October 30, 2020

Record-breaking voter turnout just got the Texas treatment.

As of Friday morning, the surprisingly swingy southern state has cast more votes than it did in the entire 2016 election cycle; Hawaii did the same on Thursday. But despite both of Texas' Republican senators being convinced there's a tough competition in the traditionally red state, both President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden haven't really campaigned there, The New York Times reports.

Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-Texas) tight 2018 race against Democrat Beto O'Rourke was one of the first indications Texas could become a tossup in 2020. Cruz has tried to convince Trump that "we have a fight" in Texas, he tells the Times. "There's no doubt that it's a real race," Cruz added — not unlike the message O'Rourke and former Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro have relayed to Biden. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who's fighting Democrat M.J. Hegar for re-election, meanwhile told the Times he could be "outspent by more than 2-to-1" as Democrats pour last-minute cash into the race. FiveThirtyEight's poll tracker meanwhile gives Trump an advantage of about a point in Texas.

Biden doesn't need Texas to win the presidential race, but losing the second-largest electoral state in the country would certainly doom Trump. Read more about why "it's not clear if Trump or Biden fully believe" how critical the state is at The New York Times. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:54 p.m.

"My girlfriend" just doesn't have the same ring to it, but comedian John Mulaney is reportedly dating actress Olivia Munn — news that broke shortly after Page Six revealed he's divorcing his wife of six years, Anna Marie Tendler.

Munn and Mulaney supposedly met at church, though Munn has admitted she's had her eye on Mulaney for years. In a 2015 HuffPost Live interview resurfaced by Page Six on Friday, she revealed "we were at a wedding together and I was like 'Oh my gosh, do you and your fiancé want to go have dinner or something and go hang out?'" She added that "I was just so obsessed with hanging out with and talking with him," but afterwards, when Munn emailed Mulaney, he never wrote her back.

"I might've got the wrong email — probably. That's what I tell myself," she joked. Jeva Lange

3:33 p.m.

Joel Greenberg, Rep. Matt Gaetz's (R-Fla.) former confidant, has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors and admitted to sex trafficking a minor, The New York Times reports.

Greenberg, a former Florida tax collector and associate of Gaetz, reached a deal with prosecutors to plead guilty to six federal charges against him, including sex trafficking of a child, according to CNN. He admitted that he and others paid a 17-year-old girl for sex, saying that he "introduced the minor to other adult men, who engaged in commercial sex acts" with her, the Times reports.

Prosecutors reportedly say they have evidence corroborating Greenberg's admissions, per the Times, and Greenberg also reportedly admitted to other crimes including stealing money from taxpayers.

Gaetz has been facing an investigation into whether he had sex with a 17-year-old girl and violated sex trafficking laws. Though Greenberg reportedly didn't implicate Gaetz by name in the new filings, according to the Times, he "has told investigators that Mr. Gaetz had sex with the girl and knew that she was being paid."

Reports emerged last month that Greenberg was likely cooperating with prosecutors, at which point his attorney said, "I am sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today." Meanwhile, investigators in the probe have also reportedly been seeking cooperation from Gaetz's ex-girlfriend, who according to CNN is "believed to have knowledge of drug use and arrangements with women." Brendan Morrow

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

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