Politics Headlines

TriggerPhoto/iStockBy DEENA ZARU, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Lil Wayne said that he had a "great meeting" with President Donald Trump on Thursday to discuss the Trump administration's proposed "Platinum Plan" for Black America, just days ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

"Just had a great meeting with (President Donald Trump) besides what he's done so far with criminal reform, the platinum plan is going to give the community real ownership," the rapper tweeted, along with a photo of himself with Trump. "He listened to what we had to say today and assured he will and can get it done."

Just had a great meeting with @realdonaldtrump @potus besides what he’s done so far with criminal reform, the platinum plan is going to give the community real ownership. He listened to what we had to say today and assured he will and can get it done. 🤙🏾 pic.twitter.com/Q9c5k1yMWf

— Lil Wayne WEEZY F (@LilTunechi) October 29, 2020

The meeting between the president and the rapper took place at the Trump National Doral Miami resort, White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere confirmed to ABC News on Thursday.

As a business mogul, Trump was an icon in hip-hop music for more than three decades and rappers, including Lil Wayne, hailed his wealth and power in hundreds of lyrics, but once he jumped into the political ring in 2015, he was fervently rejected by the hip-hop community.

Lil Wayne, who name dropped Trump in songs like "Racks on Racks," rapping, "get money like Donald Trump," voiced support for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016. He did not indicate whether he is voting for Trump in 2020.

Lil Wayne's meeting with the president comes after rapper Ice Cube repeatedly defended his role in advising the Trump administration on the proposed plan.

Intense backlash was leveled against the NWA legend earlier this month after Trump adviser Katrina Pierson revealed on Twitter that he advised the campaign.

Ice Cube, who has been a vocal critic of Trump, famously releasing a song titled "Arrest the President" in 2018, said that he did not endorse anyone in 2020, but had spoken with both the Trump and Biden campaigns after releasing his "Contract With Black America" in July.

Arguing that "Black progress is a bipartisan issue," the rapper urged politicians to back the 13-point document, which is described as "a blueprint to achieve racial economic justice" and touches on a wide range of issues, including finance, police, criminal justice and education reform.

Lil Wayne and Ice Cube's conversations with the Trump campaign come as the Democratic Party and presidential nominee Joe Biden grapple with criticism from progressives and conservatives -- including presidential candidate and hip-hop star Kanye West -- that its politicians have been taking Black voters for granted for decades and have not done enough to earn it by working to uplift Black communities.

West, who is running for president under the newly formed Birthday Party, had battled backlash from fans over the past few years after he voiced support for the president and famously met with him at the Oval Office in October 2018.

Several operatives who have been prominently involved in the Republican political world have been linked to West's presidential bid, raising questions about West's motives to run.

After announcing his presidential bid, West walked back his support for Trump during an interview with Forbes over the summer, saying, "I'm taking the red hat off, with this interview."

He also acknowledged that his presidential bid could bleed out Biden's Black voters saying, "To say that the Black vote is Democratic is a form of racism and white supremacy."

ABC News' Ben Gittleson contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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natasaadzic/iStockBy LIBBY CATHEY, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- With five days until Election Day, and President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden racing toward Nov. 3, nearly 80 million Americans have already cast their ballots -- an early voting record.

Thursday brings both Trump and Biden to Tampa, Florida, revealing how crucial the swing state is to both campaigns, with the contest overshadowed by coronavirus cases rising there and in every battleground state.

The president's aggressive, defensive strategy comes as polls show him trailing nationally and in battleground states key to his reelection hopes. First lady Melania Trump joins him for the first time. After his rally in Tampa, Trump holds a rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina, while Vice President Mike Pence is in Iowa and Nevada.

At his Tampa rally, Biden is expected to continue branding the race as a "battle for the soul of the nation" at a drive-in event, after an earlier event in Broward County. Running mate California Sen. Kamala Harris has a virtual voter mobilization event with the "Divine Nine" -- historically Black fraternities and sororities -- then an evening virtual rally with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

Here is how the Thursday is developing. All times Eastern:

Oct 29, 8:24 pm
Biden rally cut short abruptly by pouring rain


In front of a crowd of 285 cars, and in a speech that was prematurely ended by a classic Florida thunderstorm, former Vice President Joe Biden addressed a drive-in rally with five days to go until Election Day with a familiar message to get out and vote.

"Look, folks, five days left. Five days, but who's counting, right? But who's counting?" Biden began his speech.

"Millions of Americans have already voted. Over 75, I'm told, 75 million. And millions more are gonna vote before this is over. And I believe when you use your power, the power of the vote, we literally are going to change the course of this country for generations to come," Biden added.

Biden delivered much of the same stump speech as he did in Broward County, Florida, earlier today, hitting on several of his big ticket campaign pitches, including dealing with COVID-19, his tax policy, the Supreme Court, health care and climate change.

In a moment of true Florida weather, the sky opened up into sudden downpour, catching Biden and the crowd by surprise, causing the former vice president to wrap up his remarks early to get out of the rain.

The onset of the rain led Biden to end his speech on a slight variation of his line that he cribs from John F. Kennedy’s speech about going to the moon and not “postponing” American greatness.

"Let’s not postpone and get out of the rain! God Bless you all! Thank you!" Biden said as he departed the stage.

Biden’s blue suit was completely soaked as he quickly departed the stage.

Oct 29, 5:59 pm
At Iowa rally, Pence acknowledges COVID-19 cases are rising

Pence returned to Iowa this afternoon, his second visit this month, and with coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths trending up in the state, he tried to reassure Iowans that "we’ll get through this together" -- taking a different tone on the pandemic from the president's.
 
"And even as we're seeing cases rising in parts of the country, people of Iowa can be confident that we're going to continue -- we're going to continue to work around the clock to assure that all of our doctors and nurses have all the support they need to give any Iowa family impacted by the coronavirus the level of care we'd want for a member of our family," Pence said.

The White House coronavirus task force, which Pence leads, has placed Iowa in the "red zone" for new cases, advising Iowans to wear masks, practice social distancing and avoid large gatherings, which was not completely adhered to at Pence’s rally held on the tarmac of Des Moines International Airport. More than half of supporters were wearing masks, but there was no social distancing.
 
The vice president did continue to wear his mask as he walked from Air Force Two to the stage at the event, only removing it to speak, and giving an elbow bump to Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa -- facing a competitive race of her own -- who introduced him.

He closed his remarks by harkening back to Biden's warning of a "dark winter" at the last debate if the virus continues to spread, telling Iowans instead, "under President Donald Trump, the best is yet to come.”

Pence's rally in Des Moines, ahead of another rally this evening in Reno, Nevada, comes just days after at least five people in his inner circle tested positive for COVID-19. The vice president continues to test negative, according to his office.

-ABC News' Justin Gomez

Oct 29, 5:47 pm
Biden points to diversity in Latino community for scattered polling on his support


Before departing Fort Lauderdale in Broward County for Tampa, Biden made a stop at a voter activation center to greet volunteers and voter, telling them it "feels good" to be back in Florida, his third trip to the Sunshine State this month, as he pitches himself to senior and Latino voters in the state.

When asked by ABC News’ Karen Travers about the recent poll of the Latino community in Florida that showed a range of support, and if he were concerned that his message was not breaking through in the community, Biden pointed to the diversity of voters in the bloc.

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks to people outside a campaign victory center, Oct. 29, 2020, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

"No, look, the Latino community here is the most diverse Latino community in the country," Biden said. "It's all across the board. It’s Caribbean. It's Mexican. It's Latin American. It’s across the board. And what you got to do is go to where the people live. And every one of these Latino and Hispanic organizations are slightly different."

Biden also took aim at Trump in is answer, slamming the president for his treatment of Latino and Hispanic Americans.

"He's sending Cuban Americans back to the dictatorship. He's sending -- he’s sending Venezuelan-Americans back to the dictatorship. He’s trying to send Haitian-Americans back. This is a guy who's not doing much of anything to be very helpful," Biden said.

The former vice president also stressed the importance of Florida to his potential victory in the Electoral College, telling reporters if he wins the state, the race is “over.”
 
-ABC News Molly Nagle

Oct 29, 5:45 pm
Melania Trump joins Trump at a rally for the first time of the 2020 cycle


First lady Melania Trump joined her husband on the campaign trail for the first time of the 2020 cycle, introducing him to thousands of mostly maskless supporters at an afternoon rally in Tampa.

The first lady, also not modeling a mask, began by saying, "In a time when hate, negativity and fear are the messages the media streams into our homes and the large tech companies are protecting political censorship," her husband's administration is focused on "the health and safety of the American people."

As coronavirus cases rise in Florida, she said Trump is working "not only destroying the virus and building back the economy" but "on creating ways for people to safely stop isolating and start gathering with friends again on a safe distances."

However, public health experts say mask wearing and social distancing should continue with greater diligence to avoid a surge of new cases and have noted distribution of a vaccine to the general public is expected to go well into 2021 at the earliest.

The first lady went on to say those not supportive of her husband’s efforts to produce a coronavirus vaccine are not supportive of the American people -- a swipe as some Democrats have questioned whether they’d take a vaccine if Trump alone said it was safe.

"If you are not supporting the safe production of a vaccine, you are not supporting the health and safety of the American people," she said to roaring applause. "There is no room to play politics on this topic in the midst of pandemic.”

“This country deserves a president with proven results, not empty words and promises," she added. "I ask that you join us in continuing to put America first."

The first lady offered her husband a kiss as he then took the stage.

While this is their first joint appearance on the 2020 trail, the first lady also attended the presidential debates and made a solo campaign stop in Pennsylvania Tuesday, arguing in her most political speech to date that Biden promotes a "socialist agenda."

Oct 29, 4:08 pm
Trump campaign postpones North Carolina rally due to Zeta

The Trump campaign said it has postponed Trump’s Fayetteville, North Carolina, rally set for this evening due to "50 miles per hour winds and other weather conditions” related to tropical storm Zeta.

The rally was set to start at 6:30 p.m.

The campaign said it will reschedule the rally for Monday.

-ABC News' Will Steakin

Oct 29, 3:57 pm
At dueling Trump and Biden rallies, dueling realities about COVID-19

At a crowded rally in Tampa this afternoon, Trump painted Biden as a candidate who will "destroy the Florida tourism industry and lock down our entire country" -- though Biden argued the opposite campaigning at a drive-in rally down the I-4 corridor in Florida, a state where COVID-19 cases are rising.

After touting the latest GDP economic growth report and once again insisting the country is "rounding the turn," Trump dug into the crowd sizes Biden attracts at his events.

"They say the fact that he has nobody at all show up is because COVID? No, it's because nobody shows up. And I think that's the ultimate poll and based on the numbers we are getting, we're going to do really well on Tuesday," Trump said, touting the size of the crowds at his events.

Without giving specifics, Trump said that he would win a record share of the Latino vote and claimed “Biden's agenda will devastate the Hispanic-American community.”

Speaking to voters in Broward County at a drive-in rally, Biden continued to differentiate his campaign from Trump’s mostly maskless, packed rallies, kicking off his remarks by thanking supporters for wearing masks and social distancing, before slamming Trump’s rallies -- like his dueling one in Tampa -- as "superspreader events."

"Millions of people out there are out of work, on the edge, can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, and Donald Trump has given up," Biden said, pitching himself as the unity candidate. “He’s spreading more virus around the country and here in Florida today. He's spreading division, in addition, division and discord."

While Trump argued the future of American holidays is uncertain under Biden, the former vice president repeated what’s become a new mantra: that he will not shut down the economy or the country, even as he says, "I am going to shut down the virus."

As both campaigns vie for the Latino vote, Biden appealed to Cuban voters specifically, arguing that the country needs a new Cuba policy and that Trump has "embraced so many autocrats around the world."

There were 201 cars at Biden’s drive-in rally outside Broward College, while Trump’s rally outside Raymond James Stadium saw thousands of supporters packed shoulder-to-shoulder.

ABC News' Adia Robinson contributed to this report.

Oct 29, 1:25 pm
COVID-19 election battleground state tracker


As the country enters what many scientists are calling a new wave of the coronavirus pandemic and the presidential candidates make their final pitches to voters in battleground states, here’s today’s update of the COVID-19 situation in 13 states ABC News rates as competitive for the presidential election (either toss-ups, leaning Democrat or leaning Republican).

Eight battleground states -- Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin -- are experiencing a rise in all three metrics: cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

Rate of positivity:

  • Increased in 12 states: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Wisconsin
  • Decreased in one state: New Hampshire
  • Increased in ten states: Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Wisconsin
  • Flat in three states: Florida, New Hampshire, Nevada
  • Increasing in eight states: Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Wisconsin
  • Decreasing in four states: Arizona, Florida, New Hampshire, Nevada
  • Flat in one state: Georgia

Oct 29, 1:14 pm
Election officials warn Trump's Tampa rally may cause traffic delays for early voters


Trump's rally in Tampa on Thursday may cause traffic delays which could lead to longer wait times for potential early voters, Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Office warned in a statement.

The president's rally is set to be held in a parking lot at Raymond James Stadium, which is also being used as an early voting site in Hillsborough County.

The Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections office said the event "could cause traffic delays" on Thursday for those looking to vote and the office reminded voters that there are 26 early voting sites available around the county.

The elections office also pointed out that while "electioneering" is not allowed within 150 feet of an early voting site, they say the "rally and campaigners will be outside of this zone" and that the Supervisor of Elections Office "cannot prohibit campaign activities outside this '"no solicitation zone.'"

The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment from ABC News.

-ABC News' Will Steakin


Oct 29, 12:28 pm
Trump, Biden appeal to Latino voters in Florida


For the first time in the 2020 race both presidential candidates will actively campaign in the same state on the same day to court the all-important senior and Latino votes in the swing state of Florida. Latinos, in particular, are expected to make up the largest minority group in the 2020 electorate.

While Florida isn’t a must-win state for Biden, Trump generating strong numbers among Latino voters in Florida strengthens his path to the state’s 29 electoral votes, which he won in 2016 by just 1 percentage point.

And a new NBC News/Marist poll in Florida out today shows Biden trailing Trump by six-points in support from the Latino community, though he still maintains a slight edge nationally.

Because of GOP ground efforts, Republicans have out-registered Democrats in the state -- and the Trump campaign is hoping his firm anti-lockdown stance might appeal to some working class Latinos and turn out more support for the president. Stumping to Latino voters in Arizona Wednesday, Trump talked about the "American Dream Plan," a new plan targeted toward Latino and Hispanic communities nationwide that he’s expected to tout again today.

But the Biden campaign is pushing back on that notion that Trump is ahead with Latinos in Florida, arguing in a call with reporters this morning that internal numbers show Biden on par with the support former President Barack Obama had in 2012 and claiming that samples of Latinos in external polling aren’t representative of the actual Latino community.

When asked by ABC’s Senior White House Correspondent Cecilia Vega what specifics it is taking issue with in the Marist/NBC poll, the campaign argued the polling only sampled a small portion of the community and weighted the results.

“I think pollsters often times... see our community as a monolith. And I think campaigns, up until ours have done the same," said Julie Chavez-Rodriguez, Biden’s Deputy campaign manager.

While the NBC poll shows Trump ahead with Latinos and Biden up with seniors, an ABC News poll of Florida voters just one month ago found the exact opposite -- with Biden up 13 points with Latinos and Trump up eight points with senior voters.

Oct 29, 12:07 pm
DNC running mobile billboards around Trump's rally that focus on COVID-19 cases


With both Trump and Biden hitting the trail in Tampa this afternoon, Democrats -- hoping to divert attention from Trump's rival rally -- are circling the president's venue with counterprogramming highlighting what they view as his failed response to the coronavirus pandemic.
 
In new billboards that are set to be unveiled at the Raymond James Stadium, the Democratic National Committee blames the president for his handling of the virus, which it contends has led to more than 16,500 deaths in Florida alone and more than a million lost jobs in the state.

"COVID cases are spiking. This administration failed us," a mobile billboard deployed by the Democratic National Committee reads. The DNC also set up a digital billboard two miles south of the stadium to target a wider swath of potential Democratic voters.

"We’re delivering a message to voters in Tampa they won’t be able to miss: Trump’s failed, incompetent coronavirus response has cost too many Floridians their lives and livelihoods," said DNC Chair Tom Perez. "Floridians of every political persuasion will hold him accountable for this record of failure and his years of broken promises by following through on their plan to vote and making him a one-term president."

It's not just Trump the DNC is trolling, billboards are also set for Reno to greet Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday.

-ABC News' Kendall Karson


Oct 29, 9:51 am
Overview: Trump, Biden hold dueling rallies in battleground Florida


Even as markets plunge and a new surge in coronavirus cases sweeps the country -- with some states imposing new restrictions -- Trump continues to close his reelection campaign by urging largely maskless crowds of supporters to dismiss the evidence. Trump insists the nation is "rounding the turn" on the pandemic, and to take his word that the economy is swiftly recovering.

The president is expected to continue that message today with campaign rallies in Florida and North Carolina -- states he won in 2016 -- seeking to defend his electoral map to a potential win. For the first time in the 2020 cycle, first lady Melania Trump will join her husband on the trail, attempting to bring an appeal to suburban women, a demographic Trump is struggling with.

He's also expected to tout the gross domestic product (GDP) report out this morning showing the economy grew at an annual rate of 33.1% during the third quarter -- the largest ever quarterly growth in data -- but this figure comes on the heels of the biggest drop ever when the economy shrank 31.4% as the country shut down.

Like the president, Biden is also in the Sunshine State vying for Florida’s 29 electoral votes -- hosting drive-in rallies in Broward County and Tampa.

The two will appear just hours apart in Tampa, near the western end of the I-4 corridor -- the interstate that cuts through the middle of Florida from Dayton Beach through Orlando and down to St. Petersburg -- that's thought to be a bellwether region in the swing state. It's the first time both candidates have actively campaigned in the same state on the same day in the presidential race.

Biden's has framed his closing argument to voters on responsible pandemic management, acknowledging to voters Wednesday that even if he’s elected, the path to normal won’t be like "flipping a switch." He has also hammered his plan for a national strategy to beat the virus and tried to set an example by wearing a mask and holding drive-in rallies to maintain social distancing.

The former vice president heads later this week to three more states Trump won in 2016 -- Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan -- where he’ll hold a drive-in rally Saturday with former President Barack Obama, their first joint appearance of 2020.

Biden’s running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris will participate in a virtual voter mobilization event with the Divine Nine -- known formally as the National Pan-Hellenic Council and consisting of nine historically Black fraternities and sororities, including Alpha Kappa Alpha which Harris joined at Howard University. In the evening, she has a virtual rally with another former Democratic primary opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. as the ticket makes its final pitch to more progressive voters.

Pence speaks at campaign rallies in Des Moines, Iowa, and Reno, Nevada -- a state which Hillary Clinton won by only 2.5 points in 2016 as Republicans seek to maintain their map and potentially pick up the Copper State.

Oct 29, 9:54 am
Contrasting images match competing themes in final election stretch


This time next week -- give or take a few days, perhaps -- the images of the closing days of this election will be held out as evidence that of course things would turn out the way they did.

Thursday will bring both Trump and Biden to Tampa, Florida, for rallies just five days before Election Day.

Trump will draw an enormous crowd. He will almost certainly mock Biden for not doing the same -- hoping his ability to draw a crowd inspires enthusiasm among his supporters.

Biden will hold a "drive-in rally" where honks will be more prevalent than chants. He will almost certainly attack Trump for holding a massive public gathering in the midst of the pandemic -- hoping his choices match better with how voters are living their lives.

On one level, Trump and Biden have adapted their campaigns to the extraordinary circumstances of the moment. Considered another way, they are using images to say something more about themselves as leaders -- in how they view the severity of the crisis, and how a leader should act.

The numbers -- polling, early vote and even COVID-19 spikes -- point toward a favorable environment for Biden and his view of the race. Trump's political career, though, has been built on a sense that he knows better than any numbers might suggest. If nothing else, as the campaign ends, he will act like he has from the start.

-ABC News’ Political Director Rick Klein


Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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3dfoto/iStockBy CHEYENNE HASLETT, ABC News

(MADISON, Wis.) -- Hackers stole $2.3 million from the Wisconsin Republican Party intended for President Donald Trump's reelection effort, state party officials confirmed to ABC News Thursday.

"Cybercriminals, using a sophisticated phishing attack, stole funds intended for the re-election of President Trump, altered invoices and committed wire fraud," Wisconsin Republican Party Chairman Andrew Hitt said in a statement.

The Republican National Committee reported the hack to the FBI and the state party said it's investigating. The FBI has not returned a request for comment. The story was first reported by the Associated Press.

The $2.3 million hit to Republican efforts comes just days before the election in a battleground state where Trump has consistently trailed Biden in the polls for months and where the state Republican party has trailed state Democrats in fundraising by over $35 million this cycle.

According to Hitt, hackers used a phishing scam to gain access to the state party system and then changed invoices and routing numbers so that money intended for vendors instead went to the hackers.

The state party discovered the stolen funds on Thursday, Oct. 22. The money that went to the hackers was supposed to go to vendors in charge of mailers and Trump campaign "swag," the party said.

Officials said the money stolen came only stolen from the Wisconsin GOP's federal account, which goes toward President Trump's reelection in the state.

"These criminals exhibited a level of familiarity with state party operations at the end of the campaign to commit this crime," Hitt said.

A separate account for statewide campaigns, which aids local, down-ballot races, was untouched, said Wisconsin GOP spokesperson Alec Zimmerman.

And no proprietary information or voter information was stolen, Zimmerman said.

Even before the $2.3 million loss, the Wisconsin GOP was tens of millions of dollars behind state Democrats, who have raised $59 million to the GOP's $23 million.

Hitt told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that it was "devastating" when they discovered the hack.

"Anytime you lose $2.3 million, I think that's probably an accurate way to describe it," Zimmerman said.

But the GOP maintained confidence in its efforts to reach voters, specifying that the products they'd intended to pay vendors for have already been distributed, though they haven't been paid for.

They'll now have to issue another $2.3 million to the vendors.

"While a large sum of money was stolen, our operation is running at full capacity with all the resources deployed to ensure President Donald J. Trump carries Wisconsin on November 3rd,” Hitt said.

The RNC, which said it will continue to aid the Wisconsin state party as the investigation continues, also projected confidence, despite the setback.

"The RNC never left Wisconsin after 2016, and we are confident that our ground game and the millions we are spending on TV and digital will deliver us another win there in 2020," RNC Communications Director Michael Ahrens said in a statement.

ABC News' Will Steakin contributed to this report.

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Marilyn Nieves/iStockBy AARON KATERSKY, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- David Correia, a Florida businessman and one-time golf pro, pleaded guilty Thursday to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with a scheme to dupe investors in a company he founded with Lev Parnas, a former associate of President Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.

Correia and Parnas tried to lure potential investors to Fraud Guarantee, the firm for which Parnas unsuccessfully attempted to hire Giuliani as a pitchman to attract investors and business, according to federal prosecutors in Manhattan who brought the case.

"I agreed with another person to give potential investors wrong information," Correia said in a brief statement.

At least seven victims invested a total of more than $2 million in Fraud Guarantee because, they said, Correia and Parnas misled them about the financial arrangements.

"The majority of investor funds were withdrawn as cash and were spent on personal expenditures such as Mr. Parnas' rent," Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas Zolkind said.

The defense did not dispute what became of the money but characterized Parnas as the primary recipient.

"Mr. Correia got very little of that money," defense attorney Bill Harrington said.

Correia, 45, also pleaded guilty to making false statements to the Federal Election Commission in connection with an illegal $325,000 donation to a PAC supporting Trump's candidacy that allegedly was primarily arranged by Parnas and Igor Fruman.

Prosecutors say the donation was made through Global Energy Producers, a company Correia was helping Parnas and Fruman launch. At the time of the donation GEP had no operations or bank account, yet Correia told the FEC the company was "funded with substantial bona fide capital investment," Zolkind said.

"The statements that were false, were they important, would have been material to the FEC?" Judge Paul Oetken asked.

"I was under the impression everything in that affidavit was important to the FEC," Correia replied.

Correia, the first defendant to plead guilty among four charged last October with illegal campaign contributions, faces a maximum 25 years in prison, but the plea agreement called for a sentence of between 33 and 41 months. Correia, Parnas, Furman and Andrey Kakushkin, a Ukrainian-born business associate of Correia's, were indicted last October on charges that they allegedly funneled $1-2 million from a Russian donor into the U.S. political system between June 2018 and April 2019.

Correia is due to be sentenced Feb. 8. Parnas, Furman and Kakushkin have entered not guilty pleas and are scheduled for trial next March.

Correia's plea deal does not include a provision that requires him to cooperate with the ongoing investigation.

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Alexander_Volkov/iStockBy ADIA ROBINSON, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- This Election Day, voters in Washington, D.C., will consider a measure that, if approved, would effectively decriminalize the use of psychedelic plants, like ayahuasca and psilocybin mushrooms, more commonly known as magic mushrooms.

Initiative 81, or the Entheogenic Plant and Fungus Policy Act of 2020, would make the investigation and arrest for adult cultivation and use of psychedelic plants one of the lowest law enforcement priorities for the district's police department. It also contains a non-binding clause asking the D.C. attorney general to not prosecute anyone charged with an offense related to the substances.

Melissa Lavasani, a mom and D.C. government employee who proposed the initiative, called the measure a "small step" toward ending the war on drugs.

"We believe that there is a growing body of research around these substances, and there's a lot of interest in the research community," she said. "And our laws should adapt to what the research has indicated."

The district would follow Denver, Oakland, California and Santa Clara, California, in decriminalizing some or all psychedelic plants. Voters in Oregon are also considering a similar measure, which would set up treatment facilities using psilocybin mushrooms, but would not decriminalize them.

Lavasani saw the success of the decriminalization campaign in Denver and began advocating for a similar measure in the district. She knew the therapeutic value of psychedelics personally after using psilocybin mushrooms and ayahuasca to treat severe postpartum depression.

"I had zero experience with depression or any real mental health issues," Lavasani said. "I've had a pretty regular, good life. And I had never been in that situation before and I was struggling terribly."

At the time, she sought a more natural way of treating depression (through cognitive behavioral therapy and other methods), but nothing was working for her.

"At that point in time, I was contemplating suicide because I was so miserable, and my family was really suffering with me," she said. "I didn't really see a way out."

Then, Lavasani came across an interview with mycologist Paul Stamets on the Joe Rogan podcast, in which Stamets talked about the therapeutic benefits of psilocybin mushrooms. After doing her own research, Lavasani decided to try them.

"I would take it in the morning and within a matter of days I started to get my humanity back," she said. "I started to feel like I used to. I was engaging with my children and I was engaging with my husband again, and the whole world lit up for me."

But despite how much her mental health improved, the fear of being arrested for using the Schedule I drug persisted.

"It's a frightening thought to work your entire life for your career and to build your family and to know that it can all be wiped out with one person finding this information out and reporting it to the police," Lavasani said. "I really could have lost everything in my life, just as I was getting my life back."

Matthew Johnson, the associate director of Johns Hopkins University's Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research, told ABC News that while the FDA has not approved psychedelics for therapeutic use, there is "very strong evidence" they have anti-addiction effects and can treat depression and anxiety in some patients.

"The remarkable thing, which really is the paradigm shifting thing in psychiatry, is that you can have one session where we've seen behavioral effects over a year afterwards," he said.

Johnson said that the biggest risks associated with psychedelics are susceptibility to psychotic disorders and people panicking in response to "bad trips," which he refers to as challenging experiences.

These are generally short term risks, Johnson said, and they can be mitigated in a clinical setting. Because it only takes a few sessions for patients to see effects, clinicians can monitor a person's reaction more closely than they could with daily psychiatric medication.

The most vocal opponent of the initiative is Republican Maryland Rep. Andy Harris. At a House Appropriations Committee mark-up in July, he introduced, but later withdrew, an amendment that would restrict Initiative 81 to medical use only.

"This is a bald-faced attempt to just make these very serious, very potent, very dangerous -- both short-term and long-term -- hallucinogenic drugs broadly available," he told the New York Post in July.

"Public health has to be maintained," he added. "We know, of course, once you make it a very low enforcement level and encourage prosecutors not to prosecute it, what would prevent people from using hallucinogens, getting behind the wheel of a car and killing people?"

Lavasani responded to Harris' criticism by noting that nothing in the district's laws about driving under the influence would change.

"This isn't really like a party drug that we're talking about. I think in his mind he's thinking, 'Well, people are going to be out eating mushrooms and partying,' but what we're talking about is the therapeutic use of them," she said. "We're talking about people with really serious issues that they haven't been able to find solutions for that this can help."

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yorkfoto/iStockBy LUCIEN BRUGGEMAN, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Local election administrators are scrambling to keep up with a crush of ongoing litigation winding its way through the courts, with some saying they feel like "yo-yos" caught in the middle of politically fraught legal battles over ballot deadlines and other voting rules.

County and municipal clerks are already navigating an election season burdened by unprecedented challenges -- with the coronavirus pandemic bearing down on key swing states and a record-setting number of voters casting their ballots by mail.

The blizzard of legal challenges, conflicting rulings, deadline extensions and last-minute rule changes, has only compounded the confusion, several officials told ABC News.

"It's like a yo-yo," said John Gleason, the election clerk in Genessee County, Michigan -- a key swing state. "We get a directive, then a judge says 'no.' We get another directive, and the appeals court says 'no.' It has not been easy."

Partisans in at least 44 states have filed an unprecedented number of lawsuits tied to voting rules changes during the pandemic, according to a tally gathered by the Stanford-MIT Project on a Healthy Election -- more than half of which remain pending or on appeal.

At issue in many of these cases are how voting is conducted during the pandemic and deadlines for absentee ballots being sent and received.

Democrats are generally seeking to extend ballot deadlines while Republicans are looking to impose a strict deadline of Election Day, a politically charged and consequential issue that could leave votes uncounted.

Many of the initial rulings in those cases have been appealed and overturned in higher state courts, placing the burden of the accompanying rule changes on election administrators, some of whom are volunteers. On top of that, some state courts have issued rulings that conflict with federal courts -- a common occurrence under normal circumstances, but with just days before the election has contributed to the confusion.

"Election officials have already had to deal with tremendous changes this year to make sure elections run safely and securely for voters," said Larry Norden, the director of the Election Reform Program at the Brennan Center for Justice.

"Last-minute changes are a burden to them and to their voters," Norden added, "especially when courts are adding new restrictions that are confusing and lead to disenfranchisement."

'Extra work' and 'extra stress'

A development in Pennsylvania demonstrates the pressure on local officials. Before the Supreme Court on Wednesday declined to rule on litigation over mail-in voting deadlines, the state's chief elections office directed county officials earlier that day to "segregate" any ballots received by mail after 8 p.m. on Election Day. The high court effectively granted the extension by deciding not to accept the case, which the majority justified by saying it was too close to the election to change the rule.

As a result of the Supreme Court decision not to wade into the case before the election, votes submitted on or before Nov. 3 will still be counted if received within three days of Election Day -- as the state Supreme Court previously decided. The high court left the door open to revisiting the matter post-election.

In Michigan, after a state appeals court overturned a lower court's ruling that allowed an extension to mail-in voting deadlines, election clerks across the state "to backtrack and communicate that to voters." The ruling threatened to disenfranchise voters who waited to submit their ballots, and the onus again fell to election officials to get the word out. after a state appeals court overturned a lower court's September ruling that green-lit the extension.

"That type of thing can be confusing to voters and it can be a challenge for clerks to explain," said Fred Miller, the election clerk in Macomb County, Michigan. "It has certainly been challenging, but in such a fluid environment, it's to be anticipated."

In Wisconsin, officials are grappling with similar challenges. The rule changes have "been constant," said Sandy Juno, the Brown County clerk.

"If it's not one thing, it's another," Juno said, "Can you vote in person two weeks before an election? Can you vote in person from the time the municipal clerks get the ballots? All these things going back and forth. It just gets ridiculous."

With just days until polls close, the particularly arduous back-and-forth court rulings is wearing down clerks -- many of whom work only part-time and hold down other jobs. The cumulative stress brought on by the pandemic and the elections work is, for these purveyors of democracy, compounded by the uncertainty of these court-ordered rule changes.

"It's extra work, it's extra stress. Psychologically, it's been a tough year for everybody – and we see it playing out with our clerks," said Sue Ertmer, the Winnebago County, Wisconsin clerk.

More questions from voters

Part of the challenge for election administrators is to follow new rules and adjust practices to accommodate changes. But perhaps a more important responsibility is to the voters -- informing them of important updates that may impact their vote.

"We have noticed a higher than normal amount of questions from voters," said Miller, of Macomb County, Michigan.

In Brown County, Wisconsin, Juno, the clerk, said that it is "electors who are hurt the most" by the 11th-hour rule changes.

"As election officials, we're following these issues and we have access to a lot more information," Juno explained. "It becomes really important to get that consistent message throughout the state."

In some cases, Miller added, rulings in other states have forced clerks to play the additional role "correcting misinterpretations and misconceptions voters have" about rules that have no bearing on their home states.

In Ohio and Texas, for example, courts are grappling with how to handle the number of election mail drop boxes in each county. In Florida, a federal appeals court in September reinstated a requirement that paroled felons pay all court fines before regaining the right to vote.

Neither of those disputes have any bearing on voters in Michigan or Wisconsin, for example. But that hasn't stopped voters from asking about them -- placing an even greater burden on the clerks.

Despite the fallout from the deluge of litigation, there's a silver lining: Election workers remain confident in their ability deliver a free and fair election.

"Although it's frustrating, it's not unexpected," said Steven Urlich, the elections director in York County, Pennsylvania, where a slew of pandemic-related election cases are making their way through the courts on topics such as mail-in voting deadlines to alleviating signature-matching requirements for absentee ballots.

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court declined to review a lower court ruling that would have extended the deadline in Wisconsin for returning ballots in Wisconsin up to six days after Nov. 3.

The ruling infuriated voting rights advocate, but Juno viewed the decision in a different light.

"I'm actually kind of relieved that we're not going to accept any [ballots] after Election Day," Juno explained. "Because if we did, we would probably end up with more lawsuits."

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JillianCain/iStockBy IVAN PEREIRA and CATHERINE SANZ, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- With voting in the 2020 election well underway across the country, Americans are anxious to make sure their choices are counted with as few problems as possible.

Despite the mail-in and early voting processes appearing to go smoothly for the vast majority of people, there have been reports circulating on social media (as there have been in other election cycles) that have raised concerns.

Videos of long lines of people, even in the thousands, outside voting sites and reports of glitches with voting machines have gone viral over the last couple of weeks.

Despite these stories, election integrity experts told ABC News that voters should not necessarily panic or believe those instances are examples of voter fraud or intimidation. Most of those issues can be quickly addressed and resolved, according to Sylvia Albert, the director of voting and elections for the non-partisan watchdog group Common Cause.

"First and foremost, elections aren't perfect," she told ABC News. "Just like anything else, stuff happens and there are a lot of ways people can deal with that."

Albert and another expert said most of these circumstances have been sporadic historically, but voters should alert poll workers and election officials if they believe there are any problems. They added that voters should be aware of a possible spread of misinformation and disinformation campaigns that use reports of problems at poll sites on social media and guard against possibly amplifying those false messages online.

Here are some of the most common potential issues seen at the polls, and tips from the experts on how to navigate them:

Long lines

The most common reports from states with early voting this year are of people waiting to cast their ballots in long lines outside polling places.

In some recent cases, like in Florida, voters waited in the rain.

Albert said the long lines are a result of several factors, including limited polling locations put in place by election districts and large voter turnout. This year, COVID-19 has played a role in the lines as well, as polling sites limit the number of people allowed indoors at one time and require voters to be 6 feet apart.

The key thing that voters should be on the lookout for in this situation is how fast the line is moving, according to Albert.

"A long line that moves fast isn't bad," she said.

Myrna Perez, director of voting rights and elections program for the nonpartisan law and policy institute the Brennan Center for Justice, also reiterated that long lines might not be an immediate cause for concern. She noted that election offices across the country are not funded well enough and do not have the resources to plan for large turnouts.

"Talk to your election officials and leaders to do an autopsy on what went wrong and urge them to address it," Perez told ABC News

Perez did note that while line issues at polling places may not necessarily signal an acute problem, they do speak to the larger issue of declining polling sites. And research from the Brennan Center released this summer found that Latino and Black voters are more likely to face long lines at the polls compared to their white counterparts, because of the insufficient polling locations in their communities.

Latino voters waited on average 46% longer than white voters, and Black voters waited on average 45% longer than white voters, according to the report. The report recommends that election administrators expand polling site maps to include more neighborhoods and plan for those elections where turnout is expected to spike.

"We don't have enough responsiveness in the system to community needs," Perez said.

Broken machines

In every election, there are reports of voting machines breaking down, leaving voters frustrated in line.

Albert said Common Cause's research has found that these issues are sporadic throughout the country, since many of the machines are over a decade old, and that they are not a sign of malfeasance. She did note that the federal government approved two separate $400 million funding measures this year to help with election security and to make the sites COVID ready.

"That includes money for better machines," Albert said.

Albert noted that one complaint that frequently comes up during elections is malfunctioning touchscreen machines, which she said happens when those machines need recalibration.

In some previous cases, voters touched the screen for their preferred candidate, but the machine indicated that they selected another candidate, she said.

Albert said when that happens, voters should know that the erroneous vote is not logged until they give a final confirmation.

"If you're in midst of voting and there is a calibration error, none of that is recording," she said.

The voter should flag an election worker, report the problem and asked to be taken to a different machine, she said.

Piles of ballots

This year, election offices have reported a record number of applications for paper ballots, and voters have already begun to return their ballots.

Most states do not allow for paper ballots to be counted until Election Day, and voters may start to see images of unopened ballots piling up in election offices.

Perez said this should not raise alarms if voters see these images on Election Day or the following days, since the officials are following the rules and counting ballots accordingly. In a number of cases, ballots postmarked through Election Day are counted, even if they arrive afterward.

She added that many districts are gearing up for the increased paper ballot turnout.

"Many of those election boards are hiring staff and purchasing machines to make things faster," she said.

Resources

The experts said voters should be prepared for all types of scenarios at the polls, and should not hesitate to report problems.

In addition to poll workers, election offices and attorney general offices, Common Cause has a hotline, 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683), with staff who have direct lines to election officials, according to Albert.

"There are tons of organizations and lawyers who are out there and have your back," she said.

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adamkaz/iStockBy LAURA ROMERO and MATTHEW MOSK, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- When Ohio authorities indicted two men this week accused of trying to deceive and threaten voters with more than 85,000 misleading robocalls to residents of Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Illinois, the crackdown was in part meant to send a message.

"The right to vote is the most fundamental component of our nation's democracy," Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O'Malley said in a news release on Tuesday. "These individuals clearly infringed upon that right in a blatant attempt to suppress votes and undermine the integrity of this election. These actions will not be tolerated."

As Election Day nears, those indictments are part of a broad effort across numerous states to combat a range of last-minute tactics that campaigns may try and use to trick or intimidate people who plan to vote. Election officials are especially focused on the unique aspects of the 2020 elections -- as voters may be navigating unfamiliar new ways to cast ballots safely amid the pandemic.

Bhaskar Chakravorti, the dean of global business at The Fletcher School at Tufts University, told ABC News that this year has been the "perfect storm" for misinformation.

"We are in the middle of a pandemic which has been accompanied by its own surge of misinformation and now we are in the last stages in the countdown to the election," Chakravorti said. "Those parts of the country that are more important for election outcomes are going to be bombarded by misinformation."

Jesse Littlewood, vice president of campaigns at Common Cause, a nonpartisan watchdog group, told ABC News that because of the pandemic, "bad actors are taking advantage" and flooding voters with misleading information because the way people are accustomed to vote "may have been altered."

"We've seen false narratives about voting by mail and attempts to disenfranchise people based on their political affiliation," Littlewood said. "This leaves people confused and many of them give up and choose not to participate."

Voter suppression is not new

In 2008, a phony State Board of Elections flier advised Virginians to vote on different days. And in an effort to keep Black voters from the polls during Maryland's 2010 gubernatorial election, thousands of robocalls made to Democratic voters announced falsely that the election had already been decided.

In the last presidential election, targeted robocalls tried to trick some Oregon voters, telling them they were not registered to vote and their ballots would not be counted.

"The attempts of voter suppression in the history of our democracy predate social media," Littlewood said. "We have seen misinformation through billboards, flyers and robocalls attempting to suppress votes."

This week's indictment in Ohio involved allegations of improper robocalls produced by right-wing political agitators Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman. The indictments for telecommunications fraud alleges that the men set up robotic calls that warned potential voters that police and debt-collection companies would exploit their personal information if they voted.

"If you vote by mail, your personal information will be part of a public database that will be used by police departments to track down old warrants and be used for credit card companies to collect outstanding debts," a recording of one call said, according to local news accounts.

Wohl and Burkman pleaded not guilty to similar allegations in Michigan and their first court appearance in Ohio is scheduled for Nov. 13.

While many of the tactics are familiar, elections officials say the ubiquity of social media has made it harder than ever to police.

"Citizens across the country are being inundated with misinformation on a daily basis," said Aneta Kiersnowski, press secretary for Michigan Secretary of State, Joselyn Benson. "Misinformation suppresses voters by sowing seeds of doubt in our elections to scare them into not voting."

Michigan officials, she said, have been encouraging voters to report false information so the state's attorney general can investigate and, when necessary, prosecute bad actors.

In some cases, misinformation surrounding the election may not be malicious, but come from individuals who think they are being helpful, according to Littlewood.

"We've seen some viral social media comments that have to do with when to mail your ballot or how to do it or what you should or shouldn't do," Littlewood said. "And this is problematic because people are not getting the correct information because most states have slightly different rules."

To prevent deceptive tweets and other forms of misinformation threatening Colorado's election, Secretary of State Jena Griswold announced a statewide initiative last week that includes a digital outreach to help voters identify false information and tips on how Coloradans can stop the spread of incorrect material.

In Maryland, the U.S. Attorney's Office partnered with the Justice Department and the FBI to launch a National Voter Disinformation Initiative to identify misinformation and potential voter suppression schemes nationwide.

"Nearly every FBI field office will be conducting open source searches on the internet and social media to identify disinformation," said Marcy Murphy, a spokesperson for the Maryland U.S. Attorney's Office.

According to Murphy, voters in the state have been exposed to social media posts that identify the wrong day for the election, posts that incorrectly tell voters that a polling place is closed or posts that tell voters they can only vote by mail when in-person voting is an option.

In North Carolina, Attorney General Josh Stein released a fact sheet to inform voters of their rights and is working with state officials to stamp out all sources of misinformation that might target voters.

Stein called President Donald Trump the leading source of misinformation after he held a rally in the state and suggested to his supporters that they attempt to vote both by mail and in person.

"Let them send it in and let them go vote, and if their system's as good as they say it is, then obviously they won't be able to vote," the president said at the early October rally. "If it isn't tabulated, they'll be able to vote."

Intentionally voting twice is illegal in North Carolina and elsewhere.

"North Carolinians have been subject to dangerous misinformation about this election," Stein said in a statement. "Here's the truth -- you can vote safely; your vote will count; and the winner will be the one with the most votes -- the election is not rigged."

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany later insisted the president was not encouraging voter fraud.

"The president does not condone unlawful voting," McEnany told ABC News' Jonathan Karl in September.

In California, a law passed by Gov. Gavin Newsom ahead of the upcoming election makes spreading misinformation about voting by mail a misdemeanor criminal offense. Sen. Henry Stern who authored the bill, told ABC News that without direct criminal liability, "it was going to be very hard to find these needles in a haystack."

"Everything is at stake," Stern said. "The spread of misinformation is a giant threat to our elections and we need to protect voters."

In Ohio, a spokesperson for Secretary of State Frank LaRose said the state has been ahead of the curve since last year in the fight against misinformation. And while indictments like the ones this week involving the misleading robocalls make headlines, Ohio officials said their main focus has been to police the rhetoric about absentee voting.

"We've held a number of informational sessions and briefings with community leaders, especially in the minority community, to train them on what to look for and how to respond," said Maggie Sheehan, a spokesperson for the secretary of state. "The best way to combat misinformation and disinformation is to train as many as possible to recognize it and share what they've learned with their community."

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Dmytro Diedov/iStockBy ENJOLI FRANCIS, KELLY LANDRIGAN and HALEY YAMADA, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Lindsey Larson has spent 40 years harvesting the same dirt in America’s heartland, Iowa. But in August, he lost half of his corn acres to a massive storm.

Like many others, the farmer said he’s looking past the year 2020 toward greener pastures.

“I know that we’ve gone through one of our worst harvests in 2020. But I’m already starting to make plans for 2021,” Larson told ABC News' World News Tonight.

Larson, a lifelong Republican, is a part of the crucial base President Donald Trump won in 2016. He’s also one of the people Trump is relying on to win a second term. Yet, between the president’s trade policies, weather relief and COVID-19, this typically staunch voter base has been left to consider their important vote.

Supportive of Trump’s trade policies, Larson voted for the president again. But he said that the more than $37 billion in total federal aid provided to farmers this year, which was some in part of COVID-19 relief, but most due to weather damage, has still not been enough.

“The aid was far from what the pain was. But the pain sometimes is necessary to get to an agreement where we can feel like we can go forward,” Larson said.

Despite the bailout, Mike Holden, a third generation farmer in Iowa, said he could not overlook what he views as failed leadership and a lack of civility in the White House.

“I think [Trump is] dangerously reckless. He’s brutally insensitive and disrespectful,” said Holden, who cast his ballot for Biden.

In a push to win over rural voters, former Vice President Joe Biden plans to visit Iowa on Friday. Trump, on the other hand, made a visit to Nebraska on Tuesday.

Rural residents support Trump 58% compared to 38% for Biden, according to a mid-October ABC/Washington Post poll.

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Kuzma/iStockBy LUKE BARR, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- A former Drug Enforcement Administration spokesperson was sentenced to just over seven years in prison on Wednesday for an elaborate scheme in which he posed as a covert CIA operative.

Garrison Courtney pleaded guilty in federal court in June to an elaborate, years-long wire fraud scheme in which he posed as a covert CIA operative to scam companies and individuals out of millions of dollars, after getting them to believe they were supporting a highly classified government program.

Courtney, who served in the DEA’s public affairs office between 2005 and 2009, admitted in June that he constructed his false identity and duped other unwitting individuals to help him convince companies to pay for involvement in either a special operations forces program operating covertly in Africa, or a separate program aimed at enhancing the United States' intelligence collection abilities.

At the sentencing hearing on Wednesday, prosecutors said that Courtney concocted a lie and continued lying for several years.

“This defendant created the false perception that he was a covert operative of the CIA, involved in a highly classified task force that had been approved at the very highest levels of the United States government, the entire story is a lie,” a federal prosecutor said.

The government called Courtney’s actions "outrageous and tragic" and said he was manipulating his victims' patriotism.

The government also said that Courtney attempted to have the prosecution and investigation shut down by using high-level government individuals who he was scamming, but didn’t mention who they were.

Prosecutors said Courtney attempted to give up innocent individuals and have the FBI prosecute them.

"He said the names of innocent people to the FBI," the prosecutor continued.

Prosecutors said that while awaiting sentencing, Courtney, created a fake alias who claimed to be a duty officer with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence after a company he was working for fired him upon learning of the plea agreement in an "attempt to create third-party verification" that people at the company signed a non-disclosure agreement.

"He reminds people at Company N and elsewhere, you signed nondisclosure agreements you're not allowed to talk about this, when it was all a fraud," Matt Burke, a U.S. attorney who lead the prosecution, told reporters after the hearing.

Courtney's lawyer said that he was doing it to maintain a relationship because he lost all friendships prosecutors thought otherwise.

Judge Liam O’Grady agreed with the prosecution, saying the conduct was was aimed to "obstruct the sentencing" and was done "willfully and intentionally."

The judge, a George W. Bush appointee, admonished Courtney and said the scheme was "disturbing."

"It's such a diabolical series of crimes and so created on other than to imaginative and that had great power and as a result created such danger to our country and to the intelligence community," he said. "I think you have some serious mental health issues that need to be addressed in your future."

O’Grady said he’s worried about what Courtney might do when he gets out of prison, but said he is hoping that the sentence is enough of a deterrent.

A tearful Courtney apologized to the court and his family for his behavior.

Courtney said he tries to teach his children to live with courage and strength and always tell the truth – but said he didn’t live by those virtues while carrying out his criminal behavior. He said multiple times he wished he could go back and change what happened but that he’s looking forward.

“I’m here because of my actions, I'm here because of the things I did. I know that I've hurt a lot of people. I've hurt a lot of friendships. I've broken trust. I'm gonna live my life forward with everyone thinking, I'm a con man. A cheat. Possibly to my kids. And that's tough. But it's a position I put myself in,” he said.

At a pen and pad briefing after the hearing, Eastern District of Virginia U.S. Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger lauded law enforcement.

“He didn’t get away with it,” he said.

Steven D'Antuono, the Washington Field Office Assistant Director in Charge, said that this was a Ponzi scheme.

“It was pretty bold and brazen, honestly, it was pure and simple it was a Ponzi scheme,” he said. "He lied and lied and lied and he was so diabolical about it."

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yorkfoto/iStockBy LIBBY CATHEY and LAUREN KING, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- With six days until Election Day, and President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden racing toward Nov. 3, more than 71 million Americans have voted early so far -- a record.

The president continues an aggressive, defensive campaign as polls show him trailing nationally and in several battleground states key to his reelection hopes. He has back-to-back rallies in Arizona Wednesday.

Sen. Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, is also in Arizona making stops in Tucson and Phoenix. Biden will deliver remarks on his plan to beat COVID-19 from Wilmington, Delaware.

Vice President Mike Pence, meanwhile, has campaign rallies in the battleground states of Wisconsin and Michigan.

Here is how the day developed Wednesday. All times Eastern:

Oct 28, 9:43 pm
Kavanaugh revises Wisconsin opinion at request of Vermont


Supreme Court Justice Brent Kavanaugh made a rare, if minor, correction to a Supreme Court opinion in response to a highly public objection.

Earlier Wednesday, the state of Vermont formally requested that Kavanaugh correct his concurring opinion from Monday's controversial Supreme Court decision blocking a mail ballot deadline extension in Wisconsin.

While arguing that the court should not "second-guess" state legislative judgements during the pandemic, he attempted to draw a comparison between Wisconsin and other states which he claimed had decided against changes to mail ballot rules.

"States such as Vermont," Kavanaugh wrote, "have decided not to make changes to their ordinary election rules, including to the election-day deadline for receipt of absentee ballots. The variation in state responses reflects our constitutional system of federalism. Different state legislatures may make different choices."

While it's true that Vermont has not extended its Election Day postmark requirement for mail ballots, the state has in fact made substantive changes to the rules aimed at allowing greater participation during a public health crisis, including mailing every voter a ballot and prepaid return envelope.

Kavanaugh made a revision to page 5 of his opinion, the court clerk said later Wednesday. It has not changed the substantive bottom line of his vote.

With the revision, it now reads, "Other States such as Vermont, by contrast, have decided not to make changes to their ordinary election-deadline rules, including to the election-day deadline for receipt of absentee ballots. See, e.g., Vt. Stat. Ann., Tit. 17, §2543 (2020). The variation in state responses reflects our constitutional system of federalism."

Oct 28, 9:36 pm
Little sign of the presidential race tightening


After a surprisingly sluggish weekend for polling, the floodgates have opened, with a mix of high-quality polls, low-quality polls and pretty much everything in between. And although there are some outliers in both directions, they tell a fairly consistent story, overall: A steady race nationally, perhaps with some gains for Joe Biden in the Midwest.

Oct 28, 9:29 pm
Why Biden sometimes wears two masks


As Biden was leaving The Queen Theater in Wilmington, Delaware, on Wednesday night, he was asked why he sometimes wears two masks.

"Because, the one mask is the N-95 and I don't like it around my ears and I hold it on with this mask," Biden said referencing how he sometimes sports a blue paper mask over his N-95 mask.

Oct 28, 9:24 pm
Wisconsin Election Day preparations


Meagan Wolfe, Wisconsin Elections Commission administrator, joined ABC News Live to discuss Election Day preparations and urged voters, at this point, to drop off their ballot in person or in a dropbox rather than rely on the Postal Service.

"We're at this critical juncture before the election, returning your absentee ballot either in person to your local election official or in a Dropbox in your community is really the best option," Wolfe told ABC News Live Prime Anchor Linsey Davis.

Since so many Wisconsin residents have voted early or will over the next few days, Wolfe said she does not anticipate Election Day crowds being an issue.

"We expect that there'll be about 40% of our expected turnout that come to the polls on Election Day," she said.

Oct 28, 8:54 pm
Trump campaign releases 'American Dream Plan'


While Trump was speaking at his second rally in Arizona and stumping to Latino voters, he mentioned the "American Dream Plan," a new plan targeted towards Latino and Hispanic communities nationwide.

According to the campaign, the plan is promises to add 500,000 Hispanic-owned businesses, increase capital for minority entrepreneurs through Opportunity Zones, create two million new jobs for Hispanic Americans, increase access to home ownership, bolster school choice programs, and deliver a resolution to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program with a permanent solution that benefits both Americans and recent arrivals.

"Latinos for Trump" advisory board member Alfredo Ortiz said that Trump's "American Dream Plan" gives Hispanic Americans another reason to vote for Trump.

Earlier Wednesday the Trump campaign also launched three new Spanish-speaking ads targeted towards Latino voters in South Florida, Central Florida, Arizona and Nevada.

Oct 28, 8:47 pm
Trump wraps up Goodyear, Arizona, rally


After relentlessly downplaying the virus at recent rallies this week, disparaging testing, and complaining about the media's continued coverage of the worst pandemic in a century that continues to surge -- Trump at his Goodyear, Arizona, rally appeared to pull back those comments a bit.

The president did not mention the word “COVID,” as he has been, often repeating it multiple times seemingly exasperated by having to discuss the virus.

Trump also didn't explicitly say “we are rounding the turn” or try to uses testing as an excuse for the surging cases. But the president did continue to claim he’s done “a great job we've done in fighting the China virus," and claimed he was "immune" while sharing a fist-bump on stage with Sen. Rand Paul. The immunity duration after contracting COVID-19 remains unknown, according to experts.

-ABC News' Will Steakin

Oct 28, 8:16 pm
Vermont asks Justice Kavanaugh to correct Wisconsin opinion

The state of Vermont has formally requested that Justice Brett Kavanaugh correct his concurring opinion from Monday's controversial Supreme Court decision blocking a mail ballot deadline extension in Wisconsin.

While arguing that the court should not "second-guess" state legislative judgements during the pandemic, he attempted to draw a comparison between Wisconsin and other states which he claimed had decided against changes to mail ballot rules.

"States such as Vermont," Kavanaugh wrote, "have decided not to make changes to their ordinary election rules, including to the election-day deadline for receipt of absentee ballots. The variation in state responses reflects our constitutional system of federalism. Different state legislatures may make different choices."

While it's true that Vermont has not extended its Election Day postmark requirement for mail ballots, the state has in fact made substantive changes to the rules aimed at allowing greater participation during a public health crisis, including mailing every voter a ballot and prepaid return envelope.

-ABC News Senior Washington Reporter Devin Dwyer and Benjamin Siegel

Oct 28, 8:02 pm
How DC officials perform signature verifications


ABC News Live got an exclusive look at how election officials in Washington, D.C., perform signature verifications before mail-in ballots are counted.

 

BALLOT WATCH: @ABC News got an exclusive look at how election officials in Washington, D.C., perform signature verifications before mail-in ballots are counted.@devindwyer has more. https://t.co/bvZuIWOYht #Election2020 pic.twitter.com/S0rFfyMWF1

— ABC News Live (@ABCNewsLive) October 28, 2020

 

Trained staff manually inspect each handwritten script and visually compare it to an electronic version associated with the voter's driver's license or other official record.

Oct 28, 7:54 pm
Supreme Court allows NC ballot deadline extension, rejects GOP request to block

The Supreme Court has denied a GOP request to block a six-day extension of the mail ballot deadline in North Carolina which was imposed by the state board of elections.

The decision was 5-3, with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh joining the liberal justices. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch would have granted an emergency injunction.

"Such last-minute changes by largely unaccountable bodies invite confusion, risk altering election outcomes, and in the process threaten voter confidence in the results," Gorsuch wrote in the dissent.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett took no part in the decision, the court said, because "of the need for a prompt resolution and because she has not had time to fully review the parties’ filings."

-ABC News Senior Washington Reporter Devin Dwyer

Oct 28, 7:46 pm
Some National Guardsmen to be called up to help at polling places


National Guardsmen will be called up in some states on Election Day as election workers or to facilitate the opening of polling places to help make up for shortfalls of poll workers as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Voters won't know that they are National Guardsmen, however because they're being called to active duty to serve as state government employees helping out on Election Day, so they won't be wearing uniforms or carrying weapons.

Behind the scenes, National Guard cyber units have helped with the security of state computer systems and will be able to help out state IT teams if there are issues on Election Day.

Wisconsin and Tennessee will have National Guardsmen helping out at polling centers. In Wisconsin they'll be working as poll workers and helping with cleaning and providing sanitary supplies to the locations. Guardsmen in Tennessee are not allowed to serve as poll workers, so they'll be facilitating the opening of polling centers.

Nebraska's Maj. Gen. Daryl Bohac reiterated that guardsmen helping out as poll workers will essentially be civilians and if there's a need for security assistance because of violence or a threat of violence, they'll be calling 911 for law enforcement assistance, just like any other civilian.

In Washington state, "the biggest thing they're looking at is potential intrusion into the system. So looking at firewalls, looking at the status of the Vote Washington system," said Brig. Gen. Gent Welsh, Washington's Assistant Adjutant General. "Looking for anomalies in the system, basically typical network hygiene that you would usually expect to see anywhere and in a company, or even in the military."

Washington state is a vote-by-mail state, so on Election Day, Welsh said five guardsmen will be part of the team ensuring that the tabulation of votes is safe. They've been there for the past month preparing for Election Day and they'll remain on duty for four to five days after that to ensure the system's security. Welsh said cyber teams first started working on assessing vulnerabilities to the state's systems. "Most all of it is done over the shoulder of the Secretary of State teams, their own IT staff, teach them how to do these things as well. But again, just another extra set of eyes," he said.

In Tennessee, 30 Guardsmen have been providing "subject matter expertise" ensuring the counties have a "very robust support system" as they upgrade their software and assist with "the basic protocols of insurance," said Maj. Gen. Jeff Holmes, Tennessee's adjutant general. He said that six or seven counties had asked for specific assistance.

Wisconsin's assistant adjutant general, Brig. Gen. Robyn Blader, also added that, "the extent of Wisconsin National Guard's role in the November election, is still being determined."

-ABC News' Luis Martinez

Oct 28, 6:14 pm
Supreme Court rejects GOP attempt to block extended ballot deadline


The Supreme Court has rejected Pennsylvania Republicans' second attempt to block an extended deadline for mail-in ballots for the 2020 election.

The high court announced the 5-3 decision Wednesday evening that it will not expedite a Republican request to stop the state's extended deadline for receiving mail-in ballots, a small and potentially temporary victory for Democrats who believe mail-in ballots in the battleground state could determine the election.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett did not participate in the case "because of the need for a prompt resolution of it and because she has not had time to fully review the parties' filings," the court's spokeswoman said.

The court's order did leave open the possibility that the justices could take up the measure again and decide after voting whether a three-day extension to receive and count absentee ballots ordered by the state's high court was proper. The decision leaves open a potential question as to the validity of any ballots received after Election Day.

Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the three dissenting justices -- himself, Justice Neil Gorsuch and Justice Clarence Thomas -- indicated he would support the court's eventual review of the issue but wrote, "I reluctantly conclude that there is simply not enough time at this late date to decide the question before the election."

Earlier in the month, the Supreme Court deadlocked 4-4 on whether to block the extension -- effectively leaving in place a Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision that mandated the extension. Republicans were hoping Barrett's place on the court could produce a different outcome. In the end, Justice Brett Kavanuagh joined the majority in this decision.
 
Experts say due to the expected record amount of mail-in voting, election night could be more like election week, but Trump said earlier in the day he expects the courts would "hopefully" block any ballot deadline extensions.

Oct 28, 5:14 pm
Trump, Harris campaign in Arizona as coronavirus cases surge


Trump held a rally with hundreds of supporters in Bullhead City, Arizona, this afternoon as coronavirus cases in the state surge and the situation begins to resemble the early stages of the summer spike that made Arizona one of the worst hot spots in the world.

“You are so lucky, people, that I took you on this journey with me,” Trump told the enthusiastic crowd, aiming to pitch himself both to Arizona voters and Nevadans just across the Colorado River.

At one point, Trump defended what he called his "reputation" for stiffing people, saying people who do a “lousy job” don’t deserve to be paid -- using whoever set up his microphone at the rally as an example.
 
“Whoever did this microphone, don't pay them. You know, I have a reputation for not paying. And it's a false reputation. When somebody does a lousy job like a microphone that is no good or like teleprompters that fly with the wind, I say don't pay them,” Trump said.

Sen. Kamala Harris is also campaigning in the Cooper State this afternoon, opting for drive-in style rallies and roundtable events, as opposed to the shoulder-to-shoulder events the Trump campaign has hosted. In a parking lot at Pima Community College earlier in the day, Harris pushed back on Trump calling her a “female socialist.”
 
“You know there has been some talk about my values. Let me just tell you, Tucson, I am a proud patriotic American. I love my country and our values reflect the values of America,” Harris said.
 
-ABC News’ Averi Harper

Oct 28, 4:05 pm
2020 election cost projected to near $14 billion, twice the amount spent in 2016 cycle


The Center for Responsive Politics now estimates nearly $14 billion will be spent on federal elections across the country by the end of the 2020 election cycle, nearly twice the total amount spent during the 2016 election cycle.
 
The center earlier this month projected $11 billion in total spending for the 2020 cycle but updated the number after seeing a huge influx of political spending reported in the third quarter of this year.

This means that even if committees had stopped all spending at the end of September, the 2020 election would still be the most expensive ever.
 
“Donors poured record amounts of money into the 2018 midterms, and 2020 appears to be a continuation of that trend -- but magnified," CRP Executive Director Sheila Krumholz wrote in a statement. "Ten years ago, a billion-dollar presidential candidate would have been difficult to imagine. This cycle, we’re likely to see two.”
 
-ABC News’ Soorin Kim

Oct 28, 3:35 pm
Trump, Biden condemn violence in Philadelphia


At an event with truckers in Las Vegas, Trump was asked about the unrest in Philadelphia following the death of Walter Wallace Jr., a Black man, at the hands of police. After condemning riots in what he called the "Democrat run" state, he said the federal government is looking into the fatal shooting.

"It's a terrible thing," Trump said. "What I'm witnessing is terrible, and, frankly, that the mayor or whoever it is, that's allowing people to riot and loot and not stop them is also just a horrible thing."

"We're looking at the shooting and if asked to go in and help, we will do that," Trump said, urging Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, a Democrat, to call in the National Guard -- which the state has already done.

Looking to the election, Trump also said that "hopefully" the courts will stop ballots from being counted past Nov. 3 -- but experts say to expect record amount of mail-in voting, election night could be more like election week.

Biden, asked earlier about the ongoing situation in Philadelphia, gave a general answer to the ongoing clashes between police officers and protesters as he tries to walk a fine line of supporting both Black Lives Matter protesters and law enforcement.

“There is no excuse whatsoever for the looting and the violence. None whatsoever. I think to be able to protest is totally legitimate, totally reasonable," Biden said, going on to pitch his idea of a national commission on policing. "But there's no excuse for the looting."

Oct 28, 2:22 pm
Trump campaign blames Omaha post-rally scene, which Biden slammed, on 'local road closures'


The former vice president slammed Trump for the botched scene after his rally in Omaha, Nebraska, Tuesday night, saying the president "gets his photo op then he gets out" leaving "everyone else to suffer the consequences of his failure to make a responsible plan."
 
Hundreds of Trump supporters were stranded for hours in near-freezing weather following Trump's Tuesday rally, waiting for buses to return them from Eppley Airfield hanger to their cars, resulting in some requiring medical attention and being taken to the hospital.
 
Forty buses had hauled approximately 25,000 people from parking lots to the airport hanger throughout the day, according to officials. When the rally finished around 9 p.m., people flooded out of the venue to be transported by the Trump campaign in charter buses back to their cars 2.5 miles away, but many ended up walking back or waiting hours in 30-degree weather well into the night hours after Trump had left the state.

The mismanaged post-rally scene by the campaign resulted in attendees, including some elderly, requiring medical attention on-site and at least seven being transported to the hospital, according to the Omaha Scanner, a local police tracker that monitors official radio traffic. A preliminary report from the Omaha Police Department also confirmed that number.

Since many attendees chose to walk back to their cars instead of waiting for buses, foot traffic slowed bus trips "considerably," according to officials who attempted to clear the congestion. Police said the last person was loaded into a bus from the rally site around 11:50 p.m. and traffic returned to normal at about 12:30 a.m.

The Trump campaign blamed the delay on "local road closures" in a statement to ABC News.
 
"Because of the sheer size of the crowd, we deployed 40 shuttle buses instead of the normal 15, but local road closures and resulting congestion caused delays. We always strive to provide the best guest experience at our events and we care about their safety," said Trump campaign spokesperson Samantha Zager.
 
-ABC News’ Will Steakin and Terrance Smith

Oct 28, 12:06 pm
Pence tests negative for COVID-19, campaigning in states with Biden advantage


Ahead of the vice president's trips to two battleground states Trump narrowly won in 2016, Pence's office announced he tested negative for the coronavirus again today -- as the Trump administration struggles with voter trust on its handling of the pandemic.

Pence will continue traversing the country as an "essential worker," according to the White House, despite five of his aides testing positive for COVID-19 over the weekend and Pence coming into close contact with at least one of those infected individuals. He has rallies this afternoon in Wisconsin and Michigan -- states where Biden leads Trump among likely voters, according to new ABC News/Washington Post polls.

Trump campaign national press secretary Hogan Gidley appearing on CNN this morning said that it wasn't a concern for the vice president to go to Wisconsin -- which had a record number of hospitalizations on Monday -- since his doctors have cleared him for travel.

"The vice president has the best doctors in the world around him. They're obviously contact traced and have come to the conclusion it's fine for him to be out on the campaign trail," Gidley said. "The American people have the right under the First Amendment to peaceably assemble, too."

Oct 28, 12:03 pm
Some swing state officials urge voters to bypass the mail to return ballots


With millions of absentee ballots still outstanding less than a week until Election Day, state election officials in at least six in critical swing states are revising their message for voters, now urging them to bypass the Postal Service and instead vote in person or hand-deliver their ballots to ensure they are delivered in time to be counted.

Officials in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida, Wisconsin, Georgia and Ohio have all put out calls in recent days warning voters about potential postal delays, encouraging voters to use drop boxes or deliver ballots by hand.

"It's now important to return your ballots in person. Don't rely on the mail," Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson told ABC News Live Prime Anchor Linsey Davis on Tuesday, adding the state is still waiting on more than 1 million absentee ballots to be returned.

Mail-in voting is expected to reach unprecedented levels this election cycle due to the health concerns of the novel coronavirus pandemic. But of the 88 million ballots voters requested, only half have been returned so far.

The last-minute push to bypass the Postal Service comes after months of concern from critics about the reliability of the mail in the electoral process, budgetary concerns with the agency and threats to cut services in a presidential election year -- fears that postal officials said were misguided. This summer, though, the post office warned state election officials that voters should send in their ballots no later than Oct. 27th in order to get them in on time in accordance with delivery standards.

The move also comes amid a background of litigation over extending mail-in ballot deadlines past Election Day, which Democrats generally favor and a push by Republicans and the Trump administration to end the process on Nov. 3.

-ABC News' Olivia Rubin, Kendall Karson and  Lucien Bruggeman


Oct 28, 10:39 am
Trump pitches himself out West, Biden off the trail


As Trump continues to downplay the realities of the coronavirus pandemic on his path to re-election, he will pitch himself to Nevada voters this afternoon but he will do it from Arizona -- after a rally in the Silver State last month violated coronavirus restrictions and left his campaign with hefty fines.
 
The shifting of his event, this time, across the banks of the Colorado River to Bullhead City, Arizona, comes as polls show Biden with a nationwide lead, advantage in swing states and with more trust in voters than Trump to handle the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump in a three-state tour Tuesday condemned Democratic leaders in Michigan and Wisconsin for imposing restrictions to combat the coronavirus crisis -- and is expected to do the same with Nevada’s governor Wednesday while on Arizona soil, where Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, a close ally to Trump, leads.
 
But Democrats aren't ceding the Western states to the GOP. Biden's running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, was in Nevada on Tuesday in an push to prevent the state from flipping to Trump and will campaign in Arizona Wednesday -- stopping in the cities of Tucson and Phoenix.

Biden, meanwhile, is off the trail, spending the day in Wilmington, Delaware. He’s expected to receive a virtual briefing on the pandemic from public health experts, then give a speech on protecting health care and his plan to tackle the coronavirus crisis.

Democrats are playing on the offense in the homestretch -- focusing on states that Trump won in 2016. Biden took a trip to the red state of Georgia Tuesday and has plans to visit Florida, Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan later this week. Trump's pitch to Nevada voters, where Clinton won by less than 2.5 percentage points, shows the campaign thinks the state's six electoral votes are within reach.

Oct 28, 10:40 am
Biden leads Trump in Michigan, Wisconsin: POLL


A surge in coronavirus cases has damaged Trump's re-election campaign in Wisconsin, with growing criticism of his work on the pandemic and preference for Biden to handle it. Biden holds a slighter advantage in Michigan, with sizable leads among women, moderates and independents in ABC News/Washington Post polls in both states.

Biden leads Trump by 57-40% among likely voters in Wisconsin, a state that's now reported to be third in the nation in per capita COVID-19 cases, with a 53% increase in average daily cases in the past two weeks, a record number of hospitalizations and a 112% jump in deaths. That compares with a closer 52-46% in mid-September.

In Michigan, it's 51-44%, Biden-Trump, among likely voters, a slight Biden lead in this poll produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates.

Behind it all, an atypical election clock is ticking. Thirty-seven percent of likely voters in Wisconsin, and 38% in Michigan, say they've already voted. And an additional 23% in Wisconsin, and 18% in Michigan, say they will vote early or absentee. Early voters are strong Biden groups. The share planning to vote on Election Day -- broadly for Trump -- has fallen from 51% last month to 39% now in Wisconsin. It's 43% in Michigan.

-ABC News’ Polling Director Gary Langer


Oct 28, 10:46 am
Ahead of Arizona rallies, Trump's testing czar directly contradicts him on testing


Adm. Brett Giroir, a member of the White House coronavirus task force who was charged with leading the country's testing efforts at the beginning of the pandemic and has been careful not to break from the White House message, directly contradicted the president this morning when he acknowledged U.S. coronavirus cases are on the rise -- and not due to testing.

Trump said Tuesday, as he has throughout the pandemic, that the virus is going away and cases are rising due to increased testing -- but Giroir countered both of those points and warned "Draconian measures" may be required "if we don’t make a change."

"We do believe and the data show that cases are going up. It’s not just a function of testing," Giroir said in an interview this morning on NBC. "Yes, we’re getting more cases identified, but the cases are actually going up. And we know that, too, because hospitalizations are going up."

"It's not just a function of testing," Giroir added, calling the current moment a "critical point" in the country's pandemic response. He went on to remind Americans to practice social distancing, wear a face mask and avoid crowded, indoor spaces -- CDC guidelines which the Trump campaign itself has scantily adhered to.

"If we don't do those things, it may force local officials or government officials in the states to have more draconian measures because cases will go up if we don't make a change," Giroir warned. "The virus isn't acting on its own.”

 

Covid, Covid, Covid is the unified chant of the Fake News Lamestream Media. They will talk about nothing else until November 4th., when the Election will be (hopefully!) over. Then the talk will be how low the death rate is, plenty of hospital rooms, & many tests of young people.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 28, 2020

 

The president has increasingly sought to tune out that reality as he holds mass gatherings day-after-day in the final stretch of his campaign, including in some of the hardest hit states. At those rallies, Trump has lamented over media coverage of COVID-19, claiming the coverage is intended to hurt his reelection chances. It comes as the U.S. reported a record of more than 500,000 new cases over the past week alone.

-ABC News' Brian Hartman


Oct 28, 10:48 am
COVID-19 disconnect looms over Trump in Midwest

Trump hit Michigan Tuesday with what's already become a familiar complaint about TV news.
 
"With them, you can't watch anything else," he said. "You turn on – COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID. COVID, COVID, COVID. COVID!"
 
There's a reason, of course, for the coverage. And new ABC News/Washington Post polling out Wednesday morning shows how extensively COVID-19 perceptions are impacting the race -- particularly in a few states that are likely to matter the most.

Biden leads Trump 57-40 among likely voters in Wisconsin, and 52-46 in Michigan. That's a sizable lead with less than a week to go in both critical states, with the Wisconsin number striking on its own because it shows a larger margin than other recent polls.
 
One thing that is driving the story in Wisconsin, in particular -- the pandemic. The state is in the midst of a full-on coronavirus crisis, setting new records for hospitalizations and sitting near the top of the list for per capita cases.

The president is 20 points underwater on his handling of the pandemic in Wisconsin, and Biden is trusted more than Trump on the subject by a similar 20 points. The poll shows Trump's support among suburban voters cratering in Wisconsin, particularly in comparison to Michigan.

The polling also shows Trump trailing among seniors in Wisconsin by 24 points and in Michigan by 12 points. He carried voters 65 and older narrowly in both states four years ago, according to exit polls.
 
Biden can win the presidency by rebuilding the blue wall -- Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania -- without carrying a single other Trump state. It might wind up being rebuilt with help from the crisis that has defined Trump's presidency.
 
-ABC News’ Political Director Rick Klein


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Spiderstock/iStockBy DEVIN DWYER, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Move over dimpled chads.

The historic surge of mail-in ballots in 2020 means slope, slant and pen lifts in voter signatures could pose a major new flashpoint in the tabulation of election results.

"There will be partisan challenging of signature verification and signatures in the days following the election in many states. We can prepare ourselves for it now," said Tammy Patrick, a senior adviser at the Democracy Fund, a nonpartisan election advocacy group.

Mail-in ballots in every state must arrive with a voter signature on the envelope in order to be counted. Dozens of states perform an analysis of those signatures to make sure they match a real voter on file.

ABC News got an exclusive look at how election officials in Washington, D.C., perform signature verifications before mail-in ballots are counted. Trained staff manually inspect each handwritten script and visually compare it to an electronic version associated with the voter's driver's license or other official record.

"If it's not that as signed, then we have a process where we notify the voters," said D.C. Board of Elections executive director Alice Miller. "They can cure it. They have so much time to cure it. And we send them a document, they can sign it and send them back to us."

Watch ABC News Live Prime at 7 and 9 p.m. ET for an exclusive look at how election officials in Washington, D.C., perform signature verifications before mail-in ballots are counted.

Twenty-two states notify voters and give them a chance to cure, or fix, ballot signature defects within a few days of the election, according to the Brennan Center, a nonpartisan law and policy institute. But 28 states -- including the key battlegrounds of Michigan and Wisconsin -- do not.

"We often say one vote, every vote, matters and counts. And sometimes that vote can really make an impact more than at other times," said Patrick. "We need to make sure that every eligible American has their ballot counted even if they didn't cross a 't' or forgot to dot an 'i.'"

An ABC News analysis of the last two election cycles found more than 750,000 mail-in ballots were thrown out nationwide -- many for not having a valid signature, or for arriving late. During this year's primaries, more than 500,000 were tossed for the same reasons.

"Individuals who are inexperienced with mail voting tend to have their ballots rejected at higher rates," said Dartmouth College government professor Michael Herron, who specializes in quantitative analysis of voter behavior. "It's a pretty big bump and that's an important thing right now because so many people are new to voting by mail."

Researchers say signature errors disproportionately trip up younger voters and minority voters, and rarely reflect attempted fraud.

"Sadly, what we have found is that signatures may vary for all kinds of reasons: someone's age, someone may have had a stroke, somebody may be just moving too fast," said Kristen Clarke, executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a leading nonpartisan voter advocacy group. "In those instances, we're really pushing officials to give voters notice and an opportunity to cure any issue that you may have identified."

While several states have detailed guidelines for signature matching, others do not, leading some experts to worry that a subjective analysis of a voter's handwriting could unfairly compromise their vote.

"Staff are under-trained, they're under-resourced, and they'll be under tremendous pressure to get results quickly and they're moving through thousands or millions of signatures in the state," said Brennan Center attorney Raul Macias. "To verify signatures very quickly, mistakes can happen."

One analysis conducted by Carroll College political scientist Alexander Street estimates a 97% likelihood that a ballot rejected for an unsuccessful signature comparison should have been counted.

The findings are one reason why the Pennsylvania Supreme Court last week unanimously ruled that no ballots can be thrown out this year over an alleged signature mismatch. A federal judge in South Carolina ruled Tuesday that that state is also prohibited from rejecting mail-in ballots over an alleged invalid signature.

"If you're applying online you need to use a state driver's license or photo ID. If you're applying for a mail-in ballot via paper application, you need the voter social security number. So there are already multiple steps in the process that prevent voter fraud," said Bethany Hallam, a member of the Allegehny County, Pennsylvania, Board of Elections. "And, remember if you attempt to commit voter fraud, that's a felony, and you will be prosecuted."

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TriggerPhoto/iStockBy KATHERINE FAULDERS, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- "Anonymous," the author of a tell-all book who was serving in the Trump administration, has revealed himself to be Miles Taylor.

Taylor, a former senior Trump administration official, went public with his criticism of the president in August, in a video released by Republican Voters for Trump, making him the highest-ranking former administration official to endorse former Vice President Joe Biden.

Taylor, who had served as Homeland Security chief of staff, launched a group called the Republican Political Alliance for Integrity and Reform or REPAIR for short, made up of "former U.S. officials, advisors, and conservatives -- organized by ex-Trump administration officials -- calling for leadership change in the White House and seeking to repair the Republican Party," according to its website.

As it turns out, Taylor is also the author of the book “A Warning” and the 2018 New York Times op-ed that claimed there was a “resistance” within the Trump administration.

After the op-ed was published, President Donald Trump blasted it as "gutless," tweeting, "TREASON?" "If the GUTLESS anonymous person does indeed exist," he wrote on Twitter that day, "the Times must, for National Security purposes, turn him/her over to government at once!"

In a Medium post published Wednesday titled "Why I’m no longer 'Anonymous,'" Taylor wrote that his book was "a character study of the current Commander in Chief and a caution to voters that it wasn’t as bad as it looked inside the Trump Administration — it was worse."

He said that while he penned it anonymously, "I made clear I wasn’t afraid to criticize the President under my name. In fact, I pledged to do so. That is why I’ve already been vocal throughout the general election."

Still, he addressed the issue of having concealed his identity.

"Much has been made of the fact that these writings were published anonymously. The decision wasn’t easy, I wrestled with it, and I understand why some people consider it questionable to levy such serious charges against a sitting President under the cover of anonymity. But my reasoning was straightforward, and I stand by it. Issuing my critiques without attribution forced the President to answer them directly on their merits or not at all, rather than creating distractions through petty insults and name-calling. I wanted the attention to be on the arguments themselves."

He also applauded the public servants who have spoken out against Trump.

"These public servants were not intimidated. And you shouldn’t be either. As descendants of revolutionaries, honest dissent is part of our American character, and we must reject the culture of political intimidation that’s been cultivated by this President. That’s why I’m writing this note — to urge you to speak out if you haven’t.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany responded in a statement, calling Taylor a "low-level, disgruntled former staffer" and a "liar and coward who chose anonymity over action and leaking over leading."

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adamkaz/iStockBy QUINN SCANLAN, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Georgia has already seen record turnout during early voting, and on Wednesday, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger predicted that after Election Day, as many as 6 million voters could have cast ballots in this year's general election, up from 4.1 million in 2016.

"We very well could hit 4.1 million voters before we hit Tuesday," Raffensperger, a Republican, told ABC News' "Powerhouse Politics" podcast. "Back in January, we predicted 5 million voters. Obviously, we should've aimed a little bit higher... I think now we'll be probably in the neighborhood of 6 million voters."

The secretary told the podcast's co-hosts, Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl and Political Director Rick Klein, that they're seeing increases across the board, among "voters of all ages, all backgrounds, (and) both political persuasions."

Since the 2016 election, at least 1.2 million Georgians have registered to vote, according to data from the secretary of state's office, making a potential increase of 1.9 million more voters casting ballots this election compared to last even more notable.

The state has had no excuse absentee voting since 2005, but that method normally only makes up about 5% of total voters in an election. In 2016, only about 200,000 voters cast absentee ballots by mail, but so far this cycle, already more than 1 million absentee ballots have been returned. These ballot must be received by 7 p.m. on Nov. 3 in order to be counted.

With just six days until those ballots are due, Raffensperger said drop boxes are a great option for voters who still need to return their absentee ballots, which were newly allowed for the 2020 election cycle.

More than 2.2 million have voted during the state's three-week early voting period, which ends on Friday, and historically, the last two days are the busiest across the state.

Along with that record turnout, though, comes more pressure on election officials to deliver results quickly. But Raffensperger was confident that Georgia is well-positioned to have timely results.

"We'll get voters their results, you know, as soon as we can that Tuesday night, or Wednesday morning," he said on the podcast. "I think the sooner we can get results that are accurate out to everyone, I think that helps calm things down. And it really just gives people that sense of comfort that there is a safe, secure assessment process in place."

Over the summer, the State Election Board, which Raffensperger chairs, passed an emergency rule allowing county election officials more time to process the expected influx in absentee ballots. Beginning 15 days before the election, officials could open the returned absentee ballot envelopes and conduct every step of the process up to the actual tabulation of those votes.

The tabulation, though, is a "relatively fast operation," Raffensperger said, and as simple as pressing a button on the machine after polls close.

The secretary said that counties are working through the absentee ballots now, mentioning that in Columbus, Georgia, the county election director said her goal is to "have no backlog" of absentee ballots by 7 p.m. on Election Day.

"That is huge. That will give us a very quick response," Raffensperger said.

He said he was grateful for the rule change to allow this pre-canvassing of the votes.

"At the end of the day, we're putting the voters in the driver's seat and voters... they know that their vote counts, but they need to hear from us sometimes," he said. "We understand how important they are in the process, and everyone wants to get those results as soon as possible."

As coronavirus cases are increasing across the country, Klein asked Raffensperger about what COVID-19 precautions are in place for early voting, and on Election Day.

Raffensperger said that poll workers and voters "by-and-large" will be separated by plexiglass screens during the check-in process. Poll workers will wear masks and often, gloves, Voting machines will be disinfected after each voter, red dots will be on the ground marking 6 feet to help voters adhere to social distancing, including while in line, and the voting machines will also be spaced out, which is good for safety precautions, but also means that less voting machines can fit in the voting locations.

The secretary was also asked about the 1,300 instances of alleged double voting during the primary and runoff elections over the summer, and how to prevent that from happening during the general election.

Raffensperger said the instances are still being investigated, but part of the problem was poll workers not checking to see if voters had already voted absentee.

He said the main reason they went public with the information, and later followed up with specific data about in which counties and how the alleged double voting occurred, was to make clear to voters that voting twice "is a serious violation."

"We need voters to understand that we will prosecute when we find people who double vote because every time someone posts twice, you in effect, have robbed someone else's lawful vote," Raffensperger said. "We just want to make sure that elections are run safely, sensibly and responsibly."

At the beginning of this month, the secretary of state's office released data outlining in which counties and in what way the alleged double voting occurred. None of the alleged instances have been proven yet as the investigation is ongoing. Raffensperger said the State Election Board will hold a hearing on the alleged violations once the general election is complete.

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Official White House Photo by Shealah CraigheadBy GARY LANGER

(NEW YORK) -- A surge in coronavirus cases has damaged President Donald Trump's re-election campaign in Wisconsin, with growing criticism of his work on the pandemic and preference for former Vice President Joe Biden to handle it. Biden holds a slighter advantage in Michigan, with sizable leads among women, moderates and independents in ABC News/Washington Post polls in both states.

Biden leads Trump by 57-40% among likely voters in Wisconsin, a state that's now reported to be third in the nation in per capita COVID-19 cases, with a 53% increase in average daily cases in the past two weeks, a record number of hospitalizations and a 112% jump in deaths. That compares with a closer 52-46% in mid-September.

In Michigan, it's 51-44%, Biden-Trump, among likely voters, a slight Biden lead in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates. The Senate race there stands at 52% for incumbent Democrat Gary Peters versus 46% for Republican John James, not a statistically significant difference, thus a rare chance this cycle for a GOP pickup, with control of the Senate in the balance.

[ CLICK HERE TO SEE THE FULL RESULTS FROM THE POLL ]

Vote preference results look very much like views on Trump's performance as president overall, seemingly cementing the contest as a referendum on the incumbent. In Wisconsin, registered voters disapprove rather than approve of his work in office, 58-41%. In Michigan, it's 52-46%. Both nearly match vote preferences.

Behind it all, an atypical election clock is ticking. Thirty-seven percent of likely voters in Wisconsin, and 38% in Michigan, say they've already voted. And an additional 23% in Wisconsin, and 18% in Michigan, say they will vote early or absentee. Early voters are strong Biden groups. The share planning to vote on Election Day -- broadly for Trump -- has fallen from 51% last month to 39% now in Wisconsin. It's 43% in Michigan.

One wildcard is whether voting and vote-counting are aligned. The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday effectively barred the counting of mail-in ballots received in Wisconsin after Election Day, raising the question of how many late-arriving votes will be disqualified.

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