Biden waves as he leaves a hotel in Wilmington, Delaware, on Wednesday. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden told reporters in Delaware Wednesday he believes he would have the legal authority as president to issue a nationwide mandate to wear face masks to curb the spread of the coronavirus if needed.

Details: "Our legal team thinks I can do that, based upon the degree to which there's a crisis in those states, and how bad things are for the country," Biden said.

  • The former vice president later added he'd work with scientists to make the case to Republican and Democratic governors to determine whether such federal action were needed, ABC notes.
"The question is whether I have the legal authority as president to sign an executive order. We think we do."

Flashback: Biden said earlier this month he'd press local officials and governors to issue mandates on face coverings, adding there's a "question under the Constitution" on whether a president could take such action, per CBS News.

The other side: Biden's comments on the issue are in stark contrast to the stance of President Trump, who has rarely been seen wearing a mask. He told Axios in June that he believes masks are a "double-edged sword," and he appeared to mock Biden for wearing one in May.

  • On Wednesday, Trump said, "Masks have problems too. And I talked about the masks — have to be handled very gently, very carefully.
  • "I see that in restaurants there are people with masks and they are playing around with their masks and they have it — their fingers are in their mask and then they are serving with plates. I mean, I think there's a lot of problems with masks."

Of note: Trump said during Tuesday's ABC town hall that he found it "fascinating" that "Biden didn't put in a mask mandate."

  • Biden responded, "I'm not the president. He's the president. It's like, you know, Biden's problems — and these cities are in flames. I'm not the president, he's the president."

Go deeper: Biden: "I trust vaccines, I trust scientists, but I don’t trust Donald Trump"

Go deeper

The apocalypse scenario

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Democratic lawyers are preparing to challenge any effort by President Trump to swap electors chosen by voters with electors selected by Republican-controlled legislatures. One state of particular concern: Pennsylvania, where the GOP controls the state house.

Why it matters: Trump's refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, together with a widely circulated article in The Atlantic about how bad the worst-case scenarios could get, is drawing new attention to the brutal fights that could jeopardize a final outcome.

The Biden blowout scenario

Joe Biden speaks at an outdoor Black Economic Summit in Charlotte yesterday. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Joe Biden or President Trump could win the election narrowly — but only one in a popular and electoral vote blowout. 

Why it matters: A Biden blowout would mean a Democratic Senate, a bigger Democratic House and a huge political and policy shift nationwide.

Sanders: "This is an election between Donald Trump and democracy"


In an urgent appeal on Thursday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said President Trump presented "unique threats to our democracy" and detailed a plan to ensure the election results will be honored and that voters can cast their ballots safely.

Driving the news: When asked yesterday whether he would commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses, Trump would not, and said: "We're going to have to see what happens."