October 30, 2020

The Daily 202: Ivanka Trump’s ‘consulting fees’ and Rick Gates’s book underscore depths of presidential nepotism

According to tax returns obtained by the New York Times for a story published Sunday evening, Trump himself paid nothing in federal income tax that year. Obama had reduced his tax burden for 2011 by donating $172,130 to 39 charities, and he said at the time that he believed he should be paying more in taxes. Trump reduced his tax burden to nothing by, among other things, claiming gargantuan losses on various investments.

Trump paid no federal income taxes in 11 of 18 years that the Times obtained his confidential tax filings from. In 2017, after he took office, Trump’s tax bill was only $750. It was the same in 2018.

Attacking Obama for paying 20.5 percent of his income in taxes while paying nothing himself is just the latest illustration of Trump’s hypocrisy. He campaigns as a populist but governs as a plutocrat. Now the self-proclaimed billionaire seeks a four-year contract extension to lead a government which he has apparently contributed less tax revenue toward than many blue-collar workers. Once again, Trump is showing himself to be the do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do president.

Trump dismissed the Times story as “fake news” during a news conference on Sunday. Then, on Monday morning, he attacked the newspaper for running what he described as “illegally obtained information,” which would seem to confirm its accuracy. “I paid many millions of dollars in taxes but was entitled, like everyone else, to depreciation & tax credits,” the president tweeted.

These are not the most sensational revelations in the Times’s 9,800-word story, which you should read in full, but they reveal something about the double dipping that tends to be so endemic in Trumpian enterprises: Ivanka Trump, who along with her husband works as a senior adviser in the White House, appears to have received massive “consulting fees” from the Trump Organization while simultaneously being paid nearly half a million dollars each year as a senior executive of the family business. The Trump Organization also deducted as a business expense more than $70,000 to style Donald Trump’s hair when he was hosting “The Apprentice” and nearly $100,000 that was paid to a favorite hair and makeup artist of Ivanka Trump.

During a rally on Saturday night in Harrisburg, Pa., Trump egged on his supporters as they chanted “Lock her up” about Hillary Clinton. “She’s crazy,” the president said of his 2016 opponent. “Remember the emails? You think we forgot. We didn’t forget the emails!”

How could anyone forget the emails?

Former national security adviser John Bolton revealed in his memoir this summer that the president was looking for a way to distract the public in November 2018 after The Washington Post reported that Ivanka Trump had sent hundreds of emails to White House aides, Cabinet officials and her assistants using a personal account, many of them in violation of federal records rules. Bolton said that this is why the White House issued an over-the-top defense of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over the killing and dismemberment, by bone saw, of Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi. The statement, which included eight exclamation marks, began: “America First! The world is a very dangerous place!” It attacked Khashoggi by repeating the baseless allegations from the regime in Riyadh that the journalist was an “enemy of the state.”

“This will divert from Ivanka,” Trump said, according to Bolton’s book, “The Room Where It Happened,” as he drafted his defense of the Saudis. “If I read the statement in person, that will take over the Ivanka thing.” 

The CIA had already concluded by then, with high confidence, that the prince personally ordered the assassination of Khashoggi. But Trump’s gambit worked to deflect attention from his daughter.

Former Trump deputy campaign manager Rick Gates reveals in his forthcoming book that, two years before that, Donald Trump wanted to pick his eldest daughter to be his running mate. In June 2016, during a meeting, Gates says that Trump told top campaign aides: “I think it should be Ivanka. What about Ivanka as my VP? … She’s bright, she’s smart, she’s beautiful, and the people would love her!”

Gates says Trump was not joking and brought the idea up repeatedly over several weeks, insisting that the GOP base would embrace her. Gates writes that the Trump campaign twice polled the idea of putting Ivanka on the ticket. Ultimately, according to Gates, it was the then-34-year-old Ivanka who explained to her father the reasons why it was not a good idea. 

Gates pleaded guilty in February 2018 to conspiracy against the United States and lying to federal investigators in relation to lobbying work he and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort did in Ukraine before joining Trump’s team. Because he cooperated with special counsel Bob Mueller’s probe, Gates was sentenced to just 45 days in prison, along with three years probation, but allowed to serve on weekends. His prison term was suspended in April due to the coronavirus. (Roz Helderman and Tom Hamburger interviewed Gates and have more nuggets from the book, “Wicked Game,” which comes out on Oct. 13.)

According to the Times’s story, Trump wrote off about $26 million in “consulting fees” between 2010 and 2018 to unspecified individuals. For example, the president collected $5 million on a hotel deal in Azerbaijan and reported $1.1 million in consulting fees. In Dubai, the Trump Organization paid a $630,000 fee on $3 million in income. The Times reports that his daughter appears to have been receiving some of these consulting fees. Trump’s private tax records show that his company paid $747,622 in fees to an unnamed consultant for hotel projects in Hawaii and Vancouver. Ivanka Trump’s public disclosure forms, required for her to work in the White House, showed that she received an identical amount through a consulting company she co-owned.

The I.R.S. has pursued civil penalties against some business owners who devised schemes to avoid taxes by paying exorbitant fees to related parties who were not in fact independent contractors,” the Times notes. “A 2011 tax court case centered on the I.R.S.’s denial of almost $3 million in deductions for consulting fees the partners in an Illinois accounting firm paid themselves via corporations they created. The court concluded that the partners had structured the fees to ‘distribute profits, not to compensate for services.’ There is no indication that the I.R.S. has questioned Mr. Trump’s practice of deducting millions of dollars in consulting fees. If the payments to his daughter were compensation for work, it is not clear why Mr. Trump would do it in this form, other than to reduce his own tax liability. 

Another, more legally perilous possibility is that the fees were a way to transfer assets to his children without incurring a gift tax,” Russ Buettner, Susanne Craig and Mike McIntire explain in the story. “Indeed, in some instances where large fees were claimed, people with direct knowledge of the projects were not aware of any outside consultants who would have been paid. On the failed hotel deal in Azerbaijan, which was plagued by suspicions of corruption, a Trump Organization lawyer told The New Yorker the company was blameless because it was merely a licenser and had no substantive role, adding, ‘We did not pay any money to anyone.’ Yet, the tax records for three Trump L.L.C.s involved in that project show deductions for consulting fees totaling $1.1 million that were paid to someone.

In Turkey, a person directly involved in developing two Trump towers in Istanbul expressed bafflement when asked about consultants on the project, telling The Times there was never any consultant or other third party in Turkey paid by the Trump Organization. But tax records show regular deductions for consulting fees over seven years totaling $2 million. (Ivanka) Trump disclosed in her public filing that the fees she received were paid through TTT Consulting L.L.C., which she said provided ‘consulting, licensing and management services for real estate projects.’ Incorporated in Delaware in December 2005, the firm is one of several Trump-related entities with some variation of TTT or TTTT in the name that appear to refer to members of the Trump family. …

When asked in a 2011 lawsuit deposition whom he relied on to handle important details of his licensing deals, he named only Ivanka, Donald Jr. and Eric. On Ms. Trump’s now-defunct website, which explains her role at the Trump Organization, she was not identified as a consultant. Rather, she has been described as a senior executive who ‘actively participates in all aspects of both Trump and Trump branded projects.’”

On Sunday, Trump again promised to release his tax returns when he is no longer under audit by the IRS. He made this same promise when he ran in 2016 but never followed through. After he won, he and his aides said that his victory showed that voters did not care about him concealing his taxes. Alan Garten, a lawyer for the Trump Organization, said in a statement that “The New York Times’ story is riddled with gross inaccuracies” and added that “the President has paid tens of millions of dollars in personal taxes to the federal government” over the past decade. Asked specifically by the Times about the consulting fee arrangements, Garten did not comment.

The Times’s story also reports that Trump reduced his tax bill with questionable measures, including a $72.9 million tax refund that is the subject of an audit by the IRS: “The financial pressure on him is increasing as hundreds of millions of dollars in loans he personally guaranteed are soon coming due. … As president, he has received more money from foreign sources and U.S. interest groups than previously known.” 

Rep. Richie Neal (D-Mass.), the chairman the Ways and Means Committee who has been suing to get Trump’s tax records, expressed concern that Trump will try to influence the IRS’s handling of his audit. “Now,” Neal said in a statement, “Donald Trump is the boss of the agency he considers an adversary.”

The coronavirus

The global death toll from the coronavirus pandemic is on the brink of hitting 1 million.

“That’s as many as live in San Jose, Calif.; Volgograd, Russia; or Qom, Iran,” write Marc Fisher, Gerry Shih, Chico Harlan, Terrence McCoy and Joanna Slater. “It is a pandemic that has divided countries from within, yet unites the world in common anguish and loss. In the United States, a son in Sacramento can only listen to a description of his mother’s burial in New Jersey via his daughter, the only relative permitted to attend. The dead are poor — in an Indian village, a man’s family borrows a wooden cart that a neighbor used to sell fish and carries his body to his funeral pyre. And the dead are workers — in Brazil, a man who works in a meatpacking plant does everything he can think of to protect himself, yet he brings the bug home and now his wife is dead. … Yet at each stop along the virus’s eight-month journey, as deaths mounted, those whose loved ones died feel compelled to tell the stories of the people they’ve lost. Even as the illness spiked, these families fought to find a way to mourn together.” 

  • India’s hospitals are racing to secure badly needed oxygen as cases soar. (Slater and Niha Masih)
  • Mexico’s top health official said an accurate covid-19 death toll may not be available for a “couple of years.” As in most countries, the country’s official death toll — which stands at 76,000, the fourth-highest total worldwide — is widely understood to be an undercount. (Antonia Farzan)
  • Infections again are spiking in the Brazilian city of Manaus, which was said to have reached herd immunity following a study from the University of Sao Paulo’s Institute of Tropical Medicine that has not yet been peer-reviewed. The study claimed as much as two-thirds of the population there had already been infected during the summer. (Farzan)

The CDC director was overheard complaining about the influence of Trump’s new coronavirus adviser.

Robert Redfield “suggested in a conversation with a colleague Friday that Scott Atlas is arming Trump with misleading data about a range of issues, including questioning the efficacy of masks, whether young people are susceptible to the virus and the potential benefits of herd immunity,” NBC News reports. “‘Everything he says is false,’ Redfield said during a phone call made in public on a commercial airline and overheard by NBC News. Redfield acknowledged after the flight from Atlanta to Washington, D.C., that he was speaking about Atlas, a neuroradiologist with no background in infectious diseases or public health. Atlas was brought on to the White House task force in August. … There is a concern among Redfield and others that Atlas continually briefs the president and misrepresents what other health experts have said in sworn testimony, according to a member of the task force.”

U.S. cases topped 7 million, less than a month after the country reached 6 million cases. 

“While it took several months — from February to late April — for the country to reach 1 million infections, caseloads surged in early summer before beginning a slight downward trajectory in late July as many states closed down bars and instituted mask mandates. Since mid-September, the rolling seven-day average of new cases reported each day has again been rising, although not to the heights seen this summer, when as many as 70,000 new infections were logged in a day,” Farzan reports. “Among the states witnessing the highest per capita increases over the past week were North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Utah and Iowa — highlighting how the virus is now spreading across the Great Plains and Midwest in a shift that experts have attributed to social gatherings hosted by young people and the return to in-person classes and dormitory life at major universities. At least 204,000 people have died of covid-19 in the U.S. since February.” 

  • Already facing its worst crisis since 9/11, the airline industry is set to cut more than 35,000 jobs this week. (Ian Duncan, Lori Aratani and Michael Laris)
  • Employers are facing end-of-year renewal deadlines for their workers’ health insurance coverage that are getting harder to afford. This new crisis could leave tens of millions of people without their job-based insurance by the end of the year, the Times reports. 
  • Someone tested positive after attending Trump’s Sept. 10 rally in Freeland, Mich. (MLive) 
  • Military suicides are up as much as 20 percent. “While the data is incomplete and causes of suicide are complex, Army and Air Force officials say they believe the pandemic is adding stress to an already strained force,” the AP reports.

Florida’s GOP education commissioner ordered Miami to fully reopen schools by next Monday.

“That’s more than two weeks earlier than the system, the fourth-largest in the country, had decided to do after a marathon 29-hour meeting last week,” Valerie Strauss reports. “The board voted Sept. 22 to open schools for some students on Oct. 14, with all students who opted to return to classrooms to be there by Oct. 21, giving the district time to put in place sufficient safety measures to prevent coronavirus outbreaks.” 

  • New York City principals passed a vote of “no confidence” in Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) over his school reopening plan. Teachers and parents have complained about staffing shortages, standards and a lack of transparency. (Moriah Balingit) 
  • Georgia health officials are withholding information about infections at schools, saying the public has no legal right to information about outbreaks. The state’s decision to conceal vital public health information means parents and teachers can only gauge the risk they face if their local school system decides to publish its own data. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
  • After weeks of chaos, a slow return to in-person classes and wide-scale testing have brought some stability to D.C.-area universities. American, George Washington, Georgetown and Howard universities — which abandoned plans to conduct the semester in-person and opted instead to host most ­classes online — have reported a handful of ­cases on and around their campuses. (Lauren Lumpkin)
  • Europe stays committed to in-person classes as school outbreaks remain rare. (Michael Birnbaum, Loveday Morris and Quentin Ariès)

The Supreme Court

Democrats want to make Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation a referendum on Obamacare. 

Trump reiterated Sunday on Twitter he wants to “terminate” the 2010 health-care law. “Democrats say Trump is rushing the nomination in hopes of improving his reelection chances and in preparation for a potential court fight over the results. But with little chance to block Barrett’s confirmation, Democrats are increasingly turning to the practical question of her vote in a case the high court will hear a week after Election Day,” Anne Gearan and Felicia Sonmez report. “Democrats think Barrett could spell the end of the law’s popular guarantee that health care cannot be denied to those with existing or past medical conditions, and hope that will motivate Democrats to vote. … Barrett has spoken and written in opposition to the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision preserving the law against an initial constitutional challenge. Although candidates for the high court rarely spell out their views on specific cases during their confirmation hearings, both Republicans and Democrats expect that she would vote to strike down the law in the current case given her past commentary. … 

“A growing number of Democrats have announced that they are declining to meet with Barrett, including Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.), who said Sunday that a meeting is beside the point ‘because I believe, first, that the whole process has been illegitimate, and, second, because she has already stated that she is for overturning the ACA.’ House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) [also] alleged Sunday that Republicans want Barrett confirmed quickly so she can vote to overturn Obamacare. … On Sunday, [Joe] Biden implored Senate Republicans to defer a confirmation vote until the election is decided. Republicans are eyeing Oct. 12 as the first day of Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Barrett’s nomination. … Biden declined several questions about whether he would support installing additional justices on the Supreme Court if Republicans proceed with the Barrett confirmation, a threat that some Democrats have been weighing.”

Barrett spoke at a program founded to inspire a “distinctly Christian worldview in every area of law.”

“Barrett was a paid speaker five times, starting in 2011, at the Blackstone Legal Fellowship, a summer program established to inspire a ‘distinctly Christian worldview in every area of law,’ tax filings show. It was founded to show students ‘how God can use them as judges, law professors and practicing attorneys to help keep the door open for the spread of the Gospel in America,’” Emma Brown and Jon Swaine report. “The Blackstone program is run by Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal advocacy group whose founding leader has questioned the ‘so-called separation of church and state’ as it is often understood. … When Barrett was before the Senate in 2017, to be confirmed as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, she was asked about those speaking engagements and grilled particularly on ADF’s stance on gay rights. … ‘I would never impose my own personal convictions upon the law,’ Barrett said at the time, when asked whether her deeply held faith was at odds with her ability to render impartial judgments. … 

“A suggested reading list for the fellowship, published on Blackstone’s site from 2010 to 2015, included ‘The Homosexual Agenda’ by senior ADF staffers Alan Sears and Craig Osten. The authors wrote that same-sex relationships led to ‘despair, disease and early death.’ … The Blackstone reading list also previously included a book that called homosexuality a ‘dark pagan’ practice.”

Barrett argues that justices should not be bound by a court precedent that they believe is out of step with the Constitution. That position has led many on the right and left to expect she would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.  “As a federal appellate judge, Barrett has ruled skeptically about a broad interpretation of abortion rights, and has shown a willingness to entertain state restrictions on the procedure. But she has been on the bench for only three years, and in most instances was joining more senior colleagues in opinions they wrote. In the most notable abortion case, Barrett joined in a dissent that said the Supreme Court’s decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which reinforced the right of a woman to choose abortion before viability, had not considered whether the reason for choosing to terminate a pregnancy might matter. … Appeals court judges are bound by precedent in a way that justices are not; only the latter can overturn Supreme Court precedent. … 

“In more recent years, but still before she was named to the appellate court, Barrett publicly avowed that marriage and family are ‘founded on the indissoluble commitment of a man and a woman.’ She also voiced skepticism that Title IX — the law that prohibits sex discrimination at schools accepting federal aid — extends protections to transgender students, saying that Congress did not intend that outcome when the law was passed in 1972.”

Republicans are accusing Democrats of attacking Barrett’s Catholic faith. They’re projecting.   

Trump has repeatedly impugned the faith of his opponents and critics. A speaker at this year’s GOP convention, former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz, called Biden a Catholic “in name only,” columnist E.J. Dionne notes. “And Trump himself rather astonishingly declared that Biden would ‘hurt God,’ and ‘hurt the Bible,’ too.”

  • Justice Clarence Thomas should recuse himself if the Supreme Court has to decide the election, argues columnist Colbert King, because a strong case can be made he should take no part in deciding cases that involve Biden. Biden chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee during Thomas’s confirmation, a process that he has said he looks back on in “horror and disgust.”
  • Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R) threw her support behind Barrett. Capito represents what Barrett once referred to in a law review article as “the arguably unconstitutional state of West Virginia.” Some hardcore originalists think the state is not legitimate because it was admitted during the Civil War when the Southern states were in rebellion.

More on the election

With five weeks left, Trump is playing defense in several states he won in 2016. 

“Of the 13 states where Biden spent money on television last week, according to Biden’s head of paid media Patrick Bonsignore, only three — Minnesota, New Hampshire and Nevada — were won by [Hillary] Clinton four years ago. Of the 12 states where Trump is spending, all but Minnesota and Nevada are places that he won in 2016,” Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey report. “Biden has committed millions to advertising in Georgia and Iowa, where Trump won in 2016, while Trump’s campaign continues to decrease his investment in other states, including New Hampshire and Michigan, as the candidates prepare for the first presidential debate Tuesday. … 

“The symbolic and strategic core of the race remains in the northern states of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Michigan, a traditionally Democratic region where Clinton underperformed, giving Trump the presidency. But so far this year, Biden has maintained an apparent connection to White voters in these states and elsewhere that Clinton let slip away as she lost all but Minnesota. That connection also has boosted Biden’s chances in states like Ohio and Iowa, which were long considered to be in Trump’s corner because he won them so convincingly in 2016.” 

  • Biden leads Trump by 10 points nationally in the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll. Trump has a lead of 55 percent to 42 percent among male likely voters, but Biden has an even larger 65 percent to 34 percent advantage among female likely voters. (Dan Balz and Emily Guskin) 
  • The race is within the margin of error in Georgia and North Carolina, according to CBS News polling.
  • Tom Ridge endorsed Biden. The former Pennsylvania GOP governor and first DHS secretary wrote in an op-ed for the Philadelphia Inquirer Trump “lacks the empathy, integrity, intellect and maturity to lead.”

A judge in San Francisco blocked Trump’s TikTok ban. 

“TikTok received a reprieve of its ban from U.S. app stores on Sunday after a federal judge in Washington granted a preliminary injunction blocking an order from Trump. … U.S. District Judge Carl J. Nichols, who was appointed to the bench by Trump in 2019, was not expected to make public his full ruling until Monday. He filed his decision publicly, but his full reasoning was filed separately as a sealed document,” Rachel Lerman reports. “Nichols granted the injunction for the piece of the ban that was set to go into effect Sunday night, but denied a motion to halt a second aspect of the ban that doesn’t go into effect until Nov. 12.”

  • A third federal judge ordered the Postal Service to halt delivery cuts before the election. “U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of Washington, D.C., sided with the states of New York, Hawaii and New Jersey and the cities of New York and San Francisco. They alleged that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy disrupted operations without first submitting changes to the Postal Regulatory Commission, and told Congress he had no intention of returning removed collection boxes or high-speed sorting equipment,” Spencer Hsu reports.
  • A federal appeals court temporarily halted a six-day extension for counting absentee ballots in Wisconsin. As it stands, ballots are now due by 8 p.m. on Election Day, making the decision a momentary victory for Republicans. (NBC15)
  • A district judge in Texas blocked the state from eliminating straight-ticket voting, saying that forcing voters to stand in longer lines increases their exposure to the coronavirus. (Fox News)

Brad Parscale was hospitalized after his wife called 911 to say he was threatening suicide.

“Parscale, who ran Trump’s campaign until July, was taken willingly to the hospital by police under a Florida law that allows authorities to detain a person they think poses a danger to themselves,” Josh Dawsey reports. “‘Officers made contact with the male, developed a rapport, and safely negotiated for him to exit the home,’ Sgt. DeAnna Greenlaw said. ‘The male was detained without injury and transported to Broward Health Medical Center for a Baker Act.’ The Trump campaign issued a statement in support of Parscale. … Parscale continued to hold a senior role in the campaign — in charge of some of the campaign’s digital efforts … Greenlaw said that the incident occurred about 4 p.m. Sunday … The police were called by Parscale’s wife, who told the officers upon their arrival that ‘her husband was armed, had access to multiple firearms inside the residence and was threatening to harm himself.’ … Parscale had told others that he was upset by his demotion and attacks from people who were questioning his behavior as campaign manager.”

The White men behind the Trump boat parades cannot be swayed. 

“The parade of boats was decked out in flags and banners screaming support for Trump, led by a barge that had been used in previous summers for bikini-tops-optional parties on Sandusky Bay but was now laden with 10 cannons and a crane holding up a 22-by-15-foot American flag,” Jenna Johnson reports. “Blue-collar men such as [Shaun] Bickley, [Jeff] Karr and their buddies on the barge are the core of Trump’s base of support, and their enthusiasm for the president has only deepened since they first voted for him, even as Trump has driven away some voters, especially college graduates and women. As illustrated by the masculinity-oozing boat parade, the Trump Party is largely a party of men — especially White men without college degrees and especially those over the age of 40. … Four years into a tumultuous presidency, these men consistently give the president his highest approval ratings, and polls show they’re happier with the economy and the direction of the country than White women or voters of color. 

“Their connection with Trump is cultural and emotional as much as political, closely intertwined with their lives and identities. His enemies are their enemies, his grievances are their grievances. They live by the rules he lives by: that concepts such as White male privilege or structural racism and sexism are to be scoffed at, that the working class, Christians and Trump supporters have been victimized. … They pride themselves on being self-made and see Trump, whose life has been nothing like their own, as a once-in-a-lifetime leader. … Bickley says that while he’s now ‘on the top of the food chain,’ he remembers the years he spent as a lowly worker, helping make other people millions of dollars. He thinks Trump has that same mentality. Trump’s strategy for winning reelection relies on finding more White men who support him but didn’t vote in 2016, as well as pulling in more votes from Black and Latino men. ‘The people who love Trump can’t be swayed by anything,’ Bickley said. ‘If you love Trump, you’re all in.’”

Pelosi told her members to prepare for the possibility that neither Trump nor Biden gets 270 electoral votes. 

“Under that scenario, which hasn’t happened since 1876, every state’s House delegation gets a single vote,” Politico reports. “Who receives that vote is determined by an internal tally of each lawmaker in the delegation. This means the presidency may not be decided by the party that controls the House itself but by the one that controls more state delegations in the chamber. And right now, Republicans control 26 delegations to Democrats’ 22, with Pennsylvania tied and Michigan a 7-6 plurality for Democrats, with a 14th seat held by independent Justin Amash. … 

This could lead to more concerted efforts by Democrats to win in states such as Montana and Alaska — typically Republican turf but where Democrats have been competitive statewide. In these states, Democratic victories could flip an entire delegation with a single upset House victory. … Pelosi has also raised the issue repeatedly in recent weeks with her leadership team. … In private, Trump has discussed the possibility of the presidential race being thrown into the House as well, raising the issue with GOP lawmakers, according to Republican sources. … If the House is asked to resolve an Electoral College stalemate, the country will be witnessing one of harshest exercises of raw power in history. If Democrats retain control of the House, they could opt against seating potential members whose elections remain contested, even if state officials say otherwise.”

  • The New Yorker endorsed Biden for president. “It would be a relief to have a President who is reflexively devoted to democratic institutions and refuses to make common cause with white nationalists, QAnon, and other inhabitants of the lunatic fringe,” the magazine’s editors write. “It is true that Biden is not a transcendent speaker or a towering intellect. Yet he has the capacity to convey genuineness and fellow-feeling to a wide range of Americans.”
  • In eight rallies over the past nine days, the president has offered a closing argument to voters that is both dark and outlandish, marked by offensive rhetoric that includes baseless claims that Biden takes performance-enhancing drugs and attacks on the looks of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). He’s running for a second term the only way he seems to know how: Off-script, with little to no discipline, and spewing controversy from the stage. (Ashley Parker)

Quote of the day

After the president challenged Biden to take a drug test before Tuesday’s debate, his spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield replied: “If the president thinks his best case is made in urine he can have at it. We’d expect nothing less from Donald Trump, who pissed away the chance to protect the lives of 200K Americans when he didn’t make a plan to stop covid-19.” (Politico)

The new world order

Mike Pompeo threatened to abandon the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. 

“The United States has told the Iraqi government and its diplomatic partners that it’s planning a full withdrawal from its embassy in Baghdad unless Iraq reins in attacks on personnel linked to the American presence there — a move that Iraqi officials said caught them by surprise,” Louisa Loveluck, Missy Ryan and John Hudson report. “ ‘We hope the American administration will reconsider it,’ Ahmed Mulla Talal, a spokesman for Prime Minister Mustafa ­al-Kadhimi, said Sunday. ‘There are outlaw groups that try to shake this relationship, and closing the embassy would send a negative message to them.’ Secretary of State Mike Pompeo notified Kadhimi of the plans Saturday night … It was unclear on Sunday whether the White House had signed off on a possible departure and what might prompt the Trump administration to shelve the plan.”

New fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan could reignite a 30-year-old conflict. 

“It was the worst outbreak of fighting in the region since 2016, when four days of clashes left 200 dead. Each side blamed each other for the crisis Sunday; both declared martial law as tensions escalated,” Robyn Dixon reports. “At least one Azerbaijani helicopter was shot down Sunday. Armenia announced the full mobilization of its military as the situation threatened to spiral out of control. … Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was on the phone with both sides Sunday urging an end to fighting, according to a spokeswoman. Moscow has close ties with both sides. … The conflict between the two countries dates to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Nagorno-Karabakh, a region in Azerbaijan with a majority-Armenian population, broke away and declared independence, triggering a war that killed at least 20,000 and drove 1 million from their homes.”

U.S. criticism of a European mission to Venezuela shows the growing divide over Nicolás Maduro. 

“The Trump administration on Sunday accused the European Union of undermining its efforts to isolate authoritarian Venezuelan President Maduro, denouncing the bloc’s top diplomat for dispatching a mission to Caracas without consulting with Washington,” Anthony Faiola reports. “The Europeans have tended to see Washington’s hard line position as harsh and ineffective. Washington has viewed Brussels as too willing to deal with Maduro. ‘This will make relations with the E.U. bureaucracy more difficult,’ Elliott Abrams, the U.S. special representative on Venezuela, told The Post Sunday. Brussels on Friday confirmed an E.U. mission had arrived in Caracas as part of an effort by the bloc’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, to secure ‘minimum democratic conditions’ for upcoming legislative elections.”

Social media speed read

From a former top federal prosecutor who was on Mueller’s team:

The Biden campaign came up with some tax merch quick: 

And horseshoe crabs are unsung heroes of the fight against the coronavirus:

Videos of the day

John Oliver discussed the future of the Supreme Court: 

In his first presidential endorsement ever, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson backed Biden:

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