Amy Coney Barrett joins the Supreme Court: US election news

After a controversial Senate vote along party lines, Barrett is quickly sworn in at White House ceremony

Amy Coney Barrett was administered administers the Constitutional Oath by on the South Lawn of the White House after she was confirmed by the Senate [Patrick Semansky/AP Photo]
  • A divided US Senate confirmed Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.
  • President Donald Trump held several events in Pennsylvania, one of the most important states for an Electoral College victory.
  • Presidential candidate Joe Biden appeared in Chester, Pennsylvania, while running mate Kamala Harris took part in the Senate vote.
  • Vice President Mike Pence did not preside over the vote as planned, after several aides recently tested positive for the coronavirus.
  • More than 60 million Americans have cast their votes, according to the US Elections Project, with just eight days until the November 3 election.

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



Justice Clarence Thomas swears-in Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court

In a ceremony with President Donald Trump at the White House, Amy Coney Barrett took her oath of office to become a Supreme Court justice. The ceremony was attended by Republican senators who played a role in pushing Barrett’s nomination through the Senate.

Barrett replaces the late liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who last month after a long battle with cancer. Democrats opposed her nomination fearing her conservative views would threaten decades of judicial precedent on women’s rights and civil rights.

“This was rigorous confirmation process,” said Barrett, adding she would seek to be a fair and independent judge.

“A judge declares independence, not only from Congress and the president, but also from the private beliefs that might otherwise move her,” she said.

“The judicial oath captures the essence of the judicial duty. The rule of law must always control,” she said.

Judge Amy Coney Barrett is sworn in as an associate justice of the Supreme Court by Justice Clarence Thomas as her husband Jesse Barrett and President Donald Trump watch [Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

US Supreme Court overrules federal judge’s extension of time for mail voting in Wisconsin

Siding with Wisconsin’s Republican-led legislature, a conservative-majority of the US Supreme Court refused to allow an extension ordered by a federal judge in the deadline for returning mail-in ballots in the state, dealing a setback to Democrats, The Associated Press reported.

The court, with three liberal justices dissenting, left in place a lower court’s October 8 decision that blocked US District Judge William Conley’s ruling that would have let officials count ballots that were postmarked by the time polls close on Election Day on November 3 but arrived up to six days later.

The high court’s action keeps in place a state policy that mail-in ballots be in the hands of election officials by the close of polls.

Wisconsin is crucial to Republican President Donald Trump’s re-election chances against Democratic challenger Joe Biden.

Conservative jurist Amy Coney Barrett confirmed by 52-48 vote

The US Senate has confirmed Amy Coney Barrett to a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court by a vote of 52-48. Barrett’s appointment creates a 6-3 conservative majority on the nine-member high court.

No other Supreme Court justice has been confirmed on a recorded Senate vote with no support from the minority party in 150 years, according to information provided by the Senate Historical Office, The Associate Press reported.

Judge Amy Coney Barrett is about to become Justice Amy Coney Barrett in a swearing-in ceremony at the White House [Greg Nash/Pool via AP)

A majority of the US Senate has voted to confirm Amy Coney Barrett

A majority of the US Senate has voted to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. The vote is continuing. It is expected she will be sworn in by Justice Clarence Thomas in a ceremony with President Donald Trump at the White House later tonight.


US Senate is voting on confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett

The US Senate is voting on the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the US Supreme Court. The vote is expected to fall along party lines with one Republican breaking ranks to join Democrats in opposition. It is the first time in US history a justice has been confirmed to the Supreme Court so close to a presidential election.

Senate Republican leader offers justification for rushed Barrett process

Speaking on the Senate floor before a vote on the confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the US Supreme Court, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Democratic arguments against the vote so close to an election were “outlandish claims” that are “utterly absurd”.

“Elections have consequences. And what this administration and this Republican Senate has done is exercise the power that was given to us by the American people,” McConnell said, citing the results of the 2016 election.

Democrats cried that Republicans were being hypocritical because they had blocked Judge Merrick Garland, former President Barack Obama’s nominee in 2016, on grounds he was nominated in an election year.


Trump eyes hosting election night party at his DC hotel

President Donald Trump has his eye on hosting an election night party at his own hotel in the nation’s capital, The Associate Press reported.

Over the weekend, the campaign pushed out fundraising emails in the president’s name offering donors the chance to enter a drawing “to join Team Trump at the Election Night Party in my favourite hotel,” in Washington, suggesting he will use his luxury hotel as the backdrop for reacting to election results.

“November 3rd will go down in history as the night we won FOUR MORE YEARS. It will be absolutely EPIC, and the only thing that could make it better is having YOU there,” Trump said in a fundraising solicitation.

For Trump, an election night party at his own hotel is symbolic for a businessman who leveraged his celebrity as a reality star and New York real estate magnate to win the nation’s highest office.

The Trump International Hotel near sunset in Washington. Trump has his eye on hosting an election night party at his own hotel in the nation’s capital. [FIle: Alex Brandon, AP Photo]

Biden criticises Trump administration response to the coronavirus

The Trump administration has “waved the white flag” in the United States’ battle against the coronavirus, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said while campaigning in Chester, Pennsylvania.

The president “is not doing what needs to be done”, Biden said as US deaths from COVID-19 have climbed above 225,000.

“The bottom line is Donald Trump is the worst possible president, the worst possible person to try to lead us through the pandemic,” Biden said.

Over the weekend, Trump suggested in a campaign speech that rising COVID-19 case counts in the US are inflated because doctors make more money from designating patient deaths from the virus.

“What in the hell is the matter with this man,” Biden said.

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said in a television interview on CNN that, “We are not going to control the virus”.

Biden called Meadows’ remark “just a deadly admission” the White House will not take steps to prevent a projected 200,000 additional deaths before the end of the year.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden slams Trump’s claims about DOVID-19 during a visit to a voter activation center in Chester, Pennsylvania [Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

Trump speaks to large crowd near Altoona, Pennsylvania

President Donald Trump spokes to a large crowd of supporters gathered at the Altoona airport in central Pennsylvania.

“Together we are taking back our country,” Trump said, accusing the Obama administration of having spied on his campaign in 2016.

It is Trump’s third appearance today in small cities in Pennsylvania, where the president is seeking to make an economic case for his presidency versus Democratic challenger Joe Biden.

“A vote for Biden is a vote to offshore your jobs, ban fracking, and deliver economic ruin to Pennsylvania and your families,” Trump said.

President Donald Trump holds a campaign event near Altoona, Pennsylvania [Leah Millis/Reuters]

House Democrats optimistic about expanding majority: Report

A sign of how optimistic Democrats are about gaining seats in the US House of Representatives, a Democratic campaign committee is airing TV ads in 11 Republican districts that Trump won by wide margins in 2016, according to a report by The Washington Post.

In nine of those districts, Democrats are out spending Republicans, another sign of the financial advantage Democrats are seeing in the 2020 campaign.

Biden has solid lead in Wisconsin, narrower edge in Pennsylvania: Poll

Biden maintains a solid lead over Trump in Wisconsin and a narrower advantage in Pennsylvania with just over a week until Election Day, according to a new Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll.

Biden lead Trump 53 percent of likely voters to 44 percent in Wisconsin. Meanwhile, In Pennsylvania, Biden had 50 percent of likely voter support, compared to Trump’s 45 percent, according to the poll.

Biden was speaking to George Lopez in clip widely shared by Trump campaign

Biden apparently stumbled over a name when he was interviewed during a virtual “I Will Vote” concert on Sunday, leading to allegations from the Trump supporters that he confused his competitor with former President George W Bush.

In the clip, Biden says “George” before correcting himself and saying Trump’s name. A clip of the incident has been widely shared on social media, and Trump mentioned it in portraying Biden as mentally unfit for the presidency during a campaign stop in Pennsylvania on Monday.

However, the characterisation leaves out the context that Biden and his wife, Jill, were being interviewed by actor and comedian George Lopez.  During the interview, Lopez asks the Democratic candidate what he would say to undecided voters with only a few days left before Election Day.

Biden responds: “The character of the country in my view is literally on the ballot, what kind of country are we going to be..Four more years of George uh…George, going to find ourselves in a position if Trump gets elected, we are going to be in a different world.”

Poll roundup: Trump leads in Texas

As Democrats hold out hopes of flipping Texas, a state that they haven’t won in a presidential election since Jimmy Carter won it in 1976, a new poll out shows Donald Trump with a small lead there.

Trump has 47 percent support among likely voters compared to Joe Biden’s 43 percent. Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by 9 points there in 2016.

Interestingly, when asked when they would cast their votes, 65 percent of likely Texas voters said they would vote before Election Day (57 percent said they would vote early in person and 8 percent said they’d vote by mail). Perhaps even more interestingly, 64 percent of Republicans said they’d cast their votes ahead of Election Day (including 6 percent who said they’ll vote by mail). Trump has attacked mail-in voting as fraudulent and suggests it will contribute to the election being “rigged” if he loses.

Over the weekend, CBS News/YouGov released a series of polls of registered voters in southern battlegrounds, all three of which were won by Trump in 2016. The polls show Biden leading, but within the margin of error, in North Carolina, 51-47 percent, and in Florida, 50-48 percent. Their poll in Georgia shows Trump and Biden tied at 49 percent apiece.

Biden closing the gap in previously Trump-heavy Ohio

Ohio has a reputation as the quintessential bellwether state, and for good reason. It has picked the winning presidential candidate in all but four elections since the end of the Civil War, including every election since 1964, the longest active streak of any state.

But lagging population growth, demographic stagnation and industry losses have contributed to the state’s rightward shift since 2012, culminating in President Donald Trump’s definitive eight-point victory over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the last presidential election in 2016.

That trend looked likely to continue in 2020 — that is, until broken presidential promises, a global pandemic, and a disastrously managed re-election campaign put the state solidly back in play.

Read more here.

A volunteer wipes his head inside the Trumbull County Republican Party headquarters on October 1, 2020 in Warren, Ohio, the United States [Shannon Stapleton/Reuters]

Florida man stole bulldozer, ran down Biden signs: Police

A 26-year-old man has been accused of stealing a bulldozer from a Florida construction site, driving it into a neighborhood and knocking down campaign signs for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, according to authorities and homeowners.

The man took the bulldozer in Haines City on Saturday and repeatedly destroyed Biden signs in full view of people who live in the neighborhood, witnesses said. James Blight was charged with grand theft auto and trespassing, according to the Haines City Police Department.

Former Vice Mayor Adam Burgess, who lives in the central Florida neighborhood, which is predominantly Black, called the vandalism a hate crime.

Police said Blight claimed he was too drunk at the time to remember what happened.

Mail slowdowns may threaten ballots arriving on time: Reports

Two reports on Monday highlighted that mail ballots may not arrive on time due to slowdowns, even if sent within the window recommended by the United States postal office.

The postal service has urged voters to mail in their ballots at least a week before they are due, but an analysis by the Wall Street Journal found that in 28 states that require ballots arrive by the November 3 election day, Postal Service delivery times have on average exceeded six days.

While a Postal Service spokesman told the newspaper that the delivery-time of first-class mail has improved in recent weeks, the analysis also documented several instances of periodic slow downs in recent months. It noted that an increase of slowdowns in the final stretch could add to confusion and legal challenges around the results.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg news reported on Monday that some voting advocates say the window to reliably mail ballots has already closed, and are instead urging voters to drop off mail ballots in person.

Read more here.

White House plans celebration after Barrett confirmation

The White House is planning a Monday night celebration of the Republican Senate’s expected confirmation of Barrett, a month after a similar event was linked to a COVID-19 outbreak that preceded Trump’s own infection.

While Democrats have fiercely opposed the conservative jurist’s nomination, Trump’s fellow Republicans hold a 53-47 Senate majority and her confirmation to a lifetime post on the court seems assured. Trump pressed the Senate to confirm Barrett before the election, which would create a 6-3 conservative majority on in the highest court in the country.

The September 26 Rose Garden ceremony at which Trump officially named Barrett to replace the late liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg preceded a wave of COVID-19 cases among top Republicans including Trump and first lady Melania Trump. The president spent three nights hospitalized receiving COVID-19 treatment.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told reporters the event planned for Monday evening likely would be held outdoors, saying :”Tonight, we’ll be doing the best we can to encourage as much social distancing as possible.”

A Rose Garden event at the White House, and a following indoor reception has been linked to a cluster of coronavirus cases from the White House [File: Alex Brandon/The Associated Press]

Man charged in burning of ballot drop box in Boston

A man has been charged with lighting a fire in a Boston ballot drop box and damaging dozens of ballots, police said Monday.

Worldy Armand, a 39-year-old Boston resident, was taken into custody late Sunday after drug control unit officers on patrol saw a man who matched the description of the suspect authorities were looking for in the ballot box fire, police said. Police said he also had an active warrant for receiving stolen property.

Armand faces a charge of willful and malicious burning, police said. It was not immediately clear whether he has an attorney to comment on his behalf.  The FBI said Sunday that it’s investigating the fire that was set around 4 AM in a ballot drop box outside the Boston Public Library downtown.

Officers called to the scene saw smoke coming out of the box before firefighters managed to extinguish the fire by filling the box with water, police said. There were 122 ballots inside the box when it was emptied Sunday morning, and 87 of them were still legible and able to be processed, according to the Massachussetts secretary of state’s office. Voters can go online to see whether their ballot was processed.

Kushner criticised for comment on Black Americans

Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner has said the president wants to help Black people succeed but that they have to want to be successful for the policies to work.

“But he can’t want them to be successful more than they want to be successful,” Kushner said on the Fox & Friends programme on Monday morning.

He said Black people are mostly Democrats, but are starting to see that Trump’s policies can help them solve problems they have complained about for years.

Kushner also criticised people who raised their voices after the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in police custody, but then didn’t follow through and work to find ways to improve the lives of Black people in America.

“You saw a lot of people who were just virtue signaling – they go on Instagram and cry, or they would, you know, put a slogan on their jersey or write something on a basketball court,” Kushner said. “Quite frankly, that was doing more to polarize the country than it was to bring people forward. You solve problems with solutions.”

Read more here.

Republican US Senate candidate Jason Lewis rushed into surgery

Minnesota Republican Senate candidate Jason Lewis has been rushed into emergency surgery for a severe internal hernia.

The Lewis campaign said in a statement Monday that the condition is life-threatening if not treated quickly.

Campaign manager Tom Szymanski said in the statement that Lewis experienced severe abdominal pain early Monday morning and was taken to an emergency room. He said Lewis, prior to going into surgery, was in good spirits, optimistic and speculating about when he could resume campaigning.

Trump continues to cast unfounded doubt on election results

Trump has told supporters at a rally in Allentown, Pennsylvania that the only way he could lose is through “massive fraud”, while adding “we’re watching your Philadelphia, we’re watching at the highest level”.

Trump has repeatedly claimed nefarious intent by election officials in Philadelphia, without evidence. His campaign has urged supporters to monitor the polls.

“It’s the only way we can lose in my opinion, is massive fraud,” Trump said.

“A lot of strange things happen over the years in Philadelphia. And we’re watching your Philadelphia, we’re watching at the highest level,” he said.

He later told supporters “be very vigilant and watch”.

The president has repeatedly suggested unfounded claims that widespread fraud could undermine the election. Monitors have warned that his rhetoric baselessly casting doubt on the eventual results increases the likelihood of post-election unrest.

In Pennsylvania, Trump slams Biden debate comments on transitioning away from oil

Holding his first of three Pennsylvania rallies on Monday, Trump renewed attacks on Biden’s comments that he would eventually transition away from the oil industry.

“I want to begin today by discussing an issue of existential importance to Pennsylvania,” Trump said during a rally in Allentown, Pennsylvania. “Last week sleepy Joe Biden made perhaps the most shocking admission ever uttered in the history of presidential debates…Joe Biden confirmed his plan to abolish the entire US oil industry.”

Trump was referring to Biden’s comments during Thursday’s debate that he would “transition away from the oil industry…The oil industry pollutes, significantly. It has to be replaced by renewable energy over time”.

The president has repeatedly seized on the comments, especially in key Battleground Pennsylvania, the largest natural gas producer in the US after Texas. He has also repeated false claims that Biden would ban hydraulic fracking, a key means of extracting natural gas in the state.

Supporters hold their cell phones as President Donald Trump arrives to hold a campaign event, in Allentown, Pennsylvania [File: Leah Millis/Reuters]

Facebook planning for possible election unrest: Report

Social media giant Facebook is planning for possible election-result related chaos by using internal tools designed by “at-risk” countries, according to the Wall Street Journal, who cited people familiar with the matter.

The measures, which have been used in Sri Lanka and Myanmar, among others, include slowing the spread of viral content and making it easier to suppress potentially inflammatory posts, according to the newspaper.

Executives from Facebook have said they would only use the tools in severe circumstances such as election-related violence, but they feel they need to be prepared for all possibilities, the sources told the newspaper.


Trump to clean house if he wins: Report

Trump is planning to fire FBI Director Christopher Wray, and is also expected to replace CIA Director Gina Haspel and Defense Secretary Mark Esper,  if he wins re-election, according to a report by Axios citing unnamed sources familiar with the plan.

Wray and Haspel in particular are distrusted in Trump’s inner circle, according to the news site. Wray has attracted the president’s ire for failing to launch an official investigation into Hunter Biden’s foreign connections, according to the sources.

Haspel, meanwhile, upset the president by blocking the release of CIA documents related to the investigation of how former President Barack Obama handled a probe into Trump and Russia.

FBI Dir Wray
Trump reportedly plans to fire FBI Director Christopher Wray if he wins re-eleciton [File: Yuri Gripas/Reuters]

So-called ‘body man’ reportedly one of those in Pence orbit to test COVID-19 positive

Zach Bauer, Pence’s so-called “body man” who accompanies the vice president day and night helping him with tasks, is one of those in Pence’s orbit who have tested COVID-19 positive, according to CNN.

At least five people close to Pence, including his chief of staff, have tested positive for the virus, according to local media. The White House, however, has said the vice president will continue to campaign in the final days of the election, calling him “essential personnel”.

Pence’s office have said he most recently tested negative on Monday morning, although health experts say the virus can take days to detect after an individual is infected.

Over 60 million Americans have already cast ballots

At least 60,268,395 United States citizens have already cast ballots in either in-person early voting or by mail, according to the US Elections Project, outpacing the total number of early and mail voters in 2016.

Four years ago, about 57.2 million US citizens had cast ballots early or by mail by election day.

So far in 2020, the number of early ballots cast equals 43.7 percent of all votes counted in 2016.

Democrats ask Pence to skip Barrett vote over COVID-19 risk

A deeply torn Senate is set to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court on Monday, but Democratic leaders are asking Vice President Mike Pence to stay away from presiding over the session due to potential health risks after his aides tested positive for COVID-19.

Barrett’s confirmation is not in doubt, as Senate Republicans are overpowering Democratic opposition to secure President Donald Trump’s nominee the week before Election Day. Pence said at a Florida rally Saturday, “As vice president, I’m president of the Senate,” and indicated he will attend the vote, as is customary for landmark votes. “I wouldn’t miss that vote for the world,” he added.

But Democrats said in a letter to Pence, who serves in the largely ceremonial role of Senate president and can break a tie vote, that it’s “not a risk worth taking,” according to a copy of the letter obtained by The Associated Press news agency.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and his leadership team wrote that not only would Pence’s presence violate Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, “it [would] also be a violation of common decency and courtesy.”

“Nothing about your presence in the Senate tomorrow can be considered essential,” the Democrats wrote. They warned of the risk not just to senators but to the police, restaurant workers and others who keep the US Capitol running.

Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff and other top aides have tested positive for the coronavirus [Steve Cannon/The Associated Press]
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies