The TAKE with Rick Klein
This marks a moment bigger than politics: The 74-year-old president of the United States has tested positive for a disease that has killed more than 207,000 Americans.
There is no roadmap for what happens next. This will rock markets, test national-security relationships and place the campaign in an uncertain and tense kind of pause.
The news resets just about everything that seemed urgent about this already scary moment in the nation, just 32 days before Election Day and with more than 2 million Americans having already voted.
It also puts what Trump has done and said about COVID-19 in a new light. He has played the threat down; bragged that he helped tame it; promoted dubious treatments; misled the public about its severity; quarreled with his own administration’s experts on how best to control it; and suggested – as recently as in a video he recorded for an event Thursday night – that “the end of the pandemic is in sight.”
Trump has also, repeatedly and undeniably, used COVID-19 as a political weapon. He has threatened and cajoled state and local leaders around reopening schools and businesses, held massive events in defiance of his administration’s guidelines and mocked political opponents even for the personal precautions they have taken.
“I don’t wear masks like him,” Trump said about Biden at Tuesday night’s debate. “Every time you see him, he’s got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away from me, and he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.”
Trump has banked his reelection on the perception that he tamed COVID-19 and has the economy roaring back. A president who has wanted to look tough during a moment of crisis is himself more vulnerable than ever.
The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks
The news overnight could change the tone of the ongoing negotiations on Capitol Hill over relief spending too. Republicans and the Trump administration could feel more pressure to compromise or tamp down the rhetoric about the nation rounding a corner in this pandemic and economic recession.
House Democrats passed their own $2.2 trillion pandemic relief bill late Thursday night though the details and price tag so far have been rejected by Senate Republicans and this White House.
The Democrats’ bill in the House would restore the $600 supplemental federal unemployment benefits that expired for millions in July and include another round of direct checks to Americans at $1,200 per taxpayer and $500 per dependent, should Republicans pick it up and the president sign it into law.
Democrats say more federal funds are needed with airlines and other large employers beginning new rounds of layoff this fall.
Their bill would also extend the Paycheck Protection Program to help small businesses keep staff on payroll, a benefit which expired in early August.
Another 837,000 Americans applied for new unemployment help last week, according to government data — the 28th straight week of historically high unemployment claims. The weekly report showed that in total over 26 million Americans are currently receiving unemployment benefits under state and federal programs.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin negotiated all week and will likely continue to in the coming days, but so far have failed to reach a compromise.
The TIP with Quinn Scanlan
Just days after Trump first suggested that supporters try to vote twice — first by mail and then in person on Nov. 3 — in order to “test the system,” Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger alleged that there were up to 1,000 instances of potential doubling voting during elections over the summer. Now, his office has released preliminary data backing it up.
“The purpose of releasing this report is to emphasize to campaigns and voters that double voting is a felony,” Jordan Fuchs, deputy secretary of state, told ABC News Thursday. “Through our findings, it is clear that some people believe voting in person twice is OK — it’s not.”
According to the data, 1,042 people may have voted twice across 119 of Georgia’s 159 counties during the June 9 primary: 85% mailed in ballots and were also issued one on Election Day, lending credence to the argument that many voters were unsure if their absentee ballots would actually be counted.
But the data for the Aug. 11 runoff paints a very different picture — one where that argument wouldn’t hold up. Nearly 95% of the 294 potential double voters were issued ballots both during in-person early voting and on Election Day.
Gabriel Sterling, the voting system implementation manager in Raffensperger’s office, said those instances are still being investigated but the main fix — besides people not showing up to vote twice — is county election officials following the processes in place, which require them to issue voters a “credit” in the registration system once they’re given a ballot at the polls: “Obviously that did not happen a couple of hundred times — at a minimum.”
ONE MORE THING
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump have tested positive for COVID-19. In a statement, White House Dr. Sean Conley said the Trumps “are both well” and that they planned to “remain home at the White House during their convalescence.” A short time later, the White House sent out an updated public schedule that removed the president’s campaign rally in Florida on Friday. The announcement came only hours after it was revealed that one of the president’s closest advisers, Hope Hicks, had tested positive.
ABC News’ “Start Here” podcast. Friday morning’s episode features ABC News Senior Editorial producer John Santucci, who explains why the White House is telling the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to slow the release of new COVID-19 guidance. Georgetown Law professor Mary McCord games out how things could get ugly at polling places on Election Day. And ABC News’ Stephanie Wash brings us up to speed on the fight over grand jury recordings in the Breonna Taylor case. http://apple.co/2HPocUL
FiveThirtyEight’s Politics podcast. In this episode of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, law professor Daniel Epps talks to Galen Druke about some Democrats’ suggestion that the Supreme Court be expanded. https://fivethirtyeight.com/tag/politics-podcast/
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