Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: October 19, 2020

Harold Maass
Biden in North Carolina
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

1.

Trump, Biden appeal for votes in battleground states

President Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden campaigned Sunday in states they hope to flip, making late pushes for electoral votes as they head into the final two weeks before the Nov. 3 election. Trump held a rally in Nevada, a state that has not backed a Republican presidential candidate since 2004. Trump called Biden corrupt and said, "lock him up." He also said Biden would devastate the economy with unnecessary coronavirus lockdowns, mocking Biden's vow to do what scientists say. Trump said if he had listened to scientists the country would be in a "massive depression." Biden campaigned in battleground North Carolina, slamming Trump for saying the U.S. had "turned the corner" in the coronavirus crisis. "Things are getting worse," Biden said, "and he continues to lie to us about circumstances." [The Associated Press, Reuters]

2.

Twitter deletes Trump science adviser tweet that said masks don't work

Twitter on Sunday blocked a post by President Trump's science adviser, Scott Atlas, that said masks don't work to curb coronavirus infections. The company said Atlas, who tweeted "Masks work? NO," had violated a Twitter ban on sharing false or misleading information on COVID-19 that could result in harm. In such cases, Twitter disables a user's account until the owner deletes the post. Atlas accused Twitter of censorship. "I don't understand why the tweets were deleted," he said in an email, The Associated Press reported. Trump has repeatedly downplayed the importance of wearing face coverings to reduce the spread of the pandemic, which has killed nearly 220,000 people in the United States. [The Associated Press]

3.

Pelosi optimistic about stimulus deal, Trump calls for 'bigger number'

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Sunday that she remained optimistic that Democrats would reach a deal with the Trump administration on a new round of coronavirus relief before the November election, despite stubborn disagreements on what to include in the package. Pelosi acknowledged that she had given White House negotiators 48 hours to address the sticking points, but said it was possible to strike a deal because "we've been back and forth on all of this." President Trump told reporters that he wants a "bigger number" than Pelosi wants. The White House proposed a $1.8 trillion stimulus package, but Pelosi rejected it as inadequate. The Democrat-controlled House has passed a $2.2 trillion package. [Reuters]

4.

Judge blocks Trump effort to end food stamps for 700,000

A federal judge on Sunday blocked the Trump administration's effort to end food stamp benefits for nearly 700,000 unemployed people. Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell of Washington, D.C., called the administration move an "arbitrary and capricious" attempt to cut the federal food safety net, especially during a pandemic that has sent unemployment soaring and increased the number of people counting on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by more than six million, or about 17 percent. The rule "at issue in this litigation radically and abruptly alters decades of regulatory practice, leaving states scrambling and exponentially increasing food insecurity for tens of thousands of Americans," Howell wrote in the scathing ruling. The case was filed by a coalition of 19 states, Washington, D.C., New York City, and private groups. [The Washington Post]

5.

U.S. official secretly traveled to Syria for hostage negotiations

A top White House official recently went to Syria for the first talks a high-level U.S. official has had with members of the Assad regime in more than a decade, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday, citing Trump administration officials and others familiar with the matter. Kash Patel, a deputy assistant to President Trump and the top White House counterterrorism official, traveled to Damascus earlier this year as part of an effort to negotiate the release of two Americans believed to be in custody of President Bashar al-Assad's government. It was not immediately clear who Patel met with to discuss the cases of freelance journalist and former Marine officer Austin Tice, who went missing in 2012, and Majd Kamalmaz, a Syrian-American therapist and aid worker. The State Department and the White House declined to comment. [The Wall Street Journal]

6.

Pompeo threatens sanctions after U.N. Iran arms embargo expires

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday warned that the United States would impose sanctions on anyone who helps Iran boost its weapons program, raising tensions with other world powers as a decade-long United Nations arms embargo against Tehran expired. Pompeo said any individual or entity that helps Iran add to its arsenal is "very clearly choosing to fuel conflict and tension over promoting peace and security," and impoverishing the Iranian people by enabling the regime's diversion of funds away from the people and toward the regime's military aims." Iran's Foreign Ministry said Tehran "may procure any necessary arms and equipment from any source without any legal restrictions and solely based on its defensive needs," although Iran has said it has no plans for an arms-buying spree. [CNBC]

7.

Fauci 'absolutely not' surprised Trump contracted COVID-19

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, said in a CBS 60 Minutes interview that aired Sunday he was "absolutely not" surprised that President Trump was infected with the coronavirus after seeing him at a crowded public event where few people wore masks. "I was worried that he was going to get sick when I saw him in a completely precarious situation of crowded — no separation between people, and almost nobody wearing a mask," Fauci said in an apparent reference to Trump's Rose Garden announcement that he was nominating Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Fauci said when he saw the event on TV he thought, "that's got to be a problem ... And then sure enough, it turned out to be a superspreader event." [CNN]

8.

Explosive new Colorado wildfire prompts 3,000 evacuations

A new wildfire spread rapidly in Boulder County, Colorado, over the weekend, prompting the evacuations of at least 3,000 people. The CalWood Fire began burning Saturday about 50 miles southeast of the Cameron Peak Fire, the largest in state history. "It just exploded," Mike Wagner, division chief with the Boulder County Sheriff's Office, said of the CalWood fire. "We do believe multiple homes were probably lost. It's still too dynamic to get in and begin to assess." The Cameron Peak Fire started in mid-August, and has burned more than 317 square miles. The cause of the new fire was not immediately determined, although investigators said there had been no lightning strikes or other weather events that could have started the CalWood Fire. The area has had high winds and "critically dry" conditions for weeks, fire officials said. [USA Today, The Denver Post]

9.

Chilean protests erupt ahead of constitutional referendum

Protesters burned two churches and looted stores in Chile's capital, Santiago, on Sunday as tensions rise ahead of a referendum on scrapping a dictatorship-era constitution. Masked protesters cheered in television images showing the spire of La Asunción church on the ground in flames. The city's archbishop and the government of President Sebastián Piñera condemned the violence. "This is an expression of brutality," said Interior Minister Víctor Pérez. "Today we must lament the violent acts, but we will confront them." About 25,000 people gathered in Plaza Italia with banners calling for a new constitution. The square was the central point of protests a year ago that resulted in more than 30 deaths and billions of dollars in property damage, but prompted the government to promise a new constitution. [The Wall Street Journal]

10.

Dodgers beat Braves, will play Tampa Bay Rays in World Series

The Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Atlanta Braves in a hard-fought and exciting Game 7 of the National League Championship Series on Sunday night, advancing to the World Series for the third time in four years. They will pay the Tampa Bay Rays, who clinched the American League title on Saturday night, overcoming the Houston Astros 4-2 in the seventh game of the series. It will be the Rays' second-ever World Series in their 23-year history, and their first in 12 seasons. The teams will play their first World Series game on Tuesday in Arlington, Texas. The chance of another championship marks a big moment for the city of Tampa Bay, Florida, whose NHL team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, won the Stanley Cup in September. The Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA championship last week. [USA Today, Tampa Bay Times]