Politics Headlines

Official White House Photo by Joyce N. BoghosianBy LIBBY CATHEY, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump for the first time publicly criticized White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx on Monday after she broke from his line of positive messaging and delivered dire warnings about the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump, in a tweet, appeared to suggest that Birx's response to criticism from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi "hit" the administration.

"In order to counter Nancy, Deborah took the bait & hit us. Pathetic!" Trump tweeted.

So Crazy Nancy Pelosi said horrible things about Dr. Deborah Birx, going after her because she was too positive on the very good job we are doing on combatting the China Virus, including Vaccines & Therapeutics. In order to counter Nancy, Deborah took the bait & hit us. Pathetic!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 3, 2020

Trump's tweet comes on the heels of Pelosi telling ABC News' "This Week" co-anchor Martha Raddatz Sunday she does not have confidence in the task force doctor.

"I think the president is spreading disinformation about the virus and she is his appointee," Pelosi said. "So I don't have confidence there, no."

Pelosi doubled down on her criticism of Birx again on Monday, taking her to task for not challenging Trump about the outbreak and the administration's lack of a national coronavirus plan.

"I don't have confidence and anyone who stands there while the president says, 'Swallow Lysol and it's going to cure your virus.' ... I don't have confidence in somebody when the president says it's a hoax, it's magic," Pelosi said on CNN. "She has enabled [him]."

"This administration has not had a strategic plan for the six months we've known about the virus," the California Democrat continued. "There has to be some responsibility, so if the president is saying these things, who is advising him that this is OK and enabling that to happen?"

JUST IN: “I think the president has been spreading disinformation about the virus and she is his appointee so, I don’t have confidence there, no,” Speaker Pelosi tells @MarthaRaddatz when asked is she has confidence in Dr. Deborah Birx. https://t.co/HNQgCe39RN pic.twitter.com/ZDZYAjr0cJ

— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) August 2, 2020

Birx responded to the "no confidence" comment on CNN on Sunday by complimenting Pelosi before defending her own credibility.

"I have tremendous respect for the speaker. And I have tremendous respect for her long dedication to the American people," Birx said.

Raising a recent article from the New York Times, which portrayed Birx as someone who at times tailored her analysis of the pandemic to better suit the politics of the administration, Birx insisted her response is driven by data, not politics.

"I have never been called pollyannish, or nonscientific, or non-data driven," she told CNN Sunday. "And I will stake my 40-year career on those fundamental principles of utilizing data to really implement better programs to save more lives."

Birx also warned that the pandemic has entered "a new phase," contradicting the president's persistently optimistic predictions as he pushes schools to reopen for full in-person instruction and resists any reversals on reopenings.

"I want to be very clear: What we are seeing today is different from March and April. It is extraordinarily widespread. It's into the rural as equal urban areas," Birx told CNN. "To everybody who lives in a rural area, you are not immune or protected from this virus."

When asked about a prediction there could be 300,000 deaths by the end of the year, Birx said, "Anything is possible." She went on to emphasize social distancing and suggest that some Americans in multi-generational families should start wearing masks inside their homes and assume they already have the virus.

Though the president has attacked several groups for their assessment of the coronavirus crisis -- including governors, journalists and heath experts, like the nation's top expert on infectious diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci -- this is the first time he's has fired off directly at Birx, who just last month he called "a tremendous woman."

On Sunday, White House and campaign aides were quick to defend Birx after Pelosi's comment of no confidence.

It is deeply irresponsible of Speaker Pelosi to repeatedly try to undermine & create public distrust in Dr Birx, the top public health professional on the coronavirus task force. It’s also just wrong. Period. Hard stop.

— Alyssa Farah (@Alyssafarah) August 2, 2020

Birx, a retired Army colonel, was appointed by former President Barack Obama to serve as the State Department's global AIDS Ambassador in 2014. She was tapped by Vice President Mike Pence to serve as the coordinator of the coronavirus task force in late February and was soon set up with an office in the White House West Wing.

The president had previously appeared to favor the diplomatic, even optimistic way, Birx sounds when deducing scientific dogma on the coronavirus crisis, as opposed to Fauci's blunt assessments.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


3dfoto/iStockBy KATIE KINDELAN, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- The 2020 election is just three months away, which means it's time for voters, particularly young voters, to make sure they are informed about the races and registered to vote.

Millennials and Generation Z will comprise 40% of voters in this year's election, according to Rock the Vote, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that works to get young people to the polls.

While voter turnout among young people is historically low, it has been on the rise.

In the 2018 election, voter turnout among 18- to 29-year-olds was 36%, an increase from 20% in 2014, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Over the past few months, the lives of many young people have been turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic -- which canceled schools, sports and activities and slowed job opportunities -- and the racial unrest across the country, which saw young people take to the streets in protest.

Now the question is whether young people will turn out to vote on Tuesday, Nov. 3.

"If young people vote early, if they get in the habit of voting when they’re young, they’re more likely to vote throughout their lives," said Rick Weissbourd, the faculty director of the Making Caring Common project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, which has launched a Get Out the Vote effort aimed at mobilizing young people.

Here are three things young people need to know now to make sure their voice is heard on Election Day:

1. There is more than just the presidential election at stake.

Yes, the presidential race between Donald Trump and Joe Biden makes the most headlines, but on Election Day in November, voters will also get to decide who runs their cities, school boards, states and more.

"A lot of the issues that are at the forefront of voters’ minds right now and are impacting communities, particularly communities of color, a lot of those issues are actually dealt with at the state and local levels," said Carolyn DeWitt, executive director of Rock the Vote. "It’s important for individuals who seek to see change on those issues elect leaders who share their values and are going to implement that change."

The coronavirus pandemic has put local elected officials in the spotlight like perhaps never before as they have led the response on everything from whether schools and business will reopen to whether their constituents will need to wear face masks.

The racial protests across the country have done the same, putting in the spotlight the leadership and decisions of everyone from police chiefs to mayors, district attorneys and judges.

"Your mayor appoints your police chief. You can vote for your sheriff in most places. The district attorney, the person who is going to prosecute or defend someone, you have to understand that you actually vote for that person," said Stephanie Young, chief officer of culture and communications for When We All Vote, a nonpartisan voter mobilization initiative launched by former first lady Michelle Obama.

"I hope it’s an empowering moment to realize that you actually do have a lot of power here," she said. "Voting for every elected office on your ballot really does impact your life."

2. There is still time to register to vote.

Voting is a constitutional right, but it is a right for which you have to register in all but one state, North Dakota.

Each state sets its own deadlines for when residents must register to vote, so you can check this guide from RocktheVote.org to find the requirements in your state.

National Voter Registration Day is Sept. 22, a day in which the start of voter registration deadlines are announced, according to DeWitt, who said that people need to register to vote as early as possible.

Rock the Vote's website will take you through the process of registering to vote and make sure you are registered in your state, even if the state does not have online voter registration. You can also use the organization's Election Day Reminder program to be informed of deadlines and information like a new polling location.

The website iamavoter.com is a one-stop way to register to vote, find out if you're already registered and sign up for election reminders. You can also register to vote through Vote.gov, which is a U.S. government website.

The voter registration process is generally quick and simple. In most states you need an address from which you plan to vote and an ID number, either your driver's license number or social security number, but make sure to check your state's requirements so you have all the information you'll need.

3. Voting during a pandemic will be different.

The coronavirus pandemic places new barriers around Election Day that organizations like Rock the Vote are adapting to so that every American still has a chance to make their vote count.

"What we’re trying to do is reduce the number of people who are going to vote in person on Election Day while making sure that we maximize voter turnout," said DeWitt, who added that people need to look up the flexible voting options now so they can plan and prepare.

Rock the Vote has a state-by-state guide on flexible voting options.

One flexible voting option is early voting, which is the designated time, usually two to three weeks before an election, where you can cast a ballot in-person.

DeWitt recommends finding out now when your state will have early voting and where, because early vote polling sites can be different than Election Day polling sites.

Another flexible voting option is absentee ballots, which DeWitt recommends finding out now about both the deadlines to request an absentee ballot and also the deadline to return it, while also noting the options that exist for returning the ballot.

"There is this idea that it’s all vote by mail and the reality is you can drop off your absentee ballot either at a drop center or an early polling site or a polling place on Election Day," she said. "You can complete it and drop it off rather than mailing it in if you have concerns about it making its way through the mail."

One way young people can help get out the vote this election amid the pandemic is to volunteer to be poll workers, according to DeWitt.

In the 2018 general election, 58% of U.S. poll workers were ages 61 and older, according to Pew Research Center. That demographic in the high-risk category for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Over the last few years one of the major reasons we’ve seen long lines is due to the shortage of poll workers, and that existed before coronavirus," said DeWitt. "This year obviously we have more concerns about it because the shortage of poll workers will and has already resulted in the closure of hundreds of poll sites, which leads to longer lines and a lot of confusion about where to vote."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


wellesenterprises/iStockBy MEG CUNNINGHAM, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- The final weeks of the Kansas Republican Senate primary have devolved into millions of dollars in spending from outside groups, negative mailers and both frontrunners, Rep. Roger Marshall, R-Ks., and former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, awaiting a possible endorsement from President Donald Trump.

Kobach -- a failed 2018 gubernatorial candidate -- is the nominee of choice for Democrats, who widely see their path to flipping the seat blue as a much easier one should Kobach win on Tuesday. No matter the nominee, Democrats will have a tough uphill battle in the state, which Trump won by 21 points in 2016.

Democrats have tapped physician and Republican-turned-Democrat Dr. Barbara Bollier as their Senate pick. Bollier, a former Kansas state senator, is leading the cash dash among the candidates and broke the state's fundraising records in the second quarter.

In the final weeks of the race, Marshall, who currently represents the state's first congressional district, fell victim to millions in outside spending from Democrat-aligned outside groups who spent big on television attacking him in an apparent attempt to weaken his presumptive lead. Bob Hamilton, a local plumber who is self-funding his campaign, has struggled to keep up his momentum as the primary grew increasingly competitive.

There's minimal public polling coming out of the primary -- which has the limited potential to turn the tables for Democrats who hope to regain the Senate come November -- but the consensus is clear: Kobach as the nominee could mean trouble for Republicans.

"When he ran for governor, he was the only Republican who ran statewide who lost," Birkhead said of Kobach. "Everybody else down ballot won handily. He lost. The indicates there are a lot of people who voted for Laura Kelly and then voted Republican for the rest of the line."

Democrats have recognized Marshall's potential path to success through November and are spending heavily to try and boost their preferred candidate.

Sunflower State PAC, a Democrat-aligned outside group, has spent at least $3.5 million in ads attacking Marshall, whether it be for his history as a physician or for issues in his personal life. One ad called him "reckless and too risky for Kansas Republicans."

On the other side of the aisle, Senate Leadership Fund, the campaign arm of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, went on the air and spent more than $1 million in the Sunflower State in an effort to boost Marshall.

"National Democrats are spending millions to dictate the outcome in our Republican primary, lying about doctor and military veteran Roger Marshall," SLF's ad says.

Another ad, this one coming from Republican-aligned group Plains PAC, hits on Kobach's electability and points to his rocky history with voters in Kansas by saying, "National Democrats know a proven loser when they see one."

"Obviously Kris Kobach has probably the highest name recognition for anybody in the state of Kansas that's a current active politician. But he's also got a very unfavorable view among a lot of folks," said Nathaniel Birkhead, an associate professor of political science at Kansas State University in Manhattan.

After his tenure as secretary of state in the deep red state, Kobach launched his gubernatorial bid as a Republican, winning the primary by only hundreds of votes, but eventually losing the general election to Democrat Laura Kelly by five points.

Establishment Republicans have thrown their support behind Marshall, including retiring Sen. Pat Roberts, who Marshall, Kobach and Bollier, among others, are hoping to replace. Former U.S. presidential candidate Bob Dole, also a Republican from Kansas, endorsed Marshall, alongside the Kansas Farm Bureau, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Right to Life Committee.

Kobach, meanwhile, has endorsements from Gun Owners of America, the National Association for Gun Rights and the National Border Patrol Council.

Experts say that an endorsement from the president could make or break the race, but according to the New York Times, internal data showed that at least 30% of Republican voters would cast their ballot for Bollier should Kobach nab the nomination.

Inside the White House, Trump is opting to stay away from the primary and having to choose between Kobach -- who has spent his time on the trail touting his relationship with the president -- or Marshall, whose voting record closely aligns with his.

"Should he choose to give us the honor of an endorsement, it would absolutely seal the deal, not only the primary, but it would seal the deal that the seat stays red in November," Eric Pahls, Marshall's campaign manager, said in an interview. "Whereas, we all know if Kris Kobach gets the nomination, the chances of us keeping the seat red are slim to none."

Though Kobach sailed through his secretary of state elections in 2010 and 2014, he lost a Republican primary for state Senate in 2000 and the general for a seat in the U.S. House in 2004.

Kobach's team did not respond to ABC News' requests for comment.

Although the president had an easy path to winning Kansas in the general election, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who feuded with Trump during the Republican primary in 2016, swept the state in the 2016 caucus with a lead of nearly 20,000 votes, while Trump won handily in other deep-red states across the country. That points to Kansans' appetite for a moderate pick, Birkhead told ABC News.

"We can point to the primary elections that occurred in 2014, when several extreme Republicans were replaced by more moderate Republicans," he said.

That trend continued through the 2018 midterms, as well, where the state's third congressional district flipped from red to blue.

The two don't differ much when it comes to policy, Birkhead said. Voters in Kansas could expect Marshall and Kobach to vote extremely similarly in the Senate.

"Neither one is running away from Trump at all, they're both running very strongly towards Trump. They're just doing it in slightly different ways. The fact that Trump is not actually supporting one candidate or the other indicates that there's not a ton of difference there," Birkhead said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(WASHINGTON) -- Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin pushed back on Speaker Nancy Pelosi's claim that the Republican Party is to blame for the deadlock on coronavirus relief, telling ABC's This Week Co-anchor Martha Raddatz that he and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows will be on the Hill "every day until we reach an agreement."

Pelosi painted a different picture to Raddatz, in an interview ahead of Mnuchin's, making it clear that the White House and Democrats are far apart on closing a deal.

"He's the one who is standing in the way of that," she said of President Donald Trump on Sunday. "We have been for the $600, they have a $200 proposal, which does not meet the needs of America's working families."

Federal pandemic unemployment benefits given to 30 million Americans officially expired on Friday, but Congress and the Trump administration were no closer to a deal that would salvage any portion of a $600-per-week check.

"We have to balance," Mnuchin said in an exclusive interview Sunday. "There's obviously a need to support workers, support the economy ... on the other hand, we have to be careful about not piling on enormous amounts of debt."

Senate Republicans mounted a last-ditch effort Thursday evening with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pulling back members -- many had already left for home for the weekend -- to vote on a plan that would cut the weekly federal benefit to $200, or two-thirds of lost wages.

Every Democrat and some Republicans opposed the measure.

While many Americans have relied on the federal unemployment insurance boost throughout the pandemic, Mnuchin reiterated on This Week that his belief is that there's no question that it is a disincentive to find a job in "some cases."

"There are cases where people are overpaid," Mnuchin said Sunday.

Raddatz pressed Mnuchin on this claim, citing a Yale study from this month which found no evidence in labor market data that the payments have any effect on people returning to work during the pandemic.

Mnuchin said that he didn't agree with the study and doubled down on his assertion that people are being disincentivized to work.

"I agree on certain things," Mnuchin noted. "I don't always agree. There's a Chicago study that goes through all the people that are overpaid."

Mnuchin also said he was "surprised" at Pelosi's claim that Republicans don't want to kill the coronavirus.

"Well, first, let me say, I was surprised to hear the speaker say we don't agree on the need to kill the virus," Mnuchin said. "We absolutely agree on the need to kill the virus."

Speaking to reporters after his interview, Mnuchin said he spoke to Trump eight or nine times this weekend about the negotiations.

Separately, the president threatened to ban the popular app TikTok by executive order on Friday.

The app, which allows users to film and share short videos of themselves along to accompanying music, is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance. The relationship has caused the Trump administration, as well as lawmakers across both aisles, to accuse the app of being a security threat.

Mnuchin said he's also been talking to the president about his agency's review of TikTok, but declined to share specifics of those conversations. He added that TikTok cannot stay in its current form due to "risks of sending back information on 100 million Americans."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(WASHINGTON) -- After both Democratic and Republican negotiators expressed optimism Saturday about progress on a coronavirus relief package compromise, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tempered expectations Sunday, explaining that her party and the Trump administration still don't see eye-to-eye on the "strategic plan" necessary to combat the virus and prop up the struggling economy.

"In our negotiations, we're talking about dealing with some of the consequences of this pandemic, but the fact is, we must -- we must defeat this virus. And that's one of the points that we still have not come to any agreement on," Pelsoi said in an exclusive interview on ABC's This Week Sunday.

As evidence, the speaker pointed to earlier pandemic-focused legislation that emphasized virus testing, and blasted the administration for not implementing its expanded protocols. But in a later This Week interview, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin contested the characterization, arguing that eradicating COVID-19 was a point of unity.

"I was surprised to hear the speaker say we don't agree on the need to kill the virus," he told This Week Co-anchor Martha Raddatz. "We absolutely agree on the need to kill the virus."

The mixed signals come as the pair are locked in negotiations on the new relief bill -- at the center of which lies a disagreement about the amount of federal aid to be offered to unemployed Americans. Amid a standoff over the Democratic effort to extend for months the recently expired $600 weekly benefit versus the GOP plan to reduce that supplemental assistance to $200 -- after a one-week $600 extension to accommodate negotiations -- the speaker placed the blame squarely on her Republican Capitol Hill counterparts and the president.

"(President Donald Trump is) the one who is standing in the way of that," Pelosi said. "We have been for the $600, they have a $200 proposal, which does not meet the needs of America's working families."

On Saturday, following a meeting with Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Pelosi told reporters that negotiations were "productive in terms of moving things forward." But when Raddatz asked on Sunday when Americans could expect to see a deal, the speaker's tone was markedly less optimistic, saying, "we will be close to an agreement when we have an agreement."

Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., floated a last-minute plan on Friday to give Americans one more week at the $600 rate, but the move was dismissed by Democrats -- whose two-month-old House bill would extend it to January -- as a political stunt. Mnuchin argued Sunday on This Week that the move could've bridged the gap in assistance as negotiations continued.

"We put on a table a proposal," he said. "Let's extend it for one week, at the same rate, white we negotiate so we don't hurt the American public."

Though Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have appeared unwilling to budge from their position that the amount of jobless assistance should go unchanged, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., took a different stance in a CNN interview Tuesday, claiming, "it's not $600 or bust."

"So, anything less than $600 is not a deal-breaker?" Raddatz pressed the speaker Sunday.

"The amount of money that is given as an enhancement for unemployment insurance should relate to the rate of unemployment," Pelosi said. "So when that goes down, then you can consider something less than the $600, but in this agreement it's $600."

"We are unified in our support for the $600," she added, while accusing Senate Republicans of being "in disarray," after several spoke out about the high cost of their total proposal.

Republicans continue to argue that the amount provides a disincentive to work, as some Americans are earning more on unemployment, given the federal supplement, than they would be on-the-job.

"There's no question in certain cases where we're paying people more to work -- stay home than to work -- that's created issues in the entire economy," Mnuchin said later on This Week.

Pelosi characterized that position Sunday as condescending, and questioned the GOP's priorities.

"To disrespect their motivation -- (it's) so amazing how insistent the Republicans are about a working family and their $600, and how cavalier they are about other money that is going out," she said.

During the interview, the speaker also criticized one of the leading voices of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, taking aim at Dr. Deborah Birx's role in Trump's continued inaccurate statements about the pandemic.

Asked by Raddatz about a recent report from Politico, in which she called Birx "the worst" during a meeting with Trump administration officials, and accused her of "spreading disinformation," Pelosi did not deny the comments and appeared to argue that the doctor should be doing more to rein in the president's remarks.

"I think the president is spreading disinformation about the virus and she is his appointee," Pelosi said. "So I don't have confidence there, no."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Official White House Photo by Shealah CraigheadBY: WILL STEAKIN, JUSTIN GOMEZ AND TERRANCE SMITH, ABC NEWS

(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump is on the ropes -- down in the polls, facing scathing criticism of his handling of the coronavirus crisis and a shakeup of his campaign staff, all less than 100 days until Election Day.

Also largely gone are the seemingly endless string of massive rallies that buoyed his candidacy in 2016 and propelled him from outsider to front-runner.

But the Trump team sees an opening, plowing forward with front-line campaigning in key states as Joe Biden appears content to stay on the sidelines and hold small press events.

Biden's team feels this approach aligns with the former vice president's view on the virus and commitment to following federal guidelines on virus safety, helping distinguish him from the president, who has taken an uneven, dismissive and sometimes flippant approach.

Some Democratic strategists say Biden's move is risky, given the power and longevity of Trump's ground game, but others say he has a number of options available, including phone calls and enlisting networks of voters to do the work for him, that could make the difference.

The Trump approach couldn't be more different. Last weekend alone, as part of the Trump campaign's "100 Days Out Weekend," the Trump team held at least 70 events ranging from veteran outreach to voter registration drives from Mohave County, Arizona, to Madison, Maine, according to the Republican Party's public schedule.

Events have featured varying levels of safety precautions. Many do not implement social distancing while some do, and no Trump campaign events nationwide require masks to attend, according to multiple sources.

When asked about safety measures taken at these events, the campaign did not provide specific details. Instead, deputy national press secretary Ken Farnaso said in a statement, "The safety of attendees is very important to the campaign and we take precautions to protect people's health." Adding, "President Trump is utilizing every avenue available to communicate directly with the American people while Joe Biden is hiding to avoid accountability for his abysmal record that spans nearly 50 years."

In July alone, the Trump campaign hosted two "Women for Trump" bus tours, featuring top campaign surrogates, including senior Trump campaign advisers Lara Trump, Mercedes Schalpp and Katrina Peirson.

The bus tours, an effort by the president's team to reach out to women -- 67% of whom disapprove of his coronavirus response, according to an ABC News/Ipsos poll -- hit key battleground states like Maine, New Hampshire and Wisconsin.

Pence emerges as key campaigner

The Trump campaign has also launched Vice President Mike Pence to multiple battleground states this summer, using him as the in-person messenger for smaller events.

Pence, whom the president put in charge of the White House coronavirus task force, held a "Cops for Trump" event in Pennsylvania's Westmoreland County on Thursday and spoke to an overwhelmingly maskless crowd. The event was held in a parking lot next to the Greensburg police station and supporters were standing shoulder-to-shoulder. Those who were seated were separated by an arm's length at most.

The task force currently lists Westmoreland County as a "yellow zone" and explicitly states that in Pennsylvania, "mask mandates must remain in place." According to White House coronavirus task force guidelines, a "yellow zone" is an area that in the last week "reported both new cases between 10-100 per 100,000 population, and a diagnostic test positivity result between 5-10%."

Hours later, the president urged Americans not to attend similar events. "If you can, you have to avoid crowded places," Trump said. "It just seems like some things are taking place in crowded places. We don't want that."

Pence also kicked off a "Faith in America" tour in Wisconsin at the end of June, a state that Trump unexpectedly and narrowly won in 2016. Stops in Florida and Arizona were also scheduled but were ultimately scrapped as coronavirus cases soared in those areas.

The vice president revisited Wisconsin on July 17 where he delivered a scathing attack on Biden, labeling him a "Trojan horse" for the "radical left" and "nothing more than an autopen president." Wearing blue jeans and cowboy boots, Pence also stopped by a dairy farm in Onalaska to promote the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, a signature Trump achievement that the president believes will help American farmers and workers.

As Pence traveled around the country for personal COVID-19 briefings from state leaders and education roundtables to discuss safely reopening schools in the fall, he also carved out time for fundraising.

During a trip to Indiana on July 24, Pence hosted a fundraiser for Republican attorney general candidate Todd Rokita, and the following day in Massachusetts he attended a high-priced lunch at the home of Robert Reynolds, CEO of Putnam Investments, for the Trump/Pence reelection campaign.

Canvassing in a pandemic

The Trump campaign sees its ground game as a key advantage three months out from Election Day and is showing no signs of slowing down despite rising cases in dozens of states. And because Trump is the incumbent, his campaign was able to build out key battleground state teams for well over a year, with staffers on the ground in crucial swing communities long before Biden's campaign started announcing state staffing positions.

In a conference call with reporters last week, new Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien pointed to North Carolina as an example of what he feels is their advantage on the ground in key states.

"We've had staff on the ground there since June 2019," Stepien said. "The staff has grown to over 100, which is double [the] 2016 staff. And they've been hard at work, shockingly, registering voters, and we see the results of that. They just made their 3 millionth voter contact."

"Joe Biden hired his state director last month [in North Carolina]. Big advantage: us on the ground," he added.

Stepien, who took over for longtime Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale just weeks ago, also said the campaign was bullish on flipping Minnesota. The Biden campaign only recently hired a handful of staffers in the state, compared to Trump Victory, which has had a physical presence in Minnesota since the 2016 election. Trump only lost the state by 1.5 percentage points.

However, recent polling suggested the president will still have a tough time turning Minnesota red. A recent Fox News poll showed Biden is leading in the state by 13 points: 51% to 38%.

The Biden campaign maintains that its hesitance in putting staffers and volunteers back on the ground amid the pandemic is rooted in science and the safety of their team.

"The Biden campaign is following the science and campaigning safely, yet very effectively," TJ Ducklo, the Biden campaign's national press secretary, said. "Our field teams and volunteers are talking to thousands of voters, holding hundreds of virtual events and continuing to build the broad, diverse coalition that is going to send Joe Biden to the White House."

The Trump campaign has also continued to put up massive digital numbers even as the Biden campaign remains fully virtual. The last 10 virtual campaign events have averaged over 1 million views on Facebook alone.

And on the ground, Trump Victory, the joint field operation between the RNC and Trump campaign, has hired more than 1,500 field staffers this cycle already and has activated over 1.6 million volunteers, according to the RNC.

Democratic concerns

Some Democrats who recognize the complicated reality of campaigning amid a pandemic still feel Biden remaining on the sidelines while the president's campaign pounds the pavement unchallenged could spell serious trouble in November.

"We're going to lose Election Day," said Wilnelia Rivera, who was Rep. Ayanna Pressley's chief campaign strategist for her successful 2018 race in Massachusetts. "If the Biden campaign continues down this track of running a traditional, candidate-driven, TV-spending campaign, it's not going to be enough."

"By now, I expected it to see a surrogate campaign of many aligned Democrats issuing a coordinated message of what it is that we need right now: to not just win in November, but to put our country back on track," said Rivera, a contributor to the book "Turnout: Mobilizing Voters in an Emergency."

Rivera said she's not suggesting Democrats put volunteers or staff in "harm's way" amid the pandemic, but said they need to start realizing that Republicans "are not going to play this election fair" -- campaigning as if the country was not in the middle of a health crisis.

Other veteran Democratic staffers who worked on campaigns during the 2020 primary, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they didn't want to criticize the presumptive nominee's campaign, told ABC News they have been stunned at how long it's taken the Biden campaign to start to put staffers in key states. "I've never seen a general election campaign this understaffed in battleground states this close to Election Day," one source told ABC News.

David Broockman, a professor of political science at the University of California, Berkeley, told ABC News he doesn't expect Biden to be significantly impacted by staying on the sidelines due to the pandemic, arguing that canvassing only reaches "a relatively small proportion of Americans."

"As a result, I doubt the Biden campaign's decision will prove that determinative, since even if they had canvassed I doubt it would be at a scale that would likely tip the balance," Broockman said.

"I suspect much more energy will be put into phone-based persuasion approaches as a substitute for in-person canvassing," he added, the latter of which he said can backfire if executed poorly. "I suspect it will take some creativity to inspire the same esprit de corps among volunteers to make these calls, but if the campaigns can keep volunteer motivation high, I suspect they can have a relatively large impact with phone calls as well."

Greta Carnes, the national organizer for former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg's 2020 presidential campaign, said that while on-the-ground campaigning is important, Democrats are doing the right thing moving forward with caution and not putting staff and voters at risk.

"The biggest reason why we're choosing not to canvass is because there is not an ethical way to canvass during a pandemic, there's just not," Carnes said.

"It's one thing to know that you're putting your volunteers at risk, but it's totally another to have them go to doors and you have no idea what the situation of people at those doors is," she added. "You have no idea if they have a kid who's got cancer. You've got no idea if they're immunocompromised. There just, point blank, is no ethical way to approach canvassing at scale in a year like this."

As Trump continues to campaign during the pandemic, his staff has been impacted, with at least eight members of the advance team who worked on his June 20 return rally in Tulsa testing positive for coronavirus.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(WASHINGTON) -- Keeda Haynes believes she brings a unique perspective to the race for Tennessee's 5th Congressional District. After spending over three years in prison for a crime she says she didn't commit, she hopes a spot in Washington will allow her to speak for vulnerable constituents -- and make a little history as well.

Haynes, a former public defender, is in a three-way race that includes 17-year Democratic incumbent Rep. Jim Cooper.

The primary election, which is slated for Aug. 6, has no Republican in the race so the winner will almost certainly be elected to Congress come November.

"I have a unique perspective that a lot of people don't have. ... I've been a defendant and defender," Haynes told ABC News. "I really saw just how this war on drugs really decimated Black and brown, low-income communities."

If elected, the progressive Democrat would make history as the first Black woman in Tennessee ever elected to Congress. The state has only had two Black representatives elected to Congress, with the last candidate elected over two decades ago, according to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Along with supporting criminal justice reform and the Black Lives Matter movement, the 42-year-old Haynes is also passionate about issues such as providing access to affordable housing, raising the minimum wage and reducing student loan debt.

"We are reimagining each and every system so that Black lives can matter across every single spectrum," she said.

Haynes, who is from Franklin and later moved to the state's capital of Nashville, was the second of five children. She graduated from Tennessee State University with a degree in criminal justice and psychology. But just two weeks after graduating college, she had to turn down a position as a legal assistant because she had to report to federal prison.

At 19, she started dating a man in Nashville for a few years and began accepting packages for his cellphone and beepers shop, she told ABC News. She later found out that those packages actually contained marijuana. She spent three years and 10 months in prison -- on what was initially a seven-year mandatory minimum sentence -- on charges of conspiracy to distribute marijuana.

In 2006, Haynes was finally released from prison while continuing to maintain her innocence. She went on to pass the bar exam and work in a public defender's office for over six years.

Her historic run comes as a record number of Black women are running for Congress across the U.S. In 2019, a record number of Black women were serving in state legislative offices, according to The Center of American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. In the last two years Black women saw the largest gain in representation at the state legislative level since 1994.

Haynes' advice for young Black girls hoping to follow in her footsteps is to remember that you have the ability to make the impossible possible.

"Prison did not deter me from doing what I said I was going to do," she told ABC News. "There will be people that will tell you that you can't do things and that things are impossible, but you have to stay focused."

Haynes called late civil rights pioneer Rep. John Lewis, who was laid to rest Thursday in Atlanta, an "iconic figure" in the fight for justice and equality, and expressed eternal gratitude for the work that Lewis accomplished throughout his remarkable life.

"Even in the face of police violence, he still believed in something bigger and still fought for liberation. ... I personally feel obligated to do this work in his name," Haynes said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


microgen/iStockBy LUKE BARR, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- A senior Department of Homeland Security official has been reassigned, two sources familiar with the matter told ABC News, after The Washington Post reported Thursday that his unit put out three reports to its vast law enforcement network containing two journalist's tweets about documents that were leaked from the department.

Brian Murphy, the head of the Department of Homeland Security’s Intelligence and Analysis unit, was reassigned Friday night, the sources said.

The Department of Homeland Security on Friday said it would “discontinue” collecting information on members of the press -- a practice that experts said was out of the agency's purview and was alarming and "disheartening."

“Upon learning about the practice, Acting Secretary Wolf directed the DHS Intelligence & Analysis Directorate to immediately discontinue collecting information involving members of the press. In no way does the Acting Secretary condone this practice and he has immediately ordered an inquiry into the matter,” a department spokesperson told ABC News.

Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee sent a letter to DHS on Friday, looking for answers, including whether or not DHS intelligence gathered information of individuals in Portland, Oregon, where there have been clashes between federal agents and protesters.

"Have I&A personnel been indirectly engaged with detainee operations, for example, by providing collection requirements or requests, or suggested lines of questioning, to detaining authorities or otherwise requesting or receiving information related to detainees," they wrote.

Three former intelligence officials, all of whom served in DHS, however said that practice of collecting information about U.S. citizens is alarming.

“This seems a misguided use of DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) resources on a set of priorities from what they should be. It’s not clear why they issued these open-source intelligence reports,” Javed Ali, who worked on the Trump National Security Council, and in intelligence positions at the FBI and DHS I&A said.

“I just don’t know if that’s the way the DHS authorities were designed to be used--especially against journalists or policy experts who appear to be exercising their First Amendment rights,” he continued.

John Cohen, a former acting undersecretary at the department and ABC News contributor, said this is very troubling for DHS.

“At the very least they have a perception problem, because it would be highly inappropriate for the department or any intelligence community entity to collect and disseminate information on reporters, or U.S. persons who are not involved in criminal and national security-related activity,” Cohen, an ABC News contributor, told ABC news. “And if this was part of an intentional effort, it would be highly inappropriate and wrong.”

A DHS internal document, obtained by the blog Lawfare, justifies the use of broad surveillance powers ostensibly to protect monuments, which has been a priority for the Trump administration during the time of civil unrest after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

Elizabeth Neumann the former assistant secretary for threat prevention and security policy in the Office of Strategy, Policy, and Plans the actions by DHS are “disheartening.”

“Yet again we see DHS, taking steps that are outside of the spirit of the intent of what DHS has stood up for. It's not outside of the letter of the law,” she said. “This is causing damage to the department's reputation. What were fringe conversations about dismantling DHS that have been around for years, have now become mainstream,” Neumann explained.

Neumann said that it “distracts” the men and women inside DHS from their overall mission.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump told reporters that he plans to ban the TikTok app in the United States through executive authority while flying home from Florida on Friday evening.

"We're banning them from the United States," Trump said.

The app, which allows users to film and share short videos of themselves along to accompanying music, is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance. The relationship has caused the Trump administration, as well as lawmakers across both aisles, to accuse the app of being a security threat

The president said he would sign something as soon as Saturday, without specifying whether he was going to act through an executive order. Trump called the decision "severance" and firmly rejected the reported spinoff deal involving Microsoft buying TikTok.

When asked for comment, a TikTok spokesperson told ABC News: "These are the facts: 100 million Americans come to TikTok for entertainment and connection, especially during the pandemic. We've hired nearly 1,000 people to our U.S. team this year alone, and are proud to be hiring another 10,000 employees into great paying jobs across the US. Our $1 billion creator fund supports U.S. creators who are building livelihoods from our platform. TikTok U.S. user data is stored in the U.S., with strict controls on employee access. TikTok's biggest investors come from the U.S. We are committed to protecting our users' privacy and safety as we continue working to bring joy to families and meaningful careers to those who create on our platform."

TikTok has an estimated 65 million to 80 million users in the United States.

The American Civil Liberties Union, a New York City-based nonprofit advocacy organization, said banning an app like TikTok "is a danger to free expression and technologically impractical."

Trump threatened to ban the app while speaking to reporters before leaving for Florida earlier in the day, but did not commit to any specific actions, saying, "We're looking at TikTok, we may be banning TikTok."

"We’ll see what happens, but we're looking at a lot of alternatives with respect to TikTok," the president said.

The Chinese video-sharing social networking service hasn't just triggered fear among Republicans. The Democratic National Committee also warned members against using TikTok earlier this month, according to an email obtained by CNN.

Earlier this month, a TikTok spokesperson told ABC News that the company is "led by an American CEO, with hundreds of employees and key leaders across safety, security, product, and public policy here in the U.S. We have no higher priority than promoting a safe and secure app experience for our users."

On July 15, Trump's chief of staff Mark Meadows said, "There are a number of administration officials who are looking at the national security risk as it relates to TikTok, WeChat and other apps that have the potential for national security exposure, specifically as it relates to the gathering of information on American citizens by a foreign adversary."

The United States would not be the first major country to ban TikTok. India banned the app in late June.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Anna Moneymaker/Pool/Getty ImagesBy BENJAMIN SIEGEL, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- The Trump administration mismanaged ventilator negotiations with a major medical device manufacturer, overpaying by roughly $500 million for tens of thousands of breathing machines earlier this year, House Democrats said Friday in a new report.

Citing thousands of pages of emails and documents obtained by the House Oversight Committee, the report concluded that "inept contract management" and negotiating led the Trump administration to mismanage funds in the arrangement with Dutch company Philips – a nearly $650 million contract announced by the Department of Health and Human Services in April -- that could have been used to secure protective equipment for front line medical workers early in the coronavirus pandemic.

While President Donald Trump and his administration have since touted the production of ventilators, the delays early in the process backed up the delivery of machines that were in short supply last spring and in high demand in states first hit by the pandemic.

"This should be something that everyone is very concerned about," Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., told ABC News. "We're very concerned that the same incompetence and gross negligence that characterize the contract negotiations here are happening elsewhere."

The White House and Republicans, in similar responses to Democrats' report, accused the committee of trying to politicize the pandemic, and did not address the specific concerns about the agreement negotiated by the administration.

"This partisan report is nothing more than a stunt that is only meant to politicize the coronavirus," White House spokesman Judd Deere said in an email.

"We needed ventilators and we needed them quickly. Thanks to President Trump, no person who needed a ventilator went without one. The strength of our SNS continues to grow each day," Reps. James Comer, R-Ky., and Michael Cloud, R-Texas, said of the report.

The Obama administration first inked a contract with Philips in 2014 for 10,000 ventilators by June of 2019 and granted the company a five-month extension when it fell behind in production, teeing up the final delivery of the last batch of ventilators by November 2019.

The Trump administration granted Philips three additional extensions to complete the contract, which ended up ended up pushing back deliveries of ventilators to the federal government, a move that "deprived the country of any ventilators from Philips before the pandemic hit," Democrats wrote.

On Jan. 21, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention disclosed the first coronavirus death in the United States, Philips emailed the Department of Health and Human Services and offered to move up the delivery of ventilators -- a message the administration ignored for six weeks, according to emails cited by Democrats.

In March, the administration agreed to modify the terms of its arrangement with Philips to order more ventilators, but did not require the expedited delivery of the machines to the federal government, according to the report, citing emails between the Trump administration and Philips.

Instead, top administration officials, including White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, trade adviser Peter Navarro and U.S. International Development Finance Corporation CEO Adam Boehler, a Kushner associate, inked the new deal for ventilators, paying nearly five times the price for machines that were "functionally identical" to the units sold to the Obama administration, Democrats said in the report.

In a statement, Philips disputed Democrats' charges and denied overcharging the Trump administration for ventilators and profiteering in the arrangement.

"Philips is on track with the production and delivery of the 43,000 EV300 hospital ventilators according to the April 2020 contract with HHS. The list price of the specific bundle of the EV300 ventilator plus roll-stand and accessories, as selected by HHS, is over $21,000 and is being provided to the U.S. government for $15,000," the company said. "The agreed price [per unit] reflects a discount, while taking into account part of the higher costs for the expedited delivery schedule."

Krishnamoorthi, whose panel has also investigated the accuracy of coronavirus antibody tests, said Democrats are worried the administration will take a similar approach to its agreements with pharmaceutical companies developing vaccines for the virus and has called for the administration to operate a "transparent" development process.

While ventilators were in short supply and high demand earlier this year, many doctors have tried to lessen patients' dependence on the machines, armed with new knowledge of treatments and alternative therapies that don't involve intubation.

"People were put on mechanical ventilation because they needed help breathing [and] doctors found it very difficult to get those patients off of the ventilators or to wean them off. And the fatality rates of people who had been put on mechanical ventilation with quite high," Dr. Ronald Waldman, a global health expert at George Washington University, told ABC News.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Supreme Court of the United StatesBy DEVIN DWYER, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who recently announced that she is battling a recurrence of liver cancer, was released from a hospital in New York City Friday after undergoing a "minimally invasive non-surgical procedure" two days earlier, according to a Supreme Court spokeswoman.

Doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center "revised a bile duct stent" that was originally placed in Ginsburg last summer, court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said in a statement Wednesday.

"According to her doctors, stent revisions are common occurrences and the procedure, performed using endoscopy and medical imaging guidance, was done to minimize the risk of future infection," Arberg said.

Ginsburg was released Friday, with a Supreme Court spokesperson saying, "Justice Ginsburg was discharged from the hospital today. She is home and doing well."

Ginsburg, 87, is the court's oldest member and leader of its liberal bloc. She is a four-time cancer survivor.

She said earlier this month that she intends to continue serving on the court despite the health challenges.

"I have often said I would remain a member of the court as long as I can do the job full steam. I remain fully able to do that,” she said.

Shortly after the court recessed for the summer in mid-July, Ginsburg was hospitalized overnight in Baltimore to treat a possible infection that she later said was unrelated to the cancer. In May 2020, she was also treated for several days for an infection caused by a "benign gallbladder condition."

Her hospitalizations and treatments to date have not impacted her ability to participate in official business, the court has said. During the May hospitalization, Ginsburg joined oral arguments by phone.

The court convenes its fall term in October.

Ginsburg, who has been the most transparent member of the court when it comes to matters of health, said she began cancer treatment in May after a scan in February discovered new lesions on her liver.

“The chemotherapy course, however, is yielding positive results,” Ginsburg said in a statement July 17. “Satisfied that my treatment course is now clear, I am providing this information.”

Arberg had said Ginsburg was "resting comfortably" and was released from the hospital by the end of the week as expected.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


OlegAlbinsky/iStockBy BEN GITTLESON, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- The White House on Friday condemned Hong Kong for delaying its upcoming legislative elections for a year even as President Donald Trump a day earlier elicited significant backlash for suggesting the United States postpone its own November vote.

Earlier Friday, Hong Kong's leader Carrie Lam used emergency powers to push back the city's hotly contested legislative council elections, a day after a dozen pro-democracy activists had been barred from running.

"We condemn the Hong Kong government's decision to postpone for one year its Legislative Council elections and to disqualify opposition candidates," White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said at a news conference.

She went on, "This action undermines the democratic processes and freedoms that have underpinned Hong Kong's prosperity and this is only the most recent in a growing list of broken promises by Beijing, which promised autonomy and freedoms to the Hong Kong people until 2047 in the Sino-British Joint Declaration."

Lam cited the continuing spread of the novel coronavirus for her decision to delay the vote, in which pro-democracy candidates were expected to gain a historic majority in the legislature. They had gained support amid anti-Beijing protests and the unpopularity of a restrictive national security law enacted by mainland China.

The White House's censure of a foreign government delaying its election came just one day after Trump had suggested postponing this year's general election in the United States.

The deeply unpopular president is facing a tough fight for re-election as nearly two-thirds of Americans in a recent ABC News/Ipsos poll said they disapproved of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, nationwide unrest over racial inequality and relations with Russia.

In a Thursday morning tweet, Trump criticized mail-in ballots, declaring without evidence that "2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history" and adding, "Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???"

Trump, trailing in polls in key battleground states, wouldn't directly say at a press conference later Thursday if he was seriously advocating for the move, but he continued to sow doubt in the election, scheduled for Nov. 3.

"I don't want to delay," Trump told reporters. "I want to have the election. But I also don't want to have to wait for three months and then find out that the ballots are all missing and the election doesn't mean anything."

Election experts have debunked theories of widespread fraud with mail-in ballots and it's not within the power of the presidency to change the date of the election.

Trump's idea drew blowback from members of Congress and officials across the political spectrum, including senior Republican officials who dismissed the idea.

"Never in the history of the country through wars, depressions and the Civil War have we ever not had a federally scheduled election on time," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told the Kentucky television station WNKY. "And we'll find a way to do that again this November 3."

ABC News' Britt Clennett, Karson Yiu, Will Steakin, Libby Cathey and Kendall Karson contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(WASHINGTON) -- The nation's top infectious disease expert reflects on the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Anthony Fauci and other top health officials told a House panel on Friday that novel coronavirus would "likely continue for some time" although they were optimistic the U.S. vaccine effort was on track.

The hearing came as the number of new COVID-19 cases keep appearing at a worrisome pace. Cases rose above 60,000 on Wednesday -- the highest daily tally in more than two months -- when more than 1,400 Americans died from the virus.

President Donald Trump has said previously that the virus will suddenly disappear. Fauci disputed that notion in his testimony, as well as suggestions that masks could contribute to infections.

"I do not believe it would disappear because it is such a highly transmissible virus. It's unlikely it is going to disappear," Fauci said.

Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, was put on the defensive early in the hearing as Republican Jim Jordan mounted an aggressive campaign to try to discredit his recommendation that Americans avoid crowds.

Jordan accused Fauci of playing politics with the guideline, which Jordan insisted has shut down churches but let protests grow unchecked.

"I don't judge one crowd versus another crowd," Fauci told Jordan. "When you're in a crowd, particularly if you are not wearing a mask, that increases the spread."

"No limit to protests?" Jordan asked at one point.

"I’m not going to opine on limiting anything," Fauci said, noting his job was only to look at health recommendations. "I’m telling you what is the danger. You should stay away from crowds."

The exchange took place amid the first congressional hearing since the Trump administration released revamped guidelines on schools that heavily favored returning students to the classroom -- a suggestion that several of the nation’s school district ignored as they opted for virtual learning until states were able to get the virus under control.

Fauci, who last testified before Congress on June 30, was joined during a hybrid in-person/remote hearing by two other leading officials from the White House Coronavirus Task Force: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's director, Dr. Robert Redfield, and the assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services, Adm. Brett Giroir.

"As a grandfather of 11 grandkids and I want these kids back in school," said the CDC's Redfield.

But in a joint statement, the government witnesses agreed the virus was here to stay for the time being.

"While it remains unclear how long the pandemic will last, COVID-19 activity will likely continue for some time," they wrote.

On the vaccine, Fauci said he's been assured personally by FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn that politics won't corrupt the process and that officials will stick to the science when evaluating and approving potential vaccine candidates.

Fauci said he remains "cautiously optimistic" a vaccine will be available by the end of the year or early 2021, and noted it will be distributed in phases. Fauci said there would be no "reckless rushing."

"I know to some people this seems like it is so fast that they might be compromising safety and scientific integrity, and I can tell you that is absolutely not the case," Fauci said.

Federal agencies will use committees of bioethicists screened for conflicts of interests and other issues to decide which groups, such as health care workers or the elderly, should be prioritized to recieve the vaccine first.

"I don't think that will have everybody getting it immediately in the beginning. Probably will be phased in, and that's the reason why we have the committee is to do that prioritization of who should get it first," he said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Official White House Photo by Tia DufourBy KENDALL KARSON, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Nearly two-thirds of Americans disapprove of President Donald Trump's handling of three major challenges facing the country -- the coronavirus pandemic, nationwide unrest over racial inequality and relations with Russia -- in a new ABC News/Ipsos poll, a sign of the obstacles that his reelection bid faces just three months before Election Day.

With the White House confronting the most significant reckoning on race since the civil rights movement of the 1960s, the worst public health crisis in a century, and a hostile Russia reminiscent of the Cold War, Americans have little confidence in the job Trump is doing in all three of these major areas.

Trump closes out the month of July the way it began, with his approval on the coronavirus in the low 30s. His approval sits at 34%, right about where it was earlier this month (33%) when it reached a new low since ABC News/Ipsos began surveying on the virus in March.

In the new poll, which was conducted by Ipsos in partnership with ABC News using Ipsos' Knowledge Panel, Trump's approval is also deeply underwater -- at 36% -- for how he is handling both the protests over racial inequality and relations with one of the country's greatest geopolitical foes, Russia.

An election that comes down to be a referendum on Trump's handling of the coronavirus, his response to the race movement or his dealings with foreign adversaries spells trouble for the incumbent president. With all three crises, Trump only consistently has the support of his own party and his base.

Republicans back Trump's handling of the coronavirus (74%), the protests (78%) and Russia (80%) by overwhelming margins. Democrats are almost uniformly in opposition to Trump's managing of the three issues, with approval of the president in single-digits on the pandemic (7%), the unrest (8%) and Russia (8%).

Roughly 1 in 5 Republicans disapprove of the president on coronavirus (26%), the protests (22%) and Russia (20%), and just over 9 in 10 Democrats disapprove on all three matters.

Independents trace the country's attitudes, with his approval falling between 30% to 33% and his disapproval landing between 66% and 69% on COVID-19, the demonstrations and his approach to Russia. About half of Trump's base -- white, non-college educated Americans -- approve of his leadership on the outbreak (50%), the protests (51%) and Russia (51%).

The latest numbers for Trump are particularly problematic on his combative response to the nationwide protests -- as his approval is in dire straits across racial lines. Only 45% of whites, 7% of Black Americans and 28% of Hispanics approve of Trump's handling on this specific issue.

Over half of whites (55%), and clear majorities of Black Americans (92%) and Hispanics (72%), disapprove.

Meanwhile, less than one-third of the country believes that sending federal officers to respond to demonstrations in cities makes the situation better.

A slight majority (52%) view the response as exacerbating the situation, and 19% say it doesn't have an effect either way.

Even among Americans who are supposed to be Trump loyalists, only 42% of white non-college educated Americans say that the presence of federal agents improves the situation. Over a third (37%) of this demographic see the move as making the situation worse.

The new poll comes after the president made a hard pivot back to pushing for an unproven treatment for the virus, hydroxychloroquine, against the advice of top health experts -- after appearing to break from months of downplaying the virus' severity by encouraging the country to wear masks and practice social distancing last week.

It also comes amid the backdrop of clashes in Portland, Oregon, where the president dispatched federal agents into the city to halt the nightly protests that were sparked two months ago by the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis in May. On Wednesday, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said that she was assured that officers would begin a phased withdrawal from the city -- an announcement that Trump appeared to contradict by Thursday morning, arguing that the officers would only leave once "safety" was restored.

His disapproval on his handling of relations with Russia, in particular, comes at a precarious time for the president, who has dismissed U.S. intelligence that indicates Russia paid the Taliban to kill American troops in Afghanistan.

Trump, in an interview with Axios earlier this week, said he "never discussed" the matter in a July 23 phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and when pressed on why he didn't raise it, he said, "That was a phone call to discuss other things and frankly that's an issue that many people said was fake news."

This ABC News/Ipsos poll was conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs‘ KnowledgePanel® July 29-30, 2020, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 730 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of 4.0 points, including the design effect. See the poll’s topline results and details on the methodology here.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


State Department photo by Ron Przysucha/ Public DomainBy CONOR FINNEGAN, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- The longest-serving member of President Donald Trump's national security cabinet, Mike Pompeo is also his fiercest defender -- a tactic that has helped keep him in power within the administration for nearly four years now, even as that loyalty sometimes leaves him alone on the battlefield.

Pompeo played that role again on Thursday as the Secretary of State danced around a defense of Trump's tweet about moving Election Day this November because "Universal Mail-In Voting" threatens to make it "the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history," the president claimed.

During Senate testimony, Pompeo warned a "full in-mail balloting program" presented a "level of risk."

"I saw this in my home state of Kansas," he continued. "When you change the voting rules getting close to an election, it's a difficult task."

Pressed later by Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., about Trump proposing changing the election from Nov. 3, Pompeo said he was "not going to enter a legal judgment on that on the fly this morning" -- instead deferring to the Department of Justice and others to "make that legal determination."

"It should happen lawfully," Pompeo added.

But Kaine shot back: There is no way for a president to lawfully change Election Day because it is set by Congress, with a statute from 1845 still in effect.

"I don't think it's that hard a question or one that should lead to equivocation by somebody who's fourth in line of succession to be president of the United States," the former Democratic vice presidential candidate added, pointing out Pompeo was a top graduate of Harvard Law School.

Pompeo tried to jump in, but Kaine moved on to another topic.

For the secretary and other GOP leaders, it was a common defense of the president, steering to avoid alienating or upsetting the boss while not necessarily endorsing his idea.

What's striking is that almost no other Republican did the same thing Thursday.

The top Republicans in the House and Senate both dismissed the idea. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said, "We should go forward," while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said, "Never in the history of the country, through wars, depressions and the Civil War, have we ever not had a federally scheduled election on time, and we'll find a way to do that again this Nov. 3."

Pompeo has sewn himself so tightly to Trump, rarely if ever breaking with him even when he personally disagrees on an issue, such as Trump's decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria or to not retaliate against Iran for downing a U.S. drone.

That strategy has kept him around far longer than former colleagues like Defense Secretaries James Mattis and Patrick Shanahan, National Security Advisers H.R. McMaster and John Bolton, and of course, his predecessor, Rex Tillerson.

But critics like Sen. Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, have also cast that closeness as a political strategy for Pompeo's personal aspirations, accusing him of upending U.S. foreign policy for domestic political ends.

While Pompeo was rumored by some to be considering a run for Senate in Kansas, he declined to join the race, with the June 1 filing deadline now passed. But he's been more open about his presidential ambitions, telling business leaders from the Economic Club last year, "There's nothing I wouldn't consider doing for America."

But walking that tight rope has put Pompeo in a tight position several times, instead trying to bulldoze through charges of hypocrisy or questions about confusing changes in policy.

He spent weeks enshrining the administration's push for the "complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea," only to face questions about Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un's agreement that fell short of agreeing to that goal; he dismissed them as "insulting and ridiculous and frankly ludicrous."

A hardliner on Iran, Pompeo repeatedly listed several changes from the Iranian government before any meeting between Trump and Iranian leaders. But ahead of the U.N. General Assembly in New York last September, he said there were "no preconditions" on a possible meeting with President Hassan Rouhani -- only for Trump to tweet days later he would not meet "'No Conditions.'"

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, he touted American contributions to the World Health Organization on March 31 as key to "protect Americans and keep us safe," but just weeks later, he and Trump started blasting WHO as disastrous and eventually announced the U.S. would withdraw from the U.N. agency.

That maneuvering was again on display Thursday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He said Trump leads "the toughest administration ever on Russia," pointing to several policies meant to pressure the Kremlin. But asked about Trump's comments Tuesday that he's never raised the issue of Russia offering bounties to the Taliban to kill U.S. troops, Pompeo danced again.

"I always leave to the president what he wants to say to other leaders," he said.

Pompeo cast Trump's troop withdrawal from Germany as "threatening" to Moscow. When pressed on the Kremlin's spokesperson welcoming it earlier that day, he didn't respond, and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., moved on.

Kaine used the same tactic to stop Pompeo from responding on Election Day by turning to former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who was disparaged by Trump and his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, before being ousted.

After declining to offer any praise for the veteran ambassador, Pompeo sparred with Kaine over Giuliani's campaign against her. As the secretary smiled and at times chuckled, Kaine accused him of treating the issue as "just a big joke. I mean, hey, look at you, smiling and laughing and calling it silly."

This time, Pompeo did get the last word: "I don't think it's silly to the United States Department of State to understand that every ambassador, every political appointee knows that if the president of the United States finds that they lack confidence in you, the president has the right to terminate them. It's that easy. It includes me."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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