House Democrats (and Bernie Sanders) want to stop Trumpism from becoming the new normal. But first they’ll have to get him to give up power — and he’s not making any promises. It’s Thursday, and this is your politics tip sheet. Sign up here to get On Politics in your inbox every weekday.
Where things stand
Joe Biden is running about even with President Trump in Iowa, Georgia and Texas, according to a New York Times/Siena College poll released today. All are states that voted for Trump in 2016 by at least five percentage points.
The results reflected Biden’s lopsided advantage among women, even in traditionally red states, and affirmed the variety of possible paths to an Electoral College victory that may be available to the former vice president as his campaign decides where to focus its efforts in the final weeks of the race.
In all three states surveyed, the Times/Siena poll found that Biden and Trump were effectively locked in a statistical tie among likely voters: In Iowa, Biden had a three-point edge, while Trump led by the same amount in Texas. In Georgia, both candidates clocked in at 45 percent.
Biden’s campaign is investing in Georgia and Iowa, and yesterday it started airing a TV ad in the Atlanta market aimed at young Black men. But so far Biden has resisted making a strong play for Texas, a huge and politically complex state; his campaign has reasoned that he would be unlikely to win Texas without first taking enough other states to seal an Electoral College victory anyway.
House Democrats yesterday unveiled a sweeping package of changes that would rein in presidential power, a response to Trump’s conduct in office and an attempt to reverse a decades-long trend toward loosening Congress’s checks on the powers of the executive branch.
Orchestrated by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and assembled by a group of seven House committee chairmen, the bill would add protections for federal watchdogs, beef up congressional oversight capabilities, limit the president’s power to issue pardons, and impose new penalties on administration appointees who engage in political activities on the job.
The bill has hardly any chance of becoming law while Trump is still in office, but House Democrats view it as a necessary move to take after he leaves office, in order to prevent Trump’s style of leadership from becoming standard operating procedure in the Oval Office.
But many Trump opponents are now openly fretting over the possibility that the country may not get there at all. Bernie Sanders plans to give a speech today warning that Americans must be prepared for a “nightmare scenario” in which Trump loses the November election but tries to stay in power anyway.
Why would Sanders worry about such a thing? Look no further than the president’s own words. Yesterday evening at the White House, when asked by a reporter whether he would commit to a peaceful transfer of power after the election if he lost, Trump refused to say yes.
“We’re going to have to see what happens,” he said, later adding: “There won’t be a transfer, frankly. There will be a continuation.”
Trump also said yesterday that he expected the election results to be contested and to wind up being decided by the nation’s highest court. “I think this will end up in the Supreme Court,” he said. “And I think it’s very important that we have nine justices,” a nod to the seat left open by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last week.
If Republicans succeed in filling that seat before the election, the court could have a 6-to-3 conservative majority in time for any votes regarding the election results.
Breaking again with his own top health advisers, Trump said that he “may or may not” approve a set of planned guidelines that the Food and Drug Administration intends to release to ensure that any coronavirus vaccine hitting the market has first been properly vetted for safety and efficacy.
His comments came just hours after four leading officials who are helping guide the pandemic response had spoken to a Senate committee, guaranteeing that they had faith in the F.D.A. and seeking to assuage fears that it is being influenced by the administration for political reasons.
But Trump, who has said that he wants to see a vaccine approved in the next few weeks, told reporters yesterday that he thought the agency’s plan to release stricter guidance on a vaccine “was a political move more than anything else.”
A Republican-led Senate investigation into corruption allegations against Biden and his son Hunter found no evidence of improper influence-peddling or wrongdoing by the former vice president — undercutting a line of attack that commentators on the right have made into a motif of the campaign.
While Joe Biden was the vice president under President Barack Obama, Hunter served on the board of Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian company then mired in a corruption scandal. The 87-page Senate report found that Hunter had “cashed in” on his father’s political stature when closing lucrative business deals, raising eyebrows in the Obama administration.
But it found no evidence that Joe Biden had acted improperly or manipulated American policy toward Ukraine for his or Hunter’s gain.
Ron Johnson, the Republican senator who leads the Homeland Security panel that put together the report, had made no bones about what he expected it to show. For weeks, he had bragged that it would demonstrate Joe Biden’s “unfitness for office.” But in recent days, he walked that back — saying that the report wouldn’t have any “massive smoking guns,” lamenting that this was “a misconception on the part of the public.”
Biden isn’t the only presidential candidate whose son is in the spotlight. A judge in New York yesterday ordered Eric Trump to respond to questions under oath in the next two weeks as part of a fraud investigation into the Trump family’s real estate businesses.
Eric Trump’s lawyers had argued that he should not be forced to testify before the election, saying that his deposition might be used by the president’s opponents “for political purposes.”
But yesterday, Arthur Engoron, a State Supreme Court judge in Manhattan, declared that argument “unpersuasive,” handing a victory to New York’s attorney general, Letitia James.
Photo of the day
Joe Biden talked to reporters as he departed Charlotte, N.C., yesterday. Asked questions during the day about the ruling in Breonna Taylor’s killing and the Supreme Court nomination, two important issues for Democrats, he gave cautious responses.
Politics and a pandemic? In Canada, at least, they haven’t mixed that much.
By Ian Austen
It’s rare for a Canadian prime minister to make a televised address to the nation. But Justin Trudeau did just that on Wednesday evening to declare that Canada was in its second pandemic wave — and to not incidentally sell the country on his new legislative agenda.
Canada had some rough patches in the early months of the pandemic, particularly when it came to deaths in nursing homes in its two most populous provinces. But it has since outperformed its much larger neighbor. One possible factor is that the virus has largely escaped becoming a particularly politicized issue, at least so far.
Trudeau faced political challenges on two fronts when the virus arrived. A federal election last year left his Liberal Party without a majority of votes in the House of Commons and thus dependent on support from at least some of the opposition parties to stay in power. At the same time, getting big projects done often requires the buy-in of the powerful provinces, particularly when it comes to health care, which is their closely guarded responsibility. All of the large provinces are governed by parties other than Trudeau’s Liberals, and most of them are led by premiers far to the prime minister’s right.
Before the pandemic, Doug Ford, the Conservative premier of the country’s most populous province, Ontario, was Trudeau’s leading critic. Since March he’s had nothing but praise for the prime minister.
“People expected us to put our differences aside, to put the politics aside and work together, and that’s exactly what we did,” Ford said at a joint event with Trudeau a month ago.
In Parliament, the Conservatives and other opposition parties have certainly criticized Trudeau, but there hasn’t been a concerted effort to bring his government down.
And all of Canada’s political leaders, regardless of their partisan leanings, have consistently deferred to public health authorities and scientists from the beginning. Indeed, some of those officials, particularly Dr. Bonnie Henry in British Columbia, have become celebrities of sorts.
While politicians in Washington negotiated endlessly about financial support measures for individuals and businesses, Trudeau’s government moved swiftly to put them in place and even increase them.
His legislative agenda released on Wednesday contained a torrent of more costly promises. Trudeau, in his television appearance, said that such spending was vital for recovery, and that the country’s comparatively small debt and low interest rates would make that possible.
But that additional spending may create the first big political rift over the pandemic in Canada. The plan had barely been unveiled when the Conservatives announced that they would vote against it. If Trudeau can’t round up support elsewhere in the opposition, Canada might be headed to a pandemic election.
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