- President Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed that mail-in voting will lead to voter fraud, suggesting that foreign countries will print counterfeit ballots, among other unsubstantiated concerns.
- On Wednesday, top intelligence officials told reporters they have seen no coordinated voter fraud efforts from any nation but did warn the public about covert and overt influence operations.
- That same day, Trump claimed that election officials could cause ballot miscounts, not the USPS. His statement came after the Postmaster General agreed to temporarily suspend changes that many felt would have prevented some mail-in ballots from being counted on time.
- Several investigations have found that mail-in voting is safe, and Trump’s claims about the potential for a rigged election have now been rejected by top officials in his own administration, state officials from both parties, and nonpartisan voting experts.
Election Security Officials Rebuke Trump’s Claims
Top intelligence officials said Wednesday that there is no evidence of foreign interference in mail-in voting, a major rejection of warnings shared by President Donald Trump and others in his administration.
For several months now, Trump has routinely warned against mail-in voting, falsely claiming that the process will lead to widespread voter fraud.
He’s given a variety of claims for this belief, arguing that mailboxes will be robbed and ballots will be forged, among other things. He’s even said the 2020 election will be “rigged” by foreign countries printing counterfeit ballots.
Other members in his administration, including Attorney General William Bar, have appeared to defend that last claim. Still, several experts, studies, and investigations have explained that voting by mail is safe. On top of that, news outlets and social media platforms like Twitter have been working to warn the public when Trump makes unsubstantiated comments about mail-in voting.
However, arguably one of the most important statements against Trump’s remarks came from high ranking officials from the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Those officials spoke on the condition that they not be named.
According to several different outlets, one senior intelligence official said: “We have no information or intelligence that any nation state threat actor is engaging in activity … to undermine any part of the mail-in vote or ballots.”
A senior FBI official also reportedly claimed that even if there is fraud, it won’t be enough to tip the scales of the election results. “We have not seen, to date, a coordinated national voter fraud effort during a major election and it would be extraordinarily difficult to change a federal election outcome through this type of fraud alone, given the range of processes that would need to be affected or compromised by an adversary at the local level,” they said.
The range of processes includes things like being able to find every registered voter’s address, forging signatures, and replicating the barcodes and special stock the ballots are printed on.
FBI officials also noted that the agency is ready to tackle any potential voter fraud that could occur, given that the number of mail-in ballots is expected to increase because of the coronavirus pandemic.
However, while there might not be any visible threat towards mail-in ballots, intelligence officials did continue to warn that a number of foreign countries, including Russia, China, and Iran, continue to engage in overt and covert influence operations aimed at the 2020 presidential race.
To that point, a seniors intelligence official said, “We encourage Americans to consume information with a critical eye.”
“Check out your sources before reposting messages,” they added.
With these remarks, Trump’s claims about a rigged election have now been rejected by top officials in his own administration, state officials from both parties, and nonpartisan voting experts. Still, major rebukes like this haven’t stopped the president from peddling his voter fraud claims in the past.
Trump Blames Local Election Workers
At the same time, many politicians, especially Democrats, argued that Trump and Post Master General Louis DeJoy have been working to hurt the U.S. Postal Service in an effort to slow mail delivery and in turn influence the election in his favor.
This is actually something many felt Trump admitted himself when he said he opposed stimulus funding for the agency. In an interview with Fox Business earlier this month, he said, “They need that money in order to have the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots.”
“If they don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting because they’re not equipped to have it.”
Afterward, the post office making huge changes, including removing or locking up several mail drop boxes, cutting overtime hours, and decommissioning many sorting machines. Though the moves were blamed on the general decline of mail, DeJoy later agreed to temporarily suspend those plans until after the November election. Since then, the post office has worked to assure the public that it can handle all the election ballots to make sure they are counted in time.
However, it seems that now the president is saying problems with counting ballots actually lie with election officials, not the post office. In an interview with The Washington Examiner Wednesday, the president was asked to confirm that he is not worried about the USPS’s ability to deliver ballots.
“It’s not the post office,” Trump said. “No, it’s the elections office. The post office — look, this is a con job. It’s like the Russian hoax. The post office has run the way it’s been run forever.”
He went on to claim that DeJoy will do a good job, saying, “but the post office is the post office.”
He said that even if mail delivery were a day late, “that’s not the problem. The problem is when they dump all these [ballots] in front of a few people who are counting them, and they’re going to count them wrong. The post office is not to blame.”
The only thing I’m concerned about is the unsolicited ballots, where they’re going to send 80 million unsolicited ballots to people that they don’t even know if they’re alive or if they’re living there. I think it is a catastrophic disaster for this country.”
As of now, it seems like the president may be reangling his issues with mail-in voting, shifting concerns from the foreign countries, and the post office to local election workers. However, once again, there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the country. Still, many warn that with the election just around the corner, Americans who wish to vote by mail should submit their ballots as early as possible.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Examiner) (CNN) (CNET)
U.S. Pledges To Donate 500 Million More Vaccines Globally
The announcement comes as wealthy nations face pressure to help lower-income countries deal with the pandemic and as American vaccine makers face calls to share their technology.
Biden Promises More Vaccines
President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that the U.S. will purchase 500 million doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for countries in need, bringing the total number of U.S. vaccine donations to more than 1.1 billion.
Biden’s pledge, which was made at a virtual COVID-19 summit, comes as world leaders and organizations have criticized wealthy nations for not doing enough to help lower-income countries deal with the pandemic. Many have also slammed countries like the U.S. for moving forward with plans for booster shots while so much of the world remains unvaccinated.
According to the University of Oxford’s Our World in Data project, of the six billion shots administered globally, nearly 80% percent have been given in high- and upper-middle-income countries compared to just 0.5% in low-income countries.
While several wealthy nations begin to give booster shots, just 2% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose.
Pressure Grows for American Companies to Share Vaccine Technology
It’s not just wealthy countries and their leaders that are being met with criticism over the massive vaccination gap. There is also a lot of growing pressure on American drug companies to share their formulas with manufacturers in poor nations that need more doses.
Senior officials told The New York Times that the Biden administration privately asked Pfizer and Moderna to engage in joint ventures where they license their technology to contract manufacturers in an effort to provide vaccines to low- and middle-income nations.
While those conversations reportedly prompted Pfizer to sell the U.S. the 500 million doses announced this Wednesday at a not-for-profit price, the company still refused to license its technology.
Meanwhile, the alleged discussions appear to have had no impact at all on Moderna.
Many have argued the Moderna has even more of an obligation to share its technology given that it was developed in part by the National Institutes of Health. On top of that, the company accepted an additional $2.5 billion in taxpayer money as part of Operation Warp Speed.
In a statement to The Times on Tuesday, a Moderna spokeswoman said that the company had agreed not to enforce its COVID-related patents and was “willing to license our intellectual property for Covid-19 vaccines to others for the post pandemic period.”
But experts say that vaccine technology is needed now, not when the pandemic is over.
Many have argued that Biden should put more pressure on the companies to share their intellectual property, including some legal experts who said he could compel them to do so using the Defense Production Act, which gives the president broad emergency powers.
Administration officials, however, have argued that forcing the companies to share the information is more complicated, and any efforts to do so would result in legal battles that will ultimately be counterproductive.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Wall Street Journal)
Texas Doctor Says He Violated Abortion Law, Opening Matter Up for Litigation
Under the state’s new law, any citizen could sue the doctor, which would make the matter the first known test case of the restrictive policy.
Dr. Braid’s Op-Ed
A Texas doctor revealed in an op-ed published in The Washington Post Saturday that he performed an abortion in violation of the state’s law that bans the procedure after six weeks, before most people know they are pregnant.
The law, which is the most restrictive in the country and does not have exceptions for rape and incest, also allows civilians to sue anyone who helps someone receive an abortion after six weeks.
In the op-ed, Dr. Alan Braid, who has been practicing as an OB/GYN in Texas for 45 years, said that just days after the law took effect, he gave an abortion to a woman who was still in her first trimester but already beyond the state’s new limit.
“I acted because I had a duty of care to this patient, as I do for all patients, and because she has a fundamental right to receive this care,” he wrote. “I fully understood that there could be legal consequences — but I wanted to make sure that Texas didn’t get away with its bid to prevent this blatantly unconstitutional law from being tested.”
Braid went on to say that he understands he is taking a personal risk but that he believes it is worth it.
“I have daughters, granddaughters and nieces,” he concluded. “I believe abortion is an essential part of health care. I have spent the past 50 years treating and helping patients. I can’t just sit back and watch us return to 1972.”
If someone does opt to sue Braid over this matter, he could potentially be the state’s first test case in playing out the legal process. However, it is unclear if anti-abortion groups will follow through, despite their threats to enforce the law.
A spokesperson for Texas Right to Life, which set up a website to report people suspected of violating the ban, told reporters this weekend that it is looking into Braid’s claims but added, “It definitely seems like a legal stunt and we are looking into whether it is more than that.”
Even if abortion opponents hold off on Braid’s case, there are other legal challenges to the Texas law.
Shortly after the policy took effect, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit attempting to stop it. Last week, the department filed an emergency motion asking a federal judge in the state to temporarily block the ban while that legal battle plays out, with a hearing for that motion set for Oct. 1.
Regardless of what side the federal judge rules for, the other is all but ensured to sue, and that fight could take the question to the Supreme Court in a matter of months.
See what others are saying: (NPR) (The Texas Tribune) (The Wall Street Journal)
Pfizer Says Low Dose of COVID-19 Vaccine Is Safe and Effective in Kids 5 to 11
Pfizer Says Kids’ Vaccine Works
Pfizer announced Monday morning that its joint COVID-19 vaccine with BioNTech is safe and effective in kids ages 5 to 11.
While Pfizer’s vaccine candidate for younger children is the same version the FDA has already approved for people 12 and older, the children’s dose is only one-third of the amount given to adults and teens. Still, Pfizer said the antibody response they’ve seen in kids has been comparable to the response seen in older participants.
Similarly, the company said side effects in children have been similar to those witnessed in adults.
Pfizer said it expects to finish submitting data, which still needs to be peer-reviewed and then published, to the FDA by the end of the month. From there, the agency will ensure that Pfizer’s findings are accurate and that the vaccine will be able to elicit a strong immune response in kids at its current one-third dosage.
That process could take weeks or even all of October, but it does open the possibility that the vaccine candidate could be approved around Halloween.
While experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have called Pfizer’s announcement largely predictable, they’ve also urged people to let the research run its course.
With cases among children skyrocketing in recent months, some parents have begun urging pediatricians to give their children the jab early. Those kinds of requests are likely to increase with Pfizer’s announcement; however, officials have warned parents about acting too quickly.
“No one should really be freelancing — they should wait for the appropriate approval and recommendations to decide how best to manage their own children’s circumstances,” Bill Gruber, Pfizer’s senior vice president of vaccine clinical research and development, said according to The Washington Post.