10 things you need to know today: September 3, 2020

President Trump on Wednesday said during a trip to North Carolina, a battleground state, that people should vote by mail and then cast another ballot in person, to test safeguards against double voting. “If their system’s as good as they say it is, then obviously they won’t be able to vote,” said Trump, who has claimed without evidence that widespread mail-in voting will result in extensive fraud. It is illegal to intentionally vote twice. Attorney General William Barr echoed Trump’s claim, telling CNN that mail-in voting “is very open to fraud,” and people advocating expanded mail-in voting due to the coronavirus pandemic “are playing with fire.” Barr also said that racism isn’t “as common as people suggest” in protests against police shootings of unarmed Black men and women. [The Washington Post, CNN]

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said Wednesday that the white Kenosha, Wisconsin, police officer who shot Jacob Blake, an unarmed Black man, in the back seven times “needs to be charged.” Biden also called for charges over the police killing of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman shot in her Louisville, Kentucky, apartment during a raid. Biden also called for arresting anyone committing violence during protests. He made his comments the day after President Trump visited Kenosha, focusing on supporting police and businesses affected by violence. Biden plans to visit Kenosha on Thursday. He vowed to help try to “heal” the city, and accused Trump of “throwing gasoline on the fire” of racial tensions. Trump has falsely accused Biden of championing violent protesters and pushing to “defund the police.” [The Associated Press]

President Trump ordered federal agencies in a memo released Wednesday to find ways to slash funding to Democrat-run cities roiled by protests against systemic racism in policing, including Portland, Seattle, Washington, and New York. “Anarchy has recently beset some of our states and cities,” Trump wrote to the Office of Management and Budget, and Attorney General William Barr. “My administration will not allow federal tax dollars to fund cities that allow themselves to deteriorate into lawless zones.” The memo came as Trump focuses his re-election campaign on violence coinciding with mostly peaceful anti-racism protests. A spokesman for Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York tweeted that the memo was “a racist campaign stunt out of the Oval Office to attack millions of people of color.” [The New York Times]

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reportedly has told state public health officials to be ready to administer a coronavirus vaccine to health-care workers and others facing high infection risk as soon as late October. The CDC guidance provided the latest indication that the government is speeding up its push for a vaccine to fight the pandemic, which has killed more than 184,000 people in the U.S. President Trump said last week in his speech at the Republican National Convention that a vaccine might be ready before the end of 2020. The nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, has said a vaccine could be made available to some groups before clinical trials are completed, provided early results are overwhelmingly encouraging. [The New York Times, The Associated Press]

Dr. Anthony Fauci on Wednesday pushed back against the idea the U.S. should pursue herd immunity against COVID-19. After neuroradiologist Scott Atlas, a top medical adviser to President Trump with no background in epidemiology, reportedly suggested the Trump administration should embrace the controversial theory of herd immunity to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, health experts pointed out the drawbacks. Some research has suggested reaching herd immunity would require allowing millions of infections and thousands more deaths, though other data points to a lower threshold. Either way, “we’re not there yet,” Fauci said. “That’s not a fundamental strategy that we’re using. The fundamental strategy … is to try to prevent as many infections as you possibly can” by identifying a case, isolating the person who has it, and contact tracing. [Politico]

The Department of Homeland Security withheld publication of a July intelligence bulletin warning of a Russian effort to push “allegations about the poor mental health” of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. The draft bulletin was submitted to the department’s legislative and public affairs office and was not intended for the public, but it was supposed to be sent to federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. But an hour after it was submitted, DHS Chief of Staff John Gountanis asked officials to “hold on sending this one out” until discussing it with acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, according to an email obtained by ABC News. The report was never distributed, even though analysts had “high confidence” in the assessment. House Democrats vowed to investigate. [ABC News]

Germany’s government said Wednesday that it had determined that Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny was poisoned with a chemical nerve agent from the Novichok group of toxins. Navalny fell ill during a flight from Siberia to Moscow last month. He was initially treated in Russia, then transferred to Berlin. German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said toxicology tests at a German military laboratory provided “unequivocal evidence of a chemical nerve agent.” Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany said the crime “raises very serious questions that only the Russian government can and must answer.” Novichok is a Soviet-era military toxin that was used against former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in a 2018 attack in England. Russian officials said they were waiting for more information from Germany. [The New York Times, CNN]

Two reputable national polls released Wednesday suggest different trajectories for the presidential race, but agree on where it stands at the end of both main political conventions and at the start of the final sprint to Nov. 3. A poll from Grinnell College and Selzer & Co. shows Democrat Joe Biden with an 8-percentage-point national lead over President Trump, 49 percent to 41 percent — an improvement from Biden’s 4-point lead in March. A Suffolk University/USA Today poll shows Biden up by 7 points, 50 percent to 43 percent, which is much narrower than his 12-point advantage in June. Biden holds a wide lead among moderates, independents, and suburban women, while Trump leads among white men without college degrees. [Grinnell College, USA Today]

U.S. government debt will exceed the size of the economy in the 2021 federal fiscal year for the first time since World War II, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday. The federal debt hit 98 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product in the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, due to the government’s massive coronavirus relief spending. The borrowing surge has not panicked investors, who have continued to buy U.S. Treasury assets as a safe alternative to volatile stocks during the pandemic. “We thought we had a full 10 years before reaching this unfortunate milestone, but the virus wiped out a decade of fiscal space in just a few months,” said Michael Peterson, head of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, a nonpartisan organization focused on the country’s long-term fiscal challenges. [The Wall Street Journal, USA Today]

Former New York Mets superstar pitcher Tom Seaver, often referred to as “The Franchise,” has died of complications from Lyme disease, dementia, and COVID-19. He was 75. “We are heartbroken to share that our beloved husband and father has passed away,” his wife, Nancy Seaver, and daughters Sarah and Anne said Wednesday in a statement to the Baseball Hall of Fame. “We send our love out to his fans, as we mourn his loss with you.” Seaver dropped out of public life in March 2019 after he was diagnosed with dementia. He established himself as the greatest Met in the eyes of fans by compiling a record of 311 wins and 3,640 career strikeouts. He won three Cy Young Awards, and helped lead the “Miracle Mets” to a championship in 1969. [New York Daily News]



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