Trump says mail-in ballots ‘big scam’: US Election news

Republicans, Democrats rebuff Trump’s refusal to commit to a ‘peaceful’ transition of power in a close election

A day after refusing to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if the election is close, President Donald Trump said mail-in ballots are a 'scam' and he does not believe the US election process is 'honest' [Patrick Semansky/AP Photo)
  • Public jeered at Trump as he stands by casket of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
  • Joe Biden and Kamala Harris reacted to the Breonna Taylor grand jury decision.
  • Backlash grew over Trump’s failure to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses in November.
  • In-person early voting began in Michigan and Illinois.

Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the US elections. This is William Roberts and Steve Chaggaris.

20:30 ET – Hillary Clinton says Supreme Court fight is ‘diabolical’ Republican attack on health care

“Trump and the Republicans led by Mitch McConnell have been trying to get rid of health care for years, ever since President Obama passed the Affordable Care Act,” Former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said at an event in Texas.

“Let’s be sure we understand – what the Republicans are doing is rushing an appointment to the court to repeal the Affordable Care Act and strip away health care for many millions of Americans,” Clinton said, according to the Texas Tribune magazine, sponsor of the event.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in the Trump administration’s case against Obamacare on November 10, a week after the election.

Former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was the featured speaker at the Texas Tribune Festival, a month-long series of virtual appearances by political speakers [File: Democratic National Convention/Pool via Reuters]

20:00 ET – Virginia health official warns of virus risk at Trump rally planned for Friday

A Virginia health official is warning of a “severe public health threat” if a planned campaign rally for President Donald Trump goes forward on Friday evening.

“The rally poses a concerning public health risk,” Dr Natasha Dwamena, a local public health official, said in a letter Thursday.

The rally is expected to draw 4,000 people to a hangar at the Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport and would break Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s executive order generally banning gatherings of more than 250 people.

People crowd together without masks to attend a campaign rally by President Donald Trump at Cecil Airport in Jacksonville, Florida, on September 24, 2020. [Tom Brenner/Reuters]

19:30 ET – Trump campaigns before a large crowd in Jacksonville, Florida

President Donald Trump campaigned outdoors before a large crowd, many without masks in Jacksonville, Florida. Polls show Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden in a tight race in Florida.

“I just wish the cameras would show the crowd. They don’t want to do that. They don’t like to do that,” Trump said.

“It’s interesting, when Biden comes to Florida he has like one, two, three people,” Trump said. “He has a hard time filling up the circles.”

People cheer for President Donald Trump at a campaign rally at Cecil Airport in Jacksonville, Florida on September 24, 2020. [Tom Brenner/Reuters]

18:30 ET – Coronavirus fuels wave of legal fights over voting in 2020

The November 3 contest between President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden has generated an unprecedented wave of election-related litigation, as both sides seek to shape the rules governing how votes are tallied, the Reuters news service reported.

A Reuters analysis of state and federal court records found more than 200 election-related cases pending. The court clashes have spread to every competitive state amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has fueled pitched battles over seemingly mundane issues such as witness signatures, US mail postmarks and the use of drop boxes for ballots.

Trump’s unfounded attacks on voting by mail and delivery delays amid cost-cutting measures at the US Postal Service have only intensified the urgency of the litigation, Reuters said.

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden is challenging President Donald Trump, a Republican, in the November 3 election. Both sides have organised legal teams to contest local and state balloting. [Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo)

17:30 ET – President Trump outlines vision for affordable health care in the US

In a visit to North Carolina, a potential swing state in November’s election, President Trump outlined a vision for bringing affordable health care to Americans.

“We are delivering better care, with more choice, and at much lower cost,” Trump claimed, announcing a new executive order outlining the plan. “The Democratic Party is pushing a socialist nightmare,” he said.

Trump had promised a new health care programme for the US during his 2016 campaign – including protecting people with pre-existing conditions – but has failed to deliver. Instead, his administration is trying to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, passed under President Barack Obama, which already protects people with pre-existing conditions.

President Donald Trump delivers remarks on health care at Charlotte Douglas International Airport in Charlotte, North Carolina. [Evan Vucci/AP Photo)

16:30 ET – Federal prosecutor announces inquiry into nine discarded ballots in Pennsylvania

A top federal prosecutor in the battleground state of Pennsylvania revealed on Thursday his office is looking into a small number of discarded mail-in ballots cast in the upcoming 2020 US presidential election.

In a highly unusual public statement, US Attorney David Freed said his office and the FBI were contacted on Monday by Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis about “potential issues with a small number of mail-in ballots at the Luzerne County Board of Elections.”

Freed confirmed that a “small number” of military ballots were discarded, without giving more details as to why. Seven of the ballots had been marked for Trump who won Pennsylvania in 2016  by 44,000 votes. Two ballots remained sealed in envelopes.

A man wearing a mask to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) casts his ballot in the primary election in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in June [File: Joshua Roberts/Reuters]

16:00 ET – Election lawyers discount chaotic election scenario posed in ‘The Atlantic’ article

Leading US election lawyers are rejecting as fiction a scenario posed in The Atlantic magazine that Trump could easily throw the US into chaos if the election results are close.

“I don’t see this end-of-Democracy fear if we don’t know the results on election night,” said John Hardin Young, an election law expert who served the Democratic Party’s legal team during the 2000 Florida recount.

“All of this is fear because we have entered into an era of total distrust of all of our institutions,” Young told Al Jazeera. The real results of a close election will be known in the days after November 3 as local officials nationwide certify vote counts.

Jan Baran, a Republican election law expert, called The Atlantic article “a combination of science fiction, wishful thinking and politics.”

“The question ought to be,” Baran said, “whether Biden will concede if the margin of defeat in a state is less than 10,000 votes.”

A woman casts her ballots for the upcoming presidential elections as early voting begins in Ann Arbor, Michigan on September 24, 2020. [Emily Elconin/Reuters]

15:30 ET – Trump says he does not trust US election process, mail ballots

“We have to be very careful with the ballots, the ballots, that’s a whole big scam,” Trump said at the White House.

“We want to make sure the election is honest and I am not sure that it can be. I don’t know that it can be with this whole situation of unsolicited ballots. They are unsolicited, millions being sent to everybody,” Trump told reporters.

In an earlier appearance on Fox News Radio, Trump also complained about mail-in ballots.

“It’s a terrible thing that’s going on with these ballots,” Trump said.

“Who’s sending them? Where are they sending them? Where are they going? What areas are they going to? What areas are they not going to?”

US President Donald Trump talks to reporters as he departs for campaign travel to North Carolina and Florida from the South Lawn at the White House [Yuri Gripas/Reuters]

14:15 ET – Trump tweet encourages voters in Florida to apply for mail-in ballots

President Donald Trump, who has been disparaging efforts by some states to send mail-in ballots to all voters, urged Florida Republicans to request mail-in ballots today.

White House spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany said the president makes a distinction between mail-in ballots that are requested by individual voters and ballots that are sent by states to all registered voters. Trump claims mass mailings create opportunities for voter fraud.

Nine states – California, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Utah, Hawaii, Nevada, New Jersey, Vermont – and the District of Columbia are sending forms to request mail-in ballots to all registered voters. Other states require voters to request mail-in ballots.

14:00 ET – Sanders warns about US transfer of power, says Trump ‘prepared to undermine democracy’

President Donald Trump is “prepared to undermine American democracy in order to stay in power,” Senator Bernie Sanders said in a speech in Washington.

Sanders called for an independent commission to oversee the upcoming US elections after Trump on Wednesday refused to commit to a peaceful transfer in response to a reporter’s question.

Sanders, a progressive US senator from Vermont, said is “attempting massive voter suppression” and “sowing the seeds of chaos, confusion and conspiracy theories by casting doubt on the integrity of this election.”

“This is an election between Donald Trump and democracy – and democracy must win,” said Sanders, an independent who Biden beat for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.

Senator Bernie Sanders, who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic presidential nomination, said Trump is ‘sowing seeds of chaos, confusion’ with comments undermining confidence in voting processes [File: Al Drago/Reuters]

13:45 ET – Mary Trump, niece of President Donald Trump, sues over inheritance, alleges fraud

Mary Trump, the niece of Donald Trump, sued the US president on Thursday, accusing him and other family members of cheating her out of tens of millions of dollars from an inheritance.

The complaint filed in a New York state court in Manhattan against Trump, his sister Maryanne Trump Barry, and the estate of his brother Robert Trump, who died in August, accused the defendants of “rampant fraud” and conspiracy.

The complaint retraces allegations that Mary Trump made in her recent tell-all book “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man”, according to the Reuters news agency.

Donald Trump’s niece followed up her best-selling, tell-all book with a lawsuit alleging that the president and two of his siblings cheated her out of millions of dollars over several decades while squeezing her out of the family business. [Evan Vucci/AP Photo)

13:00 ET – Two retired top military officers who served under Trump endorse Biden

Retired Air Force General Paul Selva, who was vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President Donald Trump until August 2019, and retired Coast Guard Admiral Paul Zukunft have joined a growing cadre of national security leaders backing Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

“The next president will inherit a nation – and a world – in turmoil. The current President has demonstrated he is not equal to the enormous responsibilities of his office; he cannot rise to meet challenges large or small,” the group of 489 former US national security officials said in a new open letter.

“We believe America’s president must be honest, and we find Joe Biden’s honesty and integrity indisputable. He believes a nation’s word is her bond. He believes we must stand by the allies who have stood by us,” the letter said.

The pro-Biden group is headed by retired Navy Rear Admiral Michael E. Smith, who was a surface warfare task force commander.

Retired Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Air Force General Paul Selva has joined a growing number of former national security  [Gary Cameron/Reuters]

12:00 ET – Trump says FDA should not delay vaccine approvals past the November 3 election

President Donald Trump and White House pandemic adviser Scott Atlas speak to reporters during a news conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on September 23, 2020. [Tom Brenner/Reuters]

President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he may or may not approve new, more stringent Food and Drug Administration standards for an emergency authorization of a COVID-19 vaccine, saying such a proposal would appear political.

Trump has repeatedly said a vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, could be ready for distribution ahead of the November 3 presidential election.

Public health experts have become increasingly concerned the Trump administration is interfering in the FDA’s approval process to rush out a vaccine. Trump is questioning why a vaccine would need to be delayed, the Reuters news service reported.

“That sounds like a political move. Because when you have Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, these great companies, coming up with the vaccines, and they’ve done testing and everything else, I’m saying why would they have to be adding great length to the process.”

10:45 ET – Republicans assure there will be a “peaceful transfer of power”

Republicans are lining up behind Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who are speaking out after Donald Trump’s refusal to commit to a “peaceful transfer of power” if he loses the presidential election.

McConnell tweeted this morning, “There will be an orderly transition just as there has been every four years since 1792.”

Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney, who has bucked Trump at times, tweeted: “The peaceful transfer of power is enshrined in our Constitution.”

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, a staunch defender of Trump, said there will be a peaceful transition but having a full Supreme Court is key to that.

“People wonder about the peaceful transfer of power. I can assure you, it will be peaceful,” he said on Fox News. “Now, we may have litigation about who won the election, but the court will decide and if the Republicans lose, we will accept that result. But we need a full court.”

Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse brushed Trump’s comments off as just Trump being Trump. “He says crazy stuff,” Sasse said, according to Politico. “We’ve always had a peaceful transition of power. It’s not going to change.”

10:15 ET – Trump pays respects to Ginsburg, met with jeers

Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump visited the US Supreme Court to pay his respects to the late justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg but they were not welcome by some in the crowd gathered across the street.

They were met with a chorus of boos as the crowd chanted “honour her wish,” referring to Ginsburg’s dying wish to not be replaced on the court until after the presidential election. Chants of “vote him out” were also shouted by the crowd.

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump pay respects as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg lies in repose at the US Supreme Court building. [AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite]

The Trumps briefly stood behind Ginsburg’s casket before heading back to the White House. Ginsburg will lie in repose at the Supreme Court today before lying in state in the US Capitol on Friday.

09:45 ET – Critics slam Trump’s lack of commitment to ‘peaceful transfer of power’

US President Donald Trump, when asked if he would commit to a “peaceful transfer of power” if he loses on the election day, said “we’ll see what happens” before launching into a forceful criticism of the mail-in ballot process. Needless to say, his comments did not go down well with his critics.

“What country are we in?” Trump’s Democratic challenger Joe Biden quipped before adding, “I’m being facetious. I said what country are we in? Look, he says the most irrational things. I don’t know what to say.”

Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney, who was the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, tweeted, “Fundamental to democracy is the peaceful transition of power; without that, there is Belarus.”

And worth noting that even Trump’s right-hand man in the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, weighed in assuring, “There will be an orderly transition just as there has been every four years since 1792.”

09:00 ET – Poll: The electoral college is not very popular

About 61 percent of Americans say they are in favour of abolishing the electoral college, according to a Gallup poll out on Thursday.

Most Democrats, 89 percent, and a large number of independents, 68 percent, support amending the US constitution to allow the winner of the popular vote to win the election. Only 23 percent of Republicans share that view.

Republicans – Donald Trump in 2016 and George W Bush in 2000 – won their elections by winning the electoral college despite losing the popular vote to their Democratic challengers.

08:30 ET – Biden, Harris react to Breonna Taylor grand jury decision

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden late on Wednesday urged protesters not to “sully” Breonna Taylor’s memory with violent demonstrations following a grand jury’s decision to not recommend murder charges against the police officers involved in the March shooting death of Taylor.

“Do not sully her memory or her mother’s by engaging in any violence,” Biden said. “It’s totally inappropriate for that to happen. She wouldn’t want it nor would her mother so I hope they do that.”

Biden’s running mate Kamala Harris tweeted: “We must never stop speaking Breonna’s name as we work to reform our justice system, including overhauling no-knock warrants.

Read all the updates from yesterday (September 23) here.