As long as Cohen obtained advance permission from everyone involved, including the president, there is no real legal or ethical problem with recording phone calls or in-person conversations. If he did not obtain permission, it may still be legal in New York, so long as Cohen was a participant in the conversation.
In New York, a person is guilty of eavesdropping, a felony, when he or she unlawfully engages in wiretapping, “mechanical overhearing” of a conversation or intercepting an electronic communication.
Wiretapping is the use of a device to intentionally, and without consent, record a telephonic communication, by a person other than a participant. “Mechanical overhearing of a conversation” is slightly different: It is the intentional, nonconsensual recording of any conversation by a person not present at the conversation, by means of any device.
There’s no evidence so far that Cohen violated New York’s eavesdropping laws if he only possessed recordings of phone calls or conversations. First, New York is a “one-party” consent state: As long as one party to the conversation (in this case, Cohen) consents to the recording, the recording is lawful. Plus, there’s no evidence that these recordings were of conversations to which Cohen was not himself a participant.
As long as he was a participant on the call or present for the conversation, New York’s criminal eavesdropping statute does not apply to him. The state’s criminal statutes primarily target situations where third parties, hidden in a van on a street, for instance, or having placed a bug on someone’s phone or smoke detector, secretly listen in on conversations.
As a “one-party” jurisdiction, New York is in the majority of states: As long as one party consents to the recording of a conversation, the recording is not criminal. Only a dozen states require the consent of all parties to a conversation for it to be recorded, including Connecticut and Pennsylvania. If Cohen surreptitiously recorded his conversations in one of those “all-party” consent states, then he might have violated that state’s law.
Surprising as it may seem, as long as all the participants are in New York, an lawyer who secretly records his own conversations or phone calls generally does not commit a crime.
However, even if not a crime, Cohen may have committed ethical violations as an attorney if he made recordings of his conversations without disclosing that he was doing so.
Historically, the Bar has expressed an aversion to secret tapings, which “offend the traditional high standards of fairness and candor that should characterize the practice of law.” The New York Rules of Professional Conduct for attorneys generally prohibit “conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.”
Over time, this prohibition has been relaxed somewhat. In 2003, a New York City Bar Association Ethics Committee Opinion concluded that a lawyer may secretly tape a conversation if the lawyer has a reasonable basis for believing that disclosing the fact of the taping would significantly impair some societal good. However, the opinion adds that undisclosed taping is ethically impermissible when used as a routine practice.
If Cohen made it a practice to secretly tape conversations, it’s likely he violated ethical rules. The rules of professional responsibility appear to require a very good reason to justify the general prohibition against recording conversations without consent.
Danny Cevallos is an MSNBC legal analyst. Follow @CevallosLaw on Twitter.
WASHINGTON — Another day, another round of strong polls for Joe Biden and the Democrats.
Biden and Senate Democratic candidates are ahead in Arizona, Maine and North Carolina, according to a trio of New York Times/Siena polls, though Biden is up by just a single point in the toss up state of North Carolina.
Biden’s even up by 2 points in Maine’s Second District, which awards one electoral vote.
But for as stable as Biden’s lead has been, it’s worth emphasizing the uncertainties of conducting a presidential election during a pandemic.
For example, with more Democrats expressing interest to vote by mail than Republicans, FiveThirtyEight reports that ballots already turned in by North Carolina Black voters are being rejected at a higher rate (4.7 percent) than white voters’ ballots (1.1 percent) — likely due to mistakes in filling out the ballot.
Now we’re talking about just a sliver of votes so far (some 70,000), and North Carolina allows voters to fix their ballots. But this could be a problem for Democrats, especially if the race in the Tar Heel State is close.
Similarly, the Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman says that while Democrats were mostly victorious in the Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court ruling Thursday on its voting procedures, there were two big exceptions.
One, the court ruled that ballots that are not submitted in outer envelopes won’t be counted. And two, it said election boards don’t have to notify voters if they made a mistake.
That could be a problem for Democrats, Wasserman argues, if they’re the ones sending in more mail-in ballots and if these voters don’t have experience when it comes to voting by mail.
Add them all up, and you see why the polls could very well be spot-on about where the Biden-vs.-Trump race stands, and why they could end up looking wrong on (or after) Election Day.
For a race that’s been incredibly stable, maybe the biggest uncertainty of all is how the votes get counted.
Dueling Biden-Trump events in battleground states
President Trump and Joe Biden held dueling events in battlegrounds on Thursday evening, and their remarks on how to hold events could not be more different. Here was President Trump on Biden’s town hall in Pennsylvania:
“They’ve got cars, like car that are parking. It’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen. And CNN is going ‘Oh this is so beautiful. They have cars in a parking lot.’ What a deal.”
And here was Biden on Trump’s:
“The president continues to think that masks don’t matter very much, although he says it, and has these large gatherings with everybody around with no masks on. And it’s extremely dangerous. And so there’s a lot of people, a lot of people hurt.”
According to NBC’s Josh Lederman, nearly everyone at Trump’s Wisconsin rally was not wearing a mask, or adhering to social distancing guidelines. The Trump campaign did hand out masks at the entrance to the event, but did not require attendees to wear them.
Also, one striking message that Biden delivered in his town hall was portraying Trump as the candidate of “Park Avenue.”
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“I really do view this campaign as a campaign between Scranton and Park Avenue,” he said.
More Biden: “Grow up here in Scranton — we’re used to guys who look down their nose at us, or look to people who look at us and think that we’re suckers. … If you didn’t have a college degree, you must be stupid, if, in fact, you didn’t get to go to an Ivy school.”
Tweet of the day
Important to note: Biden will NOT be the first person elected without an Ivy League Degree to be president if elected, but Biden-Harris ticket is the 1st ticket since ’84 w/o an Ivy league grad.
Carter/Mondale in ’76 was the last winning ticket w/o an Ivy League grad.
6,707,888: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 44,424 more than yesterday morning.)
198,886: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 839 more than yesterday morning.)
91.55 million: The number of coronavirus tests that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.
2020 Vision: When Dems wet the bed, Team Biden races to replace the sheets
Four years ago, Hillary Clinton’s campaign mostly ignored warnings from the Democratic chattering class, as well as TV pundits.
A problem brewing in Wisconsin? Situation under control, the campaign said and acted. Trouble in Michigan? No travel there until the very end.
Four years later, the Biden camp is running almost the anti-Hillary campaign when it comes to Washington bed-wetters: You spot a problem — whether it’s perceived or very real — and the campaign will run to fix it.
“Joe needs to go to Kenosha.” Well, he went to Kenosha. “Joe has a Latino problem in Florida.” Biden headed to Florida. “And is anyone else worried about Minnesota?” Well, Biden today campaigns in Minnesota, despite the public polls showing him ahead there in the high single or even double digits.
Dem strategists looking at the polling data say that while worries about Minnesota are way overblown, Biden has plenty of work to do with Florida Latinos if he wants to win the Sunshine State.
But with a scaled-back travel schedule and all the money Team Biden is now raising, whenever a Dem or pundit wets the bed, they can afford to replace the sheets.
On the campaign trail today
President Trump speaks in Bemidji, Minn., at 7:00 p.m. ET. Joe Biden also stumps in Minnesota, hitting the Duluth area. Vice President Pence travels to Arizona.
Ad Watch from Ben Kamisar
Today’s Ad Watch takes a look at the shifting Senate map, as both parties are making new, seven-figure investments in states that aren’t typically on the battleground.
NBC News has learned that Senate Leadership Fund (the super PAC backing Senate GOP candidates) is making its first ad investment in Alaska — $1.6 million on TV, radio and digital, an 18-day campaign that starts Wednesday as GOP Sen. Dan Sullivan looks to win another term.
There’s been a recent influx of money there aimed at boosting independent Al Gross (who is backed by the Democrats), so the SLF investment will help to narrow that gap. In a statement to NBC, SLF President Steven Law sought to frame Gross as an independent-in-name-only, a dynamic we told you about yesterday.
On the other side of the aisle, the DSCC announced it’ll spend “seven-figures” in South Carolina to boost Democrat Jaime Harrison in his bid against Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, money it says it’ll use on TV ads but also on field organizing, polling, data and more.
The Lid: You’re only young once
Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we broke down all the finding from our NBC/Quibi analysis of younger voters.
ICYMI: What else is happening in the world
The president says he’s issuing an executive order soon that will direct funding for “patriotic education” in schools.
Some Mississippi voters are frustrated with the state’s vote-by-mail rules.
A former Pence Covid taskforce aide says she’s voting for Biden.
FBI Director Christopher Wray warned in congressional testimony about Russian election interference and white nationalism.
WASHINGTON — Senate Leadership Fund, the top super PAC aligned with Senate Republicans, is making its first ad investment in Alaska, a state that’s seen a recent influx of Democratic spending aimed at taking down Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan.
SLF will spend $1.6 million on TV, radio and digital ads there to start on Wednesday and run for 18 days, the group confirmed to NBC News.
Sullivan is facing off against Al Gross, an Independent who is being backed by Democrats and won the state’s Democratic primary.
In a statement to NBC along with the announcement of the ad buy, SLF President Steven Law took aim at Gross’ independence from Democrats.
“Chuck Schumer and DC Democrats are quietly pouring millions into Alaska, trying to pull one over on voters and buy this seat for far-left fake independent Al Gross. That’s not going to happen on our watch,” he said.
But Gross, a physician whose family has deep ties to the state, has been working to stake out that independence, including in a recent ad where he opposes the Green New Deal and Medicare for All.
Groups aligned with Gross have been jumping onto the airwaves in recent weeks — 314 Action has spent more than $530,000 this month, according to Advertising Analytics. A group with Democratic ties launched this month and has already run more than $100,000 in ads in Alaska and Vote Vets, which is backing Gross, started running ads attacking Sullivan.
SLF’s investment will help to narrow the pro-Gross ad-spending advantage. As of Thursday evening, pro-Gross groups have spent $1.53 million on television and radio advertising compared to $740,000 for pro-Sullivan groups, per Advertising Analytics.
2h ago / 11:34 AM UTC
Democratic groups highlight pandemic death toll with comparisons to U.S. cities in new ads
WASHINGTON — As the number of coronavirus deaths in the U.S. approaches 200,000 — equivalent to the entire population of some major U.S. cities, including Tallahassee, Florida, Tempe, Arizona or Grand Rapids, Michigan — the grim milestone is being noted by two major Democratic groups with an ad campaign in presidential swing states.
The Center for American Progress Action Fund and Priorities USA have partnered to purchase full-page ads to run Friday depicting gravestones etched with reminders of the death toll. The ads will appear in 11 newspapers in five states: Michigan, Florida, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
The groups are also running digital ads on newspaper websites serving presidential swing state cities with populations of approximately 200,000, including Warren and Pontiac, Michigan; Port St. Lucie, Florida; Allentown, Bethlehem and Scranton, Pennsylvania; and Green Bay, Appleton, Kenosha and Racine, Wisconsin.
The ads call for a national plan to address the pandemic. And while President Trump isn’t mentioned, the intention is clear.
“We have a president who has given up on fighting the coronavirus,” Jesse Lee of the CAP Action Fund said in a statement. “Not one more day should go by without a real national plan, and none of us can become numb to the tragedy that is unfolding day after day.”
The 200,000 number is greater than the populations of 670 major U.S. cities, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. With the exception of Spain, the U.S. is alone in the Western world when it comes to the number of COVID deaths per capita, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Worldwide, only Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Brazil have higher deaths per 100,000 population.
While President Trump has defended his record, insisting his policies have kept the US death toll from climbing even higher, a Columbia University study found 84 percent of deaths and 82 percent of cases could have been prevented if the U.S. had instituted social distancing measures on March 1, just two weeks earlier than many cities instituted lockdowns.
From January to early March, Trump consistently downplayed the threat of the virus. Journalist Bob Woodward recently released audiotapes of Trump privately acknowledging, in early February, that the virus was “deadly stuff.” Days later, on Feb. 10, Trump publicly insisted that “a lot of people think that goes away in April with the heat.”
It wasn’t until March 15 that Trump said “this is a very contagious virus” that amounted to a “pandemic.” Around the same time, in mid-March, Woodward privately taped Trump acknowledging he liked to “play it down” when it comes to the virus in order to prevent “panic.”
In response to the ads, Trump 2020 communications director Tim Murtaugh told NBC News that “Americans have seen President Trump out front and leading the nation in the fight against the coronavirus. The President’s task force began meeting in January and he restricted travel from China, and then Europe, early on. At the time, Joe Biden criticized the decision, calling it ‘hysterical xenophobia’ and ‘fear-mongering,’ so we know Biden would not have done it. We would be in far worse position today if Joe Biden had been president in January.”
17h ago / 8:45 PM UTC
Biden tells Democratic senators he takes ‘nothing for granted’ during caucus call
WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden called into the Senate Democrats’ daily caucus meeting Thursday afternoon and reassured members that he would mount a vigorous effort in the final stretch of his campaign to be more physically present — particularly in key swing states.
During the 20-minute call, Biden said he takes “nothing for granted” and thanked the senators for their help and support.
“Overall uplifting and engaging call. Took a series of questions, he spoke about the theme of the campaign, fighting for the soul of the country. What were the things that made him decide to run, how optimistic he is about the election,” Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., told reporters.
“But he must have said this three times, ‘I take nothing for granted’ — he said, ‘I know the polls look okay right now but I’m working tirelessly … I was just in Florida, I’m about to go to Scranton, I’m heading to Duluth.’ That kind of stuff,” Coons added.
Several vulnerable members up for re-election this year urged Biden to join them on the campaign trail in their home states.
“Just basically making the plea for every state, you know, everybody wants him, ‘Please come to our state you come to our state, okay,’ this and that and everything, that type of a thing,” Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., explained.
Among those making those requests were Democratic Sens. Tina Smith of Minnesota, Doug Jones of Alabama, and Gary Peters of Michigan.
“You can tell he’s real fired up, he’s working hard, he’s going to be out there and be everywhere as much as he possibly can,” Peters said. “I’ve certainly encouraged him and Kamala to be in Michigan as much as they can.”
Notably, policy barely came up during the short call — no talk of the filibuster, election security, and “no time talking about Trump,” per Coons, a longtime Biden ally.
“We are happy that even in some states that aren’t traditional battlegrounds where there are Senate races that are important, I mean he and his team are very aware of that and that they’re being helpful,” Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., said.
“I said Joe, people need to know that you recognize the dignity of the work that people have built this country and I said the coal miners that have been left behind all the hard factory workers that are left behind,” Manchin told NBC News. “He’s very, very, just appreciative. It was just Joe. If you don’t like Joe, you don’t like yourself.”
Maura Barrett, Shaquille Brewster and Matt Wargo
17h ago / 8:39 PM UTC
Battleground voting update: A mail-in voting extension in Pennsylvania and a warning in Wisconsin
WASHINGTON — Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court issued a handful of rulings Thursday shifting the contours of the vote-by-mail fight in that state, as officials in Wisconsin are warning they likely won’t know the state’s final results by the night of Election Day.
Pennsylvana’s high court ruled Thursday that election officials cannot discard mail ballots solely because of questions about the authenticity of a voter’s signature; that ballots postmarked by Election Day and received by Friday, Nov. 6 at 5 p.m. will be counted; that third parties cannot deliver people’s ballots; and that counties can use dropboxes or other official addresses for voters to return ballots to, among other decisions.
The state also kicked the Green Party presidential and vice-presidential candidates off the ballot for failing to follow the necessary procedures to make the ballot. In 2016, about 49,000 Pennsylvanians voted for Jill Stein, and Democrat Hillary Clinton lost the state by about 44,000 votes.
The news out of Pennsylvania wasn’t the only notable tidbit to come from the swing states on Thursday.
During a virtual forum hosted by Marquette Law School, officials warned that the “unprecedented volume” of absentee ballots, paired with the statutory restrictions in processing these ballots until election day, will result in a delay in posting results.
Municipal clerks started sending out ballots on Wednesday, and the state election commission says more than 1 million voters have already requested absentee ballots.
It’s “a volume that’s much different than what we’ve seen in the past,” Wisconsin Elections Commission administrator Meagan Wolfe said Wednesday.
Milwaukee Election Commission Executive Director Claire Woodall-Vogg said that “we are not anticipating that we will be done and have results right at 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. but I’m hopeful that by the time the sun comes up on Nov. 4th we will be finished and have election results.”
But she cautioned that “a delay does not mean any cause for concern or invalidate the entirety of the election results whatsoever on election night.”
Josh Lederman and Maura Barrett
18h ago / 7:35 PM UTC
Mike Bloomberg funds Dem super PAC’s $5.4 million Florida ads to boost Joe Biden
WASHINGTON — Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg is bankrolling a new, $5.4 million television ad campaign by a Democratic super PAC, the first part of the $100 million Bloomberg says he’ll spend to support Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in Florida.
The spots will begin running across the state on Friday, Priorities USA super PAC announced Thursday. The group says the ads will be “updated versions of ads” it’s already running in other states.
One of those spots includes a super-cut of President Trump’s comments about the coronavirus, including recent ones he made to journalist Bob Woodward about how he wanted to “play it down,” with a graphic showing the rising deaths from the virus in America.
The new buys are the first round of Bloomberg’s planned spending in Florida — a new release from Priorities USA says that the former mayor and Democratic presidential hopeful will spend on more ads, voter turnout, as well as a “strategy to reach Black and Latino voters.”
Last week’s NBC News/Marist University poll found Trump and Biden tied at 48 percentage points, and some Democrats have raised concerns in recent weeks about Biden’s underperformance with Hispanics, particularly in Florida.
—Ben Kamisar contributed
1d ago / 1:27 PM UTC
Former State Department official who cast doubt on Burisma claims to testify in GOP probe
WASHINGTON — A Republican-led Senate investigation of Joe Biden and his work in Ukraine as vice president will hear testimony Thursday from a former official who has told colleagues that an energy company at the heart of the inquiry was a nonfactor in U.S. policy toward Ukraine, NBC News has learned.
The man, Amos Hochstein, a former Biden adviser who was a State Department energy envoy in President Barack Obama’s administration, is scheduled to testify behind closed doors Thursday in the Senate Homeland Security Committee’s investigation. The committee is chaired by Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., a close ally of President Donald Trump’s.
Hochstein is the only witness called by the committee known to have discussed Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, with Biden during his vice presidency. Biden is now the Democratic presidential nominee, and his son’s ties to Burisma have been at the center of the committee’s monthslong probe.
Hochstein will be among the final witnesses ahead of an interim report the committee is expected to release in late September. Johnson has considered Hochstein’s testimony crucial — along with that of Tony Blinken, a top Biden aide who was deputy national security adviser under Obama, who will also testify Thursday. Johnson had considered subpoenas for the two before they agreed to appear before the committee voluntarily. Politico first reported that Hochstein would testify.
Trump and his Republican allies, including Johnson, have argued that U.S. policy toward Ukraine under Obama may have been colored by Biden’s desire to protect Burisma — specifically, by advocating for the dismissal of a Ukrainian prosecutor with ties to the Kremlin who had investigated the company. Biden’s son Hunter was a member of the Burisma board part of the time that Biden served as the administration’s point person on Ukraine, but he was not associated with Burisma during the prosecutor’s probe.
Hochstein has told associates that he never changed U.S. policy because of Burisma and was never asked to do so and that Burisma never factored into any policy decisions around energy or Biden’s advocacy for a new Ukrainian prosecutor general.
In fact, according to a former Obama administration official, Hochstein has told colleagues that the Obama administration sought to punish Burisma rather than protect it.
Hochstein met with Ukrainian officials in 2015 to urge them to cooperate in the prosecution of Burisma founder Mykola Zlochevsky as the Obama administration sought to clamp down on corruption rampant among Ukrainian oligarchs. That’s the same year Trump and other Republicans have alleged Biden was trying to help Burisma.
Democrats have criticized the committee’s investigation as overly political, diverting the Senate’s most powerful oversight body from issues like the coronavirus pandemic. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, also criticized the investigation as a “political exercise” during a committee meeting Wednesday after Johnson pulled a planned vote on a subpoena related to the investigation.
Critics also argue that the investigation has been premised on Russian disinformation provided to the committee by people including Andrii Derkach, a Ukrainian lawmaker who worked with Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Last week, the Treasury Department said Derkach “has been an active Russian agent for over a decade” in announcing sanctions against him.
In a memo to the FBI, Democratic lawmakers said in July that the investigation has become a vehicle for “laundering” a foreign influence campaign to damage Biden.
Derkach has held a number of news conferences in Ukraine in which he has made unproven corruption allegations against Biden and other officials, including Blinken and Hochstein, using heavily edited tapes. Contacted by NBC News in July, Johnson’s office wouldn’t say whether it had received “materials” on the Bidens from pro-Kremlin Ukrainians.
The Democratic-controlled House impeached Trump late last year over allegations that he improperly pressured Ukraine to manufacture damaging information about Biden to boost his chances of re-election. The Republican-led Senate acquitted him in February.
Johnson has made it clear that his committee’s investigation is intended in part to help Trump, who is trailing Biden in national and many battleground state polls with less than seven weeks left before the election. Johnson has repeatedly acknowledged that the investigation is in sync with the presidential election calendar, including at least twice this week.
In August, Johnson said the inquiry “would certainly help Donald Trump win re-election.” A day later on Fox News, Johnson said, “We’ve got to speed it up, because we’ve got an election coming.”
The committee is preparing to release its report days before the first presidential debate on Sept. 29.
“We are working to get [the report] out as quickly as possible,” Johnson told reporters at the Capitol on Monday.
Andrew Bates, a spokesman for Biden, said the investigation amounts to “an attack founded on a long-disproven, hard-core, right-wing conspiracy theory.”
2d ago / 5:37 PM UTC
Democratic super PACs support Biden with Florida and Arizona Latinos
WASHINGTON — As some Democrats sound alarm bells about Joe Biden’s strength with Latino voters, the Democratic presidential nominee is getting some help from outside groups in the key battleground states of Florida and Arizona.
The major Democratic super PAC Priorities USA and the American Federation of Teachers union, are partnering to spend $1.9 million on Spanish language TV in Miami. Priorities USA and Latino Victory Fund are also running $726,000 worth of radio ads in the Phoenix, Tucson, Arizona and Orlando, Florida, which Priorities says is part of a larger $6.8 million campaign focused specifically on Latinos.
“Florida and Arizona each have a huge role to play in Joe Biden’s path to victory, and Latino voters are an essential part of a winning Democratic coalition in these crucial battleground states,” said Guy Cecil, Chairman of Priorities USA.
“To win, we need to be vigilant at GOP leadership’s ongoing attempts at voter suppression targeting communities of color, particularly the Latino community. This campaign in Arizona and Florida is a strong reminder to our Spanish-speaking neighbors about the importance of voting in this historic election,” said Luis A. Miranda Jr., Chairperson of the Latino Victory Fund.
WASHINGTON — If you had time to bake sourdough from scratch and do the “Renegade Challenge,” you have time to plan how you’ll vote. That’s the message from former President Barack Obama in a new video Wednesday in which he urges young voters not to play into “cynical” strategies designed to depress the voter turnout.
“Because young people have always been the ones to make change in this country, making change this fall is once again going to depend on you,” Obama said in the new video, released by ATTN. “Since we’re still dealing with a pandemic, we’ve got approach voting just like we do everything else these days — shopping, ordering dinner, pulling off a surprise birthday party over Zoom. We got to plan.”
Aimed at millennial and Gen-Z voters, Obama laid out the different options available to make sure their votes are counted: Voting early in person where available, voting in person on Election Day, or voting by mail.
“Some places call this absentee voting. You might hear it called voting from home. It’s all the same, like Donald Glover, and Childish Gambino,” Obama said. Alluding to some of the concern about voting by mail, Obama urged voters to request a ballot “right now, because it might take a little while to arrive.”
“We’re not talking Gmail, we are talking throwback, vintage, O-G mail,” he said.
Obama doesn’t mention Democratic nominee Joe Biden in the video, but both Obama and the former vice president’s campaigns have emphasized educating Americans about their voting options. Former First Lady Michelle Obama participated in a network broadcast about voting this week for her nonpartisan group, When We All Vote.
“There are a lot of people out there trying to confuse and mislead you about this election. They’re trying to make you cynical. They’re trying to get you to believe that your vote doesn’t matter,” Obama said in the video. “Do not let them do that. Our democracy is a precious thing, and it’s up to all of us to protect it.”
Obama ended the video by pretending he is about to do his own version of the Renegade Challenge, which was a viral Tik-Tok trend this summer. Renegade, in fact, was Obama’s Secret Service code name.
Maura Barrett and Matt Wargo
3d ago / 7:23 PM UTC
Pennsylvania lawsuit delays sending out mail-in ballots
PHILADELPHIA — Several legal battles are plaguing Pennsylvania’s election officials as they prepare for the Nov. 3 election, the state’s first election processing an expected 3 million mail-in ballots, according to Pennsylvania Secretary of State Katy Boockvar.
Officials across the state had planned to send out mail-ballots this week, but the certification of the ballot has been held up due to a lawsuit from the state Democratic party over whether Green Party candidates can be listed on the ballot. Without an official candidate list, county officials can’t print the ballots.
Boockvar told reporters on Tuesday that she expects the case to be decided this week. But one county official told NBC News that even if the decision came through on Tuesday, the county would need at least two weeks before ballots could be sent to voters.
“The circumstances of this election are sure to be unique,” Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf told reporters Tuesday. “What is most important in every county throughout Pennsylvania is that every vote is counted and the results are absolutely accurate even if that takes a little more time.”
Wolf called on the statehouse to consider four actions to alleviate the voting process: Allow counties to pre-canvass and pre-process ballots three weeks before Election Day, rather than begin on Nov. 3; allow counties to count eligible ballots postmarked by Election Day and received by the Friday after Nov. 3; and require counties to send mail-in ballots at least 28 days before the election to give counties more flexibility in appointing poll workers to vacant positions.
“The legal challenges Pennsylvania is facing are frustrating. Earlier ballot processing would be a game changer. Anything would be better than on Election Day,” Philadelphia City Commissioner Omar Sabir, who works to run the city’s election, told NBC News.
Op top of the candidate listing complications, the Trump campaign is currently challenging the state’s use of ballot drop boxes.
These setbacks for Pennsylvania are only the first of many hurdles this November’s election will include. Sabir told NBC News that given all the challenges this year, he doesn’t want an expectation of calling Pennsylvania’s results on Election Day.
“Everything’s not gonna be done” Sabir said. “I don’t even want that expectation set up right now. The elections will not be done tonight.”
3d ago / 6:46 PM UTC
Pompeo hosts RNC chairwoman at revived Madison Dinners
WASHINGTON — Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel was a guest on Monday at the latest installment of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s “Madison Dinners,” three people with knowledge of the dinner tells NBC News.
The chair of the Republican Party came to the State Department for the taxpayer-funded dinner in the Diplomatic Reception Rooms. Also at the dinner were UPS executive Laura Lane, who oversees the shipping giant’s government affairs, and India’s ambassador to the U.S. NBC News saw many of the guests arriving in evening wear.
The State Department says the dinners are foreign-policy focused. But they have come under scrutiny from congressional committees over concerns that Pompeo is using government resources to build a political and future donor network. As RNC chairwoman, McDaniel oversees the GOP’s fundraising operations.
The Republican National Committee and the State Department did not respond to requests for comment. The Indian Embassy in Washington and UPS had no comment.
Leigh Ann Caldwell, Kasie Hunt and Haley Talbot
3d ago / 12:14 PM UTC
Pressure grows from rank and file on Hill to find deal on pandemic relief
WASHINGTON — As the stalemate in negotiations between Democrats and the administration on another round of pandemic relief enters its sixth week, a bipartisan group of House members is trying to put pressure on negotiators by releasing what it calls a compromise proposal.
The members of the Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of 50 lawmakers divided equally between Republicans and Democrats, say their $1.5 trillion measure is an attempt to meet Democrats and the administration in the middle and provide a path forward. They say that while their bill is not meant to be signed into law, it is meant to get negotiators back to the table.
Talks among House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York and the administration have been frozen since early August, when the two sides couldn’t agree on how much money to spend.
Some lawmakers in both parties, fretting over inaction ahead of the November election, are calling for a deal. Senate Republicans voted on a slimmed-down Covid-19-related assistance bill last week. While it did not pass, it allowed vulnerable Republicans to campaign on the effort.
The Problem Solvers began meeting shortly after those talks broke down, and they even sat down with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows at least twice.
Their proposal is cheaper than what Pelosi wants, but it includes some of her priorities.
It would extend the federal weekly unemployment benefit at $450 per week, higher than the administration’s support of $300 per week and lower than the Democrats’ demand of $600 per week. It includes Republican demands for liability protection, and it addresses one of the biggest sticking points between Democrats and the administration in negotiations, state and local funding, by proposing to provide $500 billion for states that have gone into the red during the pandemic.
The proposal also includes funding for a new round of $1,200 payments to eligible Americans and for the Paycheck Protection Program, as well as more money for health care, schools and child care than the Republicans wanted. And it would provide funding for broadband and food assistance programs, which the administration has not supported.
As the election nears, some Democrats are pressuring Pelosi to put a new pandemic relief bill on the floor during the three-week congressional session to show that Democrats are willing to compromise and keep working toward an agreement.
“Families and business in my district have all told me the same thing: they want help getting through the Covid crisis, not the same-old political games,” Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., co-chair of the the Problem Solvers Caucus, told NBC News. “With so many people suffering, it’s time for pragmatic solutions, and that’s what this bipartisan roadmap is all about. We hope it will help the negotiators recognize that there is hope for real bipartisan progress.”
Some lawmakers are advocating for an updated, cheaper version of the $3.4 trillion House-passed HEROES Act, while others are advocating for votes on individual components of the bill, including unemployment insurance.
“We want a deal on a robust, comprehensive package, and barring that, we’d like the House to take some sort of action on Covid relief,” Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., the chair of the New Democrats Coalition, a group of more than 100 moderate-minded, economic-focused Democrats, told reporters on a conference call Monday evening.
Freshman Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, D-Pa., said, “We want to see something done before we leave.”