of mailers that have yet to be delivered.”

Updates on Wildfires in the West: Dozens Missing Amid Wildfires as States Look to Weather for Relief, The New York Times, Saturday, 12 September 2020:

A Secret Recording Reveals Oil Executives’ Private Views on Climate Change. At a meeting last year, industry leaders contradicted public claims that emissions of climate-warming methane are under control. The New York Times, Hiroko Tabuchi, Saturday, 12 September 2020: “Last summer, oil and gas-industry groups were lobbying to overturn federal rules on leaks of natural gas, a major contributor to climate change. Their message: The companies had emissions under control. In private, the lobbyists were saying something very different. At a discussion convened last year by the Independent Petroleum Association of America, a group that represents energy companies, participants worried that producers were intentionally flaring, or burning off, far too much natural gas, threatening the industry’s image, according to a recording of the meeting reviewed by The New York Times. ‘We’re just flaring a tremendous amount of gas,’ said Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, at the June 2019 gathering, held in Colorado Springs. ‘This pesky natural gas,’ he said. ‘The value of it is very minimal,’ particularly to companies drilling mainly for oil. A well can produce both oil and natural gas, but oil commands far higher prices. Flaring it is an inexpensive way of getting rid of the gas. Yet the practice of burning it off, producing dramatic flares and attracting criticism, represented a ‘huge, huge threat’ to the industry’s efforts to portray natural gas as a cleaner and more climate-friendly energy source, he said, and that was damaging the industry’s image, particularly among younger generations. ‘What’s our message going forward?’ Mr. Ness said. ‘What’s going to stick with those young people and make them support oil and gas?’ The recording runs 1 hour 22 minutes, opening with a moderator’s remarks and concluding with a panel discussion that covered a wide range of issues including job creation, the threats posed by solar and wind energy, and the federal leasing of oil and gas rights. The audio was provided by an organization dedicated to tracking climate policy that said the recording had been made by an industry official who attended the meeting.”

Longtime Climate Science Denier David Legates Is Hired at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NPR, Rebecca Hersher and Joe Palca, Saturday, 12 September 2020: “David Legates, a University of Delaware professor of climatology who has spent much of his career questioning basic tenets of climate science, has been hired for a top position at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Legates confirmed to NPR that he was recently hired as NOAA’s deputy assistant secretary of commerce for observation and prediction. The position suggests that he reports directly to Neil Jacobs, the acting head of the agency that is in charge of the federal government’s sprawling weather and climate prediction work.”

A Federal District Court Says the Office of Legal Counsel May Be Required to Release Many of Its Legal Opinions. The ruling is a major victory for transparency and accountability. Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, Saturday, 12 September 2020: “In a ruling issued late last night, a federal district court held that nearly a quarter of all Office of Legal Counsel opinions sent to outside agencies likely fall within the provision of the Freedom of Information Act requiring proactive disclosure of agency records to the public. The case is being litigated by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University on behalf of the Campaign for Accountability. ‘This is a groundbreaking decision for government transparency,’ said Alex Abdo, Litigation Director at the Knight First Amendment Institute. ‘The Office of Legal Counsel’s opinions have essentially the same weight within the executive branch as the Supreme Court’s opinions do. The government’s refusal to make these opinions available to the public as a matter of course is both undemocratic and unlawful.’ The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) provides ‘formal written opinions’ to federal agencies on issues ranging from national security to retirement benefits for federal employees to the lawfulness of immigration policy. Recently, the Trump administration relied on OLC opinions to justify its refusal to comply with subpoenas issued by the House of Representatives in its impeachment inquiry. The OLC’s formal opinions function as the authoritative law of the government, determining the policies and practices of all executive branch agencies, but OLC does not believe it has any affirmative obligation to release these opinions to the public.”

 

Sunday, 13 September 2020, Day 1,332:

 

Some Global Coronavirus Updates for Sunday, 13 September 2020: Trump Holds Indoor Rally as White House Officials Try to Defend His Virus Response, The New York Times, Sunday, 13 September 2020:

Many other significant developments are included in this article.

Vaccine Makers Keep Safety Details Quiet, Alarming Scientists. Researchers say drug companies need to be more open about how vaccine trials are run to reassure Americans who are skittish about getting a coronavirus vaccine. The New York Times, Katie Thomas, Sunday, 13 September 2020: “The morning after the world learned that a closely watched clinical trial of a coronavirus vaccine had been halted last week over safety concerns, the company’s chief executive disclosed that a person given the vaccine had experienced serious neurological symptoms. But the remarks weren’t public. Instead, the chief executive, Pascal Soriot of AstraZeneca, spoke at a closed meeting organized by J.P. Morgan, the investment bank. AstraZeneca said on Saturday that an outside panel had cleared its trial in Britain to begin again, but the company still has not given any details about the patient’s medical condition, nor has it released a transcript of Mr. Soriot’s remarks to investors, which were reported by the news outlet STAT and later confirmed by an analyst for J.P. Morgan. Another front-runner in the vaccine race, Pfizer, made a similarly terse announcement on Saturday: The company is proposing to expand its clinical trial to include thousands more participants, but it gave few other details about its plan, including how it would determine the effectiveness of the vaccine in its larger study. It’s standard for drug companies to withhold details of clinical trials until after they are completed, tenaciously guarding their intellectual property and competitive edge. But these are extraordinary times, and now there is a growing outcry among independent scientists and public health experts who are pushing the companies to be far more open with the public in the midst of a pandemic that has already killed more than 193,000 people in the United States. These experts say American taxpayers are entitled to know more since the federal government has committed billions of dollars to vaccine research and to buying the vaccines once they’re approved. And greater transparency could also help bolster faltering public confidence in vaccines at a time when a growing number of Americans fear President Trump will pressure federal regulators to approve a vaccine before it is proved safe and effective.”

Trump’s Indoor Nevada Rally Draws the Governor’s Ire, and It Violates the State’s 50-Person Limit on Gatherings. The Wall Street Journal, Andrew Restuccia, Sunday, 13 September 2020: “President Trump held his first indoor rally in nearly three months on Sunday, ignoring Nevada’s social-distancing rules and drawing the ire of the state’s governor. The rally was held in a warehouse at a heavy-equipment manufacturer in Henderson, Nev. Hundreds of the president’s supporters attended the event, violating state rules banning gatherings of more than 50 people that were put in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The Trump campaign said attendees were given masks and temperature checks upon entering the event. But many who attended didn’t wear masks, aside from the people standing on the riser behind the stage in view of television cameras.” See also, ‘Reckless and selfish’: Nevada Governor Sisolak slams Trump for holding big indoor rally, violating state rules. The Democratic governor said Trump appears to have ‘forgotten that this country is still in the middle of a global pandemic.’ NBC News, Rebecca Shabad, published on Monday, 14 September 2020: “Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, criticized President Donald Trump for violating the state’s rules on Sunday night by holding an indoor campaign rally attended by thousands of people. Trump ‘is knowingly packing thousands into an indoor venue to hold a political rally’ the governor wrote in a lengthy Twitter post.” See also, Trump holds first entirely indoor rally in nearly three months, CNN Politics, Eric Fiegel, Paul LeBlanc, Donald Judd, and Jason Hoffman, Sunday, 13 September 2020. See also, Trump Defies Nevada Directive as Thousands Gather for Indoor Rally, The New York Times, Jennifer Medina and Annie Karni, published on Monday, 14 September 2020: “Thousands of Trump supporters, the vast majority of them forgoing face masks, packed inside a manufacturing plant on Sunday night in a Las Vegas suburb, where President Trump brashly ignored a state directive limiting indoor gatherings to under 50 people. There were no signs of any attempts at social distancing inside the venue. Attendees wearing red MAGA caps sat in white folding chairs crammed together on the floor of the Xtreme Manufacturing plant, which said on its website that it had ‘restricted meetings and gatherings to no more than 10 people in large areas.’ In his remarks, Mr. Trump unloaded his regular, inaccurate onslaught against former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., falsely accusing him of waging a ‘dangerous war on the police’ and claiming that ‘he’s shot and everybody knows it.’ The raucous crowd appeared to relish the performance, at one point chanting ‘all lives matter’ when a protester tried to disrupt the president’s speech.” See also, Trump’s first indoor rally in months is staged as a rebuke to coronavirus restrictions, The Washington Post, Anne Gearan and Josh Dawsey, published on Monday, 14 September 2020: “President Trump’s first indoor rally in months was staged as a rebuke to Democrats he accuses of using coronavirus restrictions against him, but the campaign event in Nevada also prompted sharp denunciations from critics on Monday as a symbol of the president’s failure to effectively confront the deadly covid-19 crisis. The Sunday night gathering came as the pandemic has caused at least 190,000 deaths in the United States, with the number expected to pass 200,000 sometime before Trump holds his next official campaign events on Friday. The Nov. 3 election had already become a referendum on the president’s often dismissive approach to the pandemic before revelations last week that he had told Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward he knew the severity of the virus but preferred to play it down in public.” See also, Nevada company that hosted Trump’s indoor rally is fined $3,000 for violating state coronavirus guidelines, CNN Politics, Caroline Kelly, Eric Fiegel, and Andy Rose, published on Monday, 14 September 2020: “The Nevada company that hosted an indoor campaign rally for President Donald Trump attended by thousands of people will face a fine of $3,000 for violating state coronavirus guidelines banning large gatherings. Sunday’s rally in Henderson, Nevada — which was held inside a facility owned by Xtreme Manufacturing — was expected to violate the state’s restriction on gatherings of 50 people or more. Attendees at the rally were not required to wear masks, and there was little social distancing. The city of Henderson had warned Xtreme Manufacturing that it would be violating the regulations if the rally proceeded.”

Long-time Trump ally Roger Stone advises Trump to bring in martial law if he loses the election. Trump meanwhile promises to ‘put down’ leftwing protests and says US Marshals killing Portland suspect was ‘retribution.’ The Guardian, Martin Pengelly, Sunday, 13 September 2020: “Roger Stone, whose 40-month prison sentence for lying to Congress and witness tampering in the Russia investigation was commuted by Donald Trump, has said Trump should seize total power and jail prominent figures including Bill and Hillary Clinton and Mark Zuckerberg if he loses to Joe Biden in November. The long-time Republican dirty trickster, who has a tattoo of Richard Nixon on his back, offered the startling advice on Thursday, in a call to conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’s Infowars online show.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is bringing back ‘Madison Dinners’ mid-pandemic, NBC News, Josh Lederman, Saturday, 13 September 2020: “Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is quietly relaunching his extravagant, taxpayer-funded ‘Madison Dinners’ during the coronavirus pandemic, even as Congress scrutinizes his use of government resources to entertain CEOs, big-dollar Republican donors and television anchors. Pompeo’s Madison Dinners, which an NBC News investigation revealed in May, had been on pause since March, when the country shut down because of the coronavirus. But now they’re back, with a dinner scheduled for Monday and at least three others on the calendar in September and October, two U.S. officials said.”

The Case for Dumping the Electoral College. Trump’s Presidency, and risk that it will recur despite his persistent unpopularity, reflects a deeper malignancy in our Constitution that must be addressed. The New Yorker, Steve Coll, Sunday, 13 September 2020: “In 1961, Estes Kefauver, the crusading Democratic senator from Tennessee, denounced the Electoral College as ‘a loaded pistol pointed at our system of government.’ Its continued existence, he said, as he opened hearings on election reform, created ‘a game of Russian roulette’ because, at some point, the antidemocratic distortions of the College could threaten the country’s integrity. Judging from Twitter’s obsessions, at least, that hour may be approaching. The polls indicate that Donald Trump is likely to win fewer votes nationally than Joe Biden this fall, just as he won fewer than Hillary Clinton, in 2016. Yet Trump may still win reëlection, since the Electoral College favors voters in small and rural states over those in large and urban ones. Last week, a new book by Bob Woodward revealed how Trump lied, in the early weeks of the pandemic, about the severity of the coronavirus, even though that put American lives at risk; the thought that a reëlected Trump might feel triumphantly af­firmed in such mendacity is terrifying. But criticizing the Electoral College simply because it has given us our Trump problem would be misguided. His Presidency, and the chance that it will recur despite his persistent unpopularity, reflects a deeper malignancy in our Constitution, one that looks increas­ingly unsustainable.”

 

Monday, 14 September 2020, Day 1,333:

 

Some Global Coronavirus Updates for Monday, 14 September 2020: Parties Delay the Start of In-Person Classes at Some U.S. High Schools, The New York Times, Monday, 14 September 2020:

Many other significant developments are included in this article.

Some significant developments in the coronavirus pandemic for Monday, 14 September 2020: World Health Organization reports the highest one-day increase in global coronavirus cases since the pandemic began, The Washington Post, Brittany Shammas, Marisa Iati, Lateshia Beachum, Adam Taylor, Hamza Shaban, Darren Sands, and Meryl Kornfield, Monday, 14 September 2020: “The World Health Organization on Sunday reported the highest one-day increase in coronavirus infections since the pandemic began: more than 308,000 new cases. India, the United States and Brazil logged the largest numbers of new infections on Sunday. The WHO also warned that Europe will see a surge in coronavirus-linked deaths in the fall as new infections have been soaring over the past weeks to levels not seen since the spring.

Here are a few of the significant developments included in this article:
  • At least 190,000 people have died of the coronavirus in the United States. More than 6,488,000 cases have been detected since February.
  • A top communications official for the administration’s coronavirus response urged President Trump’s supporters to prepare for an armed insurrection after a contested election and accused government scientists of ‘sedition’ in a Facebook Live chat.
  • Orders by Pennsylvania’s Gov. Tom Wolf to limit gatherings and close non-essential businesses to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus were unconstitutional, a federal judge said on Monday.
  • States that have reopened bars experienced a doubling in the rate of coronavirus cases three weeks after the opening of doors, on average, a Post analysis found.
  • Political appointees at the Department of Health and Human Services have sought to change, delay and prevent the release of reports about the coronavirus by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention because they were viewed as undermining President Trump’s message that the pandemic is under control.
  • Amazon announced it will hire 100,000 new workers to meet the surging demand of e-commerce in the covid era, bolstering an already-dramatic expansion of jobs this year.
  • It could be next summer before most of the Washington region’s workers return to offices after months spent teleworking because of the coronavirus, according to a new survey.

Bob Woodward says that in January ‘Trump possessed the specific knowledge that could have saved lives,’ NBC News, Rebecca Shabad, Monday, 14 September 2020: “Journalist Bob Woodward said Monday that he was shocked when he learned that President Donald Trump ‘possessed the specific knowledge that could have saved lives’ in January. In an interview with Savannah Guthrie on NBC’s ‘TODAY’ show, Woodward said he found out about a briefing the president had received from his national security advisers on Jan. 28 about the pandemic’s coming to the United States and that, only a few days later, on Feb. 4, Trump didn’t share the information in his State of the Union address, which 40 million people watched. Woodward said Trump missed an opportunity that night to convey the warning when he said only that the U.S. was doing everything possible. ‘At that moment if, like, Franklin Roosevelt after Pearl Harbor, [he] had told the American people the truth, a lot more could have been done,’ Woodward said. ‘It is one of those shocks, for me, having written about nine presidents, that the president of the United States possessed the specific knowledge that could have saved lives, and historians are going to be writing about the lost month of February for tens of years,’ Woodward said.”

Election 2020: Biden says ‘hellish’ wildfires will become more frequent if Trump wins second term; Trump visits California and Arizona, The Washington Post, John Wagner and Felicia Sonmez, Monday, 14 September 2020: “Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said Monday that the ‘hellish’ wildfires ravaging western states will become more frequent and more deadly if President Trump wins a second term, saying Trump has ‘no interest in meeting this moment’ on climate change. Biden’s comments, delivered from Delaware, come on a day when both campaigns are focusing on the crisis. Shortly after Biden spoke, Trump met in California with firefighters and emergency officials as he faces criticism for having largely remained silent about the situation. Trump later went to Arizona for an event for roundtable focused on Latinos.

With 50 days until Election Day . . .

Election 2020 Updates: Wisconsin’s Top Court Won’t Order Ballots Reprinted, Averting Election Chaos, The New York Times, Monday, 14 September 2020:

  • Wisconsin’s top court rejects a bid to add a progressive candidate to the November ballot, possibly helping Joe Biden.

  • At a briefing in California, Trump and Gov. Gavin Newsom disagree, as politely as possible, on climate change.

  • ‘We have to act as a nation,’ Biden says, addressing the wildfires and climate change.

  • Hillary Clinton warns Kamala Harris to avoid the sexist ‘double standard’ in her debate.

  • For a vulnerable Senate Republican, a debate becomes a referendum on Covid-19 and Trump.

  • Ohio won’t provide prepaid postage for mail-in ballots.

  • Ten mayors call on Trump to condemn far-right vigilantes.

  • A Trump official warned without evidence of an armed left-wing revolt after election day.

  • Trump says he’s not afraid of catching the virus at his rallies: ‘I’m on stage and it’s very far away.’

Wisconsin’s Top Court Rules Against Reprinting of Ballots, Avoiding Election Chaos. Days before the start of mail voting, the state’s Supreme Court rejected an appeal by the Green Party’s candidate to reprint thousands of ballots so that his name could be added. The decision could help Joe Biden. The New York Times, Stephanie Saul and Nick Corasaniti, Monday, 14 September 2020: “The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the Green Party’s presidential candidate will not appear on the state’s presidential ballot, a decision that prompted a sigh of relief among election officials who had worried that a wholesale reprinting of thousands of ballots could bring chaos to an already stressed electoral system. The decision against the candidate, Howie Hawkins, could also provide a small but potentially significant lift to Joseph R. Biden Jr., whose Democratic allies had expressed concern that a third-party progressive could siphon votes away from Mr. Biden and help President Trump. Both the Biden and Trump campaigns view a path to victory through Wisconsin, which Mr. Trump carried by less than 23,000 votes in 2016.”

Federal judge temporarily blocks Postal Service from sending election mailer to more voters in Colorado, The Washington Post, Elise Viebeck Monday, 14 February 2020: “A federal judge late Saturday temporarily blocked the U.S. Postal Service from sending a notice about the November elections to more people in Colorado, finding that the mailer ‘provides patently false information’ about the state’s voting system that could sow confusion among voters. The ruling arrived hours after the state filed a lawsuit in response to the national mailer, which urges ‘postal customers’ around the country to ‘request your mail-in ballot (often called ‘absentee’ ballot) at least 15 days before Election Day.’ Voters in Colorado, eight other states and the District of Columbia do not need to request mail ballots for November because their states are already sending them out. Those jurisdictions either conduct universal mail elections or are holding them this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.”

Louis DeJoy Gave $600,000 to Republicans After the Postmaster General Job Opened Up, Bloomberg, Todd Shields, Monday, 14 September 2020: “Louis DeJoy boosted his giving to Republican political campaigns as the job of U.S. Postmaster General became available, a researcher told Congress. DeJoy, who now holds the position, gave President Donald Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee more than $600,000 over eight weeks after the opening was announced, Lisa Graves, executive director of True North Research, which investigates the influence of money on public policy, said in written testimony submitted to a panel of the House Oversight Committee in advance of a hearing Monday. In the 2019-2020 cycle, DeJoy has given more than $1.5 million to GOP candidates and campaigns, the bulk of which has gone to aid Trump’s 2020 election strategy, Graves said. The sum includes nearly $80,000 to aid GOP Senate races since last December, when the former Postmaster General announced she would resign.’This level of partisanship,’ Graves said in written testimony, ‘undermines public trust in the Postal Service as an institution.'”

Postal police union sues the US Postal Service and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy over limits to mail theft enforcement authority. The union argues that this unilateral change by USPS managers violates their collective bargaining agreement. Politico, Kyle Cheney, Monday, 14 September 2020: “The Postal Service last month abruptly ordered its police officers to stop investigating mail theft that occurs away from post office property, the Postal Police Officers Association alleged Monday, suing Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to block a change they say could erode the safety of mail carriers and delivery. ‘The Postal Service’s sudden change is unwarranted, impermissible, and contrary to the language of the statute and also to collective bargaining promises it has made to the officers’ union,’ the association said in its lawsuit, filed in federal district court in Washington D.C. Per the union, USPS implemented the change on Aug. 25, a day after DeJoy testified to Congress amid mounting concerns that policy changes he implemented were delaying mail service and could jeopardize record numbers of mail-in ballots expected in the presidential election. Per the court filing, the USPS leader ‘declared that Postal Police Officers should no longer be assigned to investigate or prevent mail theft or protection of letter carriers’ unless it occurred on Postal Service premises. This would be a sharp break, the union alleges, from decades-old practices.”

Trump baselessly questions climate science during California wildfire briefing, CNN Politics,Maegan Vazquez, Monday, 14 September 2020: “Trump on Monday baselessly asserted that climate change is not playing a role in the catastrophic wildfires overtaking forests across the west, rebutting an official briefing him who pleaded for the President to listen to the science. ‘I don’t think science knows, actually,’ Trump said at a Monday briefing with officials in McClellan Park, California, with a laugh. He told Wade Crowfoot, secretary of California’s Natural Resources Agency: ‘It’ll start getting cooler. You just watch.’ Crowfoot had warned the President of the dangers of ignoring the science and putting ‘our head in the sand and thinking that it’s all about vegetation management.'” See also, As Trump Again Rejects Science, Biden Calls Him a ‘Climate Arsonist.’ The president visited California after weeks of silence on its wildfires and blamed the crisis only on poor forest management, not climate change. ‘I don’t think science knows’ what is happening, he said. New York Times, Peter Baker, Lisa Friedman, and Thomas Kaplan, Monday, 14 September 2020: “With wildfires raging across the West, climate change took center stage in the race for the White House on Monday as former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. called President Trump a ‘climate arsonist’ while the president said that ‘I don’t think science knows’ what is actually happening. A day of dueling appearances laid out the stark differences between the two candidates, an incumbent president who has long scorned climate change as a hoax and rolled back environmental regulations and a challenger who has called for an aggressive campaign to curb the greenhouse gases blamed for increasingly extreme weather. Mr. Trump flew to California after weeks of public silence about the flames that have forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes, wiped out communities and forests, burned millions of acres, shrouded the region in smoke and left at least 27 people dead. But even when confronted by California’s governor and other state officials, the president insisted on attributing the crisis solely to poor forest management, not climate change.” See also, Devastating wildfires out West inject climate change into the presidential campaign, The Washington Post, Seung Min Kim and Brady Dennis, Monday, 14 September 2020: “Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden excoriated President Trump on Monday over his environmental record as wildfires continued to burn through much of the West and as the president used a trip to California to question the scientific consensus that climate change is a leading cause of the devastating blazes. Biden said during a speech in Wilmington, Del., that the ‘undeniable, accelerating, punishing reality’ of global warming was playing out in the wildfires and hurricanes that have marked the end of summer, arguing it is a problem that ‘requires action, not denial.’ Across the country in California, Trump sought to pin the blame for the fires on another culprit — forest management — while shrugging off warnings that human-caused climate warming will continue to make Western states a tinderbox with annual fires that destroy communities. ‘It will start getting cooler. You just watch,’ he said during a briefing with state and local leaders in McClellan Park, Calif.”

Court Rules Government Can End Humanitarian Protections for Some 300,000 Immigrants, NPR, Rachel Treisman, Monday, 14 September 2020: “A federal appeals court panel ruled on Monday that the Trump administration can end humanitarian protections for some 300,000 immigrants living in the United States, clearing the way for their potential deportation starting next year. The 9th Circuit Appeals Court’s decision affects citizens from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan, many of whom have lived in the U.S. for decades, have U.S.-born children and have been considered essential workers during the coronavirus pandemic. At issue is the termination of temporary protected status, a form of humanitarian relief created by Congress and administered by the Department of Homeland Security. TPS provides a work permit and stay of deportation to foreign nationals living in the U.S. whose countries of origin are facing natural disaster, armed conflict or other ‘extraordinary and temporary conditions’ that make it unsafe for them to return. The Trump administration terminated TPS designations of El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan in 2017 and 2018. (It later ended TPS for Honduras and Nepal, and a separate case brought last year by citizens of those countries is ongoing.) Several TPS beneficiaries from the four countries and their children filed a lawsuit challenging the terminations, both for procedural reasons and on the grounds that the rule was motivated by animus toward ‘non-white, non-European immigrants’ that they said was evidenced by comments made by President Trump and other administration officials. A district court previously issued a preliminary injunction. Monday’s decision by a three-judge panel of the appeals court lifts the injunction, meaning immigrants from the affected countries could be subject to removal starting in January.”

House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis launches investigation into Trump officials’ Covid-report tampering, Politico, Dan Diamond, Monday, 14 September 2020: “House Democrats are launching an investigation into how Trump appointees have pressured officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to change or delay scientific reports on coronavirus, citing POLITICO reporting that found political interference in the publishing process. ‘During the pandemic, experts have relied on these reports to determine how the virus spreads and who is at greatest risk,’ Rep. Jim Clyburn, chair of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, and his Democratic colleagues write in a letter shared first with POLITICO. ‘Yet HHS officials apparently viewed these scientific reports as opportunities for political manipulation.’ The Democrats’ investigation focuses on the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports, the agency’s long-running series of scientific articles that researchers have looked to for the most current and reliable information on the coronavirus. POLITICO reported on Friday that Health and Human Services public affairs chief Michael Caputo and his scientific adviser Paul Alexander have pressured CDC officials to change the reports, in some cases retroactively, to align with President Donald Trump’s more optimistic message about the outbreak.”

Trump Health Aide Michael Caputo Pushes Bizarre Conspiracies and Warns of Armed Revolt, The New York Times, Sharon LaFraniere, Monday, 14 September 2020: “The top communications official at the powerful cabinet department in charge of combating the coronavirus made outlandish and false accusations on Sunday that career government scientists were engaging in ‘sedition’ in their handling of the pandemic and that left-wing hit squads were preparing for armed insurrection after the election. Michael R. Caputo, the assistant secretary of public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, accused the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of harboring a ‘resistance unit’ determined to undermine President Trump, even if that opposition bolsters the Covid-19 death toll. Mr. Caputo, who has faced intense criticism for leading efforts to warp C.D.C. weekly bulletins to fit Mr. Trump’s pandemic narrative, suggested that he personally could be in danger from opponents of the administration. ‘If you carry guns, buy ammunition, ladies and gentlemen, because it’s going to be hard to get,’ he urged his followers. He went further, saying his physical health was in question, and his ‘mental health has definitely failed.'” See also, Top Trump health appointee Michael Caputo warns of armed insurrection after election, The Washington Post, Yasmeen Abutaleb, Lena H. Sun, Josh Dawsey, and Rosalind S. Helderman, Monday, 14 September 2020: “A top communications official for the administration’s coronavirus response urged President Trump’s supporters to prepare for an armed insurrection after a contested election and accused government scientists of ‘sedition’ in a Facebook Live chat that he described in detail to The Washington Post on Monday. Michael Caputo, assistant secretary for public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, which is overseeing the coronavirus response, leveled the accusations and promoted other conspiracy theories in a Facebook Live event first reported by the New York Times. Caputo confirmed the authenticity of the video in comments he made to The Post.”

Whistleblower Complaint Alleges Mass Hysterectomies at ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) Detention Center: ‘Like an Experimental Concentration Camp,’ Law & Crime, Jerry Lambe, Monday, 14 September 2020: “Several legal advocacy groups on Monday filed a whistleblower complaint on behalf of a nurse at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center documenting ‘jarring medical neglect’ within the facility, including a refusal to test detainees for the novel coronavirus and an exorbitant rate of hysterectomies being performed on immigrant women. The nurse, Dawn Wooten, was employed at the Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) in Georgia, which is operated by LaSalle Corrections, a private prison company. The complaint was filed with the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) by advocacy groups Project South, Georgia Detention Watch, Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, and South Georgia Immigrant Support Network. Multiple women came forward to tell Project South about what they perceived to be the inordinate rate at which women in ICDC were subjected to hysterectomies – a surgical operation in which all or part of the uterus is removed. Additionally, many of the immigrant women who underwent the procedure were reportedly ‘confused’ when asked to explain why they had the surgery, with one detainee likening their treatment to prisoners in concentration camps.”

‘I Have Blood On My Hands’: A Whistleblower Says Facebook Ignored Global Political Manipulation, BuzzFeed News, Craig Silverman, Ryan Mac, Pranav Dixit, Monday, 14 September 2020: “Facebook ignored or was slow to act on evidence that fake accounts on its platform have been undermining elections and political affairs around the world, according to an explosive memo sent by a recently fired Facebook employee and obtained by BuzzFeed News. The 6,600-word memo, written by former Facebook data scientist Sophie Zhang, is filled with concrete examples of heads of government and political parties in Azerbaijan and Honduras using fake accounts or misrepresenting themselves to sway public opinion. In countries including India, Ukraine, Spain, Brazil, Bolivia, and Ecuador, she found evidence of coordinated campaigns of varying sizes to boost or hinder political candidates or outcomes, though she did not always conclude who was behind them. ‘In the three years I’ve spent at Facebook, I’ve found multiple blatant attempts by foreign national governments to abuse our platform on vast scales to mislead their own citizenry, and caused international news on multiple occasions,’ wrote Zhang, who declined to talk to BuzzFeed News. Her LinkedIn profile said she ‘worked as the data scientist for the Facebook Site Integrity fake engagement team’ and dealt with ‘bots influencing elections and the like.'”

Wildfires in the West: Wildfires Are Reaching Once Tranquil Places on the West Coast, The New York Times, Monday, 14 September 2020:

Independent Watchdog Report Finds Inequity in the Trump Administration’s Multibillion Dollar Farm Aid Program. It Has Disproportionately Aided Big Farms and Southern States. The New York Times, Alan Rappeport, Monday, 14 September 2020: “The Trump administration’s multibillion dollar farm aid program, managed by Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, has poured a disproportionate amount of money into big farms and southern states, including the secretary’s home state of Georgia, according to a report released Monday by the Government Accountability Office. The findings by the nonpartisan watchdog agency supported some of the criticisms leveled at the White House and President Trump by Democrats and advocacy groups, who have accused the administration of mismanaging the $23 billion program that the president started in 2018 to blunt the effects of his trade war with China on American farmers. The study, which was requested by Senate Democrats, assessed the $14.5 billion in payments that were made last year.”

Trump ad asks people to support the troops, but it uses a picture of Russian jets and Russian models dressed as soldiers, Politico, Daniel Lippman and Bryan Bender, Monday, 14 September 2020: “A digital ad released by a fundraising arm of the Trump campaign on Sept. 11 calling on people to ‘support our troops’ uses a stock photo of Russian-made fighter jets and Russian models dressed as soldiers. The ad, which was made by the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, features silhouettes of three soldiers walking as a fighter jet flies over them. The ad first appeared on Sept. 8 and ran until Sept. 12.”

 

Tuesday, 15 September 2020, Day 1,334:

 

Some Global Coronavirus Updates on Tuesday, 15 September 2020: As Covid-19 Cases Rise, Europe Enters ‘Living-With-the-Virus Phase,’ The New York Times, Tuesday, 15 September 2020:

Many other significant developments are included in this article.

Some significant developments in the coronavirus pandemic for Tuesday, 15 September 2020: Trump health appointee Michael Caputo, assistant secretary for public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), apologizes to HHS staff after accusing scientists of ‘sedition,’ The Washington Post, Marisa Iati, Lateshia Beachum, Brittany Shammas, Miriam Berger, Hannah Denham, Yasmeen Abutaleb, Reis Thebault, Meryl Kornfield, and Josh Dawsey, Tuesday, 15 September 2020: “The health department’s top communications official apologized to staff on Tuesday for incendiary remarks he made earlier this week in which he called for President Trump’s supporters to prepare for an armed insurrection after a contested election and accused government scientists of ‘sedition,’ according to two people familiar with the meeting. Michael Caputo, assistant secretary for public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, which is overseeing the coronavirus response, leveled the accusations and promoted other conspiracy theories in a Facebook Live event on Sunday.

Here are some significant developments:

Many other significant developments are included in this article.

Coronavirus kills far more Hispanic and Black and American Indian children than White youths, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study finds. More than 75 percent of children dying from covid-19 are minorities, a finding that echoes disproportionate death rates among adults. The Washington Post, William Wan, Tuesday, 15 September 2020: “The coronavirus is killing Hispanic, Black and American Indian children at much higher numbers than their White peers, according to federal statistics released Tuesday. The numbers — the most comprehensive U.S. accounting to date of pediatric infections and fatalities — show there have been 391,814 known cases and 121 deaths among people under the age of 21 from February to July. Of those killed by covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, more than 75 percent have been Hispanic, Black and American Indian children, even though they represent 41 percent of the U.S. population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The federal agency collected data from health departments throughout the country. The disproportionate deaths among youths echo pandemic disparities well-documented among adults. Previous studies have found the virus’s death toll is twice as high among people of color under age 65 as for White Americans. People of color also disproportionately make up ‘excess deaths’ — those killed by the virus without being diagnosed or those killed indirectly by the virus’s wide effects on the health-care system.”

Parsing Trump’s baffling, head-slapping comments on mask-wearing, The Washington Post, Philip Bump, Tuesday, 15 September 2020: “It’s not common for President Trump to face a critical questioner. Most of the television interviews he’s given as president have gone to Fox News or Fox Business, including a sprawling, generous one Tuesday morning. On Tuesday night, though, he did face tough questioners. During a town hall hosted by ABC News, a number of Pennsylvania voters posed questions to the president, often focusing on subjects that he is generally not eager to talk about. Julie Bard, for example, pressed Trump on his general indifference to wearing a mask during the coronavirus pandemic. And in doing so, she spurred a truly baffling and egregiously misinformed response — a response that was quite revealing, though not in the way Trump intended. ‘The wearing of masks has proven to lessen the spread of covid,’ Bard said, referring to covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. ‘Why don’t you support a mandate for national mask-wearing? Why don’t you wear a mask more often?’ ‘Well, I do wear them when I have to and when I’m in hospitals and other locations,’ Trump said. He’s made this claim before, but, to date, he’s been photographed wearing a mask only on a couple of occasions. Then things got wild.” See also, Trump’s ABC News town hall: four pinocchios, over and over again, The Washington Post, Glenn Kessler, Tuesday, 15 September 2020: “At the ABC News town hall Tuesday night, President Trump was challenged by ordinary voters in ways that he rarely experiences in the safe spaces of Fox News, where he regularly answers questions. But he still retreated to false or misleading talking points that he offers in his usual venues. Here’s a quick tour through 24 claims made at the Philadelphia town hall, in the order in which he answered questions.”

Woodward says there was ‘denial across the board’ in the White House about the severity of coronavirus, The Washington Post, Felicia Sonmez, Tuesday, 15 September 2020: “Washington Post associate editor Bob Woodward said Tuesday that there was ‘denial across the board’ among White House staffers about the severity of the coronavirus, and blamed President Trump for being a ‘bulldozer’ who rejects opposing views. Woodward, whose new book, ‘Rage,’ is based in part on 18 on-the-record interviews with Trump, made the comments in a Washington Post Live interview. ‘I think there was denial across the board,’ Woodward told The Post’s Philip Rucker when asked whether White House staffers who also knew about the lethality of the virus denied its severity. He added that Trump is ‘a one-man band’ who is ‘going to do what he wants to do on impulse or on information he has. He’s a bulldozer to the staff and, quite frankly, to the country,’ Woodward said. ‘And he just says what he wants, and so there’s no control. And this is one of the problems of the Trump presidency, that he doesn’t build a team. He doesn’t plan.'”

Scientific American backs Biden with first presidential endorsement in its 175-year history, The Hill, Kaelan Deese, Tuesday, 15 September 2020: “Scientific American, the oldest continuously published U.S. magazine, offered its first presidential endorsement on Tuesday, backing Democratic nominee Joe Biden. ‘Scientific American has never endorsed a presidential candidate in its 175-year history. This year we are compelled to do so. We do not do this lightly,’ reads a letter from the editors in the magazine’s October issue. The editorial criticizes President Trump‘s ‘dishonest and inept response to the COVID-19 pandemic,’ highlighting the over 190,000 Americans who have died from the coronavirus. ‘The pandemic would strain any nation and system, but Trump’s rejection of evidence and public health measures have been catastrophic in the U.S. He was warned many times in January and February about the onrushing disease, yet he did not develop a national strategy to provide protective equipment, coronavirus testing or clear health guidelines,’ Scientific American says.”

Trump just repeated his ugliest claim about the election. He again told his supporters that if the election doesn’t deliver the result they want, the outcome is inherently illegitimate. Why isn’t this bigger news? The Washington Post, Greg Sargent, Tuesday, 15 September 2020: “Appearing on ‘Fox & Friends’ on Tuesday morning, President Trump again told his supporters to believe that if the election doesn’t deliver the result they want, the outcome is inherently illegitimate — that there are no democratically legitimate circumstances under which he and his supporters can lose in a fair election. By my count, this is the third time he has stated this explicitly in recent weeks. Trump will generally say both that the election is likely to be rigged and fraudulent — say, due to vote-by-mail — and that he can lose only if that happens. Yet the political press usually responds by fact-checking only the first half of this, by debunking his claims about fraud. But the political media seem to largely tolerate or avert their eyes from the second underlying idea — that the political system cannot deliver a legitimate outcome in which he loses. He and his top advisers almost never face any tough questioning about that second series of claims.”

Election 2020 Updates: Trump Answers Voters’ Questions at Town Hall Event, and the Biden Campaign Releases a Plan Aimed at Aiding Puerto Rico, The New York Times, Tuesday, 15 September 2020:

  • Offered a chance to project a more presidential image, Trump declines.

  • Fact Check: President Trump repeats inaccurate claims about the coronavirus, protests and his own record in a town hall.

  • Trump says he ‘up-played’ the coronavirus pandemic — contradicting his own words.

  • Biden visits Florida and unveils a plan to help Puerto Rico.

  • Trump blames Biden, who does not hold any office, for not instituting a national mask mandate.

  • A Monmouth poll shows Biden retaining strong Latino support in Florida.

  • Kamala Harris travels to California to survey wildfire damage.

  • President Trump promotes a baseless smear against Biden.

  • Sarah McBride is set to be the nation’s highest-ranking transgender official.

Pro-Trump youth group enlists teens in secretive campaign likened to a ‘troll farm,’ prompting rebuke by Facebook and Twitter, The Washington Post, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Tuesday, 15 September 2020: “One tweet claimed coronavirus numbers were intentionally inflated, adding, ‘It’s hard to know what to believe.’ Another warned, ‘Don’t trust Dr. Fauci.’ A Facebook comment argued that mail-in ballots ‘will lead to fraud for this election,’ while an Instagram comment amplified the erroneous claim that 28 million ballots went missing in the past four elections. The messages have been emanating in recent months from the accounts of young people in Arizona seemingly expressing their own views — standing up for President Trump in a battleground state and echoing talking points from his reelection campaign. Far from representing a genuine social media groundswell, however, the posts are the product of a sprawling yet secretive campaign that experts say evades the guardrails put in place by social media companies to limit online disinformation of the sort used by Russia during the 2016 campaign. Teenagers, some of them minors, are being paid to pump out the messages at the direction of Turning Point Action, an affiliate of Turning Point USA, the prominent conservative youth organization based in Phoenix, according to four people with independent knowledge of the effort. Their descriptions were confirmed by detailed notes from relatives of one of the teenagers who recorded conversations with him about the efforts.”

A ‘Crossroads’ for Humanity: Earth’s Biodiversity Is Still Collapsing. Countries have made insufficient progress on international goals designed to halt a catastrophic slide, a new United Nations report found. The New York Times, Catrin Einhorn, Tuesday, 15 September 2020: “The world is failing to address a catastrophic biodiversity collapse that not only threatens to wipe out beloved species and invaluable genetic diversity, but endangers humanity’s food supply, health and security, according to a sweeping United Nations report issued on Tuesday. When governments act to protect and restore nature, the authors found, it works. But despite commitments made 10 years ago, nations have not come close to meeting the scale of the crisis, which continues to worsen because of unsustainable farming, overfishing, burning of fossil fuels and other activities.”

New Climate Maps Show a Transformed United States, ProPublica, Al Shaw, Abrahm Lustgarten, and Jeremy W. Goldsmith, Tuesday, 15 September 2020: “According to new data from the Rhodium Group analyzed by ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine, warming temperatures and changing rainfall will drive agriculture and temperate climates northward, while sea level rise will consume coastlines and dangerous levels of humidity will swamp the Mississippi River valley. Taken with other recent research showing that the most habitable climate in North America will shift northward and the incidence of large fires will increase across the country, this suggests that the climate crisis will profoundly interrupt the way we live and farm in the United States. See how the North American places where humans have lived for thousands of years will shift and what changes are in store for your county.” See also, How Climate Migration Will Reshape the U.S. Millions will be displaced. The New York Times, Abrahm Lustgarten, Tuesday, 15 September 2020.

Justice Department Opens Criminal Inquiry Into John Bolton’s Book, The New York Times, Katie Benner, Tuesday, 15 September 2020: “The Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into whether President Trump’s former national security adviser John R. Bolton unlawfully disclosed classified information in a memoir this summer, an inquiry that the department began after it failed to stop the book’s publication, according to three people familiar with the matter. The department has convened a grand jury, which issued a subpoena for communications records from Simon & Schuster, the publisher of Mr. Bolton’s memoir, ‘The Room Where It Happened.’ The Javelin Agency, which represents Mr. Bolton, also received a subpoena, according to a person familiar with the investigation. The inquiry is a significant escalation of the turmoil over the publication of the book, whose highly unflattering account of Mr. Bolton’s 17 months in the White House prompted Mr. Trump to attack him and call for his prosecution even as the Justice Department sued earlier to try to stop its release.” See also, Justice Department Begins Criminal Investigation Over Bolton Book, The Wall Street Journal, Aruna Viswanatha and Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg, Tuesday, 15 September 2020: “Federal prosecutors issued grand jury subpoenas to former national security adviser John Bolton’s publisher and literary agent on Monday, according to people familiar with the matter, launching a criminal investigation into whether Mr. Bolton mishandled classified information. The subpoenas, to Simon & Schuster and Javelin, requested all communications with Mr. Bolton, said the people, who declined to be named. Both companies were involved in publishing Mr. Bolton’s bestseller, ‘The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir.’ The book, released in June, is highly critical of President Trump and relays stories about Mr. Bolton’s time in government and relationship with the president. The Justice Department’s use of a grand jury in the inquiry hasn’t previously been reported. The agency previously filed a lawsuit against Mr. Bolton over the book’s publication and has asked the court to set aside Mr. Bolton’s profits from the book.”

Judge rules Chad Wolf is likely unlawfully serving as Secretary of Homeland Security and temporarily blocks some asylum restrictions, CNN Politics, Laura Ly and Paul LeBlanc, Tuesday, 15 September 2020: “A federal judge in Maryland has ruled that Chad Wolf is likely unlawfully serving as acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and temporarily barred the Trump administration from enforcing new asylum restrictions on members of two immigration advocacy groups. Judge Paula Xinis, in a 69-page ruling issued Friday, wrote that the two groups are ‘likely to demonstrate (former acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin) McAleenan’s appointment was invalid under the agency’s applicable order of succession, and so he lacked the authority to amend the order of succession to ensure Wolf’s installation as Acting Secretary.’ Subsequently, Wolf didn’t have the authority to impose the asylum rules that are being challenged, Xinis ruled. The new requirements, which court documents say took effect in late August, concern employment, and the case is ongoing.”

Attorney General William Barr, Unbound: How Trump and his attorney general use each other, The Washington Post Magazine, Manuel Roig-Franzia and Tom Hamburger, Tuesday, 15 September 2020: “Barr now stands as one of the most consequential figures in the administration of Donald Trump, insulating the president from detractors, bringing to life Trump’s law-and-order exhortations about public protest, joining him in sowing doubt about the integrity of the upcoming election. Trump has turned out to be the ideal vessel for Barr’s decades-long pursuit of a potent ‘unitary executive’ with few checks on his power and broad authority to swat away congressional demands. Theirs is a political marriage of perfect symmetry: a president who wants to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants — and believes he can; an attorney general dedicated to endowing Oval Office occupants with expansive power. In Barr’s thinking, the president is not the head of the executive branch of government, which is a collection of dozens of agencies and sub-departments. Instead, as Barr sees it, the president and the president alone is the executive branch.”

Michael Caputo apologizes to Health and Human Services staff and signals his desire for a medical leave, Politico, Adam Cancryn, Dan Diamond, and Sarah Owermohle, Tuesday, 15 September 2020: “The health department’s top spokesperson Michael Caputo called an emergency staff meeting on Tuesday to apologize for drawing negative attention to the Trump administration’s health care strategy and signaled that he might be soon departing his role, according to five people with knowledge of the meeting. The departure of Caputo, who has closely controlled the health agencies’ dissemination of information about coronavirus, would be a blow to the Trump administration’s efforts to promote a possible vaccine, if one is approved in the fall. Caputo told staffers that his series of false accusations on Facebook Live this weekend — which included unfounded allegations that the Centers for Disease Control was harboring a ‘resistance unit’ — reflected poorly on HHS’ communications office. He blamed his recent behavior on a combination of physical health issues and the toll of fielding death threats against his family. Caputo also acknowledged that he had never read one of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports, despite his team’s ongoing efforts to try to edit those documents.” See also,  Michael Caputo, top spokesman for Health and Human Services (HHS) apologizes to staff for accusing government scientists of sedition, CNN Politics, Jim Acosta, Kevin Bohn, Kaitlan Collins, and Sara Murray, published on Wednesday, 16 September 2020: “Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Michael Caputo on Tuesday apologized to staffers for a rant in which he accused career government scientists of ‘sedition’ and working to undermine President Donald Trump, multiple sources familiar with the situation told CNN. Caputo — a fierce defender of the President who was appointed to his post as assistant secretary of public affairs for HHS not long after the coronavirus pandemic began — mentioned a series of conspiracy theories in a Sunday live video on his personal Facebook page, including that there is a ‘resistance unit’ against Trump inside the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Caputo claimed that he thinks former Vice President Joe Biden will refuse to concede the election should Trump win, and political violence will ensue. A source familiar with the matter said Caputo portrayed himself as a victim in his apology, but apologized for putting HHS Secretary Alex Azar in a bad light.” See also, Trump Health Official Michael Caputo Apologizes for Facebook Outburst, The New York Times, Sharon LaFraniere, Tuesday, 15 September 2020: Michael R. Caputo, the assistant secretary of health for public affairs, apologized Tuesday morning to the health secretary, Alex M. Azar II, and to his staff members for a bizarre and incendiary Facebook outburst in which he accused federal government scientists working on the pandemic of ‘sedition’ and warned of coming violence from left-wing ‘hit squads.’ He is considering a leave of absence to address physical health problems, according to a person familiar with the situation. Mr. Caputo, 58, a longtime Trump loyalist, told dozens of staff members in a hastily scheduled meeting that he was under stress because of questions about his physical health and threats to his safety and that of his family. He apologized for embarrassing Mr. Azar and the department.”

U.S. Orders Al Jazeera Affiliate to Register as Foreign Agent, The New York Times, Marc Tracy and Lara Jakes, Tuesday, 15 September 2020: “The Justice Department ordered a digital news network based in the United States and owned by Al Jazeera, the media company backed by the royal family of Qatar, to register as a foreign agent, surprising a high-level delegation from Doha just as officials from the two nations met to strengthen diplomatic and economic alliances. Al Jazeera suggested the move was part of a separate deal, signed on Tuesday and brokered by the Trump administration, in which the United Arab Emirates, a Qatari rival, normalized diplomatic relations with Israel. The Emirates ambassador to the United States said that was not true. In a letter dated Monday that was obtained by The New York Times, the Justice Department said that AJ+, a network that primarily produces short videos for social media in English as well as Arabic, French and Spanish, engages in ‘political activities’ on behalf of Qatar’s government and should therefore be subject to the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Qatar, the letter said, provides the network’s funding and appoints its board of directors.”

 

Wednesday, 16 September 2020, Day 1,335:

 

Some Global Coronavirus Updates for Wednesday, 16 September 2020: Trump Again Scorns Science on Masks and Vaccines, The New York Times, Wednesday, 16 September 2020:

Many other significant developments are included in this article.

Some significant developments in the coronavirus pandemic for Wednesday, 16 September 2020: Biden expresses reservations about whether a coronavirus vaccine approved by the Trump administration would be safe, and Trump contradicts Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the timeline for distributing a coronavirus vaccine, The Washington Post, Miriam Berger, Paulina Villegas. Lateshia Beachum, Kim Bellware, Hannah Denham, Darren Sands, Teis Thebault, Colby Itkowitz, Felicia Sonmez, and Sean Sullivan, Wednesday, 16 September 2020: “President Trump contradicted the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the timeline for distributing a coronavirus vaccine, saying Robert Redfield misspoke when he said a vaccine wouldn’t be widely available until summer or fall 2021. In remarks in Wilmington, Del., Joe Biden expressed reservations about whether a coronavirus vaccine approved by the Trump administration would be safe, raising doubts about the president’s ability to put the health of Americans before politics.

Here are a few of the significant developments included in this article:

Michael R. Caputo, the Assistant Secretary of Health for Public Affairs, to Take Medical Leave of Absence After He Attacked Federal Scientists, The New York Times, Noah Weiland and Sharon LaFraniere, Wednesday, 16 September 2020: “Michael R. Caputo, the embattled top spokesman of the Department of Health and Human Services, will take a leave of absence ‘to focus on his health and the well-being of his family,’ the department announced on Wednesday, three days after Mr. Caputo accused federal scientists of ‘sedition.’ A science adviser Mr. Caputo hired to help him, Dr. Paul Alexander, will be leaving the department. The announcement came after Mr. Caputo posted a bizarre and inflammatory Facebook video in which he accused government scientists of working to defeat President Trump and urged his followers to buy ammunition ahead of what he predicted would be an armed insurrection after the election. It also followed disclosures over the weekend that he and Dr. Alexander had tried to water down or delay official reports of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to bolster Mr. Trump’s message that the pandemic is under control. Mr. Caputo, a Trump loyalist installed by the White House in April as the assistant secretary of health for public affairs, apologized on Tuesday to his staff and to Alex M. Azar II, the department’s leader, for his Facebook soliloquy. Among other things, he spoke to his followers of his declining mental health and his fear that he might be killed by an anti-administration zealot.” See also, Top Trump health appointee Michael Caputo is taking a medical leave of absence after insurrection and sedition remarks, Michael Caputo will be gone for 60 days while his top aide, Paul Alexander, will leave Health and Human Services permanently, the agency said. The Washington Post, Yasmeen Abutaleb, Josh Dawsey, and Lena H. Sun, Wednesday, 16 September 2020: “The Department of Health and Human Services’ top communications official is going on medical leave, three days after urging President Trump’s supporters to prepare for an armed insurrection and accusing scientists in his own agency of ‘sedition,’ HHS announced Wednesday. Michael Caputo, assistant secretary for public affairs at HHS, leveled the accusations and promoted other conspiracy theories in a Facebook Live event on Sunday. HHS said in a statement released early afternoon that Caputo would be on leave for the next 60 days to ‘focus on his health and the well-being of his family.’ That means he will be gone until after the Nov. 3 election.”

Ten days: After an early coronavirus warning, Trump was distracted as he downplayed the threat, The Washington Post, Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey, and Yasmeen Abutaleb, Wednesday, 16 September 2020: “In explaining why he repeatedly misled the American public about the early dangers posed by the novel coronavirus, President Trump has argued that he did not want to engender panic — and suggested that his actions showed he took the looming pandemic seriously. But a detailed review of the 10-day period from late January, when Trump was first warned about the scale of the threat, and early February — when he acknowledged to author Bob Woodward the extent of the danger the virus posed — reveals a president who took relatively few serious measures to ready the nation for its arrival. Instead, enabled by top administration officials, Trump largely attempted to pretend the virus did not exist — spending much of his time distracted by impeachment and exacting vengeance on his political enemies. He also carried on as usual with showy political gatherings and crowded White House events.”

Trump Scorns His Own Scientists Over Virus Data. A public scolding of the C.D.C. chief was only the latest but perhaps the starkest instance when the president has rejected not just the policy advice of his public health officials but the facts and information that they provided. The New York Times, Peter Baker, Wednesday, 16 September 2020: “President Trump on Wednesday rejected the professional scientific conclusions of his own government about the prospects for a widely available coronavirus vaccine and the effectiveness of masks in curbing the spread of the virus as the death toll in the United States from the disease neared 200,000. In a remarkable display even for him, Mr. Trump publicly slapped down Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as the president promised that a vaccine could be available in weeks and go ‘immediately’ to the general public while diminishing the usefulness of masks despite evidence to the contrary. The president’s comments put him at odds with the C.D.C., the world’s premier public health agency, over the course of a pandemic that he keeps insisting is ’rounding the corner’ to an end. Mr. Trump lashed out just hours after Dr. Redfield told a Senate committee that a vaccine would not be widely available until the middle of next year and that masks were so vital in fighting the disease caused by the coronavirus, Covid-19, that they may even more important than a vaccine.”

Election 2020 Updates: Biden Says Americans Can’t Trust Trump on Coronavirus Vaccine, The New York Times, Wednesday, 16 September 2020:

  • Biden says Trump is politicizing a vaccine. Trump then rebukes the C.D.C. chief.

  • After Biden plays ‘Despacito’ at an event, Trump shares a doctored video replacing it with an anti-police song.

  • Lindsey Graham and Jaime Harrison are tied in South Carolina’s Senate race, a poll shows.

  • Trump says the biggest flaw of his virus response was ‘public relations.’

  • Fact-checking Trump’s criticism of Obama’s swine flu response.

  • The Trump campaign uses Big Ten football to take a dig at Biden.

  • Poll Update: A strong day for Biden in the battlegrounds.

  • Ohio’s secretary of state challenges a court ruling allowing more ballot drop boxes.

Biden, Seizing on Worries of a Rushed Vaccine, Warns Trump Can’t Be Trusted. Thrusting the issue of a coronavirus vaccine to the center of the campaign, Joe Biden said he trusted vaccines, but not a politicized development process. His comments came as the president publicly rebuked the top federal scientist. The New York Times, Sydney Ember, Wednesday, 16 September 2020: “With deaths from the coronavirus nearing 200,000 in the United States, Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Wednesday assailed President Trump for playing politics with a potential coronavirus vaccine, saying he did not trust Mr. Trump to determine when a vaccine was ready for Americans. ‘Let me be clear: I trust vaccines,’ Mr. Biden said. ‘I trust scientists. But I don’t trust Donald Trump, and at this moment, the American people can’t either.’ Shortly after Mr. Biden’s speech in Wilmington, Del., Mr. Trump seemed to lend credence to the former vice president’s criticism by publicly rebuking the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for saying that widespread vaccination might not be possible until the middle of next year. Speaking during an evening briefing at the White House, the president also kept up an attack line against Mr. Biden, misleadingly accusing him of ‘promoting his anti-vaccine theories.'”

Election 2020: Trump contradicts Robert Redfield, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on when the US public will have access to a vaccine against the novel coronavirus, The Washington Post, Colby Itkowitz, Felicia Sonmez, and John Wagner, Wednesday, 16 September 2020: “Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield predicted Wednesday that most of the American public will not have access to a vaccine against the novel coronavirus until late spring or summer of next year. But hours later President Trump said he was wrong, adding confusion to when a vaccine will be widely available to the public. ‘That’s incorrect information,’ Trump said of Redfield’s assertion earlier in the day before Congress. He added: ‘When he said it, I believe he was confused.’ Meanwhile, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden accused Trump on Wednesday of politicizing the process of developing a coronavirus vaccine. Biden also called for any potential vaccine to be equitably distributed. ‘I trust vaccines. I trust scientists. But I don’t trust Donald Trump, and at this point, the American people can’t, either,’ Biden said in Wilmington, Del., after a meeting with public health experts.

With 48 days until Election Day …

Attorney General William Barr Told Prosecutors to Consider Sedition Charges for Protest Violence. Attorney General William P. Barr was also said to have asked prosecutors to explore whether to bring charges against the mayor of Seattle for allowing a police-free protest zone. The New York Times, Katie Benner, Wednesday, 16 September 2020: “Attorney General William P. Barr told federal prosecutors in a call last week that they should consider charging rioters and others who had committed violent crimes at protests in recent months with sedition, according to two people familiar with the call. The highly unusual suggestion to charge people with insurrection against lawful authority alarmed some on the call, which included U.S. attorneys around the country, said the people, who described Mr. Barr’s comments on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution. The attorney general has also asked prosecutors in the Justice Department’s civil rights division to explore whether they could bring criminal charges against Mayor Jenny Durkan of Seattle for allowing some residents to establish a police-free protest zone near the city’s downtown for weeks this summer, according to two people briefed on those discussions. Late Wednesday, a department spokesman said that Mr. Barr did not direct the civil rights division to explore this idea. The directives are in keeping with Mr. Barr’s approach to prosecute crimes as aggressively as possible in cities where protests have given way to violence. But in suggesting possible prosecution of Ms. Durkan, a Democrat, Mr. Barr also took aim at an elected official whom President Trump has repeatedly attacked.”

Attorney General William Barr says calls for coronavirus lockdown are the ‘greatest intrusion on civil liberties’ other than slavery in US history, CNN Politics, Katelyn Polantz and Christina Carrega, Wednesday, 16 September 2020: “Attorney General William Barr suggested on Wednesday that the calls for a nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus were the ‘greatest intrusion on civil liberties’ in history ‘other than slavery.’ The comments came minutes after he slammed the hundreds of Justice Department prosecutors working beneath him, equating them to preschoolers, in a defense of his own politically tuned decision making in the Trump administration.” See also, Attorney General William Barr creates firestorm with comments that appear to boost Trump’s reelection campaign. He called virus lockdowns the ‘greatest intrusion on civil liberties’ since slavery and likened career Department of Justice prosecutors to preschoolers. Politico, Quint Forgey and Josh Gerstein, published on Thursday, 17 September 2020: “Attorney General William Barr is facing fresh criticism over a series of appearances and provocative public remarks that appear to dovetail with key themes of President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign. Barr has maintained an unusually high public profile as the presidential campaign gets into full swing, sometimes sounding more like a cable news pundit as he blames Democrats for violent civil unrest and offers dire warnings about the potential consequences if Trump loses in November. During an appearance in northern Virginia Wednesday, Barr railed against state-issued coronavirus-related lockdown orders, declaring that they were surpassed only by slavery as a historic intrusion on civil liberties. ‘You know, putting a national lockdown, stay-at-home orders, is like house arrest. It’s — you know, other than slavery, which was a different kind of restraint, this is the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history,’ Barr said during a question-and-answer session following his remarks. At one point, Barr seemingly suggested that the federal response to the pandemic should be guided by politicians and elected officials rather than medical experts and the broader scientific community. ‘The person in the white coat is not the “grand seer” who can come up with a right decision for society. A free people makes its decision through its elected representative,’ he said.”

Federal officials stockpiled munitions and sought ‘heat ray’ device before clearing Lafayette Square, whistleblower says, The Washington Post, Marissa J. Lang, Wednesday, 16 September 2020: “Hours before law enforcement forcibly cleared protesters from Lafayette Square in early June amid protests over the police killing of George Floyd, federal officials began to stockpile ammunition and seek devices that could emit deafening sounds and make anyone within range feel like their skin is on fire, according to an Army National Guard major who was there. D.C. National Guard Maj. Adam D. DeMarco told lawmakers that defense officials were searching for crowd control technology deemed too unpredictable to use in war zones and had authorized the transfer of about 7,000 rounds of ammunition to the D.C. Armory as protests against police use of force and racial injustice roiled Washington. In sworn testimony, shared this week with The Washington Post, DeMarco provided his account as part of an ongoing investigation into law enforcement and military officers’ use of force against D.C. protesters.” See also, Military Confirms It Sought Information on Using ‘Heat Ray’ Against D.C. Protesters, NPR, Dina Temple-Raston, Wednesday, 16 September 2020: “A spokesperson for Joint Forces Headquarters Command in Washington, D.C., confirmed to NPR that hours before federal police officers cleared a crowded park near the White House with smoke and tear gas on June 1, a military police staff officer asked if the D.C. National Guard had a kind of ‘heat ray’ weapon that might be deployed against demonstrators in the nation’s capital. Col. Robert Phillips, a spokesperson for the Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region, or JFHQ-NCR, said the inquiry was made ‘as a matter of due diligence and prudent military planning.’ The command ‘inquired informally about capabilities across the full-spectrum of non-lethal systems, to include the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) and Active Denial System (ADS),’ Phillips told NPR in a written statement. ‘JFHQ-NCR does not possess these systems, did not request such systems, and no further action was taken as a result of the officer’s E-Mail query.’ This statement comes hours after NPR obtained and published written responses to the House Committee on Natural Resources from Maj. Adam DeMarco of the D.C. National Guard, who revealed he had been copied on an email from the provost marshal of Joint Force Headquarters. The email said the top military police officer in D.C. was looking for two things: a Long Range Acoustic Device, a kind of sound cannon known as an LRAD, and a device called the Active Denial System, or ADS.” See also, Whistle-Blower Says Military Police Considered Using Heat Ray on White House Protesters, The New York Times, Catie Edmondson, published on Thursday, 17 September 2020: “Hours before law enforcement officers violently cleared protesters from a square outside the White House in June, a top military police officer sought out weaponry like powerful sound cannons and a device that ’causes targets to feel an unbearable heating sensation,’ an Army National Guard major told lawmakers in written testimony. The major, Adam DeMarco, an Iraq war veteran who serves in the District of Columbia National Guard and was called in to enforce the crackdown on protesters, told House lawmakers last month that he had received an email from a top law enforcement official at the Defense Department asking if the Guard was equipped with sound cannons or a nonlethal heat ray, known as the Active Denial System, or A.D.S. ‘A.D.S. can provide our troops a capability they currently do not have,’ the officer wrote, according to Major DeMarco’s testimonyreported earlier by NPR. ‘The A.D.S. can immediately compel an individual to cease threatening behavior or depart through application of a directed energy beam that provides a sensation of intense heat on the surface of the skin. The effect is overwhelming.’ Major DeMarco also said that federal officials stockpiled ‘approximately 7,000 rounds’ of live ammunition in the hours before the clash, transferring the munitions from as far as Missouri and Tennessee to the nation’s capital.”

Miami Herald editor blames ‘internal failures’ after publishing an anti-Semitic, racist insert, The Washington Post, Jaclyn Peiser, Wednesday, 16 September 2020: “Subscribers to el Nuevo Herald, the Spanish-language sister publication of the Miami Herald, opened their papers on Friday to find a paid insert called ‘LIBRE.’ In a column headlined, ‘American Jews and Israeli Jews’ in the insert, an author claimed that American Jews support ‘thieves and arsonists’ and equated Black Lives Matter protesters with Nazis. ‘What kind of people are these Jews? They’re always talking about the Holocaust, but have they already forgotten Kristallnacht, when Nazi thugs rampaged through Jewish shops all over Germany? So do the BLM and antifa, only the Nazis didn’t steal; they only destroyed,’ author Roberto Luque Escalona wrote. After an onslaught of backlash, the Herald apologized this week and promised to never again run the insert, which the paper’s editors now say had actually included anti-Semitic and racist articles for months. Aminda Marqués González, executive editor and publisher of the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald, and Nancy San Martín, el Nuevo Herald’s managing editor, said that neither had read the insert before publishing it, a fact they called ‘distressing’ in an open letter to readers on Monday.”

 

Thursday, 17 September 2020, Day 1,336:

 

Some Global Coronavirus Updates for Thursday, 17 September 2020: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Contentious Testing Guidance on Covid-19 Was Not Written by Its Scientists. It was written by the Department of Health and Human Services and then ‘dropped’ into the C.D.C.’s public website, flouting the agency’s strict scientific review process. The New York Times, Thursday, 17 September 2020:

Many other significant developments are included in this article.

Some significant developments in the coronavirus pandemic for Thursday, 17 September 2020: World Health Organization calls for ‘consistent messaging’ after Trump and Meadows contradict the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), The Washington Post, Antonia Noori Farzan, Rick Noack, Ruby Mellen, Paulina Firozi, Paulina Villegas, Kim Bellware, Hannah Denham, and Darren Sands, Thursday, 17 September 2020: “President Trump reiterated a claim that a novel coronavirus vaccine will be ready this Fall, and said on Fox Sports Radio that Democrats are ‘petrified’ that it will emerge before Election Day. Trump’s claim went against a prediction by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention head Robert Redfield that vaccines will not be widely available until the middle of next year. Many experts, including scientists leading the vaccine effort, have agreed with Redfield….  ‘It is important that we have consistent messaging from all levels’ by top officials worldwide, World Health Organization emergencies chief Mike Ryan said at a news briefing on Thursday.

Here are a few of the significant developments included in this article:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (C.D.C.’s) Testing Guidance Was Published Against Scientists’ Objections and Was Not Written by Scientists. A controversial guideline saying people without Covid-19 symptoms didn’t need to get tested for the virus came from H.H.S. officials and skipped the C.D.C.’s scientific review process. The New York Times, Apoorva Mandavilli, Thursday, 17 September 2020: “A heavily criticized recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month about who should be tested for the coronavirus was not written by C.D.C. scientists and was posted to the agency’s website despite their serious objections, according to several people familiar with the matter as well as internal documents obtained by The New York Times. The guidance said it was not necessary to test people without symptoms of Covid-19 even if they had been exposed to the virus. It came at a time when public health experts were pushing for more testing rather than less, and administration officials told The Times that the document was a C.D.C. product and had been revised with input from the agency’s director, Dr. Robert Redfield. But officials told The Times this week that the Department of Health and Human Services did the rewriting and then ‘dropped’ it into the C.D.C.’s public website, flouting the agency’s strict scientific review process. ‘That was a doc that came from the top down, from the H.H.S. and the task force,’ said a federal official with knowledge of the matter, referring to the White House task force on the coronavirus. ‘That policy does not reflect what many people at the C.D.C. feel should be the policy.'”

Trump contradicts health advisers on coronavirus vaccine timetable as death toll mounts, The Washington Post, Anne Gearan and Lena H. Sun, Thursday, 17 September 2020: “President Trump’s public rebuke of a top federal health official who did not parrot White House talking points about a fast-track coronavirus vaccine is the latest example of the president’s effort to enforce an upbeat narrative about the pandemic, even if that does not square with the facts. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is the most recent government physician or scientist to run afoul of Trump’s coronavirus message machine. He did so in congressional testimony Wednesday, saying a vaccine greenlighted later this year would probably not be available to most Americans until sometime in 2021 because those most in need would get the first doses. Redfield also rankled Trump by saying face masks are ‘more guaranteed to protect me against covid than when I take a covid vaccine.’ Trump said Redfield ‘made a mistake’ on both counts, although the CDC director’s projection about the timetable for vaccine approval and distribution mirrored those of other top officials, including Operation Warp Speed chief scientist Moncef Slaoui and Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. ‘It’s just incorrect information,’ Trump said, adding that he had called Redfield after his Senate testimony.”

Former Mike Pence aide Olivia Troye says she will vote for Biden because of Trump’s ‘flat-out disregard for human life’ during the pandemic, The Washington Post, Josh Dawsey, Thursday, 17 September 2020: “President Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic showed a ‘flat-out disregard for human life’ because his ‘main concern was the economy and his reelection,’ according to a senior adviser on the White House coronavirus task force who left the White House in August. Olivia Troye, who worked as homeland security, counterterrorism and coronavirus adviser to Vice President Pence for two years, said that the administration’s response cost lives and that she will vote for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden this fall because of her experience in the Trump White House. ‘The president’s rhetoric and his own attacks against people in his administration trying to do the work, as well as the promulgation of false narratives and incorrect information of the virus have made this ongoing response a failure,’ she said in an interview.” See also, Assertions by former Pence aide Olivia Troye that Trump fumbled the pandemic is strongly supported by available evidence, The Washington Post, Philip Bump, Thursday, 17 September 2020. See also, Ex-White House Aide Olivia Troye on Trump’s Narcissistic Mishandling of Covid-19. The first staffer on the coronavirus task force to go public tells The New Yorker that the pandemic response of the U.S. was ‘derailed by the person at the very top.’ The New Yorker, Susan Bl Glasser, published on Friday, 18 September 2020: “When I spoke with Olivia Troye on Thursday afternoon, she sounded more than a little scared. She was about to go public with a scorching video, in which she would denounce President Donald Trump and his stewardship of the country during the coronavirus pandemic. Troye, who served as Vice-President Mike Pence’s adviser for homeland security until late July, has witnessed the Administration’s response to the crisis, as Pence’s top aide on the White House coronavirus task force. She had seen Trump rant in private about Fox News coverage as his public-health advisers desperately tried to get him to focus on a disease that has now killed some two hundred thousand Americans. She had decided that Trump was lying to the American public about the disease, and that ‘words matter, especially when you’re the President of the United States,’ and that it was time to speak out. She was nervous and scared and worried for her family and her career. But she plunged ahead anyway. I asked about her firsthand observation of the President during the crisis. She said that Trump was ‘disruptive.’ That he could not ‘focus.’ That he was consumed by himself and his prospects in November. ‘For him, it was all about the election,’ Troye told me. ‘He just can’t seem to care about anyone else besides himself.'” See also, Mike Pence’s former top aide Olivia Troye says Trump called the coronavirus ‘a good thing’ because he didn’t like shaking hands with ‘disgusting’ supporters, Business Insider, Eliza Relman, Thursday, 17 September 2020: “Olivia Troye, who until recently served as Vice President Mike Pence’s top coronavirus task force adviser, slammed President Donald Trump’s pandemic response in an interview with The Washington Post and in a new video for the group Republicans Voters Against Trump. In the video, Troye describes a COVID-19 task force meeting in which she says the president remarked that the pandemic might be a ‘good thing’ because it prevented him from having to shake hands with ‘disgusting people.’ Troye said the president was referring to his supporters. ‘When we were in a task-force meeting, the president said: Maybe this COVID thing is a good thing — I don’t like shaking hands with people. I don’t have to shake hands with these disgusting people,’ Troye says in the two-minute video. ‘Those disgusting people are the same people he claims to care about. These are the people who are still going to his rallies today, who have complete faith in who he is.'”

Election 2020 Updates: Three Takeaways From Biden’s Town Hall, The New York Times, Thursday, 17 September 2020:

  • Biden held his first prime-time town hall as the Democratic nominee. Here are three takeaways.

  • Striking a unifying tone, Biden says he will be president of both blue and red America.

  • Biden tries to turn back Trump’s law-and-order attacks.

  • Biden says there’s ‘no rationale’ to eliminate fracking.

  • Leaning into his blue-collar roots, Biden says ‘we’re as good as anybody else.’

  • Biden slams Barr’s slavery comment as ‘outrageous’ and ‘sick.’

  • Election results will take longer, but not because of ‘unsolicited ballots,’ despite Trump’s claims.

Many other significant developments are included in this article

Election 2020: Biden takes questions and criticizes Trump in drive-in town hall; Trump holds rally in Wisconsin, The Washington Post, Colby Itkowitz, Annie Linskey, Matt Viser, Michael Scherer, Felicia Sonmez, and John Wagner, Thursday, 17 September 2020: “Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden addressed voters near his native Scranton, Pa., expressing disgust with President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus and his comments about the military. It was the first ever drive-in town hall event, with socially distanced voters asking questions at a minor league baseball field. In what at times seemed to be a test run for the first presidential debate in a week and a half, Biden leaned heavily on his middle-class roots as he touted policies that would help frontline workers, took pride in not having an Ivy League degree, and argued for fracking to continue. The former vice president also threatened to punish Russian President Vladimir Putin if his country does not stop attempting to interfere in the 2020 presidential election…. In a Wisconsin campaign speech that started before Biden’s town hall ended, Trump jumped between timelines and repeated many of his familiar untruths as he spoke for more than an hour and 35 minutes, one of the longest addresses of his reelection campaign. He bemoaned the loss of his friends since he became president, basked in a chant of “Lock her up,” referring to 2016 opponent Hillary Clinton, and made factually inaccurate claims about Biden, his poll numbers, his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and more.

With 47 days until Election Day …

Federal judge temporarily blocks US Postal Service operational changes amid concerns about mail slowdowns and the election, The Washington Post, Elise Viebeck and Jacob Bogage, Thursday, 17 September 2020: “A federal judge in Washington state on Thursday granted a request from 14 states to temporarily block operational changes within the U.S. Postal Service that have been blamed for a slowdown in mail delivery, saying President Trump and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy are ‘involved in a politically motivated attack’ on the agency that could disrupt the 2020 election. Stanley A. Bastian, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington, said policies put in place under DeJoy ‘likely will slow down delivery of ballots’ this fall, creating a ‘substantial possibility that many voters will be disenfranchised and the states may not be able to effectively, timely, accurately determine election outcomes.'” See also, As Courts Back Broad Mail-In Voting, DeJoy Apologizes for Missteps, The New York Times, Nick Corasaniti, Kenneth P. Vogel, Luke Broadwater, and Hailey Fuchs, Thursday, 17 September 2020: “Courts on both sides of the United States issued rulings on Thursday that could expand mail-in voting in the election in November, as the postmaster general privately apologized to state officials for missteps in his agency’s efforts to educate voters on mail-in ballots. In Pennsylvania, the state Supreme Court paved the way for more mail-in ballots to be counted by extending the due date they must be received by election officials and allowing expanded use of drop boxes. In Washington State, a federal judge blocked operational and policy changes made by the Postal Service in recent months that have slowed mail delivery and amounted to ‘voter disenfranchisement.’ Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who instituted those changes, conceded during a video conference with election officials on Thursday afternoon that he had failed to adequately consult with state election officials on a postcard that was sent to addresses nationwide to educate voters about mail-in ballots. The apology came as some state election officials had publicly clashed with the Postal Service over mail voting, including accusing Mr. DeJoy and his team of deliberately providing misinformation about how to vote by mail. Taken together, the developments were a victory for Democrats and others pushing to expand mail voting before an election in which record use of the practice is expected because of the coronavirus pandemic. They also came on a day that began with President Trump repeating his frequent attacks on voting by mail, which he and his allies have been falsely claiming is ripe for fraud. In a post labeled by Twitter as misleading, the president claimed the results of the election might ‘NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED’ because of mail-in ballots. ‘Stop Ballot Madness!’ he said.”

Election results will take longer, but not because of ‘unsolicited ballots,’ despite Trump’s claims, The New York Times, Nick Corasaniti and Davey Alba, Thursday, 17 September 2020: “It has been clear for months that it is unlikely a winner in the presidential election will be declared on election night this year, as many battleground states expect unprecedented surges in mail-in ballots, which take much longer to process, certify and tabulate than traditional in-person voting. But two tweets from President Trump Thursday morning erroneously sought to blame states that are automatically mailing out ballots to registered voters for the likely delays and baselessly stated that the results ‘may NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED,’ an assertion dismissed by elections experts. There is absolutely no evidence that states that automatically send out mail-in ballots to all voters have had issues with accuracy, and some such as Colorado, Washington and Oregon have been conducting their elections mostly by mail for years. Mail-in voting is considered especially secure and accurate because it has a clear paper trail, which makes recounts easier. However, mail-in ballots are likely to be rejected at higher rates than attempts to vote in person. In 24 primary elections this year, more than 500,000 mail-in ballots were rejected, or 2 percent of those returned by voters, according to an analysis by Michael McDonald, a voter turnout expert at the University of Florida. In some states, like Kentucky, the rejection rate was more than 4 percent.”

Pennsylvania Supreme Court strikes Green Party presidential ticket from ballot, clearing the way for mail ballots to be sent out, The Washington Post, Amy Gardner, Thursday, 17 September 2020: “The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Thursday blocked the Green Party presidential ticket from state ballots, allowing state and local election officials to resume preparations for Nov. 3 and begin mailing ballots to voters. The court ruled that presidential contender Howie Hawkins and his running mate, Angela Walker, did not qualify for the ballot because the party did not submit signed filing papers in person, as required by state rules. It was the second such ruling in a week. On Monday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court found deficiencies in the Green Party’s ballot petition in that state, excluding the party from the ballot.”

F.B.I. Director Warns of Russian Interference and White Supremacist Violence. Testimony by Christopher A. Wray contradicted efforts by Trump and other officials to downplay the threats. The New York Times, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Thursday, 17 September 2020: “Christopher A. Wray, the director of the F.B.I., warned a House committee on Thursday that Russia was actively pursuing a disinformation campaign against former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and expressed alarm about violent extremist groups. ‘Racially motivated violent extremism,’ mostly from white supremacists, has made up a majority of domestic terrorism threats, Mr. Wray told the House Homeland Security Committee. He also echoed an intelligence community assessment last month that Russia was conducting a ‘very active’ campaign to spread disinformation and interfere in the presidential election, with Mr. Biden as the primary target.” See also, FBI director Christopher Wray warns of Russian interference in US elections, The Guardian, Joan E. Greve, Thursday, 17 September 2020: “Christopher Wray, the FBI director, on Thursday warned that Russia is interfering in the 2020 US presidential elections with a steady stream of misinformation aimed at undermining Democrat Joe Biden as well as sapping Americans’ confidence in the election process. Moscow is also attempting to undercut what it sees as an anti-Russian US establishment, Wray told the Democratic-led House of Representatives’ homeland security committee in a hearing on Capitol Hill. He said his biggest concern was a ‘steady drumbeat of misinformation’ that he said he feared could undermine confidence in the result of the 2020 election.” See also, FBI director Christopher Wray affirms Russia’s aim to ‘denigrate’ Biden ahead of election, The Washington Post, Devlin Barrett, Thursday, 17 September 2020: “FBI Director Christopher A. Wray told Congress on Thursday that Russia is still working to influence the U.S. presidential election, and hoping to ‘denigrate’ former vice president Joe Biden because it sees the Democratic nominee as part of an American policy establishment antagonistic toward Moscow’s interests. Election-year politics were front and center at the House Homeland Security Committee hearing on threats to the country, as lawmakers pressed Wray to weigh in on a variety of issues where politics, extremism and violence overlap. ‘The intelligence community consensus is that Russia continues to try to influence our elections,’ Wray said.”

Attorney General William Barr Defends His Right to Intrude in Cases as He Sees Fit. The attorney general’s remarks scanned as a rebuke of career Justice Department lawyers who have questioned his level of involvement. The New York Times, Katie Benner, Thursday, 17 September 2020: “Attorney General William P. Barr said on Wednesday that as the nation’s top law enforcement official, he had the right to intervene in investigations and to overrule career lawyers, castigating his own department and attacking what he described as politically motivated inquiries. Speaking at an event hosted by Hillsdale College, Mr. Barr delivered remarks that scanned as a rebuke of career Justice Department lawyers who have questioned his level of involvement — a management style in which he has cast himself as the ultimate authority on almost every issue that the department faces, including antitrust settlements, criminal prosecutions and civil litigation…. Mr. Barr also made controversial comments that touched on race relations and the pandemic, comparing stay-at-home orders issued by state and local authorities during the pandemic to slavery and accusing Black Lives Matter supporters of using Black people as props for a radical political agenda. For months, Mr. Barr has been accused of politicizing the Justice Department, particularly by interfering in legal matters that benefit President Trump or his allies. In February, Mr. Barr overrode a sentencing recommendation for Mr. Trump’s longtime friend and ally Roger J. Stone Jr. with a more lenient one. And in May, he directed the Washington federal prosecutor’s office to withdraw the government’s case against Michael T. Flynn, the president’s first national security adviser, who twice pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I.” See also, Attorney General William Barr Condemns Justice Department Prosecutors. He says prosecutors are headhunting prominent figures, and he insists on authority to overrule career staff. The Wall Street Journal, Sadie Gurman, Thursday, 17 September 2020: “Attorney General William Barr sharply criticized his own Justice Department in a speech Wednesday night, describing career prosecutors as headhunters in search of prominent political targets and asserting his authority to overrule their decisions. He said that many of the department’s federal prosecutors have long ‘sought to amass glory by prosecuting prominent public figures’ and should be reined in by their politically appointed leaders.”

Donald Trump is accused of sexual assault by former model Amy Dorris. She alleges Trump forced his tongue down her throat and groped her at 1997 US Open. The Guardian, Lucy Osborne, Thursday, 17 September 2020: “A former model has come forward to accuse Donald Trump of sexually assaulting her at the US Open tennis tournament more than two decades ago, in an alleged incident that left her feeling ‘sick’ and ‘violated.’ In an exclusive interview with the Guardian, Amy Dorris alleged that Trump accosted her outside the bathroom in his VIP box at the tournament in New York on 5 September 1997. Dorris, who was 24 at the time, accuses Trump of forcing his tongue down her throat, assaulting her all over her body and holding her in a grip she was unable to escape from.”

Trump Calls for ‘Patriotic Education’ to Defend American History From the Left. At the National Archives Museum, the president warned against a ‘radical movement’ that has emerged from ‘decades of left-wing indoctrination in our schools.’ The New York Times, Michael Crowley, Thursday, 17 September 2020: “President Trump escalated his attacks on ‘left-wing demonstrators’ and ‘far-left mobs’ on Thursday, portraying himself as a defender of American heritage against revolutionary fanatics and arguing for a new ‘pro-American’ curriculum in the nation’s schools. Speaking at the National Archives Museum, Mr. Trump vowed to counter what he called an emerging classroom narrative that ‘America is a wicked and racist nation,’ and he said he would create a new ‘1776 Commission’ to help ‘restore patriotic education to our schools.’ The president reiterated his condemnations of demonstrators who tear down monuments to historical American figures, and he even sought to link the Democratic presidential nominee, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., to the removal of a founding father’s statue in Mr. Biden’s home state, Delaware.” See also, Trump alleges ‘left-wing indoctrination’ in schools and says he will create national commission to push more ‘pro-American’ history, The Washington Post, Moriah Balingit and Laura Meckler, Thursday, 17 September 2020: “President Trump pressed his case Thursday that U.S. schools are indoctrinating children with a left-wing agenda hostile to the nation’s Founding Fathers, describing efforts to educate students about racism and slavery as an insult to the country’s lofty founding principles. Trump, speaking before original copies of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence at the National Archives, characterized demonstrations against racial injustice as ‘left-wing rioting and mayhem’ that ‘are the direct result of decades of left-wing indoctrination in our schools. It’s gone on far too long.’ The federal government has no power over the curriculum taught in local schools. Nonetheless, Trump said he would create a national commission to promote a ‘pro-American curriculum that celebrates the truth about our nation’s great history,’ which he said would encourage educators to teach students about the ‘miracle of American history.'”

For Trump, It’s Not the United States, It’s Red and Blue States. A statement by President Trump this week was an insight into how he views the country as composed of parts that either are for him or against him. The New York Times, Peter Baker, Thursday, 17 September 2020: “President Trump argued this week that the death toll from the coronavirus was actually not so bad. All you had to do was not count states that voted for Democrats. ‘If you take the blue states out,’ he said, ‘we’re at a level that I don’t think anybody in the world would be at. We’re really at a very low level.’ The statement was as jarring as it was revealing, indicative of a leader who has long seemed to view himself more as the president of Red America rather than the United States of America. On the pandemic, immigration, crime, street violence and other issues, Mr. Trump regularly divides the country into the parts that support him and the parts that do not, rewarding the former and reproving the latter. While presidents running for re-election typically look at the map of the country through a partisan lens, they ostensibly take off such a filter when it comes to their duties to govern, or at least make the effort to look like they do. But that is an axiom Mr. Trump has rarely observed as he rails against ‘Democrat cities’ and ‘badly run blue states.’ And he has sought to punish them with tax policies and threats to withhold federal funding, while devoting far more time and attention to red states.”

Trump’s businesses charged the Secret Service more than $1.1 million, including for rooms in club shuttered for pandemic, The Washington Post, David A. Fahrenthold and Josh Dawsey, Thursday, 17 September 2020: “President Trump’s luxury properties have charged the U.S. government more than $1.1 million in private transactions since Trump took office — including for room rentals at his Bedminster, N.J., club this spring while it was closed for the coronavirus pandemic, new documents show. The documents, including receipts and invoices from Trump’s businesses, were released by the Secret Service after The Washington Post filed a public-records lawsuit. They added $188,000 in previously unknown charges to The Post’s running total of payments to Trump’s properties related to the presence of Secret Service agents.”

U.S. Unemployment Claims Held Steady at 860,000 Last Week. Weekly jobless claims remain high despite summer hiring.  The Wall Street Journal, Eric Morath, Thursday, 17 September 2020: “The labor market’s recovery is showing fresh signs of losing momentum as persistently elevated applications for unemployment benefits show layoffs remain historically high despite summer hiring.” See also, Six months, and a grim milestone: 26th-straight week of record-level unemployment claims, The Washington Post, Eli Rosenberg, Thursday, 17 September 2020: “Another 860,000 people applied for unemployment insurance claims last week — the 26th-straight week that unemployment claims remained above a pre-pandemic record dating to the 1960s. And 659,000 people had claims processed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, the program for self-employed and gig workers, a drop of about 200,000 after those numbers had risen for weeks. The total number of people claiming unemployment insurance went up by about 100,000, to 29.7 million, as of Aug. 29, the most recent week available for this statistic.”

Princeton Admitted Past Racism. Now It Is Under Investigation. The New York Times, Anemona Hartocollis, Thursday, 17 September 2020: “The Trump administration said this week that it was investigating whether Princeton has violated federal civil rights law, suggesting that a public expression of contrition for a history of ‘systemic racism’ at the university was an acknowledgment of illegal behavior. ‘You admitted Princeton’s educational program is and for decades has been racist,’ federal officials wrote in a letter to the school on Wednesday. The investigation is the latest escalation in the administration’s campaign against the Ivy League for its policies on matters of race. Last month, the Justice Department accused Yale of violating federal civil rights law through its admissions policies, and it has supported legal efforts to end affirmative action at Harvard.”