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yorkfoto/iStockBy KENDALL KARSON, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Bill Hagerty, a former diplomat who was endorsed by Donald Trump, won a contentious Senate primary in Tennessee on Thursday night, reinforcing the strength of a presidential endorsement in some of the nation's reddest territory.

Hagerty toppled Dr. Manny Sethi, an orthopedic trauma surgeon who garnered support from Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rand Paul, R-Ky., to secure the Republican nomination in the race to replace the retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander. Hagerty led Sethi by double digits when The Associated Press called the race, with his victory not only boosting Trump's endorsement record but also delivering an answer about who voters in the state believe is the true conservative -- a key argument that played out throughout the final stretch of the contest.

"President Trump has had my back since before the beginning of all of this," Hagerty said during his victory speech. "Thank you for being the inspiration to me, President Trump. I look forward to helping you continue moving forward and to see another four years."

The race turned into a pitched battle over fealty to the president, with Hagerty centering his campaign on his relationship with Trump. The former private equity executive served as an ambassador to Japan under Trump, was a high-dollar fundraiser fo the president's 2016 campaign and volunteered as Trump's Tennessee Victory Chair. He also held a senior role during Trump's transition.

The president essentially launched Hagerty's campaign in a tweet in July 2019, and he campaigned for Hagerty via tele-town halls. Members of the Trump family also were featured prominently in Hagerty's ads, underscoring his connections to the first family and his allegiance to Trump.

Sethi pitched himself as a loyalist to Trumpism and conservative ideals that ground the party -- a similar theme seen throughout this year's primary cycle. In a final stretch of the race, which turned ugly, Sethi's insurgent bid gained some late momentum, boosted by grassroots energy, making the contest far more competitive than anticipated.

The race devolved into a duel over who could out-Trump the other, as both Cruz and Paul saw Sethi as the "true conservative."

As Sethi's challenge proved to be a concern, Hagerty sought to paint Sethi as "too liberal for Tennessee," suggesting in ads that he donated to Democrats instead of Trump. With Hagerty widely considered the front-runner with Trump's support, Sethi used Hagerty's ties to Sen. Mitt Romney, a frequent foe of the president, to cast the former national finance chair for Romney's 2008 presidential campaign as "Mitt Romney's guy" and undercut his key selling point.

Earlier this week, Sethi, a physician, called on Trump to fire Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, and also defended the use of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19 -- a drug Trump has frequently touted.

"I've had about enough of this guy Fauci. If I'm President Trump, I call Dr. Fauci into the Board room and tell him, 'You're fired,'" he said in a statement, as Fauci and Trump have been at odds over aspects of the administration's response to the coronavirus.

This race wasn't the first in which the president and Cruz clashed over an anointed selection in a Republican primary. In Texas' 23rd Congressional District, the Trump-endorsed Tony Gonzales, a former Navy cryptologist, appears to be the winner over Cruz-backed Raul Reyes, Jr., a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force.

Ultimately, Hagerty winning a tough primary in a state Trump carried by 26 points in 2016 signals that that president's endorsement is valuable and that he continues to have considerable sway over GOP voters.

Now, Hagerty is set to square off in the fall against Marquita Bradshaw, an activist from Memphis, who delivered a stunning upset in the Democratic primary on Thursday.

Bradshaw, a political newcomer, was one of two African Americans in the Democratic race, and she defeated James Mackler, a former Army helicopter pilot who had the backing of the national Democratic establishment since January. To underscore how surprising Bradshaw's win is, in her most recent filing with the FEC from April, she raised $8,420, compared to Mackler's $410,938 during the same period. He's raised $2.1 million for the cycle. She has not filed since then.

Mackler entered the night seen as the likely challenger in the fall for the safe red seat, but his loss breaks the DSCC's winning streak, with all of their other primary candidates succeeding in their races so far this cycle. Bradshaw earned 36% of the vote, compared to Mackler's 24%, a blow to national Democrats.

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Mark Wilson/Getty ImagesBy MARTHA RADDATZ and LUIS MARTINEZ, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Brent Scowcroft, the former Air Force general who twice served a the national security adviser under Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush, has died at the age of 95, according to a statement from the Scowcroft Group.

Scowcroft is best known from his tenure in the Bush administration and his handling of the Persian Gulf War and remained one of the nation's most prominent elder statesmen and well-known experts on international security matters.

"Lieutenant General Brent Scowcroft passed away yesterday at the age of 95 of natural causes," said the statement.

"Brent Scowcroft was an American patriot and public servant of the highest order with an extraordinary military and government service career spanning over 60 years," the statement continued.

"His entire professional life was devoted to how best to protect America and advance its interests. He mentored two generations of American public servants who revered him for his brilliance, integrity, humility and fundamental decency," it said. "He served the United States with great honor and distinction and is considered one of the most influential experts in international affairs."

"Given his role as advisor to US Presidents Richard Nixon through Barack Obama, no individual has provided as many commanders-in-chief as much national security advice – irrespective of party lines," it said. Scowcroft is the only person to have served as national security adviser under two presidents.

Before serving as Bush's national security adviser, he served in the same role during President Gerald Ford's administration after filling the role of deputy national security adviser under both the Nixon and Ford administrations while he was still on active duty as an Air Force general officer. He retired in 1975 as a lieutenant general, capping a 29 year career in the Air Force that began with his graduation from West Point shortly after the service was established in 1947.

After his government service, Scowcroft established The Scowcroft Group, an international business consulting firm, and worked with various think tanks. He also served on a number of Blue-Ribbon commissions dealing with national security.

Most recently, in 2016, Scowcroft garnered attention for endorsing Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee for president, over President Donald Trump, then the Republican nominee.

"The presidency requires the judgment and the knowledge to make tough calls under pressure," Scowcroft said at the time. "I believe Hillary Clinton has the wisdom and experience to lead our country at this critical time.”

Known as a trusted confidante of the Bush family, Scowcroft did not hesitate to publicly criticize President George W. Bush's decision to invade Iraq in 2003.

"General Scowcroft was a wise, principled, brilliant strategist and a great public servant," said Sen. Jack Reed, D - R.I., in a statement. "He was a noble, thoughtful scholar and gentleman – truly an American statesman – who served with honor and distinction. His voice, wise counsel, friendship, and international leadership will be sorely missed."

"While he worked in Republican administrations, he always took a non-partisan approach to foreign policy and was perhaps the leading critic of the Bush-Cheney doctrine of pre-emption in the run up to the invasion of Iraq," said Reed. "He’s been an informal advisor to many presidents and universally respected for his keen insight and intellect."

“He was for me a heroic example of principled public service that exemplified duty, honor, country," said Reed. "His example inspires and sustains me.”

In 1991, Bush presented Scowcroft with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor. In 1993 he was awarded an honorary knighthood -- a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) -- by Queen Elizabeth II.

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drnadig/iStockBy ALLISON PECORIN and TRISH TURNER, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Conversations between administration officials and Democratic congressional leaders about coronavirus relief may soon fall apart, with both parties leaving the Capitol on Thursday evening claiming to be "very far apart" on key issues.

Now, as the clock ticks down on the self-imposed Friday deadline for an agreement, negotiations between the two parties appear to be on the brink of collapse.

"The American public wants action, so again, we're not going to just keep on coming back every day if we can't get to a deal," Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said. "We've said by the end of the week we wanted to reach an agreement on the major issues."

But agreement does not appear within close reach. Thursday evening's negotiations ended with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calling the administration's offer a "Sophie's choice."

Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have argued that the "slimmed down" approach taken by Republicans does not do enough to address the widespread issues of the pandemic.

"When they said a skinny proposal, it was anorexic," Pelosi said.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said that President Donald Trump called him three different times during the meeting. While the president continues to advocate for a congressional solution, he is now seriously considering what he can do, Meadows said.

"He is prepared to take executive action on his own," if an agreement is not reached Meadows said.

And Trump similarly teased that such an order could be coming down the pike.

"Probably tomorrow afternoon" or the next morning, Trump said Thursday, when asked about a possible executive order, though he did note that there was still time for a congressional agreement to come to fruition.

Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., said he backs executive action.

"If Congress isn't going to do its job, then I think the president needs to act," he said

But some members expressed unease at the legality of such a move. It's unclear if the president would be moving unspent money from other locations, and that always causes Congress -- which is supposed to control the purse strings -- a bit of heart burn.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, told reporters, "I don't know what his authority would be or even what he could do but, they're clearly looking at that."

Still, frustration fully set in on Capitol Hill Thursday as senators headed off on something of an August recess. The Senate did not formally adjourn, but members have been told they'll get a 24-hour notice to return to the Capitol for a vote on a deal if one can be reached.

"The Senate won't adjourn for August unless and until the Democrats demonstrate they will never let an agreement materialize," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.

Republican senators on Thursday blamed Pelosi and Schumer for the ongoing stalemate.

"I have no problem staying if there's a reason to stay. But Speaker Pelosi and Sen. Schumer have to give us a reason to stay, and I'm convinced they don't want to do that. Why? I don't know," said Kennedy.

The approaching 2020 election has also led some Republicans to speculate about Democrats' motivation.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., warned, "As long as they calculate that they're better off politically doing nothing, it's going to be hard for us to move forward and that's the calculation they've made, it appears."

While the Senate squabbles, Americans who depend on the benefits created by the last relief bill face losing assistance. The $600 unemployment benefit and moratorium on evictions has already expired. And this week marks the end of the period to apply for the paycheck protection program, an initiative which Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, championed.

Collins lamented the time lost on negotiations on Thursday, but held out hope of a deal.

"I'm very concerned that it's taking so long, and it seems to me that there should have been a deal this week but obviously there wasn't. Um, I don't know," said Sen. Collins. "At this point it's hard to predict when, but I still think it's going to come together over the weekend, and we'll be back voting on it next week."

The two sides appear to still be light years apart though. Democrats have argued a robust bill is needed to address the litany of economic and health stressors caused by the pandemic.

"The Trump administration and Senate Republicans have badly mauled the body politic, the American economy and American health care and we believe the patient needs a major operation while Republicans want to apply just a Band-Aid," Schumer said.

One Democrat in perhaps the toughest reelection this fall, Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama, laid into Republicans who refused to negotiate for several months while they determined the effectiveness of the previous tranche of federal emergency pandemic spending, saying, "They push you up against the wall and then say its your fault. ... Maybe we should change tradition. I mean that's an absurd way to run this country -- under threats."

Moreover, a number of Republicans said they're highly skeptical of any deal between Democratic leaders and the administration, some planning to vote against whatever comes out -- others saying they're just not sure a majority of the GOP conference would support such an agreement in the end, something that McConnell has forecasted.

"There will be a Republican split anywhere from liking maybe the content but not the price tag, and you'll see a broad array of different Republican votes," Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., told reporters. "I'm guessing it'll pass would be my prediction -- I think if the White House gets behind it. ... I'm gonna be looking at the content, but I'm guessing the top line will probably make it hard for me to vote for it."

For his part, McConnell sought to reassure the country that a deal would eventually make it across the finish line, saying in a CNBC interview, "I'm not going to speculate about the timing, but what I do want to reassure the American people is that there is a desire on the part of both the Democrats and the Republicans -- at least most of the Republicans, not every single one -- that want an outcome, because the economy does need an additional boost until we get the vaccine. Exactly when a deal comes together, I couldn't tell you, but I think it will at some point in the near future."

Asked earlier Thursday if Democrats might change their position and support a short-term extension of some expired programs, like the expanded federal pandemic unemployment benefits -- that $600 per week paycheck that ended last weekend -- Pelosi minced no words, saying, "We're not having a short term extension."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



Official White House Photo by Shealah CraigheadBy QUINN OWEN, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf continued to defend his agency's response to the recent Portland, Oregon, protests, when he appeared before a Senate panel on Thursday. He also blamed local officials for not cooperating, and said criticism from two former homeland security secretaries was unfounded.

Sen. Gary Peters, the ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, read out a statement from former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff that indicated "there was no respect for, or coordination with, the wishes of local authorities."

Wolf responded that Chertoff was "dead wrong."

"I don't believe Secretary Chertoff, as well as others who have commented on DHS actions, really understand what is going on in Portland," Wolf said.

Chertoff told ABC News' "Powerhouse Politics" podcast last month that the Trump administration has taken a "belligerent, aggressive tone" with Oregon officials.

Tom Ridge, the country's first homeland security secretary, also criticized Wolf's move to intervene without consent from local authorities.

"Cooperation and assistance our federal officers receive in any other city around the country did not exist in Portland," Wolf told senators on Thursday.

At the height of controversy over the federal response last month, local officials took action to limit the federal footprint. The Portland City Council passed a resolution prohibiting local police officers from coordinating with or working alongside federal agents during the protests.

"Put simply, DHS and DOJ officers -- law enforcement officers, civil law enforcement officers -- were abandoned due to the dangerous policies by local officials," Wolf said.

Unfounded claims that far-left, often militant activists known as antifa are responsible for the unrest seen throughout the summer have underpinned both conspiracy theories and baseless allegations from top Trump administration officials.

Asked on Thursday whether recent protests were specifically coordinated between different cities, Wolf again drew a connection between protesters in Portland and anarchist movements without providing evidence of such coordination.

"We also see violent anarchists specifically trying to burn down a courthouse," he said. "We see antifa on social media promulgating and inspiring others to do more violence in Portland -- organizing. So there's certainly the antifa. We also see Boogaloo -- and ranking member (Peters) mentioned it -- that has been attributed there in Portland as well."

In a blow to the government's case against the aggressive protests, a federal court on Thursday ordered the extension of a restraining order on federal agents that prevents them from removing journalists and legal observers from protest areas without evidence of a crime.

"Today's decision affirms that the Trump administration's abuses continue to need to be reined in," said ACLU of Oregon interim Legal Director Kelly Simon.

Lawyers for the government argued the order would result in violent instigators to disguise themselves as journalists. The restrictions were originally focused on local police, was expanded last month and was extended by U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon until Aug. 20.

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Marc Piasecki/GC ImagesBy BEATRICE PETERSON, TERRANCE SMITH, SOO RIN KIM, and JEFFREY COOK, ABC News

At least six operatives who have been prominently involved in the Republican political world have been linked to Kanye West's captivating 11th-hour independent 2020 presidential bid.

As the rivalry between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden intensifies with less than three months to go until the election, the involvement of the operatives in West's campaign, some of whom have ties to Trump's camp, raises questions about the motives of those helping to put his name on the ballot.

Shortly after announcing his presidential aspirations earlier this summer, West disavowed his support for Trump during an interview with Forbes, saying, "I'm taking the red hat off, with this interview." He also said he would run as a Republican "if Trump wasn't there. I will run as an independent if Trump is there."

He also acknowledged that his presidential bid could bleed out Biden's Black voters saying, "To say that the Black vote is Democratic is a form of racism and white supremacy."

West is vying to get on the ballot in several states after faltering in his attempts to do so in others and scrambling to find electors -- party-tied officials who represent states in the Electoral College -- to represent him should he win.

The revelations about the operatives come as questions have been raised about West's motives for the campaign and his behavior during his opening rally. His wife, Kim Kardashian West, has called for empathy saying her husband has undergone personal and artistic pressure on top of his bipolar disorder, and that "his words sometimes do not align with his intentions."

West's team withdrew his bid to get on the ballot in New Jersey after signatures came under scrutiny there. His team also missed the deadline in South Carolina and couldn't muster the 400 people campaign advisors said they felt that they needed to gather signatures to get West on the ballot in California.

It is unclear how the operatives are connected to West's official efforts, including who hired them. A source with knowledge of West's campaign told ABC News in a text message that West held a meeting last week to reset his campaign.

"Ye wanted more organization and to figure out why all the embarrassing headlines," the source said, using the entertainer's nickname.

The source said West would like to "have a miracle," "stop" Biden and give Black America a "positive choice" or "learn something for the 2024 run."

Operative with link to voter fraud

One of the operatives is a GOP-linked operative named Mark Jacoby, whose Florida and California-based firm Let the Voters Decide has been hired by West's campaign to collect signatures in select states, according to sources close to the West campaign.

Jacoby, who has been described in media reports as a "professional signature collector," has been active in supporting various pro-GOP causes in Florida, California, Arizona and Massachusetts unrelated to West.

While working as a professional signature collector for the California Republican Party in 2008, Jacoby was arrested on voter fraud charges for allegedly registering himself to vote at a childhood California address where he no longer lived so he would appear to meet the legal requirement that all signature gatherers be eligible to vote in California. He later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in connection with the case and was sentenced to three years' probation and 30 days of service with the California Department of Transportation.

He at that time was also accused of tricking voters into registering as Republicans by saying they were signing a petition for other causes.

In a statement to The New York Times, earlier this month Jacoby said his company was nonpartisan and worked for all political parties. "We do not comment on any current clients, but like all Americans, anyone who is qualified to stand for election has the right to run," he added in the statement. Jacoby did not return ABC News' request for comment.

On Wednesday, when Trump was asked by a reporter if he had heard about Republicans working to get West on the ballot, he said, "I like Kanye very much. I have nothing to do with him getting on the ballot."

And Republican National Committee spokesperson Mike Reed told ABC News in a statement that it was "news to us, just like it is to you."

He added, "Our sole focus is re-electing the president and the thousands of great Republican candidates running across the country."

Colorado, Wisconsin and Arkansas

In Colorado, where West's campaign just filed, only a $1,000 fee and nine signatures are needed to get on the presidential ballot. ABC News called all nine of the people who signed in support of West, four of whom are current or former Republican operatives and two who were registered Democrats.

When called by ABC News, Shelley Kon, one of the nine electors who signed for West in Colorado, said she was told by her friend, Rachel George, a veteran Republican operative who served on several staffs and campaigns including a three-year stint as communications director for then-Colorado Rep. Cory Gardner not to talk to reporters and to refer them to the campaign. Kon said she was "embarrassed" when the calls from journalists began.

"I knew I shouldn't have," she told ABC News about signing the paperwork given to her by George. Kon, who is a registered Democrat said she considers herself undecided in this year's general election. In a statement to ABC News, she said "if someone actually wants to run for president, you know, why not give voters the choice in that democratic process?"

George did not respond to messages and phone calls from ABC News.

More Republican operatives who signed West's Colorado form were Seth Jacobson, former political director for Darryl Glenn's U.S. Senate campaign and staffer for Cory Gardner's 2014 U.S. Senate campaign, Adam Johnson, former Colorado GOP political director, Matthew Zielinski, a 2012 Republican candidate for District 5 of the Colorado House of Representatives, and Joseph Peters, an assistant attorney general in Colorado and former GOP campaign staffer, according to the State attorney general's office. None of them returned ABC News' calls. This makes four of the nine signatures in Colorado from people with substantial experience in Republican political strategy. Another is Jacobson's roommate, according to the filing.

Other GOP operatives linked to West's campaign include Lane Ruhland, a Madison, Wis.,-based attorney who has worked as legal counsel for the Republican Party of Wisconsin. Ruhland on Tuesday was reportedly seen dropping off signature filings to the state elections commission building to put West's name on the ballot, according to ABC Affiliate WISN 12 News.

Apart from her work for the Wisconsin Republican Party, Ruhland has also worked for the Republican National Committee as well as most recently, representing the Trump campaign, as she was listed among the attorneys in a lawsuit from April this year against a Wisconsin local television station regarding an anti-Trump ad from pro-Democratic super PAC Priorities USA.

Ruhland did not respond to ABC News' request for comment.

In Arkansas, Gregg Keller, a veteran GOP operative who previously worked with Mitt Romney and John McCain's presidential campaigns, was listed as the West campaign's contact on its signature filing submitted Tuesday. Keller had previously served as the executive director of Ralph Reed's Faith and Freedom Coalition and executive director of the American Conservative Union, according to their website, the oldest "conservative grassroots organization" in the United States.

Rush to find electors

The rush to find people to serve as electors for West's bid has been problematic. Electors are typically selected months in advance of the general election and some states decide on electors during the state's primary election. In some states they are decided at the party conventions.

Chuck Wilton, who was voted as delegate for the Republican Party in Vermont, was listed as an elector for West in the same state. In 2017, the Trump administration appointed Wilton's wife, Wendy, to serve as the state executive director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency in Vermont, a role she still occupies. ABC News has reached out to the Republican Party in Vermont to ask whether the state's rules allow electors to be listed for multiple candidates, but they did not respond to a request for comment.

Another GOP-linked name that has been associated with West's presidential bid is Jane Drummond -- a member of the Republican National Lawyer Association, a Republican "network of fellow professionals by practice area who share expertise," according to their website -- who was listed as among West's possible electors in Missouri, according to the filing with the Secretary of State office in Missouri.

Keller, Wilton and Drummond did not return ABC News' requests for comment.

When asked if West is running a symbolic campaign, a source close to the campaign told ABC News, "Biden and Trump are both caught in scandals and Kanye just catches on with the public."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



uschools/iStockBy SHANNON K. CRAWFORD, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Like their residents, state and local governments are finding themselves cash-strapped as they contend with the novel coronavirus pandemic. Whether to provide them with more assistance is a key point of contention as negotiators on Capitol Hill work to broker a deal on the next relief package.

Where they land could have a major impact on whether millions of people keep their jobs and stay in their homes.

States rely heavily on personal income and general sales taxes, and both are expected to decline drastically through the end of the next fiscal year. By that point, the total tax revenue shortfall for all 50 states will add up to an estimated $200 billion, according to an analysis by the Tax Policy Center.

House Democrats passed legislation in May calling for $915 billion in flexible aid for state and local governments that can be spent for a wide range of purposes, including to backfill revenue losses. But Republicans have balked at running up the bill.

"Democrats are primarily interested in a $1 trillion bailout of the poorly run states," President Donald Trump said at a press briefing on Wednesday. "We're not going to go along with that."

But communities across the country are still grappling with the virus. Signed into law in March, the CARES Act allocated $150 billion to state and local governments to address the health and economic toll of the pandemic; now, that money is running out.

Some recipients used part of that aid to implement rent relief programs aimed at staving off a wave of evictions, but quickly found that demand outpaced supply. For example, Los Angeles opened a one-week application window for its assistance program. The city had enough funding to offer one month of assistance to 50,000 people, but over 100,000 people applied the first day.

While the funding dries up, the need persists. A U.S. Census Bureau survey in early July found that a quarter of Americans either missed last month's rent or mortgage payment or have little to no confidence that they can pay next month's rent or mortgage on time. As many as 23 million renters will be at risk of eviction by the end of September, according an Aspen Institute projection.

State and local governments are also major employers, and, like many businesses, they've been forced to make layoffs -- at least 1.5 million so far, according to data from the Labor Department. And that number is expected to tick upward. According to the Brookings Institute, past recessions and surveys suggest this is just the first round deep budget and job cuts in the government will likely grow in the next few months.

Some major cities also missed out entirely on receiving direct aid from the CARES Act, which sets the population minimum at 500,000. Miami -- with a population of about 470,000 -- just missed the cut.

The city's Republican mayor, Francis Suarez, said federal dollars for the city would make a world of difference.

"It would allow us to feed people in our community. It would allow us to provide help to small businesses. It would allow us to help with rent and mortgage relief which is so desperately needed," Suarez said Thursday during an event at the Aspen Security Forum. "My message to legislators is we need action immediately."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



Mark Makela/Getty ImagesBy MOLLY NAGLE and JOHN VERHOVEK, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Former Vice President Joe Biden joined the American Federation of Teachers’ virtual convention on Thursday and addressed the ongoing debate over reopening schools and COVID-19 vaccine development.

Former Vice President Joe Biden has come under fire for comparing diversity in African American and Latino communities during an interview released Thursday.

The former vice president was asked about his view toward normalizing relations with Cuba and pivoted into an explanation of his belief on the differences of opinion between the two communities.

"And by the way, what you all know but most people don't know, unlike the African American community with notable exceptions, the Latino community is an incredibly diverse community with incredibly different attitudes about different things. You go to Florida you find a very different attitude about immigration in certain places than you do when you're in Arizona. So it's a very different, a very diverse community," Biden told a panel of journalists at the National Association of Black Journalists-National Association of Hispanic Journalists 2020 virtual convention.

President Trump quickly seized on the comments, telling reporters that the remarks were "incredible."

"I just watched a clip and Joe Biden this morning totally disparaged and insulted the Black community," Trump said. "I don't know what's going on with him, but it was a very insulting statement he made."

The Biden campaign said that the former vice president does not view the African American community as a monolithic one and stressed that Biden was referring to a diversity of outlooks on immigration policy within the Latino community.

"If you look at the full video and transcript, it's clear that Vice President Biden was referring to diversity of attitudes among Latinos from different Latin American countries. The video that is circulating is conveniently cut to make this about racial diversity but that's not the case," Symone Sanders, a senior adviser to Biden told ABC News.

Despite the campaign's comments, Biden again compared the diversity of Latino and African American communities geographically during remarks at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials conference.

"We can build a new administration that reflects the full diversity of our nation. The full diversity of Latino communities. And when I mean full diversity, unlike the African American community and many other communities, you're from everywhere. From Europe, from the tip of South America, all the way to our border and Mexico, and in the Caribbean. And different backgrounds, different ethnicities, but all Latinos, we're gonna get a chance to do that if we win in November," Biden said Thursday afternoon.

The presumptive Democratic nominee also faced blowback for comments he made in May during an appearance on "The Breakfast Club," which some argued reflect the same attitude Biden expressed in his appearance at the panel that aired Thursday morning.

"Well, I'll tell you what, if you have a problem figuring out whether you're for me or Trump, then you ain't Black," Biden told radio personality Charlamagne tha God, who hosts the program -- particularly popular among young Black Americans.

The former vice president later apologized for the comments, saying that he was too "cavalier" with his language and insisted that he does not take their support for granted.

Biden has long touted his support in the African American community, which helped propel him to a landslide victory in the South Carolina Democratic primary, jumpstarting his campaign and placing him on the path to becoming the presumptive Democratic nominee.

That support, however, has placed increased pressure on the former vice president to show his commitment to the African American community -- particularly in discussions around his long-awaited vice presidential pick, with Democrats urging Biden to choose a woman of color to join him on the ticket.

Despite the repeated calls, Biden has not committed to the idea, but has continually promised that his administration will "look like the country" in its makeup.

The controversy sparked by the latest comments also come as the Biden campaign announced specific advertising investments to woo African American voters, including a new national ad released Thursday specifically targeting Black voters.

"Just like our ancestors, who stood up to the violent racists of a generation ago, we will stand up to this president, and say no more," the narrator of the new ad, which will air on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), BET, TV1, CNN and MSNBC.

MORE: Joe Biden launches new national ad aimed at Black Americans
As part of their newly announced $280 million television and digital advertising reservations for the fall, the Biden campaign included a specific slate of investments targeting Black voters that they say is a "bold statement about the seriousness of our efforts to reach Black voters and earn their vote in this election."

Despite his reelection campaign's efforts to amplify the comments and claim that he's "done more for African Americans than any president with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln," President Trump has a long history of controversial comments regarding race.

During a January 2018 meeting regarding immigration, Trump reportedly grew frustrated at a proposed bipartisan immigration plan that would scale back the visa lottery program, but not eliminate it, asking those in the room why they would want people from "s---hole countries" like some in Africa coming to the United States, multiple sources either briefed on or familiar with the discussion told ABC News at the time.

The president also drew widespread criticism recently when he retweeted a video that showed one of his supporters in Florida yelling "White power!" Trump took down the retweet later that day, and the White House argued he was unaware of the offensive content it contained.

ABC News' Mary Bruce contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.





FooTToo/iStockBy TONYA SIMPSON and LUKE BARR, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Citing the growing toll from a hidden side of the coronavirus pandemic, top Democratic lawmakers are looking to require state and federal prisons to open their books on the number of cases behind bars.

Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren, Patty Murray, and Cory Booker led a group introducing legislation Thursday that would require the array of agencies that administer the nation’s jails and prisons to collect and report publicly detailed information about the spread of COVID-19 in their facilities.

The proposal comes as the virus takes a severe toll on both prisoners and corrections officers, who are forced to share confined indoor spaces at a time when the highly contagious illness is gripping large swaths of the country.

“The Administration needs to get serious about stopping the spread of COVID-19 in correctional facilities, and that includes ensuring that there is clear, comprehensive, and publicly-available information on COVID-19 in prisons and jails nationwide,” Senator Warren said in a statement.

Finding comprehensive numbers to document the heavy load of cases sweeping through the nation’s state and federal prisons requires going state by state to gather the information – there is no central database. The Federal Bureau of Prisons updates daily, the number of cases and deaths in federal facilities, but that information does not include demographic breakdowns. On the state level there are no reporting or standardization requirements. Some facilities publicly report some information, while others report none.

Based on available figures, the numbers are significant. Data compiled by The New York Times indicates that two institutions alone -- San Quentin State Prison in California and the Marion Correctional Institution in Ohio account for nearly 5,000 cases.

A recent analysis found infection coronavirus infection rates are five times higher in prisons than in the overall United States population. The report also found state and federal inmates are three times more likely to die from the virus.

If approved this new act would require agencies and facilities to report detailed information to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention including the number of inmates and staff who tested positive for the virus, the type of tests performed, the number of negative tests, confirmed active cases, pending tests and average time to get test results.

The bill also calls for information on the term of imprisonment and time served for inmates infected with COVID-19 and mandates that all data collected include information on sex, age, race and ethnicity.

Joe Rojas is the southeast regional vice president of the union representing federal prison employees. He told ABC News the bill is much needed oversight.

“The Bureau is the largest agency within the DOJ and there's no oversight. The BOP director doesn't even get confirmed he just gets appointed,” Rojas explained.

The Bureau of Prisons recently extended its COVID-19 plan until Aug. 31, according to a memo obtained by ABC News.

BOP’s plan, which is an extension of Phase 8 of its COVID-29 Action Plan, states that in-person legal visits should be accommodated when possible, but says that they should be either 6 feet away or have a level of plexiglass in between the inmate and their attorney. BOP says GED testing is set to resume and court trips are the primary responsibility of the US Marshals.

Normal intakes are resuming, the memo says.

According to the Bureau of Prisons, 108 inmates have died of COVID-19 and over 10,000 inmates have tested positive. More than 1,200 corrections officers have been infected by COVID-19. At FCI Lompoc in California, which has been hit hard by the virus, 78% of inmates tested, came back positive for COVID-19.

At FCI Miami, in Florida, nearly half of the inmates tested positive.

Kareen Troitino, the FCI Miami corrections officer union president, told ABC News that the virus was spread by one employee to inmates at the facility and, within a day, Troitino said that cases at the facility went from one to four.

Democratic representative Ayanna Pressley is the lead House sponsor of the bill. Senators Ron Wyden and Chris Van Hollen and representatives Robin Kelly, Sylvia Garcia, Yvette Clarke and Robin Kelly are also sponsoring the act.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



DNY59/iStockBy AARON KATERSKY, MATTHEW MOSK and PETE MADDEN, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- The New York Attorney General is filing a lawsuit against the National Rifle Association, seeking to dissolve the powerful gun lobby for a multitude of alleged violations of state law governing charities.

Attorney General Letitia James is accusing the NRA of an array of “illegal conduct,” according to a press release describing the suit, including “[the] diversion of millions of dollars away from the charitable mission of the organization for personal use by senior leadership, awarding contracts to the financial gain of close associates and family, and appearing to dole out lucrative no-show contracts to former employees in order to buy their silence and continued loyalty.”

The civil lawsuit, expected to be filed in Manhattan Supreme Court on Thursday, also names as defendants longtime NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre and three other NRA executives – John Frazier, Woody Phillips and Joshua Powell – and seeks their removal from their current positions and prohibition from their future service on any other New York-based nonprofit board.

Those four executives “failed to fulfill their fiduciary duty to the NRA,” James is alleging, “and used millions upon millions from NRA reserves for personal use, including trips for them and their families to the Bahamas, private jets, expensive meals, and other private travel.”

But James is demanding more than a change in leadership. The problems within the organization, she argues, are pervasive, as senior leaders “blatantly ignored” internal policies, while the board’s audit committee was “negligent” in providing oversight.

James wants to see the entire nearly 150-year-old organization, which is chartered in New York, “shuttering its doors.”

“The NRA’s influence has been so powerful that the organization went unchecked for decades while top executives funneled millions into their own pockets,” said Attorney General James in a statement, according to the release. “The NRA is fraught with fraud and abuse, which is why, today, we seek to dissolve the NRA, because no organization is above the law.”

An NRA spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but its representatives have previously dismissed any concerns about financial mismanagement within the organization.

"The NRA has full confidence in its accounting practices and commitment to good governance," NRA outside counsel William Brewer said in a statement last year, responding to prior allegations related to the group's finances. "The association's financials are audited and its tax filings are verified by one of the most reputable firms in the world. Internally, the association has an appropriate conflict of interest policy, which provides that all potential conflicts are reviewed and scrutinized by the audit committee."

The NRA has been a major force in Republican Party politics for decades and, more recently, has emerged as a key source of support for President Donald Trump. In the 2016 election, various arms of the NRA were responsible for directing more than $50 million into political campaigns, including $30 million to back then-candidate Trump, according the federal election data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Thursday’s filing is the culmination of a 17-month investigation into the organization’s finances and its nonprofit status launched in April 2019 in the wake of revelations about questionable spending practices inside the NRA that were further detailed in an anonymous leak of internal documents.

In April, the NRA sued its longtime ad agency Ackerman McQueen, the contractor behind NRATV, raising questions about the firm’s relationship with then-NRA President retired Lt. Col. Oliver North. Days later, The New Yorker published an investigation by Mike Spies of the nonprofit journalism outlet The Trace that claimed “memos created by a senior N.R.A. employee describe a workplace distinguished by secrecy, self-dealing, and greed, whose leaders have encouraged disastrous business ventures and questionable partnerships, and have marginalized those who object.”

Later that same month, The New York Times reported that in a letter sent to NRA board members, LaPierre accused North of extorting him, threatening to release damaging information about the NRA unless LaPierre resigned from his post as chief executive officer. Ultimately, however, it was North who would step down as president, losing the apparent power struggle.

Then, in May, a trove of what appeared to be internal NRA documents were anonymously posted online, raising more questions about LaPierre’s leadership amid mounting allegations of financial mismanagement within the gun lobby.

The leaked documents included letters that appeared to show that North had raised serious concerns with the organization’s audit committee about $24 million in legal fees paid to the firm of outside counsel William Brewer over the previous year. ABC News was not been able to verify the authenticity of the documents, but NRA officials did not dispute that they were real, instead calling the leak “pathetic.”

Those fees, estimated in one letter to cost the organization nearly $100,000 per day, “are draining NRA cash at mindboggling speed,” wrote North and NRA Vice President Richard Childress on April 18 as they urged the committee to authorize an independent review.

“Invoices of this size for 12 months of work appear to be excessive and pose an existential threat to the financial stability of the NRA,” the letter reads. “This is a fiscal emergency.”

The leaked documents also included purported letters to LaPierre from Ackerman McQueen’s chief financial officer William Winkler seeking more information about $274,965.03 in wardrobe expenses made at Zegna in Beverly Hills and $267,460.53 of other personal expenses -- primarily travel to the Bahamas, Palm Beach, New York, Los Angeles, Reno, Budapest and Italy -- apparently for LaPierre but charged to Ackerman McQueen.

That latter total also includes $13,804.84 for an apartment in Fairfax, Virginia that, according to the letter, LaPierre “required we rent” and “billed to the NRA” for a young woman who, according to LinkedIn, was then an intern at the organization.

In response to questions, however, top NRA officials have continued to express their support of LaPierre.

“This is stale news – being recycled by those with personal agendas," said Carolyn Meadows, the NRA’s current president, last year. "In any event, the entire board is fully aware of these issues. We have full confidence in Wayne LaPierre and the work he’s doing in support of the NRA and its members. It is troubling and a bit pathetic that some people would resort to leaking information to advance their agendas. This has no bearing on the board’s support of Wayne – and the work the NRA does to protect America’s constitutional freedoms."

As NRA in-fighting spilled into public view, other investigators sought to open similar probes. A Democratic lawmaker asked the Internal Revenue Service to “investigate recent reports of possible wrongdoing” at the NRA, and the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia issued subpoenas as part of “an investigation into whether these entities violated the District’s Nonprofit Act.”

The investigation that resulted in Thursday’s lawsuit was led by the New York Attorney General’s Charities Bureau, which “supervises the activity of foundations and other charities to ensure that their funds and other property devoted to charitable purposes are properly used,” according to the bureau's website. Thursday’s lawsuit seeks restitution for NRA members who were allegedly defrauded and additional penalties worth millions of dollars.

The New York charities bureau is the same team that forced the Trump Foundation to dissolve in 2018 for alleged misappropriations of charitable funds to service Trump’s business and political interest.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



simon2579/iStockBy BENJAMIN SIEGEL and LUCIEN BRUGGEMAN, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- House Democrats are calling on the Food and Drug Administration to empower an independent panel of experts to review and sign off before a coronavirus vaccine is distributed to the general public, a move aimed at quelling some health experts' fears the Trump administration might ram through a vaccine candidate ahead of the November election.

A new legislative proposal obtained by ABC News would require the FDA to seek input from the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee in a public hearing before giving an emergency authorization for the widespread use of any COVID-19 vaccine. The bill is expected to be publicly announced Thursday and formally introduced on Friday by Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., the chairman of the House Oversight Committee Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy.

“While it is essential that a COVID-19 vaccine become available to the public as quickly as possible, it is even more important that quality is not sacrificed for speed in testing and evaluating any such vaccine,” Krishnamoorthi said in a statement, noting that some experts have raised concerns that the Trump administration could seek to politicize the crash effort to find a vaccine under a plan known as Operation Warp Speed.

As recently as Thursday, President Trump suggested that the vaccine could be available around the time of the presidential election in November.

In an interview on Good Morning America on Tuesday, Dr. Stephen Hahn, the FDA commissioner, told ABC Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos that the agency will “make that decision based upon the science and the data from the clinical trials that are going,” and will consult with the group of outside advisors, which provides recommendations to the FDA on the safety and efficacy of vaccines and how to use them.

“We have a vaccine advisory committee. It's a standard approach we have, we will be using that to help us make this decision. These are outside experts from around the country,” he said.

Paul Offit, a vaccine expert at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and a member of the FDA's advisory panel, was encouraged by Hahn's comments, and told ABC News that the group's "recommendations are generally taken up."

“It’s the rare time when they’re not," said Offit, who has raised concerns about the potential push for use of a vaccine in the fall ahead of the election.

Democrats and public health experts say they want to hold the FDA to that commitment, after the FDA granted emergency authorization for the use of antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine in February. The authorization for the drug, which President Trump continues to tout as a treatment for COVID-19, was revoked after data from large clinical trials indicated that it was not effective against the virus, and also carries potentially serious side effects.

Democrats also accused the FDA of authorizing coronavirus antibody tests without properly vetting their accuracy, which led the agency to eventually pull some tests from the market.

“We understand and support expediency for a vaccine against COVID-19, but we must support the scientific process over expediency,” Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez and Rep. Bill Pascrell of New Jersey wrote in a letter to Hahn last month.

Several pharmaceutical companies are in the midst of a race to find a vaccine and have manufacturing capacity ready to distribute it broadly across the U.S. In recent weeks, three companies announced they had completed early trials and were moving into large-scale trials involving tens of thousands of volunteers. If those trials show the inoculations are both safe and effective, the federal government has plans to move them rapidly into circulation.

An ABC News/Washington Post survey in June found that 71% of Americans would get vaccinated against the coronavirus, while 27% of respondents said they definitely or probably wouldn’t get the vaccine. Of those who oppose getting vaccinated, half of the respondents said they do not trust vaccines in general.

There also can be risk associated with quickly bringing a vaccine to market, highlighted by the 1955 Cutter Incident, when 250 cases of polio were traced to vaccines that contained live virus, though experts have told ABC News that developments in science and oversight have made vaccine production safer than ever.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, told lawmakers last week that he was “cautiously optimistic that we will have a vaccine by the end of this year and as we go into 2021.”

"I noticed some people of this seems like it is so fast, that they might be compromising safety and scientific integrity, and I can tell you that is absolutely not the case," he said last Friday.

Offit, the panel member, said he remained skeptical of the timeline put forward by the president.

“I don’t see how, even if we did meet at the end of October, how we would have the kind of data that would allow us to, with statistical rigor and robustness say, yes, this vaccine is effective, because that's what we need to know,” he said.

Under the Democratic proposal, no vaccine would go out to the public until the experts signed off that they considered it to be safe and effective. Members would be asked to signal if any additional study was needed, and present their guidance in a public meeting. All information provided to or from the advisory committee would also be made public.

A Democratic official told ABC News that the House Oversight Committee is working with Democratic leadership in the House and Senate to insert the proposed requirement into any future coronavirus stimulus package.

Other lawmakers who have signed on to the legislation include Reps. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Calif., Ro Khanna, D-Calif., Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., Katie Porter, D-Calif., and Gerry Connolly, D-Va.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



uschools/iStockBy MINA KAJI and AMANDA MAILE, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- A group of 16 Senate Republicans expressed their support for an extension of the $25 billion payroll support program (PSP) for United States airlines Wednesday, as the demand for air travel remains suppressed and tens of thousands of airline employees face potential furloughs and layoffs.

In October, U.S. carriers are expected to lay off employees when they are no longer tied to the conditions set forth by Congress to receive federal aid.

"In recent weeks several airlines have notified significant segments of their workforces that their jobs could be at risk on October 1, 2020, following the expiration of CARES Act relief," the senators wrote to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

United Airlines and American Airlines have already announced they are preparing to furlough up to 36,000 and 25,000 employees, respectively, due to lack of business amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Executives from Southwest Airlines, Delta Air Lines and JetBlue, on the other hand, have been more optimistic about the possibility of avoiding involuntary layoffs, at least in the short term, due to a large number of employees accepting early retirement offers and buyouts.

The senators' letter follows calls from over 200 House members for an extension of the PSP that they say would help preserve airline jobs until the spring of 2021.

The program "saved hundreds of thousands of frontline airline workers' jobs—and not a penny went to the airlines themselves or their shareholders," the representatives wrote.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said he would support a "clean extension" of the PSP for another six months.

"The CARES Act was incredibly successful in that it gave airlines six months, post the pandemic start, to be able to have a plan to deal with the pandemic," Bastian said.

Air travel is still down around 75% compared to last year and unions representing those on the front lines have also been vocal advocates of more federal aid.

"Congress provided critically needed financial aid to the airlines at the outset of this pandemic for the purpose of preventing hundreds of thousands of layoffs," Capt. Joe DePete, the Air Line Pilots Association president, said. "Unless we all act now, this aid, and the strong labor protections attached to it, will expire October 1—even though the virus is not under control and the travel industry remains devastated."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



Shawn Thew/Pool/Getty ImagesBy QUINN SCANLAN, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- What's sure to be one of the most expensive and most watched Senate campaigns this cycle is already off to the races, with incumbent Republican Martha McSally challenging Democrat Mark Kelly on Wednesday to seven debates in both the state's major cities and rural areas, and another one to be held by a national news network.

"Voters deserve to know where he stands on positions. He's been hiding in a bunker and we need to make sure that they understand it's about who do you trust to get the economy going again, it's about who do you trust to keep your family safe and keep our country safe. And the radical left agenda that we've seen come out of his party is so extreme and out of step with Arizonans, and Arizonans deserve to know the implications of this very important choice," McSally told ABC's Phoenix affiliate, KNXV, in an interview Wednesday.

Kelly was asked in a later interview with KNXV on Wednesday about the debate challenge, and didn't seem to agree to all seven.

"I think it's very important that we have a robust debate about the issues, and we will do that," Kelly said, noting that he'd like to debate issues like affordable and accessible health care, including for persons with pre-existing conditions and the cost of prescription drugs. "These are things that Sen. McSally has a clear record on -- voting to take away the protection from pre-existing conditions, not supporting a reduction in prescription drug costs, especially for seniors under Medicare, so I'm looking forward to debating these issues with her."

Asked for clarity on whether Kelly agreed to seven debates, Campaign Manager Jen Cox blasted McSally for not debating her primary opponent this cycle, and said Kelly "looks forward to debating" McSally.

"The campaign has accepted an invitation to a debate hosted by the Arizona Republic and Arizona public media outlets, and plans to participate in an additional debate with Univision to ensure that all Arizonans hear from Mark about what is at stake this election and his plans to be an independent Senator for Arizona," Cox said in a statement provided to ABC News.

Despite their political differences, McSally and Kelly are similar candidates in at least one major way -- both boast an impressive military background.

The sitting senator served in the U.S. Air Force, deploying six times to the Middle East and Afghanistan. She became the first woman in history to fly a fighter jet in combat. Kelly is a retired U.S. Navy combat pilot, who deployed during the first Gulf War and flew nearly 40 combat missions during Operation Desert Storm.

He's also a former NASA astronaut and co-founded GIFFORDS, an organization fighting for more stringent gun control measures, with his wife, former Rep. Gabby Giffords. In 2011, a man attempted to assassinate her in a mass shooting in the Tucson, Arizona, area. Six people died and 13, including the congresswoman, were wounded.

Arizona's special Senate election is a top target for both Republicans and Democrats this November.

As it stands now, the race looks to be more promising for Democrats, as the party tries flip control of Congress' upper chamber. All three major race raters -- Cook Political Report, Sabato's Crystal Ball and Inside Elections -- have the match-up favoring Kelly. Two polls released on July 26 showed Kelly with an edge over the sitting senator. In an NBC News/Marist College poll, 53% of Arizona registered voters supported Kelly while 41% supported McSally. In a CNN/SSRS poll, Kelly was leading over McSally by seven points, 50% to 43%, among registered voters.

"In Arizona, I suppose out of habit, you tend to lean things to the Republicans because they normally win, but we didn't do that in 2018," said Larry Sabato, the head of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia and editor-in-chief of Sabato's Crystal Ball. "If McSally loses this seat, she'll be in select company of people who have lost both of their state Senate seats -- not a happy-camping group."

In the fall of 2018, Sabato moved Arizona's Senate race between McSally and Democrat Kyrsten Sinema towards favoring Sinema, and that was ultimately what happened, with Sinema eeking out a win in traditionally red Arizona by a margin of just 55,900 votes -- fewer votes than the total number of ballots cast for the Green Party candidate.

After her loss to Sinema, though, McSally got a second chance at joining the Senate. When Sen. Jon Kyl, who the governor appointed to the Senate following the late Sen. John McCain's death, resigned at the end of 2018, Republican Gov. Doug Ducey appointed McSally to the seat, meaning voters have yet to send her to the Senate.

Even though polls look stronger for Kelly now, polls today don't necessarily reflect how voters will feel next month, or in the weeks leading up to Election Day when the majority of Arizona voters will be casting their ballots by mail. A lot can happen in three months to change the course of this race -- especially in the midst of a global pandemic.

"It's gonna be a very competitive race -- lots of spending, not only by the candidates, but by outside groups. We've already seen some of that. And I think all of the races are going to be tied into the presidential race this year," said Barbara Norrander, a professor at the University of Arizona who specializes in elections, public opinion and political parties.

The competitiveness of this race is evident by how much money both candidates have raised. Since the start of the campaign through July 15, McSally had raised $28.7 million, and had $11 million cash-on-hand, according to Federal Election Commission filings. It would be a more impressive haul if Kelly hadn't outdone her by more than $15 million. Through July 15, the Democrat has raised nearly $45 million since launching his campaign in February 2019, and he has a more than $20 million war chest going into the final three months of the campaign.

McSally said in a statement Wednesday that Kelly "would be another Trojan horse for the most radical Left policies," but Sabato and Norrander had different takes on his political persona.

"He's certainly not a liberal Democrat. I'd say moderate to moderate-liberal depending on how you classify these people. You know, he kind of fits Arizona," Sabato said, noting that the state has changed demographically, with many more Hispanic voters casting ballots. He said Kelly would "naturally appeal" to these voters: "He's got that star quality, that moderate star quality that Hispanics often look for."

"Kelly is portraying himself as a moderate and someone who would be more in tune with Arizona than Washington -- so kind of a typical outsider. So he has that advantage," Norrander told ABC News.

But even though the state is a definite battleground this cycle, it's still Republican, Norrander said, and that gives McSally an advantage. Despite her being an atypical incumbent, given how she got her seat, this being the second time she's ran for statewide office in less than three years has upped her name recognition. Before running for Senate, McSally represented Arizona's 2nd Congressional District in the House.

While in the Senate, McSally has been a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump. According to FiveThirtyEight's analysis of how often members of Congress vote in line with Trump's position, McSally has done so 95% of the time. Only six current members vote in line with the president's views more than her, and Georgia Sen. David Perdue has the same score.

McSally has been focusing on a message around standing up to China -- a country the president has repeatedly blamed for the current coronavirus pandemic situation in the United States -- and has attempted to tie Kelly to the communist country.

But sticking close to the president could be perilous for Republicans facing voters in November. He's down against former Vice President Joe Biden in national and battleground state polls. In the two recent Arizona polls, Biden was up by four points in one and by five points in the other among registered voters.

Sabato said McSally doesn't have a choice, but to stay close to Trump.

"You dance with the one that brung you and she has to hope that Trump recovers and wins Arizona -- and almost every Republican should running for president," he said. "That's not out of the question at all. It could easily happen. She's gonna stick with that strategy ... she's already lost the moderates. They aren't coming back to her. And if Trump people get alienated, then who's she got left? Nobody."

Norrander added, "Being tied to Trump may not be, at this point in time, a big advantage, but of course, things can change."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



TriggerPhoto/iStockBy ALLISON PECORIN and TRISH TURNER, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- White House officials told Senate Republicans on Wednesday that if a deal is not reached with Democrats on coronavirus relief by Friday, negotiations will likely stop.

"I think at this point we're either going to get serious about negotiating and get an agreement in principle," Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told reporters Wednesday. "I've become extremely doubtful that we'll be able to make a deal if it goes well beyond Friday."

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer snapped back at Meadows' remark, following another day of negotiations between the parties, saying that Democrats would not be the ones to leave negotiations.

"We are not walking away," Schumer said. "We will stay here as long as it takes to get an agreement and we urge Mr. Meadows to sit down and continue to work with us and to do it as long as it takes."

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin tried to walked back the deadline set by Meadows as he departed the Capitol following negotiations on Wednesday adding that he does not "want to describe this an an end of the week deadline," but Meadows held firm.

He said Friday is not necessarily a "drop date" but then added, "my optimism continues to diminish the closer we get to Friday and certainly falls off the cliff exponentially after Friday."

Meadows continued to hold out the possibility of executive actions by President Donald Trump on student loans, unemployment insurance and evictions but declined to say what the timeline for action would be.

"We've got those proposals before him and he'll make decisions on those in the coming days," Meadows said.

At a White House press conference Wednesday, Trump also highlighted some of those possibilities.

"My administration is exploring executive actions to provide protections against eviction," he said. "As well as additional relief to those who are unemployed as a result of the virus. Very importantly, I am also looking at a term-limited suspension of the payroll tax."

He also complained about an effort by Democrats to help state and local governments.

"The Democrats are primarily interested in a $1 trillion bailout of the poorly run states," Trump said. "We have some states and cities -- you know them all -- we don't have to go through names, but they've been very poorly run over the years, and we can't go along with the bailout money. We’re not going to go along with that, especially since it's not COVID related."

“We’re not going along with the bailout money,” Trump says about Democratic proposal for a $1 trillion relief package.

Trump adds he is considering executive action to prevent evictions and is “looking at a term-limited suspension of the payroll tax.” https://t.co/vOcIjLI6ER pic.twitter.com/52wHaEIHf7

— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) August 5, 2020

Entering negotiations on Wednesday, Schumer was asked about the possibility of a deal being reached by Friday and said that there are still divides between the parties.

"Well, we're working very hard but we got a lot of issues," Schumer said. "We see the problem as bigger, bolder and requiring more action than they do."

Multiple senators leaving the GOP conference policy lunch Wednesday said that Meadows had conveyed that Friday was a firm stopping point.

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said that the negotiators relayed a similar message to the full GOP conference during their policy lunch.

"If there is not a deal by Friday, there won't be a deal," Blunt said. "At some point you have to set a deadline or just continue this Kabuki dance every day and nobody wants to."

This follows Tuesday's announcement that the negotiators had agreed to reach an agreement, if one is possible, by Friday.

But that seems to be about where agreement between Meadows, Mnuchin, Schumer and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi stops.

Senators who met with administration officials said the negotiations on Wednesday seemed almost identical to days prior.

"I still basically heard the same thing," Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., said. "There's a wide gulf between White House negotiators and Democrats."

The Senate is approaching what would be the start of its August recess at the end of the week.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday that the Senate will delay its recess and remain in session next week, though it is not clear what sort of action would take place during that time if negotiations on a package break down.

As tensions begin to boil over, Republicans are expected to begin offering piecemeal portions of their coronavirus relief proposal, the HEALS act, on the Senate floor.

Up first will likely be an effort to extend the paycheck protection program, whose application window closes at the end of the week.

Republicans have already attempted an extension of the unemployment benefits on the Senate floor -- an effort which was quashed by Democrats.

Democrats have flatly rejected the idea of a piecemeal series of bills. They've argued that a "big," "bold" and "comprehensive" bill is necessary to combat the ongoing health and economic crisis.

The Democratic proposal, which has already passed the House of Representatives, costs nearly $3 trillion. The Republican proposal is around $1 trillion.

ABC News' Libby Cathey contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



Marilyn Nieves/iStockBy AARON KATERSKY, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld a ruling that prevents the Trump administration from denying status to immigrants deemed a "public charge" because they receive various types of government assistance.

The ruling, from a three-judge panel of the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals, has no immediate impact other than to limit the scope of the injunction to Connecticut, New York and Vermont.

The Department of Homeland Security introduced a new public charge rule last year that expanded the number of government benefits that would disqualify a green card applicant. Several courts have heard legal challenges to the public charge rule. In one case that reached the Supreme Court, a 5-4 ruling by the court’s conservative majority in January allowed the rule to go into effect nationwide.

Javier H. Valdés, of Make the Road New York, said in a statement the public charge rule has "caused immense harm to our communities — harm that intensified, as our country is in the midst of a health crisis."

In promoting the new rule, Ken Cuccinelli, director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, rewrote the poem at the base of the Statue of Liberty.

"Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge,’" Cuccinelli told NPR’s "Morning Edition."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



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