• Fri. Oct 23rd, 2020

The Woodward Revelations

Woodward’s revelations prompt an admission from Trump: “I’m a cheerleader.” It’s Thursday, and this is your politics tip sheet. Sign up here to get On Politics in your inbox every weekday.

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  • Another day, another book full of extraordinary revelations about the Trump presidency. Only this time, it’s written by Bob Woodward, arguably the world’s most famous living reporter. And this time, President Trump is caught explicitly admitting that he downplayed the coronavirus, even as he acknowledged that it was deadly and difficult to contain.

  • In “Rage,” set to be published next week, Woodward draws upon a series of private interviews with Trump, covering various topics. He writes that Trump dismissed generals as “suckers” and “a bunch of” — well, something not very nice — for their staunch support of U.S. allies.

  • “They care more about their alliances than they do about trade deals,” the president complained in a 2017 meeting with Peter Navarro, his trade adviser, according to Woodward’s account.

  • But possibly the most damning revelations came from Woodward’s interviews with Trump this year about the coronavirus. In a February conversation, the president called the virus “deadly stuff,” telling Woodward it was “more deadly than even your strenuous flu” — even as he was often saying the opposite in public.

  • On March 19, days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations against large gatherings had prompted economic shutdowns nationwide, Trump admitted to Woodward that he had minimized the virus against the evidence. “I wanted to always play it down,” Trump told Woodward. “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”

  • Speaking to reporters yesterday, Trump didn’t contest Woodward’s reporting. “The fact is I’m a cheerleader for this country,” he said, again saying that he had saved lives by imposing a ban on travel from China.

  • Biden excoriated Trump after learning of the report, seizing the opportunity to turn attention back to Trump’s response to the pandemic. On a visit to Michigan yesterday heralding a jobs plan, Biden said Trump had “failed to do his job on purpose.”

  • “He knew and purposely played it down,” Biden said during an outdoor speech at the United Auto Workers Region 1 headquarters in Warren, Mich. “Worse, he lied to the American people.”

  • A federal judge struck down important parts of a rule by Trump’s Labor Department that had sought to shield fast-food companies from being sued by workers for violations of minimum-wage or overtime laws.

  • In his ruling, Judge Gregory Woods largely took the side of the more than 15 states that had challenged the rule, calling the approach “flawed in just about every respect.”

  • The Labor Department had sought to remove fast-food companies from liability when workers sue a franchisee or contractor. But the operators of franchises often have limited resources, and without an Obama-era rule allowing workers to include parent companies in their lawsuits, it can often be impossible for them to recover lost wages.

  • William Barr, the attorney general, said yesterday that the White House had specifically requested that his Justice Department take over a defamation lawsuit against Trump, as it announced this week that it had. Barr painted the move as routine but did not explain why his office had waited more than 10 months to step into the case.

  • The lawsuit was brought last year by E. Jean Carroll, who is accusing Trump of defaming her in his public denials of her allegations that he raped her in the 1990s. Trump’s legal team was facing an imminent deadline to appeal an order compelling a deposition and a DNA sample from the president.

  • The Justice Department filed a motion this week to move the case from state court to federal, allowing it to take over, which would mean taxpayer dollars are being spent on Trump’s legal defense. But the move could also put a swift end to the lawsuit: Under the rules of sovereign immunity, the government cannot be sued for defamation.

  • Trump threw out some fantasy fodder for conservatives yesterday, releasing a list of 20 additional names he would consider nominating to the Supreme Court if he were elected to a second term.

  • The list includes three conservative Republican senators — Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri — though Hawley immediately said he had “no interest in the high court.”

  • Also on the list are various Trump administration lawyers, former solicitors general, and state and federal judges from around the country.

  • The announcement mimics a move Trump made in 2016, when he teased a similar list of potential appointees. While Supreme Court appointments aren’t a top voting issue for many swing voters — and there isn’t an open seat now, as there was in 2016 — the thought of adding a sixth conservative justice to the court is enticing for many conservative voters, particularly evangelicals who support curtailing abortion rights.

Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

Joe Biden delivering his pandemic-era speech yesterday in Warren, Mich.


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One woman in Dothan, Ala., filled out extra absentee ballots to help elect her boyfriend. A man in Rochester, N.Y., voted twice because a bar was giving free beer to people with “I Voted” stickers. A woman in Des Moines filled out two absentee ballots in 2016, she said, because President Trump had hinted that her first ballot would be altered to count for Hillary Clinton.

Even though voting more than once is rare, a few cases make headlines. Leaning on those, Trump stirred fear and confusion about voter fraud on the campaign trail in 2016, and he’s at it again this year, repeatedly sounding alarms that one of the most fundamental pillars of democracy — voting — will be mired in fraud.

He has pointed in particular to increased reliance on mail ballots during the pandemic and the possibility (which experts say is slim) that large numbers of people might misuse them. Trump even advised North Carolina voters to test the election system’s integrity by filing a mail ballot, then showing up at the polls to vote.

Given all this alarmism over mail voting and voting twice, we wondered about the law and penalties surrounding double voting, as well as how common it is.

Our research shows that voting twice, even in states with all-mail balloting, is rare. In Washington, a mail-voting state, only 147 cases were suspected out of 3.1 million votes cast there in 2018.

States have systems that flag voters who appear at the polls but have already voted by absentee ballot. So it’s unlikely that a voter would be permitted to vote twice. But if one managed to do so, it’s a felony in most states. Federal law also makes voting twice in federal elections a felony, with a possible fine of $10,00 and five years behind bars.

In Georgia, double voters could face 10 years and a $100,000 fine. Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s Republican secretary of state and a Trump supporter, said this week he had found 1,000 cases in which people voted twice in Georgia’s primary and runoff elections this year, vowing to prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.

Citing all the disarray in Georgia’s elections this year, public interest groups wonder whether it was an accident. “Secretary Raffensperger has been looking for reasons to cast doubt on Georgia’s mail-in ballot system for months,” said Aunna Dennis, the executive director of Common Cause Georgia. “He would have served us all better if he had invested that time and energy into preventing the problems that occurred in June.”


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