It’s Friday, October 9, 2020. Election Day is 25 days away. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.
Four storylines from a norm-busting election year
The 2020 campaign started with an impeachment trial, hit its stride during a pandemic, and is ending with a presidential health crisis. Officials are even preparing for the chaos of the campaign to continue into January, in the event that the results are contested. To refer to this election year as “unprecedented” is almost cliché at this point.
But even by those standards, there are four storylines from Thursday worth considering together for their complete defiance of the norms that have governed past campaigns.
1. The president is preparing to campaign while still infected with a contagious virus. Dr. Sean Conley, the White House physician, released a memorandum Thursday declaring that President Trump had “responded extremely well” to his course of treatment for COVID-19 and predicting that he could safely “return to public engagements” on Saturday. Trump promptly told Fox News host Sean Hannity that he planned to hold a rally in Florida on Saturday night.
But Trump could still be contagious, medical experts told the Associated Press. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, told MNSBC that a key factor in determining if a coronavirus patient is no longer contagious is if they test negative twice, 24 hours apart. Trump repeatedly dodged questions from Hannity on whether he had yet to test negative again. While presidents have fallen ill before, they have generally remained cloisetered at the White House until fully recovering.
2. It is unclear if the presidential debates will proceed. In every election cycle since 2000, the major-party presidential nominees have debated three times at the close of the campaign. That pattern may end in 2020, after President Trump rebuffed a plan announced by the Commission on Presidential Debates for the second debate next week to take place virtually.
“I’m not going to waste my time” at a virtual debate, Trump told Maria Bartiromo of Fox Business News. The Biden campaign, which said they had been “prepared to accept” the commission’s proposal until Trump declined to participate, soon announced plans to hold a town hall on ABC News on the night of October 15 — when the second debate was scheduled to take place — instead. It is unknown if the candidates will participate in the next scheduled debate, on Octoebr 22, or if the commission will hold it virtually or in-person.
3. The president is calling for his political rivals to be indicted. In his interview with Baritoromo on Thursday morning, Trump lashed out at his own top law enforcement officials, calling for them to indict former President Barack Obama and his Democratic rival Joe Biden. The president called his FBI director, Christopher Wray, “dissapointing” and said he had directly pressured Attorney General William Barr to arrest Obama and Biden.
“These people should be indicted,” he said, accusing the Democrats of spying on his 2016 campaign. “This was the greatest political crime in the history of our country, and that includes Obama and it includes Biden.” No U.S. president has ever before urged the Justice Department to arrest their opponent in the midst of a re-election campaign.
4. The speaker of the House is publicly considering invocation of the 25th Amendment. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is holding a press conference today to introduce legislation that would create a Commission on Presidential Capacity to Discharge the Powers and Duties of Office. Pelosi said that the commission would be charged with considering presidential fitness and the potential need to invoke the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, which concerns presidntial succession and dsiability.
Section 4 of the amendment lays out the process by which a majority of Cabinet officers or “of such other body as Congress may by law provide” — such as Pelosi’s proposed commission — could determine the president is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office,” which would temporarily transfer the powers of the presidency to the vice president. Section 4 has never before been invoked, nor has Congress ever attempt to assert a role in the 25th Amendment process.
Q&A: Former FBI agent Peter Strzok on Trump, Russia, and his texts
The Russia investigation is back in the news, facing scrutiny in two separate probes, a raft of new books, and a Showtime miniseries.
One of those books is “Compromised,” by Peter Strzok, the former FBI deputy assistant director who was dismissed from the bureau amid a firestorm caused by the release of anti-Trump text messages that he sent to a fellow agent.
I spoke to Strzok recently about his role in the Trump investigations, the threat Russia still poses to U.S. elections, and more. Read our Q&A here.
— After talks were briefly shut down by President Trump, administration officials and congressional leaders have resumed negotiations over sending a second round of $1,2000 stimulus checks.
— Joe Biden again refused to answer whether he adding seats to the Supreme Court, telling reporters he would only reveal his stance “when the election is over.”
— The FBI charged 13 people in a plot to kidnap Gretchen Whitmer, the Democratic governor of Michigan.
All times Eastern.
President Donald Trump will sit for his first on-camera interview since contracting coronavirus at 8 p.m. on Fox News. Dr. Marc Siegel, the network’s medical contributor, will conduct the interview.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden will travel to Las Vegas, Nevada. He will make a “community stop” in East Las Vegas at 2:30 p.m. and deliver remarks at a drive-in event at 5:15 p.m.
The House and Senate will each meet at 10 a.m. for brief pro forma sessions.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will hold a press conference at 10:15 a.m. to introduce legislation that would create the Commission on Presidential Capacity to Discharge the Powers and Duties of Office.
The Supreme Court will hold its weekly conference.
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