Biden tells white supremacist groups to 'cease and desist' after Trump's debate 'embarrassment'

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That’s it for today from me and Joan E Greve. The Senate passed.....rdian.com.

Summary

That’s it for today from me and Joan E Greve.

  • The Senate passed a funding bill averting a government shutdown until 11 December, six hours before funding for the government was set to expire. The last-minute vote on the stopgap bill received bipartisan support but postponed big discussions on government funding till after the election.
  • Republican senator Lindsay Graham, who as head of the judiciary committee is barreling ahead to approve Donald Trump’s supreme court nominee despite vowing not to consider one during an election year, is tied with his Democratic challenger in a new poll. A Democrat hasn’t been elected to the Senate from South Carolina since 1998, but Graham has found himself neck and neck with his challenger Jamie Harrison in recent weeks. Likely voters in a Quinnipiac poll ranked Harrison higher on honesty.
  • Joe Biden told white supremacist groups to “cease and desist”, after Trump refused to condemn white supremacist violence at last night’s debate. Speaking to reporters during a campaign stop in Ohio, Biden said, “The president of the United States conducting himself the way he did, I think it was just a national embarrassment.”
  • Trump denied knowing who the Proud Boys were, a day after telling the extremist far-right group to “stand back and stand by”. “I don’t know who the Proud Boys are. I mean, you’ll have to give me a definition because I really don’t know who they are,” Trump told reporters. “I can only say they have to stand down, let law enforcement do their work.”
  • The Commission on Presidential Debates said “additional structure” would be needed for the remaining presidential debates. According to CBS News, the CPD will soon announce rules changes to the debates, including allowing moderators to cut candidates’ microphones when they ignore the agreed-upon structure of the debates.
  • Former FBI director James Comey testified before the Senate judiciary committee. Comey pushed back against criticism from attorney general William Barr, who has denounced the Russia investigation as “completely baseless”. Comey said of Barr, “I have no idea on Earth what he’s talking about.”
  • A judge granted the attorney general of Kentucky a two-day delay in releasing the grand jury records in the Breonna Taylor case, which were supposed to be made public today. Attorney general Daniel Cameron claimed more time was needed to redact information that could reveal jurors’ identities. The announcement comes one week after a grand jury declined to issue charges in direct connection to the killing of Taylor, who was fatally shot by Louisville police officers in March.

Updated

Joe Biden saw one of the biggest crowds he’s encountered on the campaign trail since the pandemic hit when supporters gathered to greet him in Pennsylvania as he exited a train station in Greensburg.

The Democratic candidate’s speeches are being delivered to distanced, sparse crowds. He has been critical of Donald Trump for hosting large rallies where supporters eschewed masks and social distancing.

Biden was met by several hundred as he exited the train station, per reporters traveling with him. Several dozen Trump supporters had also gathered, per the press pool.

The former vice-president is on a train tour in Ohio and western Pennsylvania.

Updated

Republican senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, who is facing the toughest re-election race of his career, is tied with his Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison, 48-48, in a Quinnipiac University poll.

Other recent polls have also suggested an increasingly tight race. Graham, the chair of the Senate judiciary committee, is moving swiftly on the nomination of conservative judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the supreme court seat vacated by Ruth Bader Ginsburg – despite saying four years ago no president at the end of his term should nominate a supreme court justice.

“If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said, ‘Let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination,’” he said in 2016, when Justice Antonin Scalia died, and Graham refused to consider then-president Barack Obama’s nominee.

The Quinnipiac poll sampled likely voters. Of those polled, 49% said the winner of the presidential election should nominate a justice, whereas 47 % said Donald Trump should select a justice before the election.

South Carolinians also said Harrison was more honest and empathetic than Graham.

No Democrat has been elected to the Senate from South Carolina since 1998.

Updated

The Los Angeles police department (LAPD) gave 63% of its citations for “loitering while standing” to Black residents in recent years, despite African Americans making up just 7% of the city’s population, a new analysis of public records has revealed.

A report released on Wednesday by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights analyzed low-level infractions in California between 2017 and 2019 and found that LAPD and police agencies across the state disproportionately target Black residents. The advocacy group collected data on the most minor municipal offenses and tickets (outside of traffic citations) – including standing or sleeping outside, owning a dog without a proper license, jaywalking and entering a park after dark – and found a pattern of severe racial disparities in major cities and regions throughout the state.

Key findings include:

  • Overall, Black residents in California are 9.7 times more likely to receive a citation for local infractions than white residents in their jurisdictions, and Latinx residents were 5.8 times more likely to be cited than their white neighbors.
  • Black residents in LA were 3.8 times more likely to be cited for minor infractions compared with white residents, accounting for 30% of all low-level infractions.
  • Despite being only 7% of the adult population, Black Angelenos accounted for 27% of “drinking in public infractions”, 33% of “sleeping or sitting” loitering tickets; and 63% of “loitering while standing” citations.
  • There were similar patterns of disparate treatment of Black residents in liberal and more conservative regions of the state, including in the Bay Area, the Central Valley, Kern county, San Diego and other municipalities.

Americans rushed to Google “How to move to Canada” after last night’s debate.

Following a debate derailed by interruptions, people speaking over each other, and insults hurled back and forth, Google reported a peak number of searches for “How to apply for Canadian citizenship” in the US.

Some people seemed in such a hurry to get out they couldn’t even get the name right: searches for “How to move to Canda” also spiked alongside the correct “How to move to Canada”.

Searches initially peaked about an hour into the debate, at about 10.30pm, according to the search engine. But it looks like the news unsettled people into the night – there has since been a second wave of searches on how to get Canadian citizenship – with most of the searches happening in the early hours of this morning.

The search was most popular in Massachusetts, followed by Washington and Michigan.

The results are not unprecedented, however – in fact, every election sees a swath of voters contemplating moving over to the other side (of the border). Some even go through with it.

Senate approves bill to avert shutdown

The Senate passed a spending bill, 84-10, to fund the government through 11 December. The bill will now go to Donald Trump for his signature, with six hours to spare before the government is set to shutdown. The House approved the bill last week.

The bill includes some pandemic relief funds – including $8bn for food assistance. It also includes billions for a farm bailout program that Republicans championed, which will help farmers affected by Trump’s trade policies and the pandemic.

A government shutdown amid the pandemic would be a political disaster for lawmakers from both parties, and lawmakers were exected to do what it takes to avert one. This stopgap bill avoids addressing bigger debates around federal funding – leaving those for after the 3 November elections.

It remains unclear though whether Congress will now take a fall recess. House Democrats have yet to vote on their coronavirus relief bill – which faces an uncertain future in the Senate.

Updated

Donald Trump’s refusal to condemn white supremacy during Tuesday night’s debate fits into a pattern of extremist rhetoric that has already baselessly stoked fear of voting fraud amid the president’s urging of his supporters to descend on polling stations in November’s election.

Experts have already warned that Trump’s encouragement of people to scramble to polling stations could have horrific consequences, given that armed, rightwing, Trump-supporting militias have already brought violence and fear to cities across the country in the wake of anti-racism protests.

On Wednesday Trump claimed he had never heard of Proud Boys – the violent rightwing group that he urged to “stand by” when asked to condemn white supremacists.

Whether the president was telling the truth or not – the Proud Boys have been widely covered in the media for years – onlookers have warned Trump has already used the rhetoric of white supremacists in recent months.

On Tuesday, in front of perhaps his largest audience yet this election cycle, Trump doubled down on that rhetoric. Asked if he was willing “to condemn white supremacists and militia groups”, Trump instead sidestepped the question, and seemed to equate those groups with “leftwing” violence.

He then name-checked the Proud Boys, in a move that the group itself quickly celebrated as a call to arms from the Oval Office.

Trump’s answer fits with similar comments throughout his presidential campaign and presidency. After an anti-fascism protester was killed at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville in 2017, Trump claimed there were “very fine people on both sides”.

Representative Katie Porter, a Democrat of California known for her prosecutorial questioning, excoriated the CEO of the drug company Calgene during a House Oversight Committee hearing.

Using a whiteboard, she displayed the company’s repeated price hikes for Revlimid, which is used to treat bone marrow cancer. The drug now cases $763 per dose, compared to $215 per dose in 2005.

“Did the drug start to work faster? Were there fewer side effects? How did you change the formula or production of Revlimid to justify this price increase?” Porter asked Mark Alles, who served as Celgene’s CEO until another company acquired it in 2019. “To recap here: The drug didn’t get any better, the cancer patients didn’t get any better, you just got better at making money, you just refined your skills at price gouging.”

Watch the full exchange here:

The hearing was held so that lawmakers could press CEOs of drug companies ono the findings of an 18-month investigation into the pricing of Revlimid and another drug.

Congress no longer plans to vote tonight on a $2.2 trillion stimulus package, so they can take more time to work out a deal with the White House, per multiple reports.

After meeting earlier with treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin, House speaker Nancy Pelosi initially seemed to indicate that the House would modify and move forward with voting on the Heroes Act, the latest coronavirus relief package. “Today, Secretary Mnuchin and I had an extensive conversation and we found areas where we are seeking further clarification. Our conversations will continue,” the Democratic speaker had said.

While the bill, as is, is sure to pass the Democrat-controlled House, it’s future in the Republican-led Senate is uncertain. Efforts to pass a stimulus bill had been stalled for nearly two months - with Republicans and Democrats divided over the price tag.

This latest legislation has been slimmed down though it contains many of the components of the $3.4 trillion package Democrats approved in May. Lawmakers cut aid to the Post Office from $25bn to o$15bn and cut in half a proposed $1tn for state and local governments.

Today so far

That’s it from me today. My west coast colleague, Maanvi Singh, will take over the blog for the next few hours.

Here’s where the day stands so far:

  • Joe Biden told white supremacist groups to “cease and desist,” after Trump refused to condemn white supremacist violence at last night’s debate. Speaking to reporters during a campaign stop in Ohio moments ago, Biden said, “The president of the United States conducting himself the way he did, I think it was just a national embarrassment.”
  • Trump denied knowing who the Proud Boys were, a day after telling the extremist far-right group to “stand back and stand by.” “I don’t know who the Proud Boys are. I mean, you’ll have to give me a definition because I really don’t know who they are,” Trump told reporters. “I can only say they have to stand down, let law enforcement do their work.”
  • The Commission on Presidential Debates said “additional structure” would be needed for the remaining presidential debates. According to CBS News, the CPD will soon announce rules changes to the debates, including allowing moderators to cut candidates’ microphones when they ignore the agreed-upon structure of the debates.
  • Former FBI director James Comey testified before the Senate judiciary committee. Comey pushed back against criticism from attorney general William Barr, who has denounced the Russia investigation as “completely baseless.” Comey said of Barr, “I have no idea on Earth what he’s talking about.”
  • A judge granted the attorney general of Kentucky a two-day delay in releasing the grand jury records in the Breonna Taylor case, which were supposed to be made public today. Attorney general Daniel Cameron claimed more time was needed to redact information that could reveal jurors’ identities. The announcement comes one week after a grand jury declined to issue charges in direct connection to the killing of Taylor, who was fatally shot by Louisville police officers in March.

Maanvi will have more coming up, so stay tuned.

Updated

CNN host Jake Tapper cut short an interview with a senior Trump campaign official as he dodged questions about the president’s refusal to condemn white supremacist violence.

Communications director Tim Murtaugh deflected Tapper’s questions by repeatedly trying to redirect the conversation toward Biden’s work with segregationist senators in the 1970’s.

As Murtaugh kept talking over Tapper’s questions, the CNN host eventually said, “You know what, I’m not Chris Wallace. Thank you, Tim, appreciate it.”

With that, the interview was over.

Debate moderator Chris Wallace said he was “sad with the way last night turned out,” after the Fox News anchor was widely criticized for failing to rein in Trump as the president repeatedly interrupted Biden and ignored the format of the debate.

“I never dreamt that it would go off the tracks the way it did,” Wallace told the New York Times, in his first interview since last night’s debate.

“I guess I didn’t realize — and there was no way you could, hindsight being 20/20 — that this was going to be the president’s strategy, not just for the beginning of the debate but the entire debate.”

When asked if Trump was responsible for derailing the debate, Wallace said, “Well, he certainly didn’t help.”

But Wallace declined to elaborate on that answer. “To quote the president, ‘It is what it is,’” Wallace said.

The Commission on Presidential Debates reportedly intends to issue strict new rules for the remaining presidential debates.

According to CBS News, the CPD’s new rules will include cutting off a candidate’s microphone if they ignore the agreed-upon format of the debate.

The news comes shortly after the CPD issued a statement saying last night’s debate showed “additional structure” would be required for the remaining debates.

“The CPD will be carefully considering the changes that it will adopt and will announce those measures shortly,” the statement said.

Trump mocked Joe Biden and Chris Wallace after the Commission on Presidential Debates called for “additional structure” in future debates.

“Try getting a new Anchor and a smarter Democrat candidate!” Trump said in a tweet reacting to the CPD’s statement today.

The president’s reelection campaign more specifically targeted the CPD in its own statement on the matter.

“They’re only doing this because their guy got pummeled last night,” said Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh.

“President Trump was the dominant force and now Joe Biden is trying to work the refs. They shouldn’t be moving the goalposts and changing the rules in the middle of the game.”

The CPD said the chaos of last night’s debate “made clear that additional structure should be added to the format of the remaining debates,” but the Trump campaign seems unlikely to agree to such rule changes.

House to vote on coronavirus relief bill tonight

After a meeting with treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin, House speaker Nancy Pelosi said the chamber would move forward with a vote on Democrats’ trimmed-down coronavirus relief bill tonight.

“Today, Secretary Mnuchin and I had an extensive conversation and we found areas where we are seeking further clarification. Our conversations will continue,” the Democratic speaker said.

“We will be proceeding with our vote tonight on the updated Heroes Act in order to formalize our proffer to Republicans in the negotiations to address the health and economic catastrophe in our country.”

Mnuchin similarly told a Capitol Hill reporter that he and Pelosi had “made a lot of progress in a lot of areas.”

“We made a lot of progress over the last few days,” Mnuchin said. “We still don’t have an agreement, but we have more work to do, and we’re going to see where we end up.”

The $2.2 trillion relief package will likely pass the Democratic-controlled House tonight, but the bill faces a very uncertain future in the Republican-controlled Senate.

When a reporter asked Trump about his comments on the Proud Boys last night, the president asked for a “definition” of the extremist far-right group.

“I don’t know who the Proud Boys are. I mean, you’ll have to give me a definition because I really don’t know who they are,” Trump said.

“I can only say they have to stand down, let law enforcement do their work.”

But the extremist group has consistently been in the news since last night’s debate, so it seems unlikely the president is not aware of who the Proud Boys are.

The claim of ignorance was reminiscent of Trump’s comments about infamous white supremacist David Duke during the 2016 campaign.

After Duke endorsed Trump’s campaign, the then-presidential candidate was asked to condemn the white supremacist.

Instead, Trump told CNN host Jake Tapper, “Well, just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke. Okay? I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. So, I don’t know.”

Trump denies knowledge of the Proud Boys after telling the group to 'stand by'

Trump just spoke to reporters on the South Lawn before leaving for Minnesota, where he will hold campaign events this evening.

Addressing his comments last night on the Proud Boys, Trump claimed he did not know who the extremist far-right group was.

“I don’t know who the Proud Boys are,” Trump said, per the White House press pool. “Whoever they are, they need to stand down.”

That was quite a reversal from last night, when the president told the extremist group to “stand back and stand by.”

After refusing to denounce white supremacist violence during the debate, Trump said, “I’ve always denounced any form of any of that.”

In fact, after the 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Trump claimed there were “very fine people on both sides”.

Trump once again tried to redirect the focus to his Democratic opponent, saying, “Joe Biden has to say something about Antifa. It’s not a philosophy.”

But the director of the FBI, Christopher Wray, told the House earlier this month that Antifa is “not a group or an organization,” but “a movement or an ideology.”

Updated

Kentucky’s attorney general has been given until noon on Friday to release the secret grand jury proceedings in the Breonna Taylor case, after a delay was sought by the official on Wednesday just as audio recordings were set to be released to the public.

The office of the attorney general, Daniel Cameron, had filed a motion on Wednesday morning asking for a week’s delay to enable the redaction of names and personal information.

A court in Louisville had been expected to release the audio recordings on Wednesday by noon but, after the request, a judge gave Cameron two more days.

The attorney general’s filing said the delay was necessary “in the interest of protection of witnesses, and in particular private citizens named in the recordings”.

Protesters march through downtown Louisville after a grand jury decided last week not to bring homicide charges against police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor.
Protesters march through downtown Louisville after a grand jury decided last week not to bring homicide charges against police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor. Photograph: Lawrence Bryant/Reuters

Cameron acknowledged this week that his recommendation to the grand jury was that only one of the officers involved be indicted, and only for the wanton endangerment of Taylor’s neighbors.

He did not recommend anyone be charged directly in the death of Taylor, a Black 26-year-old emergency medical worker who died in a hail of police bullets fired by three white officers during a botched raid on her apartment in March, fueling nationwide protests against police brutality and structural racism in America.

And the grand jury seated to examine the case concluded likewise, leading to just one officer being charged with wanton endangerment for shooting wildly from outside Taylor’s apartment, leading to bullets entering neighbors’ homes.

Cameron, a Republican protege of the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, and the state’s first African American attorney general, has been criticized since announcing the grand jury’s indictment for not seeking charges against the officers for killing Taylor.

Protesters took to the streets in Louisville and around the country to demand more accountability in the case, as frustrations spilled over after months of waiting for Cameron’s announcement. Activists and Taylor’s family called for the grand jury file to be released.

An adviser for Trump’s reelection campaign defended the president’s refusal to condemn white supremacist violence during last night’s debate.

In an interview with MSNBC, Jason Miller claimed Trump was telling the Proud Boys to “stand by the wayside and get out of the way” of law enforcement when the president told the far-right extremist group to “stand back and stand by.”

But if that were the case, Trump could easily send a tweet to correct the record. It’s been about 15 hours since the debate concluded, and the president has not yet done so.

Before the Commission on Presidential Debates released its statement on the structure of the debates, Joe Biden said the commission should find a way to allow candidates to provide full answers without interruption.

“I just hope there’s a way in which the debate commission can control the ability of us to answer the question without interruption,” Biden told reporters in Alliance, Ohio.

During last night’s debate, Trump consistently interrupted Biden and moderator Chris Wallace, in violation of the debate rules that the president’s reelection campaign agreed to.

Commission on Presidential Debates calls for 'additional structure' in future debates

The Commission on Presidential Debates has issued a statement calling for “additional structure” in the remaining presidential debates.

“Last night’s debate made clear that additional structure should be added to the format of the remaining debates to ensure a more orderly discussion of the issues,” the commission said in the statement.

“The CPD will be carefully considering the changes that it will adopt and will announce those measures shortly. The Commission is grateful to Chris Wallace for the professionalism and skill he brought to last night’s debate and intends to ensure that additional tools to maintain order are in place for the remaining debates.”

The statement is a rather remarkable reflection on the chaos of last night’s debate, considering the commission goes to great lengths to appear neutral in elections.

In light of Trump’s consistent interruptions last night, many commentators suggested that moderators should have a kill switch to cut off candidates’ microphones if necessary.

However, the Trump team would almost certainly have to agree to such a change, which seems unlikely.

Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin is now meeting with House speaker Nancy Pelosi to discuss the next coronavirus relief package.

“I’m going to see the speaker, see if we can make some good progress today,” Mnuchin told a reporter for the Hill.

Negotiations between congressional Democratic leadership and the White House have been stalled since last month, even as millions of Americans remain unemployed because of the pandemic.

Democrats are pushing for a $2.2 trillion package, but Mnuchin previously dismissed that top-line cost as a “non-starter.”

Today so far

Here’s where the day stands so far:

  • Joe Biden told white supremacist groups to “cease and desist,” after Trump refused to condemn white supremacist violence at last night’s debate. Speaking to reporters during a campaign stop in Ohio moments ago, Biden said, “The president of the United States conducting himself the way he did, I think it was just a national embarrassment.”
  • Former FBI director James Comey testified before the Senate judiciary committee. Comey pushed back against criticism from attorney general William Barr, who has denounced the Russia investigation as “completely baseless.” Comey said of Barr, “I have no idea on Earth what he’s talking about.”
  • The attorney general of Kentucky asked for a one-week delay in the release of grand jury records in the Breonna Taylor case. Attorney general Daniel Cameron claimed more time was needed to redact information that could reveal jurors’ identities. The announcement comes one week after a grand jury declined to issue charges in direct connection to the killing of Taylor, who was fatally shot by Louisville police officers in March.

The blog will have more coming up, so stay tuned.

Biden tells white supremacist groups to 'cease and desist'

Taking reporters’ questions in Ohio, Biden criticized Trump’s debate performance last night as a “national embarrassment.”

Biden said he understood why some Americans would feel disgusted with politics after the president’s performance.

“The president of the United States conducting himself the way he did, I think it was just a national embarrassment,” Biden said.

Specifically addressing the president’s refusal to condemn white supremacist violence last night, Biden sent this message to such extremist groups: “cease and desist.”

“My message to the Proud Boys and every other white supremacist group is cease and desist,” Biden said. “That’s not who we are. This is not who we are as Americans.”

In comparison, when Trump was asked to condemn white supremacist violence last night, the proud boys told the Proud Boys, a far-right extremist group, to “stand back and stand by.”

Updated

Biden: Trump's debate performance was 'a wake-up call for all Americans'

Joe Biden said Trump made the debate all about him, even though so many Americans are struggling right now because of the pandemic and the resulting economic fallout.

“What I saw last night was all about him. He didn’t speak to you or your concerns, or the American people even once,” Biden said.

Taking questions from reporters in Alliance, Ohio, Biden emphasized that Trump’s debate performance reminded him why he entered the presidential race.

Biden described Trump’s debate performance, and specifically his refusal to condemn white supremacist violence, as “a wake-up call for all Americans.”

“For 90 minutes, he tried everything to distract,” Biden said. “And it just didn’t work.”

Joe Biden is now speaking in Alliance, Ohio, the second-stop of his Build Back Better train tour to Pennsylvania.

Wearing a hat for the Beau Biden Foundation, Biden criticized Trump’s performance in last night’s debate, saying the president failed to address the concerns of many American families amid a global pandemic.

Joe Biden steps off the train at Amtrak’s Alliance Train Station in Alliance, Ohio.
Joe Biden steps off the train at Amtrak’s Alliance Train Station in Alliance, Ohio. Photograph: Andrew Harnik/AP

“Donald Trump broke his promise,” Biden said, arguing Trump came to power by promising to prioritize the “forgotten man” but then immediately forgot about the people who voted for him.

“I will never forget,” Biden said.

This is Joan Greve in Washington, taking over for Tom McCarthy.

Senator Tim Scott, a Republican of South Carolina, suggested Trump “misspoke” when he refused to condemn white supremacist violence during last night’s presidential debate.

“I think he misspoke. I think he should correct it. If he doesn’t correct it, I guess he didn’t misspeak,” Scott told a reporter who asked about the president’s remarks.

Scott, the only black Republican in the Senate, has previously criticized Trump for using “racially offensive” language.

Last year, Scott weighed in after Trump told four progressive congresswoman of color that they should “go back” to the countries they came from.

“Instead of sharing how the Democratic Party’s far-left, pro-socialist policies — not to mention the hateful language some of their members have used towards law enforcement and Jews — are wrong for the future of our nation, the President interjected with unacceptable personal attacks and racially offensive language,” Scott said in a statement at the time.

“No matter our political disagreements, aiming for the lowest common denominator will only divide our nation further.”

Attorney general William Barr has called the FBI investigation of the Trump campaign, which was brimming with employees in secret contact with Russian operatives, “completely baseless”.

Comey has just testified: “I have no idea on Earth what he’s talking about.”

Comey testifies remotely before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Comey testifies remotely before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Photograph: Ken Cedeno/EPA

Comey points out that dozens of people were indicted in the investigation, and the Senate itself had concluded that “the head of Trump’s campaign was a grave counterintelligence threat.”

“The notion that the attorney general believes that was illegitimate endeavor to investigate mystifies me,” Comey says.

Read further on how Barr has bent the justice department in service of Trump’s political needs:

Athletes reacted with bemusement and dismay after Donald Trump refused to condemn white supremacists during the US presidential debate on Tuesday night.

Stephen Curry, one of the biggest stars in the NBA, noted Trump appearing to speak to the far-right Proud Boys. “Stand back and stand by??????????? No further questions your honor! #vote,” he wrote on Twitter.

NBA All-Star Kyle Lowry noted Trump refused to condemn white supremacy: “And he still didn’t say it,” wrote the Toronto Raptors guard on Twitter. NFL wide receiver Randall Cobb tweeted: “He was asked about racism and responded about law enforcement...”

Others highlighted the dismal tenor of a debate between two of the most powerful people on the planet. “This debate is the best sitcom of the year. This is pure comedy and the level of disrespect is off the charts. #Truth #LordHelpus,” wrote NFL hall of famer Deion Sanders.

For many athletes, the takeaway from the evening was that Americans need to ensure they vote in November’s election.

“After watching the adventurous #2020PresidentialDebate and not really being able to hear anything... if nothing else, make sure you’re heard,” wrote WNBA star Renee Montgomery.

LeBron James, perhaps the most famous athlete in America, kept his message brief. “PLEASE VOTE!!!!!,” he tweeted.

In a bar-room brawl, who wins the fight? The guy swinging his fists or the guy clutching his drink?

From the very first minute of the first presidential debate, the 45th president behaved as he has for the last four years: as unpresidential as possible.

He heckled. He bullied. He blustered and he lied. He came out swinging and didn’t mind where his fists landed: his opponent, the moderator, the Biden family, the microphones. It didn’t much matter.

“Will you shut up, man? This is so unpresidential,” gasped Joe Biden at the end of a chaotic discussion about the supreme court. “That was a really productive session. Keep yappin’, man.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill wave to supporters as they walk to an Amtrak train to begin a campaign train tour in Cleveland, Ohio.
Former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill wave to supporters as they walk to an Amtrak train to begin a campaign train tour in Cleveland, Ohio. Photograph: Mike Segar/Reuters

Biden sounded unsettled by the first round of the Trump onslaught. He lost his train of thought as Trump never ceased to talk over him.

If Democrats were hoping that Biden would box Trump in, they were surely disappointed. Biden’s most effective response was to laugh at the brawling around him.

But something funny happened on the way to Trump’s next swing of the fists: a pandemic. Covid-19 stopped the presidential yapping, briefly. Then Biden made a statement of the obvious, by questioning whether Trump was smart enough to handle the coronavirus.

“Did you use the word smart,” the un-president barked. “Don’t ever use the word smart with me.”

Read the full piece:

Kentucky attorney general Daniel Cameron has asked a judge to delay by one week the release of recordings of the grand jury deliberations in the killing of Breonna Taylor.

Cameron’s office said the judge was expected to rule on the request today.

There are 20 hours of recordings up for release, according to local reports. The attorney general’s office says more time is needed to redact information that could identify jurors personally.

Cameron last week.
Cameron last week. Photograph: Jon Cherry/Getty Images

A public outcry greeted the grand jury’s decision not to charge two police officers involved in the Louisville killing with homicide - or anything else. A third officer was charged with wanton endangerment.

The move to release the recordings began when a juror stated in a lawsuit that Cameron had misled the public about the deliberations. Cameron did not seek murder charges in the case, he has admitted.

Check. Mate?

When Trump blew the racist dog whistle last night around “law and order” and “suburbs” – attempting by the internal logic of his own world view to scare white voters into supporting him – Biden called him out, saying Trump “wouldn’t know a suburb unless he took a wrong turn.”

“I was raised in the suburbs,” Biden said. “This is not 1950. All these dog whistles and racism don’t work any more.”

A preponderance of polls indicate that voters don’t buy Trump’s pitch of himself as “your law and order president,” saying Trump made them feel less safe and Biden made them feel more safe.

Trump gets called out by... the dictionary.

As previously covered, Trump last night declined to condemn white supremacists and signaled armed far-right groups to be at the ready as an election approaches whose legitimacy Trump has already denied:

In case your appetite for partisan acrimony has not been satisfied, former FBI director James Comey is appearing before the Republican-led Senate judiciary committee this morning to testify about the Russia investigation.

We’ll have a live video stream for you atop the blog – just hit refresh if you don’t see it.

In a 2018 photo, former FBI Director Comey departs after giving a private deposition to the House Judiciary and House Government and Oversight committees on Capitol Hill in Washington.
In a 2018 photo, former FBI Director Comey departs after giving a private deposition to the House Judiciary and House Government and Oversight committees on Capitol Hill in Washington. Photograph: Joshua Roberts/Reuters

The committee is carrying water for Trump – and taking pressure off Vladimir Putin – by weaving conspiracy theories about the origins and conduct of the Russia investigation. In this particular conservative hall of mirrors, Comey, whose Democratic sympathies run so deep that he sabotaged Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid, is a villainous operator who is keeping secrets about a supposed plot to frame the president.

Will Comey keep his patience, will he rise to the bait, will he once again divulge a secret that could change the presidential race? Tune in.

Democrats appear to be voting by mail in battleground states at nearly double the rate of Republicans, according to a Washington Post report:

Democratic voters who have requested mail ballots — and returned them — greatly outnumber Republicans so far in key battleground states, causing alarm among GOP party leaders and strategists that President Trump’s attacks on mail voting could be hurting the party’s prospects to retain the White House and the Senate this year.

Of the more than 9 million voters who requested mail ballots through Monday in Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Maine and Iowa, the five battleground states where such data is publicly available, 52 percent were Democrats. Twenty-eight percent were Republicans, and 20 percent were unaffiliated.

In this June 30, 2020, file photo, a box of absentee ballots wait to be counted at the Albany County Board of Elections in Albany, N.Y.
In this June 30, 2020, file photo, a box of absentee ballots wait to be counted at the Albany County Board of Elections in Albany, N.Y. Photograph: Hans Pennink/AP

Additional internal Democratic and Republican Party data obtained by The Washington Post shows a similar trend in Ohio, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Wisconsin.

Even more alarming to some Republicans, Democrats are also returning their ballots at higher rates than GOP voters in two of those states where that information is available: Florida and North Carolina.

Read the full piece here.

Updated

The Fox News host Chris Wallace faced much criticism as he struggled to referee the first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden on Tuesday night, writes senior political reporter Daniel Strauss:

For most of the event, Trump talked over Biden and Wallace failed to keep the president patient for his chance to talk. At a few other moments, the Democratic challenger’s scowls and snickering at the president interrupted Trump’s comments.

Many viewers blamed Wallace, though it was Trump who most often broke the agreed rules of the debate, refused to stick to his own speaking time, and steamrollered over both other men.

Gentlemen.
Gentlemen. Photograph: Olivier Douliery/AP

“That was a hot mess, inside a dumpster fire, inside a train wreck,” said CNN’s chief Washington correspondent, Jake Tapper. “That was the worst debate I have ever seen. In fact, it wasn’t even a debate. It was a disgrace, and it’s primarily because of President Trump.”

“That was the worst presidential debate I have ever seen in my life,” said ABC political anchor George Stephanopoulos.

The former Democratic senator Claire McCaskill tweeted: “Chris Wallace is embarrassing, and trying to pretend that the problem isn’t 100% Trump.”

Read the full piece here:

Donald Trump disembarks Air Force One upon arriving at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, after returning from the first presidential debate.
Donald Trump disembarks Air Force One upon arriving at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, after returning from the first presidential debate. Photograph: Carlos Barría/Reuters
People listen during a debate watch party hosted by the Miami-Dade Democratic Party.
People listen during a debate watch party hosted by the Miami-Dade Democratic Party. Photograph: Lynne Sladky/AP
A woman waves an American flag as President Trump supporters watch the presidential debate at the Trump Victory Campaign center in Katy, Texas.
A woman waves an American flag as President Trump supporters watch the presidential debate at the Trump Victory Campaign center in Katy, Texas. Photograph: Mark Felix/AFP/Getty Images
Democratic Presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the first presidential debate.
Democratic Presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the first presidential debate. Photograph: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

From Washington bureau chief David Smith’s analysis of last night’s spectacle: “If Trump is re-elected... this dark, horrifying, unwatchable fever dream will surely be the first line of America’s obituary.”

David writes:

Cry, the beloved country. Donald Trump ensured Tuesday’s first US presidential debate was the worst in American history, a national humiliation. The rest of the world – and future historians – will presumably look at it and weep.

More likely than not, according to opinion polls, his opponent Joe Biden will win the November election and bring the republic back from the brink. If Trump is re-elected, however, this dark, horrifying, unwatchable fever dream will surely be the first line of America’s obituary.

An exchange of views.
An exchange of views. Illustration: Guardian Design/Guardian Design | AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

Only one man looked remotely presidential on the debate stage in Cleveland, Ohio, and it was not the incumbent. He interrupted, ranted, raged, spewed lies and interrupted some more. Oh, and he passed on an opportunity to condemn white supremacists, instead telling them to “stand back and stand by”.

The debate moderator, Chris Wallace of Fox News, did not cover himself in glory either. He was a like a school supply teacher, hopelessly out of his depth as unruly children run riot. He did not enforce the rules or cut the president’s mic.

Facing this asymmetric bullying, Biden showed self-control and stood his ground. He spoke for tens of millions of Americans when he demanded: “Will you shut up, man?” – the Biden campaign rushed out this slogan on a T-shirt before the debate was even over.

Read the full piece here:

David Corn, Washington DC Bureau Chief for Mother Jones had this to say about last night.

Donald Trump was talking at Joe Biden, and Joe Biden was talking to America. That’s what happened Tuesday night during the first presidential debate of 2020. Trump was focused on smearing his opponent, and Biden was trying to connect with voters. Throughout the evening, Trump kept his sneering look fixed upon Biden, as he heaped abuse on Biden (and Biden’s son, Hunter). Trump rarely addressed voters. It was as if he was only bent on creating content for Sean Hannity. Biden, in a stark comparison, often peered into the camera and attempted to speak directly with viewers. At one point, Biden, while responding to yet another Trump assault on Hunter Biden, brought the debate straight to those watching: “This is not about my family or his family. It’s about your family.”

Corn sees that as a fatal weakness for the Trump campaign.

The Trump campaign obviously needs to expand his vote count beyond FoxWorld. He needs some of those suburban “housewives” he has been trying to scare with his racist demagoguery. But many of those voters are not with Trump or have left him because of his divisiveness, his lack of decency, and his penchant for chaos. Trump’s historic (in not a good way) performance is likely to alienate these folks further. He did absolutely nothing to change minds, to persuade, to coax, to win over. And that set up one of Biden’s best lines of the night, when the former veep slammed Trump’s callous remark about the Covid-19 deaths and said to him, “‘It is what it is’ because you are who you are.” This was Biden’s main attack on Trump; he’s a self-obsessed jerk who cannot act as a responsible adult during a national crisis. At the debate, Trump proved him right.

Read it here: Mother Jones – At the debate, Biden and Trump showed America who they really are. That’s a win for Biden

And that is a wrap from me, Martin Belam, in London. I’ll be back tomorrow, and coming up is Tom McCarthy to guide you through the rest of the day…

Carla Hall writes for the Los Angeles Times this morning, asking: If Trump can’t disavow white supremacists, why should anyone want him as president?

I can’t believe in debate prep Chris Christie, the Republican former New Jersey governor, or anyone else said to Trump, “Hey, if the moderator asks you whether you support white supremacists, dodge the question and attack antifa”. And if they did, they should never get invited back to the White House for … anything.

Trump answered that he would tell the Proud Boys — a violent group described by the Anti-Defamation League as “misogynistic, Islamophobic, transphobic and anti-immigration,” to “stand back and stand by.” (Huh?) Then he pivoted back to his diatribe on antifa: “I’ll tell you what. Someone has got to do something about antifa and the left. Because this is not a right-wing problem. This is a left-wing problem.”

OK. Let’s just say, for argument’s sake, that he’s right (and there’s no evidence he is) that antifa is the bigger threat. What does he lose by disavowing the white supremacists we know have become more public and outspoken in the last four years and have shown up at various protests to stir up mayhem? Whose votes does he lose?

Read it here: Los Angeles Times – If Trump can’t disavow white supremacists, why should anyone want him as president?

While the media – me included – continue to dwell on last night’s debate, both Donald Trump and Joe Biden have a new day’s campaigning ahead of them. Between they will visit three states that have a key role to play in November.

Trump will spend the day in Minnesota. It is one of the few states his campaign is targeting that voted Democratic in 2016. There’s a fundraiser in the afternoon, before a rally in Duluth, reports Jarrett Renshaw fro Reuters.

Biden and his wife, Jill, will embark on an all-day train tour through a half-dozen cities in eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania, including counties that Trump won four years ago on the strength of working-class white voters.

Pennsylvania, which narrowly voted for Trump in 2016, is seen by many strategists as the most crucial of the six most competitive states that will likely decide the election outcome, which also include Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina and Wisconsin. The latest Reuters/Ipsos poll of Pennsylvania gave Biden a slight advantage there.

Biden has held a modest but steady lead in national voter surveys for months, although polls in the battleground states show a closer contest. You can keep an eye on those races with our US election polls tracker.

Ohio, which Trump carried by 8 percentage points in his 2016 defeat of Democrat Hillary Clinton, is among the Republican-leaning states that Biden hopes to put into play in November.

The chances of swinging those votes gets narrower every day – already more than 1.3 million voters in 15 states have cast early ballots, according to the US elections project at the University of Florida.

Pompeo criticises China over religious freedom during visit to Vatican and Italy

Secretary of state Mike Pompeo is in Europe this week. he’s already enjoyed a couple of days in Greece, and today headed across to Italy, which he considers to be his ancestral homeland.

Reuters have some of his words this morning, on a trip that has been marked by his criticism of the Vatican for pursuing closer ties between the Catholic church and Beijing.

“Nowhere is religious freedom under assault more than in China,” Pompeo told a symposium hosted by the US Embassy to the Holy See, saying the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was looking to “to snuff out the lamp of freedom ... on a horrifying scale”.

Pompeo denounced Beijing’s treatment of its Uighur Muslim minority, and said all religious groups faced repression. “The CCP has battered every religious community in China, Protestant house churches, Tibetan Buddhists, Falun Gong devotees and more. Nor of course have Catholics been spared this wave of repression,” he said.

China has consistently defended its human rights record and has denied any mistreatment of Uighurs.

Vatican officials expressed surprise last week when, ahead of his planned visit to Rome, Pompeo published an essay in a conservative Catholic magazine that sharply criticised the Holy See for plans to renew a two-year-old agreement with Beijing.

Pompeo said the deal, which gives the pope some say over the appointment of Chinese bishops, endangers the Vatican’s moral authority. Vatican officials say that while the arrangement is not perfect, it is an improvement after decades during which Chinese Catholics who recognise the pope were forced underground.

Pompeo is due to hold talks tomorrow with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s top diplomat. Pope Francis saw Pompeo when he came to Italy last year, but with relationships more strained, no such meeting is scheduled this time around.

A rare note of sympathy for the media struck here by White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany – well, sort of, anyway…

This latest tweet from Joe Biden suggest that maybe his campaign are not going to be following the “When they go low, we go high” mantra. It’s a clip from the debate, cut to replace Donald Trump’s words with the sounds of a wailing baby.

The video finishes with an appeal for donations. Biden’s deputy campaign manager, Kate Bedingfield, said last night that the campaign broke its single-hour fundraising record, pulling in $3.8 million while the debate was on.

Here’s another moment from last night which you imagine we’ll be seeing more of in the next couple of debates. Joe Biden was interrupted while paying tribute to his son Beau, who died of brain cancer in 2015.

The former vice-president brought up Beau, the former attorney general of Delaware who served in the army, to highlight Trump’s reported criticism of US military dead as ‘losers’. The president cut in and turned the exchange into an attack on the business dealings of Biden’s other son, Hunter, in Ukraine.

Despite a Senate investigation, there was no evidence of any wrongdoing by Biden, and indeed Trump was impeached for the way in which he was pushing government officials in Kiev to investigate the Biden family.

The president went on to falsely accused Hunter of being dishonourably discharged from the military and reminded viewers of Hunter Biden’s past drug use. Biden, looking directly into the camera, explained that like many Americans, his son had struggled with addiction.

Away from the debate for a moment, yesterday showed that being punished for opposing coronavirus restrictions can turn into an electoral asset – at least in Texas, anyway.

Associated Press report that a Dallas salon owner who was sent to jail for defying coronavirus lockdown orders advanced to a runoff for a Texas Senate seat on Tuesday night.

Republican Shelley Luther finished in a virtual dead heat with four-term Republican state Rep. Drew Springer as both advanced.

Shelley Luther talking to the media at her hair salon, in Dallas, Texas in May following her release from prison.
Shelley Luther talking to the media at her hair salon, in Dallas, Texas in May following her release from prison. Photograph: Larry W Smith/EPA

Luther’s springboard into politics came in May when she spent about two days in jail for refusing to shut down her salon despite Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s emergency orders, making her something of a symbol of conservative angst over Covid-19

She received $500,000 in donations, and has gone on to hammer Abbott over the issue, effectively making her campaign a referendum on the governor’s handling of the pandemic.

A date for the runoff election has not yet been scheduled. The winner will succeed Republican Pat Fallon, who resigned to run for a seat in the US House.

Biden posts video condemning Trump over refusal to disavow white supremacists

Joe Biden is the first of the two candidates to put out some social media reaction to the debate this morning, and he has gone on the attack over Trump’s comments – or lack of them – about the Proud Boys and white supremacists.

“There’s no other way to put it: the President of the United States refused to disavow white supremacists on the debate stage last night” tweeted the Democratic nominee for president.

The video Biden posted features the audio clip of moderator Chris Wallace challenging the president to “condemn white supremacists and militia groups” over images which feature racist white supremacist rallies. Also pictures during the video are Heather Heyer, who was killed when a white supremacist deliberately drove his car into a crowd of peaceful counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, and Kyle Rittenhouse, who has been charged with killing two people in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

An image of Heather Heyer, who was killed in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017 while protesting against a far-right rally.
An image of Heather Heyer, who was killed in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017 while protesting against a far-right rally. Photograph: Michael Dwyer/AP

Here’s a little bit more from me on the background to the Proud Boys.

Updated

Frank Bruni is in the New York Times this morning, floating the idea that Joe Biden should not accept the format of the debates, now that he’s seen how Donald Trump applies the rules. Bruni says Biden should refuse to debate the president again, writing:

I wasn’t in the crowd of people who believed Joe Biden shouldn’t deign to debate President Trump, but put me in the crowd that believes he shouldn’t debate him again. Not after Tuesday night’s horror show: a disgrace to the format, an insult to the country, a nearly pointless 90 minutes.

And, I should add, a degradation of the presidency itself, which Trump had degraded so thoroughly already. He put on a performance so contemptuous, so puerile, so dishonest and so across-the-board repellent that the moderator, Chris Wallace, morphed into some amalgam of elementary-school principal, child psychologist, traffic cop and roadkill.

Bruni’s message to Biden is “You showed your willingness. You showed up. But another of these fiascos is beneath you.”

Here’s the deal, as Biden would say: Only one man on that stage persuasively communicated that he has the interests of the American people at heart. Only one man on that stage seemed at all interested in maintaining a tether to the truth. Only one man demonstrated any respect for Wallace or for the process. Only one man would be bearable for the next four years. I needn’t spell out who that man is.

Read it here: New York Times – After that fiasco, Biden should refuse to debate Trump again

“Trump basically said to go fuck them up! This makes me so happy”

That was the reaction of one Proud Boys organiser on social media network Parler to the debate exchange last night where Donald Trump was challenged to condemn the far-right white supremacist group the Proud Boys, and did not do so. The ‘them’ in the message being Antifa.

Rather than condemn them, he told them to “Stand back… stand by”. The group have already been spreading memes online incorporating the president’s phrase into their logo.

Here’s how those comments came out during the event:

And here’s our full report: Donald Trump refuses to condemn white supremacists at presidential debate

Updated

If you fancy something to listen to, Jonathan Freedland and Guardian columnist Richard Wolffe are here discussing the highlights and lowlights of the first presidential election debate of 2020. There’s maybe more lowlights than highlights.

Presidential debates can often be characterised as generating more heat than light, and last night was definitely in that zone. Daniel Strauss in Washington has picked out these five key takeaways for us though:

  • The debate was a mess, largely of Trump’s making – moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News was unable to rein in the candidates and that meant Donald Trump was mostly free to interrupt, make false claims, rant and violate the previously agreed structure and rules of the debate.
  • When asked if he would denounce groups like the Proud Boys and other white supremacy organizations, Trump refused to do it.
  • It got very personal – Biden was clearly exasperated and struggling to keep his cool. “Will you shut up man?” Biden said at one point as Trump repeatedly tried to speak over him.
  • There were non-answers on policy questions – Trump was pressed on what his plan is to replace Obamacare (Affordable Care Act), Biden didn’t give a definitive answer on whether he supported calls to add seats to the supreme court.
  • Biden wanted to talk to the American people, Trump wanted to talk to his base.

Read it here: A mess of Trump’s making: key takeaways from the first presidential debate

Joe Biden bought a strong social media game ahead of the debate last night, mocking the accusations from the Trump camp that he might be wearing a secret earpiece or be taking performance enhancing drugs.

Given the level of interruptions directed at him by the president, however, he might have actually benefitted from some ear plugs. Our video wrap gives you a flavour of just how contentious last night’s debate got.

It’s the morning after the debate night before. Donald Trump needed to land some blows, Joe Biden needed to project being calm and not fluff his lines. Somewhat predictably, both sides this morning are claiming that their man won the day.

  • Last night saw a chaotic TV debate during which Donald Trump repeatedly hectored, insulted and interrupted Joe Biden.
  • Trump refused to condemn white supremacist group the Proud Boys, telling the far-right group often associated with violent protests to ‘stand back and stand by’, in a performance littered with false and exaggerated claims from the president.
  • Biden at one point lost his patience and snapped: “Will you shut up, man? This is so unpresidential”. He went on to call the president a clown, a liar and a racist.
  • Moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News struggled to keep a check on proceedings, widely described as the worst presidential debate of all time – with our David Smith describing the event as a national humiliation.
  • Prior to the debate both Joe Biden and Kamala Harris released their most recent tax records. They’d paid more than $750.
  • Away from the debate, we are expecting the release of the recordings of the grand jury proceedings in the Breonna Taylor case today.
  • Yesterday there were 43,355 new coronavirus cases and 918 new Covid deaths reported in the US.
  • What do you do the day after a debate? Joe Biden is on a train tour today, making stops in battleground states Ohio and Pennsylvania. The president will be campaigning with a rally this evening in Duluth, Minnesota.

I’m Martin Belam, and you can get in touch with me at [email protected].

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