Headlines: October 22, 2020
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The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday voted to advance President Donald Trump’s nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court. All Democratic members of the committee boycotted the vote, leaving photos of Americans whose healthcare coverage could be lost if a Court with Justice Barrett strikes down the Affordable Care Act. The committee’s own rules require members of the other party to be present in order for a vote to commence but in spite of the Democrats’ absence Republicans went ahead breaking the rule to vote 12 to 0 to advance Barrett to the full Senate. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said this at a press conference on the steps of the Capitol as the vote was being held. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has refused to hold a vote on a Covid-relief bill has insisted on rushing through the nomination a week before the election. Meanwhile under pressure from the press to take a stand on whether he’ll add more seats to the Supreme Court, Democratic Presidential Nominee Joe Biden finally said he would establish a commission to study the issue.
Commentators have pointed out that in addition to her troubling links to a homophobic private school, and many other issues, Barrett ruled in 2015 that a Black teenager in Indianapolis who suffocated to death when an officer handcuffed him while he lay on his front, did not have the constitutional right to breathe. Combined with another ruling where she decided that someone using the N-word as a racist epithet did not create a hostile work environment, means Barrett is likely to set back the cause of racial justice and equality by decades once she is on the Supreme Court.
In other news, intelligence officials are claiming that Russia and Iran have access to U.S. voter registration data and are using it to send fake emailed threats. Director of national intelligence, John Ratcliffe and F.B.I. director Christopher A. Wray made the announcement on Wednesday evening and linked the recent report of voters receiving threatening emails proclaiming to be from the Proud Boys as having originated from Iran. Mr. Ratcliffe, who is a staunch Trump loyalist said that Iran’s aim was to hurt Trump politically by showing the Proud Boys hate group as supporting him. Democrats are skeptical of the claim and Iran’s government denied what it called “Malign and Dangerous” allegations.
Meanwhile Trump, who appears to be increasingly unstable as the election nears is now reportedly considering firing FBI Director Christopher Wray after the election, and is also apparently unhappy with one of his strongest allies, Attorney General William Barr. His anger at the two, based on White House sources speaking with the Washington Post, apparently lies with their reluctance to politically target Joe Biden’s son Hunter.
As early voting continues in Florida, the Pinellas County supervisor of elections has reported a possible armed voter intimidation effort in the form of two men dressed as security guards in a tent outside a polling site. Julie Marcus told press, “These persons claimed or said that they were hired by the Trump campaign…I’m not going to speculate to that. This was a licensed security company and they were licensed security officers.” The Trump campaign and the Republican Party have been actively recruiting what they call “poll watchers” to be part of Trump’s “Army” to observe voters. Meanwhile a new study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies has found that two thirds of all domestic terror attacks in 2020 were conducted by white supremacist and rightwing extremist or armed groups. Left wing violence was also on the rise but was a small fraction.
The third and final debate between the two major party presidential candidates will be held on Thursday evening in Nashville, Tennessee. The Commission on Presidential Debates, based on Trump’s flouting of rules during the last debate, has decided that each candidate’s mic will be muted when the other is answering an initial question. You can tune in to Free Speech TV on Thursday evening to watch the debate starting at 6 pm Pacific, 9 pm Eastern, following which I will host a discussion with guests Thom Hartmann and Julio Ricardo Varela for 30 minutes. Again that’s live debate coverage on Thursday evening on Free by a Speech TV followed by a post-debate analysis that I’ll be hosting.
Trump continues to face dismal polling numbers as 56% of likely voters now say via a new Gallup poll that he does not deserve reelection. A new poll by Fox News, whose surveys often show favorable results for Trump, has found Biden with the advantage in the battleground states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. In Ohio Trump remains slightly ahead of Biden. Biden has also won endorsements from 6 former Commerce Secretaries under both Democratic and Republican administrations. More than 700 economists, including seven Nobel Prize winners signed a letter urging against Trump’s reelection saying the President, “has rendered the United States unrecognizable, and has faced no consequences for doing so.” And former President Obama has finally been actively stumping for Biden appearing for the first time in person in Philadelphia. Mocking Trump whose secret Chinese bank account was just made public Obama said this.
Meanwhile Trump broke an agreement with CBS News to embargo his interview with Lesley Stahl that appears to not have gone as he wanted. The interview is set to air on Sunday but Trump posted a 37 minute version of the interview on his Facebook page saying, “Look at the bias, hatred and rudeness on behalf of 60 Minutes and CBS.” He added, “Kristen Welker, is far worse!” Welker will moderate Thursday’s debate.
The latest Labor Department figures are in and 787,000 Americans were found to have applied for jobless benefits last week – a slightly lower number than has been recorded but still higher than economists were hoping for. Talks continue between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin for a new Covid-relief bill but Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell has resolutely refused to back it. The Washington Post explained McConnell’s political calculations:
If President Trump wins reelection on Nov. 3, there will probably be a sizable stimulus passed shortly after, with the Senate majority leader’s support.
If Joe Biden wins and Republicans hold the Senate, McConnell will do all he can to strangle the Biden presidency by preventing any big stimulus from passing, no matter how bad the economic misery from the recession gets.