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Igor Derysh

Democrats may 'never win another national election': SCOTUS mail-in voting ruling raises alarm

Adivided Supreme Court rejected a Pennsylvania Republican effort to curtail mail-in voting, but experts say the Democratic victory may be short-lived — and confirming Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett would be a "disaster for Democrats."

With Chief Justice John Roberts joining the court's three liberals, the court split 4-4 to reject a request from Pennsylvania Republicans to block an order from the state's Supreme Court allowing mail-in ballots to be counted if they are received within three days of Election Day — even if they do not have a clear postmark. The tie left the state decision in place, which Democratic lawyers hailed as "great news for voting rights."

The four conservative justices, who would have blocked the state court ruling, did not issue a dissenting opinion to explain their votes.

"The unfathomable thing about the four justices siding [with] PA Republicans tonight: they would've stripped a state supreme court of the authority to say what the law is in their own state," Bard College Professor Steven Mazie wrote on Twitter. "That's way beyond right field. It's judicial activism on steroids."

If the conservatives had prevailed, the decision "would create legal chaos over a wide range of issues," attorney Max Kennerly added.

Some Supreme Court reporters called the split "really scary" and "terrifying." If Barrett is confirmed next week as expected, the court's conservatives could potentially upend the election.

"Tonight four conservative Supreme Court justices indicated their support for a radical, anti-democratic theory that would stop state Supreme Courts from enforcing state election laws to protect the franchise," Slate's Mark Joseph Stern wrote. "And Barrett could soon give them a fifth vote . . . The 2020 election may be in her hands."

Though the court allowed the state order to stand, "that victory may only last a matter of days," Vox's Ian Millhiser reported. "Indeed, the GOP may be able to raise this issue again after Barrett is confirmed, potentially securing a court order requiring states like Pennsylvania to toss out an unknown number of ballots that arrive after Election Day. If the election is close, that could be enough to change the result."

Some legal experts said it was possible, but unlikely, that the court would take the same case up again.

"It's possible that Republicans can renew their application if and when Judge Barrett is confirmed, in the hopes that she'd side with them," Steve Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas, wrote. "That said, that close to the election, it's hard to imagine that all four of tonight's dissenters would want to upset the status quo."

Even if the case does not return to the high court, Barrett could be the deciding vote in numerous other challenges brought by Republicans or President Donald Trump's campaign in Pennsylvania and other states, according to Rick Hasen, a professor at the University of California Irvine School of Law.

In the meantime, the Supreme Court's split decision leaves many questions unanswered only14 days before the election.

"We have no guidance from the court as to when and whether a state Supreme Court can rely on a state Constitution when it expands or changes state voting rules in a presidential election," Hasen wrote. "Even though Democrats opposed the stay sought by Republicans in the case, they begged the court to fully take the case and give an explanation as to the scope of state court power in this case. This lack of guidance could be a huge problem in the two battleground states — North Carolina and Pennsylvania — with Democratic state Supreme Courts and Republican legislatures who could battle over any post-election voting rules."

Trump has repeatedly said he wants Barrett on the court in time for the election, because it "will end up in the Supreme Court." He declared that he was "counting on them to look at the ballots" at the first presidential debate.

And other Republicans have echoed the president's rhetoric. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who opposed Merrick Garland's nomination months ahead of the 2016 election, has argued that it is imperative to confirm Barrett before the election. Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who likewise opposed Garland, also argued that it was necessary to speed through the confirmation, because "the court will decide" litigation about "who won the election."

Barrett, who has not ruled on any election-related cases on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, demurred when asked during her confirmation hearings if she would recuse herself from cases that could determine the outcome of the presidential election despite precedent possibly requiring her to do so.

"I commit to you to fully and faithfully applying the law of recusal, and part of the law is to consider any appearance questions," Barrett told Sen. Pat Leahy, D-Vt. "And I will apply the factors that other justices have before me in determining whether the circumstances require my recusal or not. But I can't offer a legal conclusion right now about the outcome of the decision I would reach."

All of this potentially makes Monday's ruling a disaster "for anyone who cares about democracy," Millhiser wrote.

"If Democrats win this election, and they don't pack the Supreme Court," he added, "they could very well never win a national election again."

Trump 'equates wearing a mask with weakness': Fauci 'absolutely not' surprised president got COVID

Dr. Anthony Fauci said in an interview on Sunday that he was "absolutely not" surprised that President Donald Trump tested positive for the coronavirus after holding a "superspreader event" at the White House.

Fauci, the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, pushed back on the administration's coronavirus spin in an interview with "60 Minutes." He told CBS News medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook that he was "absolutely not" surprised that Trump tested positive after Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett's announcement last month in the Rose Garden, which also featured indoor festivities.

"I was worried that he was going to get sick when I saw him in a completely precarious situation of crowded, no separation between people, and almost nobody wearing a mask," Fauci said. "When I saw that on TV, I said, 'Oh my goodness. Nothing good can come outta that, that's gotta be a problem.' And then sure enough, it turned out to be a superspreader event."


Fauci said Trump's resistance to masks doesn't make sense.

"You know, he sometimes equates wearing a mask with weakness," Fauci said, suggesting the president was trying to make a " statement of strength, like, we're strong, we don't need a mask, that kind of thing."


"Do you have a feeling that there is sometimes an all-out war against science?" LaPook asked.

"Oh yeah. I mean, particularly over the last few years. There's an anti-authority feeling in the world," Fauci replied. "And science has an air of authority to it. So people who want to push back on authority tend to, as a sidebar, push back on science."

Fauci now has to be accompanied by federal agents on his routine walks after receiving threats against him and his family.

"That's sad. The very fact that a public health message to save lives triggers such venom and animosity to me that it results in real and credible threats to my life and my safety," he said. "But it bothers me less than the hassling of my wife and my children."


Fauci also said he was "really ticked off" when the Trump campaign used his comments out of context in an advertisement.

"I do not and nor will I ever, publicly endorse any political candidate," he said. "And here I am, they're sticking me right in the middle of a campaign ad. Which I thought was outrageous."



But even as the campaign uses him to score political points, the White House has blocked many of his media appearances.

"Has the White House been controlling when you can speak with the media?" LaPook asked.

"You know, I think you'd have to be honest and say yes," Fauci said. "I certainly have not been allowed to go on many, many, many shows that have asked for me."

Fauci added that that White House restrictions on his media appearances haven't been "consistent."


While Fauci was highly visible at the White House coronavirus task force briefings early in the pandemic, the administration has shrunk both his role and that of the task force. Fauci said last week that the task force meetings have been reduced from every day to just one day a week even as the US continues to see increases in new cases.

Instead, Trump has been more interested in discrediting the scientific consensus around masks and social distancing. He recently added controversial Dr. Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist with no background in infectious diseases who has pushed a deadly and "unethical" herd immunity strategy, to the task force.

Fauci told CNN last month that Atlas often says things that are "out of context or actually incorrect" and was an "outlier" among the infectious disease experts on the panel.

CDC Director Robert Redfield was reportedly heard saying that "everything" Atlas says "is false."

Atlas posted a Twitter thread misrepresenting the science around masks over the weekend, writing, "Masks work? NO."

Twitter removed the tweet. A spokesperson for the social network said that the tweet violated its policy on content that "could lead to harm," and "statements or assertions that have been confirmed to be false or misleading by subject-matter experts, such as public health authorities."

Michigan Republican fundraised at DeVos family home — while trying to downplay financial ties

Michigan Republican Senate candidate John James attended a fundraiser at the home of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' brother-in-law while trying to downplay the financial help his campaign has received from the family.

James attended a fundraiser at the home of DeVos' brother-in-law, Dan, and his wife, Pamella, last month. Though James was well-distanced from the crowd, none of the attendees appeared to be wearing masks, according to a photo published by former Allegan County Republican Party Chairman Kevin Whiteford to Facebook.


James has extensive ties to the DeVos family, which has poured money into his race against Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich. His campaign recently hired Betsy DeVos' niece, and his wife has worked at the DeVos family's Amway empire for years. Members of the DeVos family have directly donated tens of thousands to his campaign.

The DeVos family has also funded the Better Future Michigan Fund, a super PAC which has now spent at least $7.1 million to help James defeat Peters. Dan and Pam DeVos have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the super PAC.

Despite other Republican Senate candidates being outraised by massive sums across the country, James has managed to outraise Peters throughout most of the campaign despite losing his 2018 Senate race to Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., by seven points.

Two recent polls, one of which showed the race virtually tied, suggest that Michigan is one of the few competitive seats where Republicans could pull off an upset next month.

James has spent some of the money he's raised to buy ads downplaying his ties to the DeVos family.

James recently released an ad trying to distance himself from Betsy DeVos' assault on public education, insisting that he believes a "quality education is a basic civil right."

"You're not running against President Trump, or Betsy DeVos or any other boogeyman," James told Peters in the ad. "You're running against me. This may surprise you senator, but no one owns me."

James previously declared that he supports Trump "2,000%."

A Democratic super PAC accused James of backing "DeVos' agenda to cut public school funding and put it into wealthy private schools instead." Politifact Michigan rated the claim "mostly false," though only because James has repeatedly avoided saying anything specific about his education policy. James has frequently declined to state his views on education, and he turned down a request to push back on the claim. His campaign declined PolitiFact Michigan's "request for any details about his education policies that would rebut" the allegation. The campaign did not respond to questions from Salon, as well.

James has generally been supportive of DeVos' agenda, which has steered money away from public schools to private and religious schools.

"She's headed in the right direction," James reportedly said in 2018. "She's got a lot of inertia, I think. By doing things to get more power back to the states and to parents, I truly believe that if we give parents the resources and the opportunity to decide what's best for their children, they will make the best decision 100% of the time."

"The job Betsy DeVos is doing in pubic education, I think, is very, very good," he reiterated a few months later in audio published by the Democratic Senate Majority PAC.

Those comments came after DeVos sought to cut Department of Education funding while increasing federal grants to private schools.

"James is very on the record about supporting her," Senate Majority PAC spokesman Matt Corridoni told Politifact Michigan, "and she's very on the record about her positions."

Billionaire wealth rises to more than $10 trillion for first time ever amid pandemic: analysis

Billionaire wealth increased to $10.2 trillion through the end of July, setting a new record amid the coronavirus pandemic even as millions of unemployed people fall into poverty.

Wealth held by billionaires around the world rose to $10.2 trillion in July, up from the previous record of $8.9 trillion in 2017, according to an analysis by Swiss bank UBS and consulting firm PwC.

The number of billionaires also rose from 2,158 in 2017 to 2,189 this summer, according to the report.

Not all billionaires saw their wealth increase, though some saw their wealth rise by close to 50%. Health care billionaires, for example, saw their wealth increase by 50%. Technology billionaires saw their wealth rise by 42.5%. Billionaires in the entertainment, financial services, materials, and real estate sectors saw increases of 10% or less.

While the UBS analysis looked at billionaires around the world, a separate analysis by the Institute for Policy Studies and Americans for Tax Fairness found that billionaire wealth in the United States has grown by $792 billion, or 27%, since the beginning of coronavirus lockdowns in March. The combined wealth of American billionaires now tops $3.7 trillion.

Some prominent billionaires have done particularly well. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has seen his wealth rise more than 60% during the pandemic to $195 billion through late August, according to the analysis. Tesla CEO Elon Musk saw his wealth more than triple to $85 billion over that time frame.

The study pointed to President Donald Trump's 2017 tax cuts, which helped billionaires keep more of their earnings. The UBS study noted that Trump's desired capital gains tax cut, billed as a pandemic-related stimulus, would overwhelmingly favor the richest Americans.

"For billionaires, this is a heads-we win, tails-you-lose economy, boosted by Trump policies to funnel wealth to the top," Chuck Collins, the head of the Institute for Policy Studies' Program on Inequality, said in a news release.

"The pandemic profiteering of America's billionaires shows taxes on the wealthy must go up substantially to narrow the wealth gap and raise revenue vital for our big climb back from disaster," added Frank Clemente, executive director of Americans for Tax Fairness. "By demanding even more tax cuts for the rich at this crucial moment President Trump shows he is as out of touch with our nation's needs as America's billionaires are disconnected from our nation's misery."

Some executives, like Zoom CEO Eric Yuan and Bezos, have profited from a boom in business caused by the lockdowns. Others have profited directly from government aid distributed to their companies. But most billionaires saw their wealth increase due to rising investments, buoyed by a stock market surge propped up by government assistance.

The rising wealth amid an economically devastating pandemic threatens to deepen longstanding inequalities.

"Extreme wealth concentration is an ugly phenomenon from a moral perspective, but it's also economically and socially destructive," Luke Hilyard, the executive director of the High Pay Center, a think tank that focuses on excessive executive pay, told The Guardian. "Anyone accumulating riches on this scale could easily afford to raise the pay of the employees who generate their wealth, or contribute a great deal more in taxes to support vital public services, while remaining very well rewarded for whatever successes they've achieved. The findings from the UBS report showing that the super-rich are getting even richer are a sign that capitalism isn't working as it should."

UBS executive Josef Stadler also acknowledged that billionaires could face societal backlash over their growing wealth as many people face months if not years of struggles.

"We're at an inflection point," he told the outlet. "Wealth concentration is as high as in 1905, this is something billionaires are concerned about. The problem is the power of interest on interest – that makes big money bigger and, the question is to what extent is that sustainable and at what point will society intervene and strike back?"

But it's far from the first time that billionaires profited while millions suffered. The Institute for Policy Studies found that the wealthiest 400 billionaires in the US not only recovered from the 2008 recession within three years but increased their wealth by 80% over the following decade. By comparison, the bottom 80% of earners have still not recovered.

While government intervention has helped billionaires accumulate even more wealth, the lack of government action since the spring has resulted in an estimated 8 million Americans falling into poverty since May, according to a study from researchers at Columbia University. The lack of additional stimulus payments and the expiration of enhanced federal unemployment benefits has resulted in 6 million Americans falling into poverty over just the last three months, according to a study from researchers at the University of Chicago and Notre Dame.

The problem has been even worse globally. Between 88 million and 114 million people around the world have fallen into extreme poverty, defined as living on less than $1.90 per day, since the pandemic hit, according to the World Bank. There are now more than 700 million people living in extreme poverty and researchers expected that number to keep rising.

"This is the worst setback that we've witnessed in a generation," Carolina Sánchez-Páramo, the global director of the World Bank's Poverty and Equity Global Practice, told The Wall Street Journal.

World Bank Group President David Malpass argued in a speech this month that the problem is worse in developing economies because "rich countries" have the resources to expand sweeping "government spending programs" while poorer economies have few tools to mitigate the economic damage.

The US, by contrast, should be doing better if not for Republican reluctance to increased government relief. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell warned Congress last month that inaction in the face of growing inequality would be highly damaging to the economic recovery.

"Those are things that hold back our economy," he said at a news conference. "If we want to have the highest potential output and the best output for our economy, we need that prosperity to be very broadly spread."

Many analysts have also faulted Powell and the Fed for contributing to the growing inequality with policies "disproportionately benefiting stockholders," according to the Associated Press.

Just as the coronavirus has exposed longstanding health disparities between the richest and poorest Americans, the growing inequality is largely the result of a "catastrophic failure to tackle inequality" well before the pandemic struck, according to a report from Oxfam International.

"Governments' catastrophic failure to tackle inequality meant the majority of the world's countries were critically ill-equipped to weather the pandemic," said Oxfam interim executive director Chema Vera. "No country on earth was trying hard enough to reduce inequality and ordinary people are bearing the brunt of this crisis as a result. Millions of people have been pushed into poverty and hunger and there have been countless unnecessary deaths."

Watchdog group accuses Amy Coney Barrett of 'unconscionable cruelty' in teen rape case

Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett has been accused of "unconscionable cruelty" by a watchdog group over her role in an appellate court decision overturning a district court which found a Wisconsin county liable for millions in damages to a woman who alleged she had been repeatedly raped by a jail guard.

"After a 19-year old pregnant prison inmate was repeatedly raped by a prison guard, Amy Coney Barrett ruled that the county responsible for the prison could not be held liable because the sexual assaults fell outside of the guard's official duties. Her judgment demonstrates a level of unconscionable cruelty that has no place on the high court," Kyle Herrig, president of the progressive watchdog group Accountable.US, told Salon. "The only thing more concerning than the rush to confirm by Senate Republicans is what we are learning about Amy Coney Barrett's extremist record. It is hardly surprising that she has dodged question after question during her testimony."

Barrett was one of the three judges on a Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals panel which reversed a $6.7 million verdict against Milwaukee County in 2018 after a corrections officer was charged with repeatedly raping a pregnant 19-year-old inmate.

Former corrections officer Xavier Thicken was charged with multiple counts of sexual assault in 2013 after the woman alleged that he had raped her during and after her pregnancy at a jail run by the controversial former Sheriff David Clarke. Those charges were dropped when he agreed to plead guilty to felony misconduct in public office in 2014.

The woman later filed a lawsuit against Milwaukee County. In her testimony, she alleged that Thicklen had raped her in different parts of the jail when she was eight months pregnant and demanded that she perform oral sex on him after giving birth.

A jury awarded the woman $6.7 million in 2017, which was upheld by District Judge J.P. Stadmueller before the Seventh Circuit Court overturned the ruling in September 2018.

Barrett joined Judges Daniel Manion and Robert Gettleman in reversing the district court ruling against the county, though it upheld the judgement against Thicklen. Mannion wrote in the unanimous opinion that the county was not responsible for the guard's conduct.

"Conduct is not in the scope if it is different in kind from that authorized, far beyond the authorized time or space, or too little actuated by a purpose to serve the employer," he said.

"Even when viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to (the woman) and the verdict, we hold no reasonable jury could find the sexual assaults were in the scope of his (Thicklen's) employment," the opinion stated. "The evidence negates the verdict."

Manion noted that the training materials stated guards were prohibited from having sex with inmates.

"The undisputed facts and reasonable inferences point ineluctably to the conclusions that Thicklen's abhorrent acts were in no way actuated by a purpose to serve county," he wrote. "He raped (the inmate) for purely personal reasons, the rapes did not benefit county but harmed it, he knew the rapes did not serve county, and the rapes were outside the scope."

With the ruling, the judge acknowledged that the woman "loses perhaps her best chance to collect the judgment. But (the law) does not make public employers absolute insurers against all wrongs."

In a similar case this year, however, Barrett joined a majority of the full Seventh Circuit Court to find that Wisconsin's Polk County was liable in a case where a jail guard sexually assaulted five women hundreds of times.

The case was filed after former prison guard Daryl Christensen was convicted of sexually assaulting the women hundreds of times over three years in 2016. Two of the victims, identified as J.K.J. and M.J.J., sued Christensen and Polk County in federal court, according to Courthouse News.

A complaint filed by one of the women alleged that the Polk County Sheriff's Department was liable, because it failed to protect her from Christensen and chose not to accept state-provided training materials on prison rape.

The lawsuit largely echoed the allegations in the criminal complaint, accusing Christensen of leading women inmates to areas of the jail where there were no security cameras before digitally penetrating them and forcing them to perform oral sex on him.

Christensen was sentenced to 30 years in prison, and a jury awarded the women $11.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages, according to Courthouse News. Polk County was ordered to pay $4 million of the award, which the outlet noted was "the only part of the award the women will ever possibly receive."

A split three-judge Seventh Circuit Court panel overturned the ruling against the county last year, with the majority arguing that it should not be held liable for actions taken by a "rogue guard" in violation of the jail's policy.

The full court voted to rehear the case in December, and it voted 7-4 to hold the county responsible in May. Barrett joined the majority.

"The jury was furnished with sufficient evidence to hold Polk County liable not on the basis of Christensen's horrific acts but rather the county's own deliberate choice to stand idly by while the female inmates under its care were exposed to an unmistakable risk that they would be sexually assaulted — a choice that was the moving force behind the harm inflicted on J.K.J. and M.J.J.," Judge Michael Scudder wrote in the majority opinion.

Scudder added that "the jury was entitled to conclude that if Polk County had taken action in response to the glaring risk that its female inmates' health and safety were in danger, J.K.J. and M.J.J.'s assaults would have stopped sooner, or never happened at all."

Barrett penned an influential decision last year which made it easier for college students accused of sexual assault to sue their universities over the handling of investigations.

She wrote the decision for a Seventh Circuit panel which ruled that Purdue University might have discriminated against a male student accused of sexual assault when it suspended him for one year, costing him a spot in the Navy ROTC program.

"It is plausible that [university officials] chose to believe Jane because she is a woman and to disbelieve John because he is a man," Barrett wrote in the decision.

Barrett said the discrimination claim was plausible, in part because the Obama administration had pressured schools to prioritize sexual assault investigations and later opened two investigations into Purdue.

"The Department of Education made clear that it took the letter and its enforcement very seriously," Barrett wrote. "The pressure on the university to demonstrate compliance was far from abstract."

Emily Martin, the vice president for education and workplace justice at the National Women's Law Center, expressed concerns that Barrett's description of the Education Department's efforts to go after campus sexual assault was evidence of discrimination against men.

Martin told The Washington Post that late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a champion of women's rights and lamented the prospect of "replacing someone like that with a judge who is eager to use the language of sex discrimination in order to defend the status quo and to use the statutes that were created to forward gender equality as swords against that very purpose."

Beth Barnhill, the executive director of the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault, penned an op-ed this week warning that Barrett "holds extreme positions on areas of the law on which victims of sexual assault depend."

"Survivors want and deserve a Supreme Court that works for all of us, yet a previous ruling from Barrett made it easier for students who are held accountable for sexual assault to sue their schools for sex discrimination," Barnhill wrote. "She suggested that a school's commitment to taking sexual misconduct seriously is evidence of sex discrimination against the people who caused harm. This is deeply problematic and troubling for survivors."

Senate Republicans are sending signals they think Trump is going down

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., torpedoed a possible compromise deal on the stimulus between House Democrats and the White House on Thursday.

Millions of people have fallen into poverty since aid dried up months ago, and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has pleaded for Congress to provide more relief, because there is little risk of "overdoing" it. But McConnell on Wednesday said a deal worth between $1.8 trillion and $2.2 trillion was about four times more than Republicans would agree to — even though it is a far cry from the $3.4 trillion bill passed by House Democrats in May.

"I don't think so," McConnell told reporters when asked if he would agree to a deal in that range. "That's where the administration is willing to go. My members think half a trillion dollars, highly targeted, is the best way to go."

McConnell acknowledged that Trump had been eager to increase the price tag, but the bill being negotiated between Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was "not what I'm going to put on the floor."

McConnell previously announced that he would force a vote on a $500 billion bill next week after House Democrats approved a $2.2 trillion compromise last month.

The majority leader's reluctance comes as studies show that roughly 8 million people have fallen into poverty after their stimulus payments ran out and enhanced federal unemployment benefits expired in July. One study found that 6 million people have fallen into poverty in just the last three months, with Black and Latinx people and children disproportionately impacted.

Powell warned Congress earlier this month that failing to pass another large stimulus package would "lead to a weak recovery, creating unnecessary hardship for households and businesses."

"A long period of unnecessarily slow progress could continue to exacerbate existing disparities in our economy," he said. "That would be tragic, especially in light of our country's progress on these issues in the years leading up to the pandemic."

Trump, who faces a steep climb in the polls with less than three weeks before the election, has signaled that he would also like to see a larger bill after failing to gain leverage by claiming to end all talks and urging the House to pass piecemeal bills, which have been blocked by his own party.

"Absolutely, I would. I would pay more. I would go higher," Trump told Fox Business on Thursday. "Go big, or go home. I said it yesterday, 'Go big, or go home.'"

But Republicans forcefully pushed back on the White House negotiations, even as the GOP heads into a perilous election season where the party has a strong chance of losing its Senate majority.

Republicans on a call with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows last week called the White House's $1.8 trillion proposal a "betrayal" and "the death knell for our majority" as senators took turns blasting the bill, according to Politico.

Mnuchin, who is still negotiating a possible deal with Pelosi, acknowledged earlier this week that "getting something done before the election and executing on that would be difficult just given where we are." Further, Democrats doubt that Trump will still have much appetite for a large deal after the election if he loses.

"My fear is that if Trump loses the election, we're done until February because he's not going to be in any mood to help or cooperate with anybody," Rep. Tom Malinowski, D-N.J., told The Washington Post.

The biggest sticking points in the deal have been Democrats' demands to include much-needed aid for hard-hit cities and states and child tax credits for working parents, as well as the Republican demand to include lawsuit protections for companies in the bill.

Ian Shepherdson, the chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, predicted that McConnell had been so reluctant to go up on the price of the bill because he expects the president to lose the election.

"I think McConnell expects Trump to lose, and therefore for him to spend political capital to support Trump by forcing through a bill which would put his leadership position at risk after the election, to me, doesn't make any sense," he told Business Insider. "It's always wise to do things from McConnell's personal perspective, because that's how things operate in the Senate. He has enormous personal power, and he wants to be leader again — even if he has to be a leader in the minority."

Trump administration privately warned wealthy donors while publicly downplaying the coronavirus

The Trump administration publicly downplayed the coronavirus in the early days of the pandemic while giving major Republican donors private warnings. The information helped elite traders "gain financial advantage during a chaotic three days when global markets were teetering," according to The New York Times.

President Donald Trump repeatedly downplayed the threat posed by the virus in February. He claimed on Feb. 24 that it was "very much under control" in the U.S., and the stock market was "starting to look very good to me."

That same day, Trump's economic team privately gave a less optimistic briefing to board members of the Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank whose members often donate to Republican candidates.

Top economic adviser Larry Kudlow also sought to publicly insist that the virus was "contained," and the economy was "holding up nicely" on Feb. 25.

But privately, Kudlow was not as certain in his Hoover presentation later that day, where he was quoted as saying the virus was "contained in the U.S., to date, but now we just don't know."

The private comments were included in a lengthy email by hedge fund consultant William Callanan, who detailed the three-day Hoover event to hedge fund manager and top Republican donor David Tepper before it was distributed it to others.

"What struck me," Callanan wrote, was that nearly all officials brought up the virus "as a point of concern, totally unprovoked."

Kudlow "revised his statement about the virus being contained," he added.

Tomas Philipson, the chairman of Trump's Council of Economic advisers, acknowledged to The Times that he had expressed uncertainty during the private briefing. Kudlow also did not dispute that he had made the comments. The former CNBC anchor told the outlet that he believed his comments were not materially different from his public ones.

"There was never any intent on my part to misinform," he said.

The Hoover Institution, which is led by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, includes board members like Fox News mogul Rupert Murdoch, who did not attend the meeting.

There has also been a revolving door between the think tank and the Trump administration. Joshua Rauh, one of the economists who spoke at the meeting, has since rejoined the institution. Kevin Hassett, who moderated the panel and served as the top White House economist, is now a Hoover Institution fellow. Dr. Scott Atlas, a Hoover fellow who has pushed the discredited "herd immunity" strategy, joined Trump's coronavirus task force in August.

The stock market was already struggling as public health officials publicly contradicted the administration's rosy outlook, but investors "spotted the immediate significance" of the private messaging, according to The Times.

The president's aides appeared to be giving wealthy party donors an early warning of a potentially impactful contagion at a time when Mr. Trump was publicly insisting that the threat was nonexistent.

Some investors stocked up on toilet paper and other essential items before a mad rush caused nationwide shortages, according to The Times. Others decided to "short everything," or bet that certain stocks would fail, to profit from the collapse.

Callanan reportedly sent the email to Tepper, the owner of the Carolina Panthers and the prominent hedge fund Appaloosa Management, detailing the "level of concern" among officials and how "ill-prepared health agencies appeared to combat a pandemic."

The email was circulated throughout the company, and its warnings were shared with other investors, according to the report. Those investors shared it with their own associates. The email was shared between at least four financial firms over 24 hours, on the same day the Dow Jones fell 300 points.

Callanan told The Times that the email was shared "without his knowledge or consent." He claimed that the copy obtained by the outlet was "materially different" than the original one he created, though he would not say how.

Tepper disputed that the email was significant.

"We were in the information flow on COVID at that point," he told The Times. "Because we were so public about this warning, people were calling us at this time.

The report highlights the disconnect between the rosy picture the Trump administration tried to paint to an unprepared public — before panic and supply shortages began — and growing concerns within the administration.

Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro distributed an internal memo on Feb. 23 predicting the coronavirus could kill as many as 2 million Americans.

Trump told Bob Woodward even earlier on Feb. 7 that the virus was airborne and "more deadly than even your strenuous flus," according to the journalist's new book.

Democrats said The Times report showed where the administration's priorities were before the pandemic killed more than 217,000 Americans.

"If this doesn't tell you who they prioritize then I don't know what will," Michigan Democratic Senate leader Jim Ananich said. "People died and he lied."

‘Screw you’: Devin Nunes defies state officials as Trump continues to urge California GOP to engage in ‘illegal’ activity

President Donald Trump urged California Republicans to defy a state order to remove fake "official" ballot drop boxes after numerous top officials called them "illegal."

State Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Secretary of State Alex Padilla on Monday issued an order to the California GOP and three county chapters requiring the removal of unofficial ballot drop boxes erected in front of locations like gyms, gun stores and churches that were falsely marked "official."

Trump, however, urged the party to fight the order in court.

"You mean only Democrats are allowed to do this? But haven't the Dems been doing this for years?" the president tweeted, drawing a dubious comparison between the boxes and the legal "ballot harvesting" efforts by Democrats that have drawn his ire. "See you in court. Fight hard Republicans!"

Trump's call came after Becerra, Padilla and Gov. Gavin Newsom, all Democrats, labeled the Republican effort "illegal."

"Nothing reeks of desperation quite like the Republican Party organization these days -- willing to lie, cheat, and threaten our democracy all for the sake of gaining power," Newsom tweeted. "These unofficial drop boxes aren't just misleading, they are illegal."

Trump's comments also came after the California Republican Party already vowed to defy Monday's order.

"Screw you!" Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., said in response to Newsom's tweet, according to Politico. "You created the law, we're going to ballot harvest."

Fresno County Republican Chairman Fred Vanderhoof, who installed a dozen collection boxes, including one which was labeled an "Authorized Secure Ballot Drop," claimed to GVWire that a 2016 ballot harvesting law passed by Democrats allowed the party to install drop boxes falsely marked as "official."

"We are doing nothing illegal," he insisted. "The whole ballot harvesting law is purposely designed very loosely so the Democrats can cheat, which they are doing in large numbers. They can do ballot harvesting, but we can't. That's what they're saying, so they're hypocritical."

State officials rejected Republican claims that falsely-marked collection boxes were allowed under the law permitting ballot harvesting, which permits a third-party to submit ballots on voters' behalf.

The offices of the attorney general and secretary of state said in a cease-and-desist order to the GOP that the law required "persons to whom a voter entrusts their ballot to return to county election officials provide their name, signature and relationship to the voter."

Becerra and Padilla also argued during a Monday conference call that the boxes were "illegal," because they were designed to trick voters by claiming to be "official." The boxes lack the security requirements mandated for official collection boxes installed by election officials, they added.

"We hope that the message goes out loud and clear to anyone who is trying to improperly solicit, obtain and manage a citizen's vote that they are subject to prosecution," Becerra said. "I'm trying to be careful with how I say this, but the reports we are hearing are disturbing."

Some voters were stunned when they discovered they had tossed their ballots into an unofficial collection box marked an "Official Ballot Drop Box."

California GOP spokesman Hector Barajas told The New York Times that Republicans would continue to operate the boxes and not label them to make it clear that they were set up by the party rather than "official" drop boxes set up by the state.

Becerra and Padilla said they would consider legal action if the party fails to comply by their Oct. 15 deadline.

"Anyone who knowingly engages with the tampering or misuse of the vote is subject to prosecution," Becerra said.

"If they refuse to comply," Padilla added, "we'll of course entertain all of our legal options."

Amy Coney Barrett is even more 'extreme' on gun rights than her Republican defenders in the Senate

Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett argued in a dissent last year that felons should be allowed to own guns, a position Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee long opposed before defending President Donald Trump's nominee to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the bench.

Barrett, who was appointed to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals by Trump, broke with two fellow Republican-appointed judges with more than 70 years of experience and Attorney General Bill Barr's Department of Justice to defend gun rights for felon, according to The Washington Post.

The case, Kanter v. Barr, was brought by Rickey Kanter, a Wisconsin businessman who pleaded guilty to mail fraud. Kanter sued the Justice Department and the state of Wisconsin after completing his sentence, because federal and state laws prohibit felons from purchasing firearms.

A district court rejected Kanter's claims in January 2018, and a three-judge Seventh Circuit panel upheld the ruling 2-1. Barrett cast the lone dissenting opinion.

"She is extreme on this issue," Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., a member of the committee, told The Post. "She would go much farther than her mentor Scalia did in striking down common sense measures."

Barrett argued in a 38-page opinion that the Founders did not intend to deny gun rights to all felons — only those who may be considered dangerous.

"Neither Wisconsin nor the United States has introduced data sufficient to show that disarming all nonviolent felons substantially advances its interest in keeping the public safe," she wrote. "Nor have they otherwise demonstrated that Kanter himself shows a proclivity for violence. Absent evidence that he either belongs to a dangerous category or bears individual markers of risk, permanently disqualifying Kanter from possessing a gun violates the Second Amendment."

History showed felons "could be disqualified from certain rights," such as voting or jury duty, but gun ownership is an individual right which can only be suspended if a person is deemed dangerous, Barrett argued.

Barrett cited her mentor Justice Antonin Scalia's opinion in the 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller case, which established a national right to gun ownership. It said, "Nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill."

"The constitutionality of felon dispossession was not before the court in Heller, and because it explicitly deferred analysis of this issue, the scope of its assertion is unclear," Barrett wrote.

The majority disagreed, and The Post noted that Barrett's opinion was "at odds with nearly all other federal appeals court decisions on the issue."

Her position was also at odds with many Republicans on the Judiciary Committee eager to confirm her ahead of Election Day.

Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said in 2018 that the Second Amendment was "not an unlimited right," noting that "if you're a convicted felon, you can't own a gun."

"I think that most Second Amendment people like me understand there's a balance here," he told the Greenville News.

"One bullet in the hand of a mentally unstable person or a convicted felon is one too many," Graham argued during a Judiciary hearing in 2013 where NRA chief Wayne LaPierre agreed that a "convicted felon" should not be able to own a gun.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, sponsored legislation that would create a task force to "prosecute felons and fugitives who try to get guns."

Cruz last year urged the committee to pass the bill, which he said "targets resources on bad guys, on felons and fugitives that would have audited every federal agency to make sure that those felonies are reported to the background check database."

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, also sponsored the Fix NICS Act, which he said aimed to ensure that "convicted felons don't exploit our background check system by 'lying and buying.'"

Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., called on Congress in 2016 to address "how to keep guns out of the hands of terrorists, out of felons."

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., who previously served as Missouri's attorney general, filed a brief in a 2017 appeal that said "the Second Amendment does not protect the right of convicted felons to possess firearms."

Barrett defended her opinion when pressed on the issue by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., during her confirmation hearing on Tuesday.

"I think we could all agree that we ought to be careful of saying that because someone's a felon, they lose any of their individual rights," she said.

Durbin argued that she had "ignored" evidence showing that non-violent offenders were more likely to engage in illegal gun use than non-felons.

"I didn't ignore it," Barrett replied. "As I recall, that evidence and the studies were unclear."

Durbin went on to note that Barrett argued that gun rights were an individual right, while voting is a civic right.

"So you're saying that a felony should not disqualify Rickey from buying an AK-47, but using a felony conviction someone's past to deny them the right to vote is all right?" he asked.

"What I said was that the Constitution contemplates that states have the freedom to deprive felons of the right to vote," Barrett replied. "It's expressed in the constitutional text. But I expressed no view on whether that was a good idea — whether states should do that. And I didn't explore in that opinion, because it was completely irrelevant to it what limits, if any, there might be on a state's ability to curtail felon voting rights."

"Well, I will just tell you that the conclusion of this is hard to swallow," Durbin said. "The notion that Mr. Kanter, after all that he did, should not be even slowed down when he's on his way to buy a firearm. My goodness, it's just a felony. It's not a violent felony that he'd committed. And then to turn around on the other hand and say, 'Well, but when it comes to taking away a person's right to vote, that's the civic duty.'"

Durbin went on to rebuke the Republicans on the committee who had criticized Democrats for wanting "activist judges."

"Yet when we look at this case, the notion of what disqualifies you from buying a firearm was being rewritten by the dissenting judge and saying, 'When we say felony, we just mean violent felony,'" he said.



WATCH: Sen. Dick Durbin questions Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett youtu.be


Gun control activists have expressed alarm as Barrett's nomination appears poised to cement a new 6-3 conservative majority court.

"There's a whole host of public safety bills and laws that we've had in effect for a quarter century — including the Brady background check system — that we are concerned about with her on the court," Kris Brown, the president of Brady United Against Gun Violence, told NPR.

"Make no mistake," John Feinblatt, the president of Everytown for Gun Safety, told Mother Jones. "Amy Coney Barrett is a gun rights extremist who has no place on the Supreme Court."

Trump urges California GOP to continue using 'illegal' ballot drop boxes

President Donald Trump urged California Republicans to defy a state order to remove fake "official" ballot drop boxes after numerous top officials called them "illegal."

State Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Secretary of State Alex Padilla on Monday issued an order to the California GOP and three county chapters requiring the removal of unofficial ballot drop boxes erected in front of locations like gyms, gun stores and churches that were falsely marked "official."

Trump, however, urged the party to fight the order in court.

"You mean only Democrats are allowed to do this? But haven't the Dems been doing this for years?" the president tweeted, drawing a dubious comparison between the boxes and the legal "ballot harvesting" efforts by Democrats that have drawn his ire. "See you in court. Fight hard Republicans!"

Trump's call came after Becerra, Padilla and Gov. Gavin Newsom, all Democrats, labeled the Republican effort "illegal."

"Nothing reeks of desperation quite like the Republican Party organization these days -- willing to lie, cheat, and threaten our democracy all for the sake of gaining power," Newsom tweeted. "These unofficial drop boxes aren't just misleading, they are illegal."

Trump's comments also came after the California Republican Party already vowed to defy Monday's order.

"Screw you!" Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., said in response to Newsom's tweet, according to Politico. "You created the law, we're going to ballot harvest."

Fresno County Republican Chairman Fred Vanderhoof, who installed a dozen collection boxes, including one which was labeled an "Authorized Secure Ballot Drop," claimed to GVWire that a 2016 ballot harvesting law passed by Democrats allowed the party to install drop boxes falsely marked as "official."

"We are doing nothing illegal," he insisted. "The whole ballot harvesting law is purposely designed very loosely so the Democrats can cheat, which they are doing in large numbers. They can do ballot harvesting, but we can't. That's what they're saying, so they're hypocritical."

State officials rejected Republican claims that falsely-marked collection boxes were allowed under the law permitting ballot harvesting, which permits a third-party to submit ballots on voters' behalf.

The offices of the attorney general and secretary of state said in a cease-and-desist order to the GOP that the law required "persons to whom a voter entrusts their ballot to return to county election officials provide their name, signature and relationship to the voter."

Becerra and Padilla also argued during a Monday conference call that the boxes were "illegal," because they were designed to trick voters by claiming to be "official." The boxes lack the security requirements mandated for official collection boxes installed by election officials, they added.

"We hope that the message goes out loud and clear to anyone who is trying to improperly solicit, obtain and manage a citizen's vote that they are subject to prosecution," Becerra said. "I'm trying to be careful with how I say this, but the reports we are hearing are disturbing."

Some voters were stunned when they discovered they had tossed their ballots into an unofficial collection box marked an "Official Ballot Drop Box."

California GOP spokesman Hector Barajas told The New York Times that Republicans would continue to operate the boxes and not label them to make it clear that they were set up by the party rather than "official" drop boxes set up by the state.

Becerra and Padilla said they would consider legal action if the party fails to comply by their Oct. 15 deadline.

"Anyone who knowingly engages with the tampering or misuse of the vote is subject to prosecution," Becerra said.

"If they refuse to comply," Padilla added, "we'll of course entertain all of our legal options."

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