Domestic Terror

OCTOBER 9, 2020

Donald Trump withdraws from 2nd Presidential debate, ends Coronavirus economic relief talks on Capitol Hill, and hits the campaign trail and considers himself cured a month away from Election Day.

via NPR

The Commission on Presidential Debates announced yesterday that the 2nd presidential debate (scheduled for October 15th) will be held virtually; due to the President being hospitalized last Friday after testing positive for COVID-19. The president immediately responded that he will not participate in the second presidential debate with Joe Biden.

"I am not going to do a virtual debate," Trump told Fox Business on Thursday. "I am not going to waste my time on a virtual debate." Trump complained that a virtual debate would mean "sitting behind a computer and the moderator could cut me off whenever they want."

Frank Fahrenkopf, head of the debate commission, spoke with both campaigns ahead of the announcement. “We did not consult them," he said, explaining that their decision to restructure the debate was informed and strongly advised by the Cleveland Clinic.

A virtual debate is not unprecedented. Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy pioneered the televised debate in 1960, but their third contest occurred with both candidates in different locations.

Bill Stepien, Trump's campaign manager, said there is no law requiring a presidential candidate to debate and that Donald Trump — 8 days after being hospitalized for the coronavirus — will hold a rally instead. “I think I’m going to try doing a rally on Saturday night in Florida,” Trump said, “Then come back and do one in Pennsylvania on the following night.”

Trump ends coronavirus relief talks on Capitol Hill

President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he is ending negotiations with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic leaders over a new economic aid package to respond to the coronavirus until after Nov. 3, a momentous decision that will impact millions of Americans affected by the pandemic and could conceivably sway the outcome of the election.

“I have instructed my representatives to stop negotiating until after the election when, immediately after I win, we will pass a major Stimulus Bill that focuses on hardworking Americans and Small Business,” Trump tweeted on Tuesday.

Facing pushback from lawmakers and stakeholder industries, Trump hours later reversed course and tweeted he was ready to sign stand-alone bills. “If I am sent a Stand Alone Bill for Stimulus Checks ($1,200), they will go out to our great people IMMEDIATELY. I am ready to sign right now. Are you listening Nancy?”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Democrats have pressed for $2.2 trillion in new emergency spending, designed to address the health and economic fallout as the number of coronavirus cases are rising and the economic recovery of the summer is showing signs of slowing down.

Trump and Republicans have rejected that figure as far too high, citing deficit concerns, and Mnuchin countered with a $1.6 trillion proposal, which Democrats maintain is insufficient.

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Domestic Terrorism

Thirteen people were charged Thursday in an alleged domestic terrorism plot to kidnap Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, federal and state officials announced.

On October 8, 2020, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) announced the arrests of 13-armed militia members who plotted to kidnap Gretchen Whitmer, Governor of Michigan. Six of the suspects were charged with federal crimes, while the other seven were charged with state crimes.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer, the main target of the plot, had been a target of criticism from far-right groups for her response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Michigan, in which she enacted strict mitigation measures, including a lockdown of the state. These measures triggered protests in April and May, including one in which armed protesters stormed the Michigan State Capitol.

President Donald Trump had offered his support for the protests, derisively calling Whitmer "that woman from Michigan" and tweeting on April 17 "LIBERATE MICHIGAN!" However, there is no indication in the criminal complaint that the men in the kidnapping plot were inspired by Trump.

In televised remarks Thursday afternoon, Whitmer said she "I knew this job would be hard, but I never could've imagined anything like this." She specifically blamed President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly declined to condemn far-right groups. "Just last week, in the 1st Presidential debate, the President of the United States stood before the American people and refused to condemn white supremacists and hate groups like these two Michigan militia groups," she said.

“‘Stand back and stand by,' he told them. 'Stand back and stand by.' Hate groups heard the President's words not as a rebuke, but as a rallying cry, as a call to action. When our leaders speak their words matter. They carry weight."

In a series of late-night tweets on Thursday the President responded, “My Justice Department and Federal Law Enforcement announced today that they foiled a dangerous plot against the Governor of Michigan. Rather than say thank you, she calls me a White Supremacist.”

Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany presented the official White House reaction this morning, "President Trump has continually condemned white supremacists and all forms of hate. America stands united against hate and in support of our federal law enforcement who stopped this plot."

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2020’s Vice Presidential Debate

During the Continental Congress — an incubus of 13 British Colonies that plotted to become Americans — Benjamin Franklin referred to the role of a Vice President as “His Superfluous Excellency.”

While most voters are stultified by a vice-presidential candidate, 2020's contest is piquing more interest. Former Vice President Joe Biden is 77, and after spending 47 years in public service (County Councilman, Senator, Vice President of the United States) arguably finds himself in the twilight of his life.

The incumbent, President Donald Trump, is now 74, and in addition to his 3.5 years of political experience, the self-proclaimed ‘Washington outsider’ has contracted the novel coronavirus one month ahead of an historic election. He joins the nearly 8 million Americans who’ve been diagnosed with the mysterious illness, over 217,000 of whom have perished, at a time and time when the United States is the global epicenter of the Coronavirus. The role of Vice President has simply never been more critical than in Election 2020.

Over 57 million people watched Wednesday's VP debate across eighteen channels on television, far more than either of the last two Vice Presidential debates, and internet streaming and radio brought the audience upwards of 100 million.

It was a boring, unfocused debate between two well-prepared and polished candidates who had little interest in answering the questions posed to them — and were under virtually no pressure from the moderator to do so. In other words, it was sort of how debates used to be: professional politicians who are mostly civil to each other making their points, occasionally skirting the rules, and frequently spinning the facts. There was a lot to critique, but the participants were bound by some shared sense of propriety.

Donald Trump will eventually leave the White House, and Wednesday’s VP debate offered the nation a glimpse of a post-Trump future. The restrained sparring between Pence and Harris was a reminder of what politics was once like — and could be again.

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Finally, a word from the Father of the Nation…

We citizens of America are, from this period, to be considered actors in a most conspicuous theater, which seems to be peculiarly designated by Providence for the display of human discourse, civility, and dignity. — George Washington, 1783

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