Latest 2020 election updates as Biden vows to end ‘season of darkness’

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Donald Trump said he would send law enforcement officers to polling locations for this November’s presidential election in comments branded “an attack on America” by a former White House ethics chief.

“We’re going to have sheriffs, and we’re going to have law enforcement, and we’re going to have hopefully US attorneys, and we’re going to have everybody and attorney generals (sic),” Mr Trump told Fox News after host Sean Hannity asked if he would have “poll watchers”.

Meanwhile, his Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said on Friday there was “no intention” to return mail sorting machines that were removed in recent weeks, after it was reported that at least 671 machines were removed in critical voting states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin and Georgia, among others.

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The postmaster general said those machines were “not needed”, while adding that he supports vote-by-mail efforts amid the pandemic.

Mr DeJoy, who has overseen sweeping cuts at the agency following his appointment by the president in June, told a US Senate committee he would be voting by mail in fall elections and insisted that the “American people should feel comfortable that the Postal Service will deliver on this election” despite the president’s constant threats to undermine the agency.

On Friday, the president and his family held a funeral service for his brother Robert Trump, who died on 16 August. He was 71. The president held a service in the East Room of the White House.

A group of anti-Trump Republicans have meanwhile seized on the arrest of former Trump campaign chief and senior White House adviser Steve Bannon, who has pleaded not guilty to fraud in an an alleged US-Mexico border wall crowdfunding scheme. He is the subject of an advert targeting Fox News views during next week’s 2020 Republican National Convention.

GOP officials and the president are preparing for the event following Joe Biden’s official nomination as the Democrats’ nominee after his party’s week-long convention, during which Democrats and several Republicans condemned the current administration and the president’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and economic fallout.

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Trump willing to help QAnon conspiracy theorists ‘save the world’

Donald Trump gave new hope to QAnon conspiracy theorists who believe he is waging a secret war against a deep state of paedophile cannibals by saying that he would be willing to help them “save the world”.

Asked at his daily press conference what he thinks about the QAnon movement, the president said he didn’t know much about it other than they “like him very much, which I appreciate”.

At the crux of the theory is a belief that the president is secretly working to save the world from a satanic cult of paedophiles and cannibals. When asked if that was something he was behind, Trump said he was willing to put himself “out there” to help.

“Well I haven’t heard that, but is that supposed to be a bad thing or a good thing? You know, if I can help save the world from some problems, I’m willing to do it, I’m willing to put myself out there,” Trump said.

The Biden campaign said Trump’s response to QAnon was another example of the president “giving voice to violence”.

Obama attacks Trump’s ‘reality show’ presidency

Barack Obama used his DNC speech described Joe Biden as his “brother” and warned that American democracy could falter if Donald Trump is re-elected in the autumn.

The former president offered a stunning rebuke of his successor and pleaded with voters to “embrace your own responsibility as citizens – to make sure that the basic tenets of our democracy endure”.

He warned: “Because that’s what is at stake right now. Our democracy.”

Obama said Trump would “tear our democracy down” in order to win re-election, and accused the president of dealing in “crazy conspiracy theories”.

He also said: “Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job, because he can’t. I did hope, for the sake of our country, that Donald Trump might show some interest in taking the job seriously.”

He added that Trump has “no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show”.


Barack Obama (Reuters)

Kamala Harris accuses Trump of ‘failure of leadership’

Kamala Harris accepted the Democratic nomination for vice president on Wednesday night, imploring Americans to elect Joe Biden in November and accusing Donald Trump of a “failure of leadership” that had “cost lives and livelihoods” during a pandemic.

Making history as the first Black woman and Asian-American on a major US presidential ticket, Harris said Trump’s divisive leadership had brought the country to an “inflection point” and made a direct appeal to the party’s diverse electorate.

“The constant chaos leaves us adrift, the incompetence makes us feel afraid, the callousness makes us feel alone,” the California senator and former prosecutor said.

“We must elect a president… who will bring all of us together – Black, White, Latino, Asian, Indigenous – to achieve the future we collectively want. We must elect Joe Biden.”

Trump administration to call for resumption of Iran sanctions

The Trump administration is expected to demand the restoration of all international sanctions on Iran in a move that is set to further isolate the US at the United Nations.

At Donald Trump’s direction, secretary of state Mike Pompeo will travel to New York on Thursday to notify the world body that the US is invoking the “snapback” mechanism in the Security Council resolution that endorsed the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

“The United States intends to restore virtually all of the previously suspended United Nations sanctions on Iran,” Trump said on Wednesday. “It’s a snapback.”

As set out by the resolution enshrining the 2015 deal, snapback would re-impose UN sanctions that were eased in exchange for curbs on Iran’s nuclear program. But the US move faces steep opposition and could prompt a revolt from the council’s other members.

Trump fires back at Obama

Donald Trump clearly did not enjoy his predecessor Barack Obama’s speech to the Democratic National Convention last night.

The president responded in two all-caps tweets, accusing Obama of having “SPIED ON MY CAMPAIGN” – also asking why Obama had refused to “ENDORSE SLOW JOE UNTIL IT WAS ALL OVER.”

He also added: “Welcome, Barack and Crooked Hillary. See you on the field of battle!”

Clinton says Harris can take GOP’s ‘slings and arrows’

Hillary Clinton urged voters who regret putting Trump in the White House over her four years ago not to make the same mistake in 2020, and to back Biden.

“I wish Donald Trump knew how to be a president, because America needs a president right now,” she the former Democratic candidate.

Clinton added that she empathised with the “slings and arrows” Harris will face from the Republican party in the campaign. “But believe me, this former district attorney and attorney general can handle them all.”

The former US secretary of state said: “For four years, people have said to me: ‘I didn’t realise how dangerous he was. I wish I could go back and do it over.’ Or worst: ‘I should have voted.’

“Well, this can’t be another woulda coulda shoulda election. Vote like our lives and livelihoods are on the line – because they are.”

Ironically, the person who may miss Clinton as much as anyone is Trump. He has had a difficult time demonising Biden the way he did with “crooked Hillary” – taking advantage of the antipathy some swing voters held toward her.

Trump standing in way of progress, says Pelosi

Speaker Nancy Pelsoi told the DNC she had experienced first-hand Trump’s “disrespect for facts, for working families and for women”.

Pelosi advocated the HEROES Act, the Democrats’ $3.4 trillion emergency plan to deal with coronavirus impacts which has been rejected by the White House Republicans in the Senate, in her convention speech.

Pelosi said the legislation was “essential to safeguard lives, livelihood and the life of our democracy”.

“And who is standing in the way? Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump.”


Nancy Pelosi addresses DNC (AP)

‘Biden has some really good plans,’ says Warren

Leading progressive Elizabeth Warren – known for saying “I’ve got a plan for that” during her own campaign – hailed Joe Biden’s policy platform.

“I love a good plan, and Joe Biden has some really good plans — plans to bring back union jobs in manufacturing and create new union jobs in clean energy,” the Massachusetts senator told the DNC.

“Plans to increase Social Security benefits, cancel billions in student loan debt and make our bankruptcy laws work for families instead of the creditors who cheat them.”

Warren also said that Trump’s “ignorance and incompetence have been a threat to our country”.


Elizabeth Warren addresses DNC (AP)

Trump administration statements on Iran ‘absurd’, says Russia

Russia described statements by the United States on re-imposing UN sanctions against Iran as absurd, adding that it has no legal or political grounds to do so, the RIA news agency cited deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying on Thursday.

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo warned Russia and China not to disregard the reimposition of all UN sanctions on Iran, which Donald Trump has directed him to trigger at the UN Security Council in New York on Thursday.

Ryabkov added that such a step would result in crisis at the UN security council, the Interfax news agency cited him as saying.

Trump will troll Biden with Scranton event

On Joe Biden’s big day, Donald Trump is planning to show up in his rival’s old backyard.

In a piece of campaign trolling, the Republican president will stage an event just outside Biden’s birthplace in Scranton, Pennsylvania, mere hours before Biden formally accepts the Democratic nomination for president.

The event points to the importance of Pennsylvania as a battleground state – and to the urgency of the president’s effort to close the gap in the polls. The Trump campaign has been concerned about an exodus of suburban voters, particularly women, in the areas around Philadelphia.

The Biden campaign dismissed Trump’s visit as a lame campaign gambit. Spokesman Andrew Bates said: This sideshow is a pathetic attempt to distract from the fact that Trump’s presidency stands for nothing but crises, lies, and division.”

Trump administration ‘must correct mistakes’, says China as Hong Kong suspends legal cooperation 

Hong Kong will suspend an agreement on mutual legal assistance with the US, China’s foreign ministry said on Thursday, in a tit-for-tat response to Washington ending some agreements with Hong Kong.

The US State Department notified Hong Kong on Wednesday that Washington had suspended or terminated three bilateral agreements with the semi-autonomous city following China’s imposition of a sweeping national security law.

“China urges the US to immediately correct its mistakes,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a news briefing on Thursday as he announced the suspension of the agreement on legal assistance.

‘Finest convention speech in modern history’: Media reacts to Obama address

NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell described Barack Obama’s DNC speech as “an unprecedented takedown of a President by predecessor” – all the more remarkable since he has managed to avoid direct attacks in the past few years. “No more. He believes the future of democracy is at stake.”

Politico’s Ryan Lizza called it “the finest convention speech in modern history”, adding: “Spell-binding, chilling, optimistic, beautifully written, and expertly delivered.”

Plenty of commentators picked up on the note of desperation in the warnings about the future of democracy. “He’s always been so hopeful in his words, but tonight he made it clear that if we don’t act, we can lose our country,” said CNN’s Keith Boykin.

New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait said it was the first time he had seen Obama “scared”, writing: “This is the first time I have ever seen him express fear.”

Iran unveils missiles named after generals killed in US strike

Iran has unveiled two new missiles, according to state TV, amid heightened tensions with the US. State TV said officials unveiled the two new missiles on Thursday – National Defence Industry Day in Iran.

They are named after top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis – killed outside Baghdad’s international airport in a US strike in January.

At Donald Trump’s direction, secretary of state Mike Pompeo will travel to the UN on Thursday to notify the world body that the US is invoking the “snapback” mechanism in the Security Council resolution that endorsed the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

‘Vote like your life depends on it’: Billie Eilish backs Biden

Billie Eilish admonished Donald Trump and encouraged her young fans to register to vote and back Joe Biden during an appearance at the virtual Democratic National Convention.

The 18-year-old singer said: “You don’t need me to tell you things are a mess – Donald Trump is destroying our country and everything we care about.

“We need leaders who will solve problems like climate change and Covid – not deny them. Leaders who will fight against systemic racism and inequality.

“And that starts by voting for someone who understands how much is at stake, someone who is building a team that shares our values. It starts with voting against Donald Trump and for Joe Biden.

“Silence is not an option and we cannot sit this one out. We all have to vote like our lives and the world depend on it – because they do. The only way to be certain of our future is to make it ourselves. Please register. Please vote.”

Afterwards, Biden wrote on Twitter: “I’ll just say what Billie Eilish said: vote like your life depends on it.”


Billie Eilish addresses DNC (AP)

Facebook removes thousands of QAnon pages

Facebook has removed thousands of accounts, groups, pages, and advertisements related to the QAnon conspiracy theory.

The social media giant said that over 790 groups, 100 Pages and 1,500 ads tied to QAnon from Facebook were taken down. Additional restrictions were placed on over 1,950 Groups and 440 Pages on Facebook, as well as over 10,000 Instagram accounts.

Asked about QAnon theories on Wednesday, Donald Trump said: “You know, if I can help save the world from some problems, I’m willing to do it, I’m willing to put myself out there.”

The president said people in the movement “like me very much … which I appreciate”.

‘It’s hard to get excited about something virtually’

Millions of Americans have watched the Democrats’ socially-distanced, four-day celebration of nominee Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris – and don’t seem to miss the packed audience of hyped-up political activists.

Laura DeGroff Simoes of New Hampshire, who voted in the Democratic primary but considers herself an independent, said it’s been a welcome change. “There was much more diversity represented, there were different languages. I loved seeing the backdrop of where people were from.”

Lynn Hart, a South Dakota farmer said she would have been in Milwaukee, the original site of the convention, as a first-time Democratic delegate. “I can sit here in my shorts, T-shirt or my pajamas and pick and choose who I listen to,” he said.

Republicans are watching, too. Carol Wessel Boyer of Troy, Missouri, has been active in GOP politics for decades. “They’re just not going to get the enthusiasm you normally pick up from a convention,” Boyer said. “It’s hard to get excited about something virtually.”

Republicans will get their shot next week. Donald Trump is due to give his nomination acceptance speech at the White House. But GOP convention planners have said little else little about the details of their programming or format.

Kamala Harris waves to supporters at DNC (Getty)

Everything you need to know about mail-in and absentee ballots

The president has frequently lashed out at the idea that the general election will be conducted largely through mail-in voting – claiming it could lead to massive voter fraud, allow for foreign interference, and is indicative of a Democratic plot to steal the election.

Turmoil at the US Postal Service (USPS) is causing some Democrats and local election officials to rethink their vote-by-mail strategies for November’s election, shifting emphasis to drop boxes and early voting that bypass the post office.

Graig Graziosi has this guide to the controversy:

Trump explodes at Obama’s convention speech

Donald Trump followed up his all-caps Twitter rant against Barack Obama with a video of his own press conference delivered hours before the speech, in which he blamed Obama and Joe Biden for so ruining the country that he felt compelled to run for office himself.

“Probably if they did a good job I wouldn’t have even run. I would’ve been very happy, I enjoyed my previous life very much. But they did such a bad job that I stand before you as president.”

Andrew Naughtie has more on why Obama gets under Trump’s skin.

US and China agree to hold trade talks, says Beijing

China and the US have agreed to hold trade talks “in the coming days” to evaluate the progress of their Phase 1 trade deal six months after it took effect in February, the Chinese commerce ministry said on Thursday.

Ministry spokesman Gao Feng made the comments at a weekly briefing held online, but did not elaborate.

They followed Tuesday’s remarks by White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows that no new high-level trade talks were scheduled, though both sides were in touch about implementing the Phase 1 deal.

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