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A new group of evangelical leaders forms in support of Biden

A new group of evangelical leaders forms in support of Biden

Sarah Pulliam Bailey, for The Washington Post

When he was pastor of a prominent megachurch in Orlando, Joel Hunter never told anyone how he voted, but like many White evangelical leaders, he picked Donald Trump in 2016. Trump was friendly with the conservative Christian community, and Hunter thought, “Well, let’s give it a shot.”

“Hillary Clinton never did reach out to the evangelical community,” Hunter said. “So I thought, we’re not going to have much of an influence or impact on policy with her, but we might with Trump.”

On Friday, Hunter will join other evangelicals who represent major Christian institutions to launch a group, Pro-life Evangelicals for Biden, describing the Democrat’s overall agenda as closer to what they call a “biblically balanced agenda,” even though they disagree with Biden on abortion rights.

… The group favoring Biden, set up by longtime evangelical leaders Ron Sider and Rich Mouw, includes several leaders who have since retired from major evangelical institutions. Among them is John Huffman, who was board chair of Christianity Today magazine, a lifelong Republican and former pastor to President Richard Nixon. He is planning to vote for a Democrat for the first time.

Huffman, who did not vote for either Trump or Clinton in 2016, decided to support Biden this time around because he said he has seen how few conservatives are willing to stand up to [Trump].

“I’m coming as an evangelical who is pro-life and prepared to say the Republicans don’t own ‘pro-life’ and they don’t own evangelical,” Huffman said.

Huffman said he knows several leaders of major evangelical institutions who would like to oppose Trump, but they will not because their supporters would pull funding.

“We feel like we are speaking for a lot of evangelical leaders who are as intimidated as senators who have to support the president for reelection,” Huffman said. “This man has demanded a kind of loyalty that is very much cult-like.”

The group for Biden also includes Jerushah Duford, the South Carolina-based granddaughter of late evangelist the Rev. Billy Graham, who said that she feels passionately about showing voters who describe themselves as “pro-life” that they can support a Democratic president.

Duford, who took in children through foster care for 10 years and adopted one of the kids she fostered, said she believes that economic policies that support mothers who want to carry a pregnancy to term help to lower the abortion rate.

“There are so many evangelicals who are one-issue voters and abortion is their issue. It is an issue that singlehandedly prevents them from voting for Biden,” she said. “I want to validate that struggle that people are having who care about pro-life issues.”

… Cizik, who advised President Ronald Reagan on his 1983 “Evil Empire” speech in front of evangelicals, said he supported Republican presidents for 32 years until 2016. He said the turning point for his advocacy was reading a quote from director of national intelligence Daniel Coats, who is an evangelical.

“To [Trump], a lie is not a lie,” Coats is quoted as saying in journalist Bob Woodward’s new book, “Rage.” “It’s just what he thinks. He doesn’t know the difference between the truth and a lie.”

Cizik cast his vote for Clinton in 2016, but he has never openly advocated for a presidential candidate until now.

“I blame my fellow evangelicals for not publicly challenging this man’s arrogance, lies and unconstitutional acts to subvert the election,” Cizik said.

… The group launching Friday said Biden’s policies are more consistent with “a biblically shaped ethic of life” than Trump’s.

“Poverty, lack of accessible health care services, smoking, racism and climate change are all pro-life issues,” the leaders said in a statement. “Therefore, we oppose ‘one issue’ political thinking because it lacks biblical balance.”

This entry was tagged. Christianity Donald Trump Joe Biden President2020

Compassion In Action

I want a President to have a baseline level of compassion and sympathy for those who are weak or vulnerable. I don’t see that in Mr. Trump, at all. I do see it in Mr. Biden. These two videos, released during the Democrat National Convention, vividly illustrate Mr. Biden’s ongoing commitment to personally help children who struggle with stuttering and stammering.

Brayden’s story

When Joe Biden met Brayden for the very first time.

Presidential Leadership: Compare and Contrast

President Donald Trump, at the first Presidential debate, on Tuesday, September 29, 2020.

Would-Be-President Joe Biden, at a rally in Michigan, on Friday, October 2, 2020.

Trump team plotted how to bust Biden in the debates

Donald Trump wasn’t rude in the first Presidential debate just because he’s a rude person. He was deliberately rude. He was trying to make Biden so uncomfortable and off balance that Biden would start to stutter. Mr. Biden stuttered as a child and worked very hard to overcome that. And Mr. Trump thinks that stuttering is both hilarious and a sign of mental incompetency. So he wanted to do everything he could to make Mr. Biden stutter during the debate.

No man with that streak of cruelty and maliciousness should ever be President. Shame on us if he wins a second term in office.

Trump team plots how to bust Biden in the debates

Nancy Cook and Gabby Orr, for Politico

The Trump team has been studying Biden’s idiosyncrasies in debates and other venues and preparing tactics for Trump, according to interviews with a dozen campaign aides, White House officials and outside advisers. Some have noticed the way he says, “C’mon, man,” whenever he feels frustrated, and they’re trying to identify words or phrases that trigger him to “reboot,” as one person familiar with the planning described it. Essentially, Trump aides are looking for ways to trip up Biden in an effort to spur an incoherent or unsatisfactory response — bolstering a key Trump argument against Biden built around his age.

[…] Aides have closely watched Biden’s debate against Paul Ryan in 2012 and the campaign speeches he gave when he was stumping for Hillary in 2016 for clues about his tics.

There’s some tension among the president’s advisers over whether it’s wise to try to trip up Biden so he stutters, or to box him in on issues.

One 2016 Trump campaign official said it’s a “calculated risk” to phrase things in such a way that might cause the former vice president to stammer in his response, acknowledging such a strategy could backfire if Trump deliberately appears to be messing with Biden's history of stuttering — an attribute Biden has used to demonstrate his ability to overcome challenges and his empathy for children in similar situations.

This entry was tagged. Debates Donald Trump Joe Biden President2020

Facing Grim Polls, Trump Leans Into Playing the Victim - The New York Times

More than a decade ago, Pitt had a football coach nicknamed “Not My Fault Walt” for his blame deflecting post-game interviews. It wasn’t an acceptable strategy for the head coach of a middling football program. And it shouldn’t be an acceptable strategy for a President of the United States.

A leader should be able to recognize his mistakes, learn from them, and do better in the future. Constantly throwing everyone else under the bus only shows the rest of us that you’re a narcissist who is unable to recognize any flaws in himself.

Facing Grim Polls, Trump Leans Into Playing the Victim

Maggie Haberman, for the New York Times

A day earlier, Mr. Trump was insisting, too, that he was being denied his due for his chaotic and widely panned debate performance. At a campaign rally that night in Duluth, Minn., he also complained that he had not received sufficient media coverage for nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize.

“We got nothing!” he told the crowd.

Over nearly four years in office, Mr. Trump has frequently changed his positions on issues, issued conflicting statements and shuffled through a revolving cast of staff.

The one constant has been the president portraying himself as a victim at every turn.

Be it congressional Democrats or Republican foes like the late Senator John McCain, the news media or the standards enforcers at Twitter, the impeachment inquiry or, now, the debate commission, Mr. Trump has repeatedly blamed others for problems and self-inflicted wounds, something he hopes will appeal to a shared sense of grievance among his supporters.

That instinct is now increasingly on display as he faces ominous polling showing him behind in his re-election campaign, a position that aides say is unfathomable for someone who has long staked his personal brand on “winning.” Mr. Trump, some advisers inside and outside the White House say, has telegraphed to them that he is scared of losing — and in particular, scared of losing to Mr. Biden, whom he does not respect.

Mr. Trump has taken to describing shadows on almost every wall: false claims that the election is “rigged” against him, complaints that the coronavirus pandemic was “unfair” to his record on the economy, insistence that people who disagree with him within his own government about policy matters are part of a concerted effort to undermine him.

He has lobbed accusations at Democrats who want more extensive public health measures, and who haven’t agreed to Republican terms on an aid package for people impacted by the coronavirus, usually saying they are trying to harm his re-election prospects.

Even the personal troubles of Mr. Trump’s former campaign manager, Brad Parscale, whom the president has attacked in private for months and whom Mr. Trump demoted over the summer, became a vehicle for assigning blame. When Mr. Trump was told a few days ago that Mr. Parscale had been detained by the police for allegedly threatening to harm to himself, the president ordered aides to write a statement blaming “Democrats” and “Republicans in name only” who had been critical of Mr. Parscale, according to two people familiar with what took place.

This entry was tagged. Donald Trump President2020

Study Finds ‘Single Largest Driver’ of Coronavirus Misinformation: Trump

As a super spreader of false information about COVID-19, how many deaths is Donald Trump responsible for? It’s undeniable that he is responsible for American deaths. His ridicule of protective face masks alone is responsible for many people refusing to wear them, resulting in the infection and deaths of both themselves and others.

Study Finds ‘Single Largest Driver’ of Coronavirus Misinformation: Trump

Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Noah Weiland, for the New York Times

Of the flood of misinformation, conspiracy theories and falsehoods seeding the internet on the coronavirus, one common thread stands out: President Trump.

That is the conclusion of researchers at Cornell University who analyzed 38 million articles about the pandemic in English-language media around the world. Mentions of Mr. Trump made up nearly 38 percent of the overall “misinformation conversation,” making the president the largest driver of the “infodemic” — falsehoods involving the pandemic.

The study, to be released Thursday, is the first comprehensive examination of coronavirus misinformation in traditional and online media.

“The biggest surprise was that the president of the United States was the single largest driver of misinformation around Covid,” said Sarah Evanega, the director of the Cornell Alliance for Science and the study’s lead author. “That’s concerning in that there are real-world dire health implications.”

[…] To those who have been watching Mr. Trump’s statements, the idea that he is responsible for spreading or amplifying misinformation might not come as a huge shock. The president has also been feeding disinformation campaigns around the presidential election and mail-in voting that Russian actors have amplified — and his own government has tried to stop.

But in interviews, the Cornell researchers said they expected to find more mentions of conspiracy theories, and not so many articles involving Mr. Trump.

Public health experts know that clear, concise and accurate information is the foundation of an effective response to an outbreak of infectious disease. Misinformation around the pandemic is “one of the major reasons” the United States is not doing as well as other countries in fighting the pandemic, said Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, a vice dean at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a former principal deputy commissioner at the Food and Drug Administration.

“There is a science of rumors. It’s when there is uncertainty and fear,” said Dr. Sharfstein, who teaches on public health crisis communications. In the absence of treatments or vaccines, he said, honest and consistent messaging is essential.

“This is what we need to save lives,” he said. “If it’s not done well, you get far more infections and deaths.”

This entry was tagged. COVID-19 Donald Trump President2020

Trump’s attack on Hunter Biden only hurts recovering addicts like me - The Washington Post

Once again, someone has to point out that Donald Trump's cruel and callous attacks hurt vulnerable among us. Once again, Donald Trump's words are the opposite of what any Christian should support or want to be associated with.

We are the people who reach out to those who need God the most, welcoming them in spite of their failings and how abhorrent we might find their behavior. We worship the God who forgives, restores, and makes new. Donald Trump is the man who just uses hurting people as a punchline for an attack or a joke.

Trump’s attack on Hunter Biden only hurts recovering addicts like me

Eric Garcia, writing at The Washington Post.

As saccharine as it sounds, the president of the United States is also the president of screw-ups, addicts and hopefuls like me and Hunter Biden. But Trump’s comments made clear that he believes that an addict’s actions can be used against our families to attack their character.

That will make us less willing to talk about our problems and get the help we need. The National Institute on Drug Abuse says explicitly that stigma can make people with substance abuse disorders less willing to seek treatment. And that makes sense. If your addiction is going to be used against you, why try to get better?

Hunter Biden’s problems with alcohol, drugs and women have been well-documented. (News reports show that, contrary to what Trump said Tuesday, Hunter was not dishonorably discharged from the Navy Reserve when he tested positive for cocaine in 2014.) Those demons were enough of an issue that when the former vice president began running last year, the New Yorker published a piece asking whether they would “jeopardize his father’s campaign.” That story ran a few days before I finally hit bottom myself.

The Biden family doesn’t need to be investigated. The Trump family does.

I don’t know Hunter Biden, but I do know that worrying that your own actions could hurt the people you love is one of the things that tears an addict up inside. I knew I was miserable, but I also knew my actions contradicted all the good things my family had taught me, which is why I never told them the truth. The lies didn’t fix anything, though; I just felt even guiltier, which of course made me drink more and go back to strip clubs. I felt like I didn’t deserve my family, and I feared any bad thing that happened to them would be God’s retribution for me running so astray.

When my mom finally confronted me, she thought I was deceiving her because I thought lying was fun. It was the opposite; I knew my actions were wrong. I couldn’t bear to make her think that she had failed as a parent, and I didn’t want the people at her church to associate her with my filth (when, in fact, they were the ones who told her not to give up on me).

Trump’s attempts to dismiss the late Beau Biden’s good work Tuesday by returning to Hunter Biden’s failings (“I don’t know Beau. I know Hunter”) also hit home for me because I always worried that my sister — who along with being my best friend is the best daughter, wife and teacher I know — would have her reputation dragged down because of me.

I don’t know the inner dynamics of the Biden family. But I am sure the things Hunter did must have broken his father’s heart. I am sure they had conversations like the ones my mom had with me. So Joe Biden could have, rightly, brushed off Trump with another “will you shut up” or refocused the conversation on Beau, whose death he’s still so publicly grieving.

But instead, he met the moment head-on. “My son, like a lot of people you know at home, had a drug problem,” he said — before saying that Hunter has fixed them, and then uttering the words every recovering addict wants to hear: “I am proud of my son.”

Addictions require shame the same way fires require matches. We tell ourselves that nobody would want anything to do with us if they knew the truth. By trying to hit Biden with his son’s problems, Trump took a blowtorch to countless addicts’ shame, igniting our worst fears that we could harm those we love.

This entry was tagged. Christianity Donald Trump Drugs President2020

Why This Pro-Life Conservative Is Voting for Biden

The most consistent reason that I’ve heard for supporting Donald Trump is abortion. The claim is that we must overlook every fault, allow Mr. Trump to be guilty of any crime, as long as he’s pro-life. We Christians can never allow a Democratic “baby killer” to be elected. I’ve grown increasingly uncomfortable with this argument. It permits a multitude of sins—lying, cheating, bullying, objectifying, defrauding; hate, racism, vindictiveness—as long as one, very specific line isn’t crossed.

But it is possible to be both pro-life and to vote for a Democrat.

Why This Pro-Life Conservative Is Voting for Biden

Mona Charen for The Bulwark.

Since I announced publicly that I will be voting for Joe Biden in November, I’ve received a few communications from puzzled readers. “How can you, a supposedly pro-life woman, support someone who believes in killing babies?” Others say, “What do you not like about Trump’s record? The tax cuts? The record jobs numbers? The conservative judges?” One reader summed things up with “I used to like you.”

I understand. I feel the same way about many people myself.

I will try to respond for the sake of those who, like me, find themselves alienated from the Republican Party despite some policy agreements with the Trump administration.

Let’s start with abortion. I have been pro-life my entire adult life. I haven’t changed. I continue to find the practice abhorrent, and will persist in trying to persuade others. But I’ve noticed a tendency among pro-life conservatives to forgive absolutely everything else if a politician expresses the right views on abortion. This is a mirror image of the left, as we saw when Bill Clinton was accused of sexual misconduct. Many liberals were willing to overlook his gross behavior toward women in the name of preserving abortion rights. Call it “abortion washing.” Both sides do it.

Abortion washing shuts down moral reflection. Rather than do the work of analyzing how one good thing weighs in the balance against other considerations, abortion washing permits the brain to snap shut, the conscience to put its feet up.

[…] I’ve never believed that electing presidents who agree with me will lead to dramatic changes in abortion law, nor is the law itself the only way to discourage abortion. The number of abortions has been declining steadily since 1981. It dropped during Republican presidencies and during Democratic presidencies, and now stands below the rate in 1973, when Roe _v. Wade_ was decided and when abortion was illegal in 44 states.

The Supreme Court, despite Republican appointments, has side-stepped many opportunities to reverse Roe. As David French noted, Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Anthony Kennedy, and David Souter were harsh critics of the decision, but chose, on the bench, to vote for continuity. So if the logic is to support presidents based on the kind of Supreme Court nominees they will choose, the chances that any particular appointment will have the effect of changing the law seem remote.

It has always been my hope to change people’s hearts, so that this cruel practice—like slavery, torture, and mutilation—can be put (mostly) behind us.

Being pro-life is part of an overall approach to ethical questions. It’s wrong to take innocent life. But other things are immoral too. It’s also wrong to swindle people, to degrade and demonize, to incite violence, to bully, and while we’re at it, to steal, to bear false witness, to commit adultery, and to covet. I don’t think Trump has committed murder, and he seems to have honored his parents (though perhaps in the wrong way). But as for the other eight of the 10 commandments, Donald Trump has flagrantly, even proudly violated them all, and encouraged his followers to regard his absence of conscience as strength.

Donald Trump is a daily, even hourly, assault on the very idea of morality, even as he obliterates truth. His influence is like sulphuric acid on our civic bonds. His cruelty is contagious. Remember how he mocked a handicapped reporter in 2016? His defenders either denied the obvious facts, or insisted that, while Trump himself might be “politically incorrect,” his supporters wouldn’t be influenced by that aspect of his character.

Alas, they are. Consider the incredibly moving moment during the Democratic National Convention when young Braydon Harrington, who struggles with stuttering, introduced Joe Biden. That night, an Atlantic editor with the same affliction tweeted “This is what stutterers face every day. I’m in awe of Braydon’s courage and resolve.” But Austin Ruse, author of The Catholic Case for Trump, tweeted his doubts that Biden ever stuttered, and replied to another comment with, “W-w-w-w-w-w-what?”

This entry was tagged. Abortion Christianity Donald Trump Joe Biden President2020

I'm Billy Graham's granddaughter. Evangelical support for Donald Trump insults his legacy.

This member of the Graham family says exactly what I’ve been feeling for the past 2 or 3 years. Donald Trump is hurting the church in ways that will last far longer than his Presidency. Millions of people will forever turn away from God, because of the marriage between this man and American evangelicalism.

I'm Billy Graham's granddaughter. Evangelical support for Donald Trump insults his legacy.

Jerushah Duford, writing for the Associated Press

As a proud granddaughter of the man largely credited for beginning the evangelical movement, the late Billy Graham, the past few years have led me to reflect on how much has changed within that movement in America.

I have spent my entire life in the church, with every big decision guided by my faith. But now I feel homeless. Like so many others, I feel disoriented as I watch the church I have always served turn its eyes away from everything it teaches. I hear from Christian women on a daily basis who all describe the same thing: a tug at their spirit.

Most of these women walked into a voting booth in 2016 believing they were choosing between two difficult options. They held their breath, closed their eyes and cast a vote for Donald Trump, whom many of us then believed to be “the lesser of two evils,” all the while feeling that tug.

I feel it every time our president talks about government housing having no place in America’s suburbs. Jesus said repeatedly to defend the poor and show kindness and compassion to those in need. Our president continues to perpetuate an us-versus-them narrative, yet almost all of our church leaders say nothing.

I feel this tug every time our president or his followers speak about the wall, designed to keep out the very people Scripture tells us to welcome. In Trump’s America, refugees are not treated as “native born,” as Scripture encourages. Instead, families are separated, held in inconceivable conditions and cast aside as less than.

Trump has gone so far as to brag about his plans, accomplishments and unholy actions toward the marginalized communities I saw my grandfather love and serve. I now see, through the silence of church leaders, that these communities are no longer valued by individuals claiming to uphold the values my grandfather taught.

The gentle tug became an aggressive yank, for me, earlier this year, when our country experienced division in the form of riots, incited in great part by this president’s divisive rhetoric. I watched our president walk through Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., after the tear gassing of peaceful protesters for a photo op.

He held a Bible, something so sacred to all of us, yet he treated that Bible with a callousness that would offend anyone intimately familiar with the words inside it. He believed that action would honor him and only him. However, the church, designed to honor God, said nothing.

It seems that the only evangelical leaders to speak up praised the president, with no mention of his behavior that is antithetical to the Jesus we serve. The entire world has watched the term “evangelical” become synonymous with hypocrisy and disingenuousness.

My faith and my church have become a laughing stock, and any attempt by its members to defend the actions of Trump at this time sound hollow and insincere.

One of my grandfather’s favorite verses was Micah 6:8, in which we are told that the Lord requires of his people to do justly, to love kindness and mercy, and to walk humbly. These are the attributes of our faith we should present to the world. We can no longer allow our church leaders to represent our faith so erroneously.

I have given myself permission to lean into that tug at my spirit and speak out. I may be against the tide, but I am firm in my faith that this step is most consistent with my church and its teachings.

At a recent large family event, I was pulled aside by many female family members thanking me for speaking out against an administration with which they, too, had been uncomfortable. With tears in their eyes, they used a hushed tone, out of fear that they were alone or at risk of undeserved retribution.

How did we get here? How did we, as God-fearing women, find ourselves ignoring the disrespect and misogyny being shown from our president? Why do we feel we must express our discomfort in hushed whispers in quiet corners? Are we not allowed to stand up when it feels everyone else around us is sitting down?

The God we serve empowers us as women to represent Him before our churches. We represent God before we represented any political party or leader. When we fail to remember this, we are minimizing the role He created for us to fill. Jesus loved women; He served women; He valued women. We need to give ourselves permission to stand up to do the same.

This entry was tagged. Christianity Donald Trump President2020 Women

Trump Secretly Mocks His Christian Supporters

Think Mr. Trump is a friend of Christians? Think again. He’s just using you for your votes.

Trump Secretly Mocks His Christian Supporters

by McKay Coppins, for The Atlantic

One day in 2015, Donald Trump beckoned Michael Cohen, his longtime confidant and personal attorney, into his office. Trump was brandishing a printout of an article about an Atlanta-based megachurch pastor trying to raise $60 million from his flock to buy a private jet. Trump knew the preacher personally—Creflo Dollar had been among a group of evangelical figures who visited him in 2011 while he was first exploring a presidential bid. During the meeting, Trump had reverently bowed his head in prayer while the pastors laid hands on him. Now he was gleefully reciting the impious details of Dollar’s quest for a Gulfstream G650.

Trump seemed delighted by the “scam,” Cohen recalled to me, and eager to highlight that the pastor was “full of shit.”

“They’re all hustlers,” Trump said.

The president’s alliance with religious conservatives has long been premised on the contention that he takes them seriously, while Democrats hold them in disdain. In speeches and interviews, Trump routinely lavishes praise on conservative Christians, casting himself as their champion. “My administration will never stop fighting for Americans of faith,” he declared at a rally for evangelicals earlier this year. It’s a message his campaign will seek to amplify in the coming weeks as Republicans work to confirm Amy Coney Barrett—a devout, conservative Catholic—to the Supreme Court.

But in private, many of Trump’s comments about religion are marked by cynicism and contempt, according to people who have worked for him. Former aides told me they’ve heard Trump ridicule conservative religious leaders, dismiss various faith groups with cartoonish stereotypes, and deride certain rites and doctrines held sacred by many of the Americans who constitute his base.

This entry was tagged. Christianity Donald Trump President2020

Tax Records Reveal How Fame Gave Trump a $427 Million Lifeline

The New York Times has been looking through the tax records that Donald Trump never wanted us to see. They found that he came very close to another bankruptcy in the mid-90s. The surprise success of The Apprentice bailed him out. And he used that success to enrich himself in ways that preyed on poor Americans, desperate for their own rescue.

Tax Records Reveal How Fame Gave Trump a $427 Million Lifeline

by Mike McIntire, Russ Buettner and Susanne Craig.

With his penchant for using what he called “truthful hyperbole” to play on people’s desires, Mr. Trump had always skated close to the edge of fraud. Soon, he would be accused of crossing the line completely.

In his zeal to squeeze ever more dollars out of Mr. Burnett’s golden goose, Mr. Trump signed on to an array of questionable products and services, including some that claimed to sell insights into his business expertise. The first year of “The Apprentice” was barely over when Mr. Trump pocketed $300,000 to speak at an event in Dayton, Ohio, where attendees paid $2,995 to learn the secrets of instant wealth from a company that was later accused in a lawsuit of running a Ponzi scheme.

In his monologues, he made a virtue of his first round of casino failures, portraying himself as a victim whose grit and intelligence saved the day. People ate it up.

“His presence gives me reassurance,” Lillie Moss, who raided her retirement fund to buy an investment kit at the Dayton event, said of Mr. Trump.

The tax records show that another series of speaking engagements, sponsored by the Learning Annex, paid Mr. Trump $7.3 million for events with titles like “Real Estate Wealth Expo: One Weekend Can Make You a Millionaire.” A book he co-wrote with the Annex’s founder, “Think Big and Kick Ass: In Business and Life,” earned him royalties of $1.4 million.

Unmentioned in the mythologizing were the millions in bailout money from his father or the losses he was reporting to the I.R.S. Nor was there any sense of the gigantic payday — revealed only through an examination of the tax data — that Mr. Trump was enjoying in exchange for lending his imprimatur to an increasingly cynical array of business ventures.

As the years went on, and the success of “The Apprentice” made Mr. Trump a household name far beyond New York, the chasm between truth and hyperbole widened. It was one thing to bray about his late mother — a multimillionaire with a maid and a Rolls-Royce — using All laundry detergent. Now, he was flogging things that could hurt people economically.

In what would be his most lucrative side deal, he teamed up with a multilevel marketing company, ACN, whose clients were told they could make a living from home by selling video phones, satellite television and other services. Investigated in several countries, ACN has left a trail of complaints that people were suckered into spending far more than they earned trying to peddle the company’s products.

Regulators in France concluded that “only 1 percent of people recruited could claim a satisfactory income,” and that the rest lost money or, at most, made about $35 a month, according to court records. Montana officials came to a similar conclusion, finding that the average participant in that state paid ACN about $750 in various fees but got back only $53.

ACN, which has never admitted wrongdoing while settling legal actions by state regulators, claims its business model is misunderstood; on its website, it once posted a page helpfully titled “The Difference in ACN and a Pyramid Scheme.” A class-action lawsuit pending against Mr. Trump and his family asserts that the Trump brand became central to ACN’s business strategy, citing one plaintiff who signed up after she “watched clips of ACN appearing on ‘Celebrity Apprentice.’”

ACN sold DVDs of Mr. Trump promoting its products, and devoted part of its website to its “Trump partnership,” featuring photos of him appearing at ACN events and his glowing testimonial: “ACN has a reputation for success. Success that’s really synonymous with the Trump name and other successful names, and you can be part of it.”

By the time Mr. Trump featured ACN’s video phone on “The Apprentice” in 2011, the technology was close to obsolete, and yet he played it up, saying, “I think the ACN video phone is amazing.”

His tax returns reveal just how much the company was paying him for the happy talk: $8.8 million over 10 years, including $1 million in 2009 — the nadir of the Great Recession, when desperate people were drawn to promises of a fast payday. In fact, Mr. Trump actively capitalized on the economic anxiety.

In a separate deal he struck that same year, this one to promote the multilevel marketing of vitamins by a company that was rebranded the Trump Network, he gave speeches that persuaded some people to spend almost $500 for a starter kit and try to recruit friends and relatives. Mr. Trump said in a video that people “need a new dream.”

“The Trump Network wants to give millions of people renewed hope, and with an exciting plan to opt out of the recession,” he said.

Within a couple of years, the company behind the Trump Network, Ideal Health, was sold, and its owners declared bankruptcy. Still, it was long enough for Mr. Trump to make $2.6 million selling hope in a vitamin bottle, according to his tax records.

In 2016, he agreed to pay $25 million to settle litigation over Trump University, an unaccredited seminar that persuaded people to pay as much as $35,000 to learn the real estate trade. But that legal reckoning was the exception in a decade-long run by Mr. Trump and his company, described in the class-action suit, filed in 2018, as a “large and complex enterprise with a singular goal: to enrich themselves by systematically defrauding economically marginalized people looking to invest in their educations, start their own small businesses and pursue the American Dream.”

This entry was tagged. Donald Trump Taxes Wealth President2020

Former Pa. Gov. Tom Ridge: I'm voting for Joe Biden

Tom Ridge was the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security during President Bush’s administration. Before that, he was the Republican governor of Pennsylvania. He knows something about national leadership during times of crisis. And he’s seen enough of Donald Trump. He took the to the Philadelphia Inquirer to explain himself.

Former Pa. Gov. Tom Ridge: I'm voting for Joe Biden

Many of us remember when President George W. Bush, with megaphone in hand, stood on the rubble in lower Manhattan and told his fellow citizens and the world that those responsible for the brutal carnage of 9/11 would be held accountable. His remarks unified the country and his appearance on the mound at Yankee Stadium days later put an exclamation point on the message that America was resilient and would overcome.

Compare and contrast that with the crisis of today. Imagine the impact of President Trump traveling to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention back in February, and talking plainly about the challenge Mother Nature intended to throw at us, and how this country, working together, public and private sector, would confront it with all the fortitude and resources we could bring to bear. Then imagine him meeting with journalists the next day, appearing with a face mask, and calmly walking through the steps that his fellow citizens could and should take to do their part to combat this new challenge. Imagine the difference in attitude and outcomes. Perhaps I have more trust in Americans being able to handle the truth than the president.

Donald Trump has proven over these last four years he is incapable of such leadership. It is not within him. He lacks the empathy, integrity, intellect and maturity to lead. He sows division along political, racial and religious lines. And he routinely dismisses the opinions of experts who know far more about the subject at hand than he does – intelligence, military, and public health. Our country has paid dearly in lives lost, social unrest, economic hardship and our standing in the world.

With just about one month until Election Day, President Trump continues to claim the only way he can possibly be defeated is a rigged election. Can you imagine the hubris? Can you imagine any other president in our lifetime — or ever — saying something so dangerous and un-American? We are in the midst of a health crisis, when we should be doing all we can to help citizens vote safely, yet he continues to cast doubt on the sanctity of the vote. He’s done so multiple times here in Pennsylvania. It’s deplorable, yet utterly consistent with past reprehensible behavior.

This entry was tagged. COVID-19 Donald Trump Joe Biden President2020

How to fix public health weaknesses before the next pandemic hits

The United States is still struggling to control COVID-19, because we don’t have the tools that we need to see where it’s been, where it is, and where it’s going. Mr. Lipsitch and Mr. Grad—experts in epidemiology—wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post describing what we need. It’s time to start planning how we can meet those needs, so that we can save lives, and jobs, the next time that a new virus invades.

How to fix public health weaknesses before the next pandemic hits

Surveillance systems — counting and tracking infected people, monitoring the course of the epidemic and projecting resource needs as the epidemic unfolds — are inflexible and outdated. The systems have been undermined by the long neglect of local and state public health. Fundamentally, there is no common system for collecting and reporting the key numbers, confounding efforts to control disease spread.

Eight months into the pandemic, states and counties around the country are struggling to track the spread of the virus through routine, reliable testing of representative members of their communities. Efforts to help hospitals and public health systems by modeling the covid-19-related demand for intensive care have been stymied by this fact: There is insufficient information available about the duration of stays in intensive care units in the United States. And few jurisdictions provide specific data on where their epidemiologists determine transmission is occurring, making it difficult to identify areas that can reopen safely or health-care facilities that need to bolster their prevention measures.

The list could go on. The common denominator is an antiquated and unstandardized system of linking data from clinical records and public health monitoring in ways that provide evidence on how to control the virus while minimizing the disruption to the economy and society. Electronic medical records — envisioned as a boon for public-health surveillance, providing data that could be readily analyzed — turn out to be much better for billing than for the exchange of data.

The next phase of pandemic response that might be placed at risk by these spotty data systems is vaccination. Accurate records of who has been vaccinated, when and with which vaccine will be essential. They will encourage trust in the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, ensure prioritization of the groups that should first receive the vaccine, and aid in monitoring vaccine impact on the pandemic. A patchwork of local systems, already strained, is not well-suited to this task.

Solving this problem will require significant investment to link public health agencies at the local level to state and national databases, and to ensure that the information coming into these systems is of adequate quality.

Nontraditional sources of data — tracking mobility through cellphones to see how people respond to lockdowns, measuring viral RNA in sewage and predicting epidemic trends through analysis of Internet searches — potentially provide information faster and with higher resolution than traditional epidemiologic data. But efforts to make use of them remain bespoke collaborations between companies or academic groups and individual health departments. Large-scale serological surveillance, a potentially game-changing idea pioneered by several of our colleagues, remains just that, an idea. Calls for a national pandemic forecasting center have so far gone unfunded.

All this will require new investment in these good ideas, IT infrastructure, highly skilled personnel and equipment to run large numbers of diagnostic tests. The improvements would aid in fighting the current pandemic, and they will be essential weapons against future pandemics and other major health threats, such as antimicrobial resistance, that will still loom when the world emerges from covid-19.

This entry was tagged. COVID-19 Government Healthcare Policy

The Russian Trolls Have a Simpler Job Today. Quote Trump

Russia benefits internationally when America is divided and distrustful. If Americans believe that the result of the upcoming Presidential election is illegitimate—no matter the victor—Russia will have an easier time doing as they like in the rest of the world. And Donald Trump is doing everything that he possibly can to make Americans distrust the results of the upcoming Presidential election.

The Russian Trolls Have a Simpler Job Today. Quote Trump

by David E. Sanger and Zolan Kanno-Youngs, for the New York Times.

In interviews, a range of officials and private analysts said that Mr. Trump was feeding many of the disinformation campaigns they were struggling to halt. And rather than travel the back roads of America searching for divisive issues — as three Russians from the Internet Research Agency did in 2016 — they are staying home, grabbing screenshots of Mr. Trump’s Twitter posts, or quoting his misleading statements and then amplifying those messages.

That campaign is at the heart of the disinformation efforts that the F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray, warned Congress last week was meant “to both sow divisiveness and discord” and “to denigrate” former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic nominee. Mr. Trump chastised him for his comments on Twitter.

“But Chris, you don’t see any activity from China, even though it is a FAR greater threat than Russia, Russia, Russia,” he said. He went on to repeat the kind of statements the Russians have been exploiting, writing that the two countries would take advantage of “our totally vulnerable Unsolicited (Counterfeit?) Ballot Scam.”

[…] Much of the Russian traffic echoes Mr. Trump’s effort to establish an argument for rejecting the election results if he loses in states that are mailing ballots to all voters for the first time. But of the states doing so for the first time this election, only Nevada is seriously in contention.

No sooner did Mr. Trump begin to contend that the system was ridden with fraud than Russian trolls, bots and news sites joined in. In late May, the state-backed Russian website RT was quick to publish an article claiming that such ballots “are the easiest route to a RIGGED ELECTION.”

By early August, the Strategic Culture Foundation — an online journal that the State Department declared recently “is directed by Russian Foreign Intelligence Service” — had picked up on the same theme, according to analysts at Recorded Future, a group based in Somerville, Mass., that analyzes cyberactivity by foreign governments.

An article appearing on the Strategic Culture website concludes: “President Trump has several times claimed that the expected surge in mail-in voting could result in ‘the most corrupt vote in our nation’s history.’ Trump is often wrong when he speaks or tweets spontaneously, but this time he just might be right.”

And this month, the Russian government news site, Sputnik, published an article headlined, “Trump Again Claims Biden May Be Using Drugs to Enhance His Debate Performances,” repeating comments the president made on Fox News. That piece was republished by the right-wing website Infowars, disseminating it more widely in the United States, and readers shared it on social media. That allowed the article to spread without running the risk that it would be removed because it was an “inauthentic” post by a Russian troll in St. Petersburg pretending to be American.

This entry was tagged. Donald Trump Elections Notitia President2020

Up is down: Trump lies that Biden would 'destroy' Obamacare's protections for pre-existing condition

Donald Trump is straight up lying at his campaign rallies about what a President Joe Biden would do. What’s amazing isn’t that this man lies. We’ve known he was a liar for most of his career. What’s amazing is the sheer shamelessness of repeatedly telling a lie that’s so easily disproven. And the confidence he has this his supporters will swallow it whole.

Up is down: Trump lies that Biden would 'destroy' Obamacare's protections for pre-existing condition

Daniel Dale, CNNs fact checker extraordinaire.

President Donald Trump told one of the most absurd lies of his relentlessly dishonest reelection campaign on Thursday.

At a campaign rally in Freeland, Michigan, Trump claimed his opponent, Joe Biden, "will destroy your protections for pre-existing conditions." Trump went on to say that he would himself preserve these protections.

Facts First: This is not only false but a complete reversal of reality. The protections for people with pre-existing conditions were created by the very Obama administration in which Biden served as vice president — as part of Obamacare, the 2010 law Biden has vowed to preserve and strengthen if elected President. Trump, conversely, has tried repeatedly to get bills passed that would have weakened these protections. He is now trying_ to get the entirety of Obamacare struck down by the courts.

This entry was tagged. Donald Trump Fact Check Healthcare Policy Joe Biden President2020

Trump has lost patience with CDC head after series of mixed messages

While we’re in the middle of the worst pandemic in 100 years, Donald Trump is busy demoralizing our top disease experts, because they’ve dared to contradict his view of the world. We’ll all be worse off if he succeeds in driving away Drs. Redfield and Birx. We need better leadership. It’d really help if we had a President that was willing to see the world as it is, rather than raging at everyone who doesn’t see it his way.

Trump has lost patience with CDC head after series of mixed messages - CNNPolitics

By Jeremy Diamond, Nick Valencia and Sara Murray, for CNN.

President Donald Trump has lost patience with the head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Robert Redfield, as well as with the other public health experts on his coronavirus team because their sober messaging on the future of the pandemic clashes with his rosy assessments.

Trump believes that breakthroughs are not coming swiftly enough, according to people familiar with the President's thinking. Trump's frustrations have caused some to question whether Redfield is on the chopping block, but a Trump adviser said they did not expect the President to make major staffing changes before the election.

The ever-looming threat, Trump's public undermining of the CDC chief and Redfield's tendency to fold to the White House are taking a toll on CDC staff, from top to bottom, employees say. Some have questioned whether their work is making a difference and others have even considered resigning -- and whether the sagging spirits may be hampering pandemic response.

Eight current and former public health officials described for CNN a crushing environment at the agencies charged with the coronavirus response brought on by a President intent on contradicting critical public health messaging and downplaying the threat of the virus, politically motivated pressure from the White House and baseless allegations from political appointees that government scientists are part of a disloyal "deep state."

"The morale is as low as I've ever seen it and we have no confidence in our leadership," a CDC official said. "People are miserable and it's a shame because this pandemic is still flying away and we still need a robust public health response."

Inside the White House, Drs. Deborah Birx and Anthony Fauci have struggled to compete with the growing influence of Trump's new favorite coronavirus adviser, Dr. Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist with no public health or infectious disease expertise whose views are wildly out of step with leading public health experts. Birx has told people around her she is "distressed" with the direction of the task force and is uncertain how much longer she can continue to serve as the coronavirus task force coordinator.

This entry was tagged. COVID-19 Donald Trump President2020

Barr gives false recounting of Texas voter fraud case in effort to cast doubt on mail-in voting

Donald Trump’s hand-picked Attorney General is lying about a ballot fraud case in Texas. He falsely claimed that someone tried to submit 1,700 fake ballots. It was actually a case one person trying to get his hands on other people’s ballots. And Texas law enforcement was all over it, proving that we do have safeguards to detect and prevent fraud.

Barr gives false recounting of Texas voter fraud case in effort to cast doubt on mail-in voting

Alexander Mallin, for ABC News.

Twenty-eight-year-old Miguel Hernandez was eventually found guilty in the investigation for forging a voter's signature on a mail-in ballot he returned. Chatham described Hernandez as the "fall guy" in the scam, being paid by a still-unknown consultant to contact individuals who had received mail-in ballots and return them so they could potentially be tampered with.

"He violated the law but not for voting, it was for procuring mail-in ballots under false pretenses," Chatham said. "The other thing that Barr got very wrong about the case is that we knew about this thing before it even happened, and prevented any potentially fraudulent ballots from being cast."

"It was a tremendous success story for the office," Chatham added.

Barr's false description of the case comes as officials in the intelligence community are warning Russia is seeking to "amplify" concerns over the integrity of U.S. elections by promoting allegations that mail-in voting will result in rampant fraud.

Analysts with the Department of Homeland Security’s intelligence arm issued a bulletin to federal and state law enforcement partners Thursday after finding with “high confidence” that “Russian malign influence actors” have targeted the absentee voting process “by spreading disinformation” since at least March.

This entry was tagged. Donald Trump Elections Fact Check Voting President2020

Analysis of mail-in ballots finds just 0.0025% rate of possible voter fraud

Despite evidence to the contrary, Mr. Trump continues to claim, on an almost daily basis, the mail-in ballots are are an invitation to fraud. He continually assets that 2020 will be the most fraudulent election ever, and that the only way America can trust the election results is to get rid of all of the mail-in ballots. He’s either lying about that or he’s ignorant. This 2-month old Washington Post analysis shows that mail-in ballot fraud is practically non-existent. Thanks to COVID-19, millions of ballots will be cast by mail this year—including my own. And we can be completely confident that the results reported will be accurate.

Analysis of mail-in ballots finds just 0.0025% rate of possible voter fraud

Elise Viebeck, for the Washington Post.

But a Washington Post analysis of data collected by three vote-by-mail states with help from the nonprofit Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) found that officials identified just 372 possible cases of double voting or voting on behalf of deceased people out of about 14.6 million votes cast by mail in the 2016 and 2018 general elections, or 0.0025 percent.

The figure reflects cases referred to law enforcement agencies in five elections held in Colorado, Oregon and Washington, where all voters proactively receive ballots in the mail for every election.

The minuscule rate of potentially fraudulent ballots in those states adds support to assertions by election officials nationwide that with the right safeguards, mail voting is a secure method for conducting elections this year amid the threat of the novel coronavirus — undercutting the president’s claims.

Until now, the polarized debate about ballot fraud has largely featured individual anecdotes from around the country of attempts to vote illegally. The voting figures from the three states examined by The Post provide a robust data set to measure the prevalence of possible fraud.

Current and former election officials in the three states said allegations that mail voting fosters widespread cheating are not only defied by the data, but also do not acknowledge the sophisticated and tightly controlled ways that voting operates in their jurisdictions, which have layers of security designed specifically to root out fraud and build confidence in the system.

“When I have the opportunity to give a tour of our facility to a skeptic of vote-by-mail or a skeptic of the process — someone concerned about fraud or security — they turn into believers,” said Julie Wise, elections director in King County, Wash., which includes Seattle and has operated a fully vote-by-mail system since 2009.

This entry was tagged. Donald Trump Elections Fact Check Voting President2020

Trump administration rescinded Courage Award for woman who criticized Trump

Donald Trump is incredibly petty. The State Department wanted to give a Finnish journalist an award for her courageous reports on Russian propaganda, including her criticisms of “President” Putin. Then they rescinded the award after discovering that she had also criticized Mr. Trump. So much for admiring courageous criticism of powerful people. And, of course, his government lied about what they had done and why.

Trump administration rescinded Courage Award for woman who criticized Trump

John Hudson, for the Washington Post.

The Trump administration rescinded an award recognizing the work of a journalist from Finland last year after discovering she had criticized President Trump in social media posts, then gave a false explanation for withdrawing the honor, according to a report by the State Department’s internal watchdog.

The report tracks how the discovery of the journalist’s remarks worried senior U.S. officials and prompted a decision to withdraw the honor to avoid a possible public relations debacle.

… According to the report, the journalist, Jessikka Aro, was selected for the State Department’s International Women of Courage Awards for her reporting on Russian propaganda activities dating back to 2014. Aro endured death threats and cyberattacks for her work, which helped expose Russian troll factories.

After she was informed of her selection and offered flight options, State Department interns discovered her Facebook and Twitter posts, including one from September 2018 in which she noted that “Trump constantly labels journalists as ‘enemy’ and ‘fake news,’ ” said the report. In another tweet, she noted that Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin would meet in Helsinki, where “Finnish people can protest them both. Sweet.”

… But the inspector general ultimately found that the decision to give her the award was not a mistake and was included in a memo approved by [Secretary of State] Pompeo.

The report also noted that the decision to withdraw the award stemmed from the discovery of the social media posts, despite public claims otherwise. “Every person OIG interviewed in connection with this matter acknowledged” that had her social media posts not been flagged, “Ms. Aro would have received the IWOC Award,” the report said.

This entry was tagged. Donald Trump Foreign Policy Pride Rush Limbaugh President2020

How Trump is undermining his own vaccine race

Donald Trump keeps promising that a COVID-19 vaccine will be available before the election. When the medical community promises to take the time to ensure that the vaccine is safe, he claims that he is being attacked and sabotaged. The more Mr. Trump promises to rush the vaccine, the more he scares everyone else. Now, nearly half of Americans say that they won’t take the vaccine, because they don’t believe that it will be safe.

We need better leadership.

How Trump is undermining his own vaccine race - POLITICO

by Adam Cancryn

FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn spent weeks preparing a proposal to set more stringent standards for emergency authorization of a coronavirus vaccine, hoping to boost public trust in the government’s biggest public health decision in decades.

“Science will guide our decisions,” he pledged to a Senate panel on Wednesday. “FDA will not permit any pressure from anyone to change that.”

Hours later, President Donald Trump sought to do just that. Incensed over the prospect the new guidelines could slow the process, Trump blew up the FDA’s carefully laid plans – vowing to have final say over his administration’s procedures for authorizing a long-sought Covid-19 vaccine. The White House has since demanded that Hahn submit a fuller justification of his bid to set stricter standards, two administration officials said, a directive that could halt the proposal indefinitely.

Almost since the start of the coronavirus crisis, Trump has promised a vaccine is just around the corner, repeatedly contradicting his own experts on the timeline and the standards necessary for approval. The goal, he’s made clear, is a viable vaccine just before Election Day – the centerpiece of his own claims that the administration deserves an “A-plus” for its response to Covid-19.

But that single-minded pursuit has left a string of damaging episodes in its wake and hopelessly intertwined the delicate drug development process with Trump’s political aims, according to interviews with a dozen public health experts both inside and outside the administration.

“We shouldn’t even be having this discussion,” a former senior HHS official said of the struggle for control over the vaccine process. “There are experienced career scientists at FDA who make these judgments every day for public health. This shouldn’t even be a White House issue.”

The broader public’s faith in any eventual coronavirus vaccine, meanwhile, is in tatters. Just over half of Americans now say they would take a vaccine if it were available today, polling shows, a 21-point drop from earlier this year. That’s alarming from a public health point of view, since having fewer people take the vaccine dilutes its effectiveness.

Now, even as Trump’s top health advisers scramble to erect new safeguards, those involved in the process say they fear the damage is already done: Trump’s constant drumbeat for a vaccine by Nov. 3 has drowned out months of careful scientific work, reducing perhaps the most ambitious vaccine hunt in history to yet another presidential litmus test.

“It would help if Donald Trump stopped talking,” said Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and a member of the outside panel FDA has pledged to consult before authorizing a vaccine. “Every time he opens his mouth, most reasonable people feel they’re being sold something.”

This entry was tagged. COVID-19 Donald Trump Healthcare Policy President2020