Friday's politics & policy stories

Oct 16, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Michigan appeals court blocks 2-week absentee ballot extension

A sign directing voters to the absentee ballot drop-box at one of the Satellite Voting Center inside Northwest Activity Center in Detroit, Michigan. Photo: Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Absentee ballots in Michigan must be in by 8 p.m. on Election Day to be counted, a Court of Appeals ruled Friday, reversing a lower court's decision that extended the deadline by 14 days, AP reports.

Why it matters: The decision comes less than three weeks before the election, and some fear that recent disruptions to the U.S. Postal Service may delay the delivery of absentee ballots.

Trump reverses decision to reject California wildfire aid

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced on Friday that President Trump reversed his earlier decision to reject wildfire disaster relief for the state, hours after Trump administration officials explained why the state should not receive the aid.

Why it matters: California is facing its worst fire season on record, with over 4.1 million acres burned this year.

Elliott Broidy says Twitter should take action on other hack and leak stories

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Elliott Broidy, a top Republican fundraiser expected to plead guilty in a foreign lobbying case, is challenging Twitter over its handling of content related to "hacked materials."

What's happening: Broidy wants Twitter to explain why information from hacked and leaked materials about his case was allowed to remain on the site, while Twitter took swift action to suppress a New York Post story about Hunter Biden allegedly based on hacked and released materials, according to a letter obtained by Axios.

Kushner and McDaniel bring back Katie Walsh Shields to offer strategic advice

Jared Kushner. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

In recent days, Jared Kushner has brought back 2016 Republican National Committee chief of staff Katie Walsh Shields to offer strategic advice in the RNC's collaboration with the Trump campaign, according to two senior administration officials and a senior campaign official briefed on the move.

  • A senior administration official said Kushner made the decision in conjunction with RNC chair Ronna Romney McDaniel.

Supreme Court to decide if Trump can exclude undocumented immigrants from census

Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Friday said it would decide whether the Trump administration can exclude unauthorized immigrants from the 2020 census count, setting arguments for Nov. 30.

Why it matters: Civil rights groups fear that leaving undocumented people living in the U.S. out of the survey could lead to to an undercount, which would affect how House seats are reapportioned and how federal funding is distributed over the next 10 years.

Oct 16, 2020 - Politics & Policy

ABC's Biden town hall draws more viewers than NBC's Trump event

Getty Images

ABC's live town hall event with Joe Biden Thursday night drew 14.1 million viewers, surpassing the final Nielsen ratings for NBC's town hall with President Trump, which was aired across NBC, MSNBC and CNBC and drew 13.5 million viewers in the same hour.

Why it matters: The president's lively hour-long town hall, moderated by Savannah Guthrie, was expected to trounce Biden's more calm, policy-focused hour and a half town hall event moderated by ABC's George Stephanopoulos.

Sen. Coons: Democrats can't prevent Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation

Photo: Axios

Judge Amy Coney Barrett will likely to be confirmed by the Senate and appointed to the Supreme Court, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said during an Axios virtual event on Friday.

Why it matters: Coons said there's no realistic way for Democrats to prevent Senate Republicans from confirming Barrett, adding that he will not be voting for her because of her "view towards reaching back and reexamining and overturning long-settled precedent in an incredibly broad array of areas," including health care, environmental protections and labor rights.

Obama to campaign for Biden in Philadelphia on Wednesday

Obama and Biden walk through the Crypt of the Capitol. Photo: J. Scott APPLEWHITE/AFP via Getty Images

Former President Obama is expected to make his first in-person campaign stop for Joe Biden next Wednesday, Oct. 21, in Philadelphia.

The state of play: With 18 days until the election, the former president plans to visit a handful of critical battleground states. Obama is expected to make joint appearances with Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris in the final stretch of the race, the Atlantic reports, and will concentrate on states with early voting.

  • “He’s doing enough for our campaign,” Biden told reporters on Tuesday, leaking plans for the former president's campaign efforts. “He’ll be out on the trail.”

Introducing 'Hard Truths'

Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo. Logo: Miranda Leung/Axios. Photos: Bettmann, Stephen F. Somerstein/Getty Images

Hard Truths is an Axios series exploring the impact of race in America.

Why it matters: If you’re white or rich, it’s easy to believe that racism is something that ended years ago. But the hard truth is: That’s not supported by facts.

  • Our society, institutions and culture are still filled with barriers that shut out people because of the color of their skin, the origins of where they were born and other factors they can’t control.
  • That didn’t just happen a long time ago. It’s happening right now.

Driving the news: We recognize most newsrooms, including ours, pay too much attention to news of the day, and less time examining what's below the surface.

  • We were challenged on this by an Axios employee, who asked during the nationwide protests this summer: "Why does the news media spend all its time focusing just on events like this and then move on, instead of explaining systemic racism?"

Between the lines: We know that some of you will be skeptical.

  • We promise that Hard Truths — like all Axios coverage — will be grounded in facts, clinical and clear-eyed, so you get the full picture.

What’s next: Each month, we'll examine a fresh topic. Our project begins on Saturday with voting. In coming months, we’ll explore education, housing, technology, sports, health care and more. You’ll find this coverage:

  • In special Saturday bonus editions of Axios AM.
  • On Axios.com in a new "Deep Dive" format.
  • On a special edition of our "Axios Today" podcast that will accompany each new topic.
  • On "Axios on HBO."

The bottom line: Our goal is to equip you with facts showing the full picture of race in America — a topic long overdue for this nation and its leaders to confront.

Go deeper: Our first installment, on race and voting in America.

Trump campaign adviser: Battleground state polls matter most in race against Biden

Photo: Axios

Battleground state polls "matter the most" in this election, Trump's campaign adviser Steve Cortes said during an Axios virtual event on Friday, adding that those numbers illustrate a closer race than the national polls show.

Why it matters: Biden's national lead against Trump has widened to double digits, but the former vice president holds a narrower advantage in states needed for an Electoral College victory, such as Florida and Pennsylvania.

Another man charged in alleged plot to kidnap Whitmer

Screenshot from the DNCC’s livestream of the 2020 Democratic National Convention. Photo: Handout/DNCC via Getty Images

A Wisconsin man, Brian Higgins, was charged by Michigan's attorney on Thursday for his alleged involvement in a plot to raid the state's Capitol building and kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), per AP.

The big picture: He becomes the eighth person charged by Michigan. Another six face federal charges for the alleged conspiracy.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Oct 16, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Operation Warp Speed leader hasn't spoken with Biden team

Moncef Slaoui speaking at the White House. Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images.

Moncef Slaoui knows his job helping lead Operation Warp Speed may not be over by inauguration day, but tells the Axios Re:Cap podcast that hasn't yet spoken with anyone on Team Biden about vaccine development or deployment.

Why it matters: It could behoove the country for an incoming Biden administration to hit the ground running on the inherited pandemic crisis, much like both Barrack Obama and John McCain were invited into financial crisis talks by George W. Bush in the closing months of the 2008 presidential campaign.

Go deeper: Moncef Slaoui on the new vaccine timeline.

Oct 16, 2020 - Podcasts

Operation Warp Speed's Moncef Slaoui on the new vaccine timeline

Pfizer today said it won't apply for an emergency use authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine until late November, all but guaranteeing that the FDA won't be asked to consider approval until after the election.

Axios Re:Cap goes deeper with Moncef Slaoui, the White House's top scientific advisor to Operation Warp Speed, the public-private partnership created to get a coronavirus vaccine deployed and developed.

Romney: Trump's refusal to disavow QAnon is part of "alarming pattern" in politics

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said Friday that President Trump's refusal to condemn QAnon, a sprawling, far-right conspiracy theory, during an NBC town hall was indicative of an "alarming pattern" in today's politics.

The big picture: Romney's statement, which only specifically singled out the president, was similar to one he issued earlier this week — ultimately criticizing people across the political spectrum for their refusal "to forcefully and convincingly repudiate" divisive and conspiratorial groups.

Scoop: Trump's advisers brace for loss, point fingers

Stepien stands behind Trump on Air Force One Aug. 28. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Three senior Trump advisers who recently talked to campaign manager Bill Stepien walked away believing he thinks they will lose.

The big picture: The Trump campaign is filled with internal blaming and pre-spinning of a potential loss, accelerating a dire mood that's driven by a daily barrage of bleak headlines, campaign and White House officials tell me.

Larry Hogan says he didn't vote for Trump

Photo: Getty Images

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) told the Washington Post on Thursday that he did not vote for President Trump in the 2020 election, instead casting a write-in vote for former President Ronald Reagan.

The big picture: Hogan, who weighed a primary challenge against the president, has been one of the Republican Party's most outspoken figures during the Trump administration. He stood against Trump's controversial tweets calling Baltimore a "rodent infested mess" and bemoaned the White House's coronavirus response.

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
Oct 16, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Exclusive: More Than A Vote targets young voters on "NBA 2K21"

Courtesy: More Than A Vote

In an attempt to reach young Black voters where they already consume media, More Than A Vote — the voting rights group led by LeBron James and other Black athletes — will debut a new series on "NBA 2KTV" today, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Instead of producing PSA-style videos and relying on traditional news networks, More Than A Vote will reach potential voters when they login to play "NBA 2K21," the latest edition of the top-selling video game franchise.

Facebook and Twitter, the reluctant gatekeepers

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Deciding who gets to say what online is a complex business in the best of times, and the 2020 election is showing social media platforms just how messy it can get.

The big picture: Balancing concerns over misinformation, hacking and foreign meddling against free-speech principles is already hard enough. Tackling it in real time in the middle of a political knife fight is almost certainly going to go awry.

Oct 16, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Media becomes the story ahead of Election Day

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

With just weeks to go until Nov. 3, controversies surrounding the media seem to be gobbling up most of country's attention.

Why it matters: In a healthy democracy, the media shouldn't be the story.

College Reaction poll: More college students would protest Trump win

Data: College Reaction/Axios Poll; Note: 3.3% margin of error; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Six in 10 college students say they'll shame friends who can vote but don't — and four in 10 plan to engage in protests if President Trump wins reelection, a new College Reaction survey for Axios finds.

Why it matters: These measures of intensity bolster findings from several recent surveys that suggest the election may draw higher than normal turnout from young voters, boosting Joe Biden's prospects — and fueling mass demonstrations if Trump prevails.

America's split screen

Photo: Evan Vucci/AP

Tonight's dueling town halls were like a choose-your-own-ending book, letting us peer into the future and see what the two election outcomes would be like.

The big picture: The contrast reflects one of the big questions about Trump that's before Americans as they vote — Are you captivated, or are you exhausted?

Oct 16, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Twitter changes hacked materials rules after banning N.Y. Post story

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Twitter will be changing its hacked materials policy in response to the feedback it received for limiting the circulation of a New York Post story about Hunter Biden.

Why it matters: The tech giant faced swift backlash from conservatives that its actions were biased and that its enforcement of its hacked materials policy was not consistent.

Biden campaign out-raised Trump by over $135 million in September

Photo: Jim Watson/Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump's reelection campaign and its joint fundraising committees raised $247.8 million in September, communications director Tim Murtaugh tweeted Thursday.

Why it matters: Joe Biden's fundraising efforts brought in $383 million for the same period — a figure believed to be a record for any presidential candidate — dwarfing Trump's figures by more than $135 million. The Trump campaign said it has $251.4 million in cash-on-hand, compared with Biden's $432 million.

Biden says he will take COVID-19 vaccine if "body of scientists" says it's ready

Joe Biden said at an ABC town hall Thursday night that he would take a potential coronavirus vaccine if one became available by the end of the year "if the body of scientists" says it's ready.

Why it matters: Biden and others have expressed fears that the Trump administration has politicized the coronavirus response and is seeking rapid approval and distribution of a vaccine.

Biden on court packing: It "depends" how the Barrett confirmation is "handled"

Joe Biden said at an ABC town hall on Thursday night that he will come out with a clear position on court packing by Election Day, but that his answer on the issue will depend on how the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court is "handled."

The state of play: Biden said he has "not been a fan" of expanding the court because it would change the court's makeup depending on who the president is. But he signaled he would be "open to considering what happens" if Republicans push through Barrett's confirmation before the election without proper debate in the Senate.

Trump again refuses to condemn QAnon

A person wearing a QAnon sweatshirt at a Trump rally in New York City on Oct. 3. Photo: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

President Trump said during NBC's town hall event on Thursday that he does not know much about QAnon, the sprawling, far-right conspiracy theory, and refused to condemn the baseless theory.

Why it matters: The FBI identified fringe online conspiracy theories, like QAnon, as domestic terrorist threats in 2019. The group falsely alleges a secret cabal of sex traffickers and pedophiles is waging a war against Trump from inside the government.

Trump says he doesn't remember being tested for COVID-19 before first debate

President Trump and Joe Biden at the first presidential debate on Sept. 29.

President Trump said during a town hall event aired on NBC News Thursday that he does not recall being tested for the coronavirus before the first presidential debate on Sept. 29.

Why it matters: The president tested positive for the virus on Oct. 2, just three days after standing onstage with former Vice President Joe Biden. The Commission on Presidential Debates requires that candidates test before the event.