October 26, 2020

Hillary Clinton has no plans to come out of the woods.

With Election Day less than a week away, the Clinton is doing everything she can to stop Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris from repeating her fate. But in contrast to a common motivation for boosting a campaign, Clinton wants no role in a potential Biden presidency, she told The New York Times' Kara Swisher in a podcast aired Monday.

Throughout this election, Clinton has stayed out of ads and the public eye for the Democratic party — probably wisely, considering how contentious the 2016 election was. She's instead focusing on fundraising events for Biden, as well as Democratic House and Senate races. And she's convinced it will pay off, to the point that she won't even "entertain the idea" of Trump winning again. "It makes me literally sick to my stomach to think that we'd have four more years of this abuse and destruction of our institutions, and damaging of our norms and our values, and lessening of our leadership, and the list goes on," Clinton said.

Clinton's vision of a Biden/Harris administration is clearer. She'll be happy to "answer any questions they have" and "provide any information that they need," Clinton said — generally to act as an outside "counselor," as Swisher put it. But "No, I don’t want a job" within the administration, Clinton said. "I just want to be able to exhale." Read Clinton's whole interview at The New York Times. Kathryn Krawczyk

2:30 p.m.

Politicians — they're just like us.

President Biden's staff during his time as vice president did not serve leafy greens at events because Biden "did not want to be photographed with any leaves in his teeth," said Christopher Freeman, a caterer for the then-vice president, in an interview with The New York Times.

Instead, Biden stocked his vice presidential residence with items like vanilla chocolate chip Haagen-Dazs, Special K cereal, grapes, cheese, and some Orange Gatorade to wash it all down. No ‘untag’ button needed.

Read more at the Times. Brigid Kennedy

1:18 p.m.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) described Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) as a "deeply unwell" person who "clearly needs some help" as video of Greene harassing her office in 2019 resurfaced.

CNN on Friday reported on a since-deleted Facebook Live video showing Greene outside of Ocasio-Cortez's locked office door taunting her staff through a mailbox slot during a Capitol Hill visit in Feb. 2019, before she was elected to Congress. Greene in the video calls Ocasio-Cortez "crazy eyes" and tells her to "get rid of your diaper" while demanding she come outside. She also says that "we have security following us" during the stream and was apparently escorted out by security by the end of the day, CNN reports.

The video was resurfaced after The Washington Post reported that Greene "aggressively confronted" Ocasio-Cortez on Wednesday as she exited the House chamber, shouting at her in an incident House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) described as a "verbal assault" that should "probably" be investigated by the House Ethics Committee.

"This is a woman that's deeply unwell and clearly needs some help," Ocasio-Cortez said Friday. "Her fixation has lasted for several years now. At this point, I think the depth of that unwellness has raised concerns for other members as well, and so I think that this is an assessment that needs to be made by the proper professionals."

In reference to the public debate between the two Greene has been demanding, Ocasio-Cortez said, "It's not a thing, and so I'm concerned about her perceptions of reality." Brendan Morrow

12:56 p.m.

Even Uncle Joe gets angry sometimes.

President Biden has "a short fuse" at times, especially when aides and advisers are unable to answer his many hyper-detailed questions, current and former associates told The New York Times in a report published Friday. It's a description seemingly at odds with the congenial and easygoing persona the American public usually sees.

Driven by a strong "sense of urgency," the president is reportedly susceptible to "flares of impatience," and a tendency to "cut off conversations," per the Times. Occasionally, he's even hung up the phone "on someone who he thinks is wasting his time."

Yet he is also slow to make important decisions, often gathering advice and detail from "scores" of experts before sharing his findings in the self-assured, "plain-speaking" manner he presents publicly. "He has a kind of mantra: 'You can never give me too much detail,'" National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told the Times. It's a difficult minefield to navigate, however; at risk of "an outburst of frustration," those fielding Mr. Biden's questions must go "beyond the vague talking points [the president] will reject" while also avoiding "responses laced with acronyms or too much policy minutiae." Advisers, aides and speechwriters become "hyperprepared" so as to avoid irritation.

Despite his displeasure when staff lack answers to reportedly "obscure" (but important) questions, the president is also "prone to displays of unexpected warmth." He never launches into Trump-esque "fits of rage" and frequently phones his grandchildren, who he calls "the center" of his world.

Read more at The New York Times. Brigid Kennedy

11:29 a.m.

It's official: Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) has won Rep. Liz Cheney's (R-Wyo.) old job.

Republicans on Friday voted to elect Stefanik the new chair of the House Republican Conference. She's replacing Cheney, who was ousted from that position this week for criticizing former President Donald Trump over his false claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

Stefanik, meanwhile, is a Trump ally who has backed numerous false election claims he has made, and the former president endorsed her for the leadership position. She thanked Trump for his support after the vote, calling him a "critical part of our Republican team."

“I support President Trump," Stefanik also said. "Voters support President Trump. He is an important voice in our Republican Party, and we look forward to working with him."

Cheney since being removed from her leadership job, on the other hand, has vowed to continue her fight against Trump and ensure he doesn't serve another term as president.

"He's unfit," she told Today. "He never again can be anywhere close to the Oval Office." Brendan Morrow

10:39 a.m.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's updated mask guidance marked a major milestone in the pandemic. But has the agency "skipped a key step"?

The CDC announced Thursday that those who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 mostly no longer need to wear masks or socially distance. Dr. Leana Wen, a physician and CNN medical analyst, is among the experts who had been critical of the CDC's previous guidelines as overly cautious, but she writes in The Washington Post that with the announcement, the CDC "skipped a key step" and has gone "from over-caution to throwing caution to the wind."

Wen particularly criticizes the CDC guidance for not requiring proof of vaccination.

"By resorting to the honor code, the CDC is removing a critical incentive to vaccination," Wen writes. "Many who were on the fence might have been motivated to get the shot because they could go back to activities they were missing, without a mask. Now, if no one is checking, and they can do everything anyway, why bother?"

All in all, Wen described the CDC's "about-face" as "shockingly abrupt," and The New York Times noted that it "came as a surprise to many people in public health," as in a recent informal survey of epidemiologists, a whopping 80 percent said they expected Americans would need to wear masks indoors for another year.

"Unless the vaccination rates increase to 80 or 90 percent over the next few months, we should wear masks in large public indoor settings," Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute program officer Vivian Towe told the Times.

But the CDC's move has drawn praise from other experts, who argued it's in line with the science and overdue. Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb also believes it should actually "provide a pretty strong incentive" for people "on the fence" about getting vaccinated, adding that those who would lie about being vaccinated and stop wearing a mask "would have done it anyway." Brendan Morrow

8:55 a.m.

Erik Prince, founder of private security contractor Blackwater and brother of former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, recruited a former British spy in 2016 to professionalize the undercover operatives at Project Veritas, the conservative sting video shop run by James O'Keefe, The New York Times reports, citing documents and people involved in the subsequent operations to discredit perceived "deep state" enemies of former President Donald Trump inside the U.S. government.

The ex-undercover British spy, Richard Seddon, trained conservative operatives first at the Prince family ranch in Wyoming, then at a large, $10,000-a-month house near Georgetown University. Female undercover operatives tried to entrap FBI agents, sometimes using fake dating app profiles, and State Department employees, the Times reports. But "one of the most brazen operations of the campaign" was an attempt to take down H.R. McMaster, Trump's second national security adviser.

The plan was reportedly to send a female operative to Tosca, a restaurant McMaster frequented, to engage him in drinks and conversation and record him disparaging Trump or making other inappropriate remarks on camera. One of the people involved in the McMaster plot was Barbara Ledeen, a longtime Republican staffer on the Senate Judiciary Committee before retiring, she says, earlier this year. Presented with the details of the operation, Ledeen told the Times she was just a messenger, "not part of a plot."

Ledeen said "someone she trusted" contacted her to help with the McMaster operation. "Somebody who had his calendar conveyed to me that he goes to Tosca all the time," she said, and she passed the information on to a man she believed to be a Project Veritas operative with a fake name. The McMaster operation was aborted after he, unrelated to Project Veritas, resigned under pressure from Trump.

O'Keefe did not respond to the substance of the Times' report but did accuse the newspaper of running a "smear piece" on Project Veritas. Seddon left the project in 2018, before O'Keefe started releasing low-impact "unmasking the deep state" videos. He was dismayed, three former Project Veritas employees told the Times, with "O'Keefe's desire to produce quick media content rather than to run long-term infiltration operations." Read more about the operation and its cast of characters at The New York Times. Peter Weber

6:16 a.m.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just dropped some happy news, Jimmy Fallon said on Thursday's Tonight Show. "Yeah, if you are fully vaccinated, you can go back to doing the things you did before the pandemic — well, not everything. If you're Trump, you still can't tweet." Now that vaccinated people can ditch their masks, he said, "honest to God, the next time I hear 'N95,' it better be in 50 years when I'm playing BINGO."

"As if getting vaccinated so you can return to a normal life isn't enough incentive," Ohio is giving five vaccinated adults $1 million each in a new lottery, Fallon said. Vaccinated New Yorkers will get free Shake Shack fries, though Mayor Bill de Blasio ruined that announcement. "The sound you just heard was every New Yorker puking and then packing for Ohio," he joked. "Somehow de Blasio did the impossible — he made people want to stop eating French fries."

"French fries are nice," but Ohio's lottery gimmick "blows everything else away," Trevor Noah said at The Daily Show. Maybe saving humanity should be incentive enough, but "have you seen humanity? It's full of jerks who will only get vaccinated if there's money in it for them," he said. "Hopefully this does convince some anti-vaxxers to get the shot. The only awkward part is that if they actually win, then they're going to have to explain to their anti-vax friends how they got rich."

"Unfortunately, there's no way to know who's vaccinated and who isn't, and the majority of the population still isn't, which means we'll be relying on people who aren't responsible enough to get vaccinated to be responsible enough to wear masks," Jimmy Kimmel noted at Kimmel Live. Ohio's lottery "sounds great, but you know somebody's going to get vaccinated like 40 times to try to increase their odds," he added. "Can you imagine being in a country like India right now, where people all around you are dying because they don't have the vaccine, we're over her begging and bribing people to get it?"

"If a million dollars can't convince you to get a vaccine, perhaps you could be swayed to care about your penis," Stephen Colbert suggested at The Late Show. "According to new research, COVID-19 may increase the chance of erectile dysfunction. The study was released in the prestigious New England Journal of Now Will You Wear a Mask, Uncle Gary?" Watch the PSA below. Peter Weber

Peter Weber

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