October 16, 2020

NBC decided to schedule a town hall with President Trump at exactly the same times as a previously scheduled ABC town hall with Democratic nominee Joe Biden on the night they were supposed to have held their second presidential debate. The network got a lot of flak for that decision, and afterward NBC News cut together the two events to make a virtual 5-minute debate of sorts between the two candidates.

The Washington Post also picked its own highlights from both town halls.

Biden did stick around for at least half an hour after the debate and continued answering questions from the audience. ABC News showed Biden's afterparty while its contributors related their own highlights of the event. And CNN fact-checker Daniel Dale quickly ran through some of the night's biggest whoppers. You can watch that below. Peter Weber

11:38 p.m.

For the first time in 100 years, The New Hampshire Union Leader has endorsed a Democrat for president.

In a piece published Sunday, the conservative-leaning paper's editorial board said it has "significant" policy disagreements with Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, and while he "may not be the president we want," in 2020 he is "the president we desperately need. He will be a president to bring people together and right the ship of state."

Biden is a "caring, compassionate, and professional public servant," the editorial board said. "He has repeatedly expressed his desire to be a president for all of America, and we take him at his word." President Trump, they wrote, is "not always 100 percent wrong, but he is 100 percent wrong for America."

Trump didn't receive the newspaper's 2016 endorsement, either. That year, the editorial board picked Libertarian Gary Johnson, breaking its 100-year tradition of selecting Republicans, CNN reports. During the Republican primaries, the newspaper endorsed then-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), which caused Trump to call publisher Joseph McQuaid a "lowlife" and "bad guy." Catherine Garcia

11:02 p.m.

In less than a month, there has been a 200 percent rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations in El Paso, Texas, and on Sunday, city officials urged residents to stay home for the next two weeks.

More than 680,000 people live in El Paso, and Angela Mora, the city's director of public health, said that over the last three weeks, the number of hospitalizations has increased from 259 to 786. On Sunday, more than 500 new COVID-19 cases were reported in El Paso.

"If we continue on this trend, we risk detrimental effects to our entire health care system," Mora said in a statement. "For the sake of those hospitalized and the front line health care workers working tirelessly each day to care for them, we ask you to please stay home for two weeks and eliminate your interactions with those outside your household until we can flatten the curve."

The public health department also said people who ignore new local health orders making masks and social distancing mandatory will be fined, NBC News reports. This week, the city's convention center will be transformed into a field hospital. Catherine Garcia

10:09 p.m.

As of Sunday morning, nearly 60 million Americans have cast their ballots in the presidential election.

The U.S. Elections Project, an independent data analysis project by the University of Florida, reports that of the 59,399,395 ballots cast, 39,909,913 are from mail-in voting and 19,489,482 are in-person votes. More than one-third of those votes are from California, Texas, and Florida, the U.S. Elections Project says — the three most populous states. The early votes amount to more than 42 percent of all votes cast in 2016.

Dr. Larry Sabato, founder and director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, told The Guardian there are long lines at early voting sites around the country because "people really have bought into the understanding that if this isn't the most important election we've ever had, it's one of several. People are determined to express themselves and we all know why: Donald Trump. This includes his base: The cult is going to support the cult leader. But there are more, maybe quite a bit more, who want to end this nightmare. And that's the way people put it. If you don't like the word, I'm sorry — that's just the way it is."

Sabato said there is a "hidden campaign that people haven't talked about," which involves Trump's team spending the last four years identifying supporters of his who weren't registered in 2016 or didn't vote. While Democrats have the edge on early voting and Republicans traditionally have turned out in higher numbers on Election Day, it's risky to "put all your chips" on that vote, Sabato said.

"Suppose there's a hurricane barreling toward Florida," he continued. "Almost certainly there will be really bad weather in at least a couple of swing states, you know, lots of things happen in life, and maybe the spike up in coronavirus will keep a lot of these older Republicans away on the day." Catherine Garcia

8:55 p.m.

Should President Trump win a second term, he plans on immediately firing FBI Director Christopher Wray, two people who have discussed the matter with Trump told Axios.

Trump is also expected to quickly replace CIA Director Gina Haspel and Defense Secretary Mark Esper. They aren't the only three people on the chopping block, the sources said, but are at the top of the list. One official said Trump hasn't fired any of them because of the optics of doing this before the election.

Haspel and Wray do not have any fans in Trump's inner circle, Axios reports, with one person saying the "view of Haspel in the West Wing is that she still sees her job as manipulating people and outcomes, the way she must have when she was working assets in the field. It bred a lot of suspicion of her motives." As for Wray, Trump became enraged in September when the FBI director testified that there are no signs of widespread election fraud, despite Trump claiming otherwise.

Privately, Trump has complained about Attorney General William Barr, and he's never been too enamored with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, but there are no formal plans to remove them, Axios reports. In a statement, White House spokesman Judd Deere said, "We have no personnel announcements at this time nor would it be appropriate to speculate about changes after the election or in a second term." Catherine Garcia

7:57 p.m.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on Sunday said the Trump administration is "not going to control the pandemic," and will instead "control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics, and other mitigations."

Meadows made his comments during an interview on CNN, and when asked to elaborate on why the pandemic can't be contained, he said, "because it is a contagious virus just like the flu. What we need to do is make sure that we have the proper mitigation factors, whether it's therapies or vaccines or treatments to make sure that people don't die from this."

On Friday and Saturday, the U.S. reported more than 83,000 new coronavirus cases, and as of Sunday, more than 224,000 Americans have died of the virus. Despite health officials warning against large gatherings and urging the use of masks to curb the spread of coronavirus, President Trump continues to hold big campaign rallies, with people standing next to each other and face coverings optional. Meadows defended the campaign events by saying, "We live in a free society."

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden commented on Meadows' remarks, saying this wasn't "a slip by Meadows, it was a candid acknowledgment of what President Trump's strategy has clearly been from the beginning of this crisis: to wave the white flag of defeat and hope that by ignoring it, the virus would simply go away. It hasn't, and it won't." Catherine Garcia

2:29 p.m.

The Senate on Sunday voted to advance Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett toward final confirmation.

The final count was 51-48, with Democrats unanimously voting in opposition, and Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) crossing the aisle to join them. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), the Democratic vice presidential nominee, was not present for the vote. Both Collins and Murkowski, like their Democratic colleagues, have said they believe Barrett's nomination was too close to the Nov. 3 election to move forward, although Murkowski said Saturday that she will now back the judge's confirmation after losing the "procedural fight." Collins is expected to stick with the Democrats going forward, but Barrett should still be confirmed without much drama.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has faced criticism from Democrats for expediting the confirmation process after blocking former President Barack Obama's nominee in 2016 because it was an election year, called Barrett one of the most "impressive" nominees for public office "in a generation," adding that the "heated" debate around confirmation "curiously" lacked talk of her "actual credentials or qualifications." Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), meanwhile, said the vote was a "sham."

Sunday's vote allows for 30 hours of debate, setting up a final tally on Monday evening around 7 p.m. ET. Read more at The Associated Press. Tim O'Donnell

1:50 p.m.

Vice President Mike Pence will continue to travel and campaign for re-election despite the fact that several close contacts — including his chief of staff, Marc Short, and an unnamed personal aide who accompanies him throughout the day — have tested positive for the coronavirus at various points throughout the week. Pence did test negative for COVID-19 on Sunday morning, but the decision to maintain his schedule has raised eyebrows among the Trump administration's critics, as well as allies like former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), who recently recovered from his own bout with the virus.

Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, meanwhile, said that although the short answer is yes, Pence could be putting others at risk by foregoing quarantine, there are ways to handle the situation safely. "I would understand why they wouldn't want to quarantine the vice president," Gottlieb said. "But they need to be very explicit about what they're doing and the risks that they're taking."

Gottlieb said Pence should be wearing an N-95 mask, distancing whenever possible, and getting tested repeatedly. Finally, he suggested the vice president's medical team could at least consider providing him with antibody drugs that are not available to the general public as a preventative method, though that would come with some risk. Tim O'Donnell

See More Speed Reads