For the second day in a row, President Trump refused to commit to accepting the results of November’s election if his rival Joe Biden wins. Trump was asked about the election as he left the White House Thursday to campaign in North Carolina.
President Donald Trump: “We want to make sure the election is honest, and I’m not sure that it can be. I don’t — I don’t know that it can be with this whole situation — unsolicited ballots. They’re unsolicited, millions being sent to everybody.”
Trump’s threat to invalidate the will of the voters sparked widespread alarm among Democrats and progressives. On Thursday, Vermont independent Senator Bernie Sanders delivered a major address saying the future of American democracy is at stake.
Sen. Bernie Sanders: “We must ensure, in this unprecedented moment in American history, that this is an election that is free and fair, an election in which voters are not intimidated, an election in which all votes are counted, and an election in which the loser accepts the results.”
On Capitol Hill, FBI Director Christopher Wray told the Senate Homeland Security Committee Thursday he’s seen no evidence of the widespread voter fraud claimed by President Trump among mail-in ballots.
Christopher Wray: “We have not seen, historically, any kind of coordinated national voter fraud effort in a major election, whether it’s by mail or otherwise.”
The FBI director’s testimony came as a U.S. attorney and an FBI field office in Pennsylvania issued an unusual statement claiming they’re investigating reports of tampering with nine military ballots. The U.S. attorney says the ballots were “improperly opened,” with votes cast for Donald Trump “discarded” by elections officials. The Trump campaign then seized on the announcement, saying, “Democrats are trying to steal the election.”
Loyola Law School professor Justin Levitt questioned the timing of the announcement, telling NPR, “It is the vital duty of government not to announce partial facts and 'potential issues' in pending investigations. Indeed, it’s quite improper to announce the fact of an inquiry. And grotesquely improper to announce whom the ballots were cast for, as if that mattered in the investigation.”
In Louisville, Kentucky, protesters defied a curfew for the second straight night and marched to demand justice for Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old African American EMT who was shot to death inside her own apartment by plainclothes officers serving a no-knock warrant in March. Overnight, Kentucky state Representative Attica Scott live-streamed her own arrest, alongside her daughter and 22 others, on charges of first-degree rioting, failure to disperse and unlawful assembly. A day earlier, Scott filmed as scores of heavily armed riot police flooded the streets of Louisville, following a grand jury’s announcement that none of the officers who fired 32 bullets into Taylor’s home would face homicide charges.
Rep. Attica Scott: “People marching down the street were met with literally dozens of police vehicles, officers hopping out, batons, their bats drawn.”
Breonna Taylor’s family is scheduled to speak publicly this morning for the first time since the grand jury’s decision on Wednesday. Kentucky’s governor and Louisville’s mayor are calling on Kentucky’s attorney general to release the grand jury’s transcripts.
On Capitol Hill, Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul lashed out at the Black Lives Matter movement, accusing it of targeting elected officials with terrorism.
Sen. Rand Paul: “Their goal is terrorism. They’re admitting it. If you look at their exchanges online in social media, they are saying their goal is to terrorize public officials, and really anybody.”
Protests demanding justice for Breonna Taylor continue in cities across the United States. In Los Angeles, a peaceful march for Black lives was attacked by drivers in two separate incidents Thursday evening, leaving at least one person hospitalized. There have been at least 69 car attacks on Black Lives Matter protesters since George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police officers in late May.
In Tucson, Arizona, the family of 27-year-old Carlos Ingram López, who was killed in police custody in April, is demanding charges be brought against officers involved in his death, after prosecutors said they would not face an indictment. Ingram López died on April 21 after officers pinned him face down to the ground for 12 minutes at his grandmother’s house. In police bodycam video, Ingram López can be heard asking for water and his grandmother. At one point he says, “I can’t breathe.”
Coronavirus cases in the United States are rapidly surging in at least 22 states. The biggest increases have been seen across the Midwest and West, including Texas, Arizona and Minnesota.
On Thursday, President Trump rallied an estimated 15,000 of his followers at a massive campaign event in Jacksonville, Florida, with no social distancing and few people wearing masks.
In Virginia, Public Health officials are demanding the cancellation of Trump’s planned Friday evening rally at the Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport, warning of a “severe public health threat” if the rally is allowed to proceed. An executive order by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam bans gatherings of more than 250 people.
In Iowa, the Trump administration has fined the operators of a beef slaughterhouse plant just $957, after they failed to protect workers from contracting coronavirus on the job. Three hundred thirty-eight of the plant’s 850 workers got sick during a major outbreak at the Iowa Premium Beef plant in April. This week, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration ordered a $1,914 fine against the company for record-keeping violations, then agreed to cut that fine in half after negotiations with executives. The Associated Press reports four other meat plants in Iowa with major outbreaks received no fines at all, despite hundreds of COVID-19 cases and nine deaths at the plants.
Youth climate activists are once again taking to the streets around the world to join the Fridays for Future strike for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began. Student-led actions are taking place in South Korea, the Philippines, Germany, Sweden and in over 3,000 places around the globe. Swedish youth climate activist Greta Thunberg tweeted, “We will be back next week, next month and next year. For as long as it takes.”
In the Arctic Circle, 18-year-old climate activist Mya-Rose Craig held a protest this week standing on an iceberg and surrounded by open ocean, as Arctic sea ice shrank to its second-lowest minimum extent on record.
Mya-Rose Craig: “I am up here with Greenpeace in the Arctic. And I’m here to bear witness to the sea ice minimum, but I’m also here doing the most northerly Youth Strike for Climate to try and make a statement about how temporary this amazing landscape is and how our leaders have to make a decision now in order to save it.”
The Labor Department reports 1.5 million U.S. workers filed new unemployment claims over the past week. That includes 870,000 applicants for regular state unemployment benefits and another 630,000 who applied for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. Some 26 million workers are now collecting jobless benefits. The Census Bureau reports 23 million U.S. adults live in households that don’t have enough food to eat, and an estimated one in four renters with children lives in a home that’s behind on rent.
This comes as lawmakers are poised to leave Washington for an extended recess, amid the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Majority Senate Republicans have yet to pass a new coronavirus relief bill, more than four months after the House passed its $3 trillion HEROES Act.
Donald Trump visited the Supreme Court Thursday, where the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg lay in repose following her death last week at the age of 87. Trump wore a mask as he and first lady Melania Trump posed next to Ginsburg’s casket on the steps of the court — one of the few times Trump has worn a mask publicly since the start of the pandemic. Members of the public who spotted Trump on the steps of the High Court erupted in a chorus of boos and chants of “Vote him out!”
Protesters: “Vote him out! Vote him out! Vote him out! Vote him out! Vote him out!”
As the protests grew louder, Trump walked back inside the Supreme Court; the protesters then switched their chant to “Honor her wish.”
Ginsburg’s final statement, dictated to her granddaughter days before her death, read, “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.” Trump has said he’ll name his new nominee to replace Justice Ginsburg on Saturday. Republican senators have pledged to rush confirmation proceedings for Trump’s pick ahead of Election Day.
Today Ruth Bader Ginsburg will lie in state at the U.S. Capitol, becoming the first woman and the first Jewish person to receive the honor.
In immigration news, BuzzFeed reports the House Oversight Committee has found that prisoners who have died in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement experienced medical neglect, and says ICE prison staff “falsified records to cover up” problems inside the facilities. The report, published Thursday, details deaths of immigrant prisoners that could have been preventable, including failing to transfer people to the ER or placing prisoners who are sick in solitary confinement with scarce monitoring.
This comes as a separate congressional report issued earlier this week found prisoners in the custody of ICE systematically receive inadequate medical, dental and mental healthcare and face solitary confinement as a punishment for speaking out.
Mexican authorities are preparing to issue arrest warrants that could target Army soldiers for the first time in the ongoing investigation into the 2014 disappearance and presumed massacre of 43 students from a teachers’ college in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero. Reuters reports new warrants are also being issued for local, state and federal police. This week, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said he’ll confirm new information on the case over the weekend, on the sixth anniversary of the students’ abduction.
In Brazil, Volkswagen has agreed to pay $6.4 million to former employees who were arrested and tortured after the car company reported them as “subversives” during Brazil’s military dictatorship of the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. In a settlement with Brazilian prosecutors, Volkswagen admitted it targeted union activists at its massive auto plant near São Paulo, where bosses spied on workers and reported outlawed newspapers and flyers to police. This is former VW employee Expedito Batista.
Expedito Batista: “Volkswagen chased after the workers. They incarcerated us inside the factory. Workers were handed over to the Department of Political and Social Order, which was the political authority at the time. Volkswagen’s conduct at the time was willful. This settlement does not completely satisfy us. We deserve more, given our rights, but this is better than nothing.”
The settlement will compensate victims who were arrested, beaten, fired from their jobs, blacklisted and left unable to find employment for years. Brazil’s far-right president, former Army captain Jair Bolsonaro, has praised Brazil’s military dictatorship and has called for the restoration of many of its policies.