October 30, 2017

On Monday, an unsealed indictment revealed President Trump's former foreign policy adviser, George Papadopoulos, was charged with making false statements to federal agents and impeding the investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Because federal investigations like Special Counsel Robert Mueller's tend to work inwards towards central figures, Papadopoulos' indictment is particularly of note because it includes references to other yet-unnamed campaign aides who were involved in conversations with Kremlin agents.

The timeline begins in early March 2016, when Papadopoulos signed on as a Trump campaign adviser. "Based on a conversation that took place on or about March 6, 2016, with a supervisory campaign official (the 'campaign supervisor'), defendant Papadopoulos understood that a principal foreign policy focus of the campaign was an improved U.S. relationship with Russia," the charges claim.

Later, after being offered "dirt" on Hillary Clinton by a character referred to as "the Professor," Papadopoulos emailed a "senior policy adviser" to say that there were "some interesting messages coming in from Moscow about a trip when the time is right." Then, in conversation between Papadopoulos and another "high-ranking campaign official," Papadopoulos wrote: "Russia has been eager to meet Mr. Trump for quite sometime and have been reaching out to me to discuss."

The official forwarded Papadopoulos' email to another unnamed campaign official and wrote: "Let's discuss. We need someone to communicate that DT is not doing these trips. It should be someone low level in the campaign as not to send any signal."

Another passage claims Papadopoulos attempted to arrange an "off the record" meeting between at least one campaign representative and "members of President Putin's office and the [Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs]." Papadopoulos also sent an email with the subject line "New message from Russia" to a high-ranking official.

Papadopoulos was arrested in July 2017 and has reportedly been cooperating with the FBI. Jeva Lange

1:58 a.m.

Just minutes after President Trump declared during Thursday night's debate that migrant kids separated from their parents are "so well taken care of" inside U.S. facilities, the Lincoln Project released a searing four-second ad combining his words with the wails of children.

This week, lawyers tasked with reuniting migrant kids with their families told a court they haven't been able to track down the parents of 545 children. They were separated under the Trump administration's zero-tolerance policy, and when asked about this by moderator Kristen Welker, Trump claimed the government is working to find the parents, but added that many are smuggled into the country by coyotes and when kids are placed in U.S. facilities, they are "so well taken care of."

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden pushed back, saying the children in question were ripped away from their parents, not smugglers, and called the act "criminal." On Twitter, PBS NewsHour reporter Amna Nawaz said that she has "been inside the border processing centers where many kids and families were held. They were under resourced. Crowded. Staff overwhelmed. Groups of young kids crammed into windowless rooms."

The Lincoln Project wasted no time bringing attention to Trump's claim. Their video uses footage from facilities, showing young children wrapped up in mylar blankets inside cages, and the audio is Trump's claim that "they're in facilities that were so clean ... so well taken care of," mixed with the sounds of kids crying. Watch the ad below. Catherine Garcia

1:14 a.m.

For what it's worth, Democratic presidential nominee pretty consistently won his final debate against President Trump, according to most reputable snap polls conducted after the Thursday night showdown in Nashville.

There was also "the unscientific CNN North Carolina 'undecided voter' panel" that had "Biden 9, Trump 0, a Draw 2," notes Josh Jordan. But on Fox News, Sean Hannity posted an online poll that found Trump to be the overwhelming victor of the night — as Eric Trump highlighted.

Debates can matter. Trump's performance in his first face-off against Biden was so bad, by the next day Jared Kushner was "imploring friendly media personalities and other allies to level with his father-in-law about the angry and aggressive debate style he had displayed," The Wall Street Journal reports. "Polls would soon show the performance had cost the president support." Trump's snap numbers are actually relatively good after his final, more disciplined debate performance, FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver notes. Trump has now lost all five of his presidential debates, Silver added, and it didn't seem to matter that much in 2016. Peter Weber

12:54 a.m.

Pete Buttigieg gave President Trump a quick history lesson during Thursday night's debate.

Moderator Kristen Welker asked both Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden about Black families having to specifically talk with their children about interacting with police. Trump was quick to respond, saying, "Nobody has done more for the Black community than Donald Trump. And if you look, with the exception of Abraham Lincoln ... I'm the least racist person in this room."

Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and one of Biden's rivals during the Democratic primaries, didn't like Trump glossing over more than 150 years of history, and pointed out on Twitter that a president who came before Trump ushered into law some very important legislature. "The Civil Rights Act was signed in 1964 by President Johnson," Buttigieg tweeted. "Show some goddamned respect."

Back in June, Trump claimed that his "administration has done more for the Black community than any president since Abraham Lincoln," touting the passage of criminal justice reform and guaranteed funding for historically Black colleges and universities. Vox's Fabiola Cineas points out that many presidents between Lincoln and Trump have helped Black Americans, whether it's Ulysses S. Grant creating the Department of Justice and pushing to prosecute the Ku Klux Klan or Barack Obama passing the Affordable Care Act, "which has reduced racial disparities in health care." Catherine Garcia

12:16 a.m.

The final 2020 presidential debate spent a good deal of time on climate policy, and President Trump added some color with a few out-of-left-field claims. Democratic nominee Joe Biden's climate policy, Trump claimed, was really written by "AOC-plus-three," a reference to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y) and the three other congresswomen in "the Squad."

Under their collective plan, Trump said, "they want to take buildings down because they want to make bigger windows into smaller windows. As far as they're concerned, if you had no window it would be a lovely thing." He continued: "They want to knock down buildings and build new buildings with little, tiny, small widows, and many other things." Biden laughed and said Trump was making stuff up. The fastest-growing industries in America are solar and wind energy, he added, and Trump "thinks wind causes cancer, windmills." Trump did not dispute that, but he did tell Biden, "I know more about wind than you do. It's extremely expensive. Kills all the birds."

The Squad had some fun with Trump's bizarre claim about tiny windows, something not mentioned in their Green New Deal framework, much less Biden's proposals.

But if Trump were really concerned about the fate of the birds, reducing the size of windows would be the best policy short of banning cats. Peter Weber

Opinion
12:10 a.m.

The second and final presidential debate was supposed to have a section devoted to national security, and perhaps that's what a few unilluminating questions about North Korea and foreign election meddling were intended to be. Or perhaps, as I first assumed given the topical order, that section was cut for time. Either way, this bare minimum of attention to foreign policy is inexcusable for an examination of the two candidates running to be commander-in-chief in a country addicted to perpetual war.

Our Constitution assigns power to initiate military conflict to Congress, and Congress, as a matter of habit, does its best to abdicate that responsibility in favor of unaccountable executive war-making. The Constitution also gives the president authority to prosecute wars already underway. As it happens, we have several.

The war in Afghanistan is our nation's longest ever, now in its 19th year and long since lost to any sort of American "victory." It was given no substantive attention tonight, nor was it discussed in the first debate.

The war in Iraq was also not addressed. That failed regime change project has cost us about $2 trillion, created the power vacuum that led to the rise of the Islamic State, and has a civilian death toll estimated in the hundreds of thousands. Too boring for a debate, perhaps?

Yemen, where the United States is enabling the world's worst humanitarian crisis, was ignored. So too recent (and in some cases ongoing) U.S. military interventions in Syria, Libya, Somalia, and more than two dozen locations in North and Sub-Saharan Africa.

These are literally matters of war and peace, life and death. They are also matters in which one of these men soon will have considerable discretion to leave or stay the course of two decades of inhumane and counterproductive foreign policy. That discretion requires interrogation. It didn't get it tonight. Bonnie Kristian

October 22, 2020

Sacha Baron Cohen's sequel to the 2006 mockumentary Borat dropped on Amazon right before the final presidential debate, providing perfect counterprogramming for anyone who was looking to avoid the latest round of political hullabaloo.

But Borat Subsequent Moviefilm also turned out to be the unintentionally perfect sponsor for CNN's "Debate Night in America" coverage. Really, can you think of a better summation of American politics in 2020 than this?

Yep, that sounds about right! Jeva Lange

Opinion
October 22, 2020

The best thing about Thursday night's presidential debate is that it probably didn't leave millions of Americans wanting to take a shower, despairing for the future of democracy.

That is a low bar, of course, but one set by the historically atrocious first encounter between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, which was marred by the president's interruptions and rudeness to both Biden and Chris Wallace, the moderator. Afterward, a number of observers begged the Commission on Presidential Debates to shut down the remaining debates altogether.

The commission persisted, albeit with some stiffer rules enforcement. And Trump was on something mostly resembling his best behavior Thursday night. Was it the mute button? Was the president chastened? Perhaps Kristen Welker was simply a more effective moderator? Who can tell? But the change was good for viewers, at the very least.

The notion of civility has taken a big hit the last few years. Partisans on both sides increasingly seem to believe their opponents aren't worthy of the courtesy. But civility — even if it is enforced rather than freely practiced — certainly has its uses in some contexts. A presidential debate is one of them.

Oh, President Trump lied just about as much as he ever does. One hopes that viewers didn't just accept either candidate's assertions on Thursday, but that they'll consult reputable fact-checkers and news organizations to get a sense of the truth. The calmer tone, though, gave viewers a chance to actually hear from each candidate and get a better sense of their priorities and policies. That's not nothing.

It's still reasonable to question whether debates are the best way to help voters weigh their choices. But if we're going to have them, it's much better when everybody takes their turn and lets others speak. Joel Mathis

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