2020 Daily Trail Markers: Biden says Trump “has a lot to answer for” on Russian bounty intel

Joe Biden said Tuesday it was a “dereliction of duty” if President Trump did not read or ignored reported intelligence that Russia had put a bounty on American troops in Afghanistan, report CBS News campaign reporter Bo Erickson and political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice. The former vice president addressed the reports during a question-and-answer session following a speech in Wilmington on the coronavirus and re-opening the economy. It was the first press conference-style event Biden has held since April 2. 

“The idea that somehow he didn’t know or isn’t being briefed, it is a dereliction of duty if that’s the case,” said Biden of reports that the intelligence was included in the president’s briefing material months ago.. “And if he was briefed, and nothing was done about this, that’s a dereliction of duty.” Biden said he thinks the president has a lot to answer for and should give the answers quickly. If the allegations are true, and the president did nothing about it, the public should conclude he is unfit to be president, Biden said. 

The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee claimed his “Republican friends” as well as GOP opponents are worried about this. While Biden stated that he has not asked for or been offered a classified briefing as the Democratic presidential nominee, he said he may do so moving forward.

During a press conference later in the day, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany announced President Trump has been briefed on information in the “public domain” following a New York Times report that Russian military intelligence offered cash payments to Taliban-linked militants to kill U.S. troops and coalition forces in Afghanistan. 

“Yes, he has been briefed but that does not change the fact that there is no consensus on this intelligence that still has yet to be verified,” McEnany told reporters. Pressed on whether the president reads his classified daily briefing, McEnany shot back, “The president does read. And he also consumes intelligence verbally.” The White House press secretary called the president the “most informed person on planet earth when it comes to the threats that we face.”

Biden was also asked to weigh in on the removal of Confederate statues amid nationwide protests against systemic racism. He said he believes there is a difference between “reminders and remembrances” of history and “recovering from history.” He said he draws a distinction between former presidents like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and somebody who was involved in rebellion and trying to take down the Union. Biden said he believes the statues of Confederate soldiers and generals “belong in museums,” rather than public places.  Biden stated that he understood the “anger” people have felt but urged that statues should be removed “peacefully.” At the same time, Biden did say he believes the government does have a responsibility to protect monuments like the Jefferson Memorial, which are about “remembrance.”

The former vice president also addressed the handling of the coronavirus and stated that should he be elected, he will immediately work to address the pandemic, before he even takes the oath of office. Biden said one of his first calls should he be elected would be to Dr. Anthony Fauci, and he said that he would listen to the medical experts and scientists and work directly with governors and mayors to combat the virus. Biden concluded they’ve got to “fight this together.” When asked if he had been tested for the virus, Biden said he has not because he did not have symptoms and didn’t want to deprive someone else of the test. 

In a call with reporters Tuesday, Trump communications director Tim Murtaugh told reporters the president has held “55 question-and-answer sessions” during Biden’s 89-day hiatus from press conferences, according to CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga. “It should not be a news event that a candidate takes questions,” Murtaugh said. Before the former vice president’s remarks, Murtaugh criticized Biden’s response to nationwide demonstrations following the death of George Floyd in police custody. “Violent mobs are tearing down statues. Now coming after Washington, Jefferson and even Lincoln. And Joe Biden hasn’t said a word. The police memorial in his backyard in Dover, Delaware, was defaced and he said nothing about it.”

FROM THE CANDIDATES

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP

The House passed the first sizable expansion of the Affordable Care Act since its origin over 10 years ago, Monday, following the Trump administration’s renewed pledge to overturn the law amid an election year and global pandemic, according to CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga. Before a 234-179 vote largely along party lines, the White House announced the president would veto the legislation if it reached his desk, though Republican opposition in the Senate makes that a near impossibility. In a call with reporters, the Trump campaign pledged the president would support health care coverage for Americans with pre-existing conditions, including COVID-19. Yet fourteen months after the president’s declaration that “The Republican Party will soon be known as the party of health care,” the GOP has no plans to cover the tens of millions unemployed following a global pandemic. “President Trump has said nearly 3 dozen times publicly that he will always protect people with pre-existing conditions. That is absolutely a fact and he has said it repeatedly,” said Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh. “The president has been firm and clear on that. The president’s approach has been to provide greater choice, higher quality and lower costs.”

Amid reports the president might head to Alabama this next month for his second rally since the COVID-19 outbreak, campaign officials yet to announce any campaign travel plans for the commander-in-chief, “We don’t ever confirm where we’re looking until a rally date and location are announced. There is always work underway to identify sites,” Murtaugh said. Alabama Governor Kay Ivey’s office said while it was unaware of any confirmed plans, “President Trump is welcome to campaign in the state of Alabama any time.” The president will head to South Dakota later this week to attend a fireworks display at the Mount Rushmore. “We will not be social distancing,” South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem told Fox News Monday night. Thousands of people expected to attend the July 3 celebration for Independence Day will be offered an optional mask.

CBS NEWS COVID CHRONICLES

CALIFORNIA SUMMER CONTRACT WORKERS

CBS News is chronicling what has changed for the lives of residents across the nation in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemicCBS News campaign reporter Musadiq Bidar spoke with festival workers in California like Stephanie Mufson about how the virus is affecting their work.  Mufson says spring and summer in San Francisco are typically the busiest seasons of the year. 

Her small business, Parade Guys, works with a group of 30 to 40 contractors to create floats and large displays for many of the parades in Northern California. A team of painters, builders, and sculptors would typically be producing floats for events like the San Francisco Pride parade or Fourth of July celebrations. Since large outdoor festivals are being cancelled and celebrations are moving to virtual formats, independent workers who rely heavily on seasonal events are now searching for new ways to make a living.  “I’m highly qualified for all event work, but with no events, I’m not qualified for anything,” Mufson said.

Brian Travis, a musician and production designer, builds stages, large scenic paintings and oversized sculptures. He is Parade Guys’ last full-time employee and described himself as Mufson’s “second-in-command.” Travis said he knows the business will be forced to close if large outdoors events don’t return soon. “There is no denying that this is a huge setback for so many people and myself included,” Travis said. He is learning new skills like 3D animation to prepare for future opportunities.  Travis has been through this before. He was laid off during the 2008 economic recession and after years of on-and-off work, the 49-year-old says he’s now “an expert living on very little money.”  

As an artist, Lacey Bryant is also familiar with the stress of living paycheck to paycheck. She said working as a contractor is either a “feast or famine,” because “the next dry spell” is unpredictable. “Sometimes there will be a lot of work and you’re terrible at ever saying ‘no,’ even though you are completely burned out because you know that the next month no one could be calling you.” In March, Bryant was expecting to be called in for work at the Great America theme park in Santa Clara, where she helps build haunted houses and other summer-time displays. She’s still waiting for that call. Bryant said she’s a trained specialist for “large-scale scenic work and sculptures” but added that “outside the realm of art, I don’t have a lot of experience, so I’m not really quite sure where I would go at this point.” 

When she’s not building haunted houses for Great America, Bryant works with Mufson on large sculptures for parades. She said without those parades, her savings will eventually run out. She is painting at home with the hope that the commissions from that work will carry her through the pandemic. She said art will always be valuable and “during hard times, it is art that we turn to to get us through it.” Bryant added, “Even if I do end up having to find another way to pay the bills, because the parks are closed, people will still need art in their lives.”

AD WARS

PAC ATTACK

The conservative Super PAC Club for Growth Action aired a new ad Tuesday morning in Washington, DC, but the ad was not just going after Joe Biden, it took aim at another Super PAC that was started by anti-Trump Republicans. “The so-called Lincoln Project attacking President Trump, they don’t just hate him, they hate you,” claims the narrator before playing a series of TV clips of The Lincoln Project founders. CBS News political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice reports it goes on to call them the same consultants who ran the McCain and Romney campaigns “into the ground,” before also taking aim at the possibility of a Biden presidency. 

It ends, “If Biden wins, we lose. But what do they care, as long as they get rich?” According to Club for Growth, the PAC spent $78,500 to air the ad from Tuesday to Thursday on Fox News in D.C.  “The Lincoln Project has nothing to do with principle, and everything to do with lining the pockets of failed consultants by attacking conservatives,” said Club for Growth Action president David McIntosh in a statement. “While the group is the darling of the liberal media, the fact is that it’s a Democrat front group and one of the least efficient ways for anti-Trumpers to spend their political dollars.” 

The anti-Lincoln Project ad comes after The Lincoln Project has spent more than $2 million on ads going after the president, including in key battleground states, and even drew direct attacks from Mr. Trump. On Tuesday morning, The Lincoln Project ran another ad on Fox News taking aim at Mr. Trump over reported intelligence that Russia offered cash payments to Taliban-linked militants to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan. “Putin pays the Taliban cash to slaughter our men and women in uniform, and Trump is silent,” the narrator claims. On Monday in a press briefing, the White House claimed Mr. Trump was not briefed on the bounty intel.

Meanwhile, another group, Republican Voters against Trump, announced Tuesday it’s launching a paid ad campaign with $2 million in TV and digital buys in North Carolina and Arizona. The five spots will feature GOP voters in those states who oppose the president’s re-election. In North Carolina, two of the voters explain why they won’t vote for the president again after voting for him in 2016.  In Arizona, two Republican voters discuss why they’re voting for Joe Biden. The ads will also air on Fox News on the Fourth of July during the president’s fireworks event. According to the group, the spots are the first part of a more than $10 million ad campaign in swing states featuring GOP voters against Mr. Trump.

STATE-BY-STATE

ARIZONA

Vice President Pence has canceled his campaign stop in Arizona and postponed his official visit with Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey to Wednesday in Phoenix, among a number of schedule changes as the state — like some of its neighbors across the Sun Belt — announced a cap on large gatherings and shuttered bars, gyms, and theaters in an effort to curb a surge in cases, reports CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin. Ducey, a Republican, had faced criticism last week after attending President Trump’s “address to young Americans” inside a Phoenix mega-church. Many of the more than 3,200 attending the event were seen not wearing masks or social distancing. However, the group behind the speech says no organizers have since reported coming down with COVID-19. County officials claim they are not aware of any outbreaks stemming from the gathering, though conceding that their investigations are currently “less focused on trying to identify all the places a case may have been exposed” amid a wave of community spread. Asked whether the state’s new limit on event size would apply to political rallies or churches, Ducey told reporters late Monday, “the Constitution remains the supreme law of the land in Arizona.”

NEW MEXICO

Following moves in a handful of other states to expand vote-by-mail for the general election, as Michigan and California have, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has signed a bill granting county officials the authority to automatically send all voters mail ballot applications ahead of the November contest, reports CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin. Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, had initially convened a special session of the state’s legislature, calling on it to allow county officials to automatically send voters ballots without requiring a request. But Republicans in the state, who blocked a similar proposal in court ahead of the state’s primary, pushed to amend the bill, accusing Democrats of having “threatened the integrity of our November election.”

WISCONSIN

A federal appeals court upheld several election laws in Wisconsin that were challenged by liberal voting rights advocates, giving conservatives who championed the laws a win in the months leading up to the presidential election, according to CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster. The three-judge panel on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, all Republican appointees, ruled that Wisconsin can limit early voting to a two-week period before the election, restored a requirement for people to live in a district for 28 days to vote for candidates in addition to president and said the state can ban faxing or emailing absentee ballots. 

Judge Frank Easterbrook said the limits on absentee hours don’t harm voters because Wisconsin has “lots of rules that make voting easier.” A lower court struck down the time limits on early voting after it concluded the limits would have a negative impact on minorities like Black voters in Milwaukee who are more likely to use that process. But Easterbrook wrote that the laws were designed to help Republicans rather than discriminate against any race or ethnicity, which made them okay. “This record does not support a conclusion that the legislators who voted for the contested statutes cared about race; they cared about voters’ political preferences,” Easterbrook wrote. “If one party can make changes that it believes help its candidates, the other can restore the original rules or revise the new ones.” 

Milwaukee and Madison used the rulings from the lower courts to expand early voting hours and locations during the 2018 elections, according to the Associated Press. “The ruling puts municipalities in every corner of Wisconsin closer to equal footing when it comes to early in-person voting,” Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, a Republican, said in a statement. Democrats slammed the decision. Ben Wikler, Chair of the Wisconsin Democratic Party, told the Associated Press the ruling is “another egregious assault on voting rights in Wisconsin.” The appeals court panel did side with challengers on one issue regarding student IDs. The court said Wisconsin cannot require people who use student IDs to vote to prove they are current students. 

CONGRESSIONAL COVERAGE

IN THE SENATE

COLORADO

One of the top targets for Democrats in the Senate this cycle is Colorado, where former Governor John Hickenlooper and former State House Speaker Andrew Romanoff will face off on Tuesday for a chance to take on Senator Cory Gardner in November, report CBS News political unit associate producer Eleanor Watson and CBS News digital politics reporter Grace Segers. Hickenlooper, who briefly ran for the Democratic presidential nomination, has received an endorsement from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. He also has support from national Democrats like Senator Elizabeth Warren, as well as several of the candidates who were in the race before Hickenlooper entered in September. But Romanoff has been pushing forward in recent weeks, with some additional help from Republican attacks on Hickenlooper.

KENTUCKY

CBS News projected Tuesday that former fighter pilot Amy McGrath has won the Democratic Senate primary in Kentucky a week after the state held the primary, report CBS News political unit associate producer Eleanor Watson and CBS News digital politics reporter Grace Segers. McGrath will face Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in November. She held off State Representative Charles Booker, who surged in recent weeks to make the race tighter than expected heading into the primary. Booker received a boost from endorsements by Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren as well as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, but McGrath had a large fundraising advantage and had occupied more airtime since launching her campaign in July, six months ahead of Booker’s quiet launch in January. In a statement after she was projected the winner, McGrath said, “[T]here can be no removal of Mitch McConnell without unity. We must unify our Democratic family to make that happen, including those who didn’t vote for me in the primary, and I intend, immediately, to start the dialogue necessary to bring us all together in our common cause for the general election.”