Obama campaigns in Pennsylvania for Biden: US election news

The former president, a valuable asset for the Democratic party, stumps in person in Philadelphia for Joe Biden

Former President Barack Obama delivered a rousing speech in Philadelphia for Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden [Matt Slocum/ AP Photo]
  • Former President Barack Obama took to the campaign trail on Wednesday for the first time in support of his former Vice President Joe Biden.
  • Sinclair Broadcasting, a conservative media company, aired a pre-taped town hall with Donald Trump, who campaigned in North Carolina on Wednesday.
  • Threatening emails declaring “vote for Trump or else” and sent to voters in Florida, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Alaska came from Iran, US officials said.
  • Trump’s campaign said he would participate in a second debate with Biden, despite protesting the topics and rules muting mics.
  • More than 40.1 million US voters have cast early ballots, according to the United States Elections Project tracker.

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

Wednesday, October 21:

20:15 ET – Trump campaigns before large crowd near Charlotte, North Carolina

Speaking to a crowd of several thousand supporters in North Carolina, President Donald Trump expressed confidence in his ability to win the US presidential election now underway despite polls showing Democratic challenger Joe Biden leading.

“You know what, we got the White House. We’re winning. That’s it,” Trump said, drawing cheers from the crowd with a list of “deep state” and “Democrat” enemies he’s fighting in Washington.

“I’m not just running against ‘Sleepy Joe Biden’. I am running against the corrupt media,” Trump said. “I’m running against the Washington swamp.”

Trump claimed “there’s more enthusiasm, there’s more support” now than he had in 2016.

US President Donald Trump holds a campaign rally with an enthusiastic crowd near Charlotte, North Carolina, on October 21, 2020. [Tom Brenner/Reuters]

19:40 ET – US intelligence agencies cite election threats from Russia, Iran

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and FBI Director Christopher Wray announced that US intelligence and the FBI have identified attempts to interfere in the US election by Iran and Russia.

“We would like to alert the public that we have identified that two foreign actors, Iran and Russia, have taken specific actions to influence public opinion relating to our elections,” Ratcliffe said at a news event in Washington, DC.

Iran and Russia have obtained voter registration information and Iran has sent “spoofed emails designed to intimidate voters and incite social unrest and damage President Trump,” said Ratcliffe, who did not take questions.

The US government has concluded that Iran was behind a series of threatening emails sent to Democratic voters claiming to be from the Proud Boys, a far-right group supporting Trump, The Washington Post newspaper reported separately, citing Department of Homeland Security officials.

“You may have seen some reporting on this in the last 24 hours, or you may have been one of the recipients of those emails,” Ratcliffe said, without specifying he was discussing the alleged Proud Boys emails.

19:10 ET – Trump admits ‘systemic racism’ in US policing in remarks to Sinclair town hall

President Trump acknowledged that there is racism in US policing during a Sinclair Broadcast Group TV town hall meeting.

Asked directly if there was “systemic racism within police departments”, Trump said there is.

“That’s always the question. You’ve gotta ask, is there? And I guess, there probably is and that’s very sad. There is, and I think there’s not much, or hopefully, there’s not much,” Trump said in the televised event broadcast from the White House.

Trump applauded the diversity in many police departments around the nation that employ Hispanic, Black and Asian American officers.

“I mean, really, it’s not like it was 20-25 years ago,” Trump said.

“But I guess there always is and it’s a shame. It’s a shame,” he said.

18:30 ET – Obama calls on voters to remember ‘America is a good and decent place’

Speaking in Philadelphia, former President Obama exhorted Americans to ignore polls showing Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden leading and vote with a belief in a better future.

“Look, for all the times these last four years that we’ve seen our worst impulses revealed, we’ve also seen what our country can be at its best,” Obama said, in a rousing speech.

“We’ve seen folks of every age and background who packed city centers and airports and town squares, just so families wouldn’t be separated, so another classroom wouldn’t get shot up, so our kids wouldn’t grow up on an uninhabitable planet,” Obama said.

“We’ve seen Americans of all races joining together to declare, in the face of injustice, that Black lives matter, no more, but no less, so that no child in this country feels that continuing sting of racism,” he said.

“We’ve seen folks, our essential workers, our health care workers, risking their lives day in, day out to save somebody else’s loved ones. We’ve seen people volunteer and contribute to help those who are having an especially difficult time right now. That is true in Pennsylvania. That’s true all across the country. America is a good and decent place.”

With the Philadelphia skyline before him, former President Barack Obama speaks at a drive-in campaign rally on behalf of Democratic presidential nominee and his former Vice President Joe Biden on October 21, 2020 [Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

17:55 ET – In Philadelphia, Obama slams Trump for failing as US president, dishonest response to COVID-19

Former President Barack Obama, speaking at a drive-in rally at the major league sports venue in South Philadelphia, took direct aim at President Donald Trump’s performance in office.

“This is not a reality show. This is reality and the rest of us have had to live with the consequences of him not taking the job seriously,” said Obama, who delivered a speech eviscerating Trump’s character.

Trump, who hosted the reality TV show ‘The Apprentice’ before running for office, has “botched” the US response to the coronavirus pandemic and failed to live up to the responsibilities of the presidency, Obama said.

The US has suffered 8.3 million cases of COVID-19 and seen more than 221,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

“We cannot afford four more years of this. But the good news is, right now you can choose change,” Obama said, urging Pennsylvanians to vote for Biden.

Former President Barack Obama campaigns for Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden in Philadelphia. [AP Photo/ Matt Slocum]


17:08 ET – Trump tosses barbs at debate commission, moderator

President Trump emerged from the White House residence and stopped to talk to reporters before boarding a Marine One helicopter to  head to Andrews Air Force Base for a campaign trip to North Carolina.

He spoke briefly to reporters about tomorrow night’s debate with Democratic challenger Joe Biden.

“I think the mute is very unfair,” Trump said.

The Commission on Presidential Debates, a bipartisan group that organises the debates, announced it would mute Trump and Biden’s mics for two minutes while the other is responding the moderator’s questions. The rule change was made after Trump and Biden repeatedly interrupted each other during the first debate.

Trump also attacked moderator NBC television host Kristen Welker. “I think that the anchor is a very biased person,” he said.

17:00 ET – Democrats seize on Supreme Court election deadlock in Barrett fight

The Supreme Court’s deadlock this week in a key election case illustrates the power President Donald Trump’s nominee Amy Coney Barrett could wield and reveals why Republicans are hurrying to install her as a justice, Democrats said on Wednesday in their latest pitch to block her Senate confirmation.

Chief Justice John Roberts broke with the four other conservative justices and joined with the court’s three liberals on Monday in denying a request by Republicans seeking to block a state court’s ruling that extended the deadline for the delivery of mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania by three days.

That produced a 4-4 vote on the court – down a justice following the September death of liberal Ruth Bader Ginsburg – yielding a deadlock that preserved the lower court’s ruling. Barrett’s confirmation would create a 6-3 conservative majority.

The Pennsylvania case, Democratic Senator Dick Durbin said during a call with reporters, “was a disturbing demonstration of what’s at stake if the Republicans have their way and fill this vacancy…With one more vote they would have succeeded…It’s exactly the kind of judicial activism they are expecting from Judge Barrett as they rush to confirm her.”

16:30 ET – Obama speaks at Black leaders roundtable in Philadelphia

Former President Barack Obama, who is campaigning for Biden in Pennsylvania, is speaking at a roundtable in Philadelphia with Black leaders.

The stop is his first event of the day. He will later give a speech at a drive-in event in the city.

“I think that the most important thing we can do in these closing 12, 13 days is for us all to model and advertise that the cool thing and the right thing to do is to vote,” Obama said, when asked about how to energise young Black men to vote.

Former President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign roundtable in Philadelphia [Matt Slocum/The Associated Press]

16:00 ET – Biden appears to pull slightly ahead of Trump in Florida: Poll

Biden appears to have taken the lead over Trump in Florida, where the race had been a statistical tie a week earlier, a new Reuters/Ipsos opinion polls shows. The poll also showed the two candidates to be neck and neck in Arizona.

Biden has 50 percent support among likely voters in Florida, according to the poll, compared to Trump’s 46 percent support.

In Arizona, Biden had 49 percent support, compared to Trump’s 46 percent support, which is within the poll’s credibility interval.

A voter walks to an early voting site in Miami. Florida [Lynne Sladky/The Associated Press]

15:30 ET – Poll: Many in US distrust campaign info

In a presidential election year that has thrown the country’s divisions into stark relief, Americans can agree on this: Misinformation about government and politics is a major problem, according to a new poll.

The survey by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Opinion Research and USAFacts finds that while voters say it’s pretty easy to find accurate information about voting, they have a harder time knowing whether there’s any factual basis for the information they’re getting from and about the candidates.

“The misinformation, it’s just blossomed to the point where it’s unmanageable,” nurse Liana Price, 34, of Tampa Bay, Florida, who supports Democrat Joe Biden in the contest against President Donald Trump and worries misinformation about the election could sway voters, told the Associate Press. “You try to explain and provide facts and actual research, but people don’t believe it.”

Among the poll’s findings: More than 8 in 10 rated the spread of misinformation about government a “major problem”.

15:00 ET – Trump tweets pictures from 60 Minutes interview

Trump has tweeted pictures from a 60 Minutes which he reportedly abruptly ended because he was unhappy with reporter Leslie Stahl’s line of questioning.

Trump had previously tweeted that “for the sake of accuracy” he was considering releasing the interview before it aired.

“This will be done so that everybody can get a glimpse of what a FAKE and BIASED interview is all about,” he wrote.

14:30 ET – US to seek Trump’s exit from rape accuser’s defamation lawsuit

A judge on Wednesday will consider whether to excuse Trump from a defamation lawsuit by a writer who accused him of raping her in a Manhattan department store a quarter century ago and then falsely denying it happened.

In an afternoon hearing, District Judge Lewis Kaplan is expected to weigh a request by E Jean Carroll, a former Elle magazine columnist, to stop Attorney General William Barr’s effort to intervene on Trump’s behalf.

The Department of Justice has argued that Trump acted in his official capacity when denying Carroll’s claims because they were matters that interested the public or his constituents, and therefore could not be sued personally for defamation.

It wants to substitute the federal government for Trump as a defendant, and formally move Carroll’s case to federal court from the New York state court where it began. That would shield Trump from liability and likely doom Carroll’s defamation claim.

The lawsuit is one of many legal actions Trump faces as he prepares to seek reelection on November 3.

14:00 ET – Poll roundup: Biden leads in Pennsylvania, Iowa close

Two new polls out of Pennsylvania show Biden with a lead in the crucial battleground state.

A USA Today/Suffolk University poll released today shows Biden with a 49-42 lead while a Reuters/Ipsos poll has Biden up 49-45. Both polls surveyed likely voters through October 19.

Trump won Pennsylvania by about 44,000 votes and held a rally in Erie last night. Former President Barack Obama will campaign in Philadelphia on behalf of Biden today, marking his first campaign appearance of 2020.

Meanwhile, in Iowa, a state Trump won by 8 percentage points in 2016, a new Monmouth poll shows Trump and Biden statistically tied among likely voters: Trump with 48 percent support, Biden with 47 percent.

Interestingly, when different turnout models are applied, Biden takes a lead. In a high-turnout scenario, Biden leads 50-47 percent. In a low-turnout model, Biden leads 51-46 percent. A New York Times/Siena College poll released this afternoon has Biden up 46-43 percent among Iowa likely voters, with 7 percent undecided or refusing to name a preference.

13:00 ET – House Speaker Pelosi expects Democrats to increase House majority in November: MSNBC interview

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she expects Democrats to increase their majority in the House of Representatives in the November 3 elections.

“I know we will increase our numbers in the House,” Pelosi said. She added that if the election were held “today,” Democrats would win the White House and the Senate as well as the House. “I’m optimistic.”

Nancy Pelosi has said she is confident Democrats will increase majority in the House [File: Erin Scott/Reuters]

12:30 ET – 40.1 million US voters have already cast ballots

More than 40.1 million US voters have already cast their ballots, either in early voting or mail voting, according to the US Elections Project tracker.

The number of ballots cast represents 29 percent of all votes counted in the 2016 presidential election.

The number of early and mail voters have smashed previous presidential elections.

12:00 ET – Trump campaign started October with $63 million to spend, compared to Biden campaign’s $177 million: Report

The Trump campaign entered October with $63 million in the bank, compared to the Biden campaign’s $177 million, putting the president at the largest deficit at this point in the race in modern presidential campaign history, according to Politico.

Notably, the news site, citing Federal Election Commission filings, noted that the $100 million of his own money Trump said he may inject into his campaign has never materialised.

So far, Trump has contributed just $8,000 to his bid from his own money. In 2016, Trump contributed $66 million to his run.

11:30 ET – Opponents in Utah’s governor’s race release rare joint message of civility

Republican candidate Spencer Cox and Democratic candidate Chris Peterson, who are vying to be the governor of Utah, have released videos calling for civility in the election process and saying they will both accept the results.

In one video, which both candidates posted to Twitter, Peterson says “we can debate issues without degrading each other’s character”, while Cox adds “We can disagree without hating each other.”

“We believe that Utahns expect better of us and that we think that all Americans should expect better of their political leaders. And so we got together and threw this together very quickly. And it’s it’s resonating,” Cox said during an interview on MSNBC on Wednesday.

“We both care about being kind to one another. We do have policy disagreements. But we came together to push this out because we recognize that there are some real challenges our country is facing in terms of the peaceful transfer of power and continuing to be kind to one another in a difficult political season,” Peterson added during the interview.

11:00 ET – Trump records show Chinese bank account: Report

Trump spent years cultivating business projects in China, where he maintained a previously unknown bank account, The New York Times reported Tuesday, as the US president attempts to portray election rival Biden as weaker on Beijing.

Trump has spent recent days promoting a murky claim that Biden’s son Hunter sold access to his father in Ukraine and China when he was vice president under Barack Obama. Under his “America First” banner, Trump has portrayed China as the greatest threat to the United States and global democracy.

Trump, however, who maintained an office in China during his first run for president, and partnered with a major government-controlled company, the Times reported. Trump additionally keeps a previously unknown bank account in China, controlled by Trump International Hotels Management, according to an analysis of his tax records by the paper. It is one of only three foreign nations – including Britain and Ireland – in which he does so.

The tax records show the company “paid $188,561 in taxes in China while pursuing licensing deals there from 2013 to 2015,” the Times reported. Trump Organization lawyer Alan Garten said the company had “opened an account with a Chinese bank having offices in the United States in order to pay the local taxes.”

“No deals, transactions or other business activities ever materialized and, since 2015, the office has remained inactive,” he told The Times. “Though the bank account remains open, it has never been used for any other purpose.”

10:30 ET – Threatening emails reported in closely watched states

Threatening emails which reportedly warned “you will vote for Trump on Election Day or we will come after you” have been sent to voters in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Florida and Alaska, according to the Washington Post.

Authorities in two of those state, Florida and Alaska, were investigating the emails, according to the newspaper. The emails claimed to be from the far-right Proud Boys group and appeared to target Democrats while claiming to be “in possession of all your information”.

The chairman of the Proud Boys denied involvement to the Washington Post.

10:00 ET – Trump Sinclair Broadcasting town hall to air Wednesday

Trump on Wednesday will be featured in a town hall hosted by Sinclair Broadcasting company, a local news conglomerate that has been accused of enforcing conservative and pro-Trump content on its local news stations.

In 2018, local news anchors were made to read a script that borrowed blatantly Trumpian language in deriding “the troubling trend of irresponsible, one-sided news stories plaguing our country”.

Sinclair said it had also extended a standing invitation to Biden to take part in a town hall, according to The Hill news site.

Wednesday’s 19:00 ET (23:00 GMT)  event will be hosted by Eric Bolling, a former Fox News host who has been accused of spreading misinformation on the coronavirus pandemic and has focused heavily on an unsubstantiated New York Post report on emails allegedly taken from Joe Biden’s son’s computer.

09:30 ET – Barack Obama to hold first in-person campaign event for Biden

Former President Barack Obama is returning to Philadelphia on Wednesday for his first in-person 2020 campaign event for Biden.

Obama, known as one of the Democratic Party’s strongest orators, delivered Hillary Clinton’s closing argument in the same city in 2016. With the coronavirus pandemic upending campaigning, Obama will be speaking to a much smaller crowd at a drive-in rally, where supporters will listen to him over the radio inside their cars.

Democrats say Obama is the one person who knows Biden best, both as his former partner in the White House and personally. The former president remains one of the party’s greatest assets in the final stretch of the campaign.

“Especially in Philadelphia, he is the ultimate draw and still a great standard-bearer for Democrats,” former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter told Reuters news agency.

Read more about the crucial battleground Pennsylvania here.

09:00 ET – Court upholds North Carolina voters’ mail ballots can be counted if post marked by election day

A federal appeals court has ruled that election officials can count a mail-in ballot if it is postmarked by election day, even if it arrives after November 3.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday denied a Republican challenge to the North Carolina Board of Elections rule that said ballots post-marked by election day would be counted if they arrived by November 12.

With an unprecedented number of US citizens voting by mail as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, voting access advocates have raised concerns over state laws that require ballots to be delivered to election officials by election day.


Read all the updates from Tuesday, (October 20) here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies