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2020 Daily Trail Markers: Klobuchar being vetted by Biden as running mate

Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, has been asked by Joe Biden to undergo a formal vetting to be considered as his vice presidential running mate, one of several potential contenders now being scrutinized by his aides ahead of a final decision, according to people familiar with the moves. The request for information from potential running mates like Klobuchar "is underway," a senior Biden campaign aide tells CBS News. 

If a potential contender consents, CBS News political correspondent Ed O'Keefe and campaign reporter Bo Erickson say she should be poised to undergo a rigorous multi-week review of her public and private life and work by a hand-picked group of Biden confidantes, who will review tax returns, public speeches, voting records, past personal relationships and potentially scandalous details from her past. 

While several are expected to consent to a vetting, at least one potential contender has bowed out. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Democrat of New Hampshire, who is running for reelection this year, declined Biden's invitation to be considered, according to a person familiar with her decision. But Senator Maggie Hassan, also of New Hampshire, has agreed to be vetted, according to local news reports. 

In a statement to CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga, Hassan said, "I'm flattered Vice President Biden publicly mentioned my name as someone he would consider. I am not going to comment about his process, whatever that may be. My focus each and every day continues to be serving the people of NH in the US Senate."

Biden committed during a March primary debate to pick a woman as his running mate and has previously said the list of women is around a dozen. The selection process is expected to be closely tracked given that Biden's choice could set the course of Democratic Party politics for the next several years. The 77-year old former vice president would be the oldest man ever elected to the White House and has not committed to seeking a second term if he wins the presidency, meaning his vice president would be a presumptive front-runner in the 2024 election, or positioned to lead the pack in 2028.

Biden has publicly credited Klobuchar for strong debate performances and for helping him win Minnesota, a victory that came only after she and other contenders dropped out just hours before March's Super Tuesday primaries that helped propel Biden into the lead. He is on track to officially clinch the Democratic presidential nomination next month after several states hold primaries rescheduled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Confirmation that the process is underway comes as several potential running mates have confirmed or dropped hints in recent days that they're in the mix. On Thursday, Representative Val Demings, Democrat of Florida, who represents an Orlando-area district and once served as that city's police chief, said in a radio interview that "I am on the short list and I'm honored to be on the short list." "If Vice President Biden asked me to serve along with him, I would be honored to do just that," Demings told SiriusXM's "The Dean Obeidallah Show." 

News outlets have also reported that New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has told associates she's being vetted for the job – something her aides have strongly denied. And Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, told reporters last week that his Land of Lincoln colleague, Senator Tammy Duckworth, is also set to be interviewed by the Biden team – a statement Duckworth aides also disputed.

The "veepstakes," as they're known, include a certain level of public campaigning, fueled by glowing profiles in magazines and newspapers and public pressure campaigns by interest groups. VoteVets, a liberal veterans organization, is pushing for Duckworth's consideration, while Latino leaders are pushing for Lujan Grisham and Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, the first Latina senator. Several prominent African American leaders close to Biden are pushing for Demings, Senator Kamala Harris, Democrat of California, former Georgia lawmaker Stacey Abrams or former National Security Adviser Susan Rice.

Biden has entrusted a four-person team to lead his selection process: Former Senator Chris Dodd, of Connecticut; Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Delaware; Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti; and Biden's former White House and Senate counsel, Cynthia Hogan. Former White House counsel Bob Bauer, campaign general counsel Dana Remus and former homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco also will be providing Biden with background and information on the candidates, according to the campaign. 

Biden has said he expects the vetting to be completed by July – and appears to be taking advice from the man who once tapped him for the number two role, former President Barack Obama. "I need someone who's going to be, as Barack said, 'simpatico with me,' who is a real partner in progress and is ready to be president on a moment's notice," Biden said recently. "There are a lot of women out there with the experience to do that job."



President Donald Trump traveled to battleground Michigan today, stopping off at Ford's Rawsonville plant, which began producing ventilators one month ago. Today's visit marked the president's third official White House trip to a political swing state in as many weeks. And while the Trump campaign has not held a campaign event in over 11 weeks, today's venture had the feel of the rallies the president misses, report CBS News campaign reporters Adam Brewster and Nicole Sganga.

"We got to get back to the rallies," Trump told reporters, before taking the stage, adding, "I think it's going to be sooner rather than later." The President said he is considering future campaign events in reopened arenas and "big, outdoor" venues, suggesting he might host his first rally in Georgia or Florida. "I don't wanna have a stadium where you're supposed to have a person, then seven empty seats," he remarked. 

While speaking to reporters in Ypsilanti, Michigan, the president did not wear a face mask, despite Ford company policy requiring "everyone wears PPE to prevent the spread of COVID-19." He told reporters he donned a mask during his tour of the back area of Ford's facility, but "didn't want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it."

From the presidential podium, President Trump thanked a room of union workers — members of the United Autoworkers of America — before jabbing presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden. "I don't know how the hell these unions aren't endorsing Trump instead of the standard Democrat: a Democrat that doesn't even know where he is," the president said.

Mr. Trump escalated his attacks on absentee voting today, stating nationwide ballot initiatives would lead to "total election fraud." He offered no proof for this claim.

"We don't want anyone to do mail-in ballots," President Trump told reporters en route to Michigan, adding that there should be exceptions made in the case of illness. 

Mr. Trump voted by mail, earlier this year, in Florida's presidential primary election. He defended his action, Thursday, noting absentee voting was acceptable for individuals that "live in the White House, and they have to vote in Florida, and they won't be in Florida."

President Trump, a leading critic of vote-by-mail efforts, doubled down on threats to withhold funds from Michigan and Nevada if they proceeded in expanding vote-by-mail efforts, but declined to say which funds he would freeze.

Vice President Mike Pence will travel to Atlanta tomorrow to meet with Georgia Governor Brian Kemp. CBS News campaign reporter Musadiq Bidar says over the last few weeks, Pence has made visits to Minnesota, Indiana, Iowa, Virginia, and Florida. 

Georgia is nearing 40,000 confirmed positive cases of the coronavirus with nearly 1,700 deaths. It was just a month ago when President Trump criticized Georgia's Republican Gov. Kemp for his first-in-the-nation decision to reopen small-business sectors of the state's economy. 

On April 22, President Trump said he "strongly" opposed Kemp's plans and urged him to wait a little bit longer. "I'm going to let him make his decision," Trump said at the time, adding "but I totally disagree." Tomorrow, Pence and Kemp will have lunch and discuss the state's reopening plan. 

Afterwards, Mr. Pence will participate in a roundtable discussion with restaurant executives at Waffle House Headquarters. CBS News campaign reporter Tim Perry reports the list of participants has yet to be completed. But the discussion will be "regarding the reopening of restaurants for dine-in-service," said Njeri Boss, director of public relations for Waffle House. Yesterday, Georgia's Democratic Party chairwoman Nikema Williams accused the Trump administration "of making this crisis worse for millions of Americans by downplaying the coronavirus threat and allowing it to spread unchecked." Williams added that Pence "ignored public health experts and endangered American lives. Georgians won't be fooled by Mike Pence." 



Senators Elizabeth Warren and Jack Reed led nearly a dozen other Democratic senators on Thursday in chastising two airlines for slashing employees' hours after accepting CARES Act bailout funds. 

"Your decision to cut employee hours is inconsistent with congressional intent and is a blatant and potentially illegal effort to skirt your requirements to keep workers on payroll, and you should reverse this policy immediately," the senators wrote in letters to the heads of Delta and JetBlue. 

CBS News campaign reporter Zak Hudak reports airlines have already begun receiving some of a $25 billion stimulus aimed at keeping their workers employed through September on the condition that they, "refrain from conducting involuntary furloughs or reducing pay rates and benefits until September 30, 2020." 

The bill awarded $5.4 billion in aid to Delta and another $935 million to the smaller JetBlue. Although the airlines did not reduce hourly pay rates, the senators argue that cutting the number of hours employees can be paid goes against the spirit of the bill. A spokesperson for JetBlue, however, said that the airline was in full compliance with the CARES Act.  He said that the reduced hours have been necessary because it is flying only about one in ten of the flights it typically would, and the bailout funds it received cover only three-quarters of its payroll costs. 

"Given that our flights in many cities are completely suspended and are significantly reduced in others, there are quite literally no hours for our crew members to work in many cases," Philip Stewart said. 

Warren also continued to pressure the Federal Reserve and Treasury to attach strings that protect workers onto pandemic relief funds provided to large corporations. She joined Representatives Peter DeFazio and Lloyd Doggett in sending Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin a letter signed by over 80 senators and House members to call for a set of guardrails on bonds the government buys as part of the Primary Market Corporate Credit Facility program. 

"We seek some accountability rather than a blank check," the lawmakers wrote. They called for requirements that companies receiving aid from the Federal Reserve not issue stock buybacks, stock dividends or executive bonuses until the funds are repaid, as well as at least one seat on companies' boards be reserved for a representative elected by workers. 

They also asked that companies receiving aid be required to pay at least $15 an hour to all their employees by the start of next year. The letter comes after Mnuchin declined to commit to require that businesses receiving aid from the $500 billion Federal Reserve fund keep their workers on payroll as Warren questioned him in a Senate hearing Tuesday. 



New Jersey Senator Cory Booker introduced legislation that would expand voting rights and would create a federal organization, similar to the structure of the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps, focused on administering elections safely. CBS News campaign reporter Jack Turman says the organization would deploy 35,000 individuals, who would serve two-year terms, to states to help register and educate voters and serve as poll workers. 

"The right to vote is sacred and we should make exercising that fundamental right as easy as possible," Booker said in a statement. "Unfortunately, the global pandemic has placed that right in peril, and unless decisive measures are taken to provide safe voting options, many Americans may face a terrible choice this fall between protecting their health and participating in our democracy." 

The bill includes some other measures, such as allowing people to register to vote online, that have been proposed from some of Booker's Senate colleagues. 



DNC Chairman Tom Perez made a virtual swing through the Sunshine State Thursday, participating in bilingual virtual conversations with elected officials and the Florida Democratic Party to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on Latino communities and small business owners. 

At least 74 people tuned in to the conversation Thursday morning, as Perez was joined in part by Florida congressional leaders Darren Soto and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell to highlight the importance of voting even amid the pandemic, reports CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell. Mucarsel-Powell said Latino communities have suffered from this pandemic and may not be thinking about registering to vote but she insisted that they must because their voice is their vote. 

"Republicans in Washington have followed the line of this president, attacking our communities every step of the way. I have heard them on the House floor calling us criminals. I have heard them saying that we're aliens, illegal aliens," said Mucarsel-Powell during the virtual event. "Latinos are going to show the country who's in power, who's in charge, and who's going to be representing the Latino community." 

Thursday afternoon Latino small business owners weighed in on how the coronavirus has negatively impacted their economic bottom lines during a virtual roundtable. 

"We're sitting in our tables in our offices, thinking how I'm gonna pay my rent, my mortgage, how can I pay everything if nobody is supporting me?" said Claudia Mendoza, a Florida construction contractor. "I'm my own support." 

Small business owner Rolando Chang Barrero said of Latinos who are struggling amid the pandemic, "We do not have any other income sources, we are the frontline workers."  He added, "We are the farmers, the agricultural workers. We are the nurses, we are the custodians. We have to work. Most of the lower end workers, lower income skilled workers have never stopped working. They have been putting themselves at risk." During his remarks, Perez told the virtual roundtable attendees that in 2016 Mr. Trump visited communities of color and asked what they had to lose by electing him. 

"The answer to the president's question, 'what do Latinos and others have to lose from his presidency?' Well, the answer is your job, your healthcare, your livelihood and your lives."


The Michigan Court of Claims has ruled in favor of Governor Gretchen Whitmer in a lawsuit filed by Republicans in the state legislature challenging her emergency powers in issuing an extended state of emergency, which gives her the power to issue executive orders like her stay at home order, according to CBS News campaign reporters Adam Brewster and Jack Turman

The ruling will likely be appealed by Republicans. On April 30, Michigan's legislature declined to extend the state of emergency that was set to expire that day. After that move, Whitmer extended the state of emergency on her own, citing two emergency powers laws: one from 1945 (the EGPA) and one from 1976 (the EMA), which requires legislative approval after 28 days. Judge Cynthia Stephens ruled that the extended state of emergency, and power to issue executive orders, was valid under the EGPA, but Whitmer exceeded the powers of the EMA. But under the court's ruling recognizing her broad authority as governor, Whitmer would be able to cite the 1945 law in extending the state of emergency next week, should she decide to take that avenue.

Judge Stephens said the EGPA "empowers the Governor to act for the best interest of all the citizens of this state," not just particular regions, as Republicans argued. 

"While the Governor's action of re-declaring the same emergency violated the provisions of the EMA, plaintiffs' challenges to the EPGA and the Governor's authority to issue Executive Orders thereunder are meritless," Stephens said. In a statement, Whitmer cheered the decision and noted that the ruling indicates that her "actions to save lives are lawful and her orders remain in place."

The ruling came the same day that Whitmer announced that retail businesses and auto dealerships will re-open by appointment on May 26. Turman reports Whitmer also said that nonessential medical, dental and veterinary procedures may resume on May 29. Social gatherings of ten people or less may occur immediately with social distancing being practiced. Whitmer, who ran for governor in 2018 with the slogan to "fix the damn roads," commented on the underinvestment of infrastructure in the state in the aftermath of massive flooding in Midland, Michigan. 

She said, "When you have 500 year events happening, 100 year events happening with more frequency, we know that this underinvestment is going to come with a very big cost if we don't take this seriously."


The New Mexico-based founder of "Cowboys for Trump," which has attracted thousands of followers online, says he was "a little bit disheartened" after Republicans in his state appeared to distance themselves from controversial remarks he made on Sunday, according to CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin. Republican Couy Griffin, who also serves as a county commissioner in New Mexico, had faced criticism after saying "the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat" to cheers. According to a video posted by Griffin's group, he quickly adds: "I don't say that in a physical sense, I can already see the videos getting edited…I say that in the political sense." 

The state party tweeted Wednesday, "The Republican Party of New Mexico wants to state for the record that any statements, whether in jest or serious about harming another individual are just plain wrong." Griffin told CBS News of Steve Pearce, head of the Republican Party in New Mexico, "I know Chairman Steve Pearce very well. I've known him for years."  Griffin added, "I feel like he could have...done the conservative movement more justice by being a little bit stronger than he was." The group, "Cowboys for Trump," is not officially affiliated with President Trump's reelection campaign, which has not commented on the record about Griffin's remarks. 


U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar reportedly visited a COVID-19 testing site in North Carolina Thursday, just one day ahead of the state's transition into phase 2 of its re-opening strategy. Beginning Friday at 5 p.m. ET, restaurants, barbershops and salons can open at 50% capacity, childcare centers can open for all children, and people can gather outside in groups of up to 25. 

CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell reports that the secretary's visit drew criticism from some of the state's Democratic leaders, like Congresswoman Alma Adams, who said in a statement that if the secretary wants to "make a meaningful contribution to help North Carolina contain this virus," he should encourage the Senate to pass the HEROES Act. According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, there have been at least 716 COVID-related deaths reported. 

"The Coronavirus has killed enough Americans to fill Bank of America Stadium and the Spectrum Center. COVID-19 isn't a partisan issue: it's a life and death issue," said Adams in an emailed statement. "Charlotte doesn't need a photo op—we need protective equipment and protections for workers, both of which the Trump administration has so far largely failed to provide to us."



The Puerto Rico Democratic party announced that the Democratic presidential primary will be held on July 12, reports CBS News campaign reporter Jack Turman. The primary was originally scheduled to be held on March 29th, but was postponed to April 26, due to the coronavirus pandemic. The primary was further postponed from April 26th after the territory extended its lockdown through that date due to the pandemic.



Millions more American workers applied for unemployment benefits last week, showing there are still staggering numbers of people losing their jobs two months into the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Labor Department, more than 2.4 million people filed initial jobless claims in the traditional unemployment system last week. CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster reports more than 38.6 million workers have filed traditional claims since the week ending March 21, when many businesses were forced to close.

Another 2.2 million workers filed claims under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program last week, a federal program for self-employed and gig workers. While the numbers of traditional jobless claims have been falling for several weeks, the Labor Department says over 25 million workers were still receiving unemployment benefits as of the week ending May 9. A U.S. Census Bureau survey released this week shows that among American adults, 47% say either they or another adult in their home has lost employment income since March 13. Thirty-nine percent expected either they or someone in their house would lose income over the next four weeks.



In a statement to the Arizona Republic, Joe Biden has staked out a new position on a key issue in Indian Country: guaranteeing funding for the Indian Health Services. "As president, I'll make meaningful investments in Indian Country — including dramatically increasing funding for Indian Health Services and making it mandatory," Biden said to the Phoenix-based newspaper. 

Though some of the former vice president's former primary rivals had made the same pledge months earlier in the contest, Biden's platform as late as March vowed merely to "ensure stable funding" for the agency. CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin notes the announcement comes as the president of the Navajo Nation, which has been ravaged by the coronavirus and whose land spans thousands of square miles in Arizona, is denouncing President Trump for delayed aid to Native American tribes. 

"So the amount of money that's being sent to 'Indian country,' as we call it, is the largest amount in the history of the U.S.," the president remarked during his visit earlier this month to Arizona, announcing that delayed relief funds would be freed up for tribes. "And you deserve it. And you've been through a lot."


ON THE $$$

Presidential campaigns faced a Wednesday night deadline to file their April fundraising and spending figures with the Federal Election Commission, according to CBS News political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice. And while both the Biden and Trump campaigns had previously announced their totals raised, the filing shed new light on last month's fundraising and spending activities. 

The Biden campaign filing showed the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee brought in $43.5 million in direct contributions in April after it along with the DNC previously announced they raised a combined $60.5 million that month. The campaign cash haul included $16 million in donations of $200 or less and $27.5 million in contributions over $200. At the same time, with the campaign taking place virtually, Biden's team spent just over $12 million in April, meaning they were able to keep its burn rate at a low 27%. 

At the same time, President Trump's campaign, which previously announced it, along with the RNC and related committees, raised $61.7 million in April, showed it spent just over $7.4 million last month. The filing also confirmed that much of the president's cash haul was brought in by joint fundraising committees which do not have to file monthly.  

Party committees also had a monthly filing deadline. FEC records show the Republican National Committee, National Republican Senatorial Committee and National Republican Congressional Committee were all able to outraise their Democratic counterparts last month in direct contributions. But that does not mean all three committees have more cash on hand moving forward. The RNC had more than $77 million at the end of the month, compared to the DNC's just over $40 million, and the NRSC had $37.8 million, while the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee had $28.8 million. However, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had more than $82 million on hand, compared to the NRCC's $52 million at the end of April.



After Congressman John Ratcliffe's confirmation in the Senate to lead the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), Texas Republicans now have to determine who takes his spot on the ballot this November. The Republican Party of Texas will have a Congressional District Executive Committee (CDEC), composed of the precinct and county chairs who reside in that district, meeting on August 8 to nominate a new GOP candidate for November.  

Its nominee would presumably win the seat in November, which has been held by a Republican since 2004 after Democrat incumbent Ralph Hall switched parties. As for the remainder of Ratcliffe's term, Governor Greg Abbott (R) has three options: He could do nothing and keep the seat vacant until the November election, he could call an immediate special election in the coming months, or he could have a special election for the seat on the November ballot, and the winner of that seat would fill the seat from Nov. 3 til January 3, 2021.

In California's 10th District, a second batch of racist, offensive social media posts by Republican candidate Ted Howze is causing headaches for top-brass House Republicans. First reported by Politico, Facebook posts under Howze's name compare "Dreamers" to pedophiles, target the Black Lives Matter movement and at one point ask, "Can a Muslim ever truly be a good American citizen?" The National Republican Congressional Committee confirmed with CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro that Howze has been taken off their "Young Guns" program, a list of candidates the committee helps mentor and support. 

Howze is currently running to unseat freshman Democrat Josh Harder, who represents the Sacramento area district that Hillary Clinton won narrowly in 2016. House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy and NRCC Chairman Tom Emmer both denounced Howze's social media posts, and McCarthy said he would take "immediate action...if Mr. Howze is found to be the originator of these posts." McCarthy has not officially pulled his endorsement. In a statement to The Modesto Bee, Howze's campaign said that "Dr. Howze agrees with Chairman Emmer and Leader McCarthy that these are disgusting and he absolutely disagrees with the negative and ugly ideas." His campaign has previously said the posts were not written by him and Howze responded to the stories Thursday night, dismissing the social media posts attributed to him as "#FakeNews." "They do not resemble anything close to my personal words or actions exhibited during my decades-long record of service in the Central Valley... We will not be bullied into a negative campaign or arguing over Brett Kavanaugh style attacks," he Tweeted.

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