Republican senator blasts Trump in leaked phone call

U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) speaks during Supreme Court Justice nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett's Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing for Supreme Court Justice in the Hart Senate Office Building on October 12, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images)

Republican U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse told Nebraska constituents in a telephone town hall meeting that President Donald Trump has “flirted with white supremacists,” mocks Christian evangelicals in private, and “kisses dictators' butts.”

Sasse, who is running for a second term representing the reliably red state, made the comments in response to a question about why he has been willing to publicly criticize a president of his own party. He also criticized Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic and said Trump's family has treated the presidency “like a business opportunity.”

The comments were first reported by the Washington Examiner after it obtained an audio recording of the senator's comments, wh

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White House puts ‘politicals’ at CDC to try to control info

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The Trump White House has installed two political operatives at the nation’s top public health agency to try to control the information it releases about the coronavirus pandemic as the administration seeks to paint a positive outlook, sometimes at odds with the scientific evidence.

The two appointees assigned to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Atlanta headquarters in June have no public health background. They have instead been tasked with keeping an eye on Dr. Robert Redfield, the agency director, as well as scientists, according to a half-dozen CDC and administration officials who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal government affairs.

The appointments were part of a push to get more “politicals” into the CDC to help control messaging after a handful of leaks were “upsetting the apple cart,” said an administration official.

When the two appointees showed up in Atlanta, their roles were a mystery to senior CDC staff, the people said. They had not even been assigned offices. Eventually one, Nina Witkofsky, became acting chief of staff, an influential role as Redfield’s right hand. The other, her deputy Chester “Trey” Moeller, also began sitting in on scientific meetings, the sources said.

It’s not clear to what extent the two appointees have affected the agency’s work, according to interviews with multiple CDC officials. But congressional investigators are examining that very question after evidence has mounted of political interference in CDC scientific publications, guidance document

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5 takeaways from Trump and Bidens dueling town halls

Donald Trump and Joe Biden were in different cities for the dueling town halls Thursday that replaced their debate. But they may as well have been in different universes.

Replacing the presidential debate with competing conversations with voters was a fitting symbol of a politically divided and socially distanced America. Instead of speaking to, or even shouting at, each other, Trump and Biden spoke past one another on different networks, allowing Americans to choose a favored candidate to describe reality as they want to see it.

The town halls hosted by NBC in Miami for Trump and ABC in Philadelphia for Biden are unlikely to attract nearly the audience a debate would, history suggests, and even many Republicans were baffled by Trump’s decision to withdraw from the second presidential debate when he’s down in the polls and needs every opportunity possible to try disrupt the race’s status quo.

Going into the town hall, Biden led Trump by 9.2 points in the NBC News national polling average. Most swing-state polls in recent months show the Democrat to be the favorite.

It was not clear the town halls would change the trajectory.

Here are five takeaways from the two events:


At the first debate, Trump claimed he didn’t know much about the Proud Boys, a violent far-right extremist group, but told them to “stand back and stand by” in a move they heard as an endorsement.

In his NBC town hall, Trump claimed he didn’t know much about QAnon, the groundless conspiracy theory that claims elites r

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Biden holds a large lead over Trump nationally while swing-state polls show a closer race

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Joe Biden is holding on to his sizable lead over President Donald Trump in the national polls, but there are reasons for the Democratic nominee to worry about the handful of key states that could ultimately decide the election.

With just 19 days left until the Nov. 3 election, Biden's position on a national level looks strong, according to major polling trackers.

Here's what they showed Thursday morning:

The NBC News national polling average had Biden up more than 9 percentage points over Trump, 50.4%-41.2%. That figure is based on an unweighted average of the 10 most recent reliable public opinion polls. The RealClearPolitics general election polling average showed Biden with a 9.2-point lead over Trump. FiveThirtyEight's national polling tracker gave Biden a 10.3-point advantage. As of Thursday morning, the analytics site gave Biden an 87% chance of winning the election.

The former vice president has maintained a consistent lead by those measures, despite the tumultuous, and in many ways unprecedented, state of American politics. One of the biggest shifts of the race occurred within the last month, when Biden's polling lead grew wider after Trump's widely panned debate performance and the revelation that he had contracted the coronavirus.

Yet Biden holds a narrower advantage in states that will likely decide an Electoral College victory.

RealClearPolitics' gauge of polls in six crucial battleground states — Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona and North Carolina — currently shows Biden with a 4.9-point lead over Trump.

Those same states showed a larger gap in the polls for former Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at this point in the 2016 race against Trump, which

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