Selasa, 27 Oktober 2020

US election LIVE updates: Donald Trump holds rallies in Michigan, Wisconsin while Joe Biden hits Georgia as third coronavirus wave continues to sweep nation - The Sydney Morning Herald


  • President Donald Trump is getting plenty of air miles on this Tuesday evening (US time), holding three rallies in Michigan, Wisconsin and Nebraska.
  • Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has also stepped up his appearances, hitting Warm Springs and then Atlanta in the key southern state of Georgia.
  • Former US president Barack Obama has mocked Trump during an appearance in Orlando, saying he was "jealous of COVID's media coverage".
  • Melania Trump has made her first solo appearance of the campaign, slamming Joe Biden, Democrats and the media.

Latest updates

How does Russia meddle in US politics?

Digital foreign editor Chris Zappone is our newsroom expert on the topic of Russian meddling. So who better than to write an explainer on the topic. Read all about how a climate of "fake news" has taken on a life of its own in the US:

A poster showing six wanted Russian military intelligence officers is displayed in Washington in October.

A poster showing six wanted Russian military intelligence officers is displayed in Washington in October.Credit:AP

It was just two weeks out from election day when officials in Washington made the announcement: Russia and Iran were interfering in the electoral process. In a bid to "intimidate voters", the Iranians were sending fake emails that mimicked the far-right US group the Proud Boys, said controversial national intelligence head John Ratcliffe – and "we have confirmed that some voter registration information has been obtained by Iran and, separately, by Russia".

Even as Iran was named, US officials separately maintained that Russia remained the largest threat. The warnings, which US agencies had been issuing for months, caused a cringe-inducing ripple of deja vu: Russia's interference has plagued the US since 2016, an election year marked by a barrage of disinformation, hacks and leakings of Democrats' information, and armies of "trolls" marshalled from abroad.

Already in October, the Department of Justice had announced the indictments of six hackers from Russia’s military unit 74455, accused of some of the most destructive "hacks" on other nations – including France, Ukraine and South Korea – in recent years. This was the same group that assisted in the now-infamous 2016 hack-and-leak operation on the Democrats, although they were not indicted in relation to this.

Was the US government warning we were on the tip of some fresh iceberg? How is Russia involved in this election? What form does its interference take? And how has a climate of "fake news" taken on a life of its own in the US?

Read more here.

Obama’s new gig: Gleefully needling Trump

Former US President Barack Obama bounded off the stage in Philadelphia last week after his debut as Joe Biden's 2020 battering ram and pronounced himself pumped — and even a bit delighted at the chance to troll his troll, President Donald Trump.

"Oh man, that felt good," Obama told a friend in a phone call — and he let Biden's staff know that the ungainly format of the event, a "drive-in rally" where he addressed hundreds of supporters in cars in a stadium's parking lot, had worked surprisingly well, according to several people close to the former president who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

In 2016, Obama took his whacks at Trump on behalf of Hillary Clinton. Then he stepped up his criticism of his successor during the 2018 midterm elections. This summer, during the virtual Democratic convention, he offered a damning jeremiad against the president, warning that Trump's reelection would "tear our democracy down."

But nothing Obama has said during the Trump era compares with his gleeful slag-heaping of scorn upon Trump in the closing days of the 2020 campaign, part of a two-week burst of activity that will culminate in a joint rally with Biden being planned for this coming weekend, according to Democratic officials.

"What's his closing argument? That people are too focused on COVID?" Obama said Tuesday at an Orlando rally intended to energise voters in Florida, a perennial neck-and-neck battleground and Trump's adopted home state. "He said this at one of his rallies. 'COVID, COVID, COVID,' he's complained. He's jealous of COVID's media coverage."

Trump was apparently watching. And he complained about how much media coverage Obama was getting. "@FoxNews is playing Obama's no crowd, fake speech for Biden, a man he could barely endorse," Trump tweeted at the 21-minute mark of his predecessor's speech.

Obama's return to the trail is driven by a desire to help Biden in any way he can, according to friends and Democratic aides. He has already lent his name to about 50 fundraising emails on behalf of Biden and other Democrats, in addition to cutting get-out-the-vote ads appearing in 15 swing states and raising millions of dollars through online fundraisers.

Above all, he has been eager to reverse roles with his loyal helpmate, these allies and associates say, and willing to throw punches that would undermine the former vice-president's image as a national healer if Biden took the swing himself.

It has also allowed Obama to have fun at a time when many Biden supporters have been anxiously following state polling averages in fear of a second Trump surprise. Obama is clearly relishing the chance to strike back at Trump, who has not only baited him for years but has also tried to eradicate his legacy, policy by policy.

"He's plainly having a good time out there — like a guy with a lot of material to work with who's been waiting a long time to share it," said David Axelrod, a longtime campaign and White House adviser to the former president.

Obama kicked off the Philadelphia rally by giddily referring to a recent New York Times report that detailed previously unknown financial holdings of the president's in China and other foreign countries.

"Can you imagine if I had a secret Chinese bank account when I was running for reelection?" Obama asked after ridiculing lower-than-expected recent TV ratings for the president and mocking him for contracting the coronavirus after flouting safety measures. "They would've called me Beijing Barry."

At his second rally, on Saturday in a Miami parking lot, Obama went after Trump with an ear-to-ear smile that at times gave way to raw-nerve rage.

Popping up in Florida just as Trump arrived in West Palm Beach to cast his vote, the former president slammed his successor for mishandling the coronavirus pandemic, "fumbling" the economy, asking aides about selling Puerto Rico, musing about killing the virus by injecting disinfectant, and once reportedly floating the idea of blasting hurricanes with nuclear weapons.

Obama concluded by comparing Trump, unfavourably, to the state's signature meme, a feckless and addled Everyman known for bizarre and idiotic behaviour.

"Florida Man wouldn't even do this stuff!" Obama said. "Why do we accept it from the president of the United States?"

Trump took instant notice. "Nobody is showing up for Obama's hate laced speeches," the president wrote on Twitter moments after Obama had finished. "47 people! No energy, but still better than Joe!"

There were, in fact, dozens of cars at the event, and the Biden campaign said hundreds of potential attendees had been turned away to comply with social-distancing requirements.

Obama's manicured vitriol falls considerably short of anything Trump might say in the course of a typical rally, and so far the post-speech fact-checks have been a comparatively light lift. An Obama staff member said that all of his preplanned zingers had been fact-checked.

But his tone, nonetheless, represents a sharp divergence from the 2016 summons by his wife, Michelle Obama, in support of Clinton: "When they go low, we go high."

Michelle Obama, who has recorded videos for the Biden campaign, has no plans to appear at events in person this campaign, Democratic aides with knowledge of her plans said. Her husband, for his part, is intent on expending his political capital now, even if it involves abandoning his characteristic reluctance to sling insults at Trump, a man he has privately described as beneath contempt.

The New York Times


Judge rejects US request to shield Trump from rape accuser's defamation lawsuit

A federal judge has denied President Donald Trump's request that the United States replace him as the defendant in a defamation lawsuit alleging he raped a woman in a Manhattan department store in the 1990s.

The decision by US District Judge Lewis A Kaplan came after the Justice Department argued that the United States – and by extension the American people – should replace Trump as the defendant in a lawsuit filed by the columnist E. Jean Carroll.

The government's lawyers contended that the US could step in as the defendant because Trump was forced to respond to her lawsuit to prove he was physically and mentally fit for the job.

US President Donald Trump has said his accuser, E. Jean Carroll, was "totally lying" to sell a memoir.

US President Donald Trump has said his accuser, E. Jean Carroll, was "totally lying" to sell a memoir.Credit:AP

A lawyer for Carroll, Roberta Kaplan, called it a clear victory for her client.

"The simple truth is that President Trump defamed our client because she was brave enough to reveal that he had sexually assaulted her, and that brutal, personal attack cannot be attributed to the Office of the President," Kaplan said in a statement. AP

Read more here.

As Trump hits town, Wisconsin officials report record COVID-19 cases

President Donald Trump's big rally in West Salem, Wisconsin, was held just hours after state public health officials announced new highs in reported coronavirus-related deaths and hospitalisations.

The state announced 5262 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday (US time) and 64 more deaths, both daily records. Wisconsin’s Democratic Governor Tony Evers accused the White House of giving up on trying to stop the virus and reiterated that Republican leaders are delivering inconsistent messages.

Evers tweeted shortly before Trump's arrival: "There’s no way to sugarcoat it — we are facing an urgent crisis and there is an imminent risk to you, your family members, your friends, your neighbours, and the people you care about."

A state appeals court last week blocked an Evers order limiting the size of public indoor gatherings.

President Trump, however, told rallygoers he wants the state to further lift coronavirus restrictions. Trump says, "Let’s get your governor to open it up."

Facebook ban on new political ads starts off with major hiccups

Facebook's ban on new political ads has gotten off to a rocky start, with some political advertisers saying their ads were blocked despite being submitted and approved before the October 27 deadline.

Biden campaign digital director Rob Flaherty tweeted his dissatisfaction with the initiative, saying it was "performative" and "immediately" broke.

Mark Jablonowski, managing director of DSPolitical, said his clients across the country ran into issues early on Tuesday morning (US time). The firm, which works on digital advertising for hundreds of Democratic campaigns across the country, reported that client ads that had been previously approved and running were being blocked by Facebook, citing the new policy.

"Everyone from unions to major campaigns have reported experiencing these issues," Jablonowski said. "From what it appears, this is clearly a technology issue that they have not been able to resolve yet."

DSPolitical reached out to Facebook but has not received a response yet and its ads have not been restored.

Facebook ads product manager Rob Leathern tweeted that the company was investigating the issue of "ads being paused incorrectly and some advertisers having trouble making changes to their campaigns".

"We're working quickly on these fixes, and will share an update once they are resolved," he wrote.

Facebook announced its plan in September to stop approving new political ads for the seven days before election night. But campaigns and others would still be able to run ads that had previously made it through Facebook's system, and even be able to change the budget and placement of those ads.

Many campaigns rushed to buy ads and get them approved last week before the ban set in. The Trump campaign spent $US5.75 million ($A8.08 million) on Facebook ads during the week ending October 25, while the Biden campaign spent $US8.42 million ($A11.83 million) in the same time period.

That compares with $US4.3 million ($A6.04 million) for the Trump campaign and $US7.41 million ($A10.41 million) for the Biden campaign between October 12 and 18.

"Campaigns had a very hard deadline," said Eric Wilson, a Republican digital strategist.

Tech for Campaigns, a nonprofit that works with left-leaning down-ballot campaigns, said it was currently running ads for more than 50 campaigns. It submitted all Facebook ads early to ensure they had time to appeal any that were rejected by the social network.

"We actually submitted all of our creative a week ago," said Jessica Alter, the co-founder of Tech for Campaigns. "We've been ready for a while."

Facebook was one of the cheapest and most effective channels for candidates – especially in local races – to ensure their messages reached voters. The Facebook ad restrictions make alternative outreach, such as text messages and emails, even more important in the final stretch.

The new rules particularly have implications for campaigns during an election in a pandemic, where in-person campaigning like door-knocking and large events are limited due to the coronavirus.

Facebook also plans to temporarily block all political ads after the polls close on November 3. Google has confirmed it will do the same. Both companies cited the fact that results of the election might not be available the night of November 3 because of the influx of mail-in voting this year.

Facebook said that the temporary ban is intended to limit confusion and abuse of the site in the days after the election. The company's policies also outline plans to try to prevent the spread of misinformation – candidates are not allowed to prematurely claim victory in the ads or try to mislead people about the legitimacy of the election results.

Facebook has faced backlash and criticism for its ads policies since it confirmed last year that politicians are allowed to lie in ads. Around the same time, fellow social media company Twitter said it would ban political ads altogether.

Facebook's temporary ads ban has been controversial since it was first announced, and campaigns continued to take issue with it Tuesday.

A Biden campaign staffer, Megan Clasen, called out one ad the Trump campaign had in the Facebook ad library, saying in a tweet that it broke the company rules. The ad reads, "Election Day Is Today," with a photo of Trump, according to a screenshot.

"Facebook told the Biden campaign we could not launch ads that say 'Election Day is tomorrow' or 'Election Day is today,'" Clasen tweeted.

Facebook confirmed the ad does violate its policy.

"As we made clear in our public communications and directly to campaigns, we prohibit ads that say 'Vote Today' without additional context or clarity," Facebook spokesman Joe Osborne said.

The policy says that candidates should run ads that will "stay relevant" through election day.

"For instance, it's best to reference voting on 'Election Day' or 'November 3' versus 'tomorrow' or 'today," it reads.

The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Washington Post

Supreme Court rejects delay of Minnesota congressional vote

A Minnesota Republican candidate's bid to delay voting in his congressional race to February after the death of a third-party candidate was rejected on Tuesday at the Supreme Court.

Justice Neil Gorsuch, who handles emergency requests from the federal appeals court that oversees Minnesota, denied the request from Tyler Kistner. As is typical when the court acts on an emergency basis, Gorsuch did not say anything in denying the request. But he also didn't ask Kistner's opponent to respond in writing or refer the question to the full court, suggesting it wasn't a close question.

Kistner is running against Democrat Angie Craig, the incumbent, in the November 3 race for Minnesota’s competitive 2nd District, which stretches south from St Paul's suburbs.

Democrat Angie Craig.

Democrat Angie Craig.Credit:AP

The Craig-Kistner race was thrown into confusion after the September death of Legal Marijuana Now Party candidate Adam Weeks. Because that party has major status in Minnesota and the death was sufficiently close to the election, it triggered a state law calling for a delay until February.

But Craig won a lower-court ruling to block the delay and the election was moved back to November 3. An appeals court left that decision in place, saying there are strong reasons for a uniform date for federal elections, and there must be compelling circumstances for a state to be permitted to change the date.

Kistner appealed to the Supreme Court for an emergency order putting on hold the lower court ruling. Kistner’s case is still active in the appeals court, but arguments won’t be heard there until after the election.

Craig is expected to benefit from the high turnout on Election Day. Kistner’s chances may have been better in a special election, in which Republicans tend to have a greater advantage from the lower turnout.

The Minnesota law calling for an election delay following the death of a major-party candidate was passed years after Senator Paul Wellstone died in a 2002 plane crash. Wellstone died just 11 days before the election, triggering a frenetic race in which Republican Norm Coleman defeated former vice-president Walter Mondale, who was tapped to take Wellstone’s place as the Democratic candidate.

Autopsy results released on Tuesday by the Southern Minnesota Regional Medical Examiner’s Office found Weeks died of ethanol and fentanyl toxicity.



Supreme Court ruling spurs Wisconsin to get early votes in

While addressing thousands of supporters at a rally in the battleground state of Wisconsin, President Donald Trump has again questioned the integrity of the US election, saying it would be "inappropriate" to take extra time to count the tens of millions of ballots cast by mail in his race against Democrat Joe Biden.

The issue of absentee ballots has been a major election issue. Democrats and Republicans are both pushing to get 320,000 outstanding absentee ballots returned by the close of polls on election day, after the US Supreme Court refused to extend the deadline to receive and count ballots as Democrats had wanted.

"This is an all-hands-on-deck final push," said Ben Wikler, who chairs the Wisconsin Democratic Party, which has been advocating absentee voting more aggressively than Republicans.

President Donald Trump is introduced to supporters at a campaign rally in West Salem, Wisconsin.

President Donald Trump is introduced to supporters at a campaign rally in West Salem, Wisconsin.Credit:AP

But the message is the same for Republicans who decided to mail in their ballots amid a surge in coronavirus cases in Wisconsin.

“If you do it absentee, do it now, do it quickly," said Andrew Hitt, chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party.

Democrats argued in a federal lawsuit that more time should be allotted for ballots to arrive by mail and be counted because of the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic. Republicans countered that voters had plenty of options to vote on time and that the rules shouldn't be changed so close to the election. The Supreme Court, in a 5-3 decision Monday along ideological lines, affirmed an appellate court ruling that had blocked the extended count.

It's not clear if the ruling will benefit one side or the other in Wisconsin, which Trump won by fewer than 23,000 votes in 2016, said Barry Burden, a University of Wisconsin-Madison political science professor and the director of the Elections Research Project.

Trump is campaigning in Wisconsin now while Democratic challenger Joe Biden is scheduled to visit the state on Friday.

"The fact that Democrats are using mail voting more than Republicans are suggests that the Biden campaign would be hurt more by ballots that come in late," Burden said.

However, since the appellate ruling nearly three weeks ago, Democrats have been working under the assumption that the deadline for returning ballots would be 8 pm on election day and have helped shatter the state record for returning absentee ballots, Burden said.

As of Tuesday, more than 1.4 million ballots had been returned, including 352,000 that were cast early in person. That is 48 per cent of the total Wisconsin votes cast in the 2016 presidential election. About 10 times more ballots have been returned by mail than in typical presidential elections.

Still, there were 320,000 outstanding ballots as of Tuesday, which amounts to 18 per cent of the nearly 1.7 million absentee ballots requested. In the April presidential primary election, 9 per cent of all requested absentee ballots were not returned. In that election, 1.7 per cent of all ballots returned were rejected due to missing signatures or other deficiencies that were not fixed in time by the voters.

The ruling setting the 8pm election day deadline for returning ballots means there will "definitely" be some that aren't counted, Burden said. In Wisconsin's April primary, some 80,000 ballots arrived after election day.

The US postal service district that covers most of Wisconsin has not met the agency’s goal of having at least 95 per cent of first-class mail delivered within five days during the month of October, according to postal data. The most recently available delivery data showed on-time delivery rates at 84.6 per cent in the week that ended October 16, right as ballots were moving through the system.

Republicans and Democrats are urging their voters to get their ballots in immediately.


Watch live: Donald Trump addresses a rally in Wisconsin

US President Donald Trump has addressed supporters in Wisconsin during his second major rally of the day. You can watch the full clip here:

1000-plus American pastors call for 'free and fair election'

More than 1000 clergy members, religious scholars and other faith-based advocates have signed onto a unique statement that supports a comprehensive path to "a free and fair election" and urges leaders to heed the verdict of "legitimate election results" regardless of who wins in November.

Signatories of the statement, shared in advance with The Associated Press, include senior officials at the National Association of Evangelicals and prominent progressive pastor the Reverend William Barber, as well as two past faith advisers to former President George W. Bush. The statement’s wide swath of endorsements illustrates the extent to which the unprecedented nature of a mid-pandemic election has pushed organised religion to showcase its civic power.

US President Donald Trump has dangled the prospect of disputing the election's outcome.

US President Donald Trump has dangled the prospect of disputing the election's outcome.Credit:AP

After listing four basic principles, including the importance of leaders sharing "timely, accurate information about the election results" rather than misinformation, the statement goes on to state that those ideas "are central to a functioning and healthy republic and they are supported by the vast majority of Americans, yet they are being challenged in unprecedented ways in the 2020 election".

"America is only as strong as its people’s commitment to our democracy and the freedoms and rights it ensures," the joint statement adds.

Galen Carey, vice president of government relations at the evangelicals association, contrasted the current political climate with the contentious 2000 presidential election, when vote counting in the swing state of Florida was halted and Bush declared the winner following a Supreme Court ruling.

"Twenty years later, we’re not in that place where we can just assume that once the outcome is announced and decided, everyone can just go on with their lives and wish the new leaders well," Carey, who signed the joint statement alongside NAE President Walter Kim, said in an interview.AP

Read more here.

Trump touches down in Wisconsin ahead of late afternoon rally

Fresh from a wet and cold rally in Michigan, the President has just touched down to blue skies and sunshine in Wisconsin, where he is due to hold a rally shortly.

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2020-10-28 00:22:00Z

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