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Alex Henderson

'See you in court' money: Biden’s campaign has ‘pre-funded’ a massive legal budget

With Republicans engaging in a variety of voter suppression tactics and President Donald Trump refusing to commit to accepting the election results if they favor former Vice President Joe Biden, the Biden campaign is expecting multiple legal battles after election day. And an important part of the campaign's budget, journalists Scott Bixby and Hanna Trudo emphasize in an article published by the Daily Beast on October 20, is its legal budget.

Bixby and Trudo note that Biden's campaign entered "the final full month before the election with a record $432 million in cash on hand" — a figure the Beast attributes to a statement by campaign manager Jen O'Malley Dillon. Biden's campaign, according to the Beast reporters, "could suspend fundraising entirely and drop more than $20 million a day, every day, until the election without bouncing a single check."

Bixby and Trudo explain, "According to top-level donors and an ambitious schedule of upcoming fundraisers, there's no plan to slow down — just in case the trove of 'fuck you' money needs to become 'see you in court' money…. The campaign is still leaning hard on its donor network, explicitly pointing ahead to its potential need to fund legal battles in multiple states following the election."

One of the Beast's sources, described by Bixby and Trudo as a "top-level" Democratic donor, told the online publication that Biden's campaign has "pre-funded" the legal costs it anticipates. The campaign, according to the reporters, is setting aside money for legal fees because of "lingering anxieties that President Donald Trump will make good on his public statements implying that he may refuse to accept election results if he loses, which could trigger court fights in multiple states and appellate courts — the kind of legal battle that could get very expensive very quickly."

"Even if the election is wrapped up more tidily than Trump's warnings indicate," the Beast reporters point out, "legal fights over ballot access have already begun in states around the country. In Michigan alone, a court case seeking to extend the deadline for counting absentee ballots beyond 8 p.m. on Election Day seems destined for the (Michigan) Supreme Court after a state appeals court ruled, on Friday, that the extension — the result of a Democratic suit seeking to curb limits on mail-in voting during the coronavirus pandemic — was unnecessary."

Michael Gwin, a spokesman for Biden's campaign, told the Beast, "The Biden campaign has assembled the biggest voter protection program in history to ensure the election runs smoothly and to combat any attempt by Donald Trump to create fear and confusion with our voting system, or interfere in the democratic process. We're confident that we'll have free and fair elections this November, and that voters will decisively reject Donald Trump's erratic, divisive and failed leadership at the ballot box."

Richard H. Pildes, who teaches constitutional law at New York University Law School, observed that these days, large legal budgets are normal for political campaigns.

Pildes told the Beast, "Campaigns these days do typically set up separate funds for recounts and election contests for possible post-election litigation. The reason is that under federal election law, a campaign can raise contributions to these funds from donors who have already maxed out their contributions to the campaigns."

50+ intel experts say Hunter Biden e-mail story has all the marks of ‘Russian involvement’

Supporters of President Donald Trump are hoping that e-mails found on a laptop allegedly belonging to former Vice President Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden, will be the "October surprise" that derails the older Biden's presidential campaign. The New York Post, owned by Fox News' Rupert Murdoch, published that story after receiving an alleged copy of Hunter Biden's hard drive from former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani — and more than 50 intelligence officials, according to Politico's Natasha Bertrand, have signed a letter saying that the story has the markings of a Kremlin propaganda operation.

Bertrand explains, "While the letter's signatories presented no new evidence, they said their national security experience had made them 'deeply suspicious that the Russian government played a significant role in this case' and cited several elements of the story that suggested the Kremlin's hand at work.'"

Intel experts who signed the letter range from Russ Travers, who served as acting director for the National Counterterrorism Center, to Rick Ledgett, former deputy director of the National Security Agency. Former Central Intelligence Agency directors or acting directors who signed the letter include John O. Brennan, Leon Panetta, Gen. Michael Hayden, John McLaughlin and Michael Morell.

The letter reads, "If we are right, this is Russia trying to influence how Americans vote in this election — and we believe strongly that Americans need to be aware of this."

The intel experts also said, "We want to emphasize that we do not know if the e-mails, provided to the New York Post by President Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, are genuine or not — and that we do not have evidence of Russian involvement… (But) there are a number of factors that make us suspicious of Russian involvement…. Such an operation would be consistent with Russian objectives, as outlined publicly and recently by the intelligence community, to create political chaos in the United States and to deepen political divisions here — but also, to undermine the candidacy of former Vice President Biden and thereby help the candidacy of President Trump."

Trump lashes out at Dr. Fauci with a petty and personal smear

On Monday, President Donald Trump fired off tweets attacking Dr. Anthony Fauci — who has sounded increasingly critical of the president. Fauci has earned widespread trust from the public as one of the top government officials in the response to the coronavirus pandemic, while Trump is seen as an unreliable source of information on the crisis. But Trump decided to attack Fauci — in the last weeks before an election, no less — not simply about policy disagreements but on a petty and personal level.

During an interview for CBS News' "60 Minutes" that aired on Sunday night, Fauci candidly said that he wasn't surprised that Trump was recently infected with COVID-19 and that he wishes the president had been more careful. Trump, Fauci emphasized, could be doing a lot more to promote the use of protective face masks. Fauci has also said, as news outlets have reported, that he's been prevented from appearing before the media on numerous occasions.

Trump apparently wasn't happy with these remarks, tweeting on Monday: "Dr. Tony Fauci says we don't allow him to do television, and yet I saw him last night on @60Minutes, and he seems to get more airtime than anybody since the late, great, Bob Hope. All I ask of Tony is that he make better decisions. He said 'no masks & let China in.' Also, Bad arm!"

Trump has previously claimed that Fauci opposed the restrictions the president placed on travel from China in late January (he also exaggerates the effectiveness and importance of this move, which quite clearly did not stop the virus from coming to the United States.) But Fauci was on the record in support of the restrictions at the time. It's true that Fauci, like most of the public health community, was slow to realize the importance of widespread mask-wearing and even discouraged its use by ordinary people at the start of the pandemic. But that was the unanimous position of the administration's public health agencies, which Trump oversees, so he cannot escape blame for this grave error. And since public officials changed their minds and advocated universal mask-wearing, Trump himself has continued to cast doubt about the measure and demonstrably discouraged his followed from taking this vital precaution.

The "bad arm" part of the tweet was a baseball reference. Although the 79-year-old Fauci is a Brooklyn native, he has lived in Washington, D.C. for half a century — and in July, the city's baseball team, the Washington Nationals, announced that Fauci would be throwing the first pitch of the 2020 Major League Baseball season.

"Tony should stop wearing the Washington Nationals' Mask for two reasons," Trump continued. "Number one, it is not up to the high standards that he should be exposing. Number two, it keeps reminding me that Tony threw out perhaps the worst first pitch in the history of Baseball!"

Not surprisingly, Trump is being mocked on Twitter for his Fauci-related posts.

Travel author Kyle Robert James, @KyleRobertJames, tweeted, "This is a level of petty I hope to one day achieve." And Twitter user Frank Amari, @FrankAmari2, posted, "With each new day, this President gives new meaning to 'National Embarrassment' — to which @JPaulMurdock responded, "Make that International Embarrassment." Another Twitter user, @aosprague, posted, "That super hip reference to Bob Hope will totally draw in the younger voters."

Trump touted a major new factory — but all Wisconsin got was ‘empty promises and empty buildings’: report

President Donald Trump and his supporters were hoping that a deal with the Taiwanese electronics company Foxconn would create 13,000 new manufacturing jobs in Wisconsin, guaranteeing that he would win the state this election year and convince voters that he made good on his promise to bring new jobs to the Rust Belt. But the Foxconn deal, journalist Josh Dzieza emphasizes in an article for The Verge, has been a flop — and the LCD plant that was promised never materialized. Instead of a manufacturing renaissance, all Wisconsin got were "empty promises and empty buildings," according to The Verge.

"Hopes were high among the employees who joined Foxconn's Wisconsin project in the summer of 2018," Dzieza explains. "In June, President Donald Trump had broken ground on an LCD factory he called 'the eighth wonder of the world.' The scale of the promise was indeed enormous: a $10 billion investment from the Taiwanese electronics giant, a 20 million-square-foot manufacturing complex, and, most importantly, 13,000 jobs."

In a press release touting the factor in 2017, the White House employed the hard sell.

"This $10 billion investment will create thousands of new American jobs," it claimed. "The construction of this facility represents a major advancement in regaining America's place in advanced electronics manufacturing."

And the White House didn't hesitate to criticize others who were critical of these grandiose claims.

"While pundits have said for years that electronics manufacturing in the U.S. was a lost cause, the policies and focus of President Trump's administration are producing results that show America can eventually re-emerge as a dominate country in advanced manufacturing," it said. "The new Foxconn plant has the potential to be one of the largest non-energy manufacturing job creators in modern U.S. history, and powerfully illustrates that nothing is beyond America's capabilities."

Trump himself boasted: ""Foxconn joins a growing list of industry leaders who understand that America's capabilities are limitless and that America's workers are unmatched, and that America's most prosperous days are just ahead."

These words now ring quite hollow.

According to Dzieza, the building in Wisconsin that Foxconn "calls an LCD factory" is "about 1/20th the size of the original plan" and "is little more than an empty shell." And in September, Dzieza adds, Foxconn "received a permit to change its intended use from manufacturing to storage."

The Foxconn debacle, Dzieza laments, not only failed to create the 13,000 jobs that were promised, but also, had a high cost in Wisconsin.

"State and local governments spent at least $400 million, largely on land and infrastructure Foxconn will likely never need," Dzieza observes. "Residents were pushed from their homes under threat of eminent domain, and dozens of houses bulldozed to clear property Foxconn doesn't know what to do with."

In 2018, former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker — a Republican Trump ally who was voted out of office in the 2018 midterms — exalted the Foxconn project as "Wisconn Valley" — that is, a Wisconsin equivalent of Silicon Valley. But Walker's talk of "Wisconn" didn't help him in the gubernatorial election: that year, Walker lost to Democrat Tony Evers, now Wisconsin's governor.

Dzieza notes, "Rather than the 1040 people Foxconn intended to hire by the end of 2018, per its contract with the state — or even the 260 needed in order to receive subsidies — an audit found the company had managed to hire only 113."

An engineer who was supposed to work at "Wisconn Valley," interviewed on condition of anonymity, told The Verge, "The most common misunderstanding with Foxconn is people here thought Foxconn had a strategy and a business plan when they were coming into Wisconsin. They did not. They had no plans at all."

US won’t be withdrawing from Afghanistan this year despite Trump's tweets: national security adviser

On October 7, President Donald Trump discussed the presence of U.S. troops in Afghanistan on Twitter and posted, "We should have the small remaining number of our BRAVE Men and Women serving in Afghanistan home by Christmas." But National Security Adviser Robert C. O'Brien, on Friday, said that it is unrealistic to expect the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan that soon.

The 54-year-old O'Brien, according to the Associated Press, said, "I think what the president was doing is, he was expressing the same desire I think every president since the Revolutionary War has said. Whenever we're at war, whether it was the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World War I or World War II, all presidents.... want the troops home by Christmas."

On Friday, AP journalists Deb Riechmann and Lolita C. Baldor report that O'Brien "appeared to take a shot at Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Milley, in recent days, said that the U.S. is executing a plan to reduce the number of troops to 4,500 in November."

The U.S. has had a military presence in Afghanistan for many years. During the 1980s — following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan — President Ronald Reagan was a supporter of the anti-Soviet Mujahideen. And after the al-Qaeda terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the U.S. went to war in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

O'Brien, discussing a possible reduction of U.S. troops in in Afghanistan, said, "We're on a path right now that looks like about 4,500 this fall and a smaller number in January and February, but if the conditions permitted, look, we'd love to get people out earlier…. In the early part of next year, we're going to be down to 2,500 troops."

Riechmann and Baldor note that Trump's October 7 tweet "alarmed Pentagon and State Department officials who fear that putting a definitive date on troop withdrawal could undercut negotiations to finalize ongoing peace negotiations between the Taliban and representatives of Afghan society, including the current Afghan government. They also worry that a hasty withdrawal could force the U.S. to leave behind sensitive military equipment — and they continue to stress that the Taliban have still not met requirements to reduce violence against the Afghans, a key element of the U.S. withdrawal plan."

The AP reporters explain that "exit from Afghanistan after 19 years was laid out in a February agreement Washington reached with the Taliban. That agreement said U.S. troops would be out of Afghanistan in 18 months, provided the Taliban honored a commitment to fight terrorist groups, with most attention seemingly focused on the Islamic State group's affiliate in the country."

Struggling Wisconsin voters are unimpressed with Trump bragging about the economy

In 2016, President Donald Trump became the first Republican presidential candidate to carry Wisconsin since Ronald Reagan in 1984. But four years later, many polls are showing Trump struggling in the midwestern Rust Belt state. Between the coronavirus pandemic, unemployment and the state of Wisconsin's economy — journalist Dominic Rushe emphasizes in an article for The Guardian — Trump is facing an uphill climb in Wisconsin this time.

"Trump beat Clinton in Wisconsin by just 0.77% in 2016," Rushe explains. "The polls currently have Biden ahead by a clear 6.5% in the state, but in a year that feels like no other, anything can happen between now and 3 November. In this volatile environment, progressives have been making gains with voters, reflecting on the fragility of the economy Trump had hoped would re-elect him."

For many years, Wisconsin had a reputation for being a deep blue state. Former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, a Democrat, lost the popular vote by 8% to Republican Vice President George H.W. Bush in 1988's presidential election, but he carried Wisconsin. However, Republicans gained a lot of ground in Wisconsin during the Barack Obama years, and Trump's narrow victory in Wisconsin in 2016 was a very unpleasant surprise for Democrats.

"The Republicans have been remarkably successful in their economic messaging, not least in Wisconsin," Rushe notes. "Since Ronald Reagan, the Republican Party has promulgated the idea that there is a simple formula for economic success: lower taxes, less regulation and smaller government. That message, repeated over and over for 40 years, helped Wisconsin shift from a bastion of progressive politics to a union-bashing laboratory for right-wing economic experiments led by Scott Walker, the former governor, and Paul Ryan, the former House speaker, and backed by the Koch Brothers."

But now, Rush explains, many Wisconsin residents are struggling badly.

"Until February, Trump could have confidently boasted that he had made good on his promises," Rush writes. "Unemployment had fallen to record lows in the state, manufacturing was coming back — albeit at the same, snail-paced crawl that it had under Obama. The headline figures looked good. Then came the coronavirus — a disease that is now ravaging the state and has, in its wake, exposed the fault lines beneath those headline figures."

Dana Bye, campaign director for the group The Hub Project, emphasizes that Wisconsin residents who are hurting economically are unimpressed when Trump brags about the stock market.

Bye told The Guardian, "Nationally and in Wisconsin, people look at the stock market and the jobs figures and think that's the economy. But often, their personal experiences are not reflected in those macro figures…. The pandemic has crystalized the idea that there is one economy for the rich and another for working folk."

‘I really despise him’: Trump is hemorrhaging support among white women in a state he can’t afford to lose

When President Donald Trump narrowly won Pennsylvania's 20 electoral votes in 2016, he did so with help of many white women — about half of whom voted for him in the Keystone State four years ago. But reporter Julia Terruso, in an article published by the Philadelphia Inquirer on October 19, stresses that Trump is struggling with that demographic in Pennsylvania in 2020.

"Only 37% of white women in the state support him, according to a Quinnipiac survey earlier this month — a finding similar to other polls in Pennsylvania and other battleground states," Terruso explains. "If that big shift holds, it could help deliver Pennsylvania — and the White House — to Democratic candidate Joe Biden."

It isn't hard to understand why Pennsylvania could make or break Trump's chances of winning a second term. If former Vice President Biden, on November 3, wins every state that 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton won four years ago but flips Michigan and Wisconsin, Trump can't afford to lose Pennsylvania. In that scenario, Trump's path to victory would have to include Pennsylvania as well as the Sun Belt states in which Biden is competitive — a list that includes Arizona, Florida and Georgia.

Winning every state that Clinton carried and flipping Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania woud get Biden to 270 electoral votes. Trump knows that, which is why he has been campaigning so aggressively in the Keystone State. But according to Terruso, Trump has made things more difficult for himself by alienating so many of Pennsylvania's white women.

"Women (in Pennsylvania) have been getting involved with local Democratic Party politics even in more rural areas since his election, injecting energy into places where the party didn't have much visibility," Terruso observes. "These are still overwhelmingly Republican areas where Trump will almost certainly win, but where women say they can drive down his margins of victory. And that, combined with Trump's political collapse with suburban voters and the more recent erosion of his support among older voters, could prove politically fatal in a state that is seen as likely to decide who wins the White House."

Trump recently held a rally in Johnstown, which is in Central Pennsylvania. Democratic strategist James Carville famously described Central Pennsylvania as "Alabama in the middle" of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and Trump is still popular among white men in that part of the state. But a heavy turnout from pro-Biden African-American women in densely populated Philadelphia — combined with a lot of votes from white women in different parts of Pennsylvania — could be bad news for Trump.

One of the white female voters the Inquirer interviewed was 54-year-old Tina McHugh, who lives in rural Carbon County in Northwestern Pennsylvania. Discussing Trump, McHugh told the Inquirer, "Oh my God, I really have to tell you: I really, really despise him. And I look at him now as a character, not a president."

Another resident of Northwestern Pennsylvania the Inquirer interviewed was 58-year-old Elaine Caruso, who voted for Trump in 2016 but is not supporting him this time.

Caruso told the Inquirer, "I've had to sit back with myself and think: 'OK, you're a bright woman. What made you vote for him? What words did you hear?' He's a really good con, and some people will let him con them. But that's the only base he's got left — because I really think he alienated everybody else."

'Vulnerable to prosecution': Here are possible areas of legal exposure for Trump if he loses the election

The number of allies or former allies of President Donald Trump who have faced criminal prosecutions is staggering: it's a list that ranges from Trump's 2016 campaign manager, Paul Manafort, to his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, to veteran GOP operative Roger Stone to former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. If he loses to former Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday, November 3, Trump himself could become the target of both federal and state prosecutors — and journalist Jon Schwarz examines some of Trump's possible legal exposure in an in-depth piece published by The Intercept on October 18.

Schwarz opens his article by acknowledging that even if Biden wins, it's "hard to imagine" that Trump will "ever be convicted of any crime, much less serve time in prison."

"No former U.S. president has ever seen the inside of a cell — and not because all presidents have faithfully followed the law," Schwarz explains. "Presidents accumulate huge favors owed, favors that they cash in, figuratively and literally, when they become former presidents."

Nonetheless, Schwarz goes on to say that "Trump is more vulnerable to prosecution than other presidents because he's engaged in so many potential nontraditional presidential crimes." And he describes some things that Trump, possibly, could be investigated for if he loses the election — from "tax fraud" to "bank and insurance fraud" to "campaign finance violations" to "bribery" and "negligent homicide."

Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance, Jr., Schwarz notes, has been investigating Trump for what his office has described as "possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization."

"Beyond Trump's taxes, Vance appears to be probing whether Trump provided insurers and banks with false statements about his financial position in order to receive lower premiums and interest rates on loans," Schwarz observes. "In certain circumstances, this would be illegal."

Another possibly area of concern for Trump, according to Schwarz, is "obstruction of justice." Former special counsel Robert Mueller, following the Russia investigation, noted that the U.S. Department of Justice has a policy against indicting a sitting president but stressed that a president "does not have immunity after he leaves office."

Of all the possible prosecutions that Schwarz describes — many of them for tax and financial matters — the most hotly debated in legal circles might be one for "negligent homicide." Schwarz notes that Glenn Kirschner, a former federal prosecutor, has argued that Trump could be prosecuted for negligent homicide because of his mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic. But other legal experts have disagreed with Kirschner, saying that a negligent homicide case against Trump — if it came about in the first place — would be very difficult to prove.

"This would be controversial, to say the least," Schwarz explains. "But Kirschner is a serious person who served in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia for 24 years, eventually becoming chief of the homicide section."

‘A bunch of grifters’: Ronald Reagan’s son slams modern GOP for ‘degrading’ the values it once espoused

Although Ron Reagan, now 62, is the son of the one of the most influential conservatives of the 20th Century — the late President Ronald Reagan — he is an outspoken liberal who is highly critical of President Donald Trump. But Ron Reagan's criticisms of the modern Republican Party go way beyond Trump. And when he was interviewed by CNN's Ana Cabrera on Sunday, October 18, Reagan described the 2020 GOP as a party of "grifters."

Reagan slammed Trump and his Republican allies for using the presidency and the federal government to bring profits to Trump Organization-owned properties at the expense of taxpayers. The liberal pundit and activist, speaking from Seattle, told Cabrera, "We've got a bunch of grifters in the White House. They're treating this as a grift…. They're using the hotels and the golf clubs to profit off the presidency."

Reagan sounded a lot like his sister, Patti Davis — or, for that matter, former Democratic House Speaker Tip O'Neill — when he told Cabrera that although he had policy differences with President Reagan, there was no doubt that he conducted himself with dignity during his eight years in the White House. And Ron Reagan lamented that he cannot say the same thing about the Republicans of 2020.

Reagan told Cabrera, "When I think of my father, I think of words like integrity, decency, dignity, honor and patriotism — not nationalism, but patriotism — all of those qualities are in very short supply in this White House. And, frankly, the Republican Party has been complicit in degrading those values."

Mark Kelly’s lead over Martha McSally widens following testy debate

Arizona Democrats, more and more, are looking at a possibility that would have seemed unimaginable 20 or 30 years ago: hat the once-red state could end up with two Democratic U.S. senators. And if a new Monmouth University poll is any indication, one of them is likely to be former astronaut Mark Kelly.

Monmouth's poll finds incumbent Republican Sen. Martha McSally trailing Kelly by 10% in Arizona's 2020 U.S. Senate race. Released following McSally's recent debate with Kelly, the poll (which was conducted October 9-13) indicates that the debate didn't do McSally any good.

According to Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, "Both campaigns have been trying to paint their opponents in a negative light. Among that all-important group of independent voters, the image of McSally as a rubber stamp for (President Donald) Trump has more resonance than Kelly being portrayed as in lockstep with the left."

The Monmouth poll is not an outlier. A Reuters/Ipsos poll released after the debate found Kelly ahead by 11%.

If Kelly wins on November 3, he will be joining centrist Democratic Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema in the U.S. Senate next year and taking over the seat that was once held by Sen. Barry Goldwater and later, Sen. John McCain — whose widow, Cindy McCain, has endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden over President Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential race.

The possibility of Arizona having two Democratic U.S. senators is shocking to anyone who remembers the Arizona of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Back then, Arizona was a deep red state and was synonymous with the phrases "Goldwater conservative" and "Goldwater Republican." But in recent years, Arizona has evolved into a swing state — and embracing Trumpism, Monmouth's poll indicates, is not helping McSally. Monmouth found that Kelly has a 37-55% advantage over McSally with Arizona voters under 50 and a 40-55% advantage over her with voters who are 65 or older. McSally's strongest support comes from voters in the 50-64 age range — that is, a combination of Baby Boomers and older Gen-Xers.