10 things you need to know today: October 22, 2020
Obama harshly rebukes Trump at Biden rally, Democrats say they will boycott Senate committee's Barrett confirmation vote, and more
Obama rebukes Trump in 1st speech for Biden campaign
Former President Barack Obama harshly criticized President Trump on Wednesday, slamming him for everything from his handling of the coronavirus pandemic to his character. "Eight months into this pandemic, cases are rising again across this country," Obama said. "Donald Trump isn't suddenly going to protect all of us. He can't even take the basic steps to protect himself." It was Obama's first appearance on the campaign trail on behalf of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who served eight years as Obama's vice president. Obama made fun of Trump for his obsession with TV ratings as Trump and Biden head into their final debate Thursday night. "This is not a reality show. This is reality," Obama said. "And the rest of us have had to live with the consequences of him proving himself incapable of taking the job seriously."
Democrats to boycott committee's Barrett confirmation vote
Democrats announced Wednesday that they plan to boycott Thursday's Senate Judiciary Committee vote on Judge Amy Coney Barrett's nomination to the Supreme Court. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and the Democrats on the committee released a joint statement calling Republicans' push to confirm Barrett before Election Day a "sham process" that violated the "promises and rules" they established when they blocked then-President Barack Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland in an election year. "Fearing a loss at the ballot box, Republicans are showing that they do not care about the rules or what the American people want," the Democrats said, adding that they would "not grant this process any further legitimacy by participating" after tens of millions have already voted. The committee can advance the nomination to the full Senate as long as 12 members are present, a threshold Republicans can meet if they all show up.
OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma to pay $8.3 billion opioid-crisis settlement
Purdue Pharma, maker of the painkiller OxyContin, plans to plead guilty to three felony criminal charges as part of an $8.3 billion settlement over the role the company and its drug played in the opioid epidemic, the Justice Department announced Wednesday. The agreement also resolves civil charges against Purdue related to the opioid crisis, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people. Purdue admitted to lying to the Drug Enforcement Administration about its monitoring of physicians to prevent the diversion of OxyContin to illegal channels. The deal does not eliminate criminal liability of Purdue's owners, the Sackler family. Family members said they behaved "ethically and lawfully." Some state attorneys general criticized the deal by saying it let the Sacklers off too easy.
Pope Francis says same-sex couples should be protected
Pope Francis called for legislation to protect same-sex couples in an interview included in a documentary, Francesco, that premiered Wednesday at the Rome Film Festival. "Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family. They are children of God and have a right to a family," the pope said in the interview. "What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered." Francis has expressed support for civil unions in the past. As archbishop of Buenos Aires before he became pope, he opposed legislation backing same-sex marriage but backed legal protections for same-sex couples. LGBTQ rights groups said his latest statement, which diverged from the positions of previous pontiffs, marked a step forward.
Negotiators say coronavirus relief might be passed after election
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Wednesday they have made more progress toward a deal on a new coronavirus relief package, but suggested it might not be passed until after Election Day. Mnuchin and Pelosi said they were narrowing their differences on a potential $2 trillion stimulus agreement but suggested there might not be a way to get enough lawmakers on board before Nov. 3. "I'm optimistic that there will be a bill. It's a question of, is it in time to pay the November rent, which is my goal, or is it going to be shortly thereafter and retroactive?" Pelosi said on MSNBC. Larry Kudlow, a top White House economic adviser, confirmed that finalizing the terms of a relief package in Congress' lame-duck session "could be a possibility."
U.S. officials: Iran and Russia attempting election interference
Russia and Iran have obtained voter registration information and Iran is using it to send disinformation to U.S. voters, FBI Director Christopher Wray and Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe announced during a Wednesday night news conference. Ratcliffe said these "actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries," while Wray stated Americans "should be confident that your vote counts. Early, unverified claims to the contrary should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism." Ratcliffe said Iran was behind emails sent to Democratic voters in Florida, Pennsylvania, and at least two other battleground states claiming to be from the Proud Boys, a far-right pro-Trump group. The threatening emails tell recipients if they don't vote for President Trump, "we will come after you."
New U.S. coronavirus cases exceed 60,000 for 2nd straight day
The U.S. reported more than 62,000 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, marking the second day in a row with confirmed new infections exceeding 60,000, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The figures came as the spread of the coronavirus is accelerating in most states in what public health experts warn is the start of what could be a deadly, long-anticipated third wave of cases as the weather turns cold. More than 8.3 million people have now been infected in the U.S. since the pandemic started, and more than 222,000 have died. Across the country, school districts are struggling to cope. Boston school officials announced Wednesday that they were halting their attempt to resume in-person classes just three weeks after they had started letting high-needs students start coming to school two days a week.
Supreme Court reinstates Alabama ban on curbside voting
The Supreme Court late Wednesday ruled that Alabama state officials can enforce their ban on curbside voting. Some counties had wanted to let people vote from the curb during the coronavirus pandemic to make voting easier for people with disabilities and those facing an elevated risk of death from COVID-19. Several at-risk voters challenged the state's ban on the procedure. A lower court had blocked the state policy, but the Supreme Court's conservative majority lifted the injunction without explaining its decision. The high court's three liberal justices dissented. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, writing for the three, said the state did "not meaningfully dispute that the plaintiffs have disabilities, that COVID-19 is disproportionately likely to be fatal to these plaintiffs, and that traditional-in-person voting will meaningfully increase their risk of exposure."
10 bodies found during search for Tulsa race massacre victims
Experts searching for victims of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre uncovered an unmarked mass grave with at least 10 bodies, Oklahoma state archaeologist Kary Stackelbeck said Wednesday. Investigators are searching a cemetery where victims of the attack on Black residents and Black-owned businesses are believed to be buried. The discovery of 10 wooden coffins, each presumably with the remains of one person inside, came after remains were found earlier in the week in an area known as the "Original 18." Funeral home records indicate that at least 18 of the massacre victims were buried there. Authorities plan to examine the remains and try to identify them, then return them to the coffins and rebury them. Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum, who budgeted $100,000 to fund the search, said authorities would try to contact descendants of victims who are identified.
Rudy Giuliani seemingly duped in Borat 2 scene
The sequel to Sacha Baron Cohen's Borat film features Rudy Giuliani caught in a disturbing prank, people who have seen the movie and stills of the scene revealed on Wednesday. In the movie, Giuliani speaks with the actress who portrays Borat's daughter for what he thinks is a conservative news show. They return to the actress' hotel room, which is filled with hidden cameras, and from there, Giuliani "can be seen lying back on the bed" and then "reaching into his trousers and apparently touching his genitals," according to The Guardian. Cohen, playing Borat, then storms into the room apparently yelling "She's 15. She's too old for you." The scene has sparked questions about what a trained foreign agent could get out of Giuliani, a close adviser to President Trump.