What Are Iran and Russia Up To?

1 month ago 39

On Politics

Giovanni Russonello

Oct. 22, 2020, 7:01 a.m. ET

How can Trump win? Among other things, by suppressing the vote. It’s Thursday, and this is your politics tip sheet. Sign up here to get On Politics in your inbox every weekday.


Russia and Iran have both obtained voter-registration information in hopes of influencing the United States’ presidential election, intelligence officials announced at a hastily assembled news conference last night.

Iran was linked to a batch of “spoofed emails” that had been sent to voters, said John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence. Those emails were “designed to intimidate voters, incite social unrest and damage President Trump,” Ratcliffe said. But if the emails had the effect of intimidating Democrats, they could also have hurt Joe Biden’s campaign.

Appearing alongside Christopher Wray, the F.B.I. director, Ratcliffe called these moves “desperate attempts by desperate adversaries,” and sought to reassure voters that the integrity of the election was not under threat.

“Know that our election systems are resilient, and you can be confident your votes are secure,” he said, adding that the intelligence community had detected the intrusions “immediately” and was fully equipped to prevent further meddling.

But much is still not publicly known, including how Iran and Russia attained the voter data and what their intentions were.

Parents who were separated from more than 500 of their children by U.S. immigration officers have yet to be located, leaving their young ones — some under 5 years old at the time of separation — still wondering where their parents are, according to court documents filed this week.

Biden blasted Trump yesterday after news of the filings emerged. “It’s an outrage, a moral failing, and a stain on our national character,” the Democratic presidential candidate said in a statement.

Earlier in the day, his wife, Jill Biden, had denounced the policy during an appearance on ABC. “There would be no separation of families at the border” if her husband were president, she said. “As a mother, it breaks my heart, I can’t even imagine it. I think all Americans feel that way, I don’t care whether you’re a Democrat, whether you’re a Republican.”

The family separations are a result of the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy, which caused several thousand children to be forcibly separated from adult family members, including some cases where the government said the separations were justified because of a parent’s criminal record.

Former President Barack Obama yesterday made his first in a series of planned speeches on behalf of Biden’s campaign, attacking Trump before a crowd in Philadelphia even as he warned voters against taking a Democratic victory for granted.

“This is not a reality show. This is reality,” Obama said, ridiculing Trump for his fixation on TV ratings. “And the rest of us have had to live with the consequences of him proving himself incapable of taking the job seriously.”

Obama spoke to supporters who had been invited to attend the event, held outside the South Philadelphia Sports Complex. He repeatedly referred to a Times report published this week on Trump’s foreign investments, which include a shadowy bank account in China.

“Can you imagine if I had a secret Chinese bank account when I was running for re-election?” he said. “They would’ve called me Beijing Barry.”

Senate Democrats plan to boycott the Judiciary Committee’s vote today to approve Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court. The move is largely symbolic, because Republicans control a majority on the committee and can move the vote forward without Democratic support.

But the Democrats hope that by making a show of their objection to Barrett’s nomination, they will put a spotlight on what they say are the threats posed by her nomination. In their seats, the Democratic senators plan to leave large posters of Americans who stand to lose their health care coverage if the Supreme Court strikes down the Affordable Care Act.

Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, has said that if the committee approves Barrett’s nomination, he will move to hold a final vote on her confirmation on Monday.


Credit...Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Preparations being made yesterday for the final presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville.

Keep up with Election 2020

Biden leads Trump by a wide margin in most national polls, and he has a clear advantage in most swing states. But if the country learned anything from 2016, it’s that nobody can predict what will happen on Election Day.

So our reporter Adam Nagourney took a close look at how Trump might beat the odds and turn things around in the final two weeks of the campaign. He spoke to a range of political strategists and experts, who identified a number of factors that might lead to a late surge for the president.

Some of those things are up to Trump. If he shows more discipline, as he did in the final weeks of the 2016 campaign — staying on message while attacking Democrats on a few key issues, and spending far less time on Twitter — he could make up some ground, the veteran Republican strategist Charlie Black said.

It could also behoove the president to bring his message on the coronavirus in line with the overwhelming public opinion. That would mean not downplaying the virus’s threat or questioning the advice of federal health experts.

Then there are things beyond Trump’s control that might need to occur for him to win. A Biden stumble — either in the debate tonight or on the campaign trail — could provide the opportunity for a last-minute comeback.

And most analysts who spoke to Adam agreed that for Trump to win, he and his allies will almost certainly need to succeed in their efforts to suppress the vote.

“Surround the counters, find friendly governors and commissioners who won’t certify the vote,” said Susan Estrich, who managed Michael Dukakis’s presidential campaign in 1988.

Stuart Stevens, a Republican consultant who is now a critic of the president, said that Trump’s “only realistic hope is voter suppression through every means possible.”

It is possible that Trump’s team could use legal challenges — which would most likely be swiftly elevated to the Supreme Court — to invalidate batches of votes from Democratic areas.

Beyond that, the president could try to throw enough doubt on the returns that the results in some states are declared invalid, leaving neither candidate with 270 electoral votes. If that were to occur, the election could be thrown to the House of Representatives, where Democrats have more seats but Republicans control a majority of state delegations. Because each state would get one vote in this situation, the House could vote to keep him in power.

New York Times Audio

An ex-convict — and also a son of a crime victim — gives his take on Senator Kamala Harris and her past as a prosecutor. Listen to the narrated article in the latest issue of The New York Times Magazine.

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