The New York Times has obtained emails showing how HHS spokesperson Michael Caputo and his deputy sought to silence the CDC.

On June 30, as the coronavirus was cresting toward its summer peak, Dr. Paul Alexander, a new science adviser at the Department of Health and Human Services, composed a scathing two-page critique of an interview given by a revered scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Anne Schuchat, a 32-year veteran of the C.D.C. and its principal deputy director, had appealed to Americans to wear masks and warned, ‘We have way too much virus across the country.’ But Dr. Alexander, a part-time assistant professor of health research methods, appeared sure he understood the coronavirus better.

‘Her aim is to embarrass the president,’ he wrote, commenting on Dr. Schuchat’s appeal for face masks in an interview with the Journal of the American Medical Association. …

Dr. Alexander’s point-by-point assessment, broken into seven parts and forwarded by Mr. Caputo to Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the C.D.C. director, was one of several emails obtained by The New York Times that illustrate how Mr. Caputo and Dr. Alexander attempted to browbeat career officials at the C.D.C. at the height of the pandemic, challenging the science behind their public statements and attempting to silence agency staff.

HHS announced earlier this week that Caputo was taking a 60-day leave of absence after making controversial statements about CDC scientists, and Alexander is permanently leaving the department.

Programming note: the president’s press conference, which was scheduled to start about 15 minutes ago, has been pushed back to 2:30 pm ET.

Trump is expected to discuss the timeline for developing a coronavirus vaccine. The president said earlier this week that a vaccine would be available within “weeks”, while Dr Anthony Fauci has said he is cautiously optimistic a vaccine will be available by the end of the year or early next year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reversed its widely criticized guidelines on coronavirus testing, once again encouraging Americans to get tested if they have come in contact with someone who has received a positive test result.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention essentially returned to its previous testing guidance, getting rid of language posted last month that said people who didn’t feel sick didn’t need to get tested. That change had set off a rash of criticism from health experts who couldn’t fathom why the nation’s top public health agency would say such a thing amid a pandemic that has been difficult to control.

Health officials were evasive about why they had made the change in August, and some speculated it was forced on the CDC by political appointees within the Trump administration.

The CDC now says anyone who has been within 6 feet of a person with documented infection for at least 15 minutes should get a test. The agency called the changes a ‘clarification’ that was needed ‘due to the significance of asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission’.

The update comes one day after the New York Times reported that CDC scientists had not written the August change to the testing guidelines and had raised serious objections to the altered recommendation, which was pushed through by officials at the department of health and human services.

Trump is reportedly expected to discuss the timeline for developing a coronavirus vaccine during his press conference, which is set to start in just a few minutes.

He is expected to say the U.S. is on track to have 100 million doses of an approved vaccine distributed by year end – the distribution plan, which is overseen by Operation Warp Speed, is going better than the US anticipated, he will say.

The press conference comes two days after the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr Robert Redfield, testified to the Senate that a coronavirus vaccine would not be widely available to the American public until “late second quarter, third quarter 2021.”

That timeline is in line with other predictions from health experts, but Trump contradicted Redfield shortly after he testified, saying the CDC director was “confused” when he made the prediction.

House speaker Nancy Pelosi warned in Washington moments ago that the American public could be doubtful about a vaccine against coronavirus if it has been rushed through without going through all the proper approval stages.

At a press briefing on Capitol Hill, Pelosi, the California Democrat said: “Unless there is confidence that the vaccine has gone through the clinical trials, and then is approved by the independent scientific advisory committee, as established to do just this, there will be doubts that people will have.”

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden indicated this week that he would trust a vaccine endorsed by Anthony Fauci, the top US public health expert on the White House coronavirus task force, but not one promoted by the president alone.

Donald Trump has been implying that a vaccine will be approved within weeks and widely available to Americans soon after, then undercut his director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Robert Redfield, when that public health official told the Senate this week that any vaccine would not likely be available to the masses until at least the second half of next year.

This all bearing in mind that while there are a number of US vaccines in Stage 3 (the gold standard) clinical trials, one had not yet emerged from the process so, even amid “cautious optimism” from Fauci that one will be a safe and effective candidate, there is no approved Covid-19 vaccine in the US at this time for Trump to boast about.

Pelosi made it clear today that she also trusts America’s top scientists foremost, and that it’s imperative that it be approved safe and effective by expert standards before it’s distributed.

“Those are the tests, safety and efficacy. And we want it to be available in a widespread, ethical way. And the best — it’s not even an argument — but the best case for the vaccine is to have it as closely identified with the scientists who will be putting it forth,” she said.

The president’s campaign manager, Bill Stepien, did not vote for Trump in 2016 — because he didn’t vote at all, according to the Washington Post.

The last time Bill Stepien voted, according to public records, was 2015 when he lived in New Jersey and was registered there.

Stepien registered to vote in Washington, D.C., where he has been living since 2017, at the end of July — two weeks after he was tapped to take over Trump’s reelection bid.

Stepien, a onetime aide to former New Jersey governor Chris Christie (R) first joined Trump’s team in August 2016. A senior campaign official said Stepien requested an absentee ballot that never arrived, so he did not vote in 2016.

He was not registered in either New Jersey or Washington to vote in the 2018 midterm elections.

The voting habits of the president and his top advisers have attracted more attention in recent weeks because of Trump’s repeated attacks against voting by mail.

The president has repeatedly suggested voting by mail is rife with fraud, but he has cast his own Florida ballot by mail as recently as last month. (Voter fraud is actually very rare, and US states have been collecting ballots through the mail for decades.)

Despite the president’s complaints about voting by mail, the Post counted 16 Trump administration officials who have mailed in their ballots in recent years.

Trump once again sought to compare the Obama administration’s response to swine flu to his response to coronavirus, even though coronavirus has killed far more Americans than swine flu did in 2009.

The president said in a tweet, “Biden FAILED BADLY with the Swine Flu. It was the Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight’. He didn’t have a clue. We have done an incredible job with the much tougher China Virus!”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 12,469 Americans died of swine flu during the 2009 pandemic.

In comparison, 197,763 Americans have already died of coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University. The country’s death toll is expected to surpass 200,000 in the next few days.

Both of Virginia’s Democratic senators voted early today, the first day of in-person early voting in Virginia.

Senator Mark Warner arrived at his polling station in Alexandria, Virginia, moments ago to cast his ballot for Joe Biden.

Voter #397 at Alexandria, VA city hall on first day of in-person early voting: Sen. Mark Warner (D).

Senator Tim Kaine, who was Democrats’ vice presidential nominee in 2016, also voted early this morning, and he encouraged his constituents to do the same.

I just voted early for @JoeBiden, @KamalaHarris, and Democrats all the way down the ticket here in Virginia—what a great day! I hope you’ll join me—it’s easy, convenient, and boy does it feel good to vote for competence, character, and compassion:

Early voting also begins today in South Dakota and Minnesota, where Trump and Biden will both campaign later in the day.

Michigan must accept ballots that are postmarked the day before election day and arrive in the weeks following, a judge ruled Friday in a decision that will likely result in thousands of more voters having their ballots counted in a key battleground state.

Michigan is one of many states that requires absentee ballots to arrive by election day in order to be counted. But the Covid-19 pandemic, coupled with reports of mail delays, have made that deadline unrealistic, Judge Cynthia Diane Stevens of the Michigan court of claims wrote in her ruling on Friday.

The decision is deeply consequential in Michigan, a key swing state Donald Trump won by around 10,000 votes in 2016. One of the top reasons mail-in ballots get rejected is because they arrive past the deadline to be counted. 6,405 ballots were rejected for arriving late during Michigan’s August primary and Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat who serves as the state’s top election official, had called for extending the deadline.

“Applying the strict, 8:00 p.m. ballot receipt deadline on absent voter ballots imposes too great a restriction for the upcoming general election,” Stevens wrote in her opinion.

“Some flexibility must be built into the deadline in order to account for the significant inability of mail to arrive on what would typically be a reliable, predictable schedule.” She ordered ballots to be counted as long as they are postmarked by 2 November and arrive within 14 days of Election Day.

The Michigan ruling is the second in two days that extends ballot receipt deadlines in a key swing state. On Thursday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court also blocked the state from enforcing an election night deadline for absentee ballots, instead ordering the state to count them as long as they were postmarked by election day and arrived by the following Friday.

The Michigan ruling came in a suit filed by Priorities USA, a top Democratic Super PAC.

Michigan also restricts who can return an absentee ballot on behalf of a voter. On Friday, Stevens, citing the pandemic, said the state could not enforce those restrictions from the Friday before election day through election night.

NEW: A source familiar tells @NBCNews that Joe Biden received a classified intelligence briefing on Wednesday in Wilmington. This is the first official confirmation that Biden has been given a full classified briefing, as occurs only when candidates officially become nominees.

NBC reported that Biden received a briefing in Wilmington on Wednesday, about a month after he formally accepted the Democratic presidential nomination.

The Democratic nominee criticized Trump for sowing doubts about the legitimacy of the election, saying, “It goes beyond what he’s saying. It goes to what he’s encouraging.”

The White House has just added two events to Trump’s schedule today, including a press conference this afternoon.

At 11:45 am ET, the president will greet Sheikh Nasser Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah of Kuwait.

The president’s last press conference, on Wednesday, attracted criticism after Trump contradicted the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the timeline of developing a coronavirus vaccine.

Trump also controversially suggested the country’s coronavirus death toll would be much lower if Americans who died in Democratic-controlled states were not counted.

The polling analysis site FiveThirty unveiled its Senate election forecast today, and Democrats are currently “slightly favored” to take control of the chamber.

NEW: Democrats are slightly favored to win the U.S. Senate. They have an 80% chance of holding between 47 and 54 seats, according to FiveThirtyEight’s 2020 forecast.

According to the FiveThirtyEight model, Democrats have an 80% chance of holding between 47 and 54 seats in the Senate.

The model considered 40,000 simulations for the outcome of the Senate races, and Democrats win control of the chamber in 58 in 100 scenarios.

A new set of polls shows Trump trailing Biden in Maine and Arizona, while the two are running neck and neck in North Carolina.

According to the New York Times-Siena College polls, Biden leads by 9 points among Arizona’s likely voters and 17 points among Maine’s likely voters.

In North Carolina, the two nominees are virtually tied, with Biden attracting the support of 45% of likely voters while Trump is the preferred candidate for 44% of likely voters.

Trump’s lagging performance appears to be having down-ballot effects on the Senate races in the three states.

According to the polls, Democratic candidate Sara Gideon leads Republican senator Susan Collins by 5 points, 49%-44%.

In Arizona, Democratic candidate Mark Kelly has pulled ahead of Republican senator Martha McSally by 8 points, 50%-42%.

And in North Carolina, Democratic candidate Cal Cunningham has opened up a larger lead than Biden in the state. Cunningham has a 5-point lead over Republican senator Thom Tillis, 42%-37%.

As a reminder, Democrats need to flip four Senate seats to take control of the chamber if they don’t win the White House. If Biden wins the presidential race, Democrats need to only flip three seats.

Two other states — Virginia and South Dakota — will also start early voting today, along with Minnesota.

At one early voting site n Richmond, Virginia, dozens of people lined up outside the polling station even before it opened.

There may be 6+ weeks until Election Day 2020, but early voting in Virginia actually starts today — and there are dozens of voters in line to vote in person even before the building here in Richmond, VA opens

Trump and Joe Biden are both campaigning today in Minnesota, a state that Hillary Clinton won by just 1.5 points in 2016.

The president will speak at a “Great American Comeback” event in Bemidji, and Biden will travel to Duluth for a tour of a union training center.

Trump has repeatedly said he wants to flip Minnesota in November, but polls indicate Biden has a significant edge in the state.

According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll released this week, Biden leads Trump by 16 points among Minnesota’s likely voters, 57%-41%.

But there is another reason Trump and Biden may both be invested in traveling to Minnesota today: it is the first day of early voting in the state.

The AP has spoken to more migrant women who say they were operated on without their informed consent by a gynecologist, Dr Mahendra Amin, at an immigration detention center in Georgia.

An Associated Press review of medical records for four women and interviews with lawyers revealed growing allegations that Amin performed surgeries and other procedures on detained immigrants that they never sought or didn’t fully understand. Although some procedures could be justified based on problems documented in the records, the women’s lack of consent or knowledge raises severe legal and ethical issues, lawyers and medical experts said.

Amin has performed surgery or other gynecological treatment on at least eight women detained at Irwin County Detention Center since 2017, including one hysterectomy, said Andrew Free, an immigration and civil rights lawyer working with attorneys to investigate medical treatment at the detention center. Doctors on behalf of the attorneys are examining new records and more women are coming forward to report their treatment by Amin, Free said.

‘The indication is there’s a systemic lack of truly informed and legally valid consent to perform procedures that could ultimately result — intentionally or unintentionally — in sterilization,’ he said.

The AP’s review did not find evidence of mass hysterectomies as alleged in a widely shared complaint filed by a nurse at the detention center. Dawn Wooten alleged that many detained women were taken to an unnamed gynecologist whom she labeled the ‘uterus collector’ because of how many hysterectomies he performed.

The lawyer who helped file the complaint previously told the Washington Post that she had not directly spoken to anyone from the detention center who had been forced to receive a hysterectomy, but rather she wanted to trigger an investigation into the possibility.

The complaint sparked immediately outcry and comparisons to past historical instances of the US government forcing women from marginalized communities to undergo forced sterilization. As the AP notes, 33 US states had forced sterilization programs in the 20th century.


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