Politics News

Bill Oxford/iStockBy LUKE BARR, ABC News

(COLUMBUS, Ohio) -- A federal judge denied a challenge to the way the state of Ohio processes absentee ballots, just 36 days before the election.

Currently in Ohio, to secure absentee ballots, a voter must fill out a form and provide their name, date of birth and signature, among other information, and send it in to the Ohio secretary of state's office.

The League of Women Voters, a civic group that encourages women to take a larger role in politics, filed the suit, claiming the signature verification process was subjective.

U.S. District Court Judge Michael Watson said in an order issued Sunday night that while this process is a "moderate burden," voters in Ohio "have multiple options to exercise their right to vote even if their ballot is rejected due to signature mismatch."

"Additionally, the Court believes that changing the rules regarding verification of signatures on ballots at this time would be particularly damaging," Watson wrote.

The judge also issued a subtle jab at the president and Attorney General William Barr, both of whom have said mail-in ballots lead to widespread voter fraud. Intelligence officials have concluded mail-in ballots are not susceptible to widespread fraud.

"Some public officials have unfortunately regularly cast doubt on the security and legitimacy of voting by mail," Watson wrote. "A federal court enjoining part of the State's procedure for maintaining the security of mail-in voting in the weeks leading up to the election could further undermine public confidence in elections."

The League of Women Voters has not responded to ABC News' request for comment.

A spokeswoman for the Ohio secretary of state's office, which is responsible for overseeing absentee ballot registration, lauded the ruling.

"Ohioans know that election accessibility and security are not mutually exclusive," Maggie Sheehan, press secretary for Secretary of State Frank LaRose, told ABC News. "We're pleased Judge Watson recognized this as well."

According to LaRose's office, 1.8 million absentee ballot applications have been received by his office. LaRose told ABC's GMA3 that number crushes the 2016 absentee ballot requests.

"To give you some perspective, at this point in the 2016 cycle, we were only at 800,000," he told T.J. Holmes.

LaRose is also facing another lawsuit, this one by the Ohio Democratic Party on the state's drop box rule. Counties in Ohio can only have one drop box, according to the secretary of state's office.

On GMA3, LaRose wouldn't comment on the pending litigation, but did say he follows the law.

"As Ohio's Chief Elections Officer, I don't get to make up what the law says I have to follow the law. Now, here's the good news. In Ohio, every County Board of Elections has a secure dropbox," he explained. "This is new, this wasn't the case. In fact, this is the first time in a general election in our state's history that every county board of elections has that."

A Franklin County Court of Common Pleas judge issued a preliminary injunction saying the secretary of state's office could not put a moratorium on how many drop boxes there are in one county.

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(FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.) -- President Donald Trump's former 2020 campaign manager and current campaign senior advisor, Brad Parscale, was taken into custody Sunday evening by Fort Lauderdale Police after allegedly threatening to harm himself at his home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, ABC News has confirmed.

According to a public information officer with the Ft. Lauderdale Police Department, a 911 call was placed by Parscale's wife who advised that "her husband was armed, had access to multiple firearms inside the residence and was threatening to harm himself. Officers determined the only occupant inside the home was the adult male," referring to Parscale.

He was detained without injury and taken to Broward Health Medical Center, authorities said. The news was first reported by ABC News affiliate WPLG-TV.

Parscale was removed as campaign manager just over two months ago in July following a lightly attended but much-hyped campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, as the president was trailing in the polls. He was replaced by then-deputy campaign manager Bill Stepien, but has stayed on as a senior adviser to the campaign.

Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh told ABC News in a statement Sunday night, "Brad Parscale is a member of our family and we all love him. We are ready to support him and his family in any way possible. The disgusting, personal attacks from Democrats and disgruntled RINOs have gone too far, and they should be ashamed of themselves for what they've done to this man and his family."

Despite the Trump campaign's statement, there is no evidence implicating Democrats or any other group in the incident involving Parsacle, according to the information provided by law enforcement. Parscale has yet to personally comment on the matter.

The former long-time campaign manager had kept a relatively low profile since the demotion, other than joining a Texas Trump campaign bus tour earlier this month and occasionally posting defiant messages on Twitter defending his time leading the campaign. In August, weeks after the staff shake-up, Parscale tweeted that he was "employee number 1 in 2015 for the exploration committee" and that his team "built the biggest infrastructure in history."

Parsacle was named campaign manager in February 2018, ahead of the midterm elections, and has led the team since, with the president's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, retaining significant power over the campaign, including having the final say in most political moves.

After the 2016 campaign ended and before being named campaign manager, Parscale joined America First, the super PAC endorsed by the president that works to support his agenda outside the White House, as a senior adviser.

The Texas-based digital guru has also done work on behalf of the Republican National Committee.

If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide or worried about a friend or loved one, help is available. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 [TALK] for free confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Even if it feels like it, you are not alone.

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RiverNorthPhotography/iStockBy ADAM KELSEY and FREDA KAHEN-KASHI, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- From the early 1990s through the presidency of Barack Obama, Democrats had six consecutive presidential election victories in Michigan, building a coalition of union voters and urban support that many viewed as unbreakable ahead of the 2016 election. Then, Donald Trump came along.

Fewer than 11,000 votes separated the Republican nominee and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in Michigan in 2016 -- proportionally, the closest margin in any state that year -- but it was enough to send all 16 of the Great Lakes state's electoral votes to Trump and mint a newfound standing as one of the nation's preeminent battleground states.

Four years later, ABC News' This Week traveled to Michigan as part of its "Six for the Win" series to analyze whether the state would again be one of the linchpins to a Trump victory or if it would revert to the "blue wall" status and deliver Joe Biden the sizable margins Obama won in his two runs.

"It didn't take long for me to really have severe buyer's remorse," Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor, a Republican, said of his 2016 vote for Trump.

Taylor, who leads the state's fourth-largest city, located in Macomb County north of Detroit, characterized himself as a reluctant Trump voter during the last election. Reluctant or not, voters like Taylor made Macomb County a so-called pivot county, swinging from support of Obama in 2008 and 2012 to Trump in 2016 -- and perhaps serving as the tipping point for the president statewide as Trump defeated Clinton by over 47,000 votes in Macomb alone.

"Joe Biden is a different candidate than Hillary Clinton was, and he doesn't need to peel off a whole lot of voters here," Taylor told ABC News. "He just needs a very small percentage."

The mayor cited Trump's character as his motivation for crossing party lines and announcing his support for Biden, becoming -- along with Republican Gov. Rick Snyder -- one of the most prominent Republicans in the state to buck the president. But reflecting on his 2016 experience and his neighbors and constituents, Taylor cautioned Trump critics to not make hasty judgements of his supporters based on the president's words and behavior.

"I don't think that Trump's voters are all racist. I don't think that Trump's voters are all sexist. I don't think Trump's voters are all just uneducated people and uncivilized on culture," he said. "I think they are people who just have had enough of being told that they're not good enough."

Supporters of the president in the county repeatedly cited his record on jobs (prior to the coronavirus outbreak) and trade -- an issue of particular importance to the region's automobile manufacturers -- and largely expressed greater excitement to vote than their Democratic counterparts.

"I'm definitely more enthusiastic," auto worker and St. Clair Shores City Council member Chris Vitale said. "Initially, [in 2016] he was a candidate, he was unproven. This time around, I'll have at least seen four years of track record."

"He's created jobs, he's created opportunity. You know, he's gotten people back to work," said voter Kim Neumann Rice, who added that she didn't think voters should be dissuaded by the economic downturn during the pandemic.

"I think that if you look at the bigger picture, and I just hope that people don't focus on 2020 alone, I think you have to look at the big picture before you make those types of decisions," she said.

Rebecca Gregory, a nurse who has spent the last six months facing the immediate impact of COVID-19 as a front-line worker, echoed the sentiment.

"You know, I tell everyone I don't care what side they're on. I blame no one for making mistakes during the pandemic. It's new," she said, adding, "I think overall, [Trump has] done the best he can with it. Mistakes were made on either side."

Democrats and Biden supporters were far more critical of the president's pandemic response, but still noted that the former vice president was not without his own flaws. Reverend Charles E. Williams II of King Solomon Church in Detroit questioned the Biden campaign's field operation and the candidate's engagement with voters, even while acknowledging the limitations of canvassing in a changed political environment.

"This is the time where you need to see Joe Biden and [Kamala] Harris passing out masks, serving people food. This is a urgent time in America right now and simply talking is not enough," he said, adding that he also wished to see the Democratic ticket "on the front lines" of racial justice protests.

Despite his critiques, Williams still considers himself a strong backer of Biden's and noted that the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Trump's intention to fill the seat reemphasized the importance of the election.

"I think what we're seeing is the ultimate level of hypocrisy coming from the president," he said of Trump's opposition to Obama's ultimately failed nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the late Justice Antonin Scalia's Supreme Court seat during the final year of his presidency in 2016.

Even Vitale, the Trump supporter, expressed hesitation about a rushed confirmation process, albeit for different reasons, sharing a concern about how the potential future justice will be viewed in future years.

"Ideally, it would be best for a confirmation after the election so there isn't any problem with legitimacy," he said.

With just over a month until Election Day, a dearth of recent polling in Michigan has left it unclear which candidate has the advantage, but with early voting getting underway in the past week, the state's secretary of state reported a different, eye-popping number this weekend: 2.4 million. That's the number of absentee ballots that have already been requested in the state -- over four times as many as had been requested at this point in 2016.

That's a number that, on its own, is larger than the total votes cast in the state for either Trump or Clinton four years ago.

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Alex Wong/Getty ImagesBY: MOLLY NAGLE, ABC NEWS

(WASHINGTON) -- In his first public remarks since President Donald Trump officially selected Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his nominee to the Supreme Court, former Vice President Joe Biden once again urged Republicans in the Senate not to move ahead with confirmation proceedings until after the 2020 election.

"Just because you have the power to do something doesn't absolve you of your responsibility to do right by the American people," Biden charged in his remarks Sunday afternoon in Wilmington, Delaware.

"Uphold your constitutional duty. Summon your conscience. Stand up for the people. Stand up for our cherished system of checks and balances," he continues.

Since the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg earlier this month, Biden has sought to simultaneously appeal to voters that the election should dictate how the rare Supreme Court vacancy should be dealt with, and Republican senators to hold their fire on the highly politicized process until after voters make their wishes known, particularly as early voting has already gotten underway in some states.

"[The] Senate has to stand strong for our democracy. They must not act on this nomination until the American people finish the process they're already begun of selecting their president and their Congress," Biden said.

"[The] U.S. Constitution provides one chance, one, for the Americans to have their voices heard on who serves a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court, who makes those big decisions about their health care, their civil rights and much else. That chance is now. That moment is now. And the voters, in my view, are not going to stand for this abuse of power" Biden added.

In his remarks, the former vice president focused in particular on the impact Coney Barrett's nomination could have on the Affordable Care Act, and current protections for those with preexisting conditions, as her confirmation would shift the court to a solidly conservative majority of 6-3.

"It's no mystery about what's happening here. President Trump is trying to throw out the Affordable Care Act and he's been trying to do it for the last four years. The Republican party has been trying to eliminate it for a decade," Biden said. "And as I speak, we are still in the midst of the worst global health crisis in a century -- a crisis that's already taken over 200,000 lives, between 750 and 1,000 lives a day and counting,"

The day after President Trump nominated Coney Barrett to the court in a Rose Garden ceremony, Biden only mentioned the judge's name once and was critical of her public statements on previous Supreme Court rulings upholding the Affordable Care Act, including a 2017 criticism in an article for Notre Dame Law School that Chief Justice John Roberts "pushed the Affordable Care Act beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute," in his 2012 decision.

"The judge... has a written track record -- written track record of disagreeing adamantly with the Supreme Court's decisions on two occasions, upholding the ACA. In fact, not as a judge, but prior to going on the bench, she publicly criticized Chief Justice Roberts' opinion upholding the law, eight years ago," Biden later said of Coney Barrett.

Biden has acknowledged there is very little Democrats can do to stop Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell from moving forward with the nomination, and continued to demur on the possibility raised by some Democrats of expanding the Supreme Court if Biden is elected in November, arguing he does not want to pull focus from the issues at hand.

"What I'm not going to do is play the Trump game, which is a good game he plays: take your eye off the issue before us. If I were to say 'yes' or 'no' to that, that becomes a big issue. That's the headline here," Biden said when asked about calls to pack the court.

"American people understand that they're being cut out of this process they're entitled to be part of, and the cutout is designed in order to take away the ACA and your health care in the midst of a pandemic. That's the focus. That's what it's on, and that's the deal," he added.

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Sean Rayford/Getty ImagesBY: MOLLY NAGLE, ABC NEWS

(WASHINGTON) -- A tale of two campaigns is emerging ahead of the first face-to-face meeting in the general election between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden Tuesday night on the presidential debate stage.

While President Trump has hit the campaign trail hard, holding eight events in the last week, Biden has taken a decidedly different approach, keeping a light schedule in order to prepare for their upcoming meeting.

The former vice president has hunkered down for debate preparations, which are being overseen by Democratic debate guru and Biden's former chief of staff, Ron Klain, according to sources familiar with the preparation.

The preparations also includes Bob Bauer, a senior Biden adviser and former White House general counsel, stepping into the role of Donald Trump to help the former vice president get ready for Tuesday according to a source familiar with the process.

"Joe Biden is very big on preparing," said Patti Solis Doyle, a Democratic strategist and former adviser to Biden, who took part in his 2008 vice presidential debate preparations.

"He understands that this is an opportunity to really speak directly to the American people. And so he wants to make sure he's ready and prepared," she added, noting his fondness for briefing books and discussion of strategy.

In an interview with MSNBC Saturday, the former vice president predicted that his time on the debate stage will be tough, and expects the president will get personal.

"It is going to be difficult. I know -- I mean my guess it's going to be just straight attacks. They're gonna be mostly personal. That's the only thing he knows how to do. He doesn't know how to debate the facts because he's not that smart. He doesn't know that many facts," Biden said in an attack of his own.

Biden aides expect the former vice president to focus on making the case for his own presidency in his time on the stage, with Biden expected to contrast his vision with Trump's record -- particularly his response to the coronavirus pandemic.

It's a message Biden has been honing during his time on the campaign trail, highlighting his view that Trump has failed not only to save lives, but livelihoods as well.

"I'm prepared to go out and make my case as to why I think he's failed, and why I think the answers I have to proceed will help the American people and the American economy, and make us safer internationally," Biden previewed Saturday.

The former vice president will face a tenuous tightrope of pushing back against the president's attacks, without getting mired in continuous he said-he said squabbles.

"That's not going to be Joe Biden's role to play whack-a-mole and hit every Trump lie." Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., told ABC News. "Let the moderators be the fact checkers here -- otherwise you'd spend your whole time knocking untrue statements from Donald Trump. You wouldn't have time to make your own case."

Biden, with a well known record of gaffes throughout his political career, will likely face intensive scrutiny from the president and his allies, eager to jump on any verbal miscue or mistake as an example of Biden's declining mental acuity--an argument President Trump has tried to make for months, despite some top advisers urging him to tone it down ahead of their debate matchup.

"He's a dumb guy. Always known as a dumb guy. But we look forward to seeing him in the debate. He's got a lot more experience. He's got 47 years. I've got 3 1/2 years. So we'll see. But he's got 47 years of experience," Trump said Saturday during a rally, delivering a mixed message on expectations of Biden's debate performance.

Another challenge for Biden could be keeping his cool amid the president's planned attacks on his son, Hunter Biden, and his business dealings in Ukraine during Biden's vice presidency, despite the younger Biden denying, and not facing any charges of wrongdoing.

It's a topic Biden has shown he is significantly sensitive to on the campaign trail, famously snapping at a voter in Iowa and calling him a 'damn liar' over a question about his son's work in the country.

"If the president goes after his son Hunter, I'm sure Joe Biden will get angry but I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing," Solis Doyle said. "I think the American people want to see a father support his son, and defend him. That just comes naturally to Joe Biden."

While Tuesday will mark the first time Biden takes part in a presidential debate, he does not come to the stage without experience in such high stakes events.

In 2012, Biden faced off with Paul Ryan in his second vice presidential debate, the last time Biden faced an opponent from the opposite party. Four years before that, Biden took on Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

The former vice president had more recent practice throughout the 2020 primaries, participating in 11 Democratic debates -- though only one featured a one-on-one matchup.

All told, Biden has participated in 26 vice presidential and presidential primary debates in the 33 years since he launched his first presidential run in 1987, according to a list of debates compiled by the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

"This is a whole different ball game from preparing for a debate with Paul Ryan," warned Van Hollen, who played Ryan in mock debates during Biden's preparation in 2012.

"Preparing the debate for Paul Ryan is one where you're preparing for someone who at least has some respect for the truth and facts," the senator said. "With Donald Trump, he makes it up ... he lies constantly."

Still, Solis Doyle argues that the stakes are much higher for Trump, who enters the debate trailing Biden in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll by 10 points nationally.

"Basically, for Joe Biden the strategy should be to do no harm, to come in and out of this debate with the status quo. I think that the stakes are much bigger for Donald Trump. Donald Trump has to move the needle, because he's losing this race right now and so he's gonna have to do something to really shake it up. And I don't know if he will have that ability in this debate."

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(WASHINGTON) -- A key Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee argued Sunday that Judge Amy Coney Barrett's potential future on the nation's highest court shouldn't hinge on how she may rule in regard to "a single case," such as Roe v. Wade.

"You know, only time can tell what will happen to any one precedent," Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who supports Barrett's Supreme Court nomination, said on ABC's "This Week" Sunday. "Anytime someone is looking at overruling a precedent, it's a lot more complicated than people might think."

"In any event, you can't look at the confirmation of a Supreme Court justice and and boil down that jurist's contribution to the law, past and future, to what they might do with a single case," he continued.

Lee, a second-term senator and an attorney who once clerked for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito when he was a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, will be among the first members of the Senate to question Barrett when she appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the committee's chairman, said Saturday night that the hearing will begin the second week of October.

On "This Week," Lee characterized Trump's nomination of Barrett as a positive for his reelection campaign, despite a new ABC News/Washington Post poll showing that a majority of Americans believe the winner of November's election should appoint the new justice.

"President Donald Trump campaigned in 2016, he's campaigning again this time, promising to appoint judges to federal courts and justices to the U.S. Supreme Court who are textualists and who are originalists," he said. "This is exactly what he promised to do and he's fulfilling that promise. I think the American people respect somebody who's willing to stand behind his campaign promises, which is what he's doing with Judge Barrett."

In addition to reproductive rights, one of the key issues any new justice is expected to rule on will be the legality of the Affordable Care Act. Despite the popularity of the law's protections for insured Americans with pre-existing conditions, Lee continues to believe the act is unconstitutional. A potential Supreme Court decision in line with his thinking could strike down those protections as well.

"A lot of your colleagues are concerned that that forthright opinion is going to cost [Republicans] on Nov. 3," ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos noted Sunday.

"We're talking about Judge Barrett here, and we're talking about constitutionality. Judge Barrett will look at this not on the basis of what's politically expedient, she'd look at it on the basis of constitutionality," Lee responded, after earlier noting Barrett shouldn't be "tarnish[ed]" by her position on a law he blamed Congress and Chief Justice John Roberts for advancing.

The senator wouldn't offer his opinion on whether Barrett should recuse herself from any matters involving the presidential election -- a position Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., a fellow Judiciary Committee member voiced on "This Week" earlier in the morning. But he did argue that Trump's concerns about a potential deadlocked court are legitimate and aren't necessarily related to creating a majority for himself should the election end up in the courts.

"The dangers of a four-four court are significant," Lee said. "These were dangers that were outlined extensively by Democrats in 2016 when they wanted us to confirm [Obama nominee Merrick] Garland."

"And Republicans like you said it was no problem at all," Stephanopoulos countered. That year, Lee wrote that "the Court has very ably dealt with temporary absences in the past and will do so again."

"Well, one can get around it," Lee responded. "We didn't say it was no problem at all. We said that there are procedures whereby a four-to-four split can result in the affirmance of a lower court decision. But the dangers themselves, the risks, are well-known. It's not wrong for the president to point out that it might be a good thing to have a court that's fully empaneled."

On "This Week," the senator was also pressed on Trump's criticism of vote-by-mail expansion efforts given its successful implementation in his home state of Utah. Lee allowed that "there haven't been significant problems" with mail-in ballots in the Beehive State, but nevertheless came to the president's defense.

"The president's concern is a legitimate one and I don't think we ought to dismiss it," he said, despite FBI Director Christopher Wray testifying before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee this past week that the bureau has "not seen, historically, any kind of coordinated national voter fraud effort in a major election, whether it's by mail or otherwise."

"Based on what evidence?" asked Stephanopoulos.

"Based on the fact that in any election you go through a whole lot of procedures, or you should go through a whole lot of routine procedures, to make sure that there's not tampering," Lee said. "Human nature is such that people might cheat and you want to make sure that you've got in place mechanisms designed to deter that, designed to detect that, and designed to prevent that."

"Just to be clear, you've had no significant problems in your state with mail and voting?" Stephanopoulos asked.

"No, no it's worked fine in Utah," Lee said. "But again, George, it's important to remember, whether we're talking about mail-in ballots or any other form of potential election fraud, the canard that, well, you can't prove that it's happened on any widespread basis in the past -- it is very different than saying there's no reason to worry about it ever."

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(WASHINGTON) -- A key Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee strongly disagreed with former Democratic nominee and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's comments last month that former Vice President Joe Biden should not concede the election.

"I respect her, I like her. But I think she's just flat-out wrong," Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on "This Week" Sunday. "The election itself is going to be announced, the winner will be announced at some point."

"If we are going to maintain a democracy, peaceful transition through an election is the only way to do it," he added. "Whoever the winner is, if it is clear and legal, that should be announced and the other party should concede."

Following President Donald Trump's remarks on Wednesday declining to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, Republicans have used Clinton's remarks to deflect criticism of the president's words.

"Well, we're going to have to see what happens. You know that," Trump said when asked if he would leave the White House peacefully.

Clinton's comments came after she told Showtime's "The Circus," she thought the president would use absentee ballots to discredit the election results.

"Joe Biden should not concede under any circumstances because I think this is going to drag out, and eventually I do believe he will win if we don't give an inch and if we are as focused and relentless as the other side is," she said in that show.

Durbin said on ABC's "This Week" Sunday that his concern over Trump's refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power was one of the reasons he would meet with Judge Amy Coney Barrett, the president's nominee for late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's seat on the Supreme Court, and participate in her confirmation hearings.

"I've met with every Supreme Court nominee since I've been in the Senate. I will extend that courtesy, if she requests it, for at least a socially distanced, safe meeting, perhaps over the phone," Durbin said. "I want to be respectful. We disagree on some things. And in terms of participating in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, I'll be there to do my job."

"We're talking about someone who will be on the highest court in the land for the remainder of her life, and I take that seriously," he added later.

Durbin called for Barrett to recuse herself in the event that an election challenge came before the Supreme Court.

"I certainly wish she would, it would help matters," he said. "And it would evidence the fact that she wants to be fair in addressing this."

Trump nominated Barrett to the Supreme Court on Saturday, saying she "was confirmed to the circuit court three years ago by a bipartisan vote" and that "her qualifications are unsurpassed."

"Her record is beyond reproach," the president added. "This should be a straightforward and prompt confirmation."

Republicans are pushing to have Barrett confirmed quickly. Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said that hearings would begin Monday, Oct.12, and that he hoped the nomination would be out of committee by Oct. 26, a timeline that Democrats have criticized.

So far, two Democrats, Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono, have refused to meet with Barrett.

Durbin told Stephanopoulos he agreed that Democrats have no silver bullet to stop a vote on Judge Amy Coney Barrett's nomination before the election.

"There have been two Republicans who've spoken out already -- Sens. Murkowski and Collins -- that said they won't support this procedure before the election," he said. "If two others decide during the course of the debate to stand up and take the same position, then we could have a different timing, perhaps a different outcome."

Durbin, the second highest ranking Democrat in the Senate, also responded to Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey's tweet calling for Democrats to end the filibuster and expand the Supreme Court if they take back the Senate.

Durbin said he was part of the conversation on the future of Senate rules. He previously told ABC's Powerhouse Politics Podcast there was no "serious conversation" on packing the Supreme Court.

"Mitch McConnell has taken the Senate and turned it into something that is not even close to a deliberative and legislative body," Durbin said. "We need to make sure that whatever the procedure is in the future, that we get down to business, roll up our sleeves, and address the issues that affect this country."

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Chip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesBY: LUKE BARR, ABC NEWS

(WASHINGTON) -- Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett has heard three notable cases on controversial policing issues -- specifically qualified immunity and the Fourth Amendment -- during her three-year tenure on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

President Donald Trump nominated Barrett, 48, on Saturday, a week after the death of longtime Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, 87. Republicans have said they intend to hold a vote on Barrett, but Democrats decried a potential vote, saying whoever wins the election in November should nominate the next justice.

Just this term, the Supreme Court has denied hearing eight qualified immunity cases, but in October, the Supreme Court will hear whether physical force is necessary to "seize" a suspect in Torres v. Madrid.

Here are three prior rulings from Barrett and their significance.

Fourth Amendment

It was a warm July 2015 morning in Gary, Indiana.

David Watson and three other men were sitting in a "gray and greenish [Dodge] Charger," across the street from a McDonald's, according to court documents.

Inside that restaurant, court documents show, an anonymous caller dialed 911 and told the operator Watson and the three other "boys" were "playing with guns."

Police arrived shortly thereafter, boxing in the Charger with three cruisers, and began searching the vehicle. They eventually found two guns in the backseat of the car, according to court documents.

Watson was charged with possessing a firearm as a felon and was sentenced to more than two years in prison. But Watson's appeal to suppress the evidence on claims that it violated the Fourth Amendment made its way to the 7th Circuit Court of appeals and onto Judge Amy Coney Barrett's desk.

In her opinion, Coney Barrett wrote that simply possessing a gun in the state of Indiana does not constitute a "reasonable suspicion of an ongoing crime, because carrying a firearm in public is permitted with a license in Indiana."

Because of this, Coney Barrett concluded that the situation was a "close call" but "falls on the wrong side of the Fourth Amendment, and the 7th Circuit Court vacated Watson's conviction.

In the upcoming term, the Supreme Court is expected to hear several cases involving the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure and requires authorities to have probable cause to issue a warrant.

Qualified immunity

Ending the practice of qualified immunity, which protects government officials from civil lawsuits, has been another issue up for debate since the Memorial Day killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.

The debate has centered on whether the officers can be held personally liable for Floyd's death -- and other officers similarly held accountable for uses of force throughout the country.

Coney Barrett ruled on a qualified immunity case during her 7th Circuit Court tenure.

In 2014, William Rainsberger was charged with the murder of his 88-year-old mother after she was found lying face down in her apartment with head injuries.

Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Detective Charles Benner arrived at the crime scene shortly after the 911 call was placed. Once he surveyed the scene, he asked Rainsberger and his brother, Robert, to go to the police station to take a polygraph, but both brothers refused, according to court documents.

The Rainsberger brothers then volunteered to take a DNA test to prove they didn't kill their mother.

Benner, according to court documents, attempted to charge Rainsberger before the results of that DNA test came back, but local prosecutors declined, citing a lack of evidence. Benner again went back to the prosecutor a few months later and omitted the DNA test that exonerated Rainsberger but instead used data from a cell tower to place Rainsberger at the scene.

A year later, the case was thrown out due to insufficient evidence, but that didn't stop Rainsberger from pursuing a civil suit against the detective.

Coney Barrett took umbrage with the cell tower records and concluded that calls made by Rainsberger at his mother's house were routed through a cell tower in the Central time zone, when the death occurred in the Eastern time zone, making them an hour behind the logs cited by Benner. Additionally, surveillance video from a supermarket before Rainsberger arrived at his mother's house shows him buying a beverage and throwing away an object.

Benner said that was evidence of him destroying the murder weapon, but Coney Barrett concluded that no "reasonable" law enforcement officer could take that leap.

In fact, Coney Barrett found that not only had Benner violated the Fourth Amendment, he'd outright lied in an attempt to charge Rainsberger. She allowed Rainsberger's qualified immunity civil lawsuit against Benner to proceed, eventually ruling in favor of Rainsberger.

"Benner submitted a probable cause affidavit that was riddled with lies and undercut by the omission of exculpatory evidence," she wrote in a scathing opinion.

Privacy and searches

Coney Barrett also has ruled on law enforcement's power to conduct searches -- and whether such approaches are constitutional.

Dimitris Terry was wanted in 2012 for allegedly distributing heroin, and DEA agents wanted to "quietly and quickly" arrest him so he could be a cooperator in a larger drug-related investigation, court records show.

After his arrest, agents stayed behind to search the house, and a woman, later identified as the mother of Terry's son, answered the door and allowed DEA agents in, court records show.

They read her a consent-to-search form, and she obliged, but there was one problem, according to court documents: Ena Carson didn't live at the apartment with Terry even though her son did.

When agents took Terry in for questioning, they read him his Miranda rights, and while the agents understood that he understood them, Terry refused to sign the slip indicating so.

A suspect's Miranda rights were established in the Supreme Court case Arizona v. Miranda and mean that when an individual is in police custody, they have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. Those rights are intended to be read to the suspect during or just after their arrest.

"Terry explained that 'he was not going to sign the form or initial it; that, you know, this wasn't his first go‐around with law enforcement ... but he was willing to talk,'" according to court documents, adding that agents wrote "verbal only" on a piece of paper.

Evidence recovered from the house directly implicated Terry in trafficking drugs, court records show. Terry claimed that evidence was obtained unconstitutionally and that because he didn't sign the form establishing he understood his rights, his statements were invalid and should be suppressed.

Coney Barrett concluded that because Terry stated he had prior interactions with law enforcement, he knew what he was consenting to when he spoke to the DEA agents, but that the evidence seized from his house, which authorities sought as proof Terry was a drug dealer, was deemed to be unconstitutionally obtained.

"Is it reasonable for officers to assume that a woman who answers the door in a bathrobe has authority to consent to a search of a male suspect's residence? We hold that the answer is 'no.' The officers could reasonably assume that the woman had spent the night at the apartment, but that's about as far as a bathrobe could take them. Without more, it was unreasonable for them to conclude that she and the suspect shared access to or control over the property," Coney Barrett wrote.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(JACKSON, Miss) -- This report is part of "Turning Point," a groundbreaking month-long series by ABC News examining the racial reckoning sweeping the United States and exploring whether it can lead to lasting reconciliation.

Mississippi voters have never elected a Black candidate to statewide office, despite having the largest proportional Black population of any U.S. state at nearly 40%.

Advocates hope an amendment on the November ballot may change that.

Mississippi is the only state with a multistep process for electing statewide positions like governor, attorney general and secretary of state. Its electoral college-like voting system was designed by white framers in Southern Reconstruction with the intent to disenfranchise minority voters and uphold white power in politics.

If the amendment to simplify the process passes, advocates say it would spur more minority candidates to run for office in the Magnolia state -- and assure minority voters their constitutionally protected right to equal representation is secure. If it doesn't, they say it will serve as a painful reminder of the state's deep history of voter suppression.

"Voters finally have a chance to overturn a racist 1890 election law that has no place in our 2020 Mississippi or in Mississippi of the future," Vangela M. Wade, president and CEO of the Mississippi Center for Justice, told ABC News. "Jim Crow is on the ballot."

The current process

Other states fill statewide positions by using a popular vote and then a runoff election if required. Not Mississippi.

A candidate in a Mississippi statewide election first must win the popular vote and then win a majority of the state's 122 House of Representatives districts -- 42 of which are majority Black. If no candidate wins both the popular vote and the electoral vote, the race is decided by the Mississippi Legislature. As with the electoral college in a presidential election, representatives are not obligated to vote with their districts.

Jarvis Dortch, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi and a former Mississippi state representative, D-District 68, said that the current process essentially "blocks the door from Black participation in our statewide government."

The election law played a major role in the 1999 gubernatorial race between Democratic candidate Ronnie Musgrove and Republican Mike Parker, both of whom are white. Ultimately, the Democratic-controlled House chose Musgrove as the winner. In 2003, Gary Anderson, a Black candidate who ran for state treasurer, came close to winning but lost by 5.15%, according to a campaign website.

Dortch cited an analysis filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi last year found that a Democratic candidate -- or Black-preferred candidate -- "would need more than 55% of the statewide vote in order to secure a majority of electoral [House] votes. Candidates preferred by whites, by contrast, would be able to win the electoral vote without winning a majority of the popular vote."

"There are so many barriers to getting elected statewide as a minority candidate, and this is the final one. Even if you somehow cross all of the other challenges and come in around at 55% of the vote, you could be thrown out by the House of Representatives voting on a party-line basis," Dortch added. "All of it together can discourage, especially Black officials, from looking to run statewide."

The proposed state constitutional amendment, "Statewide Ballot Measure 2," would change the process so that winning a race for governor or any other statewide office would require a simple majority. If no candidate receives that, a runoff would determine the winner.

The law itself hasn't deterred Black candidates from trying to run, said Derrick Johnson, CEO and president of the NAACP, but "the viability of winning statewide is daunting."

"It is very difficult in the state to build the type of campaign financially to compete when you have to persuade 20 to 25% of the white voters to vote for a Black candidate," Johnson added. "Blacks are willing to vote for white candidates, but we have not seen whites, in large part, promoting and supporting Black candidates from the state."

Johnson said the state's history of "racial bloc voting" has been a greater deterrent for Black candidates than the current election law.

"Whites in this state have not shown a willingness to support a well-qualified candidate over a subpar white candidate," said Johnson. "So they will vote in a bloc based on racial lines, not qualification."

That was the case in two recent national elections. Barack Obama never won Mississippi, losing to John McCain in 2008 and again to Mitt Romney in 2012 -- both times by double digits. According to exit polling data, white voters in 2008 voted against Obama by an 8-to-1 margin that increased to nearly 9-to-1 in 2012.

Designed to disenfranchise

Mississippi structured its statewide elections in this way to disenfranchise Black voters -- and framers did not disguise those intentions.

After the Civil War, Black men began gaining political power in Mississippi in the era of Reconstruction. During that time, Mississippi's legislature appointed the nation's first and second Black senators, along with a handful of Black officials to state offices, one reaching as high as lieutenant governor.

Some white Mississippians saw this as a threat and devised a plan to dilute Black voting power and maintain their control of state politics. In 1890, they redrafted the state constitution, deploying an arsenal of Jim Crow-style measures -- from literacy tests to poll taxes -- that ultimately erased recently gained Black political power.

According to the journal of the proceedings of the constitutional convention, framers explicitly stated the purpose of the convention was "to secure to the State of Mississippi 'white supremacy.'"

"At that same time, the state's House districts were also created," Wade said. "It's a puzzle to people from the outside. But if you're within the state, you will see how those pieces fit neatly together."

The results were immediate.

Before the 1890 constitution, 50% of qualified Black Mississippians were registered to vote. By 1899, that number plunged to 5%.

Mississippi has had two Black senators. In 1870, Hiram Rhodes Revels was chosen by state legislators to complete the term of Albert G. Brown, who resigned when the state seceded from the union. A few years later, Blanche K. Bruce became the state's second African American senator, serving from 1875 to 1881. U.S. senators weren't elected by popular vote until the 17th Amendment was ratified in 1913.

Modern day voters challenge Jim Crow-era law

Four Black plaintiffs, represented by voting-rights groups, filed a federal lawsuit last May to challenge the process. They argue the law is racially discriminatory and violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the 14th Amendment and the "one-person, one-vote" rule.

The "electoral vote rule," as they deemed it in the filing, "creates a system in which white-preferred candidates can win a majority of House districts with a smaller percentage of the statewide popular vote than would be required of an African American-preferred candidate."

Days before last year's governor's race, which many anticipated might be thrown to the Mississippi House for a decision, U.S. District Judge Daniel Jordan wrote he had "grave concern" about the constitutionality of the process but wouldn't immediately block it. Instead, he would allow the state the opportunity to remedy the situation with a vote instead.

After winning reelection last November, Republican Secretary of State Mike Watson said he supported getting rid of the current system, which led to optimism for state representatives like freshman Rep. Zakiya Summers, D-District 68.

But the official vote to put the measure on the ballot comes at a time of racial unrest across the country linked to police killings of African Americans, and not far removed a controversial vote to retire Mississippi's state flag that included the Confederate flag emblem. Summers said those issues go hand in hand.

"We know what the Confederate flag stands for, and that doesn't represent Mississippi anymore. And then you also look at this process, that doesn't represent us anymore, either," Summers told ABC News. "As a result of the unfortunate murder of George Floyd, systemic racism and racial inequality has been elevated in a way that we haven't seen in, you know, 50 or 60 years. It shouldn't be another 50 or 60 more years before we're able to have a Black governor in Mississippi."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump is set to enter the first presidential debate on Tuesday down in the polls, but coming off the high of nominating his third Supreme Court justice. Some top advisers expect a dominant performance by the president, despite the opposing narratives of attacks on Joe Biden's mental state and the Trump campaign's work to raise expectations for the Democrat ahead of the showdown.

With days to go the debate, Trump has carried out conflicting and confounding strategies both repeatedly targeting Biden's mental acuity, claiming at a recent rally he doesn't know he's alive, while also making passing attempts to boost the former vice president as a seasoned debater who could outshine him.

"This guy doesn't have a clue. He doesn't know where the hell he is," Trump told his supporters in Pittsburgh a week to the day before the first debate. "This guy doesn't know he's alive."

At a campaign rally Saturday night in Pennsylvania, the president both attacked Biden as "dumb" before immediately lauding him as an experienced debater. "He’s a dumb guy. Always known as a dumb guy. But we look forward to seeing him in the debate. He's got a lot more experience. He's got 47 years. I’ve got 3 1/2 years. So we'll see. But he's got 47 years of experience."

On Friday, the president delivered an extended attack on Biden, comparing the showdown to a boxing match while repeatedly pointing to his head and saying, "To win matches you need that up here. ... This wins, probably, it's 50% of it. ... It's great that it's that way, isn't it?"

"[Biden's] not exactly prime time. ... This is not prime time for Joe. He never had too much of a prime time," the president added.

It's a line of attack the president has repeatedly used against Biden, and one some of his top advisers have urged him to tone down in the lead-up to the debates, while his campaign and allies mount a last-minute attempt to raise exceptions for Biden's performance.

While some advisers tell ABC News they're nervous as the president enters his first debate since his encounters with Hillary Clinton four years ago -- with Biden having participated in nearly a dozen debates leading up to clinching the Democratic nomination -- others are anticipating a knockout performance by the president and expect the debate to help highlight the former vice president's gaffes, sources familiar said.

Some advisers close to the president were pleased he took part in a town hall earlier this month with ABC News seeing it as a rare moment to interact with voters, some who challenged him, and a helpful way to prepare him for the debates.

Sources familiar with the president's planning say they expect he will be gathering with a small team of advisers this weekend to go over topics ahead of Tuesday night's faceoff.

Biden has brushed off Trump's onslaught of attacks on his mental fitness. "Watch me, Mr. President. Watch me. Look at us both, what we say, what we do, what we control, what we know, what kind of shape we're in," the former vice president said when asked by ABC News about the president's attacks on his cognitive ability.

Over the last few weeks the president has resisted typical debate prep, similar to 2016. This time, debate meetings have taken place both at the White House and the president's weekend retreat in Bedminster, New Jersey, with sessions often including top advisers such as former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien, Jason Miller and Jared Kushner along with other top aides.

The sessions have often featured conversations about potential debate topics or issues of the day that are on the president's mind with few traditional sessions such as mock debates, according to sources familiar with the meetings. Trump has also been eager to target Biden personally, looking to lean into attacks on his son, Hunter Biden, once he's on the debate stage, including over his Ukraine business dealings while his father was in office, though he has denied any wrongdoing and has never faced charges, sources said. The president even previewed that strategy at a rally Fayetteville, North Carolina, laying into the former vice president's son and saying, "I think it'll be brought up in the debate."

When asked on Saturday by reporters if he plans to go on the attack Tuesday night, the president said, "Well, I can't tell you what I'm going to do," before adding, "I mean, I don't know ... I have no idea."

The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

In the lead-up to the first debate, some advisers have pushed for the president to talk up Biden as a seasoned debater, who will enter with decades of experience given his time in Washington, sources familiar with the president's debate preparation told ABC News.

And while the president has at times made that point, far more often he opts to hammer his opponent as mentally unfit.

"We have a debate coming up and who knows ... you know what, he's been doing it for 47 years. I have been doing it for 3 1/2 years so he should be able to beat me, I would think. He's much more experienced. He's great," Trump said at a campaign event in Dayton, Ohio, on Monday.

Minutes later at that same Ohio event, the president said of Biden: "The guy can't speak without the teleprompter."

The setup for the first debate is shaping up to be unique to the times, with both campaigns agreeing to no formal spin room following the event and only a limited in-person audience.

The president enters the debate trailing Biden nationally by over seven points, according to FiveThirtyEight's average. And recent ABC News/Washington Post polls show the president is trailing in key battleground states among likely voters, including Wisconsin, where he trails Biden by six points, and Minnesota, where he's down by 16 points. But in Florida and Arizona, two states that will be crucial to picking the next president, the contests remain closely divided, with registered voters in Florida split almost evenly for the president, 47%-48%, while in Arizona the race stands at 47%-49% among registered voters.

On top of the president's repeated attacks on Biden's mental fitness, the Trump campaign has centered its strategy around trying to convince voters that Biden is mentally unfit for office, spending millions on ads that portray him struggling to speak while arguing he would be a puppet for the "radical left."

Back in June, the Trump campaign launched a brutal television ad titled "Fortitude," that worked to paint a dire picture of Biden's mental state, putting nearly $6 million behind the ad that features a narrator claiming the former vice president is "slipping" and "now at the age of 77 years old and running for president for the third time, Biden is clearly diminished."

Despite this, in recent weeks the Trump campaign has tried to boost expectations for Biden's debate performance.

"We have to be prepared for the tuned-in Joe Biden," Tim Murtaugh, communications director for the Trump campaign, said in an interview with Fox News, noting the former vice president "has been a Washington politician for 47 years" and "spent decades in the Senate where all they do is debate."

Miller, a Trump campaign senior adviser who had been arguing early that Biden may do well in a debate setting, told The Washington Post that in debates the former vice president "doesn't have as many gaffes as he does in his everyday interviews."

"I would make the argument that Joe Biden would even be the favorite in the debates since he's been doing them for 47 years," Miller said.

Trump has also started injecting wild claims into the mix, baselessly accusing Biden of taking "drugs" before his one solo debate with Sen. Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primary earlier this year.

The president tried the same tactic during the 2016 election when he suggested Clinton "was all pumped up" following the first debate and called for drug tests before the next one.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(YORBA LINDA, Calif.) -- On the campaign trail, Sen. Kamala Harris often mentions that her mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, told her she "may be the first to do many things," but it's unlikely questioning a Supreme Court nominee just a few weeks before Election Day ever came up.

Harris is uniquely positioned as a Democratic vice presidential nominee and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which offers recommendations on Supreme Court nominees before the Senate holds a vote.

"This hasn't happened -- this is unprecedented," said Joel Goldstein, a professor at St. Louis University who's studied the vice presidency extensively.

Goldstein pointed to the fact that few SCOTUS nominations have taken place during presidential campaigns and that Supreme Court nominees testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee is relatively new. The first SCOTUS nominee to testify before the committee was in 1925 when President Calvin Coolidge nominated Attorney General Harlan Fiske Stone to fill a vacancy. Additionally, there have been few instances where a vice presidential candidate is both a senator and on the committee.

"I don't see any historical parallels that I can find to Sen. Harris' situation," Goldstein told ABC News in an interview.

The closest example, perhaps, is Joe Biden's 1987 questioning of Judge Robert H. Bork, who had been nominated for a SCOTUS vacancy. Biden led the Judiciary Committee hearings as his presidential campaign imploded amid a plagiarism scandal. Bork was never confirmed, but Biden was praised for his performance during the hearings.

Should a hearing be called in this instance, the committee, led by Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., is expected to publicly question Trump's nominee. The hearings typically last around four days but can be shortened or scrapped altogether.

Trump on Saturday nominated Amy Coney Barrett, barely a week after Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death. He'd previously said he didn't want "to do anything to cut into" funeral services for Ginsburg, the first woman and first Jewish person to lie in state at the Capitol, before her burial Friday. With about five weeks left until Election Day, a hearing could take Harris out of play for visits to battleground states, where nearly all of her campaign-related travel has been focused.

Harris' team hasn't made clear how she would split her time between Capitol Hill and the campaign trail if a hearing is called, but Harris made clear she opposes Barrett's nomination.

"Just yesterday, I paid my respects to the legendary Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who devoted her life to fighting for Equal Justice Under Law and a more fair and just world," said Harris in a written statement Saturday. "Her passing is devastating, and it would be a travesty to replace her with a justice who is being selected to undo her legacy and erase everything she did for our country."

Harris' sharp line of questioning during Justice Brett Kavanaugh's 2018 hearings made headlines and raised her profile before she launched her ill-fated presidential bid. This time around, as a vice presidential nominee and a frequent subject of Trump's ire, the stakes are even higher. Goldstein believes a SCOTUS nomination hearing coupled with the Biden-Harris campaign's inability to host large-scale events during the COVID-19 pandemic could offer an opportunity for more Americans to see Harris.

"She's been very effective on the Judiciary Committee on other nominations. She's a very effective questioner," said Goldstein. "It will give the American people an opportunity to see her performance as a public servant and so it's not clear that that's not a good use of her time from a campaign as well as a governmental perspective."

Thus far, the Biden-Harris campaign has largely centered the significance of the SCOTUS pick on health care, arguing that the fate of the Affordable Care Act will depend on who fills Ginsburg's chair.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Source: ABCNews/Washington Post PollBY: GARY LANGER, ABC NEWS

(NEW YORK) -- In a race defined by economic views and pandemic fears, and riven by wide gender and education gaps, Joe Biden retains a 10-point lead nationally against Donald Trump in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, contracting to six points with third-party candidates included.

Biden's 54%-44% advantage over Trump in a two-way contest precisely matches the last national ABC/Post poll in mid-August. Biden's support slips to 49% when the Libertarian and Green Party candidates are included, versus 43% for Trump.

The results underscore Trump's precarious position as the first president in 81 years of modern polling never to achieve majority approval for his work in office. He's at 44% approval among all Americans, ranging from 52% for handling the economy to 40% on the coronavirus outbreak. Fifty-eight percent disapprove of his performance on the pandemic, a key to Biden's support.

At the same time, the presence of Libertarian candidate Jo Jorgensen and Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins could pose a challenge to Biden in close states. Biden's 5-point decline when these candidates are included is a significant, albeit slight, shift.

Biden continues to trail Trump, by 20 percentage points, in strong enthusiasm among their respective likely voters in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates. Still, another measure finds broad antipathy toward Trump: Among those who don't support him, 59% say his reelection would be a crisis for the country. Among those not backing Biden, fewer -- but still 50% -- say it'd be a crisis if he won.

It's true, as well, that national preferences don't always reflect Electoral College outcomes, as was the case in 2016 and 2000. Recent ABC/Post state-level polls found virtually even races in Florida and Arizona and a close contest in Wisconsin, although a wide Biden lead in Minnesota, which Trump has sought to contest.

Trump and Biden meet Tuesday in their first presidential campaign debate.


There's room for changes in preferences, but, as in any highly polarized election, not much. Among likely voters who don't back Trump now, 6% say they'd consider voting for him. Similarly, 5% of those who don't currently support Biden would consider him. That makes for a net total of 5% of likely voters who can be considered movable – a thin slice, albeit potentially enough to matter in some states.

What's likely to matter more is turnout, a question complicated this year by pandemic-related concerns. Just 46% of likely voters plan to cast their ballot in person on Election Day; 50% instead plan to vote early or absentee. Who goes through with it is highly consequential: Trump leads by 19 points, 58%-39%, among Election Day voters, while it's Biden by more than a 2-1 margin, 67%-31%, among those who intend to vote before then.


The pandemic, of course, has disrupted far more than balloting plans. Sixty-two percent of adults worry that they or an immediate family member may catch the virus, which has claimed more than 200,000 American lives. Likely voters who express this concern favor Biden, 71%-27%.

The economy, even in a pandemic-prompted recession, works better for Trump. While just 40% of Americans say it's in good shape, that's up from 31% just last month. And Trump leads by 82%-17% among likely voters who rate the economy positively. Further, a quarter call the economy the top issue in their vote, and those economy-focused voters favor Trump by 80%-18%.

That said, in a head-to-head test, the two candidates run very closely in trust to handle the economy, 49%-46%, Trump-Biden. And other results on trust are revealing: While Trump has hit hard on the issue of crime and safety, it's Biden who's slightly ahead in trust to handle it, 50%-44%. Biden leads by eight points in trust to handle the next Supreme Court nomination (as reported Friday), 11 points on the pandemic, 16 points on health care and 20 points on equal treatment of racial groups.

Trust on crime is about the same in the suburbs, 50%-46%, Biden-Trump, as nationally overall. Suburban men trust Trump more on crime by 20 points, but suburban women -- a group Trump has focused on -- trust Biden more, by 61%-37%. That tilts to Biden because of the share of suburban women -- about 1 in 3 -- who are racial or ethnic minorities. (Among suburban white women, it's 51%-46%, Biden-Trump.)

There's one warning flare here for Biden: His lead on trust to handle the pandemic has shrunk from 20 points during the summertime surge in cases in mid-July, 54%-34%, to today's 11-point margin, 51%-40%.

As noted, the economy leads as the most important issue, with no consensus on what comes next. Seventeen percent pick the pandemic as their top issue, and likely voters who say so support Biden by 84%-13%. About as many say it's either health care or equal treatment of racial groups; again more than 8 in 10 in both of these groups back Biden. Twelve percent cite crime and safety as their main concern -- and in this group, 84% support Trump. Lastly, 11% focus on the next Supreme Court nomination, with closer vote preferences, 54%-45%, Biden-Trump.

In another delineating result, the public by 54%-42% supports recent protests against police treatment of Black people. Eight in 10 supporters of these protests favor Biden; 77% of opponents are with Trump.

Across issues, these results illuminate the logic of the current campaign, as Trump touts economic recovery and raises crime concerns while Biden pushes on the pandemic response, health care and equal treatment, and both navigate the trickier Supreme Court issue.

Third party

The impact of third-party candidates may be tough to gauge, since the pandemic has constrained their campaigns just as it has Trump's and Biden's. This survey asked two-candidate preferences first, then re-asked the question with Jorgensen and Hawkins added. Biden, as noted goes from 54% to 49% with these two included; that decline is significant at the 90% confidence level, as opposed to the conventional standard, 95%.

Trump moving from 44% to 43% is not statistically significant. Four percent express support for Jorgensen, who's on the ballot in all 50 states; 3% for Hawkins, who's on the ballot in 28 states. (In 2016, the Libertarian won 3%, the Green candidate, 1%.)


Using two-candidate preferences, huge gaps are evident across population groups. Trump leads by 13 points among men; Biden, by a wide 31 points among women. Trump's up 6 points against Biden among nongraduates, while Biden leads by 30 points among college grads. The race is close among likely voters age 50 and older, while those younger than 30 back Biden by nearly 2-1 (using registered voters for an adequate sample size).

Unpeeling some groups demonstrates the depth of the gender gap, in particular. While the race is a close 52-47%, Biden-Trump, in the suburbs, that's 60-38%, Trump-Biden, among suburban men, compared with 66-34%, Biden-Trump, among suburban women. And it's Trump up 8 among men who are political independents, versus a 77%-20% Biden-Trump blowout among independent women.

In another sharp difference, evangelical white Protestants, a core Republican group, support Trump by an expected 75%-25% -- but non-evangelical white Protestants go 58%-41%, Biden-Trump. (White Protestants account for nearly 3 in 10 likely voters; 57% are evangelicals, the rest not.)

Notable, too, is that Trump and Biden are dead even, 49%-49%, in households that include a veteran or active-duty member of the military; these generally are thought to be a more pro-GOP group. Trump took criticism in the past month for reports that he had disparaged military service, which he denied.

Among other groupings, Biden leads by 54%-42% in the 13 states that currently are the most contested by the candidates (Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin). Moreover, it's Biden by 20 points in the blue states won by Hillary Clinton, while dead even, 49%-49%, in the 2016 red states. Trump won those states four years ago by 53%-42%.

2016 comparisons

Comparisons to 2016, based on ABC News exit poll results, are telling. Among the most striking differences:

  • Clinton won political moderates by 12 points. Biden leads among them by 47 points, 72%-25%.
  • Clinton won independent women by four points. As noted, Biden leads among them by a remarkable 57 points.
  • Trump won whites by 20 points in 2016; he's up six points among whites now. One reason: White women have switched from plus-9 points for Trump in 2016 to plus-15 points for Biden now, 57%-42%. That includes a vast shift among college-educated white women, from up 7 points for Clinton to up 41 points for Biden now.
  • Clinton won college-educated voters overall by 10 points; as noted, Biden now leads in this group by 30 points. In addition to college-educated white women, the change is sharp among people with postgraduate degrees, from up 21 points for Clinton four years ago to up 47 points for Biden now.
  • Non-evangelical white Protestants, as mentioned, support Biden by a 17-point margin; that compares to essentially an even split in 2016, 48%-45%, Trump-Clinton.

Trump, at the same time, has retained and even consolidated his core support groups. Overall, among 2020 likely voters who report having supported him in 2016, 91% support him now. He's backed by 87% of conservatives, who account for a substantial 36% of all likely voters. And while Biden would be just the second Catholic president, white Catholics -- an on-again, off-again swing voter group -- side with Trump, 55%-44%.


This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cellular telephone Sept. 21 to 24, 2020, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,008 adults, including 889 registered voters and 739 likely voters. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 points, including design effects, for the full sample and registered voters, and 4.0 points for likely voters. Partisan divisions are 31%-27%-37%, Democrats-Republicans-independents, among all respondents; 33%-29%-35% among registered voters; and 33%-32%-32% among likely voters.

The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York, with sampling and data collection by Abt Associates of Rockville, Maryland. See details on the survey's methodology here.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Chip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesBY: MEREDITH DELISO, ABC NEWS

(WASHINGTON) -- Republican and Democratic leaders reacted largely along party lines to President Donald Trump's nomination on Saturday of a conservative federal judge to fill the seat left by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Overwhelmingly, Republicans called Amy Coney Barrett a well-qualified candidate and pushed for a confirmation in "the weeks ahead." Democrats continued to criticize the timing, with some outright saying they wouldn't meet with the nominee.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., confirmed that the hearings would begin on Monday, Oct. 12 with opening statements from Barrett and members of the Judiciary Committee. The next two days would be reserved for questioning from the committee. Testimony from those who know Barrett and legal experts would either come following questioning on Wednesday or on Thursday.

In an interview with Fox News Saturday night, Graham said, "I expect the nominee will be challenged and that's appropriate to challenge the nominee. If they treat Judge Barrett like they did Justice [Brett] Kavanaugh it's going to blow up in their face big time."

Graham said he hopes to move Barrett out of committee by Oct. 26 -- just eight days before Election Day.

On Saturday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., promised that Barrett would receive a vote on the Senate floor in the "weeks ahead, following the work of the Judiciary Committee."

"The Senate will evaluate this nomination on the basis of Judge Barrett's objective qualifications," McConnell said in a statement, noting that he plans to meet with Barrett next week. "But it cannot escape notice that this nominee has also already won national admiration for her shining example of strong female leadership at the very top of her field."

In a statement, Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., said she was "proud to support" Barrett, while Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said in a statement that he looked forward "to reviewing Judge Barrett's record further in the coming weeks and speaking with her soon as I consider her nomination."

Former Vice President Joe Biden, however, criticized Trump for moving ahead with the nomination so close to Election Day.

"The Senate should not act on this vacancy until after the American people select their next president and the next Congress," he said in a statement.

His running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., said that the next president must select the next justice.

"With the next Supreme Court Justice set to determine the fate of protections for those with preexisting health conditions, and reproductive health options, I will continue to fight on behalf of the people and strongly oppose the president's nomination," Harris said in a statement.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement that he would oppose the confirmation of Barrett, "as I would any nominee proposed as part of this illegitimate sham process."

"I refuse to treat this process as legitimate and will not meet with Judge Barrett," he added.

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., said in a statement that "this vacancy should be filled by the winner of the ongoing election," noting that he would not support a confirmation until the results of the presidential election are known.

Several Democrats, meanwhile, emphasized the impact that Barrett's nomination will have on several issues, including health care. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in a case against the Affordable Care Act on Nov. 10.

In a statement, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said a "vote by any Senator for Judge Amy Coney Barrett is a vote to strike down the Affordable Care Act and eliminate protections for millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions."

During a press conference Saturday night, Schumer said he believes Barrett will "become very unpopular with average Americans" once they learn of her record on health care. "I hope they will put pressure on their Republican senators to adhere to Justice Ginsburg's dying wish and let the next president decide," he added.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., called the nomination a "transparent grab for power" by Trump and Senate Republicans "so they can achieve their long-sought goal of repealing the Affordable Care Act and ripping away healthcare from millions -- including every COVID-19 survivor who now has a pre-existing condition."

"This is a fight about whether we are going to take away health care from millions of Americans in the middle of the deadliest pandemic in a century," Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., said in a statement, echoing Duckworth's concerns.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump on Saturday announced his nomination of federal Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court to fill the seat of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The move to select Barrett sets up what promises to be a bitter confirmation fight less than two months before Election Day -- an unexpected twist in an election season already fraught with the coronavirus pandemic and attempts by the president to undermine confidence in the result.

It also promises to upend the relative ideological balance that has marked the court for decades, establishing a clear conservative majority should Trump's nominee be seated.

"Judge Barrett was confirmed to the circuit court three years ago by a bipartisan vote. Her qualifications are unsurpassed. Unsurpassed and her record is beyond reproach. This should be a straightforward and prompt confirmation," Trump said during the Rose Garden announcement.

He added, "To maintain security, liberty, and prosperity we must preserve our priceless heritage of a nation of laws, and there's no one better to do that than Amy coney Barrett."

Upon her nomination, Barrett said, "I love the United States, and I love the United States' Constitution. I'm truly humbled by the prospect of serving on the Supreme Court."

A devout Catholic, mother of seven and the favored choice of conservative groups, Barrett is a relative newcomer to the federal bench, having served just three years on the Chicago-based 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. Despite her short tenure as a federal judge, the longtime Notre Dame Law professor emerged as the front-runner on Trump's shortlist in the days following Ginsburg's death.

At 48, Barrett is the youngest Supreme Court nominee since Clarence Thomas in 1991, and could expect to serve well into the middle of the century – an attractive prospect to Trump and his allies on Capitol Hill.

Barrett's appeal within the administration has also been shaped in part by her reputation as a protégé of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, an icon of the religious right for whom she once clerked, sources said.

For Democrats, Barrett's conservative tilt and religious affiliation – expressed largely through her prolific catalog of scholarly writings – made her approval to the federal bench in 2017 a bitter affair. During a combative confirmation hearing for the post, Barrett became a rock star in conservative circles – not for what she told the committee, but what a powerful Senator said to her.

"Whatever a religion is, it has its own dogma. The law is totally different," said California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the committee's ranking Democrat. "I think in your case, professor … the dogma lives loudly within you, and that is of concern."

Feinstein's comments drew rebukes from religious freedom groups and Republican senators. Her phrase, "the dogma lives loudly within you," has since made its way onto tee shirts and mugs for sale on the internet.

During the same hearing, Barrett said, "I take my faith seriously and I'm a faithful Catholic," but assured senators that it is "never appropriate to impose a judge's personal convictions, whether they arise from faith or anywhere else, on the law."

Professor Rick Garnett, a former colleague and Barrett's neighbor, said the "grace" with which Barrett fielded Feinstein's remarks appealed to religious conservatives and improved her standing with those in the administration.

"The way she handled that [hearing] elevated her in the public conversation," Garnett told ABC News. "It's not just that some of the senators said some strange things about religion, but it was that then-Professor Barrett handled it in a dignified way and I think it made a lot of Americans – religious believers of all stripes – feel inspired and proud."

Eventually, the Senate approved her nomination 55-43, with just three Democrats voting across party lines.

A self-described originalist, Barrett's tenure as an appellate judge has affirmed her conservative credentials. She authored a 2018 dissent arguing that convicted felons should not be barred from having guns. And while she has not issued a ruling yet on abortion, she has twice staked out positions aligned with the anti-abortion movement.

Prior to her judgeship, Barrett made a name for herself at Notre Dame Law School, also her alma mater. During her 2017 confirmation process, her Notre Dame Law colleagues penned a glowing – and unanimous – endorsement letter. More than 450 former students also advocated her confirmation.

She supplemented her time in the classroom – where she taught courses on federal courts, constitutional law, and statutory interpretation – with several scholarly articles on subjects ranging from Supreme Court precedent to due process.

In her scholarly work, Barrett has argued for Catholic judges to recuse themselves from death penalty cases, citing the "the moral impossibility of enforcing capital punishment," and suggested that legal precedent is susceptible to being overturned, leading critics to question how she would consider the landmark abortion ruling Roe v. Wade. In 2013, Barrett was quoted in the Notre Dame student newspaper as saying that "it is very unlikely at this point that the court is going to overturn Roe [v. Wade]."

During the 2017 confirmation, Barrett walked back her position on the death penalty, telling senators that she would not recuse "as a blanket matter" from capital punishment cases. On abortion, she stood by past comments that "abortion … is always immoral," but added that, if confirmed, her "views on this or any other question will have no bearing on the discharge of [her] duties as a judge."

Scrutiny of Barrett's faith has also extended to her personal affiliations, particularly her longtime ties to a Charismatic Christian community called People of Praise.

The group encourages its more than 1,700 members to make a covenant to the community, and it also assigns younger members a personal mentor, known as a "head" or "leader." Until recently, women in those roles were referred to as "handmaids," which led some news outlets and commentators to speculate that People of Praise may have been the inspiration behind Margaret Atwood's famous novel, "The Handmaid's Tale." Both Atwood and People of Praise denied those claims.

Barrett has not spoken publicly about her involvement in People of Praise, and neither the group nor an aide to Barrett would comment on her current status with the organization. Critics suggest her ties to the community and a covenant many members make – which the group describes as "a promise of love and service we choose to make to one another" – may conflict with her oath to uphold the constitution. For its part, People of Praise denies that its practices would have any effect on a member's professional life.

Barrett's confirmation process is expected to be strained by the political pressure of a nomination and hearing so close to a presidential election.

Democrats have accused Republicans of hypocrisy in moving forward with a replacement for Ginsburg, who died last week with only 45 days before the November vote. In 2016, Republicans blocked President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, after Scalia's death more than 200 days before the election.

A native of Louisiana, Barrett attended Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn., for undergraduate studies before earning her law degree summa cum laude from the Notre Dame in 1997. After graduating law school, Barrett clerked for Judge Laurence Silberman of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and then Scalia before a brief stint in private practice in Washington, D.C.

Her husband, Jesse Barrett, served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of Indiana.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Darrylann Elmi/iStockBy ALISA WIERSMA, ABC News

(LUZERNE COUNTY, Penn.) -- An incident regarding "a small number" of discarded mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania -- which has sparked a Department of Justice investigation and drawn the attention of President Donald Trump -- appears to be rooted in an administrative error by a temporary contractor working at the Luzerne County Elections Bureau, according to the county manager.

He also said county officials did not know which candidate was selected on the ballots until the Justice Department publicly disclosed the information earlier this week.

Luzerne County Manager C. David Pedri said in a statement issued Friday that a temporary independent contractor who was assigned to sort mail at the elections bureau "incorrectly discarded into the office trash UMOVA ballots," which is an acronym for ballots from military and overseas voters. The U.S. Attorney's Office in the Middle District of Pennsylvania said on Thursday that nine ballots had been found in a dumpster next to the elections building with seven cast for Trump and the other two resealed inside their envelopes.

"Luzerne County Elections staff were unaware for whom the ballots were cast until the disclosure via Press Release of the United States Attorney on September 24, 2020," the statement reads.

The temporary employee began working at the elections bureau on Sept. 14, Pedri said, and the mistake was discovered by Luzerne County Elections Director Shelby Watchilla two days later.

"Ms. Watchilla immediately began an internal inquiry and informed her direct supervisor. The temporary independent contractor was removed from service and informed not to return," Pedri said in the statement.

Following the internal inquiry, Watchilla "contacted Luzerne County Office of Law who researched the matter and advised that this needed to be reported to the authorities," after which a request was made to the district attorney's office.

Pedri said "all garbage from the Elections Bureau" that accumulated during the three-day period of the independent contractor's employment "was placed in a dumpster and secured by Luzerne County staff."

"Each bag of garbage from the entire building in the dumpster was searched by the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office, Pennsylvania State Police as well as Luzerne County staff. All items of concern were taken into custody by the Federal Bureau of Investigations," he wrote.

Ballot envelopes cannot be opened until the canvass is under way, and it is incumbent on counties to properly store and maintain the security of returned ballots, according to the Pennsylvania Election Code. Pedri said Luzerne County "will attempt to contact the voters involved and process their votes."

The county, along with the Pennsylvania Department of State, plans to provide extra training to all staff, and has installed a security camera in the elections bureau to "actively monitor and ensure that all staff are strictly adhering to proper procedures and protocols."

A Justice Department official told ABC News Friday that Attorney General William Barr personally briefed Trump about the DOJ's investigation prior to it being made public Thursday. The president went on to discuss the incident on Fox News Radio's "Brian Kilmeade Show," claiming without evidence it backed up his baseless claims on fraudulent mail-in voting.

FBI Director Christopher Wray discussed fraudulent voting during a Senate hearing Thursday, saying, "We have not seen, historically, any kind of coordinated national voter fraud effort in a major election, whether it's by mail or otherwise."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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