Latest on 2020 election and SCOTUS battle

By Melissa Macaya and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 8:00 p.m. ET, September 25, 2020
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10:05 a.m. ET, September 25, 2020

White House disputes FBI director on voter fraud

From CNN's Allie Malloy

FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies during the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing titled Threats to the Homeland on September 24 in Washington, DC.
FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies during the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing titled Threats to the Homeland on September 24 in Washington, DC. Tom Williams/Pool/Getty Images

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows spent the morning going after FBI Director Wray and his comments that there is no evidence of coordinated voter fraud, saying on CBS “perhaps he needs to get involved on the ground and he would change his testimony on Capitol Hill.’

To be clear: As CNN's teams have fact checked repeatedly, there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the U.S. 

Meadows then told reporters on the north lawn that he “couldn’t speak” as to whether Trump has confidence in Director Wray. 

“With all due respect to Director Wray, he has a hard time finding emails in his own FBI, let alone figuring out whether there’s any kind of voter fraud,” Meadows said on CBS.

9:19 a.m. ET, September 25, 2020

Voters say racial injustice and SCOTUS are some of the top issues driving them to the polls

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

A panel of six voters expressed their concerns about racial injustice and the “hypocrisy” over the Supreme Court vacancy after Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death as some of the biggest issues motivating them to vote in November.

“I’m tired of turning on the news and watching people look like me being slaughtered for sport,” Felicia Rand, an Ohio voter who supports Joe Biden, said on CNN’s “New Day.”

“I don't want to have to keep explaining to my kids like why they have to move differently because of the color of their skin. … That should not be a reality in 2020, but here we are. I'm just ready for somebody to actually do what they say they'll do,” she added.

Rene Rodríguez, a Florida voter who supports Biden, said he wants to return to “some kind of status quo.”

“The chaos and racial division that we're living in today, I don't want it,” he said.

Dan Carter, a voter from Connecticut who supports President Trump, said that the economy is a top issue for him, and that Trump will do a better job than Biden. “I wish I could cut off his thumbs and he would stop tweeting … But the truth of the matter is, policy-wise, he's not done that bad.”

Four of six voters said they were motivated to vote because of the Supreme Court vacancy left by Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Thaddeus Jones, Jr., a South Carolina voter who supports Biden, said he “see[s] hypocrisy” in Republicans now. It spurred him to change his consideration of supporting Sen. Lindsey Graham in his state. “This fellow is just not a man of his word,” he said.

Carter, the Connecticut voter, said “there's a lot of hypocrisy on both sides right now, unfortunately.” He added that Obama nominee Merrick Garland should’ve gotten a hearing in 2016.

“I do hope they appoint somebody to the bench who is not an activist either way, and who believes in the precedent of law,” he said.

Watch more:

 

9:22 a.m. ET, September 25, 2020

Trump hasn't asked potential SCOTUS nominees how they would vote on an election challenge, Meadows says

From CNN's Joe Johns and Allie Malloy

President Trump has not asked potential Supreme Court nominees how they would vote in the event the Court is asked to decide a challenge to the 2020 presidential election, according to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. 

"No, he hasn’t,” Meadows said. "I’ve been in those interviews and I can tell you it’d be inappropriate for us to ask those kinds of questions."

The President has attracted criticism by claiming the ninth seat on the Court should be filled in the event a case tied to the election arrives on the Court’s docket.

Meadows indicated the President was concerned about the fact that currently there are eight justices on the court, raising the potential of the Court deadlocking in the event of a 4-4 tie. 

“I think his comments were more an indication that we need a full panel on the Supreme Court. You don’t want to ever provide a situation where there could be a tie," Meadows said. The Court has operated before with only eight justices, notably four years ago after the death of associate Justice Antonin Scalia.

 Questions have also been raised about whether the judicial impartiality of the President’s nominee could be sullied because of the President’s public focus on the possibility of an election challenge.

Asked if the President was creating an appearance of a conflict of interest for whoever he picks for the Court, Meadows said: “No more than any other judge that has been nominated by Donald Trump or Barack Obama or anybody else… I think we’ve seen from the court rulings already they’re an independent body.”

Meadows also said he doesn’t know whether the White House would be using a Sherpa to the extent they have in the past, telling Joe:  “I don’t know that we’ll be using a Sherpa as much.  We’ve been working with Leader McConnell in a very direct way.” 

“I’ve had daily conversations with leader McConnell and a number of senators because of Covid and the inability of Senators to actually engage more on an office by office basis. We’re looking at modifying that. If there’s a need for a Sherpa- we’ve actually have asked the leader for some recommendations there,” Meadows said.  

Meadows said to expect to see him and Pat Cipollone making the nominee available to a wide variety of Senators. 

 

9:09 a.m. ET, September 25, 2020

What you need to know about the Supreme Court nomination process

Analysis from CNN's Zachary B. Wolf

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death leaves the Supreme Court with a vacancy just weeks before the presidential election. President Trump is set to announce his nominee tomorrow.

Republicans are gearing up to jam through a successor and Democrats are howling about hypocrisy — because after Justice Antonin Scalia died in early 2016, Republicans refused to consider then-President Barack Obama's nominee, because it was too close to a presidential election.

Here's what we know about what happens next, and why it matters:

  • What happens next? President Donald Trump has to make a pick. He said he plans to announce his selection Saturday.
  • Who's on the short list? Trump recently released a short list of candidates but has said he'll pick a woman to replace Ginsburg, the second woman to join the court. Judges Amy Coney Barrett and Barbara Lagoa are seen as the top contenders.
  • Then what happens? Whoever is chosen will have to go through a Senate process, including public hearings. Then there's a committee vote. And then there's a Senate floor vote. Even without a nominee, the Senate is gearing up to put that process in motion, potentially before Election Day -- though, ironically, the last nomination to succeed with a less-than-two-month confirmation process was Ginsburg's, back in 1993.
  • How many votes does it take to confirm a new justice? Republicans ended the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees, so it takes only a simple majority. Vice President Mike Pence can break a 50-50 tie, which might happen if three Republicans decide they won't vote for Trump's nominee.
  • What if a confirmation doesn't happen before the election? Key Republican senators have said they won't support holding hearings before Election Day. (More on that in a second.) But a new Congress takes office January 3, so the current Senate, with the current Republican majority, has only until then to confirm a Trump nominee. Trump, however, remains in office until January 20 at noon, so a new Republican majority could also confirm a Trump pick in the new year even if he loses.

Read more here.

9:05 a.m. ET, September 25, 2020

Youth-focused groups say they had record numbers for National Voter Registration Day

From CNN's Rachel Janfaza

Youth-focused voter engagement organizations saw record high voter registration and engagement numbers on National Voter Registration Day.

Motivated in part by the Covid-19 death toll, the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg and what organizers describe as the urgency of the 2020 election, organizations including Rock the Vote, NextGen America and When We All Vote and companies such as Snapchat broke records with their voter engagement initiatives on Tuesday.

Rock the Vote, the longstanding nonpartisan voter registration organization, had their biggest National Voter Registration Day ever, the organization told CNN.

According to the organization, 200,000 people submitted voter registration applications or confirmed their registration across all sites that use Rock the Vote's platform Tuesday. For comparison, in 2016, Rock the Vote had just under 105,000 registrations on National Voter Registration Day. At the time, Rock the Vote did not have a tool allowing voters to check their registration status on its website.

"The engagement we saw on National Voter Registration Day is really encouraging," Carolyn DeWitt, president of Rock the Vote, told CNN. "Young people understand the gravity of this moment, we have seen them leading the charge on our streets and are translating and carrying that momentum into this election. But, we still have work to do to ensure voters, especially young voters have the information they need to vote in this unusual year and cast an informed ballot electing leaders with their values at every level of government."

According to When We All Vote, former first lady Michelle Obama's nonpartisan voter engagement organization, more than 82,000 voters started or completed the registration process with When We All Vote since Saturday.

On Tuesday alone, 44,000 voters started or completed registration and more than 300,000 people visited the resources on When We All Vote's website. Volunteers with the organization texted more than 500,000 voters and students with information about voting.

Read more here.

9:34 a.m. ET, September 25, 2020

White House chief of staff: Trump "commits to peaceful transfer as long as it's a fair election"

From CNN's Allie Malloy 

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows speaks with reporters at the White House on September 17 in Washington, DC.
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows speaks with reporters at the White House on September 17 in Washington, DC. Alex Brandon/AP

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on Friday claimed that President Trump “commits to a peaceful transfer as long as it’s a fair election” but did not determine how the president determines what is “fair”.

“We want to make sure that every vote counts but that only the vote from one voter to the ballot box is what gets counted and nothing less, nothing more. So that’s what he’s referring to,” Meadows attempted to explain on CBS This Morning.

“That’s what we’re committed to. We’re seeing some very problematic rulings by judges in certain states across the country. Hopefully we’ll be able to make sure that this election goes off like every other election and that the winner on November 3rd will certainly be the new president sworn in on January 20th,” Meadows added.

When pressed further by reporters on the north lawn, Meadows said: “Here’s what we want to make sure of — is that laws are not changed by a few judges making… don’t change laws that are on the books just so that you can extend the election time. Most states, North Carolina and others, have a very long time for them to be able to cast ballots either in person or by mail leading up to November 3rd. So to suggest that we should have November 3rd plus a week or plus two weeks… is not something that I think is necessary.”

9:37 a.m. ET, September 25, 2020

GOP downplays Trump's refusal to commit to peaceful transition of power

From CNN's Manu Raju, Clare Foran and Jeremy Herb

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

President Donald Trump's stunning refusal to commit to a peaceful transition of power was mostly dismissed by Republicans on Capitol Hill, with many downplaying the remarks as merely rhetoric and others deflecting questions about a comment that Democrats fear could threaten a fundamental principle of American democracy.

"The President says crazy stuff. We've always had a peaceful transition of power. It's not going to change," said Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, who has been an occasional critic of the President.

While Republicans insisted there would be a peaceful transition, many did not go so far as to explicitly criticize his remarks after Trump on Wednesday would not commit to providing a peaceful transition of power after Election Day, lending further fuel to concerns he may not relinquish his office should he lose in November.

House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy on Thursday insisted there will be a peaceful transition, but also suggested he is not concerned by the remarks.

"Let me be very clear to you: It'll be peaceful," McCarthy said, adding, "no questions, no qualms, no concerns, it's going to be peaceful."

Trump's comments amounted to a familiar pattern on Capitol Hill: Stoking a controversy, and putting Republicans in a jam. But this time, he stoked fears about a basic tenet of democracy, forcing Republicans to weigh in and insist the election results will be adhered to — even if many didn't want take him on by name.

The No. 2 Senate Republican, John Thune of South Dakota, told CNN that he and other Republicans would stand up to Trump if he tried an extra-constitutional power grab.

"Republicans believe in the rule of law, we believe in the Constitution, and that's what dictates what happens (in) ... our election process and so yes," Thune said when asked if he is confident that Republicans would not permit a non-peaceful transfer power to occur.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rarely weighs in on controversial Trump comments, but did so on Thursday, although he didn't single out the President.

"The winner of the November 3rd election will be inaugurated on January 20th. There will be an orderly transition just as there has been every four years since 1792," McConnell, who is running for reelection this cycle in Kentucky, tweeted Thursday morning.

Mitt Romney of Utah, the lone Senate Republican to break ranks and vote to convict during the President's impeachment trial, however, went the furthest and was sharply critical of the President's message, though he did not refer to him by name in his response.

"Fundamental to democracy is the peaceful transition of power; without that, there is Belarus. Any suggestion that a president might not respect this Constitutional guarantee is both unthinkable and unacceptable," Romney tweeted Wednesday evening, referencing the disputed presidential elections in Belarus.

Read more Republican reactions here.