Election '20

Biden appears stable with voters under 30 -- but there is just one issue

With only three days left until the 2020 election, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has a significant edge over President Donald Trump where voters aged 18-24 are concerned, according to a new poll.

According to Forbes, young voters inclined to embrace more revolutionary and progressive policies have opted to support the Biden campaign on the road to the White House. The poll has revealed eight out of 10 younger voters (86%) are taking the election very seriously and see it as a decision that could ultimately impact their futures.

The publication also included multiple graphs to provide a visual highlighting the top concerns young voters have. One of the graphs suggests younger voters are highly concerned about the coronavirus pandemic, the subsequent impacts it has had on the economy, the future of health care, and the country's ongoing problems stemming from systemic racism.

Although Trump has long boasted about his administration's handling of the pandemic while disregarding the importance of public health and the existence of systemic racism, the poll shows that younger voters "say they are not happy with the status quo, with 60% reporting the U.S. is on the 'wrong track.'"

Young voters also weighed in with their take on the "American Dream."

When asked whether they think the American Dream is "alive and well," "presently in a coma," or "dead and not coming back," 47% say the American Dream is "presently in a coma" and 20% say it's "dead and not coming back." Just 26% of young people say the American Dream is "alive and well."

Over the last three months, Biden has also gained momentum among young White, Hispanic, and Black voters. While Biden still maintains a significant lead among white voters, the only issue is that the Democratic presidential hopeful's support among those voters has slightly slipped.

See the graph below:


Biden is also maintaining the support among Gen-Z voters. However, his support among Millennial voters is slightly lower. Despite the variation, the poll still shows Biden significantly ahead of Trump.

As of Saturday October 31, more than 75 million Americans have already cast their vote for the upcoming election.

Donald Trump's Hunger Games: More power. More money. More golf. More women.

Remember this number: $3.

That's how much Trump charged the federal government for a glass of water in April of 2018 when he and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. According to the Washington Post, Trump's company also charged the government "$13,700 for guest rooms, $16,500 for food and wine and $6,000 for the roses and other floral arrangements," over the two days he held meetings with Abe at the resort. But one day, Trump was scheduled to meet with Abe without aides and advisers, with no meal service or cocktails or any other celebratory nonsense. Just the two leaders, alone in a room, talking. According to the Post, the bill for that day contained a line item reading, "Bilateral meeting. Water. $3.00 each."

Donald Trump has been paid "at least $2.5 million by the U.S. government," since taking office, according to official documents obtained by the Post. Trump has made more than 280 visits to his own hotels and golf clubs over the last four years, and the payments covered costs for "hotel rooms, ballrooms, cottages, rental houses, golf carts, votive candles, floating candles, candelabras, furniture moving, resort fees, decorative palm trees, strip steak, chocolate cake, breakfast buffets, $88 bottles of wine and $1,000 worth of liquor for White House aides." according to the Post.

And water. A total of six bucks for water, no charge being too small to make it onto a bill to the government for a payment going straight into the pocket of the man who owns the Trump Organization and everything it comprises, including his resort in Palm Beach.

It's apparently a good part of what the Trump base likes about him — his appetites, his pure, unadulterated, money-grubbing-right-down-to-$3-for-water greed. Trump has wanted more his entire life. He wants more money, of course. He has spent a lifetime in pursuit of more money, and then some more, and more and more. He borrowed so much money in pursuit of even more money that it drove him into bankruptcy, several bankruptcies in fact. Today, as president, he is said to be in debt for nearly $1 billion to banks and other lenders, a debt that will come due within the next few years, according to the New York Times and other reports.

Trump wants more fame, a drive that started off with mentions in gossip columns like the New York Post's "Page Six," during the years he was coming into his own as a builder in New York City. He used to call gossip columnists and plant items about himself, posing as a PR person, and then he would call the columnists the next day and comment on their mention of him in order to gain yet another column inch or two in the tabloids. Some said he ran for president back in 2016 to "burnish his brand," to achieve even more fame and use it to make even more money. Since he became president, he has been relentless in his pursuit of attention, tweeting at all hours, criticizing cable networks who don't give him enough coverage, calling in to shows like "Fox & Friends" and "Hannity" both to reward them for the coverage they've already given him, and to get more coverage.

He wants more women, from wife No. 1, Ivana, when he was just starting out, to wife No. 2, Marla Maples, after he jettisoned Ivana, and now wife No. 3, Melania, who replaced No. 2 when he determined she had a few too many miles on her. And then there were all the women in between, in and among his marriages, the women he groped on airplanes and at bars and during parties, the women he (allegedly) raped in places like a Bergdorf's dressing room or a hotel room or a bathroom during a party, the women whose mouths he forced his tongue down, the women he pushed up against walls and pressed himself against, the women whose bodies he commented on in offices or across rooms, the women whose skirts he put his hand up at restaurant tables, the women whose breasts he grabbed at tennis tournaments and beauty pageants, the women whose rear ends he grabbed in green rooms before television show tapings, the women he dragged behind curtains at New Year's Eve parties and forcibly kissed and groped. All of those women. Trump wanted their bodies and their mouths and he took them without asking permission because he was Donald Trump, and he took what he wanted.

He wanted more golf, so he played more golf more frequently than any president before him. He wanted so much golf that he went around the world buying and building his own golf courses, and then he played them, because he owned them, and because he owned the golf carts, as president he could charge the government for his own Secret Service agents. He could even charge the government for the hotel rooms the agents stayed in while they protected him. He charged the government $17,000 a month for a cottage at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf course, which the Secret Service had to rent month after month just in case he had a mind to play a round of golf.

Trump wants more adulation, more love from the "base," and when he feels he isn't getting enough, he tweets. There aren't enough hours in the day for Donald Trump. He was up at 3 a.m. this week, tweeting about the Supreme Court, the court to which he has appointed three arch-conservative justices, yelling at them for their recent decisions allowing mail-in votes to be counted after Election Day, because of course, he wants more votes. He's been up at 3 a.m. tweeting before, taunting a Miss Universe contestant for a "sex tape," taunting CNN as "low rated," bragging about his debate performance, yelling at polls that show him losing.

And now Trump is making his final campaign swing through the "battleground states," feeding the insatiable need of his base for more of himself. "Four more years" has become "12 more years." Somehow Trump is owed more years of the presidency because "they" took two or three years away from him during the Russia investigation, because "they" spied on his 2016 campaign, because "they" don't deserve to win. The red-hat-wearing mobs of un-masked fans at his rallies want more of the America they think Trump is bringing back to them. It's an America that is more white, has more guns, has more churches, more of "us," less of "them."

That's what they like about him. They want it all, the same way he does. That's what opposition to affirmative action has always been. They don't want some of the college admissions, they want them all. That's what Shelby County v. Holder was about, that's what voter IDs and all the restrictive rules about voting by mail are about. They want all the votes.
For the Trump base, making America great again means making America ours again, but he's going to make sure he puts it on their tab, right there with $3 for water and $546 for rooms and $50 for decorative palm trees for table decorations and $1,005.60 for 26 servings of Patron and Don Julio tequila, 22 Chopin vodkas, and six glasses of Woodford Reserve bourbon consumed by White House staffers at the Mar-a-Lago bar. It's going to cost us more than votes to get our country back. We're going to be paying for Trump's insatiable greed long after he's gone. More than 228,000 of us have already paid with our lives. If the Friday totals keep up — 98,500 new cases and more than 900 dead — a half million of us may perish by the time Trump walks out of the White House for the last time.

Collins closes out campaign badly, with a blown debate and shadows over her campaign funding

Sen. Susan Collins, the embattled Maine Republican, is not closing out the final week of her campaign with glory. Pretty much the opposite, in fact. In the final debate with Democrat Sara Gideon Wednesday night, Collins totally blew off the existence of systemic racism in Maine. Granted, Maine is pretty darned white, but it's not that white. There's a sizable population of refugees and immigrants in the state. So when Susan Collins, their senator, says "I do not believe systemic racism is a problem in the state of Maine," and "it's clear that in some parts of our country there is systemic racism or problems in police departments" but "we are very fortunate in the state of Maine because we have terrific members of law enforcement," she might seem just a little bit out of touch to those residents.

Especially compared to Gideon. "It doesn't matter how white our state is—it still exists. When we look at the incidences, for example, of the number of people of color who here in the state of Maine had a positive COVID infection rate and how outsized that was compared to the rest of the population. We see it in terms of access to education for people of color, access to health care, rates of poverty, rates of incarceration, and we do have to do something about it," Gideon said. That's the answer of someone living in the 21st century and not in a Republican bubble. And not someone who is being bankrolled by private equity firms. That's the other bad bit of press Collins has gained for herself this week.

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ProPublica reports that she is the "No. 1 Senate recipient of private equity donations." Which isn't a good look. It's even worse when her work on the 2017 GOP Tax Scam is reviewed. Collins, trying to justify what was going to be her total capitulation in voting for the bill, offered an amendment the day before the vote to expand a child care tax credit, paid for by ending a tax break for the private equity industry. Within hours, though, she backed down and withdrew the amendment. "Her retreat was a significant victory for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell," ProPublica reports. "Collins put aside her opposition and voted for the bill, which passed 51-49." Her decision to yank the amendment, and how the private equity industry prevailed, has remained a mystery.

But now we have a clue: the more than half a million dollars she's received from the private equity industry in this cycle for her reelection. There's also the $2 million Steve Schwarzman, the billionaire chairman and chief executive of the private equity giant Blackstone, has given to one of the Collins Super PACs as well as the $20 million he's giving to another Super PAC supporting Collins and other Republican Senate candidates. Tax experts told ProPublica that Collins amendment probably would have cost Schwarzman tens of millions in taxes. So lucky him that Collins changed her mind about that. Another donor to the Collins 1820 PAC is Ken Griffin, who's given $1.5 million. Griffin heads up the hedge fund giant Citadel. So his potential tax liability would have been significantly rosier without Collins' amendment to close the carried interest loophole.

Remember way back in 2017 when Collins was insisting that she was holding out her vote on the tax scam and getting ironclad promises from Mitch McConnell that he'd allow votes on protecting people's health care? And then he broke that promise when he got her vote? And how she insisted that it was still going to happen, that the Senate would have those healthcare votes in 2018? Somehow in retrospect, the millions she got from these hedge fund guys seem to be the promise that really secured her vote.

It's awfully rich for the person who said this in 2018 about a grassroots funding effort against her: "I consider this quid pro quo fundraising to be the equivalent of an attempt to bribe me to vote against Judge Kavanaugh." Please, Senator Collins, tell us all about bribes and quid pro quo. We'd really like to hear it.

Trump aides preparing for a election day wipe-out as donors regret donating to president's campaign: report

According to a report from the Daily Beast, a dark cloud has descended over close associates of Donald Trump as well as White House officials as they prepare for a disastrous Election Day where they expect the president to be soundly defeated.

In interviews, multiple officials indicated they see no way the president can pull off his re-election, with the Beast characterizing their responses as "Our guy blew it."

Choosing to go on the record, occasional Trump adviser Stephen Moore lamented the prospect that the president will go down to defeat, saying, “I believe the betting markets, which say there's a 60 percent chance that Biden wins, and a 40 percent chance that Trump does," before adding, "I really don't have a good feeling about this."

One major donor, Dan Eberhart, chief executive at Canary, said he regrets donating to the president's campaign, adding he would change it all if he could.

“I think Trump has a 25 percent chance of winning the election. His campaign focused on exciting his base not on pursuing people in the center. COVID was a massive headwind that minimized the roaring Trump economy," he said in an interview earlier this week. “The president has struggled to maintain message discipline. And the left is highly motivated to vote, as seen by the record turnout so far. That's not to say there's not a window for the president to win. It's just being realistic that he's the underdog in this contest."

According to Eberhardt, given a second chance, he would have used his money to work to save the Republican-controlled Senate rather than contribute to the president who looks to be a one-termer.

“Honestly, I would have put all my donations towards holding the Senate. I never thought the Senate would be in play," he explained.

According to the report, the president still believes he can win and cites the size of crowds at his rallies to his close associates, but they are unconvinced with one admitting, "If it were anyone else, I'd call it denial."

The Beast report adds that White House officials are now casting an eye to a post-Trump presidency.

"Two Trump administration officials working on foreign policy told The Daily Beast in the past week that they're convinced the president will lose, and have instead prioritized making it harder for a President Biden to reverse their policy advancements—including with regards to re-entering the Iran nuclear deal," the report states.

You can read more here.

Mark Cuban compares Trump to fictional mobster Tony Soprano: The minute you aren't loyal 'you get whacked'

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In an exclusive interview with Raw Story's Mike Rogers and Shannyn Moore — the co-hosts of Raw Story's new weekly podcast — Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks and star of television's Shark Tank, unloads on Donald Trump, likening him to Tony Soprano and suggesting that his presidency may serve as "political chemotherapy," a reset of America's party "duopoly." "After military service and paying your taxes, the most patriotic thing that you can do is un-affiliate with any political party, regardless of which one," Cuban tells Raw Story. "That duopoly — the Republicans and the Democrats — is the greatest undermining of our political system, ever, more so than Donald Trump. Donald Trump is political chemotherapy." "If we can't withstand Donald Trump," Cuban says, "then we really have to question our political system and its foundation, but I think Trump is more a symptom of this duopoly we have." Cuban also likened Trump to the mob boss of the popular HBO drama, "The Sopranos." "He doesn’t care about actual knowledge," he says. Trump "cares about connections and relationships. It’s no different than Tony Soprano, if you watch The Sopranos. As long as you are useful to me you are of value, as long as you are loyal, you are of value. The minute you aren’t you get whacked." "It’s why he’s so close to family, that’s why you never hear about business partners that he invested in or gave money to and trusted," he adds. "You never hear of anyone he mentored or someone he helped in business. You never hear those stories at all, that’s because he’s more like Tony Soprano than anything else. The minute you are not of use to him, you are whacked." "Just look at Trump University and how he sold there, that is exactly how he is selling to the American people," Cuban continues. "He created this target and said 'I am going to give you a piece of paper, a graduation certificate that says you are able to buy and sell real estate if you pay me $25,000.'" "In the end that certificate was worthless; he didn’t even know who was doing the teaching or what was being taught and he didn’t care," he adds. "He was just about closing the sale and his approach to politics is just the same way. He finds these bogeymen, or he finds this aspirational thing for people who really have these concerns and it’s not that the people he is selling to, that their concerns aren’t valid, it’s just that he doesn’t care what those concerns are. He just tried to take advantage of them and that’s what he did with Trump University. And that is what he’s tried to do in politics." The Dallas Mavericks owner also lauds ranked choice voting as a system that might have avoided Trump winning the GOP presidential nomination in 2016. Raw Story hosts Mike Rogers and Shannyn Moore also talk to Cuban about his involvement with H. Ross Perot's presidential campaign and the seating of Justice Amy Corey Barrett on the Supreme Court. Subscribe and listen to The Raw Story Podcast here: Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts Click here to listen on Spotify Click here to listen on Google Podcasts (The Raw Story Podcast is produced by Raw Story Media and is editorially independent from RawStory.com.)

‘Very tired’ president shocks with short speech: 'I've never seen Trump look less interested'

President Donald Trump has given rally speeches that last longer than 100 minutes, but on Friday cut thing short for his speech at a rally in Minnesota.

"President Trump only spoke for 21 (!) minutes at this smaller event in Rochester, MN tonight. Can't remember him ever speaking for less than 45 minutes at a rally but this was restricted to only 250 people due to coronavirus safety guidelines and Trump was not pleased," NBC News correspondent Monica Alba reported.

ABC News producer John Santucci said, "I've never seen Trump look less interested.

"This is about half his average speech length, and he often goes much longer when he's into the crowd (nearly 90 min in Tampa yesterday)," LA Times White House correspondent Eli Stokols reported.

NBC News reporter Garrett Haake said, "Maybe it's the small crowd. Maybe it's the cold. But this is the lowest energy I've ever seen the President be at a rally. He's blowing through his applause lines, just checking the boxes on his usual speech, like he's got somewhere to be."

"Trump appears very tired at this rally in MN, slowly moving through his prepared remarks," CNN's Jim Acosta noted. "People of Twitter reminding me he was up at 3 a.m. tweeting."


McConnell's latest agenda is to make sure the GOP continues to trample democracy even if they lose the Senate

Instead of focusing on a viable stimulus plan to help the American people and the country's flailing small businesses, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is focused on doing the one thing he and his Republican colleagues said Democrats would do: pack the courts.

During an interview with Conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt, McConnell admitted that he will continue to fill the courts with conservative judges who will likely uphold their views and strike down opposing views.

"We're going to run through the tape. We go through the end of the year, and so does the President," McConnell told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt. "We're going to fill the 7th Circuit. And I'm hoping we have time to fill the 1st Circuit as well."

He added, "We're going to clean the plate, clean all the district judges off as well."

In another effort to trample on the United States' democracy, McConnell is ignoring the Thurmond rule which serves as an unwritten practice where the Senate refrain from confirming any more of the president's judiciary nominees, reports Talking Points Memo. However, following practices is not something Senate Republicans have adhered to during this election year.

If McConnell succeeds at packing federal courts, his efforts will likely serve as damage control to ensure Republican lawmakers maintain some form of control even if the lose control of the White House and the Senate. Although Republicans remain hopeful that they will regain control of the Senate, McConnell's actions suggest otherwise as if he is doing all he can to secure positions while he is still in office.

The 'hanging chads' of 2020: More than 1 million mail-in ballots could be rejected this election

More than 1 million mail-in ballots could be rejected in the 2020 election if recent trends hold up, experts say, raising fears that the rejections could swing close races.

Mail-in ballots have been rejected at around a 1% rate in recent years, though 2020 is expected to be on the higher end due to the number of voters casting ballots by mail for the first time, mail delivery issues at the U.S. Postal Service, and court decisions disenfranchising voters whose ballots were cast by Election Day but do not arrive in time.

"It is possible millions of ballots will be disqualified — at least one or two million due to the normal 1-2% disqualification of mail-in ballots, primarily for errors in completing the ballot, such as a signature problem or late submission," Richard Briffault, a professor a the Columbia School of Law, told Salon. "Of course, in a close election, rejecting thousands of ballots would be enough."

Just under 1% of mail-in ballots were rejected in the 2016 election, according to the Election Administration and Voting Survey, and about 1.2% of all mail-in ballots cast between 2016 and 2018 were disqualified, according to an analysis by ABC News.

But researchers at Dartmouth University found that first-time mail-in voters were about three times more likely to have their ballots rejected. More than 51 million mail-in ballots have already been cast in the 2020 election. With a surge in mail voting due to the coronavirus pandemic, about 2% of mail ballots were rejected in this year's primary elections, according to research by University of Florida professor Michael McDonald.

Ballots are rejected for several reasons. About a third of all mail-in ballots rejected in 2018 were tossed because of problems with voter signatures, which in most states must match the signature on file. Some states also require a witness signature. Some ballots are also rejected because they are missing information like addresses or dates. Ballots can also be rejected if voters incorrectly bubbled in their candidate selection.

More than a quarter of mail-in ballots rejected in 2018 were disqualified because they were not received by the state's deadline. Some states require ballots to be received by Election Day, while others allow ballots to be counted if they are postmarked by Election Day but arrive several days later.

Some states allow voters to fix or "cure" their ballot before the election but most states have no such mechanism.

Andrea Mercado, executive director of the grassroots racial justice group New Florida Majority, told Salon that educating voters to avoid having their ballot rejected has been a "massive undertaking."

"It's been a challenge to make sure people are educated on how to properly fill it out, how to properly sign the outside of the envelope," she said. "And also that they don't have to put it in the mail, they can put it in a drop-box. And then most importantly that their ballot has to be received by Election Day. It can't be postmarked by that date, it has to be received by that date."

Tens of thousands of ballots have already been flagged for rejection in states like Florida and North Carolina, though groups like Mercado's have recruited thousands of volunteers to help voters cure their ballots in states where it's possible. Mercado said the percentage of rejected ballots has not increased to a "number that gives us cause for great alarm" but the group is focused on the disproportionate impact of the ballot rules on communities of color.

"We're seeing that here in Florida and it's registering to us because we know that the GOP has used their stranglehold on power … to pass laws like the signature match law that disproportionately disenfranchises Black and brown communities," she said.

About 0.47% of mail-in ballots have been flagged for rejection in Florida and about 1.2% of mail-in ballots have been flagged in North Carolina. Florida's 2018 Senate race was decided by just 10,033 votes. North Carolina's 2016 gubernatorial race was decided by just 10,277 votes. A recent study by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin found that there is greater than a 10% chance that the Electoral College could be decided by just 20,000 votes in a single state.

These rejections don't just affect the presidential race but every down-ballot election as well.

"Whether or not the rejection rates are higher enough to necessarily cause the presidential election to go one way or another, there is reason to think that these could be shifting local races, like races for local district attorneys," Kevin Morris, a researcher at the Brennan Center for Justice, told ABC News.

"The vote-by-mail ballot rejections are going to be the hanging chads of 2000," Daniel Smith, a political science professor at the University of Florida, told NBC News.

Smith estimated that more than 100,000 mail-in ballots could be rejected in Florida alone based on the rate of rejections in the primaries and Philadelphia City Commissioner Lisa Deeley warned that more than 100,000 ballots could be rejected in Pennsylvania due to a rule barring "naked ballots," or those submitted without a second privacy envelope.

"Every vote cast can affect the outcome of the election. Every ballot that is rejected could also potentially swing the election and the Electoral College. Rejected ballots can be the margin of error that swings the election results in certain states," Hannah Fried, the national campaign director at the voting rights group All Voting is Local, told Salon.

Fried said "naked ballots" have been a "confusing issue" for voters, particularly in states like Pennsylvania.

"Mail-in ballots submitted without the privacy sleeve will be considered 'naked' and not counted. If a voter returns an absentee or mail‐in ballot but the ballot was rejected by a county elections official, and the voter believes they are eligible to vote in person, the voter may cast a provisional ballot on Election Day," she said. "As long as their mail-in ballot was rejected, their vote will be able to be counted. For mail-in ballots, signature matching and/or accidentally writing your birthday on the 'outer envelope' instead of the date cannot be the sole basis for ballot rejection."

Fried said the "most important thing" Pennsylvania could have done is install uniform cure procedures for each of the state's counties. The state currently does not have any process that lets voters address naked ballot issues.

Fried stressed that voters should "get comfortable with the fact that we likely won't know the election results until days or weeks after Election Day" due to the influx of mail-in ballots.

"The pandemic has disrupted every part of society and the election is no exception," she said. "Different voters will make different choices about how they can vote safely during this pandemic. Some people will vote in person with a mask, some will vote by mail. While having multiple options for voting keeps people safe and socially distant, it also means election officials will need to take a little longer to count and verify that all the ballots are valid."

The U.S. Postal Service and voting rights advocates have also warned that ballots mailed after Oct. 27 may not arrive in time to be counted.

"The time for mailing in your ballot has passed," Mercado said.

Voters should use drop boxes to submit their mail-in ballots or vote in person either at an early voting location or their assigned polling place on Election Day to ensure their vote is submitted in time.

President Trump has repeatedly urged his supporters to avoid casting ballots by mail due to widely debunked claims tha mail ballots are plagued with fraud. Millions of Democrats are expected to vote in person on Election Day as well.

A recent investigation by Vice News found that nearly 21,000 polling locations have been closed ahead of 2020 and primaries in states like Wisconsin and Georgia were marred by poll closures and excessively long lines.

Mercado said the New Florida Majority is monitoring for issues with lines and other voting difficulties but some groups say the closures already pose an impediment to some voters.

"Having polling locations farther away or that are more crowded creates a hardship for many workers, particularly blue-collar and hourly workers," Derrick Johnson, the president of the NAACP, told Vice. "This level of doubt this late in the process is concerning. There are so many new variables on top of old problems. We're talking about how voting will be carried out in the midst of a pandemic. We just don't know."

Democrats have been far more likely to cast their votes by mail and Republicans have long pleaded for Trump to stop sowing doubt about mail-in voting to no avail. Rick Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California Irvine School of Law, argues that Trump is "shooting himself in the foot" by discouraging mail voting and fighting mail-in ballot expansions in court.

"He's discouraged his supporters from voting by mail, and some will have trouble voting in person on Election Day," he said.

Voting rights groups, meanwhile, are working overtime to ensure that voters, particularly groups that have been disproportionately impacted like Black and Latino communities, have their voices heard.

"In the face of voter suppression, Black and Latino communities are organizing to address some of the structural problems in our democracy," Mercado told Salon. "While there are agents of chaos that seek to sow confusion and distrust at the highest levels of our government, there are also thousands of organized volunteers and community members that are doing everything they can to protect and expand democracy."

BUSTED: Texas GOP senator didn't 'graduate' from Oxford law program -- as claimed in prior campaign

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Tx., who currently finds himself in an unusually competitive race against Democratic opponent MJ Hegar, previously falsely represented himself as a graduate of Oxford University in England in the run-up to his successful election to the Texas Supreme Court, press and public records show.

In the eight months before Cornyn's 1990 election to the state's highest court, seven Texas publications, including regional standard-bearers such as the Austin-American Statesman and the Houston Chronicle, published 10 profiles claiming that Cornyn had "graduated" from "the Judicial Studies Program" at Oxford.

The profiles, archived versions of which were reviewed by Salon, ran from February until days before the election in November, with headlines like "Judge Promises 'Restoration of Integrity'" and "Cornyn's Record Makes Him Choice for Supreme Court." The latter article concluded by mentioning the Oxford program.

However, during his campaign for attorney general of Texas eight years later, Cornyn repeatedly attacked Republican rival Barry Williamson for padding his resume "just like Lena Guerrero did" — a reference to a Texas Democrat who two years prior lost a race for state office to Williamson after it was revealed that she had lied about having a college diploma.

"It's a question of inflating his resume to give the false impression that he has more judicial experience than he actually has," Cornyn told the Austin-American Statesman at the time.

The Oxford claim misrepresents Cornyn's qualifications, and though its origins are unclear, went uncorrected by Cornyn for the duration of the campaign, leaving voters with the impression that he passed through one of the most prestigious institutions in the world. In reality, Cornyn earned his highest degree from the School of Law at St. Mary's University in San Antonio in 1977 — a Juris Doctor.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany erroneously claimed last month that then-Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford, when she had actually attended Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn.

A 2020 freedom of information request to Oxford University reviewed by Salon returned no record of Cornyn graduating from or attending a regular or continuing studies program offered through the school. The university's Faculty of Law had no record of a Judicial Studies Program at all.

"The Degree Conferrals Office and Department of Continuing Education have been unable to find any record of a John Cornyn with a date of birth of 2 February 1952," the institution wrote. "The Faculty of Law is unable to confirm the existence of a Judicial Studies programme."

It appears that the claim stems from a two-week seminar jointly hosted by the National Judicial College at the University of Nevada, Reno and Florida State University Law School, which Cornyn attended in 1988, two years before his state Supreme Court run.

The advanced seminar, titled "Anglo-American Jurisprudence," was held on the Wadham College campus in Oxford. While prestigious, the seminar was not affiliated academically with the university. Oxford faculty helped lead the program, along with faculty and judges from elsewhere in England and the U.S.

The program contrasted approaches taken by American and British jurists and included visits to historic sites, such as the Old Bailey criminal court and Grendon Underwood prison, according to university records. A Texas judge in Galveston County attended the same course.

Profiles from the 1990 race also included the unsubstantiated claim that Cornyn had graduated "top of his class" at St. Mary's University School of Law. As with Oxford, this claim does not seem to appear in the public record beyond Coryn's 1990 state Supreme Court run. The school would only confirm that Cornyn had graduated in 1977.

Neither claim appears in the biography on Cornyn's Senate website. However, Cornyn's misrepresentation of academic settings has apparently followed him into his 2020 campaign: In August, he ran an ad touting his commitment to safely reopening schools in the Lone Star state, which used stock footage of a classroom halfway around the world in Estonia. Unlike in Texas, COVID-19 was scarce in the European country at the time.

The Cornyn campaign did not reply to Salon's request for comment.

'Someone's reading our texts': Tucker Carlson, UPS and the non-stolen Joe Biden documents

Fox News personality Tucker Swanson McNear Carlson is being widely mocked after regaling viewers of his top-rated cable news program on Wednesday with a bizarre, evidence-free tale of deep state-style espionage directed against him by unknown forces who allegedly stole a sheaf of top-secret documents with "damning" information about the Biden family, as it was in transit to him via UPS.

Carlson can now rest assured: On Thursday morning a UPS spokesperson reported that the company had found the missing contents.

"After an extensive search, we have found the contents of the package and are arranging for its return," the spokesperson said by email. "UPS will always focus first on our customers, and will never stop working to solve issues and make things right. We work hard to ensure every package is delivered, including essential goods, precious family belongings and critical healthcare."

Carlson, however, immediately denied the claim in a text message to me as "not true." I sent him a screenshot of the email and followed up, but he has not replied.

Carlson told his audience Wednesday that a producer in New York had received the documents Monday from an unnamed source, and overnighted them to Los Angeles with a popular commercial shipper, later revealed to be UPS. But Carlson said that UPS informed them Tuesday morning that "the package had been opened and the contents were missing — the documents had disappeared."

UPS did not offer any details about what had happened to the package.

Carlson, however, had implied that the snafu had been a plot to steal the Biden documents before he could broadcast them to the world. Though the host was widely mocked for claiming to have lost history-shaping documents without having them copied first, he actually never said that.

When I asked him about that in a text later that night, he told me that "of course" he had made other copies.

"Hi, Tucker, it's Roger," I wrote. "Did you make copies of those documents? Or did anyone take photos?"

"Of course," Carlson replied. "The point is, someone's reading our texts," he said, suggesting that the package was intercepted because his communications were being monitored.

This struck me as a wild claim. Carlson and I have no rapport; I have his phone number because he called me once in July about a story I was doing. We have spoken only that one time. When I then asked if he would be willing to share the copies of the documents with me, he replied, "Which Roger is this?"

Notorious GOP trickster Roger Stone later said in a text that, while his relationship with Carlson goes back 30 years, he had played no role thus far in the Hunter Biden smear fiasco.

Stone did acknowledge to Salon that he had sent Carlson a "congratulatory text" following Carlson's Monday night interview with Tony Bobulinski, a former Hunter Biden associate who claims to have damaging information about the family. In July, President Trump commuted Stone's sentence on seven felony counts.

Republican operatives and Trump allies have spent nearly two years trying to make corruption allegations against Hunter Biden and his father stick with the American public. They appear to have failed in that regard: A recent poll shows that Americans find Biden more honest than Trump by a margin of 54% to 37%.

In fact, probably the most tangible result of the effort so far has been its spectacular, history-making backfire last year, when the plot led directly to Trump's impeachment by the House of Representatives.

The second wave of attacks this year does not appear much more successful. Trump's supposed personal attorney, former LifeLock spokesperson Rudy Giuliani, distributed contents to journalists of what he claims are the contents of Hunter Biden's old laptop. The FBI has reportedly now opened an investigation into those contents as being part of a possible Russian intelligence operation designed to influence the 2020 election.

Both writers credited the New York Post's original article about the Hunter Biden laptop had previously worked at Fox News, Carlson's network, which rejected Giuliani's pitch on the laptop, citing credibility issues. One of those writers, a former associate producer for Trump "pillow-talk" confidant Sean Hannity, had posted Instagram photos of herself with former Trum campaign CEO and White House strategist Steve Bannon, who shared a middleman role with Giuliani in the laptop's origin story.

That same writer has also posed for photos with Roger Stone.

Watch the "Tucker Carlson Tonight" clip about the UPS saga here.

Court order segregating Minnesota ballots that arrive late could signal more trouble on Election Day

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit's decision to separate late-arriving ballots casts doubt on whether or not late-arriving ballots will even be counted and signals the revival of Minnesota's Election Day deadline unraveling the seven-day extension that the state agreed to uphold in a separate state court case.

For the 2020 election, Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon initially agreed to a deal with two voter groups in state court. Under that deal, they were ballots were supposed to be accepted up to seven days after the November 3 election date as long as they were postmarked prior to that date. Republicans, subsequently, challenged that rule, according to KARE9.

"However well-intentioned and appropriate from a policy perspective in the context of a pandemic during a presidential election, it is not the province of a state executive official to re-write the state's election code, at least as it pertains to selection of presidential electors," the order reads.

The publication goes on to break down the meaning of the latest abrupt change:

"This would mean if you have a mail-in ballot, you must drop it off at your designated location or you can vote in-person through early voting or vote in-person on Election Day. If you are returning a mail-in ballot in-person on Election Day it must be dropped off no later than 3 p.m."

Simon also released a statement admitting the order is a "tremendous and unnecessary disruption to Minnesota's election." Now, he is hoping to make sure voters are aware of the changes, which could greatly impact the outcome of the state's election results.

In the wake of the latest order, Democratic leaders are urging voters refrain from mailing in ballots at this late date because there is no guarantee they will arrive on time with just four days until the election.

On Thursday, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) took to Twitter with a warning for the residents in her state. She tweeted, "Because of LAST MINUTE ruling, Minnesota DO NOT put ballots in mail any more.

Klobuchar added, "In the middle of a pandemic, the Republican Party is doing everything to make it hard for you to vote. Stand up for YOUR rights: Vote in-person or take mail-in ballot directly to ballot box."

It is now recommended that Minnesota voters mail-in ballots in-person by 8:00p.m. on Tuesday, November 3, 2020. All ballots received after that time will be separated.

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