- The vice presidential debate between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris will begin in Salt Lake City Wednesday night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern time (6:00 p.m. PST).
- All major TV networks — including ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox News, and C-SPAN — will be airing the debate live. Those networks will also be streaming the debate live on YouTube.
- Vice President Pence has now agreed to have a plexiglass barrier between him and Harris, the Democratic candidate. Originally, Pence’s team said a barrier was unnecessary.
- Concerns over whether there will be a second presidential debate next week are also mounting. President Donald Trump has indicated that he still plans to debate Democratic challenger Joe Biden on the same stage, but Biden has said he doesn’t think there should be another debate while Trump still has COVID-19.
When and Where to Watch Wednesday’s VP Debate
The first and only 2020 vice presidential debate between incumbent Mike Pence and Democratic challenger Kamala Harris will be held in Salt Lake City on Wednesday night.
The debate will begin at 9:00 p.m. EST (6:00 p.m. PST) and will be streamed by all major TV networks. That list includes C-SPAN, ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC. Most of those outlets will also be providing live streams on YouTube.
What Can We Expect?
Harris will almost certainly challenge Pence and the Trump administration on its handling of the coronavirus. This week, the number of Americans killed by the novel virus climbed to 210,000.
In addition to defending that handling, one of Pence’s biggest challenges will be, of all things, remaining calm and collected. Last week’s presidential debate was condemned by many as the worst presidential debate in history, thanks in no small part to President Donald Trump’s incessant interrupting of Democratic candidate Joe Biden.
Pence will also likely be faced with the task of addressing Trump’s most recent tweets, where he told Americans not to be afraid of COVID-19, erroneously compared the virus to the flu, and halted any coronavirus relief package negotiations until “immediately after I win” the election.
Pence is also expected to challenge Harris on her past as attorney general of California, as well as press her on some of her past healthcare positions, such as her previous support of a “Medicare for All” platform.
Pence may also press Harris over whether she and Biden would potentially support increasing the number of U.S. Supreme Court justices from nine, a question Biden failed to answer when pressed by Trump at the first presidential debate last week.
Susan Page, USA TODAY’s Washington Bureau chief, will moderate.
Pence Agrees to Plexiglass Barrier
On Tuesday night, Pence’s team agreed to erect a plexiglass barrier between him and Harris.
Harris originally called for a barrier to be erected following the still-growing superspreader event at the White House that has led to positive COVID-19 diagnoses for many in the Trump administration, including the president himself. Pence has repeatedly tested negative for the coronavirus.
Because of that, his team originally opposed the calls to erect a barrier, calling such a move unnecessary.
“We are not going to let a barrier prevent the Vice President from making the case for four more years of Donald Trump,” his team said after agreeing to erect the barrier.
While they will be on the same stage, both candidates will stand 12 feet apart, and each will be separated by curved plexiglass barriers.
Will There Be a Second Presidential Debate?
In addition to this Wednesday’s debate, concerns are also mounting around the potential for a second debate between Trump and Biden.
That debate is still technically scheduled for next week in Miami, but with Trump having contracted COVID, many have wondered if it will still happen.
To that point, Tuesday, Trump tweeted that he was looking forward to this next debate, essentially indicating that he wasn’t going to miss it.
Just hours later, Biden told reporters that he doesn’t think there should be a second debate if Trump still has COVID, though he added that his decision would be guided by medical experts.
“I think we were gonna have to follow very strict guidelines,” he said if a debate does happen. “Too many people have been infected. It’s a very serious problem.”
See what others are saying: (The Hill) (CNN) (The New York Times)
Pelosi Reverses Course, Signals Openness to Stock Trading Ban for Congress
The move comes as public and bipartisan support for legislation banning Congress members from stock trading has grown in recent weeks.
Pelosi Backtracks on Member Trading
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) on Thursday signaled openness to legislation that would ban members of Congress from trading stocks, reversing her previous position on the matter.
“I do come down always in favor of trusting our members,” Pelosi said at a press conference. “If the impression that is given by some that somebody is doing insider trading, that’s a Justice Department issue and that has no place in any of this.”
“To give a blanket attitude of ‘We can’t do this and we can’t do,’ because we can’t be trusted, I just don’t buy into that. But if members want to do that, I’m okay with that,” she continued.
The speaker’s remarks come as she has faced mounting backlash for voicing opposition to such a ban.
“We are a free market economy,” she told reporters when asked about the matter last month. “They should be able to participate in that.”
While Pelosi herself does not trade, her husband has invested millions in stocks. Those trades have been made public under the 2012 STOCK Act, which has required Congress members and their spouses to disclose when they buy and sell stocks for the last decade.
But the law has a mixed track record. A recent investigation by Insider found that “dozens of lawmakers and 182 senior congressional staff” have violated the law.
The act also came under intense scrutiny after financial disclosures filed by lawmakers exposed that members of both parties made trades in 2020 that benefited their portfolios after receiving early briefings on the seriousness of the pandemic.
The Justice Department reviewed some of the cases, but it ultimately did not bring any charges.
Momentum Grows for Congressional Ban
In recent weeks, pressure to reform the STOCK Act has been growing both among the public and in Congress.
Proponents argue that Congress members should be banned from trading stocks altogether to ensure they do not have conflicts of interest or use their access to classified briefings to make money.
According to a new poll from the progressive firm Data for Progress, 67% of voters support a ban. That number rose to 74% when the respondents were given arguments both for and against the idea.
In Congress, there is widespread bipartisan support for legislation to impose stricter regulations, including among top leadership.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca.) has reportedly said he is considering banning members from trading if Republicans win control of the House and select him as Speaker in 2022.
“I cannot imagine being a Speaker of the House with the power of what can come before committee, you name them and what can come to the floor and trading millions of dollars worth of options,” he told NPR earlier this month. “I just don’t think the American people think that’s right.”
Members of both parties have already put forth proposals. Last week, Sens. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) and Mark Kelly (D-Az.) introduced legislation that would effectively ban lawmakers, as well as their spouses and dependents, from buying and selling stocks.
The same day, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) rolled out a very similar bill, though his version would not include dependents.
See what others are saying: (NPR) (The Hill) (Business Insider)
Supreme Court Allows Release of Jan. 6 Documents in Major Loss for Trump
The high court’s decision initiates the release of White House documents that the former president had attempted to block the Jan. 6 investigation committee from viewing.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected former President Donald Trump’s efforts to block the White House from handing over records to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Trump filed a lawsuit against the panel and the National Archives to prevent the committee from seeing key documents, testimonies, and other evidence lawmakers had requested.
In the suit, he argued that the records were protected by executive privilege, which he said still applied to him even though he’s not president anymore, and despite the fact that President Joe Biden decided not to exercise his executive privilege over the documents.
Trump also claimed that the information has “no reasonable connection to the events of that day” or “any conceivable legislative purpose.”
In an 8-1 decision with Justice Clarence Thomas dissenting, the Supreme Court rejected the effort to block the records from the committee until the issue is resolved by the courts — a process that could take months if not years.
In their ruling, the justices wrote that there are “serious and substantial concerns” regarding whether a former president can obtain a court order to prevent the disclosure of records, especially when the incumbent president waived their right to exercise executive privilege over said documents.
However, they still agreed with the determination by an appeals court that Trump’s claim of privilege over the documents would fail “even if he were the incumbent.”
Records Handed Over to Committee
According to reports, within just hours of the ruling, the National Archives began sending the roughly 800 pages of documents to the Jan. 6 committee.
The documents have not been made public, and it remains unclear if and when they will be.
What is known is the nature of the content that the committee has requested, including records detailing all of Trump’s movements and meetings on Jan. 6.
Notably, the lawmakers also requested information about plans by the administration to undermine Congress’s confirmation of the electoral college vote and Trump’s pressure campaign to overturn the results of the elections.
Also unknown is what the panel will do with the documents if it finds damning evidence. While the committee’s powers are limited in scope, it could make a criminal referral to the Justice Department, which has its own ongoing probe into the insurrection and the events that preceded it.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Associated Press) (The Washington Post)
NY Attorney General Says Investigation of Trump Business Found “Significant Evidence” of Fraud
The state attorney general’s office accused the former president and his family business of falsely inflating the value of assets and personal worth to lenders, the IRS, and insurance brokers.
New York Attorney General’s Filing
New York Attorney General Letitia James announced late Tuesday she had “significant evidence” that former President Donald Trump and the Trump Organization “falsely and fraudulently” misrepresented the value of assets “to financial institutions for economic benefit.”
The allegations mark the first time James has made specific accusations against Trump and his business. They come as part of a nearly 160-page filing asking a judge to order the former president — along with Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. — to comply with subpoenas for the investigation after the family sued James to block her from questioning them.
The filing claims that Trump and the company inflated the value of six properties, including several golf courses and Trump’s own penthouse in Trump Tower, on financial statements to obtain favorable loans, tax deductions, and insurance coverage.
The document adds that many of the financial statements were “generally inflated as part of a pattern to suggest that Mr. Trump’s net worth was higher than it otherwise would have appeared.”
James outlined several specific examples, such as a financial statement where the value of Trump’s Seven Springs estate in Westchester was boosted because it listed seven mansions on the property worth $61 million that did not actually exist.
That resulted in Trump receiving millions of dollars in tax deductions on that property, as well as another in Los Angeles.
In another notable instance, the attorney general’s office said that the $327 million value of Trump’s penthouse in Trump Tower was calculated off a financial statement that falsely reported his home was nearly triple its actual size.
While the statement claimed the apartment was 30,000 square feet, Trump had signed documents stating it was actually 10,996 square feet.
Alleged Direct Involvement
The allegation regarding the apartment is especially significant because it directly ties Trump himself to the accusations of financial wrongdoing. It is also not the only instance where Trump was implicated.
The filing additionally asserts that Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg — who was indicted last summer on multiple criminal charges relating to the business’ tax dealings — implied the former president was involved in finalizing the false valuations.
According to the documents, Weisselberg “testified that it was ‘certainly possible’ Mr. Trump discussed valuations with him and that it was ‘certainly possible’ Mr. Trump reviewed the Statement of Financial Condition for a particular year before it was finalized.”
Another top Trump Organization executive also testified that he was under the impression Trump reviewed the statements before they were finalized.
While the filing provides less direct links to Trump’s children, it does detail their involvement. Specifically, it alleges that Ivanka Trump rented an apartment at Trump Park Avenue and was given an option to buy it for $8.5 million, despite the fact that the property was valued at $25 million.
It also connected Donald Trump Jr. to some of the properties flagged by claiming investigators found evidence he “was consulted” on the Statements of Financial Condition.
Citing these connections, James argued in a series of tweets Tuesday that it is necessary for her inquiry to question Trump and his two children on their alleged involvement.
“We are taking legal action to force Donald Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., and Ivanka Trump to comply with our investigation into the Trump Organization’s financial dealings,” she wrote. “No one in this country can pick and choose if and how the law applies to them.”
The former president has not yet addressed the matter, but a Trump Organization attorney representing Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump responded by arguing the subpoenas violate the constitutional rights of the family and that the filing “never addresses the fundamental contentions of our motion to quash or stay the subpoenas.”
In a statement Wednesday, the Trump Organization denied James’ allegations as “baseless” and accused her of trying to “mislead the public yet again.”
As far as what happens next, James’ office has said it “has not yet reached a final decision regarding whether this evidence merits legal action.”
Because James’s investigation is civil, she can sue Trump, his company, and his children, but she cannot file criminal charges. However, her probe is running parallel to a criminal investigation into the same conduct led by the Manhattan district attorney, who does have that power.