2020 Daily Trail Markers: Pelosi says she supports Biden, amid Tara Reade accusation
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that she was "satisfied" with the response of Joe Biden's presidential campaign to allegations of sexual assault against him, according to CBS news campaign reporter Bo Erickson and CBSNews.com political reporter Grace Segers.
The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee has been accused of sexual harassment and sexual assault by a former Senate staffer, Tara Reade. Biden's campaign has denied the allegations, although Biden himself has not directly addressed them. "I do support Joe Biden. I'm satisfied with how he has responded," Pelosi said in an interview with CNN's "New Day."
She announced her endorsement of Biden on Monday. CNN pressed Pelosi on Biden's own public silence so far in the face of the allegations. "You know, it's a matter that he has to deal with, but I am impressed with the people who work for him saying that they absolutely never heard one iota of information about this. Nobody ever brought forth a claim or had anybody else tell them about such a claim," Pelosi replied.
Pelosi reiterated her support for Biden in her weekly press conference Thursday, saying that she has "complete respect for the Me Too movement," but that she also believes in due process. There is "due process and the fact that Joe Biden is Joe Biden," Pelosi told reporters, noting that his Senate staff had been interviewed, and there was no record of Reade's accusation.
Republicans have been calling on the release of Biden's Senate records, in the belief that an official complaint from Reade will be in there. "I have a great comfort level with the situation as I see it," Pelosi said.
Meanwhile the Republican House campaign arm kept inboxes full on Thursday, using the sexual assault allegations against Biden to call out targeted House Democrats and candidates. In almost 30 email blasts, the National Republican Congressional Committee bring up a lack of input from a lawmaker on the issue, or past comments about sexual assault during the heat of the Brett Kavanaugh hearings.
"A lot of them went on the record demanding survivors be heard, demanding survivors be given a safe place to voice their traumatic issues that have happened to them," National Republican Congressional Committee spokesperson Michael McAdams told CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro. "And now they are turning a blind eye to that and completely going back on what they said because the person that the allegations are against is a Democrat."
Like other Democrats, Congresswoman Dina Titus, one of Biden's earlier endorsers, told Navarro she didn't think the allegations would have an impact on down-ballot races. "I'm a strong supporter of the #MeToo movement, every woman needs to tell her story and have it vetted. I believe it's been thoroughly vetted... and all you have to do is look at his record on Violence Against Women, the other things, to show where he stands on this," she said.
FROM THE CANDIDATES
CBS News has spoken with Tara Reade several times since she publicized her allegation against Joe Biden on March 25. Since that time, Biden over the past 36 days has not directly addressed Reade's claim, CBS News campaign reporter Bo Erickson reports. While his campaign has called the allegation "untrue," Biden has yet to respond directly.
Tonight, MSNBC announced that Biden himself would respond to the sexual assault allegation for the first time on "Morning Joe" on Friday morning. Biden's lack of response has also left other high-profile Democrats in a tough and frustrating spot, several Democratic operatives tell CBS News. Senators Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar, along with Stacey Abrams, and Governor Gretchen Whitmer have all been asked in interviews about the allegation, but Biden's recent sparse schedule of interviews has not afforded many opportunities to ask him directly.
His team for the past two weeks has prioritized local interviews and the campaign has not held a virtual press conference with his usual traveling press corps since April 2. For some Democratic operatives, the focus on the allegation — and Biden's silence — is overshadowing his campaign messaging. Regarding the new unemployment numbers today, Biden said in a statement: "Outrageous? Yes. Surprising? No. These are the latest damning signs of Donald Trump's manifest incompetence."
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP
The Trump campaign will kick off its first television advertising blitz of the 2020 campaign cycle Sunday with a seven-day, seven-figure buy focused on the president's response to the coronavirus pandemic, according to campaign officials.
A spokesperson called the new advertising campaign "an inspirational message about the unyielding resolve of Americans" that "heralds the great American comeback." The advertising campaign represents a departure from more recent attack ads targeting Biden's relationship with China. However, allies to the president tell CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga that Mr. Trump's re-election efforts will plan to unveil sharper attacks on Biden's "weak" stance toward China in the coming weeks.
A slew of public polls show the president trailing Biden in battleground states Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, key to Mr. Trump's 2016 electoral win over Hillary Clinton. President Trump dismissed the polling Wednesday night, in an interview with Reuters. "I don't believe the polls," Mr. Trump said. "I believe the people of this country are smart. And I don't think that they will put a man in who's incompetent."
President Trump also announced Wednesday that he planned to travel to Arizona, his first venture outside of Washington since seeing off a hospital ship in Virginia more than a month ago, according to CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin. While the president sounded hopeful that "in the not-too-distant-future" he could return to "massive rallies," no events have been announced outside of a stop next week at a Honeywell facility now producing face masks. The trip will mark the president's second visit to Arizona this year, a swing state that delivered Trump a nearly four-point win in 2016.
However, early general election polls show Joe Biden leading by nearly 10 points in the state. And down ballot in Arizona, Democrat Mark Kelly has raised more money than any other Senate candidate this cycle in his challenge to GOP Senator Martha McSally. "First of all, I want to say the president's always welcome in Arizona," the state's Republican Gov. Doug Ducey said at a press conference Wednesday. Asked if authorities would intervene, if Trump's visit drew a crowd of supporters, Ducey added, "I'm asking people to stay home, stay healthy, and stay connected."
Today, the California Senator announced the "COVID-19 Racial and Ethnic Disparities Task Force Act," one of several pieces of legislation Harris has introduced amid the COVID-19 outbreak. The task force would bring together health care experts and leaders from all levels of government to confront the racial and ethnic disparities arising from the outbreak. This would also include providing weekly data on patient outcomes disaggregated by race and ethnicity.
The bill would also report to Congress the structural inequalities preceding the pandemic and the effect those disparities had on the disproportionate rates of infection. Harris is also calling for a permanent Infectious Disease Racial and Ethnic Disparities Task force after COVID-19 to continue to identify and address any disparities.
"People of color are being infected and dying from coronavirus at astounding rates," Harris said in a statement. "The COVID-19 Racial and Ethnic Disparities Task Force Act is a necessary step to fully understand the impact of this virus in the hardest hit communities, and make targeted investments that correspond with their unique needs." CBS News Campaign Reporter Tim Perry reports that legislation introduced by Harris in March, The Pandemic Disaster Assistance Act, will be introduced in the House. This plan would expand the ability for FEMA to provide financial assistance to individuals during a pandemic and not just during natural disasters.
Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Jan Schakowsky on Thursday proposed legislation that would create a government office tasked with preventing shortages of protective equipment, prescription drugs and medical supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the proposal, a newly formed Emergency Office of Manufacturing for Public Health would be be required to manufacture or contract the manufacturing of products, drugs and medical devices in shortage within a month of the bill's passage.
"We need to radically increase our supply of personal protective equipment and other medical supplies to attack the coronavirus crisis head-on. We have an Administration that is failing to lead and failing to ensure health care providers and patients have the resources they need," Warren said. The bill has the support of several progressive and medical groups, including the Center for American Progress and Doctors for America, but similar proposals from Warren and Schakowsky in the past have failed to gain traction.
Republicans in the Michigan House of Representatives took additional steps to limit Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer's executive emergency powers on Thursday, according to CBS News campaign reporters Adam Brewster and Jack Turman. The House also did not extend Michigan's state of emergency, which is set to expire at the end of the day.
The House passed a resolution that allows Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield to take legal action against Whitmer and the actions she has taken during the coronavirus pandemic. Whitmer has argued that she does not need the legislature's approval to extend a state of emergency. But Whitmer has indicated that she would like to partner with the legislature to extend the state of emergency in order to provide liability protections for health care workers and first responders.
Protesters gathered at the State Capitol in Lansing to voice frustrations about the extension of emergency powers. Democratic State Senator Dayna Polehanki, who tweeted a photo of armed protesters in the Senate gallery, told CBS News that half of the gathering looked like a Trump rally and the other half expressed concern about Whitmer's stay at home order.
The differences between the governor and the legislature over executive emergency powers have been simmering over the past week. Last Friday, the state senate passed two bills that would limit Whitmer's emergency powers. Whitmer threatened to veto any legislation that would take authority away from her or future governors, arguing that executive emergency powers are essential during a crisis. The dispute reached a low point on Wednesday as emails between Whitmer's staff and state Senate Majority Mike Shirkey's staff showed that Republican legislators proposed two one-week extensions to Whitmer's emergency powers in exchange for a public agreement that future stay at home orders will require legislative approval. Whitmer's staff responded with a message from the governor, saying, "I cannot abrogate my duty to act in an emergency to protect the lives of Michiganders."
IN THE HOUSE
In special election news, Democrat Tricia Zunker, running in Wisconsin's 7th District, was recently endorsed by Senator Cory Booker and EMILY's List. In California's 25th District for Katie Hill's former seat, Hill herself has gotten involved in the race through her PAC. In an ad shot in front of the White House, Hill encouraged people to return their mail ballots, saying, "We've seen when we take our vote for granted, we put ourselves and our communities in danger." CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro says both districts have their special elections on May 12, though California has switched to an all-mail ballot election.
ISSUES THAT MATTER
The Senate Democratic Policy and Communications Committee on Thursday released a report arguing that "COVID-19 has amplified existing inequalities and discrimination that have impacted communities of color." In the report, CBS News campaign reporter Zak Hudak says DPCC Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer cite data showing a disproportionate number of coronavirus cases and deaths in people of color.
The report outlined several measures Democrats hope to be included in future coronavirus legislation, including guaranteed equitable access to testing across communities, emergency rental assistance and an increase in Paycheck Protection Program access. In addition to releasing demographic breakdowns for COVID-19 testing, the report calls for the Department of Health and Human Services to establish a commission to study inequalities in coronavirus cases and testing.
"We must do more to help communities of color weather this storm," Schumer told reporters over the phone. "This pandemic has heightened many of the terrible health care and economic disparities that communities of color have unfortunately faced for generations."
More than 30 million Americans have filed for unemployment insurance due to the coronavirus pandemic, including another 3.8 million Americans who filed claims last week, according to the Labor Department. Since businesses began to close to slow the spread of the virus six weeks ago, 30.3 million Americans have filed claims. But the number is likely higher because many people have struggled to file unemployment insurance as systems have been bogged down by the staggering number of claims. CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster says a survey from the Economic Policy Institute found that for every ten people who successfully filed for benefits, another five to six either could not get through to make a claim or didn't try because it was too difficult to do so.
"Millions of the newly jobless are going without benefits as the unemployment system buckles under the weight of new claims," EPI economists Ben Zipperer and Elise Gould wrote. Thursday's Labor Department report also showed that 12.4% of American workers were receiving unemployment benefits for the week ending April 18. Before the pandemic, the highest weekly percentage recorded was 7% back in 1975. The peak during the Great Recession was 5% during two different weeks in May and June of 2009.
COST OF VOTING
A new report from the Brennan Center for Justice says the $400 million Congress passed in March to help states cover election costs due to coronavirus is likely far short of what's needed. CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster says the report examined election costs in five states with different systems: Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania. It found that election administration costs from COVID-19 in those five states alone could cost at least $414 million. The Congressional grants could cover less than 10% of what Georgia officials need and about 18% of what officials in Ohio need, according to the report.
The bulk of costs are expected to fall on local officials, rather than state governments, the report found. In Ohio and Missouri, local officials are expected to cover more than 90% of the election costs.
"Facing an economic downturn, states may soon tighten their belts further on many services," the report says. "The federal government has the resources to ensure that state and local governments can run free, fair, and safe elections this fall. We urge them to do so as soon as possible."
The Brennan Center previously estimated it could cost $2 billion to secure the November election due to coronavirus, but has since said it may cost double that to secure all other elections scheduled this year.
The California Republican Party has filed suit against Governor Gavin Newsom to prohibit the practice of ballot collecting or "ballot harvesting" during two upcoming special elections in the state, arguing it stands "in direct conflict" with social distancing guidelines and Newsom's shelter-in-place mandate to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Two weeks ago California Republican Party chairwoman Jessica Patterson sent Newsom a letter asking him to halt the practice and clarify that his order "prohibits collection of ballots," but she said Newsom did not respond. "The governor has dodged his responsibility," Patterson told CBS News campaign reporter Musadiq Bidar. "We're hoping the courts will compel him to clarify," she added. Newsom's office declined to comment for this story.
Ballot harvesting allows party volunteers or campaign workers to collect mail-in ballots from voters and submit them in groups to polling places or election offices. In 2016, California expanded the law to allow any person to collect a mail-in ballot. Prior law restricted the practice to just relatives of those or those living in the same household as the voter.
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, who is also named in the lawsuit and is currently pushing for a 50-state, vote-by-mail plan ahead of the November presidential election, told CBS News "this whole debate is nothing but a pretext that Republicans use to advance their voter suppression agenda." Padilla acknowledged, "Yes, there are numerous public health directives in place…But at the same time, there are fundamental voting rights that are in place and must be protected. There is no conflict. People can reach out to voters and people can exercise multiple ways of voting, while respecting public health directives." Patterson argued that voters "aren't leaving their ballots on the front steps," and that the practice of ballot harvesting "requires an in-person hand off." She added "that would absolutely violate social distancing if someone is coming to your house, and picking up that ballot from you, and you're signing it over to them."
Wednesday's lawsuit specifically points to upcoming special elections on May 12 in California's 25th Congressional District and the 28th state Senate District. The congressional race for the 25th District is to replace Democrat Katie Hill who resigned after a sex scandal and a congressional ethics investigation. Christy Smith, a Democratic state assemblywoman, is running against former U.S. Navy fighter pilot and Republican businessman Mike Garcia.
A spokesperson for Smith's campaign told CBS News that "due to public health concerns, we are not collecting ballots from supporters at this time." Garcia's campaign, who has not responded to multiple requests for comment from CBS News, was involved in ballot harvesting efforts, including recruiting volunteers and encouraging voters to organize ballot harvesting drives at their churches as late as April 10, according to emails sent by Garcia's campaign manager and obtained by CBS News. On April 11, California's stay-at-home order was extended into May, and days later Patterson officially sent her letter to Newsom asking for clarification.
A GOP official told CBS News "a big part of it is you have to prepare." The official added "you have to prepare for what's coming and whether or it's going to be extended." Garcia's campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment. When asked if the National Republican Congressional Committee is okay with Garcia's campaign focusing on ballot harvesting efforts despite calls from party leaders to halt the practice, NRCC Spokeswoman Torunn Sinclair passed along contact information for Newsom's press office and said "we will give you an answer just as soon as you get an answer from Governor Newsom on if this is illegal or not." Patterson said the California Republican Party has currently halted all ballot harvesting efforts and "following the stay-at-home orders."
The federal independent coalition Organizing Together 2020, virtually launched the North Carolina arm of its campaign during a Zoom call Wednesday evening, according to CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell. With more than 250 attendees on the call, Mitchell reports that nearly three dozen staffers joined hundreds of participants to hear speeches and organization plans for the newly-formed group, Organizing Together North Carolina.
The group, which has just shy of 100 staffers, was created in part to begin organizing in North Carolina cities ahead of the general election. In the months ahead of the November election, volunteers and organizers will get to know the different communities and identify the community leaders throughout the state.
Paul Tewes, who led the 2008 Iowa campaign for president Obama is a co-founder of Organizing Together 2020. He told the group in his opening remarks on the Zoom call that they all share a common mission: "We don't like this guy in the White House and we got to get him out." Tewes also acknowledged the novelty of organizing amid the COVID-19 outbreak. "I don't know when the normal hits. I don't think anybody does. But there's a new normal and you're going to be organizing and learning new skills and teaching people down the road the new skills you're picking up because we're organizing in a different time now," said Tewes. "I have a feeling, at least some semblance of this is going to be around through the general election. So, you know what you're doing now and learning now and teaching now is going to be hugely important as we get closer to November."
Organizing Together 2020 also has coalitions in five other battleground states: Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. A handful of labor unions and progressive organizations have partnered with Organizing Together North Carolina including the Congressional Black Caucus PAC, People for the American Way, and the North Carolina chapter of the National Associated for the Advancement of Colored People.
"Collaborating with Organizing Together North Carolina will be crucial to expanding our voter mobilization efforts statewide and building capacity for this upcoming election cycle," said North Carolina NAACP President and co-chair for Organizing Together North Carolina, Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman in an emailed statement. "Our jacked-up democratic system has allowed gerrymandering and voter suppression to disenfranchise North Carolinians. Together, we can amplify the voices of the vulnerable and fight for a progressive agenda that will move us all forward."
LET'S MAKE A DEAL
The Biden campaign and the Democratic National Committee have reached a deal to allow Bernie Sanders to fill state-wide delegate slots for the convention even though the rules of the party state these delegates only go to active campaigns, reports CBS News political unit associate producer Eleanor Watson.
According to the rule of the party, at-large and pledged elected official delegates from a state are allocated to candidates whose campaigns are still active at the time of the state convention, and Sanders suspended his campaign before any state conventions took place.
With the deal, at-large and PLEO Delegate slots will be filled by supporters of the Biden and Sanders campaigns based on the candidates' respective statewide results. In a press released Thursday morning, the Biden campaign said, "While Senator Sanders is no longer actively seeking the nomination, the Biden campaign feels strongly that it is in the best interest of the party and the effort to defeat Donald Trump in November to come to an agreement regarding these issues that will ensure representation of Sanders supporters and delegate candidates, both on the floor and in committees."
The memo from the campaign also says that if New York follows through on not holding a presidential primary, the Biden campaign will ensure Sanders' supporters are represented in some way in the New York delegation at the national convention.
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