Thanks for following Joanna Walters, Joan E Greve, Martin Belam, Tom McCarthy and I throughout the day. Here’s what’s happened today:
- The US surpassed 9 million cases of coronavirus. According to Johns Hopkins University, 9,043,957 Americans have been diagnosed with coronavirus since the start of the pandemic. The country hit the grim milestone one day after setting a new single-day record in new cases, amid surges in dozens of states.
- Trump falsely claimed doctors are diagnosing more cases of coronavirus to bolster their paychecks. “Our doctors get more money if someone dies from Covid. You know that, right? I mean, our doctors are very smart people,” Trump said at his rally in Michigan. In reality, health experts say the US death toll likely undercounts how many Americans have died of coronavirus.
- Joe Biden and Donald Trump both campaigned in the Midwest, with just four days to go until election day. Trump stopped in Michigan and Biden in Iowa, and they held starkly different in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
- Texas surpassed its total 2016 vote count with early voting. As of today, Texans have already returned a record 9,042,066 ballots, according to the US Elections Project. Kamala Harris campaigned in the state today, ending with a rally in Houston.
- Trump criticized the supreme court for upholding an absentee ballot extension in North Carolina. The president said it was “crazy” that the justices ruled to allow North Carolina election officials to count ballots as long as they are postmarked by election day.
Donald Trump’s environment agency “actually seems to have a war on the environment”, has been “utterly untenable”, and has brought about “deeply, deeply troubling times”, according to three administrators appointed under past presidents.
Reflecting on Trump’s dozens of attacks on core environmental protections, a fourth put it another way: “[I’m] really god damned pissed off – and that’s being kind.”
The former environment administrators, two Republicans and two Democrats, shared their frustrations on a Joe Biden campaign call and in a separate conversation with reporters within the last several weeks. They are: Bill Reilly, from the George HW Bush administration; Christine Todd Whitman, from the George W Bush administration; Carol Browner, from the Bill Clinton administration, and Gina McCarthy, from the Barack Obama administration.
They have more than enough evidence to cite – Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reversed rules meant to clean up the air, defend waterways from industrial pollution and fight climate change.
Trump has brought the agency to an all-time low, his critics argue. According to a report from the Environmental Protection Network of more than 500 former agency officials, the rollbacks have had “serious and measurable consequences, especially for already overburdened low-income communities and communities of color”.
The impacts will include “more respiratory illness and heart disease” that shortens lives; “decreased water quality” for drinking water, fisheries and recreation; “reduced Superfund cleanups,”; and “devastating consequences” from unchecked climate change, the group said.
In Houston, Kamala Harris was joined by rapper Common as well as Tina Knowles, a designer and Beyoncé’s mother.
She spoke about the coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout – and addressed the Black Lives Matter movement. The Democratic vice-presidential candidate had met with and invited to the rally three relatives of George Floyd – whose killing at the hands of police launched a wave of protests across the country.
“Joe Biden says we have got to reform policing,” she said – making a case for her running mate as president. “Joe has the courage to speak the truth about this.”
Harris and Biden have complicated career histories when it comes to policing. As a prosecutor, Harris supported increased criminalization of sex work and resisted action in key police abuse cases. Biden sponsored the 1994 Crime Bill, which accelerated racially-biased incarceration. Now, the Democrats have committed to reform, and Biden’s $20bn criminal justice plan seeks to cut down incarceration rates and increase government oversight of police.
Harris contrasted their approach with that of Donald Trump, who has taken a tough-on-crime stance and maligned protestors against police brutality.
The same Russian hackers that were accused of meddling in the 2016 US elections targeted Democratic officials this year, Reuters reports:
The group of Russian hackers accused of meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election earlier this year targeted the email accounts of Democratic state parties in California and Indiana, and influential think tanks in Washington and New York, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
The attempted intrusions, many of which were internally flagged by Microsoft Corp over the summer, were carried out by a group often nicknamed “Fancy Bear.” The hackers’ activity provides insight into how Russian intelligence is targeting the United States in the run-up to the Nov. 3 election.
The targets identified by Reuters, which include the Center for American Progress, the Council on Foreign Relations and the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said they had not seen any evidence of successful hacking attempts.
Fancy Bear is controlled by Russia’s military intelligence agency and was responsible for hacking the email accounts of Hillary Clinton’s staff in the run-up to the 2016 election, according to a Department of Justice indictment filed in 2018.
News of the Russian hacking activity follows last month’s announcement by Microsoft that Fancy Bear had attempted to hack more than 200 organizations, many of which the software company said were tied to the 2020 election.
Read more here.
Trump and the rise of white supremacist extremism
In May 2017, Demetria Hester was on her way home from work on a train in Portland, Oregon when Jeremy Christian, an avowed white supremacist, boarded and began shouting racist abuse. She says she told him to shut up. When they had got off the train, he threw a bottle that struck her in the face. The next day he killed two men and grievously injured a third. On the Guardian’s Today in Focus podcast, Demetria describes to Anushka Asthana how she felt the police responded to the incident that night and how she watched her attacker walk away without being questioned.
Earlier this year, a court in Portland found Jeremy Christian guilty of two counts of first-degree murder and one count of first-degree attempted murder and sentenced to life without parole. But as hlcarpenter.com’s Lois Beckett tells Anushka, this is the extreme end of an ideology that has permeated all parts of US society, and that President Trump has repeatedly refused to condenm.
As Americans go to the polls next week they must assess the record of a president who has professed to be the “least racist person”. His own Department of Homeland Security describes white supremacists as posing the most persistent and lethal terror threat in the country.
Will Arizona's suburbs abandon the party of Trump?
The president won narrowly in Maricopa county, Arizona in 2016. Polls show his support is draining – and fellow Republicans are at risk.
Over the last four years, Republicans have watched their support collapse in suburbs across the country, as the president’s divisive rhetoric and incendiary behavior alienates women, college graduates and independent voters. But as Trump continues to downplay the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic, even after more than 225,000 deaths nationwide and as cases continue to climb, his conduct is imperiling not only his own re-election campaign, but his entire party.
Read more in the latest installment of the special Guardian series, Phoenix Rising:
In Washington state, protesters gathered at a memorial for Kevin E Peterson Jr, a former football player with a baby daughter, whose family has identified him as the young Black man that sheriff’s deputies shot Thursday evening in a bank parking lot.
Peterson was reportedly shot while he was on the phone with his partner.
His father Kevin Peterson Sr told the Oregonian that he had waited at the shooting scene overnight to be able to identify his son. “He wasn’t a problem child at all,” Peterson Sr told the newspaper. “He was a good kid.”
Community members left flowers and candles at Peterson Jr’s memorial site tonight.
Unions discussing general strike if Trump refuses to accept Biden victory
Steven Greenhouse reports:
US unions have begun discussing the idea of a general strike if Donald Trump refuses to accept an election result showing a Joe Biden victory.
Such a move would be unprecedented in the modern era. There has not been a general strike in the United States since 1946 – and that was restricted to Oakland, California.
The local labor federation in Rochester, New York, was the first union group to officially support the idea. Union federations in Seattle and in western Massachusetts have followed suit, approving resolutions saying a general strike should be considered if Trump seeks to subvert the election outcome.
Dan Maloney, president of the Rochester-Genesee Valley Area Labor Federation, said his 100,000-member group adopted the resolution to get people discussing the idea – from local unions to the AFL-CIO, the nation’s main labor federation which represents more than 12.5 million people.
On 8 October, the Rochester federation voted to support preparing for and holding “a general strike of all working people, if necessary, to ensure a constitutionally mandated peaceful transition of power as a result of the 2020 presidential elections”. The union leaders voted to stand “firmly in opposition to any effort to subvert, distort, misrepresent or disregard the final outcome” of the election.
The Rochester move spurred discussion and debate of a possible general strike in union after union, even though some labor leaders see it as a drastic, hard-to-pull-off action. “The idea has gotten a lot more legs than I ever thought it would,” Maloney told hlcarpenter.com. “Our democracy is in jeopardy of a wannabe dictator. It’s time to be counted and do whatever it takes to remove him from office if he attempts to retain power against the will of the American people.”
Maloney said that in a 22 October call with labor leaders, Richard Trumka, the AFL-CIO’s president, stressed that until 3 November, unions should overwhelmingly focus on maximizing voter turnout for Biden. After that, Trumka said, unions can focus on what to do if Trump resists a peaceful transition.
The AFL-CIO’s executive council, approved a resolution on 19 October saying: “Democracies are not, in the last analysis, protected by judges or lawyers, reporters or publishers. The survival of democracy depends on the determination of working people to defend it. And America’s labor movement is indeed determined to defend our democratic republic.”
Guam goes to the polls but votes won’t matter.
Mar-Vic Cagurangan reports:
Politics is a favourite sport on the streets of Hagatna, where voters are preparing for the US elections.
Billboards adorn every street corner and conversations are dominated by candidates and their policies. But when Guamanians go to the polls on 3 November and mark down their preference for president, their “votes” won’t count.
Despite being American citizens, an anomaly in US law means the residents of the island, which lies in the Pacific Ocean 8,000 miles from Washington, have no say as to who runs their country.
They vote for a local legislature, a governor, and a delegate to the US House of Representatives – a delegate who cannot vote – but their choice for president, marked on the same ballot, carries no weight.
Guam’s is a straw poll: a non-binding four-yearly exercise that serves merely as an early barometer for how the rest of the nation will vote.
Guam residents are among the 4 million disenfranchised Americans living in US territories who can’t vote for president. And being left out of the election stings.
“I am deeply unhappy that as a US citizen formerly residing on the mainland, I have to give up my voting rights for president simply by moving to another part of the US,” James Hofman, a corporate lawyer who moved to Guam from California in 2006, told hlcarpenter.com.
Kamala Harris, meanwhile, is in Texas.
Speaking briefly with reporters in Houston, Harris responded to a question about why Biden wasn’t campaigning in the state.
“We’re putting a lot of resources into Texas,” she said, according to the press poll report. “We understand that first of all the people of Texas - Texas has so much at stake in this election and they deserve to be heard, they deserve to be engaged by us because we intend to earn every vote.”
No Democrat has carried Texas since 1978, but the solidly red state may have caught a purple tinge this year. Still, neither Trump nor Biden have plans to campaign in the state ahead of election day – with the Biden campaign instead dispatching Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff, as well as Biden’s wife Jill Biden, and several surrogates and allies.
Texas’ early votes so far have exceeded the tolal 8.9m votes cast in 2016 – in part because Democratic activists fought to extend early voting by a week.
In Wisconsin, Joe Biden – speaking while wearing a mask – kept focused on the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re going to bring the Republicans and Democrats together” to pass an economic relief bill, he told supporters. “I’m not going to shut down the economy, I’m going to shut down the virus.”
It’s a line Biden also tweeted out earlier today, responding to Trump’s attack lines.
Donald Trump was uncharacteristically brief – speaking for just over 20 minutes in Rochester, Minnesota. He complained several times that local authorities only allowed 250 people to attend.
In the New York Times, Ron Suskind interviewed current and former Trump administration officials and aides who worried about what the president would do to keep his grip on power.
They “are worried that the president could use the power of the government – the one they all serve or served within – to keep himself in office or to create favorable terms for negotiating his exit”, Suskin writes.
They are worried that the president could use the power of the government – the one they all serve or served within – to keep himself in office or to create favorable terms for negotiating his exit from the White House. Like many other experts inside and outside the government, they are also concerned about foreign adversaries using the internet to sow chaos, exacerbate divisions and undermine our democratic process.
Many of the officials I spoke to came back to one idea: You don’t know Donald Trump like we do. Even though they can’t predict exactly what will happen, their concerns range from the president welcoming, then leveraging, foreign interference in the election, to encouraging havoc that grows into conflagrations that would merit his calling upon US forces. Because he is now surrounded by loyalists, they say, there is no one to try to tell an impulsive man what he should or shouldn’t do.
“That guy you saw in the debate,” a second former senior intelligence official told me, after the first debate, when the president offered one of the most astonishing performances of any leader in modern American history – bullying, ridiculing, manic, boasting, fabricating, relentlessly interrupting and talking over his opponent. “That’s really him. Not the myth that’s been created. That’s Trump.”
Read more here.
Indeed, political strategists, academics journalists are all anxiously awaiting election day, and wondering whether a president who has sown disinformation about voting, and whose political party is working to suppress Americans access to voting will step down easily, if polls and predictions that find his opponent leading come to fruition.
Read more opinion and analysis from hlcarpenter.com’s Arwa Mahdawi:
Twitter updated its policies around hacked materials, the company announced Friday, lifting restrictions that were placed on the account of the New York Post after it published a controversial story a few weeks ago.
hlcarpenter.com’s Kari Paul reports:
It is the latest move in an ongoing saga that called into question the moderation policies of social media platforms. Both Twitter and Facebook took measures to limit the spread of an article published by the New York Post on 14 October, which was reported based on documents gleaned from an abandoned computer formerly belonging to Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden.
“Our policies are living documents,” the company shared in a tweet on Friday. “We’re willing to update and adjust them when we encounter new scenarios or receive important feedback from the public. One such example is the recent change to our Hacked Materials Policy and its impact on accounts like the New York Post.”
Twitter’s ban on the story marked the first time the company has directly limited the spread of information from a news site, as it works to address misinformation ahead of the 2020 elections.
The blocking of the New York Post story was seen by some Republicans as censorship of conservative speech or a move favoring Biden over his opponent Donald Trump. Twitter’s reversal may have been a response to the Senate hearing on Wednesday, in which CEO Jack Dorsey was excoriated by Republican lawmakers.
“Who the hell elected you and put you in charge of what the media are allowed to report and what the American people are allowed to hear?” Cruz asked Dorsey, asserting that Twitter was functioning as “a Democratic super PAC.”
The New York Post, whose Twitter account remained silent following the limits placed on it on 14 October, resumed Tweeting on Friday evening. It said it has gained nearly 190,000 followers in the few weeks since it was blocked.
Hi there, it’s Maanvi – blogging from the West Coast.
Drew Ferguson, a representative of Georgia and the House Republican Chief Deputy Whip has tested positive for Covid-19.
He said he took a diagnostic test after experiencing symptoms and is self-quarantining. He and Georgia governor Brian Kemp – who said he has been exposed to the virus – were both at a rally in Manchester on Tuesday, speaking with a largely maskless crowd. Georgia Public Broadcasting captured a photo of the two men shaking hands.
The campaign trail race continues. I’m handing over to my colleague in California now, Maanvi Singh, who will take you through developments over the next few hours, so stay tuned.
Donald Trump is just beginning to speak in Rochester, Minnesota, after complaining mightily on the way in about crowd restrictions because of coronavirus.
Joe Biden will be speaking in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, shortly, as the two candidates wrap up a busy Friday in the heartland.
The National Guard Bureau has established a new unit made up mostly of military policemen that could be dispatched to help quell unrest in coming days, after a turbulent summer in which National Guard members were deployed to several cities, the Washington Post reports.
The unit, which also could be used to respond to natural disasters and other missions, was formed in September and initially described as a rapid-reaction force. But as one of the most divisive elections in American history closes in, National Guard officials have softened how they characterize the service members, instead referring to them as “regional response units.”
A National Guard official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said the new name more accurately details their mission. But the shift away from language used in war also hints at the complicated situation the National Guard could face, as President Trump signals that he might not accept the results of the election if he loses.
National Guard members, who are organized within each state and territory and typically commanded by their governor, could be called upon to perform crowd control, safeguard landmarks or enforce curfews, based on roles they already have had this year. Some of them also could be deployed to the nation’s capital, if Trump decides to repeat his plan from June and amass a military force in Washington that teams with federal and local law enforcement.
The new response unit, with a total of about 600 members split between Alabama and Arizona, is not large enough to provide a response like the one Washington saw in June. First reported on by the Associated Press this month, it could provide an initial wave of extra support in states where there is unrest or be used in the nation’s capital, where the Trump administration has broader control because of the city’s status as a federal jurisdiction.
As we reported earlier today, what military brass are really hoping for is a decisive result.
Political change is afoot in Arizona. Well worth a read this weekend, #ICYMI, is hlcarpenter.com’s special Phoenix Rising series this week.
My colleagues Lauren Gambino and Maanvi Singh zeroed in on some topical voting trends in the Grand Canyon state to find out whether it will become the graveyard of Trumpism.
Here’s Lauren a little earlier, on the late Arizona Republican Senator John McCain’s widow, who recently endorsed Joe Biden, and one of the pieces in the series:
Once in a blue moon?
Well, you’re in luck, this is a blue moon month - there was a full moon on October 1 and there’s one tomorrow, too, October 31.
And the reward, if you’re a Democrat and a music fan, is that Stevie Wonder is going to rally with Joe Biden and Barack Obama tomorrow in Detroit.
Biden and Obama will campaign together in Flint, Michigan, first, for a get-out-the-vote rally, then proceed to the Motor City to be joined by Wonder, a home grown Michigander and Motown legend, as my colleague, Daniel Strauss, noted earlier: