Monday November 2, 2020
Democrat defends Fauci, while president threatens litigation over vote tabulation
U.S. President Donald Trump, left, and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden took part in rallies in key states on their final full day of campaigning before election day. (Carlos Barria/Reuters, Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
With early voter turnout setting a record and U.S. business districts boarding up for fear of election day unrest, U.S. President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden stumped on the campaign's last day on Monday in states expected to decide who wins.
More than 95 million people have already voted, according to a tally from the U.S. Elections Project at the University of Florida, and it could take longer than usual for elections officials to process the historic surge in early and mail-in ballots.
Both campaigns insist they have a pathway to victory, though Biden's options for picking up the required 270 electoral college votes are more plentiful. Trump is banking on a surge of enthusiasm from his most loyal supporters while also threatening legal action to stop vote counting in some crucial states, including Pennsylvania.
The Republican president's final day had him sprinting through five rallies, beginning with stops in North Carolina and Pennsylvania, followed by visits to Wisconsin and Michigan.
He told supporters at the Fayetteville, N.C., rally that "we're going to win anyway" despite investigations he said were launched as part of an attempted takedown. Trump was referring to the special counsel's investigation into ties between his 2016 presidential campaign and Russia and his impeachment by the Democratic-run House.
Biden began his day at a drive-in rally at an airplane hangar in Cleveland. Ohio is a perennial swing state, and no Republican has won the presidency without it. While Trump won it by about eight percentage points in 2016, Biden`s aides believe he has a shot here because of his appeal to blue-collar workers and suburban voters in the state.
Biden, looking to boost his blue-collar bona fides, said Trump "sees the world from Park Avenue," but "Wall Street didn't build America — the middle class built America!" The Democrat also spoke about manufacturing jobs lost in Ohio and his plan to boost those jobs by incentivizing companies and the federal government to make more products in the U.S.
Biden devoted most of his time Monday to Pennsylvania, where a win would leave Trump with an exceedingly narrow path. Democratic vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris, speaking at a rally in northeastern Pennsylvania, said if she and Biden win the White House, "we will probably have the most pro-labour administration we've seen in a long time."
"Pennsylvania's gonna determine the outcome of this election," Harris said in Luzerne County, a region that was once a major hub of anthracite coal mining and backed Trump in 2016 after previously supporting Barack Obama.
Obama, meanwhile, campaigned in Georgia as Democrats pushed into another formerly reliable Republican stronghold. "Georgia could be the state, Georgia could be the place," the former president said.
Biden also announced plans to campaign in Scranton, Pa., and Philadelphia on Tuesday as part of a get-out-the-vote effort. Harris will visit Detroit, a heavily Black city in battleground Michigan, and both of their spouses will hit the road too. Trump, at least for now, was not scheduled to travel on election day.
Workers in New York City covered the windows of Macy's department store with plywood on Oct. 30 in advance of Tuesday's election. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)
Preparations for unrest
Twitter said on Monday it would attach a warning label to any tweets, including those from candidates, that claim an election win before either state election officials or national news outlets do so.
In a sign of how volatile the election could be, buildings in several cities were boarded up, including along several blocks around the White House and in New York City including the iconic Macy's flagship. The famed shopping destination of Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, Calif., will be closed down on Tuesday, police said.
Federal authorities planned to extend the perimeter fencing around the White House by several blocks, encompassing the same area fenced out during this summer's protests against racism and police brutality, according to U.S. media.
The FBI was investigating an incident in Texas when a pro-Trump convoy of vehicles surrounded a tour bus carrying Biden campaign staff. The caravan, which Trump praised, prompted the Biden campaign to cancel at least two of its Texas events, as Democrats accused the president of encouraging supporters to engage in acts of intimidation.
Eight state attorneys general — representing Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — warned on Monday that they would not tolerate voter intimidation.
"Voter intimidation is illegal in every state, whether it happens in person or from a car," North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein said in a statement. "People who witness concerning behaviour should immediately report it to law enforcement authorities."
Biden defends Fauci
As the candidates close out the campaign, the pandemic, which has killed more than 231,000 people in the U.S. and caused nearly 20 million to lose jobs, reached a new peak in infection rates, threatening yet another blow to lives and the livelihoods of voters.
Democratic vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris speaks at an event in Pittson, Pa. (Michael Perez/The Associated Press)
Biden defended Dr. Anthony Fauci on Monday after Trump suggested Sunday night he'd dismiss the nation's top infectious disease expert after election day. During a rally in Opa-locka, Fla., the president expressed frustration that the surging virus cases remain prominent in the news, sparking chants of "Fire Fauci" from his supporters.
Trump replied, "Don't tell anybody, but let me wait until a little bit after the election."
In response, Biden defended Fauci in Cleveland and said said the first step for the U.S. to defeat the coronavirus "is [by] beating Donald Trump."
Biden has sought to keep the presidential campaign focused on the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic, while Trump has used the race's final hours to accuse Biden of wanting to force the country back into a lockdown to slow the spread of the virus.
The election caps an extraordinary year that began with Trump's impeachment and the near-collapse of Biden's candidacy during the crowded Democratic primary, and then was fully reshaped by the coronavirus outbreak.
Trump threatens litigation
A record number of votes have already been cast, through early voting or mail-in ballots, which could lead to delays in their tabulation. Trump has spent months claiming without evidence that the votes would be ripe for fraud while refusing to guarantee that he would honour the election result.
After the president threatened legal action on Sunday to stop vote counting in some crucial states such as Pennsylvania, his campaign released a statement on Monday accusing Democrats of trying to "subvert state deadlines for receiving and counting ballots."
If Pennsylvania ballot counting takes several days, as is allowed, Trump charged on Monday that "cheating can happen like you have never seen."
Trump's deputy campaign manager, Justin Clark, said the campaign would fight any Democratic attempt to "subvert state deadlines for receiving and counting ballots." In response, Biden campaign manager Jennifer O'Malley Dillon reminded reporters on Monday that states routinely needed time after election night to finish counting votes in past U.S. elections.
"Under no scenario will Donald Trump be declared a victor on election night," she said.
Trump holds a campaign rally at Wilkes-Barre Scranton International Airport in Avoca, Pa. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)
There is already an appeal pending at the Supreme Court over the counting of absentee ballots in Pennsylvania that are received in the mail in the three days after the election.
The state's top court ordered the extension and the Supreme Court refused to block it, though conservative justices expressed interest in taking up the propriety of the three added days after the election. Those ballots are being kept separate in case the litigation goes forward. The issue could assume enormous importance if the late-arriving ballots could tip the outcome.
In Nevada, another battleground state, a judge ruled that ballot-counting measures in Clark County — the state's largest and home to Las Vegas — were legal, a setback to Trump and Republican officials.
The suit filed by Trump's campaign, the state's Republican Party and an individual voter claimed the counting process in Clark County was plagued by several issues, including observers not being able to get to where they needed to observe the count and ballots being handled in a way observers deemed improper.
Judge James Wilson said the plaintiffs in the case did not have legal standing to bring the case and had not provided evidence that the county's processes had led to the counting of fraudulent votes, in a ruling issued on Thursday but released on Monday.
Meanwhile, a federal judge in Texas rejected a Republican bid to throw out about 127,000 votes already cast in the U.S. presidential election at drive-thru voting sites in the state's largest county.
Harris County, home to Houston — a Democratic-leaning area — and about 4.7 million people, is the third most populous county in the U.S. It currently has 10 drive-thru polling sites, which are available to all voters.
The Texas Supreme Court on Sunday rejected a nearly identical bid by the same plaintiffs to halt drive-thru voting in Harris County. The same court also previously denied similar challenges brought by the Texas Republican Party and the Harris County Republican Party.
U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen said earlier on Monday that the Republicans who brought the case faced an "uphill road" in convincing him that votes cast at drive-thru voting sites should be voided.