ABC NewsBY: JORDYN PHELPS, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) -- President Trump says he is so keen on having his yet-to-be-announced Supreme Court nominee confirmed by Election Day in part so that the justice would be on the bench to vote on any legal disputes related to the election.
“We need nine justices. You need that,” Trump told reporters Tuesday, as he went on to stoke baseless claims that the election will be rife with fraud.
“With the unsolicited millions of ballots that they're sending, it's a scam; it's a hoax. Everybody knows that. And the Democrats know it better than anybody else. So you're going to need nine justices up there. I think it's going to be very important. Because what they're doing is a hoax, with the ballots.”
He doubled down on his position on Wednesday, saying, “I think this will end up in the Supreme Court, and I think it’s very important that we have nine justices," claiming a tied court could be problematic.
“I think it's better if you go before the election because I think this scam that the Democrats are pulling, it’s a scam, this scam will be before the United States Supreme Court. And I think having a 4-4 situation is not a good situation. If you get that. I don’t know that you’d get that. I think it should be eight-to-nothing or nine-to-nothing, but just in case it would be more political than it should be,” Trump said.
The current court is split evenly between conservative and liberal justices so a newly confirmed justice nominated by Trump could theoretically cast a deciding vote.
The Supreme Court effectively decided the 2000 presidential election when it ruled 5-4 in the case of Bush v. Gore, with conservative justices in the majority.
While the president has persisted in suggesting that “unsolicited ballots” will lead to widespread fraud in the election, his claims are overstated and misleading.
The vast majority of states -- 41 out of 50 -- require voters to request an absentee ballot before one is mailed to them. In a minority of states -- nine, plus Washington, D.C. -- ballots will be automatically mailed to registered voters this year; and of those nine states, five already held all-mail elections prior to the coronavirus pandemic.
There is no evidence that mail-in-voting leads to widespread voter fraud.
Trump has not previously so explicitly connected the Supreme Court nomination process to the prospect of a disputed election. Previously, he has said his rationale for an quick nomination process is because he said it is his constitutional duty and he believes it would be good for the country.
Ultimately, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will set the timetable for the Senate to consider the president’s nominee, who Trump has said he will reveal during a news conference at the White House on Saturday.
The president’s comments Tuesday came in response to a question about Democrats saying the rushed process so close to an election threatens to tear the country apart.
The president brushed off the critique -- “Oh, I don’t think so” -- before launching into an explanation of why the court may have a role to play in helping to resolve the election.
“So doing it before the election would be a very good thing because you're going to probably see it, because what they're doing is trying to sow confusion and everything else. And, you know, when they talk about Russia, China, and all these others, they will be able to do something here because paper ballots are very simple -- whether they counterfeit them, forge them, do whatever you want. It's a very serious problem,” Trump said.
While the U.S. intelligence community has broadly warned about efforts by foreign adversaries to influence the election, there is no evidence that foreign actors are seeking to counterfeit or forge ballots, as the president baselessly suggested.
Even if a nomination is secured by Election Day, the prospect that that nominee would then sit in judgment of a case relating to the outcome of the president’s election raises concerns about politicization of the court.
The president’s former 2016 Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, reacted to the president’s comments in a tweet, calling on voters to challenge what she characterized as “authoritarian” behavior by the president by challenging his presidency at the polls.
“The only remedy for this blatantly authoritarian behavior is for voters to turn out for Biden-Harris in such overwhelming numbers that Trump & the GOP can't steal the election,” Clinton said in a tweet that included a video clip of Trump’s comments.
Alan Morrison, the associate dean of George Washington University Law School, said that if such an event were to come to pass, the recently confirmed justice should recuse herself from the case, though he said he has little expectation she would.
“To many people, it would look as though you were appointed by the president to be on the Supreme Court and his election is now up in front of us and people think that you could sit and judge this objectively, I think there would a lot of protests about that,” Morrison said.
ABC News Kendall Karson contributed to this report.
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ABC NewsBY: BENJAMIN SIEGEL, ABC News
(NEW YORK) -- Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the Senate Democratic whip, on Wednesday pushed back on calls for Democrats to add more justices to the Supreme Court next year, if they retake the Senate and White House, as retribution for Republicans' plans to fill Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's seat just weeks from the election.
"There's no serious conversation among my colleagues about this prospect. It is speculative, it is in the future, if at all," Durbin, the second-ranking Senate Democrat, told ABC News Chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl and Political Director Rick Klein on the "Powerhouse Politics" podcast.
"We're focused on the job at hand which is to try to make certain that whoever fills this Supreme Court vacancy is someone who will respect the power of the court when it comes to things as basic as the health care of Americans. So this notion of looking at some structural change in the court I can just say is not a serious topic on Capitol Hill at this moment," Durbin said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., appeared to lock in enough Republican support this week for his plan to advance President Donald Trump's nominee to the Supreme Court through the Senate, with just Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Susan Collins, R-Maine, opposing the push to fill the vacancy so close to the presidential election.
Durbin admitted that Democrats are essentially powerless to stop the confirmation process at this stage, and can do little more than disrupt committee hearings and delay the Senate Judiciary Committee's consideration of a nominee by one week, through procedural tactics.
"We can certainly delay things, but only for limited periods of time," he said. "It is possible ... that some other Republican senators will have second thoughts as this progresses, but at this point it doesn't look very promising."
In the days following Ginsburg's death, Democrats have accused Republicans of hypocrisy, pointing to their refusal to consider Judge Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama's nominee to fill the seat of the late-Justice Antonin Scalia, eight months before the 2016 presidential race.
Republicans have largely rejected that criticism, noting that their party controls the White House and Senate, while Democrats controlled the White House four years ago.
The potential opportunity for Republicans to secure a conservative majority on the Supreme Court for decades has incensed liberals, fueling calls from activists and progressives in Congress for Democrats to radically change the Senate -- through adding representation for the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico and ending the 60-vote filibuster for legislation -- and packing the Supreme Court at the earliest opportunity.
Durbin, who endorsed statehood for Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, said lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have discussed potential changes that would not be as sweeping as eliminating the legislative filibuster -- which requires 60 votes to advance proposals through the chamber, and is one of the key rules differentiating the Senate from the House of Representatives.
"We understand that there are ways to change the rules, one of those is to eliminate filibuster and make the Senate look like the House, but there are lots of gradations and lots of possibilities out there, short of what I just described," he continued. "There's going to be some serious thought about how effective the Senate is and can be under the current rules."
The veteran Illinois lawmaker, who served with both Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden in the Senate, encouraged the Democratic presidential nominee to draw a sharp contrast from Trump on the debate stage next week in their first meeting.
"We have gone through a miserable experience with this president, the current president's personality," Durbin said. "Joe Biden is such a contrast and offers the hope that we can start to bring this country back together again. I hope that's the image that comes through the debate."
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Twitter/Nikema WilliamsBY: KENDALL KARSON, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) -- National Democrats are leaning on the late-Rep. John Lewis -- a towering leader of the Civil Rights Movement who rooted his lengthy political career in the issue of voting rights -- as part of a new push to register voters in some of the most competitive battlegrounds.
Lewis, who was known as the "conscience of the U.S. Congress" and died in July after a long battle with pancreatic cancer, is the centerpiece of a new digital ad released on Wednesday by the Democratic National Committee. It's part of a seven-figure digital investment that is aimed at encouraging voter registration in the hopes of driving up turnout some 40 days before Election Day.
"My dear friends, your vote is precious, almost sacred. It is the most powerful, nonviolent tool we have to create a more perfect union," Lewis says in the ad, an excerpt from his 2012 Democratic National Convention speech in Charlotte, North Carolina.
In between scenes of individuals of all colors and some of the country's most historic, yet tense, moments on voting rights -- including protests of women fighting for enfranchisement and marches from the civil rights era -- the ad appears to be making overtures to young and minority voters. The two demographics are core to the party's base and chances of potential success in November.
Four years ago, Hillary Clinton saw less-than-stellar turnout, particularly among Black voters. Democrats are now launching a full-court press to build out their coalition and tilt the election in former Vice President Joe Biden's favor in the fall.
The prominence of Lewis in the digital ad, titled "Our Sacred Right," echoes his own commitment to voting rights, which began when he was just a teenager. It also makes a compelling case for voters to be engaged in the political process, even if they might be concerned over voter suppression efforts, disillusioned by the hyper-partisanship of Washington or are considering sitting out of the election altogether.
"Not too long ago, people stood in unmovable lines. They had to pass a so-called literacy test, pay a poll tax," an impassioned Lewis says. "Too many people struggled, suffered and died to make it possible for every American to exercise their right to vote."
"And we have come too far together to ever turn back. We must not be silent. We must stand up, speak up and speak out. We must march to the polls like never, ever before. We must come together and exercise our sacred right," he says, ending the ad.
The new spot, which will run on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, will target voters in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin -- states that outline the battlefield this year and all of which are home to tight contests.
In a pair of new ABC News/Washington Post polls released Wednesday, Biden and President Donald Trump are locked in neck-and-neck races in Arizona and Florida, with Trump holding a slight advantage over Biden in both states among likely voters: 51% to 47% in Florida and 49% to 48% in Arizona.
Last week, ABC News/Washington Post polls in Wisconsin and Minnesota show Biden with an edge over Trump among likely voters, 52% to 46% in Wisconsin, and 57% to 41% in Minnesota.
The ad coincides with Tuesday's National Voter Registration Day, which marked a coordinated effort to register voters.
The Biden campaign hosted a virtual rally on Tuesday, featuring the Democratic nominee, who underscored the stakes of the impending election in pre-recorded remarks.
"This is the most important election of our lifetimes," Biden said, before encouraging supporters to register to vote. "It's up to all of to decide what our future is going to look like."
Biden's efforts were supplemented by President Barack Obama and Clinton, the 2016 Democratic nominee, who made similar pleas to voters.
"Now is the time to safeguard our democracy and fight for what we believe in," Obama said in a video posted on Twitter. "All you've got to is make sure your voice is heard."
But the new push comes as the coronavirus continues to stymie get-out-the-vote efforts this cycle.
In 17 out of 21 states, voter registration rates are significantly behind where they were in 2016, according to a new analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice, amid the pandemic.
"On average, these 17 states have seen registrations decline by 38 percent this year," the report from the Brennan Center reads. "For some states, the decrease is less than that -- Wisconsin and Colorado are below 2016 rates by 2 percent and 20 percent, respectively -- while other states, like Maryland and Arizona, are below 2016 registration rates by 87 percent and 65 percent, respectively."
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.
ABC NewsBY: STEPHANIE EBBS and ANNE FLAHERTY, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) -- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield on Wednesday stood by his timeline for a potential COVID-19 vaccine, despite criticism from President Donald Trump who said the top public health official was mistaken when he said a vaccine would not be available to all Americans immediately later this fall.
Redfield and other officials, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, have said that while "Operation Warp Speed" is facilitating the production of millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines undergoing clinical trials, it will likely until next year for those doses to be distributed and available to the majority of Americans.
Trump has previously contradicted that view, repeatedly suggesting that a vaccine will be available to everyone as soon as it's authorized and potentially available as early as Election Day in early November.
Last week, Redfield said he expected it would take until summer of 2021 before enough Americans could be vaccinated and we could see a return to normal routines. Trump later said he thought Redfield was incorrect and made a mistake with that comment.
“When I was alluding to late second quarter, early third quarter , I was alluding to how long I felt it would take to get those 700 million doses into the American public and complete the vaccine process,” he told the Senate Health Education, Labor and Pensions Committee during a hearing on Wednesday.
“I think that’s going to take us to April, May, June, possibly July to get the entire American public completely vaccinated. But we will have the 700 million doses based on projection by late March, early April.”
Redfield declined to comment on whether he faced political pushback for his earlier comments but says he's committed to sharing information that's supported by the data.
"I’m going to stay with my comment that I will continue to present science and data as I see it, and it’s not going to be modulated by whether individuals appreciate what I say or don’t appreciate what I say,” he said.
Trump has been criticized for comments that Democrats say put political pressure on the process of testing and authorizing a vaccine amid reports that political officials sought to interfere with reports or decisions at CDC or the FDA or accused career public health officials of scheming to work against the president.
But Redfield, Fauci, and officials like FDA Commissioner Steven Hahn insisted a vaccine will only be made available to the American public if the data shows it's safe and effective, and they said they have no hesitation about taking a vaccine that's authorized by FDA.
Redfield pushed back against criticism of CDC scientists from people who have compared them to the "deep state," calling the comments offensive and saying career officials are dedicated to protecting Americans' health.
"People don’t understand the ability to suck energy out of people working 24-7 when they get unfairly criticized or unfairly characterized,” he said.
Fauci testified Wednesday that the first rounds of vaccines will likely be prioritized to health care workers and people with pre-existing conditions that make them vulnerable to worse outcomes from COVID-19, if a vaccine is authorized by the FDA later this year.
"If you're talking about who's gonna get vaccinated in December or November, it is not going to be a large proportion of the population. It will be according to what we were discussing before. Namely those who are who are, according to the advisory committee on immunization practices getting the priority likely will be healthcare providers and likely will be those who are vulnerable with underlying conditions. I can't say that for certain. but if anything, is the past this prologue that likely will be the case," Fauci said in the hearing.
"But we're not gonna have all of the doses available, For example, by the end of December, they will be rolling in. As the months go by, and by the time you get to maybe the third or fourth month of the 2021, then you'll have doses for everyone."
Fauci also clarified millions of doses of all the viable vaccine candidates are being produced so that doesn't mean 700 million people would be able to be vaccinated by April, depending on doses how many of a specific vaccine that's authorized are available and if that vaccine consists of one shot or two. Four vaccines in the US have begun Phase 3 clinical trials.
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.
ABC NewsBY: DEVIN DWYER, ABC News
(CHANHASSEN, Minn.) -- In small towns and leafy suburbs hundreds of miles from Washington, the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has unleashed remarkable expressions of grief and gratitude among Americans of all political stripes.
“I cried,” said Susan Gibbons of Minneapolis of her reaction to the news. “I’m almost crying again now.”
As mourners paid their respects Wednesday at the U.S. Supreme Court where Ginsburg lies in repose, the national outpouring of affection for a woman who spent 27 years at the pinnacle of the legal world remained profound.
“We had been praying a long time that Ruth could make it through; she didn't,” said Bruce Scoggins, an African American retiree who volunteers at an alcoholism recovery center in the Twin Cities. “I have great prayers and comfort for her family, and for the nation too as a whole, because she had that kind of an effect on the nation.”
Karl Olsen, who spoke with ABC News after casting an early in-person ballot for president, said Ginsburg was cherished justice for modeling civility.
“She was a little left of center, but she did come to the center when it made sense legally,” Olsen said, “and I think she looked at the facts. So I thought she was a fantastic justice.”
From candlelight vigils near Oakland, Calif., to silent prayer circles outside a courthouse in Bloomington, Indiana, and artistic displays in Dayton, Ohio, many Americans have taken to steps to show unity in Ginsburg’s honor.
"Such an incredible woman that so many young women can look up to,” said teenager Josie Hewitt of Oakland.
Ginsburg’s death has been most acutely felt by legions of female professionals, like Jamie Becker-Finn, a mother of two and lawyer specializing in domestic violence.
“It's devastating, and as a female attorney, what, just she as a person has meant to so many of us,” Becker-Finn told ABC News Live.
Retired accountant Anne Swenson, a devout Catholic who opposes abortion, offered nothing but praise for "RBG" in an interview from the front yard at her suburban Minneapolis home.
“To go to law school back then -- that's an amazing thing. And to face the challenges she did as a woman and then to keep fighting for others,” said Swenson. “They always talk about liberal or conservative judges. But to me, she was just an outstanding member of the Supreme Court."
University of Minnesota law professor David Schultz shared a cherished personal connection with Ginsburg -- a letter the late justice sent him out of the blue in 1999 after he published research on her famously speedy opinions.
“What I love is this first paragraph where she talks about why are her kids complaining that she's a slow eater,” Schultz said. The line from Ginsburg continues: “Nice to know my slowness at the dinner table is counterbalanced by my opinion production speed.”
As the national conversation turns to the process of naming Ginsburg’s replacement, many of the more than two dozen voters interviewed by ABC News after her death expressed weariness about another political battle ahead.
“I was kind of just like, oh, crap. You know, like, what's next?” said realtor and mother of three Michelle Fazi of Chanhassen about her reaction to Ginsburg’s death. “It's 2020. What crisis is coming down the pipeline? I'm not trying to make light of her passing at all, or even bring levity to it. It's incredibly sad. But it was kind of like, of course, this happened right now.”
Before Ginsburg’s death, majorities in both parties said they supported holding hearings on a high court nominee if a vacancy occurred before the next president is sworn in, according to a Marquette University Law poll earlier this month.
But a vote to confirm a new justice -- and potentially change the balance of power on the court -- draws mixed reaction.
“I believe we should follow our Constitution,” Swenson said. “The president is obligated to put up a nomination. So, I do believe he should. Whether that process can be completed before November 3rd or after November 3rd, I don't know.”
When asked about the apparent double-standard among Republicans, who blocked President Barack Obama’s 2016 nominee Merrick Garland from even getting a hearing, Swenson said “both parties play their games.”
Many Democrats, and even some Republicans, disagree.
“It is honestly the most hypocritical thing that they could possibly do,” said Becker-Finn of the race to replace Ginsburg in the next few weeks. “And I think it also, you know, it just sends the message that we don't care about what the right thing to do is.”
Dawn Lei of Minneapolis, who said she plans to vote for President Donald Trump next month, said she sees both sides of the argument “but I feel like the election is so close that we need -- perhaps we should wait.”
The president and Senate Republicans are not waiting, invoking a constitutional duty to fill vacancies on the high court and a mandate from voters who elected them four years ago. Trump plans to announce his nominee on Saturday.
“I think we also have to trust our justices like our justices,” said Fazi. “I understand that they may lean right or lean left. And, you know, they're appointed by Republican or Democratic presidents, but they are titans of the law. And right, left or otherwise, I trust them to act that way.”
ABC News' Jackie Yoo contributed reporting.
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iStock/KuzmaBY: AARON KATERSKY, ABC News
(NEW YORK) -- Judge Arthur Engoron has ordered President Donald Trump's son to appear for a deposition by Oct. 7, denying Eric Trump's request to wait until after the election.
Engoron said the argument to delay providing testimony was "unpersuasive" because "neither the petitioner nor this court is bound by timelines of the national election."
The New York Attorney General's Office on Wednesday had sought to compel testimony from Eric Trump as part of an investigation into whether the Trump Organization improperly inflated certain assets to obtain tax benefits it otherwise would not have been entitled to receive.
Eric Trump had offered to sit for a deposition after Election Day, citing a busy travel schedule on behalf of the campaign, but he "will no longer be able to delay his interview and will be sitting down with investigators in my office no later than Oct. 7," said New York Attorney General Letitia James. "To be clear, no entity or individual is allowed to dictate how or when our investigation will proceed or set the parameters of a lawful investigation."
Assistant Attorney General Matthew Colangelo told the judge Eric Trump should have no role in dictating the timing of his testimony.
"The mere ground of personal inconvenience isn't a basis to delay compliance," Colangelo said during a video hearing before Engoron.
An attorney for Eric Trump, Alan Futerfas, said the proposed delay resulted from a change in attorneys so the president's son is represented by counsel separate from the company.
"There is a massive amount of material that is involved in this investigation," Futerfas said. "We need time to go through these materials. We need time to prepare our client."
Futerfas also reminded the judge about the approaching election: "Eric Trump is a vital and integral part of that, and he's traveling just about seven days a week."
During the same hearing, Colangelo said the Trump Organization was improperly withholding about four dozen records from investigators and he balked at the company's claim the documents are protected by attorney-client privilege.
"There's no evidence they relate to a legal purpose and in about 44 of them they were copied to a third party and the privilege is waived," Colangelo said.
The Trump Organization insists it's acted in good faith.
"We've been very cooperative with the attorney general throughout the investigation," said Trump Organization attorney Lawrence Rosen.
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.
Allison Shelley/Getty ImagesBy ABC News
(WASHINGTON) -- Three days of public mourning for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a champion of equality and women's rights, began Wednesday when her casket arrived at the Supreme Court for a dramatic procession up the court steps lined by more than a hundred of her former law clerks.
Her casket was placed on the Lincoln Catafalque, once used for President Abraham Lincoln, before a ceremony inside the court's Great Hall attended by family, friends and her fellow justices, all wearing masks.
Chief Justice John Roberts spoke, calling her a "fighter" for equal justice and saying "her voice was soft, but when she spoke, people listened."
Roberts, who sat next to Ginsburg on the Supreme Court bench, said her life was a reflection of the American Dream, noted her love of opera and called her “a star” who “found her stage in our courtroom.”
One of her “many virtues” that defined her time on the bench, he said, was her “humility.”
“The court was her family, too. This building was her home,” he said. “Ruth is gone and we grieve.”
"May she rest in peace," Roberts said, standing in front of a portrait of Ginsburg.
"The Court was her family, too. This building was her home, too...Ruth is gone, and we grieve."— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) September 23, 2020
Chief Justice John Roberts leads a moment of silence at the Supreme Court in honor of late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg." https://t.co/t2LdRoJ2WI pic.twitter.com/NP1pLIjzYz
Then, in an unprecedented move because of the pandemic, her casket was brought outside and placed at the top of the court steps under the portico so members of the public could pay their respects.
There has been an outpouring of public support at the court since word of Ginsburg's death at age 87 came Friday night and with warm, sunny weather in Washington on Wednesday, large crowds were expected.
Some of those who came to honor her wore "Notorious RBG" shirts, the nickname she became known by to her devoted supporters.
Many who gazed at her flag-draped casket from the bottom of the court steps were women and girls.
Mourners had started to gather early Wednesday morning near the court steps where there had been a makeshift memorial of flowers and messages in remembrance of the impact she has had on people's lives in her almost 30 years as a liberal icon on the nation's high court.
Ginsburg will lie in repose at the court through Thursday and the White House announced that President Donald Trump would go to the court Thursday to pay his respects.
On Friday, Ginsburg will lie in state at the Capitol, the first woman in U.S. history to be so honored, at the direction of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Nearby in the Capitol, a bitter political battle continued over her replacement.
She will be interred next week beside her husband of 56 years at Arlington National Cemetery.ABC News' Devin Dwyer contributed to this report.
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Albin Lohr-Jones/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty ImagesBy QUINN SCANLAN and MEG CUNNINGHAM, ABC News
(NEW YORK) -- With all eyes on Arizona's special Senate election as the Republican-controlled Senate and White House make a dash toward filling the vacancy on the Supreme Court, Mark Kelly, the Democratic candidate in the election, said Wednesday that the winner of the election should be seated as soon as possible, in accordance with state law.
"Regardless of who wins, once the vote is certified here in Arizona, in accordance with the law, that person should be promptly seated to work for Arizonans," Kelly told ABC's The View co-hosts. "They're concerned about health care, pre-existing conditions. They're concerned about protecting Social Security and Medicare. So in accordance with the law, when the election is done, I think it's important that if I was to win that I get sworn."
This special election will determine who serves the remainder of the late Sen. John McCain's term through 2022, and Democrats are eyeing Arizona as one of their best opportunities to pick up seats in Congress's upper chamber. If they hold onto all of their seats -- and they face a tough fight to keep their seat in Alabama -- Democrats would need to win four Senate seats to take the majority. If Biden won the presidential election, they would only need to win three additional seats, because Sen. Kamala Harris would become a tie-breaking vote as vice president.
This special election is in a class of its own this election cycle. After Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's passing Friday night, lawyers with expertise in Arizona election law told ABC News that a state statute would allow Kelly, should he win, to take certified election results to the Senate and attempt to assume Republican Sen. Martha McSally's seat early, potentially giving him a vote on the new justice.
"The way I read the statute, and I think it is the correct way is that once we hold the general election, and the outcome of the general election is certified, at that point in time, Mark Kelly will assume the office, rather than the traditional time. There's nothing in the statute that says that he has to wait until all the other new senators are sworn in," Democratic lawyer Andrew Gordon told ABC Friday night.
However, Gordon also said the "statute is silent" on whether Kelly would have to be sworn in early and said that issue could end up being litigated in court.
A top Republican election lawyer in the state, who wanted to remain anonymous, asserted that it would be up to the secretary of the Senate to formally fill that seat, and kept open the possibility that legal challenges could delay the certification, which is supposed to happen by Nov. 30 under state law.
"After that, Mark Kelly, if he were to beat [McSally], he would be entitled to salary, and to go to Washington D.C. to present his certification and ask to be seated," he said. "And then the Senate has to accept the certification and basically agree that he's the final winner."
Challenges to the results that could delay certification, like a recount or recanvass, must be made quickly in order to avoid delaying certification, another expert told ABC News.
"Those are on very limited grounds and those have to be filed fairly promptly after the election. So, very tight timeframes for those," said Mary O'Grady, a Democratic election law expert in Arizona. "But there is the possibility of post-election challenges. Once a winner is declared, unless enjoined by the court, that election certification is issued."
An ABC News/Washington Post poll out Wednesday morning showed Kelly and McSally in a tight race among likely voters in The Grand Canyon State, with 49% supporting Kelly and 48% supporting McSally.
ABC News currently rates the race as "lean Democratic," but a lot can happen in six weeks to change the dynamic of the race, including how this Supreme Court vacancy plays out. President Donald Trump has said that he wants a vote before the election, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has so far only committed to a vote before the end of the year. The president plans to nominate a woman on Saturday.
On The View, Kelly was asked about some demands Democrats are pushing for should the Senate move forward with confirmed Trump's nominee, including adding justices to the Court and getting rid of the legislative filibuster, a Senate procedure that in effect, makes it so legislation must have at least 60 votes to pass.
McConnell took the "nuclear option" in 2017, getting rid of the 60-vote threshold for Supreme Court nominees to allow Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch -- and all subsequent SCOTUS nominees -- to be confirmed with only a simple majority. When Democrats controlled the Senate in 2013, Majority Leader Harry Reid, did the same thing for most executive and judicial nominees' confirmations, as former President Barack Obama's nominees were being filibustered. McConnell called that "a sad day in the history of the Senate."
Kelly said neither removing the filibuster nor expanding the court should be in the current conversation.
"This shouldn't really -- shouldn't be part of the discussion... It's also very hypothetical. And it's kind of more of the same stuff from a broken Washington. I think what they should be focused on is, how about a COVID relief bill?" Kelly said. "These threats are not, you know, what Washington should be focused on at this time. Republicans and Democrats should be really focused on trying to solve this crisis."
Kelly, a former U.S. Navy captain and NASA astronaut, pitched himself as an independent-minded candidate, who would work across the aisle in the Senate, and even with a Trump-controlled White House, to get things done for Arizonans. He noted fixing America's infrastructure and working to lower the price of prescription drugs were issues he could see himself working with the current president on, but also that he wouldn't look at party affiliation to determine whether he should work with other legislators in Washington.
"For me, it doesn't matter if any idea is an idea from a Democrat or a Republican. If it's a good idea, I will work with anybody if it's in the best interest of our state and the best interest of our country," Kelly said.
He also bucked some in the Democratic party on the issue of "defunding the police," saying that he doesn't believe that's the way to address the racial unrest in the country, largely spurred by police officers killing Black Americans at a higher rate than white Americans.
"I think we can all agree that there's racial discrimination in our country that has resulted in too many Black men being killed by the police," Kelly, the son of two cops, said. "So, where I don't think defunding the police is the answer, police officers have a very difficult job to do -- I saw that with my own parents -- so they need to have the resources to do that job, but reforms are needed."
In the 2018 Senate race, Kelly's challenger, then-Congresswoman McSally, lost to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema by a margin of 2.4 percentage points -- the first real sign of Arizona turning into a purple state instead of solidly red, as attitudes and demographics change in the state, especially in Maricopa County, home to Phoenix and Scottsdale and more than half of the Arizona's population. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey later appointed McSally to fill the late Republican Sen. John McCain's seat after former Sen. Jon Kyl resigned at the end of 2018.
The View co-host Meghan McCain, the late senator's daughter, asked Kelly what he attributed the Sub Belt state's political shift to.
"I think Arizonans really like independent leadership, folks that are willing to work across the aisle to get things done for Arizona in the American people," Kelly said, adding that both Sen. McCain and former Sen. Barry Goldwater did that. "They're really worried about their health care, worried about social security. They're worried about Medicare becoming a voucher program... We've got climate issues here, border security issues and often Washington has been failing the state of Arizona on these issues, so I think they're just looking for change and independent leadership."
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Official White House Photo by Shealah CraigheadBy LUKE BARR and QUINN OWEN, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) -- Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf defended the DHS Wednesday, saying at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that a whistleblower's claims against the department are "patently false."
Former chief of intelligence at the DHS, Brian Murphy, filed a whistleblower complaint describing repeated instances in which he claims the Trump administration sought to "censor or manipulate" intelligence for political purposes, including information about Russian efforts to interfere in the 2020 elections.
The document, a copy of which was obtained by ABC News, alleges a pattern of behavior ranging from "attempted abuse of authority" to possible violations of federal law perpetrated by some of the administration's senior-most law enforcement and intelligence officials.
President Donald Trump formally nominated Wolf for the secretary job in August, but he has been serving as the acting secretary since November. If confirmed by the Senate, Wolf would be the first confirmed DHS Secretary in over a year.
Wolf was also adamant on Wednesday that he did not withhold an intelligence report on disinformation on former Vice President Biden’s mental health.
ABC News previously reported that DHS withheld publication of an intelligence bulletin warning law enforcement agencies of a Russian scheme to promote “allegations about the poor mental health” of Biden.
Wolf, asked specifically if he considers Russia to be advancing propaganda against Biden, said there are three countries are a concern.
"On everything that I've seen that there are three nation states that we have to be very concerned about one is Russia, one is China, and one is Iran and they all have different ways in different motivations of doing this," he said.
On immigration, Wolf has been a loyal supporter of Trump's agenda even as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which falls under DHS, faces continued scrutiny over medical care in civil detention facilities.
Democrats on the House Homeland Security committee announced last week the start of a new investigation into allegations from a detention facility nurse, including reports that ICE detainees in the Irwin County Detention Center were subjected to hysterectomy operations without their full understanding or consent.
Wolf said he looks forward to this review.
"I look forward to that investigation. Some of what we have seen thus far on some of the most, I would say, dramatic allegations in that complaint regarding certain medical procedures," he said. "Some of the facts on the ground and the fact that we have seen do not back up those allegations."
ABC News has not independently confirmed the allegations.
A new report from the House Committee on Homeland Security found that officials used the threat of isolated confinement in order to maintain control over detainees at the River Correctional Center in Louisiana and Otero County Processing Center in New Mexico.
Detainees who had submitted repeated medical requests or engaged in hunger strikes were segregated as a form of discipline, according to the report.
The findings suggest that officials at three facilities ignored mental health warnings from detainees by minimizing some suicide red flags despite evidence of self harm. Evidence of suicide attempts at Otero, River, and the LaSalle ICE Processing Center in Louisiana were written off as not “serious,” according to the report.
Wolf and the department's number two, Ken Cuccinelli, have also been in the hot seat after the Government Accountability Office found they were unlawfully appointed to their current roles.
Wolf said that he disagrees with the logic used by the GAO and said its decision is non binding.
“We're certainly aware of the GAO's opinion regarding the order of succession at the department I will say that we very strongly disagree with that opinion," Wolf said. "I'll continue to say I respect the role that GAO plays. But that again does not dismiss the fact that we believe they have a faulty decision in the legal logic that they used is very inaccurate."
The DHS Inspector General declined to take action against the two leaders.
"While DHS OIG does not have a strict policy against reviewing matters that are the subject of litigation, under the particular circumstances presented it would be pointless for DHS OIG to add its voice to what has become a bitter inter-branch disagreement," the IG wrote in a letter to members of the House Homeland Security Committee. "Neither GAO nor DHS OIG can issue a binding determination on that issue, but a federal court can and probably will."
Wolf's profile rose earlier this summer when he sent federal agents -- against the wishes of Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler -- to quell violence occurring outside the federal courthouse in Portland, Oregon, during protests over police brutality and racial injustice.
Wolf has largely defended the department's actions.
"We will be happy to provide resources to bring this violence to an end … across the ideological spectrum left or right, the violence needs to end." Wolf said in August on ABC's This Week, adding a message to local officials, "If you see this activity, take early action, bring law and order to your streets, and we can address and really avoid some of the violent activity that we're seeing."
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Chris Jackson/Getty ImagesBy KATIE KINDELAN, ABC News
(LOS ANGELES) -- Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, urged Americans to get out and vote while making their first joint television appearance since moving to the United States.
"We're six weeks out from the election, and today is Voter Registration Day," Meghan said Tuesday on the TIME100 special on ABC, a primetime program on the magazine's annual list of the world's 100 most influential people. "Every four years, we're told, 'This is the most important election of our lifetime.' But this one is. When we vote, our values are put into action, and our voices are heard."
"As we approach this November, it's vital that we reject hate speech, misinformation and online negativity," added Harry. "What we consume, what we are exposed to, and what we engage with online, has a real effect on all of us."
Meghan, 39, and Harry, 36, moved to California with their 1-year-old son Archie earlier this year after stepping down from their roles as senior working members of Britain's royal family.
Meghan, a California native who moved to London just before she wed Prince Harry in 2018, is expected to make history as the first member of the royal family to publicly exercise their right to vote.
It is against protocol for members of the royal family to get involved in politics, a stance Harry noted when he said in the Time100 special that he has never been able to vote in the U.K.
Harry and Meghan's participation in a video urging people to vote is already stirring controversy in the U.K. because of the royal family's strict nonpartisan policy when it comes to politics.
Meghan -- who spoke out against President Donald Trump in 2016, before he was president and before she married Prince Harry -- told Marie Claire magazine last month why she plans to vote in the U.S. on Nov. 3rd.
"I know what it's like to have a voice, and also what it's like to feel voiceless," she said. "I also know that so many men and women have put their lives on the line for us to be heard. And that opportunity, that fundamental right, is in our ability to exercise our right to vote and to make all of our voices heard."
Meghan also spoke to feminist icon Gloria Steinem last month about voting as a way to honor women who paved the way for women's rights.
"Throughout our friendship, we've spoken of our shared beliefs surrounding women's rights, the need for representation, and the very timely conversation on voting," Meghan wrote in an introduction to her backyard conversation with Steinem. "I firmly believe that we vote to honor those who came before us and to protect those who come after us. Ms. Steinem, my friend Gloria, is one of the women I honor when I vote."
Steinem later told Access Hollywood that she and Meghan cold-called people and encouraged them to vote.
"She came home to vote," Steinem told Access Hollywood about Meghan. "The first thing we did, and why she came to see me, was we sat at the dining room table where I am right now and we cold-called voters and said, 'Hello, I'm Meg' and 'Hello, I'm Gloria' and 'Are you going to vote?' That was her initiative."
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rarrarorro/iStockBy BENJAMIN SIEGEL, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) -- House Democrats on Tuesday unveiled a sweeping reform package to impose new checks on presidential power and potential wrongdoing in the executive branch, while toughening enforcement of ethics rules and congressional subpoenas -- proposals they believe are necessary to "prevent future presidential abuses" and "restore checks and balances" to government after nearly four years of battles with President Trump and the White House.
Drafted by party leaders at the direction of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., the 158-page proposal would add new reporting requirements to the president's use of the pardon power, and amend federal bribery law to include offering or granting of a pardon or commutation.
Democrats liken the package to the series of post-Watergate reforms passed in the wake of President Richard Nixon's resignation - which included changes to campaign finance regulations, added oversight to the intelligence community and transparency to government with the Freedom of Information Act.
"The rule of law applies to every person in this country, including the president and members of the administration," House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., said Tuesday at a news conference with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., and other senior Democrats to roll out the package.
"We owe it to the American people to put meaningful constraints on power, fix what is broken, and ensure that there is never again another Richard Nixon or Donald Trump from either party," Schiff said. "Even in a dangerous world, the threat to our democracy from outside the country is less than the threat from within."
The package would suspend the statute of limitations for any federal crime committed by a sitting president or vice president -- before or during terms in office -- while making it more difficult for a president to profit off of the presidency, codifying the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution and beefing up enforcement of any violations.
It would add new insulation between the Justice Department and White House to prevent political interference in law enforcement matters. It would require the attorney general to maintain a log of contacts between the White House and DOJ, and mandate reporting to the DOJ inspector general.
After struggling for years with the Trump administration's resistance to congressional oversight, House Democrats would add teeth to their subpoenas -- setting up an expedited process for the House and Senate to enforce subpoenas in civil court and greater penalties for noncompliance. Their proposal would also toughen federal ethics rules - adding a $50,000 fine for any violation of the Hatch Act, the provision meant to discourage government officials from engaging in partisan political activity on taxpayers' dime that Trump White House officials have repeatedly violated.
The package adds new safeguards around Congress's power of the purse, tightening strings that will make it more difficult for future presidents to shift funds without approval from Congress, while also limiting the president's power to shuffle senior officials between agencies without sign off from Capitol Hill.
It would also require campaigns to report contacts with foreign governments with the FBI and Federal Election Commission -- a provision Democrats have repeatedly tried to pass through Congress following the 2016 election and multiple investigations into the Trump campaign's interactions with Russia four years ago.
Democrats, who are hoping to retake the White House and Senate next year, said they haven't discussed the proposal with former vice president Joe Biden, even as they begin to coordinate with the Democratic nominee's campaign and transition team on messaging and potential agenda items next year.
"Just knowing his record, I think he'll be a strong supporter of this package," House Oversight Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney, D-New York, said Tuesday.
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Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty ImagesBy ALEXANDER MALLIN, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) -- A former top National Security Council career official who initially reviewed former national security adviser John Bolton's book manuscript has accused Trump Administration officials of "extraordinary" politicized intervention in the pre-publication review process, according to a major new filing in the government's ongoing civil lawsuit against Bolton.
Ellen Knight, the career NSC official who was first tasked with reviewing Bolton's book, The Room Where It Happened, and consulted with Bolton on removing any classified information, alleges a pressure campaign from officials in the White House and Justice Department to force her to reverse her position to help their standing in the case.
The development could significantly complicate the Justice Department's efforts to seize Bolton's profits or charge him criminally under the Espionage Act for mishandling classified information.
According to Knight, it was 10 days before the start of Trump's impeachment that the NSC legal team requested a copy of Bolton's manuscript and "then immediately started playing what was, in her experience, an outsize role in the review process."
Knight says Bolton's attorney Chuck Cooper at one point requested that her staff "prioritize the Ukraine chapter in the manuscript for prepublication review to make it publicly available during the impeachment trial," but "the then-Deputy NSC Legal Advisor [Michael] Ellis instructed her to temporarily withhold any response."
Prior to joining the White House Ellis was former counsel to the House Intelligence Committee when it was led by Rep. Devin Nunes.
Knight says she was "also regularly instructed by Mr. Ellis ... not to use email in her communications with NSC Legal about her interactions with Mr. Cooper and Ambassador Bolton and instead to use the telephone."
Bolton's book confirmed in essence the allegations at the heart of the impeachment trial, with direct recollection of Trump's pressure campaign against Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce an investigation into his political opponent former Vice President Joe Biden.
Knight, according to her lawyer Kenneth Wainstein, says at one point she was sat down for a four-hour session with members of the White House and NSC legal counsel including John Eisenberg and Patrick Philbin who she says "were trying to get her to admit that she and her team had missed something or made a mistake [in determining there was no longer classified information in the manuscript], which mistake could then be used to support their argument to block publication."
"To their consternation, Ms. Knight was able to explain the clear and objective reasoning behind her team’s decision-making as to each of the challenged passages," the filing says. "Having failed to secure Ms. Knight’s concession that this could all be chalked up to a difference between opinions, they changed tack and tried to persuade her to sign a declaration that purported to explain her role in the process."
Over what she outlines as five days and 18 hours worth of meetings with White House and DOJ attorneys, Knight says she "voiced her concerns about the fairness and objectivity of the process being followed" and that she specifically asked "how it could be appropriate that a designedly apolitical process had been commandeered by political appointees for a seemingly political purpose."
"The attorneys had no answer for her challenges, aside from a rote recitation of the government’s legal position that Ambassador Bolton had violated his contractual obligations by failing to wait for written clearance," the filing says. "However, when Ms. Knight speculated that this litigation was happening “because the most powerful man in the world said that it needed to happen,” several registered their agreement with that diagnosis of the situation.
Knight also describes retaliation within the White House when she refused to sign a declaration the White House and attorneys from the Justice Department wanted to use in their lawsuit against Bolton.
After being promoted in December 2019 to her career senior director position in the NSC and given assurances she would be hired as staff, Knight says that after refusal her "interaction with her leadership and NSC Legal all but ceased until June 22, when she received an automated email advising her that her detail would end in 60 days."
The Justice Department and White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The revelations from the filing could serve to bolster the case from Bolton and Cooper that because the White House allegedly politicized the prepublication review he was justified in moving forward with publication of the book.
"It was part of a stall," Bolton told ABC News in an exclusive interview around the book's release. "How do we know that? Because President Trump himself said that's what he was gonna do. He didn't want the book to be published. And then he said something interesting. He didn't want the book to be published before the election."
In a statement Wednesday, Cooper said that he had no involvement in Knight's decision to submit the filing to district Judge Royce Lamberth.
"We received the letter from Ms. Knight’s lawyer, Mr. Wainstein, late last night, and we are still assessing its implications for the Justice Department’s lawsuit," Cooper said. "We did not solicit the letter in any way; it came as a complete surprise."
It's unclear how Lamberth might react Knight's disclosures. He previously issued a ruling in the case that spelled trouble for Bolton stating that he agreed with the government's argument that the book contained highly classified material -- essentially paving the way for the government to possibly charge Bolton criminally under the Espionage Act.
"This was Bolton’s bet: If he is right and the book does not contain classified information, he keeps the upside... but if he is wrong, he stands to lose his profits from the book deal, exposes himself to criminal liability, and imperils national security. Bolton was wrong," Lamberth said.
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Official White House Photo by Tia DufourBy GARY LANGER
(NEW YORK) -- Donald Trump's economic argument pushes back against Joe Biden's pitch that he can better handle the coronavirus pandemic in Florida and Arizona alike, producing closely divided presidential contests in both states in new ABC News/Washington Post polls.
The critical Arizona Senate race, where the Democrats are pinning their hopes for control of the chamber, is also essentially tied in the new survey there.
[ CLICK HERE TO SEE THE FULL RESULTS FROM THE POLL ]
Registered voters in Florida split almost precisely evenly for the president, 47%-48%, Trump versus Biden, while it's 51%-47% among those most likely to vote. In Arizona, the presidential race stands at 47%-49% among registered voters and 49%-48% among likely voters. None of these differences is statistically significant.
Ditto for the Arizona Senate contest, where a 50%-45% match among registered voters between Democrat Mark Kelly and incumbent Republican Martha McSally is a still-tighter 49%-48% among likely voters.
The result in Florida befits its swing-state status, with sharp differences across regions and demographic groups. A challenge for Biden is his tepid 13-point lead among Hispanics in the state (using registered voters for an adequate sample size); Hillary Clinton won Florida Hispanics by 27 percentage points in 2016, yet narrowly lost the state. Trump also does better than elsewhere in Florida among college-educated whites -- though far better still with their non-college counterparts.
In Arizona, the closeness of the contest is a different story, given that the state has voted for a Democratic candidate for president just once since 1952 -- in 1996. There, Biden leads 61%-34% among Hispanic registered voters, leads among independents and is stronger than in Florida with college graduates. Trump makes it back by way of an advantage in party loyalty; among Arizona likely voters, Republicans outnumber Democrats by 7 points.
In both states, while Biden is strong among moderates, fewer liberals appear as likely voters compared with the 2016 exit polls. Conservatives account for nearly 4 in 10 voters; liberals, about 2 in 10.
Interviews for this survey, produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates, were conducted Sept. 15 to 20, overlapping the death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. There were no significant differences in partisan vote preferences before and after her death.
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P_Wei/iStockBy BENJAMIN SIEGEL and KENDALL KARSON, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) -- Hours after news of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death on Friday, Republicans rushed to embrace President Donald Trump's and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's plans to fill her seat on the court, despite the looming presidential election. Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., was one of the first GOP senators to support the decision, leaving Democrats scrambling for a plan to avoid welcoming a justice that could erase the decades of progress Ginsburg made for women, minorities and those in need.
She wasn't alone: Nearly every Republican senator lined behind Trump and McConnell, despite GOP opposition to holding a hearing for President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, eight months from the election in 2016.
That includes all but one of the half-dozen Republicans who, like McSally, are running for reelection in purple states this fall.
Even as they struggle to adjust to the surprise Supreme Court development in the final weeks before the election, Republicans running for reelection see both a historic opportunity to push the Supreme Court to the right for decades, with a 6-3 majority, and an opportunity to align more closely with Trump on a key issue for their party.
"Voting for a highly qualified woman justice may provide an energy to counteract what continues to be the biggest liability for many of the Republicans in swing seats: Trump," said Barbara Comstock, a former GOP congresswoman who worked in the Justice Department in the Bush administration, and on the confirmations of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito.
REPUBLICAN SENATORS CLOSE RANKS
Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., who is seen as the most endangered Republican incumbent ahead of November, didn't have an answer to questions about the vacancy at a candidate forum on Saturday.
But his office was prepared with a press release Monday evening, after he returned to Washington.
"I have and will continue to support judicial nominees who will protect our Constitution, not legislate from the bench, and uphold the law. Should a qualified nominee who meets this criteria be put forward, I will vote to confirm," he said in a statement released at 7 p.m., local time.
"Once the president puts forward his nominee for the Supreme Court, I will carry out my duty -- as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee -- to evaluate the nominee for our nation's highest court," Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, who is running neck-and-neck with Democrat Theresa Greenfield, said on Monday.
Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., who is in a competitive race against Democratic attorney Cal Cunningham, drew Trump's ire in 2017, after introducing a bill to help protect special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, and nearly faced a primary over what some state Republicans considered a lack of support for the president.
But he's drawn closer to Trump since then, warming up the crowd for him at a North Carolina rally on Saturday after announcing his support for considering Trump's nominee. There, the president even praised him for "being by my side."
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is the only Republican up for reelection this year -- and one of two in the Senate, with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska -- who has challenged McConnell's plans to bring a Supreme Court nominee through the chamber, weeks before the election.
"We're simply too close to the election, and in the interest of being fair to the American people -- and consistent, since it was with the Garland nomination -- the decision was made not to proceed, a decision that I disagreed with, but my position did not prevail," Collins said Tuesday on Capitol Hill. "I now think we need to play by the same set of rules."
By Tuesday, however, it appeared that McConnell had enough support to move ahead with confirming who Trump will name his nominee, especially after Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said he supports plans to fill the vacancy.
Collins is an exception to what appears to be the rule, having carved out a career as a moderate, pro-choice voice in the Senate GOP, who could also take issue with Trump's pledge to appoint judges who would "automatically" overturn Roe. v. Wade.
The timing of the Supreme Court vacancy could pose a challenge for Collins, and resurface her vote to confirm Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court in 2018. That move put her in Democrats' crosshairs in 2020, helping to propel her opponent Sara Gideon, the Democratic speaker of the Maine House. And her decision two years ago may still resonate with moderate voters who could ultimately decide the election.
"People will be reminded in Maine of how important that vote was and they are going to hold it against Collins in all likelihood," Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, said.
Sabato's crystal ball shifted Maine's Senate race in Democrats' favor on Monday morning, moving it from a toss-up to a lean toward the party.
Trump, too, is squeezing Collins for stepping out of line with his strategy, suggesting she will face electoral consequences.
"I think that Susan Collins is going to be hurt very badly, her people aren't going to take this. People are not going to take it," he said on Fox & Friends Monday.
WHERE THE SUPREME COURT FIGHT COULD HELP REPUBLICANS
Whit Ayres, a veteran Republican pollster, said supporting Trump's nominee and plans for the confirmation process will likely benefit some candidates -- particularly those like Sen. Steve Daines, a Montana Republican up for reelection against Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock, in a state the president carried by 20 percentage points.
"It depends totally upon what the president's job approval is in the state you're talking about," Ayres said.
In states where Trump's approval numbers are poor, "it complicates matters substantially because those Republicans need to have 100% of the Trump supporters plus a significant number of Biden supporters in order to win," he said.
With both sides looking to turn that energy into an electoral edge, that effort is becoming increasingly important in North Carolina, where a tight race could be the one that determines the balance of power in the Senate. Experts view the vacancy as a likely boon for Tillis' reelection bid, providing the first-term senator, who is trailing his Democratic rival in most polling, with a galvanizing issue for Republican voters still on the fence about him.
"It seems to me that would help him. North Carolina is right on the edge," Sabato said. "This could be the difference right here -- 10, 15, 20,000 votes -- keeping North Carolina in the Republican column for president and for Senate. It's too early."
DEMOCRATS WANT TO DELAY CONFIRMATION
As Republicans (mostly) toe the line with McConnell's path forward, the Democratic challengers across the key battlegrounds are issuing a singular refrain: Wait on the confirmation process until after the election.
Mark Kelly, a top Democratic recruit who is seeking to oust McSally in a special election, argued against rushing the process "for political purposes," previewing the fights to come over the next month or so.
"This is a decision that will impact Arizonans, especially with an upcoming case about health care and protections for pre-existing conditions," he said in a statement.
Kelly is in a unique position come the fall, since a special election allows for the possibility of him being seated early -- a hurdle that could complicate McConnell's plans if they extend into a lame duck session.
Barring any significant legal challenges, Kelly could be seated as early as Nov. 30, and both Republican and Democratic election law experts told ABC News that Arizona state law would allow him to take certified election results, showing him as the winner, to the Senate before January, in an attempt to assume McSally's seat.
"There's nothing in the statute that says that he has to wait until all the other new senators are sworn in," Andrew Gordon, a lawyer and a Democrat, said.
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FilmMagic/FilmMagic for U.S.VETSBy MOLLY NAGLE, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) -- Cindy McCain, the widow of Sen. John McCain, has crossed party lines to offer her endorsement of Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee for president.
“I, like everyone else, want to have a president that will have my back, that shows empathy and compassion, who has courage and dignity in how they lead and that's Joe Biden,” McCain said on ABC's Good Morning America Wednesday morning.
“I've known Joe for over 40 years, and my husband and I were good friends with them. And I just felt like it was time to take a stand on this,” she said.
McCain first offered her endorsement in a statement released Tuesday night.
"My husband John lived by a code: country first. We are Republicans, yes, but Americans foremost. There's only one candidate in this race who stands up for our values as a nation, and that is Joe Biden," Cindy McCain said.
"Joe and I don't always agree on the issues, and I know he and John certainly had some passionate arguments, but he is a good and honest man. He will lead us with dignity. He will be a commander in chief that the finest fighting force in the history of the world can depend on, because he knows what it is like to send a child off to fight," she continued. "There is too much at risk in this election to sit on the sidelines. Everything this country stands for is on the line. I'll be putting our country first and voting for Joe Biden, and I hope you will join me."
News of Cindy McCain's endorsement first came from Biden himself, who revealed during a virtual fundraiser Tuesday afternoon that he was speaking with her about her impending endorsement.
"Maybe I shouldn't say it, but I'm about to go on one of these Zooms with John McCain's wife, who... first time ever is endorsing me because of what he talks about with my son and John's who are heroes, who served their country, you know he [the president] said they're losers, they're suckers," Biden said, alluding to a report by the Atlantic that President Donald Trump made disparaging remarks about service members.
ABC News has not independently confirmed The Atlantic report, which cites four unnamed sources with direct knowledge of the claims.
“You know, you can say a lot of things but men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice are not losers, and people that serve are not losers,” McCain added Wednesday.
Prior to her official endorsement of Biden, Cindy McCain hinted at her support, lending her voice to a video highlighting Biden's friendship with her late husband during the Democratic National Convention in August.
Trump responded to McCain’s endorsement in a tweet Wednesday morning, saying in part, “Never a fan of John. Cindy can have Sleepy Joe!”
Trump and the late senator had an adversarial relationship throughout the 2016 campaign and Trump's presidency, with the president arguing that he did not view McCain, who was held as a prisoner of war for more than five years during the Vietnam War, a hero, because he was captured.
The Republican senator, in turn, withdrew his support for Trump during the 2016 election following the release of the Access Hollywood video that featured Trump making lewd comments about women. He also further angered the president by delivering a "thumbs down" vote to thwart efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act in 2017.
Cindy McCain joins a growing list of Republicans who have offered their support to Biden -- including former Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and former Pennsylvania Rep. Charlie Dent -- and could help Biden win over disaffected Republicans in the 2020 election, which is just 41 days away.
Her endorsement also comes as Biden is looking to expand his electoral map to include Cindy McCain's home state of Arizona, with recent state polling showing he and Trump are in a tight race in the state.
“I’m hoping that I can convince suburban women who are kind of on the fence about things to come with me on this and step out of their comfort zone and join Team Biden and, and vote a man in who would be not only a marvelous president, who shows the character the integrity, the values, and the wherewithal to be present,” McCain said on GMA.
Biden and John McCain shared a bipartisan friendship throughout their long political careers that included facing off against one another in the 2008 presidential election. Following McCain's death in 2018 from Glioblastoma, Biden gave a tearful eulogy of his friend.
"My name is Joe Biden. I'm a Democrat. And I loved John McCain," said Biden, who lost his son Beau in 2015 to the same disease that claimed John McCain's life.
"I always thought of John as a brother," he added. "We had a hell of a lot of family fights. We go back a long way."
In a tweet Tuesday night, Biden thanked Cindy McCain for her support.
"Cindy — I'm deeply honored to have your support and your friendship. This election is bigger than any one political party. It requires all of us to come together as one America to restore the soul of the nation. Together, we'll get it done," he wrote.
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