The latest on the 2020 election and SCOTUS battle

By Melissa Macaya, Mike Hayes and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 8:05 p.m. ET, September 28, 2020
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1:01 p.m. ET, September 28, 2020

Cindy McCain joins Biden transition team following endorsement

From CNN’s Sarah Mucha

Cindy McCain, the widow of the late Republican Sen. John McCain, is joining the Biden transition team as a member of its advisory board following her endorsement of Joe Biden, a source familiar confirms to CNN. 

“This transition is like no other, preparing amid the backdrop of a global health crisis and struggling economy, which makes Mrs. McCain’s experience as a business woman, philanthropist, and longtime advocate for issues impacting women and children all the more valuable," Ted Kaufman, co-chair of the Biden transition team, said in a statement.

McCain endorsed Biden in a tweet last week after Biden told donors that she was endorsing him.

The Wall Street Journal was first to report this development.

12:33 p.m. ET, September 28, 2020

Fourth judge rebukes USPS over changes it had planned ahead of election

From CNN's Katelyn Polantz

In a court decision Monday, Judge Gerald McHugh of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania says the Postal Service can't restrict extra or late trips for mail delivery and can't prohibit overtime so its workers can deliver mail.
In a court decision Monday, Judge Gerald McHugh of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania says the Postal Service can't restrict extra or late trips for mail delivery and can't prohibit overtime so its workers can deliver mail. Kyle Grillot/AFP/Getty Images

Another federal judge, this time in Pennsylvania, has decided the US Postal Service can't change mail delivery policy before the election. 

This is the fourth time a judge has rebuked USPS Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and the Trump administration and stepped in, after several Democratic-led states and others sued. 

In this latest court decision Monday, Judge Gerald McHugh of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania says the Postal Service can't restrict extra or late trips for mail delivery and can't prohibit overtime so its workers can deliver mail.

"As users of the mail who rely on the Postal Service’s historic commitment to a policy of 'every piece, every day,' Plaintiffs have been harmed in various and meaningful ways by these changes," the judge wrote. "That the Postal Service, by its own admission, cannot account for the way communications around late and extra trips have been interpreted in the field and around the country supports the conclusion that the Postal Service’s internal operating structure would be a barrier to ensuring that anything but a nationwide injunction could be effectively implemented."

The judge also notes that the Trump administration's approach to the lawsuit hurt their case, making it difficult for him to determine how involved USPS' top leaders were in making policy changes.

"I am troubled by, and draw negative inferences from, what appears to be a strategic effort by Defendants to limit the Court’s understanding of the significant degree to which some top officials of the Postal Service were directly involved in the operational changes that went into effect in July. My concern on that score weighs strongly in favor of injunctive relief, to assure that the necessary steps are taken to cure these critical deficits," McHugh wrote.

11:54 a.m. ET, September 28, 2020

Ransomware attack ahead of election raises worries about state and local government IT systems

From CNN's Brian Fung

LM Otero/AP
LM Otero/AP

A ransomware attack targeting one of America’s leading software providers has again raised concerns over the security of state and local governments’ IT systems, just weeks before those officials are set to run a pivotal national election.  

Tyler Technologies, a Texas-based firm that supplies data visualization software to some US election officials, acknowledged last week it had been hit by hackers. The attack, which the company confirmed was ransomware, targeted the firm’s internal corporate network and phone systems.   

Though hardly a household name, Tyler Technologies underpins many critical public sector functions. It sells what it calls “back-office” software to 9-1-1 dispatchers, county and state courts, property appraisers and public accounting officials. Last year, it booked more than $1 billion in revenues, according to its financial filings.  

It also offers software that can format and display election results, campaign finance data and information about polling places drawn from third-party sources.  

In a statement on its website, Tyler Technologies said those customer-facing systems are separate from the internal corporate systems affected by the ransomware attack. The software capable of displaying election information runs on Amazon servers, it said, and “very few Tyler clients enlist the application for this use.” The company is investigating the incident with the FBI. The company declined to comment for this story. 

Some background: Ransomware is a type of malicious software that locks up a victim’s computer and holds it hostage for payment, often in bitcoin or other cryptocurrency.  

The attack on Tyler Technologies is one of hundreds that have prompted growing alarm among security experts, law enforcement and government officials, who point to the growing boldness and sophistication of ransomware hackers as a cause for concern. The range of targets — from hospital systems to first-responders to government contractors — highlights the disruption that ransomware could cause at a national scale.   

"Ransomware is probably — globally — maybe between a $50 billion and $100 billion industry,” said James Lewis, a cybersecurity expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.   

Tyler Technologies is merely the latest victim in a string of attacks against public sector institutions. In June, the University of California – San Francisco paid more than $1 million to ransomware hackers. Earlier this month, public school administrators in Fairfax County, Va. disclosed that some of its systems had been compromised by ransomware, and after Emsisoft, a cybersecurity firm, noted that some of the school district’s data had been posted to a hacker website.  

Emsisoft, which has been tracking incidents of ransomware, said 113 governments or agencies were hit last year alone, and 75 this year.  

11:41 a.m. ET, September 28, 2020

Trump: "I am looking very forward to the debate"

From CNN's Sam Fossum

President Trump held an unexpected event on the South Lawn Monday morning during which he met with workers from Lordstown Motors, and touted the work being done there. Lordstown Motors is a small automotive startup that has drawn national attention for its electric pickup truck, which the President viewed today at the White House. 

"It has a lot of advantages," Trump said of the electric pickup truck. "This is the first time it's ever been done." 

After the brief event, Trump ignored shouted questions about his tax returns but briefly responded when asked about tomorrow's presidential debate. 

"I am looking very forward to the debate," the President said. 

He was joined by White House trade adviser Peter Navarro and Republican Senator Portman of Ohio, both of whom made brief remarks touting the jobs made by the plant in Lordstown, Ohio. 

12:06 p.m. ET, September 28, 2020

How the Biden campaign is reacting to the Trump tax report

From CNN's  Sarah Mucha

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Joe Biden's presidential campaign reacted swiftly following a bombshell report from The New York Times that Donald Trump paid no federal income taxes in 10 out of 15 years beginning in 2000, turning around a digital video and putting out merchandise within hours of the report's release.

In a 30-second video posted to the campaign's grassroots Twitter account and retweeted by Biden's official page, the campaign highlights different income taxes paid by teachers, flashing the text on the screen over somber music. "Teachers paid $7,239, Firefighters paid $5,283, Nurses paid $10,216," the text above the tweet reads. "Donald Trump paid $750."

The campaign also released stickers on their website late Sunday night with the text, "I paid more income taxes than Donald Trump."

While Biden himself has yet to respond, his deputy campaign manager, Kate Bedingfield, told CNN's Anderson Cooper last night that the report is yet another example of how the race is "between Park Avenue and Scranton," the campaign's latest messaging push that casts the choice between the two candidates as clash between the working class and America's elite.

"You have in Donald Trump a president who spends his time thinking about how he can work his way out of paying taxes, of meeting the obligation that every other working person in this country meets every year," Bedingfield said. "You know, with Joe Biden you have somebody who has a completely different perspective on what it means to be a working family in this country."

Bedingfield continued to blast the president, saying he "looks down on working people."

Biden unveiled that line of attack in a CNN town hall earlier this month, saying just outside of his hometown of Scranton that "the way we were raised up here in this area, an awful lot of hardworking people busting their neck, all they ask for is a shot."

He added, "All that President Trump could see from Park Avenue is Wall Street. All he thinks about is the stock market."

At a White House briefing Sunday, Trump denied The New York Times story and claimed that he pays "a lot" in federal income taxes.

"I pay a lot, and I pay a lot in state income taxes," he said

3:35 p.m. ET, September 28, 2020

Here's a look at what the New York Times' investigation revealed about Trump's taxes

From CNN's Michelle Toh

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

A bombshell New York Times investigation has offered the most conclusive proof yet that President Trump's business empire is nowhere near as successful as he claims.

Trump has for years cited his business acumen as a defining trait, and one that gave him an advantage over others seeking the presidency.

On Sunday, the New York Times published the deepest dive ever into the President's finances, citing detailed tax records that the newspaper says "portray a businessman who takes in hundreds of millions of dollars a year yet racks up chronic losses."

Trump on Sunday denied the New York Times story and claimed that he pays "a lot" in federal income taxes.

Here are some key takeaways from the report:

  • Trump paid no or little federal income taxes for years: According to the Times, he paid no federal income taxes in 11 out of 18 years the newspaper examined. He also managed to pay federal income taxes of just $750 in both 2016 and 2017. The report shed some light on how this was able to happen, namely by the way his businesses reported their earnings. "Throughout his career, Mr. Trump's business losses have often accumulated in sums larger than could be used to reduce taxes on other income in a single year," the Times reported. "But the tax code offers a workaround: With some restrictions, business owners can carry forward leftover losses to reduce taxes in future years."
  • Many of his businesses are burning huge piles of cash: According to the investigation, some of Trump's companies are doing well and profitable; others, not so much. Some of his best-known ventures "report losing millions, if not tens of millions, of dollars year after year," according to the Times. That includes his famous golf courses — which have reportedly racked up at least $315 million in losses over the past two decades.
  • Trump Tower in New York is a major moneymaker: The storied skyscraper, which sits on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, has "reliably delivered more than $20 million a year in profits, a total of $336.3 million since 2000," according to the Times. Trump's stake in two office towers in New York and San Francisco has also worked out well, delivering $176.5 million as of the end of 2018, the publication reported.
  • Trump's D.C. hotel is not: The Trump International Hotel in Washington D.C., which reportedly asked for relief on rent payments earlier this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, has lost more than $55 million since opening four years ago, the Times reported. The property has come under intense scrutiny in recent years amid allegations that Trump was unfairly profiting from his presidency.

Read more here.

11:15 a.m. ET, September 28, 2020

Trump continues to claim he pays "millions" in taxes

From CNN's Sam Fossum

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump took to Twitter Monday morning to attack the New York Times report on his taxes and repeating his claim that he paid "millions of dollars in taxes." The President also claimed he has "very little" debt, when compared to his assets. 

"The Fake News Media, just like Election time 2016, is bringing up my Taxes & all sorts of other nonsense with illegally obtained information & only bad intent. I paid many millions of dollars in taxes but was entitled, like everyone else, to depreciation & tax credits.....," The President wrote on Twitter. 

"Also, if you look at the extraordinary assets owned by me, which the Fake News hasn’t, I am extremely under leveraged - I have very little debt compared to the value of assets," President Trump continued. 

According to the New York Times, President Trump owes hundreds of millions of dollars in debt for which he is personally responsible in the next four years.

The Times report also said that Trump paid only $750 dollars in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017, that he paid no federal income taxes in 10 of the last 15 years before he became President, and that he's embroiled in a years-battle with the IRS over the legitimacy of a roughly $73 million tax refund he claimed.

The President also continued to sow doubt and undermine the 2020 presidential election, tweeting "The Ballots being returned to States cannot be accurately counted. Many things are already going very wrong!"

To be clear, and as CNN's teams have repeatedly fact checked, there is no evidence to suggest widespread mail-in voting leads to fraud in the U.S. CNN has also fact checked Trump's claims about specific recent incidents related to voting.

10:23 a.m. ET, September 28, 2020

Top Democratic Super PAC announces new $6.5 million investment in South Carolina

From CNN's Manu Raju

Senate Majority PAC, Senate Democrats' main super PAC, announced a new $6.5 million investment, including $5 million in television spending and an additional $1.5 million in digital advertising, in South Carolina on Monday.

This is its first investment in the state, per a news release from the group.

“There’s a reason Lindsey Graham is hitting the panic button and begging for donations on cable news: he’s vulnerable and he knows it,” said J.B. Poersch, president of Senate Majority PAC, writes.

What is this about: Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham faces a challenge this year from Democrat Jaime Harrison. Graham has recently been noting his fundraising struggles as money pours into Senate races from Democratic groups in the wake of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death and the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett.

On Sunday, he pitched his campaign website to Fox News viewers, telling host Maria Bartiromo, "I hate to keep saying that, but just the money is just overwhelming."

This also comes after the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee also announced a seven-figure investment in the state earlier this month.

9:57 a.m. ET, September 28, 2020

Bloomberg to spend $4 million for Biden canvassing efforts in Florida

From CNN’s Dan Merica and Caroline Kenny

Bill Pugliano/Getty Images
Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

Billionaire Mike Bloomberg, a former New York mayor and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, announced $4 million initial funding for canvassing, direct contact and organizing efforts in Florida, according to a news release.

Three groups will each receive a sum of the money:  

  • For Our Future PAC will receive $1.5 million and will work statewide to increase voter turnout in areas historically underrepresented at the polls
  • BlackPAC will receive $1 million and will focus on Black voter outreach in North and Central Florida
  • Somos PAC will receive $1.5 million and will focus on Latino voter outreach in Central Florida

What is this about: This is part of Bloomberg’s plan to spend at least $100 million in Florida.