September 15, 2020

"Well, guys, Election Day is now less than 50 days away," Jimmy Fallon noted on Monday's Tonight Show. "The only thing coming sooner than Nov. 3 is a COVID test for anyone who went to the president's indoor rally last night." What is President Trump doing holding a packed, mask-less rally in Las Vegas? he asked. "Even old ladies smoking at the slot machines were like, 'I wouldn't set foot in there.'"

"The event was attended by 5,000 people who watched Trump's Tulsa rally and thought, 'That, but less safe,'" Fallon joked. "The rally actually defied Nevada's 50-person limit on indoor gatherings. In response, the Trump campaign was like, 'Honestly, after Tulsa we didn't think 50 people would show up.' Seriously, you know you're doing something crazy when the state that allows gambling and prostitution's like, 'Ah, you can't do that, bro.'"

"I get why a Trump fan would've trusted Trump before, but how do you still trust this man after he admitted that he's been downplaying the coronavirus this whole time?" Trevor Noah asked at The Daily Show. "This is like believing a Nigerian email scammer after he tells you that he's a Nigerian email scammer," he added. "And as for Trump, how you gonna call yourself the president of 'law and order' when you're openly flouting the law?"

Noah also gawked at a "crazy" Utah anti-mask rally that went viral — "that video is the closest thing I've seen to Facebook comments happening in real life," he said — and the body-cam footage of an Ohio police officer breaking up a college party hosted by quarantined COVID-positive students, which he compared to "watching a virtual reality game called 'White Privilege.'" The "genius of America's coronavirus response," he deadpanned, is that "unlike other countries that are preparing for the second wave, America realized you don't have to deal with the second wave if you never get over the first."

Seriously, the only way Trump "could spread the virus more efficiently is to hold a rally at a meat-packing plant and charge one French kiss for admission," Seth Meyers said at Late Night. "Wildfires and an out-of-control pandemic continue to rage" and Trump brags about watching hours of Fox News as he descends "deeper into lawless authoritarianism," often while speaking on Fox News, he said. "Just listen to the words he's using — 'retribution,' 'agitators,' 'insurrection' — it's like fascist magnetic poetry." Watch below. Peter Weber

6:57 p.m.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday said he will soon resume talks with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) about another coronavirus relief package.

Mnuchin told the Senate Banking Committee that he has "probably spoken to Speaker Pelosi 15 or 20 times in the last few days" on a continuing resolution to extend government funding, and "we've agreed to continue to have discussions about the CARES Act." He also asked Congress to give him the authority to distribute $130 billion in unused Paycheck Protection Program funds to provide loans to small businesses hit particularly hard by the coronavirus pandemic. The deadline to apply for PPP loans was Aug. 8.

Pelosi told reporters that she will "hopefully soon" start negotiations with Mnuchin, and for now is talking with her caucus and leadership. "We'll see what we're going to do," she said. "But we're ready for a negotiation. That's what we're ready for."

Top Democrats spent Thursday working on a $2.4 trillion relief package that could be used in negotiations or be voted on as a stand-alone package sometime soon, a senior Democratic aide told The New York Times. The House approved a $3.4 trillion rescue measure in May, which Republicans said was bloated and had no chance of passing the Senate. Catherine Garcia

5:14 p.m.

Some of the biggest and most deadly COVID-19 outbreaks in the U.S. stemmed from the meatpacking industry. But Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) was reluctant to call for accountability, including when it came to a Colorado-based plant Gardner received donations from, Business Insider reports.

Early in the pandemic, meatpacking factories' close quarters became home to massive COVID-19 outbreaks throughout the country. An outbreak at the JBS meatpacking plant in Greeley, Colorado led to at least 291 confirmed cases and six deaths — the biggest localized outbreak in the state. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) explicitly called for an investigation at the facility, as did a JBS employee union, which called out Gardner for failing to provide promised coronavirus tests for workers. But Gardner wouldn't discuss the situation with Business Insider, and similarly avoided questions about JBS in a local radio interview.

Throughout his Senate career, Gardner has been one of the top recipients of donations from JBS; He has received $24,000 from the company over the years. This election cycle, he received the second most money from JBS of any senator, as well as the second largest contribution total from the meatpacking industry as a whole. Gardner is considered one of the most vulnerable senators this fall as he faces former Gov. John Hickenlooper (D). Kathryn Krawczyk

3:16 p.m.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany is trying to spin President Trump's election fraud allegations back on Democrats.

In a Wednesday press conference, Trump refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he's not re-elected this fall, and alleged without evidence Democrats are running a "scam" to steal the election. The comments earned widespread condemnation from Democrats and Republicans alike, and got a bit more clarity from McEnany on Thursday.

During Thursday's press conference, ABC News' Jon Karl asked McEnany if Trump would "assure us that there will be a peaceful transfer of power" should he lose this fall. McEnany tried to debate just how the Wednesday question was asked of Trump, but went on to affirm "the president will accept the results of a free and fair election." She then alleged Karl's question was "better to be asked of Democrats," and shared some quotes from Democrats in which they appeared to be challenging Trump's many attacks on the electoral process.

McEnany's response also remains complicated due to Trump's baseless suggestions that this will not be a free and fair election. While Trump has alleged attempted fraud, FBI Director Christopher Wray confirmed Thursday there was no evidence of a national effort to commit fraud "by mail or otherwise" this election or "historically." Kathryn Krawczyk

2:58 p.m.

Prosecutors are reportedly dropping prostitution charges against New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

Kraft in 2019 was charged for allegedly soliciting prostitution at a Palm Beach County massage parlor, but court papers filed on Thursday showed that the charges against him are being dropped, NBC News reports.

"Although there was probable cause to make an arrest, the evidence cannot prove all legally required elements of the crime alleged and is insufficient to support a criminal prosecution," a court filing said.

This comes after last month, the Florida 4th District Court of Appeal ruled that Jupiter police violated Kraft's rights by secretly installing cameras inside the spa's massage rooms, and the court said that video footage of Kraft allegedly paying for sex at the spa couldn't be used during the trial, The Associated Press reports. This decision was expected to lead to charges against Kraft being dropped after prosecutors did not appeal it. The owner and the manager of the spa still face charges in the case, per the AP.

Kraft had pleaded not guilty to the charges. He issued an apology in March 2019, though, saying, "I am truly sorry. I know I have hurt and disappointed my family, my close friends, my co-workers, our fans and many others who rightfully hold me to a higher standard." Brendan Morrow

Opinion
2:33 p.m.

The Department of Homeland Security on Thursday released a proposed rule change putting new limits on visas for international students, exchange visitors (au pairs, visiting scholars, and the like), and foreign journalists. The rules for students especially have drawn immediate criticism because, as is so often the case with the Trump administration's immigration policy, they are needlessly onerous and cruel.

As it stands, the student visas in question don't have an expiration date — their duration is linked to the duration of study. The new rule would limit these visas to four years, regardless of degree length. But for students from certain countries, the limit would be just two years, typically half the time to complete a bachelor's degree. Students could request extensions, but they're not guaranteed. The risk of spending two years of time and tuition on a degree that can't be completed is likely great enough to deter many students from studying in America at all.

Those familiar with President Trump's past country-specific immigration rules won't be surprised to learn the stricter, two-year version applies overwhelmingly to nations in Africa and the Middle East, including many Muslim-majority countries. It does this by targeting the four nations on the state sponsors of terrorism list and, crucially, "citizens of countries with a student and exchange visitor total overstay rate of greater than 10 percent."

But overstay rate often doesn't correlate with overstay volume (India, for example, has more than 20 times as many overstays as Iraq, but a much lower percentage rate). Thus using the overstay rate limits student visas for what Trump would reportedly dub "shithole countries" via an ostensibly neutral formula while doing relatively little to cut down on total visa overstays.

Perhaps most galling of all is this metric's inclusion of nations like Afghanistan and Iraq, where the United States is actively at war and engaged in nation building, ostensibly spreading democracy and promoting education. Other countries we've invaded or otherwise subjected to military intervention — including Yemen, Vietnam, and Somalia — are on the list, too. Citizens of these countries get American bombs, but maybe not books. Bonnie Kristian

1:53 p.m.

After slamming him in a tell-all book, President Trump's niece is taking him to court.

Mary Trump, the president's niece who spoke out against him in her book Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man, filed a lawsuit against him in New York on Thursday, accusing the president and his siblings of fraud, NBC News reports.

The lawsuit claims that among the president, his sister Maryanne Trump Barry, and his late brother Robert Trump, "fraud was not just the family business — it was a way of life," and it accuses them of having "concocted scheme after scheme to cheat on their taxes, swindle their business partners, and jack up rents on their low income tenants."

Mary Trump also claims in the lawsuit that after the death of her father, Fred Trump Jr., the president and his siblings "fleeced her of tens of millions of dollars" of her inheritance after they "designed and carried out a complex scheme to siphon funds away from her interests, conceal their grift, and deceive her about the true value of what she had inherited," reports NBC.

President Trump previously attacked his niece after the publication of her tell-all book, calling her a "seldom seen niece who knows little about me," and the White House called Too Much and Never Enough a "book of falsehoods." White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany also said Thursday that "the only fraud committed there was Mary Trump recording one of her relatives," referring to Mary Trump having secretly recorded conversations with Maryanne Trump Barry.

Mary Trump in a statement on Thursday alleged Trump and his siblings "betrayed me by working together in secret to steal from me" and said she's bringing the lawsuit "to hold them accountable and to recover what is rightfully mine." Brendan Morrow

1:32 p.m.

FBI Director Christopher Wray has affirmed there's no proof of a national attempt to defraud the 2020 election.

On Wednesday, President Trump refused to say whether he would peacefully give up power if Democratic nominee Joe Biden is elected this fall, once again repeating baseless allegations that Democrats are running a "scam." But in sworn testimony before Congress on Thursday, Wray said he's seen no evidence of this happening.

While Wray takes "voter fraud and voter suppression ... seriously" and is committed to investigating those situations, "We have not seen, historically, any kind of coordinated national voter fraud effort in a major election, whether it's by mail or otherwise," Wray said when questioned by Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.). He has seen instances of local voter fraud, but "to change a federal election outcome by mounting that kind of fraud at scale would be a major challenge," Wray added.

Wray was Trump's pick to replace James Comey as FBI director, but Trump has reportedly been considering ousting Wray for months. Trump also publicly disparaged Wray on Twitter after the director made it clear Russia was trying to interfere in the 2020 election. Kathryn Krawczyk

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