News roundup: Dueling versions of reality define first week of fall campaign
Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 5, 2020
NEW YORK (AP) — On the campaign trail with President Donald Trump, the pandemic is largely over, the economy is roaring back, and murderous mobs are infiltrating America’s suburbs.
With Democrat Joe Biden, the pandemic is raging, the economy isn’t lifting the working class, and systemic racism threatens Black lives across America.
The first week of the fall sprint to Election Day crystallized dizzyingly different versions of reality as the Republican incumbent and his Democratic challenger trekked from Washington and Delaware to Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and back, each man on an urgent mission to sell his particular message to anxious voters.
All the conflicting messages carry at least a sliver of truth, some much more than others, as the candidates fight to navigate one of the most turbulent election seasons in modern history. And beyond legitimate crises threatening public health, the economy and public safety, a new divide erupted Friday over the military.
Trump aggressively denied allegations reported late Thursday that in 2018, he described U.S. service members killed in World War I and buried at an American military cemetery in France as “losers” and “suckers.” The report, sourced anonymously by The Atlantic and largely confirmed by The Associated Press, comes as Trump tries to win support from military members and their families by highlighting a commitment to veterans’ health care and military spending.
Biden slams Trump over alleged comments mocking US war dead
WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden declared President Donald Trump “unfit” for the presidency on Friday, delivering an impassioned reaction to a report that Trump — who never served in uniform — allegedly mocked American war dead.
The president and his allies have dismissed the report in The Atlantic as false.
The allegations, sourced anonymously, describe multiple offensive comments by the president toward fallen and captured U.S. service members, including calling World War I dead at an American military cemetery in France “losers” and “suckers” in 2018.
The reported comments, many of which were confirmed independently by The Associated Press, are shining a fresh light on Trump’s previous public disparagement of American troops and military families. That opens a new political vulnerability for the president less than two months from Election Day.
Voice cracking, Biden told reporters that “you know in your gut” Trump’s comments, if true, are “deplorable.”
Portland killing suspect and victim had guns, documents say
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Both the suspect in the slaying of the right-wing protester in Portland, Oregon last weekend and the victim had handguns when their confrontation started after dueling street demonstrations, according to court documents made public Friday.
The documents said victim Aaron “Jay” Danielson, a supporter of a right-wing group called Patriot Prayer, was wearing a loaded Glock pistol in a holster and had bear spray and an expandable metal baton when someone said something like “wanna go,” which is frequently a challenge to a fight.
Authorities have said they believe antifa supporter Michael Forest Reinoehl, who was fatally shot by federal agents late Thursday in Washington state, then opened fire and killed Danielson after he took part in a caravan of President Donald Trump supporters who drove pickup trucks through downtown Portland.
Some of the Trump supporters fired paint ball pellets at counter-demonstrators, while Black Lives Matter protesters tried to block the vehicles.
Law enforcement officials released the information they had compiled — justifying an arrest warrant for Reinoehl on a second-degree murder charge in the Aug. 29 killing — one day after Reinoehl’s killing shook a quiet suburb of Olympia, Washington.
Unemployment rate falls to 8.4% even as hiring slows
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. unemployment dropped sharply in August from 10.2% to a still-high 8.4%, with about half the 22 million jobs lost to the coronavirus outbreak recovered so far, the government said Friday in one of the last major economic reports before Election Day.
Employers added 1.4 million jobs last month, down from 1.7 million in July and the fewest since hiring resumed in May. And an increasingly large share of Americans reported that their jobs are gone for good, according to the Labor Department report.
Altogether, that was seen by economists as evidence that further improvement is going to be sluggish and uneven.
“The fact that employment is settling into a trend of slower, grinding growth is worrisome for the broader recovery,” said Lydia Boussour, an economist at Oxford Economics.
Still, President Donald Trump, who is seeking reelection in less than two months amid the worst economic downturn since the Depression in the 1930s, exulted over the latest unemployment figure, saying, “That is many, many months ahead of schedule.”
In Barr, Trump has powerful ally for challenging mail voting
WASHINGTON (AP) — As President Donald Trump sows doubt about the legitimacy of the 2020 election, he’s found a powerful partner in Attorney General William Barr.
Like Trump, Barr has repeatedly sounded alarms about the November vote despite a lack of evidence pointing to pervasive problems with the process.
That’s important — and worrisome to Democrats — because Barr is no ordinary Cabinet member. As head of the Justice Department, he can shape investigations into election interference and voting fraud. Though the department doesn’t oversee elections, it could inject itself into court fights over disputed contests. And any statements from America’s top law enforcement officer questioning election results could further shake public confidence in the vote at a time of widespread disinformation and rumors.
“Those who think that Barr is watching over the interests of Trump rather than the interests of the country have reason to be concerned that he would weaponize the Justice Department’s investigative authority to help Trump at least politically, if not legally, in any post-election challenge,” said Richard Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California, Irvine.
Concerns about Barr among Democrats and election experts outside the department are heightened because he is seen as a loyalist to the president, as well as an ardent defender of broad executive power and a passionate critic of the FBI’s Russia probe.
Trump targets ‘white privilege’ training as ‘anti-American’
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump has directed the Office of Management and Budget to crack down on federal agencies’ anti-racism training sessions, calling them “divisive, anti-American propaganda.”
OMB director Russell Vought, in a letter Friday to executive branch agencies, directed them to identify spending related to any training on “critical race theory,” “white privilege” or any other material that teaches or suggests that the United States or any race or ethnicity is “inherently racist or evil.”
The memo comes as the nation has faced a reckoning this summer over racial injustice in policing and other spheres of American life. Trump has spent much of the summer defending the display of the Confederate battle flag and monuments of Civil War rebels from protesters seeking their removal, in what he has called a “culture war” ahead of the Nov. 3 election.
Meanwhile, he has rejected comments from Democratic nominee Joe Biden and others that there is “systemic racism” in policing and American culture that must be addressed.
Vought’s memo cites “press reports” as contributing to Trump’s decision, apparently referring to segments on Fox News and other outlets that have stoked conservative outrage about the federal training.
Pentagon reaffirms Microsoft as winner of disputed JEDI deal
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon on Friday reaffirmed Microsoft as winner of a cloud computing contract potentially worth $10 billion, although the start of work is delayed by a legal battle over rival Amazon’s claim that the bidding process was flawed.
“The department has completed its comprehensive re-evaluation of the JEDI cloud proposals and determined that Microsoft’s proposal continues to represent the best value to the government,” the Pentagon said.
The Pentagon had requested time to review how it evaluated certain technical aspects of the bids after the judge who is presiding over Amazon’s bid protest in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims issued a preliminary injunction on Feb. 13. The judge said that Amazon’s challenge likely had merit in some respects.
The contract was awarded to Microsoft last October, prompting Amazon to cry foul.
Amazon Web Services, a market leader in providing cloud computing services, had long been considered a leading candidate to run the Pentagon’s Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure project, known as JEDI. The project will store and process vast amounts of classified data, allowing the U.S. military to improve communications with soldiers on the battlefield and use artificial intelligence to speed up its war planning and fighting capabilities.
NOT REAL NEWS: A look at what didn’t happen this week
A roundup of some of the most popular but completely untrue stories and visuals of the week. None of these are legit, even though they were shared widely on social media. The Associated Press checked them out. Here are the facts:
CLAIM: A Black woman speaking at a community event with Joe Biden in Kenosha, Wisconsin, exposed the Democratic presidential candidate by saying she would not “go off” a paper she was provided by his campaign.
THE FACTS: Porsche Bennett, the woman speaking, was given the paper to read by her organization, not by Biden’s campaign. On Thursday when Biden visited Kenosha social media users circulated a video clip of Bennett speaking at Grace Lutheran Church in Kenosha. In the video, Bennett appears to go off script during a question and answer period, saying: “I’m just going to be honest, Mr. Biden, I was told to go off this paper, but I can’t. We need the truth and I am a part of the truth.” Bennett told reporters after speaking that she was given the paper by Black Lives Activists Kenosha (BLAK), where she is an organizer. Biden’s campaign told the AP that when Bennett said she was going off script, she was referring to prewritten questions given to her by her organization. The campaign said it did not provide any scripts or written material for participants to read. The Trump War Room, an official Twitter account for the president’s campaign, tweeted the video of Bennett on Thursday, stating: “Woman at Biden event in Kenosha says she was given a “paper” telling her what to say.” The tweet was retweeted thousands of times and the clip of Bennett making the comment was widely shared across Facebook and Twitter . “AMERICA EXPOSES BIDEN‼️ @JoeBiden & his Dem handlers give out questions to constituents to ask ONLY what THEY wrote down. Porsche Bennett was not having that!,” said one tweet. Biden visited Kenosha in response to protests and unrest that followed the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by a white Kenosha police officer on Aug. 23 . At the event, Bennett said her community was angry over the shooting of Blake, and demanded change.
— Associated Press writer Beatrice Dupuy reported this item from New York.
US Forest Service police dog survives second stabbing attack
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A highly decorated U.S. Forest Service police dog suffered nine stab wounds during a marijuana raid in Northern California. But he survived after he was airlifted to a veterinary clinic, the agency said Friday.
What’s more, it’s the second time the dog, an 11-year-old Belgian Malinois named Ice, recovered after being seriously injured on the job.
Ice was wounded Aug. 27 in the Klamath National Forest south of the Oregon border when he was released to catch a suspect who had fled down a steep hill to escape the raid that unearthed more than 5,500 marijuana plants. He kept hold of the suspect even after he was stabbed, while his handler, Patrol Capt. Christopher Magallon, made the arrest.
Magallon then gave his dog first aid while calling in a helicopter, which flew Ice more than 70 miles to the Veterinary Specialty Center in Medford, Oregon. The dog, which had been wearing a protective vest, was released later that afternoon, and federal prosecutors are still considering charges.
“Thankfully, despite the attack, no major areas were struck, and Ice will quickly recover and return to service until his expected retirement at the end of this month,” Cody Wheeler, the Forest Services’ North Zone patrol commander, said in a statement.