First thing election special: at last, a mute button for Trump

Tim Walker
·6-min read
<span>Photograph: Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images

Good morning.

Donald Trump has complained that a new rule introduced for his final televised debate with Joe Biden on Thursday, whereby the candidates’ mics will be muted during their opponent’s responses, is “very unfair”. The presidential debate commission came up with the format change after the chaotic first debate in September, during which the president interrupted Biden and the moderator, Chris Wallace, at least 128 times.

Trump has also described the moderator for the final debate, NBC’s Kristen Welker, as “extremely unfair”. Meanwhile, his campaign claims Welker’s choice of topics goes beyond what it believed would be a debate focused on foreign policy. The president will take part nonetheless, his campaign manager, Bill Stepien, said, adding:

President Trump is committed to debating Joe Biden regardless of last-minute rule changes from the biased commission in their latest attempt to provide advantage to their favored candidate.

  • Trump and Biden’s paths to 270. On the latest edition of our Today in Focus podcast, Lauren Gambino lays out what the two presidential candidates must do between now and 3 November – and which states they have to win on election day – to reach 270 electoral college votes.

‘People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots’

Trump and Fauci in April.
Trump and Fauci in April. Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

With coronavirus cases climbing across the US, Trump launched another broadside at Dr Anthony Fauci on Monday. “People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots,” the president said in a call to his campaign staff, describing the administration’s top pandemic expert as a “disaster” and moaning: “Every time he goes on television, there’s always a bomb – but there’s a bigger bomb if you fire him.”

The president’s anger was apparently sparked by an interview Fauci gave to CBS’s 60 Minutes, in which he said the White House had blocked him from appearing on “many, many, many shows” that requested similar interviews – and admitted he was “absolutely not” surprised that Trump recently contracted Covid-19, given his lax approach to safety measures.

The supreme court won’t prevent Pennsylvania mail-in voting

A post office in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
A post office in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photograph: Rachel Wisniewski/Reuters

The US supreme court has rejected a Republican plea to limit mail-in voting in Pennsylvania: a potentially crucial ruling that will allow officials to keep counting mail-in ballots in the key swing state after election day, as long as they are postmarked by 3 November and received up to three days later.

Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s three liberal justices in the ruling, producing a 4-4 deadlock – but raising concerns about how the court might rule on such cases in future, assuming Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed as its sixth conservative justice.

  • A ballot drop-box was set ablaze in Los Angeles, damaging some voters’ mail-in ballots in what the LA county supervisor said appeared to be a deliberate case of arson, with “all the signs of an attempt to disenfranchise voters and call into question the security of our elections”.

Are Republican senators distancing themselves from Trump?

Georgia senator and Trump loyalist Kelly Loeffler takes a selfie with supporters.
Georgia senator and Trump loyalist Kelly Loeffler takes a selfie with supporters. Photograph: Erik S Lesser/EPA

With the battle for control of the US Senate looking even closer than the presidential race, some Republican senators believe boasting about their closeness to Trump is the best way to win re-election, while others attempt to distance themselves from a divisive president:

  • In Georgia, Senator Kelly Loeffler has embraced a QAnon-promoting congressional candidate as she tries to outpace rival fellow Republican Doug Collins in their race to the right. Both candidates are also competing with Democrat Raphael Warnock in a three-way contest for Loeffler’s seat.

  • Texas senator John Cornyn has compared his relationship with Trump to a marriage, in which Cornyn was “like a lot of women who get married and think they’re going to change their spouse, and that doesn’t usually work out very well”.

  • Ben Sasse of Nebraska criticised Trump on a call with constituents, saying he had “never been on the Trump train”. The president hit back on Twitter, calling Sass “stupid”, “obnoxious” and “the least effective of our 53 Republican senators”.

In other election news…

The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, is due to speak to the Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, on Tuesday.
The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, is due to speak to the Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, on Tuesday. Photograph: J Scott Applewhite/AP

Stat of the day

More than 100,000 Californians have bought a gun since the start of the coronavirus pandemic – and almost half of them were first-time gun owners – raising fears about the risk of suicide and deadly instances of domestic violence.

View from the right

California authorities are investigating the GOP’s use of unofficial ballot drop-boxes, which the state says is illegal. But the Wall Street Journal editorial board says it is Democrats who started ballot-harvesting in California – and Republicans are merely imitating the practice.

The GOP’s ballot depositories don’t threaten election security any more than Democrats’ door-to-door operations. Both entail voters entrusting their ballots to third parties. Why are Democratic and union canvassers more trustworthy than churches and gun shops?

Don’t miss this

Over the past four years, Trump has shredded environmental protections for American land, animals and people. We identify 75 ways in which his presidency made the country dirtier and the planet warmer, while Paola Rosa-Aquino reports on the animal species imperilled by the rollback of environmental rules.

Last Thing: The Zoom where it happened

Jeffrey Toobin: &#x002018;I thought I had muted the Zoom video.&#x002019;
Jeffrey Toobin: ‘I thought I had muted the Zoom video.’ Photograph: Alexander Drago/Reuters

The New Yorker has suspended its long-term staffer, the legal expert Jeffrey Toobin, after he allegedly masturbated during a Zoom call with colleagues this month. The video call involved writers from the magazine and employees of the radio station WNYC, who were reportedly planning their podcast coverage of election night. “I thought I had muted the Zoom video,” Toobin said.

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