- President Trump tweeted a picture of himself in a mask on Monday, calling it “patriotic,” a move that came as a surprise to many after months of him refusing to wear a mask and denigrating those who do.
- Several sources told CNN that the president decided to promote mask-wearing in his tweet because he is falling in the polls, largely over his response to the coronavirus.
- In a similar vein, Trump also announced Monday that he would bring back the daily coronavirus briefings and repeatedly cited the high ratings as a reason for doing so.
- While his support of masks could be influential, concerns over his stance linger, especially after he was seen without a mask at a fundraiser in his Washington, D.C. hotel just hours after posting his tweet.
Trump’s Mask Reversal
In a shocking reversal, President Donald Trump tweeted a picture of himself Monday that showed him wearing a mask, calling the action “patriotic.”
“We are United in our effort to defeat the Invisible China Virus, and many people say that it is Patriotic to wear a face mask when you can’t socially distance,” he wrote. “There is nobody more Patriotic than me, your favorite President!”
The tweet appeared to mark a significant change on the part of the president. For months Trump has refused to wear a mask and made fun of others for doing so. As a result, he has been accused of leading and amplifying the politicization of wearing face masks, despite sweeping recommendations from nearly all health experts.
However, just hours after his tweet, the president was seen without a mask at a fundraiser at his hotel in Washington, D.C.
Currently, it is unclear why Trump made such a drastic change of course on an issue he has consistently sought to undermine, even as the U.S. has continued to see enormous coronavirus spikes and repeatedly broken its new case record over the last few weeks.
Per the John Hopkins coronavirus case tracker, by Tuesday morning, the U.S. had reported 3,832,714 confirmed cases and 141,118 deaths. Cases are now officially increasing in 44 states, according to the New York Times.
One possible reason for the president’s change of heart could be due to the fact that as the virus has surged, more and more Republican leaders have started to break ranks from Trump on the issue.
Last week, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey imposed a short-term mask mandate on her state. On Monday, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves extended his state’s mask mandate so that it now covers almost half of all residents.
Those are only a few examples, and in general, the narrative around masks is changing.
Mask for Ratings
Still, there is also another possibility when it comes to why Trump changed his tune.
On Monday, CNN, citing several anonymous sources, reported that Trump’s shift “was primarily motivated by floundering poll numbers.”
“It wasn’t until a meeting with campaign aides at the White House last week, where aides bluntly told him even internal numbers showed Americans didn’t approve of his response,” the outlet continuned.
“Trump’s advisers also linked wearing a mask to political success, a key argument as Trump’s poll numbers were low and coronavirus remained a top concern for voters. Wearing a mask, the advisers suggested, was an easy step that’s well-received by the vast majority of Americans.”
While access to the aforementioned internal polls is limited, recent public polls also demonstrate the same general information.
Several polls published over the weekend showed that Trump’s pandemic response is hurting his re-election chances.
According to an ABC poll, 64% of Americans surveyed do not trust Trump on coronavirus and only 38% now approve of his response— which is down from 46% in late May.
Separately a Washington Post-ABC News poll also found that Biden is now leading Trump by 55% to 40% among registered voters— up from 10% in May. The Post also reported that the drop in Trump’s approval is related to a “decline in how Americans judge his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.’
“There has been a net drop of 28 points in his approval margin since March as the president has repeatedly contradicted or ignored health experts in his administration and in the states, stoked confusion about the importance of wearing masks and at times appeared indifferent to the crisis even as conditions in many parts of the country were worsening,” it continued.
While a Fox News survey of registered voters found that Biden was leading by a lot less than the Post-ABC poll—with just 8%— it still had similar findings, with the outlet reporting that the coronavirus “is the top issue to voters, over half of them disapprove of how President Trump’s handling it, and they increasingly trust Joe Biden to do a better job on it.”
Trump Reinstates Coronavirus Briefings
This idea that Trump was only promoting a mask as a PR or approval rating stunt could also be supported by the fact that he is planning to bring back daily coronavirus briefings.
In his announcement Monday, the president started off by focusing on ratings and how many people had watched the briefings.
“We had very successful briefings,” he said. “I was doing them and we had a lot of people watching. Record numbers watching. In the history of cable television, there’s never been anything like it.”
Even when he did argue that the briefings had a utility to “get information out to the public,” he still made sure to hit on the number of views again, adding, “A lot of people will be watching and that’s a good thing.”
However, Trump’s decision to revive the controversial briefings is somewhat confusing. That’s because part of the reason he stopped holding them in the first place was due to the fact polls showed that they were hurting him politically.
In addition to receiving criticism for frequently sharing false information at the briefings, many also accused Trump of using the events as a campaign rally. To that point, the move also comes right after he announced that he would stay off the campaign trail and stop holding rallies for now because of a worsening coronavirus situation.
As for the masks, even if it is just a political stunt, experts have said that it could have a huge impact.
“Trump’s new stance could put mask mandates in the same category as laws about seat belts, motorcycle helmets or secondhand smoke — safety measures that, while unpopular at first, eventually won acceptance,” Bloomberg reported Monday.
Catherine Sanderson, the chair of the psychology department at Amherst College in Massachusetts, explained to the outlet that “major social changes can be triggered even if just 25% of the population adopts them at first.” In order for that to be true, however, the changes have to be prompted by people with “genuine influence.”
“If Trump had done this two months ago, more people would have lived,” Sanderson said. “But this is better late than never, especially if it gives GOP governors tacit permission to require masks in their red states.”
See what others are saying: (CNN) (The Washington Post) (Bloomberg)
Jan. 6 Committee Prepares Criminal Charges Against Steve Bannon for Ignoring Subpoena
The move comes after former President Trump told several of his previous aides not to cooperate with the committee’s investigation into the insurrection.
Bannon Refuses to Comply With Subpoena
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection announced Thursday that it is seeking to hold former White House advisor Steve Bannon in criminal contempt for refusing to comply with a subpoena.
The decision marks a significant escalation in the panel’s efforts to force officials under former President Donald Trump’s administration to comply with its probe amid Trump’s growing efforts to obstruct the inquiry.
In recent weeks, the former president has launched a number of attempts to block the panel from getting key documents, testimonies, and other evidence requested by the committee that he claims are protected by executive privilege.
Notably, some of those assertions have been shut down. On Friday, President Joe Biden rejected Trump’s effort to withhold documents relating to the insurrection.
Still, Trump has also directed former officials in his administration not to comply with subpoenas or cooperate with the committee.
That demand came after the panel issued subpoenas ordering depositions from Bannon and three other former officials: Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Scavino, and Pentagon Chief of Staff Kash Patel.
After Trump issued his demand, Bannon’s lawyer announced that he would not obey the subpoena until the panel reached an agreement with Trump or a court ruled on the executive privilege matter.
Many legal experts have questioned whether Bannon, who left the White House in 2017, can claim executive privilege for something that happened when he was not working for the executive.
Panel Intensifies Compliance Efforts
The Thursday decision from the committee is significant because it will likely set up a legal battle and test how much authority the committee can and will exercise in requiring compliance.
It also sets an important precedent for those who have been subpoenaed. While Bannon is the first former official to openly defy the committee, there have been reports that others plan to do the same.
The panel previously said Patel and Meadows were “engaging” with investigators, but on Thursday, several outlets reported that the two — who were supposed to appear before the body on Thursday and Friday respectively — are now expected to be given an extension or continuance.
Sources told reporters that Scavino, who was also asked to testify Friday, has had his deposition postponed because service of his subpoena was delayed.
As far as what happens next for Bannon, the committee will vote to adopt the contempt report next week. Once that is complete, the matter will go before the House for a full vote.
Assuming the Democratic-held House approves the contempt charge, it will then get referred to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia to bring the matter before a grand jury.
See what others are saying: (CNN) (The Washington Post) (Bloomberg)
Senate Votes To Extend Debt Ceiling Until December
The move adds another deadline to Dec. 3, which is also when the federal government is set to shut down unless Congress approves new spending.
Debt Ceiling Raised Temporarily
The Senate voted on Thursday to extend the debt ceiling until December, temporarily averting a fiscal catastrophe.
The move, which followed weeks of stalemate due to Republican objections, came after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) partially backed down from his blockade and offered a short-term proposal.
After much whipping of votes, 11 Republicans joined Democrats to break the legislative filibuster and move to final approval of the measure. The bill ultimately passed in a vote of 50-48 without any Republican support.
The legislation will now head to the House, where Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said members would be called back from their current recess for a vote on Tuesday.
The White House said President Joe Biden would sign the measure, but urged Congress to pass a longer extension.
“We cannot allow partisan politics to hold our economy hostage, and we can’t allow the routine process of paying our bills to turn into a confidence-shaking political showdown every two years or every two months,’’ White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.
Under the current bill, the nation’s borrowing limit will be increased by $480 billion, which the Treasury Department said will cover federal borrowing until around Dec. 3.
The agency had previously warned that it would run out of money by Oct. 18 if Congress failed to act. Such a move would have a chilling impact on the economy, forcing the U.S. to default on its debts and potentially plunging the country into a recession.
Major Hurdles Remain
While the legislation extending the ceiling will certainly offer temporary relief, it sets up another perilous deadline for the first Friday in December, when government funding is also set to expire if Congress does not approve another spending bill.
Regardless of the new deadline, many of the same hurdles lawmakers faced the first time around remain.
Democrats are still struggling to hammer out the final details of Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending agenda, which Republicans have strongly opposed.
Notably, Democratic leaders previously said they could pass the bill through budget reconciliation, which would allow them to approve the measure with 50 votes and no Republican support.
Such a move would require all 50 Senators, but intraparty disputes remain over objections brought by Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Az.), who have been stalling the process for months.
Although disagreements over reconciliation are ongoing among Democrats, McConnell has insisted the party use the obscure procedural process to raise the debt limit. Democrats, however, have balked at the idea, arguing that tying the debt ceiling to reconciliation would set a dangerous precedent.
Despite Republican efforts to connect the limit to Biden’s economic agenda, raising the ceiling is not the same as adopting new spending. Rather, the limit is increased to pay off spending that has already been authorized by previous sessions of Congress and past administrations.
In fact, much of the current debt stems from policies passed by Republicans during the Trump administration, including the 2017 tax overhaul.
As a result, while Democrats have signaled they may make concessions to Manchin and Sinema, they strongly believe that Republicans must join them to increase the debt ceiling to fund projects their party supported.
It is currently unclear when or how the ongoing stalemate will be resolved, or how either party will overcome their fervent objections.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)
California Makes Universal Voting by Mail Permanent
California is now the eighth state to make universal mail-in ballots permanent after it temporarily adopted the policy for elections held amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
CA Approves Universal Voting by Mail
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed a bill Monday requiring every registered voter in the state to be mailed a ballot at least 29 days before an election, whether they request it or not.
Assembly Bill 37 makes permanent a practice that was temporarily adopted for elections during the COVID-19 pandemic. The law, which officially takes effect in January, also extends the time mail ballots have to arrive at elections offices from three days to seven days after an election. Voters can still choose to cast their vote in person if they prefer.
Supporters of the policy have cheered the move, arguing that proactively sending ballots to registered voters increases turnout.
“Data shows that sending everyone a ballot in the mail provides voters access. And when voters get ballots in the mail, they vote,” the bill’s author, Assemblyman Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto), said during a Senate committee hearing in July.
Meanwhile opponents — mostly Republicans — have long cast doubts about the safety of mail-in voting, despite a lack of evidence to support their claims that it leads to widespread voter fraud. That strategy, however, has also faced notable pushback from some that a lot of Republicans who say it can actually hurt GOP turnout.
Others May Follow
The new legislation probably isn’t too surprising for California, where over 50% of votes cast in general elections have been through mail ballots since 2012, according to The Sacramento Bee. Now, many believe California will be followed by similar legislation from Democrats across the country as more Republican leaders move forward with elections bills that significantly limit voting access.
Newsome signed 10 other measures Monday changing election and campaign procedures, including a bill that would require anyone advocating for or against a candidate to stand farther away from a polling place. Another bill increases penalties for candidates who use campaign funds for personal expenses while a third measure increases reporting requirements for limited liability corporations that engage in campaign activity.
“As states across our country continue to enact undemocratic voter suppression laws, California is increasing voter access, expanding voting options and bolstering elections integrity and transparency,” Newsom said in a statement.
“Last year we took unprecedented steps to ensure all voters had the opportunity to cast a ballot during the pandemic and today we are making those measures permanent after record-breaking participation in the 2020 presidential election.”
The news regarding California came just in time for National Voter Registration day today, giving Americans another reminder to make sure they’re registered in their states. For more information on how to register, visit Vote.gov or any of the other resources linked below.