Kamala Harris questions Supreme Court nominee: US election news

The Democratic vice presidential candidate grilled Amy Coney Barrett at her Senate confirmation hearing.

Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris, speaks virtually during a confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, October 13, 2020 [Patrick Semansky, Pool via AP]
  • The second day of the Senate Judiciary Committee featured senators questioning Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, including Democratic vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris.
  • Joe Biden campaigned in Florida, a state seen as key to a Trump victory, on Tuesday.
  • After returning to the campaign trail on Monday, Trump held a rally in Pennsylvania.
  • Early voting began in Kentucky and Texas, with 21 days left until the November 3 election.

Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the United States elections. This is Joseph Stepansky, Steve Chaggaris and William Roberts.

Tuesday, October 13:

19:50 ET – Trump’s rally started late; he watched Harris question Barrett

Donald Trump began his rally in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, a bit late but he had a good excuse: He was watching Kamala Harris question his Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.

“That’s another great one, isn’t it?” Trump rhetorically asked the audience about Harris. “I just watched her on television coming in,” he continued, “and I compared her to Amy, the future Supreme Court justice.”

“And I will tell you, Amy’s made a great impression,” he added, as the crowd chanted, “Fill that seat.”

He later referred to Harris as Joe Biden’s “radical left running mate, who I just watched on television. She is so pathetic.”

President Donald Trump tosses face masks into the crowd as he arrives for a campaign rally, October 13, 2020, in Johnstown, Pennsylvania [Evan Vucci/AP Photo]

19:20 ET – Harris questions Barrett on her judicial views on abortion

Questioning Amy Coney Barrett in the Senate Judiciary Committee, Democratic vice-presidential nominee Senator Kamala Harris said Barrett’s rulings on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals indicate the nominee does not support the right to an abortion.

“During your tenure on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, you have been willing to reconsider abortion restrictions that other Republican-appointed judges found unconstitutional,” Harris said.

“I would suggest that we not pretend that we don’t know how this nominee views a woman’s right to choose to make her own healthcare decisions,” Harris said.

19:15 ET – Barrett says question before the Supreme Court on healthcare law is whether part of it may be ‘excised’ out

“I would consider all the protections that Congress put in place. And as I said earlier during this hearing, the question would be figuring out whether Congress, assuming that the mandate is unconstitutional now, whether that is consistent with your intent,” Barrett said in response to a question from Kamala Harris.

In making that determination, Barrett said she would defer to Congress’s intent in passing the legislation, the Affordable Care Act of 2010.

“It’s not a question of the Supreme Court. It is a question of what Congress wanted in the statute,” she said.

19:10 ET – Harris says fate of US healthcare law hinges on Barrett’s likely vote

“The Affordable Care Act and all of its protections hinge on this seat and the outcome of this hearing. And I believe it’s very important the American people understand the issues at stake,” Harris said.

19:00 ET – Harris questions Barrett

Democratic vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris has begun 30 minutes of questions for Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.

18:45 ET – Trump en route to Pennsylvania rally

Donald Trump is heading to Pennsylvania for a rally in Johnstown, his second battleground state rally in two nights. Last night, he was in Florida for his first rally since being diagnosed with COVID-19. Tomorrow, he will hold a rally in Des Moines, Iowa.

Before departing the White House, he told reporters, “We’re going to Johnstown, Pennsylvania, a very big crowd. And I think Amy [Coney Barrett] is doing incredibly well. It’s been a great day. Thank you, I’ll see you in Johnstown.”

President Donald Trump boards Air Force One for a trip to Johnstown, Pennsylvania, to attend a campaign rally, October 13, 2020, at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland [Evan Vucci/AP]

17:45 ET Barrett says she rejects discrimination against gays

Under questioning by Senator Cory Booker, a Democrat, Trump Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett said she “fully respects all the rights of the LGBT community”.

Barrett went further and stated that the Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v Hodges, which gives same-sex couples the equal rights to marry, “is important precedent of the court”.

“I reject any kind of discrimination on any sort of basis,” Barrett said.

17:15 ET – Barrett acknowledges she is pro-life but would not apply moral views to interpreting the law

Republican Senator Joni Ernst asked Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett to reiterate her stance as a “pro-life” judge.

“I am pro-life. And I see that, judge, by your faith and as has been aptly pointed out many times over by our colleagues across the aisle that you are pro-life,” Ernst said.

“My policy views, my moral convictions, my religious beliefs, do not bear on how I decide cases, nor should they,” Barrett said.“It would be in conflict with my judicial oath,” she said.

Senator Joni Ernst speaks during a confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, October 13, 2020 [Sarah Silbiger/Pool via AP]

17:00 ET – Supreme Court allows Trump to wind down census early

The Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed the Trump administration to wind down counting for the 2020 US census a month earlier than originally planned in a blow to civil rights groups that are concerned there will be an undercount.

The high court put on hold a lower court ruling that ordered the once-in-a-decade population count to continue until October 31.

16:55 ET – Twitter suspends accounts for spam and manipulation that claim to be Black Trump supporters

Twitter Inc suspended a group of accounts for spam and manipulation on Tuesday that commonly claimed to be African American supporters of Trump and his re-election campaign, according to a company spokesperson.

The social media company is investigating the activity and may suspend other similar accounts if they’re found to be violating Twitter’s policies, the spokesperson said. The Washington Post first reported the investigation.

Twitter has suspended a group of accounts that claimed to be African American supporters of Trump for spam and manipulation [Richard Drew/The Associated Press]

16:50 ET – Cut cable shuts down Virginia online voter registration on final day to register

An accidentally severed fibre optic cable shut down Virginia’s online voter registration system for several hours Tuesday, the last day to register before the November general election, authorities said.

The Virginia Department of Elections said in a statement on Twitter that a “fiber cut” affected connectivity for multiple agencies, including the department’s citizen portal and registrar’s offices. The cable was inadvertently cut during a Chesterfield County roadside utilities project, according to the state’s information technology agency.

Six hours later, the Department of Elections issued a statement saying the portal was back online. But the fallout already included threats of legal action and concern that voters were being disenfranchised at a crucial moment.

Voting advocates said the accident could not have a come a worse time and lambasted state officials for the technological failure. The day of the deadline is when many Virginians decide to register, particularly after being reminded on social media and in the news.

16:45 ET –  Biden seeks to shore up senior citizen vote in Florida

With Election Day just three weeks away, Biden sought to shore up the vote from senior citizens in Florida – a key voting block for Trump in 2016.

It was Biden’s third visit to the state in a month, after making targeted appeals to other communities, including veterans and Latinos.

To Trump, “you’re expendable, you’re forgettable, you’re virtually nobody,” Biden said at a senior centre in Pembroke Pines, about 32km (20 miles) from Fort Lauderdale.

The “only senior Donald Trump seems to care about” is himself, Biden added.

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at Southwest Focal Point Community Center in Pembroke Pines, Florida [Carolyn Kaster/The Associated Press]

16:30 ET – Trump intensifies attacks on Harris

Grasping for a comeback, Trump and his Republican allies are intensifying their focus not on Democratic nominee Joe Biden, but on his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris – arguing without evidence that it is Harris, the first Black woman on a major party ticket, who would really be in charge if Democrats win the White House.

The effort is laced with sexist and racist undertones, and is aimed at winning back Republicans and independents who are comfortable with Biden’s more moderate record, but may associate Harris with the Democrats’ left flank, despite her own more centrist positions on some important issues.

Read more here.

Trump has increased attacks on Democratic vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris[Carolyn Kaster/The Associated Press]

16:15 ET – Biden maintains significant lead in Michigan: Poll

Biden maintains a significant lead over President Donald Trump in Michigan, but the two candidates were neck and neck in North Carolina, according to a new Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll.

Biden had 51 percent support among likely voters in Michigan, compared to Trump’s 43 percent support, according to the poll. In North Carolina, Biden had 48 percent support among likely voters compared to 47 percent for Trump.

15:45 ET – Justice Department accuses Melania Trump book author of breaking nondisclosure pact

The Justice Department on Tuesday accused Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, author of a tell-all book about first lady Melania Trump, of breaking their nondisclosure agreement and asked a court to set aside profits from the book in a government trust.

In a complaint filed in the US District Court in Washington, Justice Department lawyers said Wolkoff, a former aide who fell out with the first lady, failed to submit to government review a draft of her book, Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship with the First Lady, which offers an unflattering portrayal of President Donald Trump’s wife.

“The United States seeks to hold Ms Wolkoff to her contractual and fiduciary obligations and to ensure that she is not unjustly enriched by her breach of the duties she freely assumed when she served as an adviser to the first lady,” said a copy of the complaint seen by Reuters News Agency.

Melania Trump
The Justice Department has said a tell-all book about First Lady Melania Trump violates a non-disclosure agreement [J Scott Applewhite/The Associated Press]

15:15 ET – Trump takes tax battle back to Supreme Court

Trump on Tuesday took his long-running fight to prevent New York prosecutors from obtaining his tax returns to the Supreme Court for a second time.

The president’s lawyers asked the court to block a federal appeals court ruling that said a subpoena of his tax records can proceed.

“Irreparable harm will result from the denial of a stay,” his lawyers wrote in their appeal to the Supreme Court.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance wants the returns, which cover 2011 to 2018, as part of an investigation into Trump’s business affairs.

14:45 ET – Palestinian prime minister says ‘God help us’ if Trump re-elected

The Palestinian prime minister has said it will be disastrous for his people and the world at large if Trump wins re-election next month.

Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said the last four years of the Trump administration have greatly harmed the Palestinians.

“If we are going to live another four years with President Trump, God help us, God help you and God help the whole world,” said Tuesday, repeating comments he made a day earlier in a remote meeting with European legislators.

The Palestinians have traditionally refrained from taking an explicit public position in American presidential elections. Shtayyeh’s comments reflected the sense of desperation on the Palestinian side after a series of US moves that have left them weakened and isolated.

Talk to al Jazeera - Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh has said Trump re-election would be disastrous for people of occupied territories [Al Jazeera]

14:30 ET – Biden says former President Barack Obama ‘will be out on the trail’ and is ‘doing well’

The Democratic nominee did not offer more details but told reporters Tuesday before a campaign trip to Florida that he thinks Obama is “doing enough” for the campaign.

Biden mentioned his service as Obama’s vice president often during the Democratic primaries but has not emphasised those ties as frequently as he makes his closing arguments against President Donald Trump.

Obama delivered a blistering critique of Trump during the Democratic National Convention in August, and he has headlined large grassroots fundraisers for Biden and Democrats this year.

But the 44th president has not otherwise been a frequent campaign presence during the coronavirus pandemic, which has curtailed in-person campaigning for Democrats’ surrogates.

14:15 ET – Lines at polling stations as early voting begins in Texas

Texans on Tuesday joined a wave of Americans casting ballots at a record-setting pace, jamming early-voting polling places ahead of a November 3 election showdown between Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden.

Long lines of voters snaked out the doors and down the sidewalks at polling places around big cities such as Houston and Dallas, social media videos showed. Early voting also began in Kentucky on Tuesday.

In Georgia, where early voting began on Monday, some people waited five hours or more to cast ballots in a record-breaking early turnout for a state that also features two competitive US Senate races. Glitches with Georgia’s new voting machines prolonged the delays in some locations, voting rights groups said, mirroring issues that led to long delays in the state’s June primary.

People wait in line to cast their ballots for the upcoming presidential election as early voting begins in Houston, Texas [Go Nakamura/Reuters]

14:00 ET – Romney condemns Trump, ‘vile’ US political scene

Republican Senator Mitt Romney, in a scathing tweet, said the world is watching the “vile” US political scene with “horror”, while condemning Trump’s behaviour in advance of the election.

“It is time to lower the heat,” said Romney, one of the few prominent Republicans to have frequently criticised Trump since his 2016 election win.

The Utah senator lashed out at Trump, but also his opponents on the left, for shifting the nature of politics “from spirited debate to a vile, vituperative, hate-filled morass that is unbecoming of any free nation – let alone the birthplace of modern democracy.”

Romney, the only member of the Republican Senate majority to vote for Trump’s impeachment conviction in February, homed in on the president’s calling Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris a “monster” and the Democratic leader of the House Nancy Pelosi “crazy.”

While Romney also criticised “blistering attacks” by Democrats, he took the unusual step three weeks out from the presidential election of highlighting what he said was Biden’s refusal “to stoop as low as others.”

Read more here.

13:45 ET – Trump takes aim at Fauci’s coronavirus predictions

Trump has attacked the US government’s top infectious disease expert, arguing that Anthony Fauci’s predictions about the course of the coronavirus are inaccurate, a day after the immunologist expressed disappointment in an ad run by the Trump campaign.

“Actually, Tony’s pitching arm is far more accurate than his Prognostications. ‘No problem, no masks’. WHO no longer likes Lockdowns – just came out against. Trump was right. We saved 2,000,000 USA lives!!!” Trump wrote in a tweet, referencing a weak first pitch that Fauci threw during a baseball game in July.

Fauci has warned that the US could experience hundreds of thousands of additional coronavirus deaths if the country doesn’t take specific precautions during the winter months and has publicly argued that people should “hunker down” for winter.

Trump and Fauci have sparred in recent days after Fauci said his statements used in a campaign ad, which appeared to praise the president’s response to the pandemic, were taken out of context.

13:30 ET – Over 11.4 million US citizens have already voted

Over 11,475,707 million US citizens have already cast ballots in the November 3 election, continuing a record pace of early voting, according to the University of Florida’s United States Elections Project.

Registered Democrats have returned 2,849,388 mail ballots, while registered Republicans have returned 1,192,782. Over 75.4 ballots have been requested so far. The tracker was last updated at 12:13ET (16:13 GMT) on Tuesday.

As of Sunday, the United States Election Project reported that 9.3 million people had already voted, up considerably from the 1.4 million people who had voted by that point in 2016.

People cast their ballots for the upcoming presidential election as early voting begins in Houston, Texas [Go Nakamura/Reuters]

13:00 ET – Biden heads to Florida to court senior vote

Biden heads for Florida on Tuesday to court elderly Americans who helped elect Trump four years ago but appear to be swinging to the Democratic candidate for the White House this time around amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden, at 77 the oldest Democratic nominee ever, is to “deliver his vision for older Americans” at an event in the city of Pembroke Pines, north of Miami, his campaign said.

The former vice president’s visit to Florida comes a day after Trump held a campaign rally in the Sunshine State, his first since his hospitalisation for COVID-19.

Unlike Biden’s small, socially distanced gatherings, thousands of supporters packed an airport tarmac for the president’s return to the campaign trail.

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden boards his campaign plane at New Castle Airport in Delaware en route to Florida [Carolyn Kaster/The Associated Press]

12:30 ET – Barrett says she’s ‘not hostile’ to the Affordable Care Act

Barrett has said she does not necessarily oppose the Affordable Care Act, the health care law that’s being challenged in a case heading to the court next month, telling legislators on Tuesday she’s “not hostile to the ACA”.

Barrett is being questioned about her past writings, including a 2017 piece in which she was critical of Chief Justice John Roberts’ previous rulings on the Obama-era law.

The appellate court judge distanced herself from those writings, saying they were not addressing specific aspects of the law as she would if confirmed. The court is set to hear a challenge to the law November 10.

Barrett told the senators, “I apply the law. I follow the law. You make the policy”.

12:15 ET – Barrett defends opinion on gun rights

Barrett has defended an opinion she wrote arguing that a person who’s convicted of a nonviolent felony should not automatically be disqualified from owning a gun.

Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois challenged Barrett’s argument, saying it would make it easier for felons to bring guns into his home city of Chicago, which is plagued by gun violence caused in part by guns brought in from Barrett’s home state of Indiana.

In a dissent in the 2019 gun rights case of Kanter v Barr, Barrett argued a conviction for a nonviolent felony such as mail fraud was not enough to disqualify someone from owning a gun.

Durbin accused Barrett of judicial activism, noting a Supreme Court ruling by Barrett’s mentor, the late Justice Antonin Scalia, upheld the idea that felons can be barred from gun ownership.

Senator Dick Durbin speaks during the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett [Susan Walsh/The Associated Press]

12:00 ET – Mark Zuckerberg, Priscilla Chan donate $100m more to election infrastructure

Facebook Inc Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, said on Tuesday that they will donate an additional $100m to support election officials and fund infrastructure for the election in November.

“We’ve gotten a far greater response than we expected from election officials needing funding for voting infrastructure, so today we’re committing an additional $100 million to the Center for Tech and Civic Life to make sure that every jurisdiction that needs funding to help people vote safely can get it,” Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post.

“So far, more than 2,100 local election jurisdictions have submitted applications to CTCL for support,” he said, referencing a Chicago-based nonprofit that, according to its website, is “working to foster a more informed and engaged democracy, and helping to modernise US elections.”

The pair previously donated $300m to help the US election process deal with challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, by funding voting equipment and protective equipment for poll workers.

11:30 ET – Barrett said she can’t give her opinion on recusing herself from election-related litigation

Supreme Court nominee Barrett has said she cannot give an opinion on whether she would recuse herself from any election-related litigation involving Trump.

Barrett said she has not been asked by Trump or anyone else how she would rule in possible upcoming cases, including the election.

She said it would be a gross violation of judicial independence to make a commitment on how she would rule. She added it is a violation of the judicial independence to put a justice on the court as a means of obtaining a particular result.

But Trump has said he would look for justices who were anti-abortion. He has said he wanted the full nine justices to decide election-related matters.

11:00 ET – Ilhan Omar tweets Republicans would ‘lose their mind’ if a Muslim nominated to Supreme Court

Representative Ilhan Omar has tweeted that Republicans would “lose their mind about her religious background” if a Muslim woman were nominated to the Supreme Court.

She added: “‘Sharia law’ would be trending right now,” referring to Islamic law.

The congresswoman was weighing in on Republicans’ claims that Democrats would attack Barrett’s devout Catholic faith during her confirmation hearings.


10:45 ET – Biden addresses idea of high court packing: ‘I’m not a fan’

Biden has said he is “not a fan” of adding seats to the Supreme Court, after weeks of avoiding questions about the idea that has been pushed by progressives and used by Republicans to attack him.

“I’ve already spoken on — I’m not a fan of court packing, but I don’t want to get off on that whole issue. I want to keep focused,” the Democratic presidential nominee said in an interview Monday with Cincinnati’s WKRC.

Biden argued that the focus should remain on Trump and Republicans’ efforts to push through Amy Coney Barrett as a replacement for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg before the November 3 election.

10:30 ET – Supreme Court declines to hear Democrats’ corruption case against Trump

The Supreme Court on Tuesday put an end to a lawsuit brought by congressional Democrats that accused President Donald Trump of violating anti-corruption provisions in the US Constitution with his business dealings.

The justices refused to hear an appeal by 215 Senate and House of Representatives Democrats of a lower court ruling that found that the legislators lacked the necessary legal standing to bring the case that focused on the Republican president’s ownership of the Trump International Hotel in Washington.

10:00 ET – Barrett sidesteps on Roe v. Wade question

Barrett sidesteps when asked if she agrees that Roe v Wade, the landmark Supreme Court abortion ruling, was wrongly decided.

“I’m going to invoke Justice Kagan’s description which I think is perfectly put when she was in her confirmation hearing she said that she was not going to grade precedent or give it a thumbs up or thumbs down,” she said, responding to the question from Senator Dianne Feinstein. “It would be … actually be wrong and a violation of the cannons for me to do that as a sitting judge.”

“Senator, I completely understand why you’re asking the question. But again, I can’t pre-commit or say ‘yes, I’m going in with some agenda’ because I’m not,” Barrett said when pushed. “I don’t have any agenda … I have an agenda to stick to the rule of law, decide cases as they come.”

Feinstein told Barrett it was “disturbing” that she would not give an answer.

Senator Dianne Feinstein questions Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett during her confirmation hearing [Drew Angerer/The Associated Press]

09:45 ET – Barrett says she would not be Scalia clone

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, the committee’s chairman, opened the questioning by asking her about her conservative legal philosophy known as originalism, in which laws and the Constitution are interpreted based on the meaning they had at the time they were enacted.

“That meaning doesn’t change over time and it’s not for me to update it or infuse my own policy views into it,” Barrett said.

Graham asked Barrett, a devout Catholic and a favorite of religious conservatives, whether she could set aside her religious beliefs in making decisions as a justice, “I can,” she responded.

Barrett called the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, for whom she served as a clerk two decades ago, as her mentor, but said she would not always rule the same way as him.

“You would not be getting Justice Scalia, you would be getting Justice Barrett. That is so because originalists don’t always agree,” she said.

When asked if Barrett would recuse herself from rulings related to the Affordable Care Act, as Democrats have called for, Barrett declined to say, but said she would follow recusal rules.

Committee Chairman Senator Lindsey Graham speaks during the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barret [Stefani Reynolds/The Associated Press]

09:30 ET – Trump economic adviser called first debate performance ‘crappy’: Report

Trump’s economic adviser Stephen Moore has been captured on video calling the president’s first, and only, debate performance against Biden, “crappy”, according to the Huffington Post.

“It was not a great performance by Trump. In fact, I thought it was a pretty crappy performance,” Moore told a crowd gathered in Washington earlier this month for the “Election Protection Summit” by the Trump-supporting FreedomWorks nonprofit organisation, according to the news site.

Moore also said that Trump’s first debate against former Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election was similarly “awful”, but that he rebounded in subsequent debates.

“Oh my God, he was so bad in that debate, just awful,” Moore said at the October 2 video, which was obtained by Wisconsin watchdog group Documented, the news site reported.

09:00 ET – Second day of Barrett confirmation hearing has begun

The second day of Barrett’s confirmation hearing has begun, in which she will answer questions from senators on the Judiciary Committee. A day earlier, she told the panel she believes the court should interpret the US constitution and laws “as they are written”.

Barrett said in her opening statement on Monday that people of all backgrounds deserve “an independent Supreme Court”.

The chairman, Senator Lindsey Graham, gavelled open the session on Tuesday.

“Let’s get to it,” he said.

Even before her confirmation hearings end, the Senate Judiciary Committee has already scheduled a Thursday vote to approve her nomination. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham scheduled a committee vote for 9am (13:00 GMT) on Thursday, the last day of hearings. Barrett’s nomination is expected to be brought up for a vote at that meeting and then delayed for a week, as per committee rules.


Read all the updates from Friday, (October 10) here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies