November 2, 2019

There wasn't much palling around Friday evening at the Iowa Democratic Party's fundraiser dinner.

Leading Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and former Vice President Joe Biden directed not-so-veiled criticisms at one another while speaking before the Iowa crowd amid what looks to be a tightly contested caucus. The latter two targeted the more progressive Warren for being overly-pugnacious and unwilling to compromise on certain policies, which they feel will lead to more stagnation in American politics. "We will fight when we must fight but I will never allow us to get so wrapped up in the fighting that we start to think the fighting is the point," Buttigieg said.

Biden, who spoke after Buttigieg, said if the Democratic candidate can't bring the country together "we're in real, real, real trouble." But Warren held firm, arguing that "fear and complacency does not win elections" and reiterating that she is "not running some consultant-driven campaign with some vague ideas that are designed not to offend anyone."

Speaking of not offending anyone, The New York Times noted that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was the only top-tier candidate who didn't go after his opponents, instead delivering a version of his normal stump speech, which was focused on the rights of the working class. Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

11:49 a.m.

As reports suggest numerous changes within the United States Postal Service could hinder its ability to process a flood of mail-in ballots this fall, it appears USPS officials created a plan to reduce mail sorting capacity.

Vice News' Motherboard reported Thursday that USPS has removed several mail sorting machines without a clear explanation to postal worker unions. In a follow-up report Friday, Vice reports the removals were part of a larger-scale plan from USPS officials, quite literally titled "Equipment Reduction." The plan proposed removing 15-20 percent of sorting machines across the country, which workers say would reduce processing capacities and force more mail to be hand-sorted, possibly causing consequential delays.

A USPS spokesperson said the Post Office "routinely moves equipment around its network as necessary," and said it was merely "adapting our processing infrastructure to the current volumes." But Vice writes that the "equipment reduction" plan made no mention of moving machines, just eliminating them. Sources even said "they have personally witnessed the machines, which cost millions of dollars, being destroyed or thrown in the dumpster," says Vice. "This will slow mail processing," one union official said.

After President Trump said he didn't want to give Democrats requested funding that would help expand mail-in voting amid the pandemic, lawmakers are keeping a close eye on USPS changes that could lead to fewer votes being counted in time for the presidential election. A group of senators urged Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to protect ballot processing. "Removing 20 percent of the Postal Service's sorting and processing equipment looks like another part of [Trump's] plan to bulldoze a vital American institution just to cling to power," said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). As Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) put it, "this is insane." Read more at Vice News. Summer Meza

11:45 a.m.

Robert Trump, President Trump's younger brother, has been hospitalized in New York, ABC News reports.

The White House on Friday confirmed that Trump's 72-year-old brother is in the hospital, with press secretary Kayleigh McEnany also saying that the two "have a very good relationship."

Further details were not provided by the White House, though ABC cited sources as saying that Robert Trump is "very ill." He was previously hospitalized in June and spent more than a week in the intensive care unit. At the time, The Daily Beast reported that he was "being treated for a serious condition."

The president is reportedly expected to visit his brother in the hospital on Friday. Brendan Morrow

10:48 a.m.

Should President Trump lose re-election, could Rep. Kevin McCarthy's (R-Calif.) House leadership position be in danger?

A new report in The Washington Post describes how "discontent" with the Republican minority leader is "on the rise" in the House of Representatives, and a "small group of members is discussing whether someone should challenge him for minority leader if Trump is defeated," as Republicans prepare for a potential "intraparty war."

While the report notes the anti-McCarthy sentiment in the House is certainly "far from unanimous," it describes how some Republicans feel he's too close to Trump and has given the president "too much of a pass," with one House Republican saying McCarthy "does nothing but lick Trump's boots." It isn't clear who could actually challenge McCarthy, though the report says House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) has been eyed.

"[McCarthy] becomes damaged goods [if Trump loses], but it could be offset if he is successful in helping the GOP conference win back a bunch of seats," a senior House Republican told the Post. "But if we lose ... the Republican conference is probably going to be looking for something different in leadership."

A spokesperson for McCarthy downplayed this talk, saying Republicans "are united and singularly focused on working with President Trump to renew the American Dream, restore our way of life, and rebuild the greatest economy ever." Read more at The Washington Post.

Brendan Morrow

9:41 a.m.

Billie Eilish and more stars are headed (virtually) to this year's Democratic convention.

Organizers of the 2020 Democratic National Convention on Friday announced that the event scheduled to begin next week will feature performances from Leon Bridges, The Chicks, Common, Billie Eilish, Jennifer Hudson, John Legend, Billy Porter, Maggie Rogers, Prince Royce, and Stephen Stills.

While the Democratic convention was originally set to take place entirely in person in Wisconsin, it has since been revamped into a primarily virtual event, with even former Vice President Joe Biden himself set to accept the party's nomination for president from Delaware. These artists, too, are expected to deliver their performances remotely, People reports.

As CBS notes, Legend and Hudson previously performed at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Most recently, the 2016 convention featured performances from artists including Alicia Keys and Katy Perry. Stephanie Cutter, program executive for the DNC, in a statement said that the stars set to perform this year are "committed to engaging with, registering and mobilizing voters to get us over the finish line in November." The convention is set to begin on Aug. 17. Brendan Morrow

8:28 a.m.

The United States Postal Service has warned that in Pennsylvania, some mail-in ballots may not be delivered in time to be counted this November.

In a July letter to Pennsylvania State Secretary Kathy Boockvar, USPS general counsel Thomas Marshall described the "risk that ballots requested near the deadline under state law will not be returned by mail in time to be counted under your laws as we understand them," NBC News reports.

The USPS also described Pennsylvania's current deadlines as "incongruous with the Postal Service's delivery standards," per Axios. Voters in the swing state can request a mail-in ballot up to Oct. 27, and they have to be received by 8:00 p.m. on Election Day, according to The Hill.

But officials in the state are looking to extend the deadline to receive mail-in ballots three days, with Boockvar raising concern in a court filing that "voters who apply for mail-in ballots in the last week of the application period and return their completed ballot by mail will, through no fault of their own, likely be disenfranchised," CNN reports.

The warning in Pennsylvania came just after President Trump in an interview cited his desire to prevent universal mail-in voting this November, noting that if the Postal Service doesn't get the funding that Democrats are seeking, "that means you can't have universal mail-in voting, because they're not equipped to have it." Brendan Morrow

8:22 a.m.

Newly installed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy met with President Trump in the Oval Office last week, before a contentious meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) about his controversial new policies at the U.S. Postal Service, The Washington Post reports. A few days later, DeJoy removed several top USPS officials, including two that oversaw day-to-day operations, and postal employees are now warning about the unexplained removal of vote-sorting machines.

Trump spokesman Judd Deere told the Post the Oval Office meeting was "congratulatory," because DeJoy took over the post on June 15, though "he declined to offer any other details." The measures enacted by DeJoy, a billionaire donor to Trump and other Republicans with significant financial interests in USPS competitors and contractors, have slowed mail delivery — a temporary "unintended consequences" of his cost-cutting measures, he told postal workers in a letter Thursday. DeJoy is also "in frequent contact with top Republican Party officials," the Post reports.

The reliability of the USPS is now an overtly political issue after Trump directly tied funding for the independent agency to his opposition to mail-in voting during the 2020 election. Democrats, who have insisted at least $10 billion be given to the USPS as part of a COVID-19 deal, "need that money in order to have the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots," Trump told Fox Business on Thursday morning. "If they don't get those two items, that means you can't have universal mail-in voting because they're not equipped to have it." Trump later suggested he was using USPS funding as a bargaining chip in negotiations with Pelosi and Schumer.

USPS officials have repeatedly said the post office can handle the expected surge in mail-in ballots, The New York Times notes.

Trump has claimed baselessly and frequently that widespread mail-in voting will lead to significant fraud, and the Republican National Committee and conservative groups are spending tens of millions of dollars to fight mail-in voting expansion, before and after the election, the Post reports. "The president is afraid of the American people," Pelosi argued. "He's been afraid for a while, he knows that on the legit, it'd be hard for him to win, so he wants to put obstacles of participation." Peter Weber

6:36 a.m.

With just a few weeks before people start mailing in their ballots in the 2020 presidential election — probably — Democrat Joe Biden maintains his steady lead over President Trump. A Fox News poll released Thursday had Biden up 7 percentage points, 49 percent to 42 percent, more or less even with his 8 point lead in the July Fox News poll, though down from Biden's 12 point chasm in June. Pew Research Center registered an 8 point advantage for Biden in its own survey Thursday, 53 percent to 45 percent — and Biden's main selling point, it seems, is that he isn't Trump.

While 56 percent of Biden supporters said his main asset is that he isn't Trump, only 19 percent of Trump supporters said they were primarily voting against Biden. "This is very different from the 2016 presidential campaign, when opposition to the other candidate was among the top reasons given by supporters of both Trump and Hillary Clinton for their voting decisions," Pew notes.

Biden is viewed much more favorably than Trump in the Fox News poll: While Trump is 12 points underwater — 55 percent unfavorable, 43 percent favorable — Biden's favorability rating is 53 percent versus 43 percent unfavorable. In both polls, Trump holds a narrow lead on the economy but lags Biden on all other issues.

The Fox News poll found 54 percent of voters saying the federal government failed to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak seriously enough and 85 percent are concerned about its spread. "But inside the White House, Trump's top political aides are increasingly assured about their response — feeling like they're finally getting a handle on how to fight the disease," Politico reports. "As the crippling crisis turns toward heading into a third season, an alternate reality is taking shape inside the White House even in the face of spiking case counts, long lags in test processing, and a COVID-19 death toll that regularly tops 1,000 Americans a day."

Both polls are in line with other national surveys of the race: RealClearPolitics shows Biden with an average 7.4-point lead, while FiveThirtyEight has him beating Trump by 8.1 points. The Fox News poll was conducted Aug. 9-12 among 1,000 registered voters nationwide contacted by phone. Its margin of sampling error is ± 3 percentage points. Pew surveyed 9,114 registered voters July 27 to Aug. 2, and its margin of sampling error is ± 1.5 points. Peter Weber

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