Just a handful of states could decide who becomes the next president. POLITICO reporters from across the country break down what it will take for Donald Trump and Joe Biden to win over the most critical voters.
There’s little question Biden’s foreign policy would look and feel a lot different than Trump’s. The former vice president speaks often about restoring alliances, promoting human rights and standing up to dictators — themes you don’t often hear from Trump. In his convention speech, Biden vowed to “work in common purpose for a more secure, peaceful, and prosperous world.”
Understandably, Biden tends to say less about the Trump policies he’d keep. His campaign would reveal only that his “focus is going to be on rebuilding America’s standing in the world and undoing the incredible damage Donald Trump has wreaked.”
Still, based on talks with a half-dozen people in and around the Biden campaign, here are some ways in which U.S. foreign policy may not change all that much if Trump loses to Biden in November.
A tougher tone
Trump has taken a bullying tone toward many countries, including some allies he’s accused of freeloading. “Angela, you owe me $1 trillion,” he’s reported to have once said to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, misstating the financial underpinnings of the NATO military alliance.
While Biden is not likely to be so crude, don’t be surprised if he at times takes a more forceful position toward both allies and adversaries than he did when he served as Barack Obama’s vice president.
The obvious top target for this tone is an adversary China, which itself has taken a more bellicose attitude toward the United States in recent months.
Unlike Trump, Biden probably won’t use terms like “China virus,” which have offended many Asians amid the coronavirus pandemic. But he appears to have laid aside his past hopes that increased global engagement would nudge China toward democracy. Biden once said “a rising China is a positive, positive development, not only for China but for America and the world writ large.” More recently, he’s called Chinese leader Xi Jinping a “thug,” accused China’s leaders of committing genocide against Uighur Muslims and pledged to rally countries to hold China accountable for its economic “cheating.”
Biden also is likely to keep up the pressure on allies, including Germany, when it comes to defense spending. Obama’s first Defense secretary, Robert Gates, bluntly warned NATO in a 2011 speech of “the real possibility for a dim, if not dismal future for the trans-Atlantic alliance.” U.S. pressure led to a 2014 deal in which NATO members agreed to strive for the goal of spending 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense by 2024.
Trump’s harsh rhetoric on the topic — he’s privately threatened to pull the U.S. out of NATO — might even give Biden more room to push the issue while still presenting himself as a welcome alternative to Trump. And how much other NATO members spend on defense could be a particularly salient issue if Biden bows to demands from progressives to cut U.S. defense spending.
The removal of Trump as an irritant could expose the fact that certain trans-Atlantic differences of opinion go well beyond the current occupant of the Oval Office. Germany, for one, has been reluctant to sign up for across-the-board confrontation with China, which has become a major trading partner. Many European countries also rely on Russia for energy supplies, so they tread carefully in dealings with Moscow.
Trump’s overt hostility toward multilateral institutions could present Biden with an opportunity to push through reforms to some international bodies. That includes the World Health Organization, which Trump has moved to quit, and the World Trade Organization, which is increasingly dysfunctional thanks to U.S. decisions.
Another example: Trump quit the U.N. Human Rights Council on the grounds that it was too focused on Israel and that its members include notoriously abusive governments. Instead of simply reinstating its support for the council, Biden could engage it while echoing Trump’s criticisms to push for reforms.
Biden also wants to host a summit for the world’s democracies. Such a gathering is an obvious slap at Trump, who has praised many dictators. But it’s also an implicit challenge to bodies like the U.N. Security Council, where autocracies like China and Russia often block U.S. initiatives. The idea recalls a proposal once pushed by late Republican Sen. John McCain, who called for establishing a “league of democracies” during the 2008 presidential campaign.
Trump is known for using sticks more than carrots in his interactions with other countries. Sanctions and tariffs, which don’t necessarily require congressional action, are among the president’s favorite sticks. He has relied on both to unusual degrees to pursue his agenda on everything from trade to the imprisonment of Americans overseas.
Expect Biden to keep many of these penalties in place.
Trump’s tariffs on China would give Biden some leverage over an increasingly hostile Beijing, and he has hinted he might keep at least some during the initial months of his presidency. Although Biden has described Trump’s use of tariffs as “shortsighted,” he’s also asserted: “I will use tariffs when they are needed, but the difference between me and Trump is that I will have a strategy — a plan — to use those tariffs to win, not just to fake toughness.”
The tariffs “could come off, but no administration is likely to remove them without getting something in return,” said Richard Fontaine, CEO of the Center for a New American Security.
Other Trump policies toward China, including technology restrictions and limits on the movements of its diplomats in the United States, also could be here to stay. Given the increasingly widespread and bipartisan desire in Washington to stand up to China’s communist government, Biden could face blowback for moves that could be portrayed as soft on Beijing.
The Trump administration also has imposed economic and visa sanctions against an array of individuals. Biden might decide to remove some of those sanctions, such as the ones targeting officials with the International Criminal Court; but he’s likely to keep many of the so-called Magnitsky sanctions Trump has imposed on individuals overseas for corruption and human rights abuses.
“He may not have agreed with some of the steps put in place by Trump, but now that they are in place, he’s not going to lift them wholesale without thinking through what he might be able to get for lifting them,” one former U.S. ambassador said about Biden.
Immigration is a particularly tricky area. Trump has put in place unusually stringent limits on people seeking to come to the U.S., including severely lowering the number of refugees and outright banning immigrants from some countries. Biden has pledged to reverse these and many other Trump immigration policies.
But if Biden wants to strike a comprehensive immigration reform deal with Republicans, it could help to keep at least some of the changes made under Trump. One obvious possibility: Successful enhancements to security procedures designed to keep out potential terrorists. Another possibility: New rules that make it harder for foreigners to come to America to give birth to children who would then have U.S. citizenship — so-called birth tourism.
At times, it appears Biden is trying to walk a fine line on immigration. He’s said, for instance, that he won’t tear down the existing portion of a wall Trump has built along the southern border, but that he won’t add to it. Instead, he’s pledged to pursue more technologically advanced ways to secure the boundary.
Hard to reverse
A few Trump-era moves would be politically and practically hard to jettison.
Biden already has said he won’t reverse Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and recognize that city as the Israeli capital. Biden has said relocating the embassy again won’t help the dormant peace process between Israelis and Palestinians. He has, however, pledged to reopen the U.S. Consulate that dealt with the Palestinians, which Trump shut down.
Biden also is unlikely to re-recognize Nicolas Maduro as president of Venezuela.
Trump dropped official U.S. recognition of Maduro in January 2019, instead recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president. Going back on all that would be … awkward. Besides, disdain for Maduro — a dictator who has overseen the economic ruin of his country — is widespread in Washington and among U.S. allies in Latin America.
Biden probably will tweak the overall U.S. policy toward Venezuela somewhat, possibly to encourage more dialogue between the opposition and the Maduro regime. Democrats also have criticized how little attention Trump has paid to humanitarian suffering and refugee flows from Venezuela and Central America. A Biden administration will likely try to address the problem.
Trump didn’t feel encumbered by international agreements made by his predecessor; he pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal despite the advice of some of his top aides. Iran, in response, has taken steps to restart its nuclear program, making it harder for Biden to achieve his stated goal of rejoining the deal.
Take the deal
The Trump administration negotiated an update to the North American Free Trade Agreement dubbed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Biden has already said he supports the USMCA. He also will likely hang on to Trump’s “phase one” trade deal with China, though that pact is fragile.
Overall, a President Biden is expected to show much more skepticism toward trade deals than he has before in his decadeslong political career. That skepticism also aligns him, to some degree, with Trump, though for different reasons.
Trump has long been convinced that both allies and adversaries have been ripping off the United States in trade deals. Biden, under pressure from progressives, says he wants to pursue trade deals that don’t exacerbate economic inequality. Trump withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership; Biden has been coy about whether he’d rejoin that massive pact, which he once championed, saying he’d want to renegotiate parts of it.
Biden campaign officials say they want to focus first on the domestic economic recovery, in a nod to the difficult political climate for launching any new trade deals right now. But the Trump administration is currently negotiating trade agreements with Britain and Kenya; if Biden wins and those deals are unfinished, he’ll have to decide whether to pursue them or put them on hiatus.
Why not build on it?
Obama wanted to leave Afghanistan. Trump wants to leave Afghanistan. And Biden also wants to leave Afghanistan. So expect the Biden team to look for ways to maintain peace talks with the Taliban, who, under Trump, have agreed to a deal that is still being implemented.
The details, though, could derail the agreement. Biden, for instance, wants to keep a small number of U.S. troops in the country to battle terrorist groups such as al Qaeda and the Islamic State. The Taliban want all U.S. and NATO troops out.
Events on the ground could also force Biden’s hand. As it makes peace plans with the U.S., the Taliban has continued to battle with forces loyal to the Afghan government, which remains fragmented and divided over how best to end the country’s internal conflict.
Even if the current deal falls apart, a Biden administration will likely try to keep the channels open to strike a new agreement. The Trump-era deal could offer a template to build upon.
In fact, one person close to the Biden campaign said it’s possible that if he wins, he may ask Trump’s envoy to the talks, Zalmay Khalilzad, to stick around for a few months to help the new administration find its footing with the Taliban.
When asked about this possibility during a recent call with reporters, Khalilzad said it was too soon to discuss the idea, but that he was committed to staying at least until November’s election.
Biden also has said he wants to build on a push by the Trump administration to get Arab countries to normalize their relations with Israel.
Earlier this month, representatives of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain joined Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a White House ceremony to sign pledges to establish diplomatic, economic and other ties. It was a historic moment, and one Biden applauded.
“A Biden-Harris administration will build on these steps, challenge other nations to keep pace,” Biden pledged. He added a caveat, though, saying his administration would use the momentum to “leverage these growing ties into progress toward a two-state solution and a more stable, peaceful region.”
Trump’s approach to these agreements has made scant mention of the Palestinians, and put zero emphasis on the idea of a two-state solution. Biden’s desire to make a two-state solution a goal of the normalization push will no doubt complicate things, not least because the Israeli right wing would fight it.
Doug Palmer and Lara Seligman contributed to this report.
Mr Biden said that if he won the presidential election, Mr Trump’s nominee should be withdrawn. He said he would then consult senators from both parties before putting forward his choice.
He added that it would be wrong to release his list of potential Supreme Court nominees now, as this could expose some judges to political attacks.
But he said his first choice for the supreme court “will make history as the first African American woman on the court”.
What has Trump said about Ginsburg’s successor?
Mr Trump has vowed to swear in Ginsburg’s successor “without delay”.
“I think it should be a woman because I actually like women much more than men,” he said at a campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina, on Saturday.
Earlier, Mr Trump praised two female judges who serve on federal courts of appeals as possible choices. Both judges – Amy Coney Barrett and Barbara Lagoa – are conservatives who would tip the balance of the Supreme Court in favour of Republicans.
Democrats have vigorously opposed any nomination before November’s election, arguing that Senate Republicans blocked Democratic President Barack Obama’s choice for the US top court in 2016.
At the time, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell justified the move on grounds that it was an election year. But on Friday Senator McConnell said he intended to act on any nomination Mr Trump made and bring it to a vote in the Senate before election day.
The appointment of judges in the US is a political question which means the president gets to choose who is put forward. The Senate then votes to confirm – or reject – the choice.
Ginsburg, only the second-ever woman to sit on the Supreme Court, died of metastatic pancreatic cancer at her home in Washington DC, surrounded by her family.
Ginsburg, who served for 27 years, was one of only four liberals on the nine-seat bench. Her death means that, should the Republicans get the vote through, the balance of power would shift decisively towards the conservatives.
What does the Supreme Court do?
The highest court in the US is often the final word on highly contentious laws, disputes between states and the federal government, and final appeals to stay executions.
In recent years, the court has expanded gay marriage to all 50 states, allowed for President Trump’s travel ban to be put in place, and delayed a US plan to cut carbon emissions while appeals went forward.
It is also deals with issues like reproductive rights – one of the main reasons some pro-life conservatives want to tip the balance away from liberals.
Who are seen as top contenders?
Barbara Lagoa: A Cuban American of the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, she was the first Hispanic judge on the Florida Supreme Court. She is a former federal prosecutor
Amy Coney Barrett: Member of the Chicago-based 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, she is a favourite of religious conservatives and known for her anti-abortion views. She was a legal scholar at Notre Dame Law School in Indiana
Kate Comerford Todd: Deputy White House Counsel, has a lot of support inside the White House. Served as former senior VP and Chief Counsel, US Chamber Litigation Center
Joe Biden, with his defense of the Northern Ireland peace accord, has issued a warning to Britain over Brexit and support for an EU bruised by Donald Trump while making it clear he would preside over the Atlantic alliance.
Making it clear he would preside over the Atlantic alliance.
“We can’t allow the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland to become a casualty of Brexit,” the Democratic presidential nominee tweeted.
“Any trade deal between the US and UK must be contingent upon respect for the Agreement and preventing the return of a hard border. Period,” Biden said.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has angered the European Union with a proposed law that would breach provisions of the agreement made with the EU in January for Britain’s exit from the 27-nation bloc.
The Britain-EU agreement pledges to maintain an open border between Ireland and Northern Ireland and there are fears any reversal could endanger the 1998 peace accord known as the Good Friday Agreement.
Besides Biden, the proposed British law has sparked concern among Democratic lawmakers in Washington and put congressional approval of a US-UK trade deal in doubt.
Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives, did not mince words.
“If the UK violates its international agreements and Brexit undermines the Good Friday accord, there will be absolutely no chance of a US-UK trade agreement passing the Congress,” Pelosi said in a statement.
Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and two other committee chairmen with large Irish constituencies, wrote a letter to Johnson.
“An Ireland divided by a hard border risks inflaming old tensions that very much still fester today,” they said.
“The United States Congress will not support any free trade agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom if the United Kingdom fails to preserve the gains of the Good Friday Agreement and broader peace process,” they added.
– ‘Absolute’ –
The tweet by Biden, who is of Irish origin and would be just the second Catholic president of the United States if he is elected in November, came as British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was in Washington seeking to reassure Britain’s US ally.
“Our commitment to the Good Friday Agreement and to avoid any extra infrastructure at the border between the north and the south is absolute,” Raab said on Wednesday alongside US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
In London, Johnson’s spokesman said the bill being debated in the British parliament was intended “precisely to make sure that the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement is upheld in all circumstances.”
Pompeo for his part said he “had great confidence that they will get this right in a way that treats everyone fairly.”
Trump, a fervent supporter of Brexit and Johnson and a frequent critic of the EU, has said that he wants to get a US-UK trade deal done quickly.
Nile Gardiner, a fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington, accused Biden of “recycling the anti-British talking points of the European Commission.
“Brexit will not undermine the Good Friday Agreement,” said Gardiner, a former aide to Britain’s ex-prime minister Margaret Thatcher.
“The threats against a US/UK free trade deal from liberals in Washington should be a wakeup call for London,” he said. “The American Left is hugely anti-Brexit, massively pro-EU and even hostile towards Britain.”
Trump has accused Biden of being weak and standing up to Britain provides the Democrat with a chance to show he too can bang on the table — even if it is with a nation with which the US enjoys a “special relationship.”
It also doesn’t hurt that the target in this case is the pro-Trump Johnson.
“Some of us have been arguing that a Biden admin should invest in the UK and EU relationships simultaneously and help both figure out their future relationship beyond trade,” said Thomas Wright, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Johnson, by pursuing his current course on Brexit, will “dramatically weaken the case for this approach,” Wright said.
“It is more likely that the US will invest in the EU relationship and the UK will be on the margins until it abides by its commitments on the Irish border,” he said.
Proponents of natural gas, which burns cleaner than coal, say it offers a bridge fuel to sustain the economy and limit climate change as renewable energy comes online. Exporting liquefied natural gas to Asia could also give the U.S. geopolitical leverage against Russia and Middle Eastern countries.
Yet methane, the largest component of natural gas, is a notoriously potent heat-trapper, which could present a conundrum for Joe Biden and his climate plan. One the one hand, the Democratic presidential candidate has proposed rejoining the Paris Agreement and tightly regulating greenhouse gas emissions. On the other, Mr. Biden supports fracking, and his team of energy advisers includes fossil fuel executives.
The debate over America’s energy future is playing out in Oregon’s southwest corner, home to Jordan Cove, a proposed LNG project that could open up markets in Asia while providing jobs at home. Opponents cite scientific evidence that natural gas is not nearly as clean as it is made out to be.
“We can’t continue to pull fossil fuels out of the ground and put them in the air and expect to have a livable planet,” says Susan Jane Brown, an attorney who has long fought the project. “It’s a nonstarter.”
For more than a decade, Susan Jane Brown has been battling to stop a natural gas pipeline and export terminal from being built in the backcountry of Oregon. As an attorney at the nonprofit Western Environmental Law Center, she has repeatedly argued that the project’s environmental, social, and health costs are too high.
All that was before this month’s deadly wildfires in Oregon shrouded the skies above her home office in Portland. “It puts a fine point on it. These fossil fuel projects are contributing to global climate change,” she says.
Jordan Cove, the $10-billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) project that Ms. Brown is trying to stop, has yet to break ground. But environmental lawsuits and permitting delays aren’t the only barriers. A calamitous crash in natural gas prices and a glut of LNG capacity have cast doubts over its commercial viability and, more broadly, the easy promise of converting abundant U.S. gas into a global commodity and geopolitical tool.
“There’s too much oil. There’s too much gas. There’s not enough demand,” says Clark Williams-Derry at the liberal-leaning Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.
Still, even if projects like Jordan Cove are shelved, several other LNG terminals on the Gulf Coast already have all their permits and are waiting to secure financing. Their expansion over the next five years would make the U.S. the world’s largest LNG producer, creating jobs at home and opening new markets in energy-hungry Asia.
Alex Milan Tracy/Sipa USA/AP/File
Environmental protesters storm the Capitol in Salem, Ore., on November 21, 2019, to demand that the State reject proposals by Canadian energy giant Pembina for the Jordan Cove Energy Project which if approved would see the construction of a liquefied natural gas export terminal at the International Port of Coos Bay fed by an associated 229 mile Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline.
For a future Biden administration, that’s a wrinkle in any serious climate plan. Once built, these LNG plants would potentially lock in decades of heat-trapping emissions that are already hurling the planet toward a hotter, less stable future. “Once you build the infrastructure it’s there, and it gets run on a different economic basis than if it’s not there,” says Mr. Williams-Derry, who tracks the LNG industry.
Proponents say natural gas is cleaner than the coal that it replaces both in the U.S., where it now produces around 40% of electricity, and in countries like India and China. That makes it a “bridge fuel” to a fully renewable energy future that hasn’t yet arrived, says Fred Hutchison, president and CEO of LNG Allies, an industry group. “Gas can continue to be part of a low-carbon energy system globally,” he says.
He predicts that LNG firms would be comfortable with a Biden presidency. “He’s got a great affinity for working people and labor, and labor is very much on board with regards to LNG,” he says.
On the campaign trail, Mr. Biden has gotten heat over his support for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which left-leaning Democrats oppose but which is seen as important for winning Pennsylvania, a battleground state in November’s election. Far less attention has been paid to where the oil and gas goes, and whether support for LNG exports is compatible with Mr. Biden’s clean-energy agenda and plans for tackling climate change.
“It’s not going to save the climate if we’re just exporting our emissions overseas,” says Collin Rees, a campaigner for Oil Change U.S., an environmental nonprofit.
Moderates feeling the heat
If elected, Mr. Biden has vowed to stop new drilling for oil and gas on federal land and in federal waters and to rejoin the 2015 Paris climate accord that President Donald Trump gave notice of quitting. He would reinstate Obama-era regulations of greenhouse gas emissions, including methane, the largest component of natural gas.
The Biden climate platform also states that all federal infrastructure investments and federal permits would need to be assessed for their climate impacts. Analysts say such a test could impede future LNG plants and pipelines, though not those that already have federal approval.
Climate change activists who pushed for that language say much depends on who would have oversight of federal agencies that regulate the industry. Some are wary of Biden’s reliance on advice from Obama-era officials, including former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who is now on the board of Southern Company, a utility, and a former Obama environmental aide, Heather Zichal, who has served on the board of Cheniere Energy, an LNG exporter.
Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks about climate change and wildfires affecting western states, on Monday, Sept. 14, 2020, in Wilmington, Delaware. The Biden climate platform states that all federal infrastructure investments and federal permits would need to be assessed for their climate impacts. Analysts say such a test could impede future LNG plants and pipelines, depending on the implementation.
In a letter sent earlier this month, Mr. Rees and other signatories urged Mr. Biden to ban “all fossil fuel executives, lobbyists, and representatives” from any future administration.
That Obama-era moderates are under fire over their climate bona fides is a measure of rising leftist clout in the Democratic coalition. It also reflects how the climate debate has shifted since Biden was in office, in response to extreme weather events and troubling scientific findings. This includes research into lifecycle emissions from natural gas production and methane leaks and flaring that muddies the argument that it’s a transition fuel to a carbon-free future.
“We’ve gotten more proof on the science that switching to gas is not enough,” says Mr. Rees.
The push for U.S. fuel exports
As vice president, Biden was part of an administration that pushed hard for global climate action while also promoting U.S. oil and gas exports to its allies and trading partners. As fracking boomed, Obama ended a 40-year ban on crude oil exports. In Europe, LNG was touted both as an alternative to coal and as strategic competition with Russian pipelines.
That much, at least, continued with President Trump. Under Energy Secretary Rick Perry, the agency referred to liquified U.S. hydrocarbons as “freedom gas.”
Mr. Trump has also championed the interests of coal, oil, and gas while denigrating the findings of government climate scientists. He rejected the Paris accord as unfair to the U.S. and detrimental to its economy, but has offered no alternative path to emissions cuts.
Still, Trump’s foreign policy has not always served the LNG industry: Tariffs on foreign steel drove up pipeline costs, and a trade war with China stayed the hand of Chinese LNG importers wary of reliance on U.S. suppliers.
Even his regulatory rollbacks could be a double-edged sword. By relaxing curbs last month on methane leaks, the U.S. has ceded ground to European regulators who are drafting emissions standards that LNG producers are watching closely. “That’s a precursor of fights that will be fought in all the rest of the developed world,” says Mr. Hutchison.
Indeed, some oil-and-gas exporters had urged the Trump administration not to abandon the tougher rules, since they undercut their claim to offer a cleaner-burning way of producing heat and electricity. “U.S. LNG is not going to be able to compete in a world that’s focused on methane emissions and intensity,” says Erin Blanton, a senior research scholar at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University.
Stepping on the gas
In July, the Department of Energy issued an export license to Jordan Cove’s developer, Canada’s Pembina Pipeline Corp. In a statement, Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said the project would provide “reliable, affordable, and cleaner-burning natural gas to our allies around the world.”
As a West Coast terminal, Jordan Cove offers a faster route to Asia where its capacity of 7.8 million tons of LNG a year could serve to heat more than 15 million homes. At its peak, its construction would also create 6,000 jobs, the company says, in a stagnant corner of Oregon.
But the project still lacks multiple local and state permits, and its biggest asset – a Pacific port – has become its biggest handicap, says Ms. Blanton. “They are putting infrastructure in a state where there’s no political support for the pipeline or the terminal, unlike in Louisiana or Texas,” she says.
Ms. Brown, the environmental lawyer, says she wants to see Jordan Cove buried, not just mothballed until natural gas prices recover. But she knows that it’s only one among many LNG projects and that others will likely get built, even if Biden is elected in November, despite growing evidence of the harm caused by methane emissions.
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“I don’t see this country turning off the natural gas spigot anytime soon and I don’t see a President Biden doing that either,” she says. But she does expect a decisive shift on climate policy that could eventually force a reckoning for the U.S. energy sector.
“We can’t continue to pull fossil fuels out of the ground and put them in the air and expect to have a livable planet. It’s a nonstarter,” she says.
“Any trade deal between the US and UK must be contingent upon respect for the agreement and preventing the return of a hard border. Period.”
The intervention came after an awkward day of diplomacy in Washington DC for the UK’s foreign secretary Dominic Raab.
A UK-US trade deal was prominent in his diary of engagements in the US capital but so was Brexit, international agreements and law-breaking.
His day started positively enough.
“We trust the UK, I am confident they’ll get it right,” said his host Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, describing the ‘special relationship’ as “stronger than ever”.
They were welcome words, no doubt, amid the diplomatic warmth of a morning audience in the US State Department. An afternoon chill delivered a contrast.
The UK foreign secretary attended a scheduled meeting with Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives, who was already on record as having expressed incredulity at the UK’s actions over Brexit, stating it could rule out a UK-US free trade agreement.
Her views matter. Any UK-US trade deal would need Democratic votes to get through Congress.
Speaker Pelosi repeated her warning to Mr Raab in their face-to-face meeting.
In a statement afterwards, she said: “If the UK violates its international agreements and Brexit undermines the Good Friday accord, there will be absolutely no chance of a US-UK trade agreement passing the Congress.”
‘Any trade deal between the US and UK must be contingent upon respect’ for the Good Friday Agreement, Democratic presidential candidate says.
U.S. presidential candidate Joe Biden weighed in on an ongoing row about the U.K.’s exit from the European Union Thursday night, tweeting “we can’t allow the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland to become a casualty of Brexit.”
Biden retweeted a letter to U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson from members of the U.S. House of Representatives foreign affairs committee, which warned that Congress would not pass a U.S.-U.K. trade deal if Britain fails to uphold commitments to Northern Ireland.
The response came after the U.K. government said its proposed Internal Market Bill would break international law by giving ministers the power to change elements of the Withdrawal Agreement London struck with Brussels last year.
“Any trade deal between the U.S. and U.K. must be contingent upon respect for the [Good Friday] Agreement and preventing the return of a hard border. Period,” Biden tweeted.
The tweets came mid-way through a visit to Washington by U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who had hoped to reassure the Trump administration and senior Democrats about Britain’s approach to Brexit.
On Wednesday, Raab met with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. He also met top Democrat Nancy Pelosi, who last week warned there was “absolutely no chance” of a U.K.-U.S. trade deal if the move causes Brexit to undermine the Good Friday Agreement.
“In our meeting today with the foreign secretary, Chairman [of the House of Representatives ways and means committee] Richie Neal and I welcomed [Raab’s] assurances but reiterated the same message that we delivered to the leaders of the U.K. in London last year: if the U.K. violates its international agreements and Brexit undermines the Good Friday accord, there will be absolutely no chance of a U.S.-U.K. trade agreement passing the Congress,” Pelosi said in a statement.
Pompeo struck a more positive tone in a press conference following his discussion with Raab, telling reporters that “we trust the United Kingdom.”
“We’ve made clear our view of the importance of the Good Friday Agreement, we know the complexity of the situation and we’ve done what we can to provide assistance where we can,” the U.S. diplomat said.
“In the end this will be a set of decisions with respect to this that the United Kingdom makes and I have great confidence that they will get this right,” he added.
He insisted he had “positive conversations not just with [Pompeo] and the administration but also with congressmen and women from both sides of the political aisle” on the U.K. bill and its implications for the Good Friday Agreement.
We can’t allow the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland to become a casualty of Brexit.
Any trade deal between the U.S. and U.K. must be contingent upon respect for the Agreement and preventing the return of a hard border. Period. https://t.co/Ecu9jPrcHL
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 the American people.
“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.”
Mr. Trump quickly retorted with his own preferred line of attack during an evening briefing from the White House, misleadingly accusing Mr. Biden of “promoting his anti-vaccine theories.”
In a speech from Wilmington, Del., Mr. Biden thrust the issue of a coronavirus vaccine to center stage in the presidential race, expressing grave concern over the political pressure he said Mr. Trump was exerting over the government’s approval process and accusing him of trying to rush out a vaccine for electoral gain.
“Scientific breakthroughs don’t care about calendars any more than the virus does,” he said. “They certainly don’t adhere to election cycles. And their timing and their approval and their distribution should never, ever be distorted by political considerations. It should be determined by science and safety alone.”
Mr. Biden delivered his remarks after receiving a briefing on the coronavirus vaccine from top national health experts, including Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, a former surgeon general.
As Mr. Trump, eager for a political victory, continues to suggest that a vaccine could be ready before Election Day, that prospect could become a significant campaign issue in the final stretch — if it hasn’t already.
Senator Kamala Harris of California, Mr. Biden’s running mate, said this month that if Mr. Trump assured the nation that a vaccine was safe, she would “not take his word for it.”
Mr. Biden said Wednesday that he would personally take a vaccine if scientists said it was safe, even if it were approved under Mr. Trump’s watch. “Absolutely, do it, yes,” he said, answering a question from a reporter.
In recent days, Mr. Trump has continued to make hopeful remarks about a vaccine. During a town hall-style event broadcast by ABC News on Tuesday night, he said “we’re very close to having the vaccine” and hinted that one could be ready in “three weeks, four weeks.”
And during his briefing on Wednesday, Mr. Trump said a vaccine would be announced “this month, next month,” then boasted that a vaccine would be ready “in a level of time that nobody thought was possible because of what we did with our F.D.A. in terms of streamlining it.”
Mr. Trump’s timeline has confounded many health experts, however, including Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who estimated during a Senate hearing on Wednesday that a vaccine could be available for limited use by the end of the year, and for wider distribution by the middle of next year. (Mr. Trump, in his briefing, said that Mr. Redfield “made a mistake when he said that.”)
In response to a question from a reporter, Mr. Biden also said he believed he would have the legal authority as president to enforce a national mask mandate, which he has called for previously.
“Our legal team thinks I can do that based upon the degree to which there’s a crisis in those states, and how bad things are for the country and if we don’t do it, what happens,” he said, adding that if it were determined that he had the legal authority to sign an executive order mandating masks, he would.
A somewhat awkward moment on the campaign trail Tuesday — when Joseph R. Biden Jr. played a few bars of “Despacito” from his phone after being introduced by its singer, Luis Fonsi — took a turn early Wednesday morning when President Trump shared a manipulated video of the moment with N.W.A.’s anti-police anthem “____ tha Police” dubbed in.
The doctored video, which Mr. Trump shared twice, was in line with his frequent attempts to suggest that Mr. Biden opposes law enforcement, including his false claim that Mr. Biden wants to defund the police — a position the former vice president has repeatedly emphasized that he opposes.
As a senator, in fact, Mr. Biden was the architect of much of the hard-line criminal justice legislation of the 1980s and 1990s, a fact that some progressive groups have criticized.
“What is this all about,” Mr. Trump wrote in a message that accompanied the video. Twitter later added a “Manipulated media” warning to it.
Mr. Trump later doubled down on the messaging at a news conference at the White House.
“Biden described the police as the enemy,” Mr. Trump said. “They are not the enemy. They are our friend.”
But while Mr. Biden did use the word “enemy” in comments about the police in July, he was referring to how some communities view officers who are armed with military-grade equipment. “The last thing you need is an up-armored Humvee coming into a neighborhood; it’s like the military invading,” Mr. Biden said. “They don’t know anybody; they become the enemy, they’re supposed to be protecting these people.”
The tweet came on a day of other misleading statements from Mr. Trump’s campaign and his allies.
The president, who almost never wears a mask in public despite recommendations from federal health officials, has previously questioned their usefulness and often disparaged them.
The doctored video was created by the pro-Trump meme-makers behind the account “The United Spot.” They describe their content as “100% parody/satire,” but their YouTube page offers a wide range of disinformation narratives targeting Democratic politicians, the United States Postal Service and Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, while also amplifying toxic conspiracies like Pizzagate.
The United Spot has built up a social media following across Twitter, Facebook and YouTube and is listed as a content creator on MemeWorld, a loose right-wing media collective with a direct line to the White House. The president has retweeted manipulated content in the past from MemeWorld contributors, including the site’s owner Logan Cook, who goes by the name Carpe Donktum online. Mr. Cook’s Twitter account was suspended in June for repeated copyright violations.
The event’s participants included the actor Eva Longoria and the singer Ricky Martin, as well as Mr. Fonsi, who urged people to vote.
Another manipulated video that Mr. Trump shared on Wednesday paired footage of Mr. Biden’s speech on climate change and the wildfires with animation that appeared to blame the loose collective of anti-fascist activists known as antifa for starting the fires. There is no evidence linking antifa to the fires.
Mr. Trump’s amplification of the doctored videos followed another retweet that appeared to mark a new low in the campaign. On Tuesday, the president shared a GIF of Mr. Biden touching a woman’s shoulder at an event with the hashtag #PedoBiden, promoting a baseless smear against Mr. Biden and embracing a fringe theory promoted by QAnon, the far-right conspiracy movement.
Jaime Harrison, the Democratic nominee trying to unseat Senator Lindsey Graham in South Carolina, is closing the gap, according to a poll released on Wednesday by Quinnipiac University.
Surveying likely voters in South Carolina, the poll showed that Mr. Harrison and Mr. Graham were tied with 48 percent of the vote each. In the poll, 93 percent of respondents said their minds were made up, while 6 percent said they might change their minds.
Mr. Graham, who is seeking his fourth term in the Senate, has been a vocal supporter of President Trump.
Mr. Harrison was optimistic on Wednesday, writing on Twitter, “You don’t have to believe in miracles to believe we can win this race.”
You don’t have to believe in miracles to believe we can win this race. Once again, we are ALL TIED UP IN SOUTH CAROLINA.
Quinnipiac also surveyed voters in key Senate races in Maine and Kentucky. The margin of error for the three polls, conducted Sept. 10-14, was roughly plus or minus three percentage points.
In Maine, the Democratic challenger, Sara Gideon, is ahead, with 54 percent of likely voters saying she was their choice, while Senator Susan Collins, a Republican, received 42 percent support. Ms. Collins is seen as one of the most vulnerable Republican incumbents.
The path for Republicans to retain control of the Senate is looking increasingly shaky, with Republican incumbents imperiled by President Trump’s declining standing with voters.
Republicans currently hold 53 seats. If Joseph R. Biden Jr. defeats Mr. Trump, Democrats would need a net gain of three Senate seats to win the chamber, since the vice president breaks a 50-50 tie. They will need a net gain of four seats if Mr. Trump wins a second term.
“Senate control hangs in the balance as the G.O.P. confronts a likely nail-biter in South Carolina and a possible knockout in Maine, offset by a presumably solid lead in Kentucky,” Tim Malloy, a Quinnipiac University polling analyst, said in a statement.
In Kentucky, Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader who is seeking a seventh term, holds a strong lead over his Democratic challenger, Amy McGrath, the poll found. He was chosen by 50 percent of likely voters surveyed, while Ms. McGrath received 41 percent.
It ended in Delaware, where Senator Chris Coons, a Democrat, easily fended off a progressive challenger, Jessica Scarane. If there was a universal lesson from this year’s intraparty battles — especially for Democrats — it is that for all the restive energy on the party’s left, it is the party’s moderates who in most districts continue to cobble together winning coalitions.
Progressives at first punted on all of the Senate contests and jumped in to help Charles Booker in Kentucky only after he gained traction following the police shooting death of Breonna Taylor in Louisville. Mr. Booker lost after being hugely outspent by Amy McGrath, a former Marine fighter pilot who faces long odds against Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader.
Of the three Democratic House incumbents who lost renomination, two — Representatives Eliot L. Engel of New York and William Lacy Clay Jr. of Missouri — showed the path for the left: Find a progressive candidate of color in a big city. The other Democrat to be retired was Representative Dan Lipinski of Illinois, whose anti-abortion views have long been out of step with his party.
Still, Cori Bush and Jamaal Bowman, the progressive upstarts from St. Louis and the Bronx who ousted Mr. Clay and Mr. Engel, have laid the groundwork for a potentially larger class of 2022 progressive challengers.
But dozens of veteran House Democrats come from safe districts and are ripe for a challenge from their left — Representative Jim Cooper of Tennessee, whose district includes Nashville, had a surprisingly close race against an underfunded progressive challenger. Besides Mr. Clay, there are many veteran Black members of Congress who haven’t faced a tough primary challenge.
What will the next round of primaries bring? It will depend a lot on who is president.
If Mr. Biden wins, the left will be energized and the existential threat of the Trump presidency for Democrats will be gone. The Republican contests are anyone’s guess.
Few Republicans cross President Trump now — he could be more vindictive after winning re-election. Yet if he’s out of office, there is certain to be a party-wide brawl about who inherits his political coalition.
Touting it as a sign that society and the economy can reopen, President Trump’s campaign applauded the announcement that the Big Ten Conference will start playing football next month, then took a dig at former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.
“We know that Joe Biden would not have pushed for this,” Bill Stepien, Mr. Trump’s campaign manager, said in a statement. “He has looked for every reason to keep our country closed for as long as possible, because he believes it would help him politically.”
Football has always been bathed in politics but never quite like this year, in which the future of football during the coronavirus pandemic has become a fever-pitched topic in the presidential campaign.
But the Big Ten Conference, which initially said it would not hold football games this fall, has been a particular focus, as it has several major programs located in critical swing states including Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Mr. Biden’s campaign made a play for the support of football fans, releasing internet videos in four battleground states that blamed Mr. Trump for empty college stadiums. (Big Ten games will not have fans in the stadium this fall, though players’ relatives could be allowed to attend.)
Mr. Biden has also enlisted prominent athletes to attack Mr. Trump’s response to the virus, including Calvin Johnson, the former Detroit Lions wide receiver.
While Mr. Biden has urged caution in reopening, Mr. Trump has made restarting football a top priority, even with coronavirus cases still climbing.
“I called the commissioner, and we started really putting a lot of pressure on, frankly, because there was no reason for it not to come back,” Mr. Trump said at a news conference.
He then urged the Pac-12 Conference, which also said last month that it would not play football this year, to follow suit.
But Big Ten officials said Wednesday that the conference had not accepted any aid from Washington and that political pressure had played no role in their decision.
Some college football programs that have returned to play this season have already reported challenges. Louisiana State University announced this week that many of its players had contracted the virus. Texas Tech has announced 75 positive cases since players returned to campus. Both teams are scheduled to play their next games on Sept. 26.
WASHINGTON — The feud between the U.S. Postal Service and officials who administer and count the vote is heating up as deadlines loom and worries increase over the possibility of operational and political chaos in November.
With record numbers of Americans expected to vote by mail in this extraordinary pandemic-era election, one secretary of state, Jena Griswold of Colorado, has gone so far as to sue the Postal Service over a postcard sent to voters urging voters to “plan ahead” if they are voting by mail. She contends that the mailer contained misinformation that would disenfranchise voters in her state. Ms. Griswold, in her effort to stop the distribution of the postcard in Colorado, obtained a temporary restraining order blocking further delivery of the cards there.
Other states said they are considering similar legal action to stop the mailers, which are being delivered nationwide. Regulations on absentee voting vary from state to state.
This friction is expected to feature prominently in a private telephone conference on Thursday involving Louis DeJoy, the postmaster general, who is a major Trump campaign donor, and dozens of secretaries of state, several of whom said in interviews with The New York Times that they would use the call to voice concerns about the postcard and about operational and policy changes at the Postal Service that had slowed mail delivery.
The acrimony has already hampered efforts to develop coherent messaging and processes for handling mail ballots, people inside the Postal Service and election administration agencies say. They warn that if the working relationship doesn’t improve quickly, it could increase the likelihood of election-time confusion, including the potential disqualification of as many as one million ballots for missed deadlines.
This is around the time when convention bounces start to diminish. It’s still too soon to say whether President Trump’s bounce will fade or endure, but Tuesday was arguably Joe Biden’s best day of state polls since the Republican National Convention. Here’s a closer look at polls of Florida and Wisconsin.
The best news for Biden in a while in Florida. A poll from Monmouth University showed Mr. Biden up four percentage points among likely voters on average, his best result from a nonpartisan, live interview pollster there in several weeks. He held a wide lead in Florida over the summer, but it has gradually slipped — in part because of a somewhat surprising weakness among Latino voters. The Monmouth poll shows no signs of that weakness, with Mr. Biden leading by 26 points among Hispanic voters, comparable to Hillary Clinton’s performance four years ago. If Mr. Biden can match Mrs. Clinton among Hispanic voters, he’ll be in a strong position: Polls consistently show Mr. Biden running ahead of Mrs. Clinton among white voters.
Now, gauging the support of Hispanic voters in Florida is not easy. About a third of the state’s Hispanic voters are Cuban, and they are overwhelmingly concentrated in the Miami area — the toughest area of the state to reach in a survey. As a group, those voters lean Republican. But the other two-thirds are heavily Democratic and live across the state. On top of that, Hispanic voters are harder to reach in general. They’re younger and concentrated in urban areas, and many speak Spanish as a first language, which adds further difficulties — and costs — for pollsters.
All that to say: In Florida a lot will hinge on how pollsters can measure a relatively small group of hard-to-reach voters. So interpret any single result among Latino voters with caution, especially in Florida.
Another poll showing Trump trailing badly in Wisconsin. One place where the polls have offered consistently bad news for the president is Wisconsin, where Mr. Biden has held a steady lead. A CNN/SSRS poll added to the consensus by showing Mr. Biden up by 10 points, one of his largest leads there this cycle. The firm also gave Mr. Biden a three-point lead in North Carolina, another result consistent with a clear national advantage for the former vice president. One note of caution: CNN/SSRS polls have tended to tilt to the left compared with the average of polls so far this cycle, as well as in 2018.
Tomorrow, we expect another poll of Wisconsin from ABC News/Washington Post. If it joins the club of high-quality pollsters showing at least a five- or six-point lead for Mr. Biden, that would yield about as clear of a picture as you’re going to get in a battleground state so far from an election.
A stable day nationwide. There weren’t many national polls, but the handful we did get were largely consistent with their prior results and with a fairly stable race.
Odds and ends Morning Consult had a relatively weak result for Mr. Biden in Minnesota, though there’s plenty of other recent polling there showing Mr. Biden with a wider lead. Florida Atlantic University showed a tied race in Florida, though the firm doesn’t have much of a track record and its methodology is a mixed bag. Virginia Commonwealth University gave Mr. Biden a double-digit lead in Virginia.
Senate Democrats made a last-ditch attempt on Wednesday to quash a forthcoming Republican report on Hunter Biden’s work for a Ukrainian energy firm, warning that the document could amplify Russian disinformation in an attempt to politically wound his father, Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic presidential nominee.
Introducing a resolution to block the report, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, argued that the Homeland Security Committee’s inquiry into the younger Mr. Biden was aiding a Russian attack on the election by reviving the same unsubstantiated claims about the Bidens that the American authorities have said Moscow was promoting, actions that resulted in new sanctions last week against a Ukrainian with ties to Russia.
The resolution called for senators to “cease any activities that allow Congress to act as a conduit for foreign election interference campaigns that launder and amplify Russian disinformation.”
Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, the committee’s chairman, objected to the measure, and vigorously defended his inquiry, which is slated for completion in the coming days. Mr. Johnson insisted he was not being used by Russian intelligence and accused Democrats of a “smear campaign” to protect Mr. Biden.
“I am well aware of what Russia is doing,” Mr. Johnson said. “I don’t condone it. I condemn it. I don’t have any part in spreading it.”
Mr. Johnson has made no secret of the fact that he wants a report out before the election and hopes that his conclusions will sway voters against Mr. Biden.
He said on Wednesday, even as his investigators were still at work, that he saw an obvious conflict of interest between Mr. Biden’s leading American foreign policy toward Ukraine as vice president at the same time that his son was being paid by a corrupt Ukrainian energy firm, but he offered no new details. Democrats said they had reviewed the record assembled by Republicans and had seen no evidence of wrongdoing.
”Nothing I have seen — not one bit of evidence — could lead to the conclusion Vice President Biden did anything wrong in Ukraine,” Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, said. Democrats were not alone in charging that Mr. Johnson was using the Senate for political ends. Earlier on Wednesday, Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, chastised Mr. Johnson at a committee meeting for undertaking a “political exercise.”
“It’s not the legitimate role of government for Congress or for taxpayer expense to be used in an effort to damage political opponents,” Mr. Romney said.
The Johnson investigation covers some of the same territory as the one Mr. Trump demanded that Ukraine conduct last year, which,when the details of the scheme became public, led to his impeachment in December by the House of Representatives.
House Democrats’ campaign arm on Wednesday announced it would pour $9 million into voter education programs designed to encourage turnout during the pandemic, as the party looks to expand its majority in November.
The initiative, using mail, targeted phone banks and text messages to reach voters, is intended to educate voters — particularly voters of color — about the voting options available to them.
“This election cycle is just so unprecedented in so many ways,” Representative Cheri Bustos, Democrat of Illinois and the chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said. “It’s why we’ve got to meet this moment that we’re in right now. We certainly don’t want to get to the middle of November and say that voter confusion was our Achilles heel.”
Buoyed by a backlash to President Trump among affluent, suburban voters and staggering fund-raising sums brought in by their most vulnerable incumbents, House Democrats are on the offensive this election cycle, targeting districts that once were conservative strongholds.
“With fewer than 50 days until the most consequential election of our lifetimes, ballots have already been mailed in multiple states and Democrats are well-positioned to expand our majority in the House of Representatives,” the campaign arm’s top officials wrote in a memo on Wednesday.
President Trump is so protean, so news-cycle-driven, that any one performance is almost never a reliable indicator of what is to come. But the sprawling, 90-minute ambiguity that was his Tuesday night town hall with uncommitted Pennsylvania voters contained seeds of his homestretch strategy, and ample warnings of the challenges facing him.
Here are three things we learned about how Mr. Trump is approaching the final weeks of the race:
Everything was perfect. Then the pandemic ruined it.
It’s hard for even as unconventional a president as Mr. Trump to escape the are-you-better-off-now-than-you-were-four-years-ago question. The vast majority of Americans think the country is on the wrong track, so he has tried to divert blame to Democrats, going so far Tuesday night as to chide his opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr., who holds no office, for not enacting a mask mandate.
The president also tried a deflector-shield approach: He suggested that he was well on his way to solving the most vexing and intractable problems that have faced Americans for decades — racial strife, income inequality, environmental threats — and then…
“Before the plague, we were doing very well,” he said in response to a question about income inequality. That is not remotely true, according to many economists.
He is publicly workshopping answers on the virus.
Mr. Trump confused “herd mentality” and “herd immunity,” answered a question about his own lax mask-wearing with a story about how a nose-exposed waiter touched his plate, boasted that a vaccine would be ready in weeks (contradicting his own health officials), and baselessly claimed that he had saved more than two million lives by shuttering the nation’s borders.
By simultaneously denying and emphatically confirming that he downplayed the severity of the virus, the developer-president has built himself a box: If he starts wearing a mask he will have to buck the culture-war movement he stoked. If he keeps it off, he risks losing voters, especially women, who believe in science.
He may have to adjust to two-way conversation after years of self-protection.
For Mr. Trump, critics have been confined to the pages of newspapers, basic cable and the fluttering four-letter words he sees on signs through the tinted glass of his limo. The question now is whether the ABC event was a one-off or if he will repeat it — and try to appeal to a broader range voters — as some campaign advisers are urging him to do.
Outside the pillow-fort protection of Fox News and rallies, pent-up people (not all of them diehard Trump haters) have a lot to say to him after years of what has felt to many Americans like a one-sided conversation.
At times, it seemed like he was doing his version of a Biden impersonation, listening patiently as audience members posed sharp questions or, in one case, as a woman broke down in tears. But it did not appear to come easily.
Ellesia Blaque, an assistant professor from Philadelphia who voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election but remains undecided this year, asked Mr. Trump, “Should pre-existing conditions, which Obamacare brought to fruition, be removed without —”
President Trump on Tuesday night falsely claimed that “we were short on ventilators because the cupboards were bare when we took it over.” The Strategic National Stockpile, the government’s repository of medicines and medicinal products, contained more than $7 billion worth of supplies when Mr. Trump took office, including more than 16,000 ventilators.
Speaking at an ABC News town hall event in Philadelphia, he repeated his characterization of restrictions placed on travel from China and Europe as “bans” that saved “thousands of lives.” The restrictions only applied to foreign citizens and included exceptions, ultimately allowing 40,000 people to travel from China to the United States from the end of January to April. Similar restrictions were placed on travel from Europe, after the virus was already widespread in New York City.
The president also misleadingly claimed that “I was so far ahead with my closing,” which he said occurred in January. In fact, states began in March to issue stay-at-home and social-distancing orders, and Mr. Trump resisted those efforts. One model showed that 36,000 fewer people would have died had those measures been in place one week earlier. Even after the federal government recommended social distancing on March 16, Mr. Trump continued to urge reopening.
He wrongly claimed that “crime is up 100 percent, 150 percent” in New York. Over all, crime has actually decreased 2 percent in New York compared with the same period last year, though murders have increased. And he misleadingly said that “the top 10 most unsafe cities are run by Democrats.” There is no evidence that crime is correlated with partisanship. Crime is generally higher in major metropolitan areas than rural areas, and more than three-quarters of major cities have Democratic mayors.
He claimed undue credit for calling in the National Guard to Minneapolis. It was the governor of Minnesota, not him, who activated the state’s National Guard.
The president falsely claimed “we’re not going to hurt pre-existing conditions” while Democrats “will get rid of pre-existing conditions.” His administration has asked the Supreme Court to strike down the health care law that includes protections for patients with pre-existing conditions, and in 2017 unsuccessfully tried to repeal it. Democrats and their nominee, Joseph R. Biden Jr., have consistently aimed to uphold that law.
Finally, he claimed that the coronavirus “goes away” even without a vaccine because “you’ll develop like a herd mentality.” Mr. Trump was most likely referring to “herd immunity,” which occurs when the virus can no longer spread widely. Public health officials have warned that this could require 70 percent of the population to develop antibodies. Without a vaccine, this could mean an enormous death toll.
For years, Republicans had familiar bogeymen they could reliably link to Democratic opponents in advertisements — Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Now the most prominent doomsday figures in G.O.P. ads aimed at riling up the conservative base tend to be high-profile House Democrats from “the Squad,” the quartet of progressive women of color who were first elected in 2018 and are all on track to retain their seats this year.
The Republican David Young, a former Iowa congressman who lost his seat in 2018, takes things a step further in a TV ad he began airing on Wednesday in Des Moines. The ad aims to tie Representative Cindy Axne, the Democrat who ousted him, to, of all people, Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland — who is not a Squad member but is among the more progressive House Democrats.
Mr. Young’s ad says Ms. Axne “skips work and lets this far-left, East Coast congressman vote in her place.” It says Mr. Raskin is “pals with Pelosi, wants to raise taxes and even spoke at a defund the police rally.” It also shows Mr. Raskin in two photos with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and at his swearing-in with Ms. Pelosi.
It is a double bank-shot ad, trying to tether Ms. Axne to Ms. Pelosi and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez through Mr. Raskin, a relatively low-profile figure who lives 1,000 miles from Des Moines. The argument is that because Ms. Axne supported allowing remote voting by proxy during the coronavirus pandemic, she is “outsourcing” Iowa’s representation to someone who doesn’t understand the state’s values, rather than showing up for work.
House Democrats voted back in May to allow remote voting in an attempt to keep members and their staff safe. Ms. Axne has voted by proxy three times via Mr. Raskin, whose home in Takoma Park, Md., is seven miles from the Capitol.
Ms. Axne’s voting record shows no sign that Mr. Raskin has co-opted her vote. Since the pandemic began, they’ve been on opposite sides of 11 votes, most of them amendments offered by progressive members like Ms. Ocasio-Cortez or Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, according to the congressional vote tracker maintained by ProPublica.
Where It’s Running
So far the ad has aired during local news on the three major broadcast networks in Des Moines.
Tying one’s opponent to a disliked figure in their party is a tactic as old as the republic. But it usually helps if voters have a passing familiarity with the person in question. Mr. Raskin is hardly a household name in Washington, let alone to Iowa voters. It might have been more efficient to just tie Ms. Axne to Ms. Pelosi and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez directly.
But that too may not have worked. In 2018 Republican incumbents flooded the airwaves with ads warning electing Democrats would return Ms. Pelosi to power. Democrats picked up 40 seats and made Ms. Pelosi the speaker again.
Speaking from his home base of Wilmington, Delaware, on Wednesday, Biden argued that such a vaccine should only be approved by adhering to rigorous safety standards.
“Scientific breakthroughs don’t care about calendars any more than the virus does. They certainly don’t adhere to election cycles. And their timing, their approval and distribution, should never, ever be distorted by political considerations,” he said.
Earlier, Republican US Representative Brad Wenstrup, a physician and Trump supporter, dismissed those concerns in a call with reporters, saying the US Food and Drug Administration would ensure any new vaccine was safe.
“We believe the FDA is not going to approve something that isn’t safe and effective,” Wenstrup said.
Even if a COVID-19 vaccine is approved in the coming weeks, it likely will not be widely available to the public until the middle of next year, Robert Redfield, director of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, told a congressional panel on Wednesday.
Biden spoke after being briefed on the virus by several public health experts, including Vivek Murthy, the former US surgeon general. His speech was part of a delicate balancing act the former vice president has struck in recent weeks, as Trump has suggested a vaccine could be approved ahead of the election.
Biden, who leads the president in national opinion polls, has questioned whether Trump is pressuring agencies like the FDA to sign off on a vaccine to boost his re-election prospects. At the same time, Biden has been careful to say he wants to see a safe vaccine as soon as possible.
“There has to be total transparency, so scientists outside the government know what is being approved,” Biden said. “I’m saying, trust the scientist.”
Health experts have expressed concern that not enough Americans will volunteer to take an approved coronavirus vaccine, in part because of the speed with which it is being created. Most vaccines are developed over a decade or more.
In a July Reuters/Ipsos poll, just over 60 per cent of Americans said they were interested in taking a vaccine, around the threshold that experts say is likely to be necessary to halt the pandemic’s spread.
Trump’s penchant for spreading misinformation about the coronavirus may hurt his ability to assure Americans of the vaccine’s safety, the poll suggested. Only 15 per cent of respondents said they would be more willing if Trump said the vaccine was safe. More than twice as many said a presidential endorsement would actually make them less interested in taking the vaccine.
Biden has sought for months to portray Trump’s response to the outbreak as a failure that has caused tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths.
His argument was bolstered last week by the release of recorded interviews between Trump and journalist Bob Woodward, in which the president acknowledged deliberately downplaying the deadliness of the virus.
Trump Biden 2020
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