Sunday's top stories

Scoop: Inside Trump's debate prep

Trump and Christie. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Two weekends ago, President Trump met with a group of his closest aides in the conference room of his Bedminster golf club to discuss a subject that has been weighing heavily on his mind: the three scheduled debates with Joe Biden.

Behind the scenes: In the room with Trump were his son-in-law Jared Kushner, campaign manager Bill Stepien, senior adviser Jason Miller, and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who role-played Hillary Clinton in Trump's 2016 debate prep sessions.

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Poll shows Biden leading Trump in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania

Photo: Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images

Joe Biden leads President Trump 48% to 42% in Wisconsin and 49% to 43% in Pennsylvania, according to the latest CBS/YouGov Battleground Tracker poll.

Why it matters: Trump's surprise wins in the two states, where many voters broke his way after deciding the week before the election, helped propel him to an Electoral College victory over Hillary Clinton. Trump won Wisconsin with 47% of the vote and Pennsylvania with 48% in 2016, according to the New York Times.

Blumenthal calls classified briefing on Russian interference "absolutely chilling"

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D- Conn.) called on the Trump administration to declassify intelligence detailing Russian efforts to influence the 2020 elections, telling MSNBC on Sunday that the classified briefing lawmakers received about the Kremlin's activities last week was "absolutely chilling."

The big picture: National Counterintelligence and Security Center Director William Evanina said in a statement Friday that the Russian government is "using a range of measures" to "denigrate" Joe Biden ahead of the election. China and Iran would prefer that Trump is defeated, according to Evanina.

Aug 9, 2020 - Health

Ex-FDA head: U.S. will "definitely" see 200,000 to 300,000 virus deaths in 2020

Former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said on CBS News' "Face the Nation" that the coronavirus death toll in the U.S. will be "definitely" somewhere between 200,000 and 300,000 by the end of 2020.

Why it matters: "Whether we're closer to 200,000 or closer to 300,000 depends on what we do now and how it evolves," Gottlieb warned on Sunday as the U.S. surpassed five million confirmed coronavirus cases.

Mnuchin says Trump executive orders were cleared by Justice Department

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin insisted on "Fox News Sunday" that President Trump's executive orders on coronavirus aid were cleared by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, and said that Democrats are going to "have a lot of explaining to do" if they choose to challenge them in court.

Why it matters: Democrats and even some Republicans have criticized Trump's decision to circumvent Congress to extend unemployment benefits as executive overreach, given that the Constitution gives Congress power to appropriate spending.

Mike Allen, author of AM
Aug 9, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Ben Sasse emerges as GOP Trump critic ahead of November

Sen. Ben Sasse walks to the Senate from the subway to vote in June. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) has dialed up his spicy slams of President Trump, including this swipe at yesterday's signing ceremony: "The pen-and-phone theory of executive lawmaking is unconstitutional slop."

Why it matters: Trump increasingly looks — to business and to fellow Republicans — like a loser in November. So they're more likely to create distance to save their own skins. Sasse also won his May primary, further freeing him.

Pelosi: "States don't have the money" for Trump's unemployment order

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi claimed on "Fox News Sunday" that states don't have the funds to comply with the executive order President Trump signed on Saturday, which requires them to cover 25% of an additional $400 in weekly unemployment benefits.

Why it matters: Many state and local governments have had their budgets devastated by the economic impacts of the coronavirus, which have caused expenses to soar and revenues to plunge.

Kudlow says he regrets claiming Trump couldn't use executive order for unemployment

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday that he regrets suggesting this week that unemployment benefits can only be extended by Congress.

Why it matters: President Trump's decision to bypass Congress to sign four executive actions, including one that provides $400 per week in extra unemployment benefits, has prompted outcry from Democrats and even some Republicans who believe he is overstepping his constitutional authority.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Aug 9, 2020 - Economy & Business

Elevator anxiety will stifle reopenings

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Will you step back into an elevator any time soon?

Why it matters: Tens of billions of dollars — and the future of cities around the country — rest on the answer to that question. So long as workers remain unwilling to take elevators, hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of office real estate will continue to go largely unused.

Updated Aug 9, 2020 - World

Brazil coronavirus death toll tops 100,000 and case numbers surpass 3 million

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro posted a photo of himself to Facebook congratulating his soccer team, Palmeiras, for winning the state title Saturday, moments after the health ministry confirmed the national COVID-19 death toll had surpassed 100,000.

Why it matters: Brazil is only the second country to confirm more than 100,000 deaths from the coronavirus. On Sunday morning, it became the second country to surpass 3 million cases, per Johns Hopkins. Only the U.S. has reported more. Bolsonaro has yet to address the milestones. He has previously tested positive for COVID-19 three times, but he's downplayed the impact of the virus, which has crippled Brazil's economy.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with the latest coronavirus case numbers and more context.

Updated Aug 9, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Republicans and Democrats react to Trump's coronavirus aid action

President Trump speaks to workers at a manufacturing facility in Clyde, Ohio, on Thursday. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Some Republicans joined Democrats in criticizing President Trump Saturday night for taking executive action on coronavirus aid, with Democratic leaders demanding the GOP return to negotiations after stimulus package talks broke down a day earlier.

Why it matters: Trump could face legal challenges on his ability to act without congressional approval, where the constitutional power lies on federal spending. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) was the most vocal Republican critic, saying in a statement: "The pen-and-phone theory of executive lawmaking is unconstitutional slop."