Thursday's politics & policy stories

Aug 13, 2020 - World

Palestinian president fumes after Israel-UAE normalization deal

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Photo: Anadolu Agency / Contributor

Palestinian leaders attacked Thursday's U.S.-brokered normalization deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

What they're saying: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in a statement after an emergency meeting on Thursday with officials that the UAE betrayed the Palestinian people.

Rep. Matt Gaetz says he's "proud" to be in corner of QAnon candidate

Rep. Matt Gaetz speaking in July. Photo: Graeme Jennings-Pool/Getty Images

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) tweeted Thursday that he's "proud" to be in the corner of Republican congressional candidate Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is a vocal supporter of the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory.

Why it matters: Greene, who has also made offensive remarks about Black people, Jews and Muslims in Facebook videos, has created a headache for GOP leadership after winning a runoff election for the Republican nomination in Georgia's deep-red 14th congressional district on Tuesday.

Aug 13, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Reporter to Trump: "Do you regret all of the lying you have done to the American people?"

S.V. Dáte, a White House reporter for HuffPost, asked President Trump at a briefing Thursday if he regrets "all of the lying" he has done "to the American people" over the last three and a half years.

Why it matters: The Washington Post fact-checker finds that Trump has made over 20,000 false or misleading claims throughout his presidency. Trump, who has rarely been confronted directly with claims that he has lied, paused for a moment before moving on to another reporter without answering the question.

Aug 13, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Michael Cohen releases excerpt, cover from Trump tell-all book

President Trump's former fixer Michael Cohen on Thursday released the cover and a 3,700-word foreword from his upcoming tell-all book, "Disloyal."

Why it matters: Cohen, who pleaded guilty to lying to Congress on Trump's behalf and is currently carrying out a three-year prison sentence in home confinement, was at the center of Trump's inner circle for over a decade. A judge ruled last month that the Justice Department's efforts to send him back to prison after he was released due to coronavirus concerns was retaliation for his book.

Axios-SurveyMonkey poll: Harris boosting Biden ticket with key voters

Data: SurveyMonkey poll of 2,847 U.S. adults conducted Aug. 11–12, 2020 with ±3% margin of error; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Kamala Harris is accomplishing what Joe Biden's campaign hoped she would in her first two days as his running mate — doing no harm, while exciting parts of the base with whom Biden needs the most help.

The big picture: Black women especially, but also Black men, Hispanics and Democrats and independents across the board say they are more likely to vote for Biden with Harris on the ticket, according to a new Axios-SurveyMonkey poll.

House Democrats to investigate scientist leading "Operation Warp Speed"

House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) on July 31. Photo: Erin Scott/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

House Democrats on the committee charged with overseeing the federal government's response to the coronavirus announced an investigation Thursday into "Operation Warp Speed," the Trump administration's efforts to accelerate the development and distribution of a vaccine.

Why it matters: In an effort to quickly distribute a vaccine, the Trump administration has bought initial batches from a handful of pharmaceutical companies before knowing whether they are safe and effective, Axios' Bob Herman reports.

Georgia governor to drop lawsuit over Atlanta's mask mandate

Gov. Brian Kemp speaking in Atlanta on Aug. 10. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) announced Thursday he plans to withdraw a lawsuit that sought to block Atlanta’s face mask mandates and coronavirus restrictions, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

Why it matters: The decision to withdraw the lawsuit ends the legal feud between Georgia's Republican governor and Atlanta's Democratic leadership, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. Other Georgia cities will be able to keep their mask mandates in places for now, per AJC.

Biden calls for 3-month national mask mandate: "Be a patriot"

Joe Biden called on governors to issue a three-month mandatory outdoor mask mandate on Thursday, telling reporters after receiving a coronavirus briefing that experts say it could save over 40,000 lives.

Why it matters: Biden was more aggressive and specific than he has been in previous calls to wear a mask, arguing that it will allow children to return to school sooner, businesses to reopen and help "get our country back on track."

McConnell announces Senate will adjourn until Sept. 8

Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced Thursday that the Senate will not hold any more votes until Sept. 8, though members will remain on 24-hour notice in case a coronavirus stimulus deal is reached.

Why it matters: With millions of Americans unemployed, the Trump administration and Democrats remain hopelessly deadlocked and unlikely to reach a deal any time soon.

Biden and Harris start joint coronavirus briefings

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Sen. Kamala Harris joined Joe Biden on Thursday for a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic led by four doctors and one of Biden’s senior advisors — marking the new Democratic ticket's first official day of work.

The big picture: Biden said that he receives these briefings — “on the state of coronavirus here and around the world” — four times a week, and noted that they usually last between an hour and an hour and a half. It's not yet clear how many frequently Biden and Harris will be briefed.

Updated Aug 13, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump vows to block stimulus funding for mail-in voting and USPS

President Trump on Thursday told Fox Business' Maria Bartiromo that Democratic demands to fund mail-in voting and the U.S. Postal Service in ongoing coronavirus stimulus negotiations were a non-starter.

Why it matters: Trump directly linked Democrats' desired $3.6 billion for mail-in voting and $25 billion for the USPS to his continued baseless claims that increased mail-in voting will lead to widespread voter fraud.

Biden hits Trump for vow to block USPS funding: "He doesn't want an election"

Kamala Harris and Biden at a COVID-19 event. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Image

Joe Biden responded to President Trump’s pledge on Thursday to block stimulus funding for the U.S. Postal Service and mail-in voting, telling reporters at an event with Sen. Kamala Harris: "Pure Trump. He doesn’t want an election.”

Why it matters: Trump claimed Thursday morning that any additional money for the USPS would be used to expand "universal" mail-in voting, which he has long argued, without evidence, will lead to massive voter fraud and a "rigged" election.

Trump campaign official pushes baseless Newsweek op-ed claiming Harris may not be VP-eligible

Photo: Olivier Douilery/AFP via Getty Images

Trump campaign senior legal adviser Jenna Ellis on Thursday shared a Newsweek op-ed that baselessly claims Sen. Kamala Harris may be ineligible for the vice presidency because both of her parents were not naturalized citizens at her birth.

Why it matters: Harris was born in Oakland, Calif. She is an American citizen and is eligible for the office. Critics, including many Republicans, denounced the piece as a new attempt at "birtherism" — the conspiracy theory that President Obama was not actually born in the U.S. — targeting the first woman of color on a presidential ticket.

Supreme Court won't block Rhode Island's eased absentee voting rules

Photo: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

The Supreme Court said Thursday that it will not block Rhode Island's move to ease its requirements for absentee voting during November's election.

Why it matters: The decision is a loss for Republicans, who had requested an emergency order as the state is expected to begin mailing out its ballots.

Kudlow calls "voting rights" part of "liberal left wishlist" for stimulus talks

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow dismissed "voting rights" as a non-starter request from Democrats in stalled talks over a coronavirus stimulus package, arguing on CNBC Thursday that it's part of a "liberal left wishlist" and that it's "not our game."

The big picture: President Trump vowed on Fox Business Thursday to block Democrats' demands for $3.6 billion for "universal" mail-in voting and $25 billion for the USPS in the stimulus package, baselessly claiming that funding that would help voters cast ballots remotely would lead to mass voter fraud.

George Floyd's death forces small-town America to confront racism

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Data: IPUMS NHGIS, University of Minnesota, U.S. Census Bureau; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

The killing of George Floyd and changing demographics across the country have brought discussions over racism and police use of force to small-town America.

Why it matters: White Americans are growing older as the younger generations across the country become more diverse. The shift in what had been predominantly white communities is sparking protests and conversations about racial inequality. Many small towns are realizing for the first time how multiracial they are.

"A mad woman": Trump trains attacks on Harris, AOC, Pelosi

President Trump on Thursday attacked Sen. Kamala Harris, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi throughout an interview with Fox Business' Maria Bartiromo, respectively calling them "mad," "not even a smart person" and "stone cold crazy."

Why it matters: It's hardly the first time Trump has attacked prominent women.

Aug 13, 2020 - Sports

HBCUs are seeing a basketball resurgence

Five-star recruit Makur Maker has committed to Howard University. Photo: John Jones/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are experiencing an athletic reawakening, attracting interest and commitments from top basketball recruits at a level not seen since the 1970s.

Why it matters: The college recruiting process often centers around "What can this college do for me?" Now, as more young Black men recognize the power of their actions, some have begun asking, "What can I do for this college?"

When and how to vote in all 50 states

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Data: RepresentUS; Note: Montana has told counties they can opt into universal vote-by-mail; Map: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Millions of Americans who normally vote in person on election day will turn to early voting or mail-in ballots this fall — but that only works if you understand your state's election rules, deadlines and how to ensure your vote is counted.

Driving the news: Axios is launching an interactive resource, built on research by RepresentUs, a nonpartisan election reform group, to help voters across the country to get the information they need.

Bob Woodward's new book details letters between Trump and Kim Jong-un

Bob Woodward during a 2019 event in Los Angele. Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images

Journalist Bob Woodward has obtained "25 personal letters exchanged" between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for his new book, "Rage," publisher Simon & Schuster revealed on Wednesday.

Details: In the letters, "Kim describes the bond between the two leaders as out of a 'fantasy film,' as the two leaders engage in an extraordinary diplomatic minuet," according to a description of the book posted on Amazon.

Dozens of Confederate symbols removed in wake of George Floyd's death

A statue of Confederate States President Jefferson Davis lies on the street after protesters pulled it down in Richmond, Virginia, in June. Photo: Parker Michels-Boyce/AFP via Getty Images

59 Confederate symbols have been removed, relocated or renamed since anti-racism protests began over George Floyd's death, a new Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) report finds.

Why it matters: That's a marked increase on previous years, per the report, which points out just 16 Confederate monuments were withdrawn or renamed in 2019.

Dems raise alarm over changes to Postal Service's election mail processing practices

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy walking through the Capitol on August 5. Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

House and Senate Democrats wrote to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on Wednesday, urging him not to issue new directives for handling election mail ahead of November's general election.

Why it matters: Democrats fear changes to election mail processing practices "will cause further delays to election mail that will disenfranchise voters and put significant financial pressure on election jurisdictions," per a letter written by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) and signed by the 47-member Democratic caucus.