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2020 Daily Trail Markers: Joe Biden pushes back on Trump's claims

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Joe Biden rebutted allegations Friday that his son Hunter Biden's presence on the board of a Ukrainian energy company when the older Biden was vice president represented a conflict of interest. 

"It's not a conflict of interest. There has been no indication of any conflict of interest from Ukraine or anywhere else. Period. I'm not going to respond to that," Biden said when asked by CBS News Campaign Reporter Bo Erickson.

When Erickson pressed Biden if he's worried about the appearance of a conflict of interest, Biden jabbed his finger and said, "Focus on this man! What he is doing – what no president has ever done. No president."

This full-throated defense of Hunter Biden's connection to Ukraine is the first time in two weeks Joe Biden has directly responded to the allegations from the White House on the issue. Mr. Trump is currently the subject of an impeachment inquiry stemming from a July phone call in which he asked the Ukrainian president to investigate Hunter Biden but has tried to turn attention back to former vice president and his family. 

In a brief statement ahead of taking questions, Biden said, "All this talk by the president about corruption comes from the most corrupt president we've had in modern history. He's the definition of corruption." Biden also said Mr. Trump is worried he could beat him "like a drum."

When asked about the Ukraine issue over the past two weeks, Biden cited the lack of evidence behind the president's claims as reason to not believe them. In Nevada this week he also ripped into the president's character and said "abuse of power is the defining characteristic of the Trump presidency." 

Yet as both interviews with his supporters and a new Monmouth poll indicate, even some Democrats have questions about why the former vice president would allow his son to make considerable money in Ukraine while he was in charge of U.S. policy initiatives there.

Biden had been reluctant to confront the corruption accusations coming from Mr. Trump and his allies, a decision former Obama administration officials chalk up to his protectiveness toward his family. His family-man credentials, in fact, are routinely cited by his supporters as reason enough to support him.

The White House, meanwhile, continues to accuse the Bidens of corruption. The president's re-election campaign launched a $10 million dollar ad buy last week focused on their allegations relating to Biden. And in Arizona on Friday, Pence said, "I think the American people have a right to know if the Vice President of the United States or his family profited from his position as Vice President during the last administration."

But will Biden's push-back be enough to inspire confidence in Democratic voters as he looks to show he would be Mr. Trump's most formidable opponent? 

FROM THE CANDIDATES

STEVE BULLOCK

On Friday, Montana Governor Steve Bullock announced that he raised $2.3 million dollars during the third quarter fundraising time frame. This is slightly more than the little over $2 million the governor raised in the second quarter, despite entering the race halfway through that quarter, according to CBS News Campaign Reporter Tim Perry. The campaign says Bullock doubled his amount of individual donors, with 97% of donations coming in under $200. "Our growing grassroots support helps build a robust campaign to compete in early states like Iowa and beyond," Bullock said.  

TULSI GABBARD 

It's been 3 months—104 days to be exact—since Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard visited South Carolina. She may be one of the only presidential candidates with billboards lining highways here, but of all of her visits to early states, Gabbard has spent the least amount of time in South Carolina, notes CBS News Campaign Reporter LaCrai Mitchell

According to CBS News Battleground Trackers, Gabbard has continued to poll at 1% or less as the first choice for South Carolina Democrats. In a press release from her team earlier this week, Gabbard's campaign said this weekend's swing will be about her sharing "her bold vision for ending [the country's] engagement in costly regime change wars, the new Cold War and arms race, and investing our resources in serving the needs of the American people." 

On Saturday, she and six other presidential candidates will be attending the 10th annual Blue Jamboree hosted by the Charleston County Democratic Party.

BERNIE SANDERS

Bernie Sanders walked out the hospital Friday with his fist in the air, waving to cameras, CBS News Campaign Reporter Cara Korte says. The Vermont senator was accompanied by his wife Jane and campaign staffers as he shouted to cameras that he was, "great, great. Thank you." He was wearing slacks, a blue blazer and button down shirt. 

Sanders underwent emergency heart surgery earlier this week and had a stent placed in an artery. In a statement, Dr. Arturo E. Marchand Jr. and Dr. Arjun Gururaj, who treated Sanders at Desert Springs Hospital Medical Center said, "After presenting to an outside facility with chest pain, Sen. Sanders was diagnosed with a myocardial infarction. He was immediately transferred to Desert Springs Hospital Medical Center. The Senator was stable upon arrival and taken immediately to the cardiac catheterization laboratory, at which time two stents were placed in a blocked coronary artery in a timely fashion. All other arteries were normal."  

Myocardial infarction is another term for a heart attack. Sanders is expected to appear in the next Democratic debate on October 15.

Meanwhile, the senator's campaign is touting its strong fundraising in the third quarter even as hopefuls Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden continue to lead in recent polls, according to CBS News Political Unit Associate Producer Sarah Ewall-Wice. This week, the Sanders campaign announced it had raised $25.3 million from July through September, ahead of Warren's $24.6 million and Biden's $15.2 million. 

"While the media and political pundits spent the last several months casting doubt on Sen. Sanders' chances at winning the White House, the working people of this country are ignoring conventional wisdom from Washington," said Sanders' campaign manager Faiz Shakir in a statement Friday. "They're demanding a political revolution which transforms our government and economy, and they are willing to contribute to make that happen." 

Shakir went on to claim that Sanders has received more contributions from individuals than any candidate in the history of American presidential politics and the overwhelming majority came from working Americans. The top occupation listed for donors was "teacher." The average donation, according to the campaign, was $18. 

"Our third quarter fundraising totals make clear that Bernie's campaign is part of a working class movement taking on the greed and corruption of the corporate elite. Let me thank all of our contributors and volunteers. We're going to win and create the political revolution," said Shakir. 

On Friday, the campaign also said it had received nearly 24,000 individual donations in South Carolina and more than 30,000 donations from nearly 10,000 people in Nevada. According to the campaign, 99.9% of Sanders' donors have not maxed out their contributions and can give again.

With these high fundraising totals, CBS News Campaign Reporter Cara Korte asks, what do these numbers mean for Sanders? In donations, he's beating Warren. In polling, she's ahead. So what with the discrepancy? They're both attracting big crowds. Thousands gathered for Warren in South Carolina this week. But just two weeks ago, Sanders had nearly 5,000 people show up to see him in Warren's home state of Oklahoma.  

TOM STEYER

Tom Steyer was the keynote speaker during the 2nd annual Black Elected Officials Summit hosted by the South Carolina Legislative Black Caucus in the state's capital city on Friday. SCLBC spokesperson Nick Sottile tells CBS News Campaign Reporter LaCrai Mitchell that 112 attendees gathered for the event and that all presidential campaigns were invited. 

In addition to Steyer, surrogates for Elizabeth Warren and Mayor Pete Buttigieg gave remarks and campaign representatives for Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders were also in attendance. Sottile says that it's important for presidential candidates to earn the support of black voters in South Carolina and to make inroads with the SCLBC. 

"We appreciate that [Mr. Steyer] values building relationships in South Carolina," said Sottile. "SCLBC members know their communities and they know what policies can help lift up their constituents…our members play an important role in vetting presidential candidates."

ELIZABETH WARREN

If campaign event turnout is any measure, Elizabeth Warren is leading the Democratic presidential race, according to CBS News Campaign Reporter Zak Hudak. In San Diego Thursday night, for example, some supporters waited in line until nearly midnight for a signature Warren "selfie," and she drew an estimated crowd of 8,500 people. The former professor, who had seldom deviated from her stump speech on the trail, has recently shown new strength in interacting with large crowds as she has broken from talking points. 

Hudak also says Warren's national organizing director, Rich McDaniel, was fired from the campaign after an investigation from outside counsel into complaints about inappropriate behavior, according to Communications Director Kristen Orthman. "Based on the results of the investigation, the campaign determined that his reported conduct was inconsistent with its values and that he could not be a part of the campaign moving forward," she said in a statement.

MONEY MATTERS

FROM THE GRASSROOTS UP

Senator Elizabeth Warren's campaign raised $24.6 million in the third quarter, putting her just shy of Senator Bernie Sanders' $25.3 million cash haul this period, but ahead of former Vice President Joe Biden, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Senator Kamala Harris in the top-tier of the presidential race. CBS News Campaign Political Unit Associate Producer Sarah Ewall-Wice says the strong totals from Warren and Sanders show the staying power of grassroots-fueled fundraising in the Democratic primary. 

According to Warren's campaign, the funding came from more than 500,000 donors making more than 940,000 donations. Sanders raised funds from more than 1.4 million donations in the third quarter. Former Democratic campaign aides have praised the cash hauls of both Warren and Sanders but are raising concerns that Democrats can't afford to play by a different set of rules this campaign season.  

Earlier this week, the Trump campaign announced that combined with the RNC they had raised a total of $125 million in the third quarter. All together, the Democratic candidates in the race have just raised more than $100 million, not including a number of hopefuls who have yet to reveal their fundraising totals. Candidates are required to file with the FEC by October 15.

ISSUES THAT MATTER

TO YOUR HEALTH

Nearly 54 million Americans have pre-existing conditions which would make them uninsurable in the individual market without the Affordable Care Act, according the Kaiser Family Foundation. CBS News Campaign Political Unit Associate Producer Sarah Ewall-Wice says the updated analysis comes as health care remains a top issue on the 2020 campaign trail. 

According to the KFF analysis, the number of adults with declinable pre-existing conditions varied from state to state, from at least a third of the adult populations in West Virginia, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Mississippi to about one-in-five in Colorado. Older working-aged Americans ages 55 to 64 were the group most likely to have a declinable pre-existing condition if not for ACA protections. 

While most people with pre-existing conditions, according to the KFF, are covered by employers or programs such as Medicaid, people look to the individual market when dealing with transition periods such as job changes. In 2017, Republicans tried and failed to repeal the ACA without a plan in place to replace it. 

Now, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is weighing a decision on whether to overturn the entire ACA in a case brought by the state of Texas and backed by several state attorneys general and the Trump administration. In April, a group of Republican Senators lead by Senator Thom Tillis introduced a bill to protect people with pre-existing conditions. 

CONGRESSIONAL COVERAGE

VIRGINIA BEACH TOWN HALL

During the first 20 minutes of her town hall, swing-district Democrat Rep. Elaine Luria (VI-2) took questions on just the impeachment inquiry. CBS News Political Unit Broadcast Associate Aaron Navarro reports that her constituents were evenly split in their opinions on impeachment, with many congratulating her stance in support of the inquiry and others criticizing her, Chairman Adam Schiff and Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Rep. Luria was firm in her position, and talked about constitutional duty and how Trump's actions affect the 2020 election. "This instance is a clear instance of the President of United States, enlisting the help of a foreign leader to influence and malign potential political opponents to affect the outcome of our next election," she said at the town hall. 

Navarro talked to Vincent Smith, a town hall attendee, who said this latest impeachment inquiry is another distraction tactic and that Luria is "just following the party line." Smith is a worker at Virginia Beach Municipal Building 2, the site of last year's mass shooting. He said the impeachment inquiry was a distraction from issues such as public worker safety. Another woman that attended, Carol Maxwell, supports the impeachment inquiry and Luria's support of it. She also said that Trump's phone call with China shows that he just "being flippant again… it's hard to understand and watch."

When asked about the political risk her stance on impeachment has, Rep. Luria said she has no hesitations. "People might say, why would you do that? You might not get reelected? I don't care because I did the right thing." The only Republican filed to challenge her in 2020 is Scott W. Taylor, a rematch of her 2018 race.

PELOSI IN THE PALMETTO STATE

Speaker Nancy Pelosi will join the South Carolina Democratic Party for a fundraising dinner in one of the redder regions of South Carolina Friday evening, says CBS News Campaign Reporter LaCrai Mitchell. The SCDP says the visit to Greenville is a way of showing Democrats in the region that the party is fighting for them. "It is allowing us to take the fight directly to the Republicans and allow us to set the narrative in Greenville," said SCDP communications director Tim Sullivan. "Republicans don't realize how much the Trump presidency has hurt them in this state." 

In an email statement sent by his team, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican a close Trump ally, said he welcomes Pelosi to the state but has serious concerns about the impeachment inquiry the House is leading. "If Nancy Pelosi wants an impeachment inquiry so badly, why isn't she putting every member of the House of Representatives on the record?" asks Graham in the email statement. "I believe impeaching President Trump over his phone call with the President of Ukraine is insane."

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT…

Here is a roundup of the Political Unit's reporting for CBSN and CBSNews.com this week:

CBSN PM

·         Wednesday CBSN PM – Sanders hospitalized for heart procedure // By Cara Korte

TRAIL MARKERS

·         Monday Daily Trail Markers // By Bo Erickson

·         Tuesday Daily Trail Markers // By Sarah Ewall-Wice & Jack Turman

·         Wednesday Daily Trail Markers // By Ben Mitchell

·         Thursday Daily Trail Markers // By Zak Hudak

·         Friday Daily Trail Markers (9/30) // By Ellee Watson 

CBSNews.com

·         Andrew Yang raises $10 million in third quarter // By Ben Mitchell

·         Another GOP congressman from Texas says he won't run for reelection // By Aaron Navarro & Ellee Watson

·         Bernie Sanders' campaign announces it raised $25 million in third quarter // By Sarah Ewall-Wice

·         Cory Booker raises millions after threatening to drop out // By Sarah Ewall-Wice

·         Elizabeth Warren raises $24.6 million in third quarter // By Sarah Ewall-Wice

·         Joe Biden raises $15.2 million, lagging behind his presidential rivals // By Sarah Ewall-Wice

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