Politics Headlines

iStock/yorkfotoBY: CONOR FINNEGAN

(WASHINGTON) -- As the Belarusian government continues its violent crackdown on pro-democracy protests, the U.S. has remained relatively muted in its response -- weighing whether the carrot or stick will work best in this historic moment for the former Soviet state.

In the four days since Belarus's contested presidential election was marked by allegations of rigging and intimidation, mass demonstrations against President Alexander Lukashenko's 26-year rule have swept across the country. But the autocratic president has responded with brute force, detaining at least 6,700 people and injuring hundreds more.

The crisis comes months after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Belarus in a bid to boost U.S. influence and move the country further from Russia's orbit. But that strategy, including new deliveries of American oil and gas and possibly dispatching a new U.S. ambassador, the first since 2012, is now imperiled amid rising calls for pressure on Lukashenko.

Pompeo said Wednesday the U.S. is considering its options, but seemed to pump the brakes on any immediate action like halting those energy shipments or not sending an ambassador. Lukashenko booted the last U.S. ambassador and all but five embassy staff in 2012 after U.S. sanctions over human rights abuses.

President Donald Trump has not yet weighed in on the situation. Pompeo has avoided criticizing Lukashenko directly, while still decrying the elections as "not free and fair," condemning violence against peaceful protesters, and calling for "good outcomes for the Belarusian people."

The European Union is moving towards sanctions to achieve those outcomes. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Thursday the bloc must "increase the pressure on those in power," while Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said Wednesday, standing alongside Pompeo, that the EU "should not only issue declarations, but also will take some actions, take some measures."

But Pompeo wouldn't commit to anything concrete amid a tour of four Central and Eastern European countries, telling Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Wednesday, "We're still pretty fresh off this election, and we need to see how things settle out here in the near future."

Critics like Michael McFaul, President Barack Obama's ambassador to Russia, have accused Pompeo of pulling punches, noting that he didn't mention Belarus during a speech to the Czech Senate Wednesday that was titled, "Securing Freedom in the Heart of Europe."

Democratic lawmakers have called for the White House to withdraw the nomination of Julie Fisher, the career Foreign Service officer who was nominated in May to be the ambassador.

"While I support greater ties between the United States and the Belarusian people, now is not the time to be elevating the diplomatic relationship with Lukashenko's government. Sending an Ambassador to Minsk now, for the first time in over a decade, would signal that the United States condones these actions," said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

During her confirmation hearing before the committee last week, Fisher even noted the presidential election would be a key marker as the U.S. tries to thaw relations: "The first component to ensuring that we can continue to grow this relationship is to not see steps backward in the conduct of this presidential election."

But she also told the Senate panel, "The goal of this process is... to see whether our enhanced engagement can actually lead to greater results as we seek to support the aspirations of the Belarusian people" -- the same argument Pompeo made during his Feb. 1 visit to Minsk.

"We've seen improvement here, and we think our engagement can continue that, can help Belarus to continue to make improvements along the way," he said alongside Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei.

ABC News's Patrick Reevell contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


iStock/Andrei StanescuBY: MIRIAM KHAN

(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump suggested in a Fox News interview on Thursday that he is unwilling to strike a deal with Democrats that includes desperately-needed funds for the ailing U.S. Postal Service, and his critics are warning his opposition could hinder mail-in voting during the election in November.

Trump has for weeks railed against mail-in voting, making numerous false claims that he repeats regularly in a bid to question the integrity of the upcoming election by asserting that mail-in voting will lead to voter fraud. The new head of the U.S. Postal Service, Louis DeJoy – a Trump donor – recently made several changes to the agency that could potentially disrupt mail for millions of Americans, particularly absentee and mail-in ballots ahead of Election Day.

"Now, they need that money in order to make the Post Office work, so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots," Trump said Thursday on Fox News.

"Now, if we don’t make a deal, that means they don’t get the money. That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting, they just can’t have it," he added.

His latest suggestion Thursday further fueled allegations from critics that he is seeking to manipulate the postal system for political gain.

This follows comments Trump made just the day before, on Wednesday, at his daily pandemic press briefing. Trump said he would not approve $25 billion in emergency funding for the Postal Service, or $3.5 billion in supplemental funding for election resources, citing high costs.

"They don’t have the money to do the universal mail-in voting. So therefore, they can’t do it, I guess," Trump said. "Are they going to do it even if they don’t have the money?"

In May, Democrats passed legislation to address the ongoing coronavirus public health crisis that included allocating $25 billion over three years to the Postal Service. Democratic leaders also proposed an additional $3.5 billion in supplemental funding to protect federal elections.

Democrats have insisted that the proposed $25 billion for the USPS came in a plea directly from the agency’s Board of Governors and not from Democrats themselves.

The backlash to the president’s comments was swift.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared Trump as "afraid of the American people" and blamed him for creating obstacles for voters.

"There are people who think that the Post Office is election central in this election. Maybe the president thinks that, too, and that's why he wants to shut it down," Pelosi said Thursday during her weekly press briefing on Capitol Hill. "The president is afraid of the American people. He's been afraid for a while, he knows that on the legit, it'd be hard for him to win. So he wants to put obstacles of participation."

"…it's a health issue, you shouldn't have to choose between your health and your ability to cast your vote," she added.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, Trump declared: "There's nothing wrong with getting out and voting. You get out and vote. They voted during World War I and World War II."

Presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden’s campaign also weighed in to cry foul over the president’s statements, calling his accusations an "assault on our democracy."

"The President of the United States is sabotaging a basic service that hundreds of millions of people rely upon, cutting a critical lifeline for rural economies and for delivery of medicines, because he wants to deprive Americans of their fundamental right to vote safely during the most catastrophic public health crisis in over 100 years -- a crisis so devastatingly worsened by his own failed leadership that we are now the hardest hit country in the world by the coronavirus pandemic," Biden spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement.

"Even Donald Trump's own campaign has endorsed voting by mail and his own administration has conclusively refuted his wild-eyed conspiracy theories about the most secure form of voting. This is an assault on our democracy and economy by a desperate man who's terrified that the American people will force him to confront what he's done everything in his power to escape for months -- responsibility for his own actions," Bates said.

Pelosi, D-Calif., and 174 other Democrats signed a letter sent Wednesday to DeJoy demanding the agency reverses those operational changes they contend would hamper mail-in voting on Nov. 3.

"It is always essential that the Postal Service be able to deliver mail in a timely and effective manner. During the once-in-a-century health and economic crisis of COVID-19, the Postal Service's smooth functioning is a matter of life-or-death, and is critical for protecting lives, livelihoods and the life of our American Democracy," the lawmakers said in their letter.

"The House is seriously concerned that you are implementing policies that accelerate the crisis at the Postal Service, including directing Post Offices to no longer treat all election mail as First Class. If implemented now, as the election approaches, this policy will cause further delays to election mail that will disenfranchise voters and put significant financial pressure on election jurisdictions."

Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer also held a meeting with DeJoy on Capitol Hill earlier this month that Schumer later told reporters was "heated."

DeJoy released his own statement this month defending his practices.

"Although there will likely be an unprecedented increase in election mail volume due to the pandemic, the Postal Service has ample capacity to deliver all election mail securely and on-time in accordance with our delivery standards, and we will do so," DeJoy said in a statement.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(WASHINGTON) -- Former Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday called for immediate mask mandates nationwide for the next three months, keeping the focus on drawing a stark contrast between how he would respond to the pandemic crisis compared to how he says it's been mishandled by President Donald Trump.

Trump fired back at an evening news conference, saying, "We want to have a certain freedom, that's what we’re about."

"He wants the federal government to issue a sweeping new mandate to law-abiding citizens, wants the president of the United States with the mere stroke of a pen to order over 300 million American citizens to wear a mask for a minimum of three straight months," Trump said.

Biden, notably, called on governors to issue mask mandates in their states, though Trump said Biden doesn't understand the powers of the president to issue such an order.

"Different states are much different, both in terms of the atmosphere itself and also in terms of the corona problem," Trump continued. "He does not identify what authority the president has to issue such a mandate or how federal law enforcement could possibly enforce it or why we would be stepping on governors throughout our country, many of whom have done a very good job and they know what is needed."

"Today I want to talk about one thing, very straightforward. It doesn't have anything to do with Democrats, Republicans, or Independents. It has to do with a simple simple proposition," Biden said in remarks following a coronavirus briefing with his newly-minted running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, continuing the main attack line he and Harris started making in their nationwide debut on Wednesday.

"Every single American should be wearing a mask when they're outside for the next three months, at a minimum. Every governor should mandate -- every governor -- should mandate mandatory mask wearing," Biden said.

Joe Biden calls for nationwide mask mandate.

"Let's institute a mask mandate, nationwide, starting immediately—and we will save lives." https://t.co/pi2KaoamQI pic.twitter.com/8c5yPAsSpK

— ABC News Live (@ABCNewsLive) August 13, 2020

It's not lost on the Biden-Harris campaign that it took the president two months to wear a mask in public after he first announced the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance on the practice in a news conference.

"The estimates by the experts are it will save over 40,000 lives in the next three months. 40,000 lives if people act responsibly. And it's not about your rights. It's about your responsibilities as an American," Biden said.

Calling on every governor to issue a mask mandate in their state, Biden said he hopes the president has "learned the lesson" now that masks save lives but added it's not about politics.

"Look, this is America. Be a patriot. Protect your fellow citizens. Protect your fellow citizens. Step up. Do the right thing. Do the right thing," Biden implored. "So let's institute a mask mandate nationwide, starting immediately."

Harris, speaking after Biden, said the call for a mask mandate "real leadership."

"What real leadership looks like is Joe Biden. To speak up. Sometimes, telling us the stuff that we don't necessarily want to hear, but we need to know," Harris said.

"The thing about Joe that the American people know is that his role of leadership in our country has always been about doing what's best for the people of our country," Sen. Kamala Harris says. https://t.co/f6jjBBNEAX pic.twitter.com/QgCTCL9Csa

— ABC News Live (@ABCNewsLive) August 13, 2020

Harris also encouraged the public to keep pressure on the Trump administration for a timeline on a vaccine for COVID-19.

"I think it's important that the American people looking at the election coming up, ask the current occupant of the White House, 'When am I going to get vaccinated?'" she said. "Because there may be some grand gestures offered by the current president, about a vaccine, but it really doesn't matter until you can answer the question."

Heading into the election, the coronavirus is an issue at the top of the ticket for many voters -- and Democrats want to highlight to voters how they say their ticket would handle the deadly pandemic better than the president.

Earlier Thursday, inside a makeshift, television-like studio at a hotel in downtown Wilmington, Delaware, Biden and Harris participated in their first joint COVID-19 briefing with health care experts over a video call as deaths from the virus rise in the United States.

Seated at spaced-out tables that faced one another before a large screen that featured at least four doctors -- at least some of whom have been regularly briefing Biden for the last four months -- the candidates briefly spoke with reporters before their later remarks.

"These are some of the brightest minds, not only in our country but internationally. And as the vice president has been saying since the beginning of this pandemic it should be the public health professionals that are leading policy in our country to address this lethal pandemic," Harris told reporters.

The Biden-Harris campaign presented the event as two briefings in one that will address both the public health crisis and the economic downturn from the pandemic -- with former Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet Yellen appearing as a part of the group briefing the candidates on the economy.

Biden later said the briefing focused on the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on different races and the availability of PPE and testing capacity.

The events come one day after Biden and Harris' first joint appearance as running mates in which the pair slammed Trump's response to the coronavirus crisis.

"This virus has impacted almost every country, but there's a reason it has hit America worse than any other advanced nation. It's because of Trump's failure to take it seriously from the start," Harris said Wednesday, the same day the U.S. reported its highest number of deaths from coronavirus in a single day since mid-May.

Biden called out Trump for touting himself as a dealmaker yet taking to the golf course instead of working across the aisle on a coronavirus relief deal for Americans while negotiations hit an impasse "like every other president has done in a crisis, to get Americans the relief they need and deserve."

Together the two hit on the president's mixed messages on the virus since it arrived on U.S. soil.

Trump continued to hold mega-rallies through June, despite warnings from health care experts to limit group events, especially indoors, due to social distancing concerns, and he largely stopped holding public coronavirus briefings at the end of April, until recently reviving them three months later in late July amid poor polling numbers.

The federal government still largely lacks a national strategy on reopening schools, a point the Biden and Harris campaign are likely to seize on, while Trump continues the push for full in-person instruction.

Harris on Wednesday took a quick swipe at Trump on schools calling the current state over when and how to reopen "complete chaos."

Countdown to Conventions

Both campaigns also have the challenge of delivering acceptance speeches in the time of COVID-19, largely without the pomp and circumstance of previous years.

The Biden campaign confirmed Thursday that Biden and Harris will both give their acceptance speeches for the Democratic National Convention at the Chase Center, a large event space on the waterfront in Wilmington, Delaware.

Trump said he'll deliver his acceptance speech from the White House of the battlefield of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, despite criticism to both venues.

And in spite of the Democratic National Convention making the move to have all its speakers appear virtually instead of in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Trump announced he would travel to Wisconsin Monday, the first day of the DNC.

"I'll be there, as a matter of fact, on Monday and many times throughout the campaign and beyond," Trump said on a tele-rally with supporters Wednesday night.


ABC News' Molly Nagle and Averi Harper contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(WASHINGTON) -- The Democratic National Convention will feature a star-studded array of the country’s most prominent party leaders, key allies of presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, and rising stars in Democratic circles.

Former first lady Michelle Obama, former second lady Jill Biden, former President Barack Obama, and the former vice president headlining each of the four nights, according to a schedule released by the Democratic Party.

Monday, the first night of the convention, showcases a slate of speakers who reflect the ideological spectrum lined up behind Biden’s candidacy, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, the progressive stalwart who was Biden’s chief rival for the Democratic nomination, and former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a former GOP presidential contender who competed against President Donald Trump in 2016.

Michelle Obama, who has opted to remain mostly on the sidelines throughout the 2020 political season, is emerging front and center at a crucial time for the party to project unity and will deliver the keynote speech.

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.
  • Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev.
  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo
  • Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer
  • Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C.
  • Convention chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss.
  • Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis.
  • Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich
  • Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala.
  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.
  • Former first lady Michelle Obama

ABC News Live will kick off primetime coverage each day at 7 p.m. ET on the network’s steaming news channel and primetime coverage will air from 10-11 p.m. ET each night of the convention on the ABC Television Network.

Tuesday features both a look at some of the party's more established leaders and its youngest stars, including New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and former President Bill Clinton. Ocasio-Cortez will only be allotted one minute for her speech, ABC News confirmed. The limited time is roiling progressives who view her speaking time as a slight to the movement by the establishment and a reflection of the broader disconnect between the national party and younger, more diverse voters.

And under the theme of "leadership matters," the night will also include former acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates, who briefly oversaw the investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, former Secretary of State John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, and Delaware Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, a close friend of Biden's who was one of the co-chairs of his vice presidential search team.

Jill Biden will deliver the night’s keynote speech.

  • Former acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates
  • Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer
  • Former Secretary of State John Kerry
  • Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.
  • Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del.
  • Former President Bill Clinton
  • Former second lady Dr. Jill Biden

Hillary Clinton, the 2016 presidential nominee, is set to speak on Wednesday, the same night as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and some of the women speculated to have been on Biden’s shortlist for a vice president, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren and New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. Gabrielle Giffords, the former congresswoman from Arizona who was severely injured when a gunman opened fire at a campaign event in Tucson, will also speak.

The night leads up to a speech by Biden's running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, just before Barack Obama is set to close out the night.

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
  • Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.
  • Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers
  • New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham
  • Former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords
  • Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.
  • Former President Barack Obama

The event culminates on Thursday, under the header of "America's Promise" and features a number of the women who were considered to be in contention to be Biden’s running mate -- including Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth -- a number of Biden’s former 2020 rivals, including Sen. Cory Booker and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and members of Biden’s family.

They all lead up to Biden's speech, during which he will formally accept the party’s presidential nomination.

  • Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J.
  • California Gov. Gavin Newsom
  • Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms
  • Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis.
  • Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill.
  • Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del.
  • The Biden family
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden

While some of the speeches will be live, others will be pre-recorded -- a result of the changing circumstances due to the pandemic and the need to minimize any technical issues.

Mike Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor and 2020 presidential candidate, is also speaking in the convention, an aide for the former mayor confirmed to ABC News. Details on which day he is set to appear are still to be announced. Bloomberg has long been a friend and ally of Biden's, endorsing him immediately after suspending his presidential bid.

Andrew Yang, a former presidential contender who was not initially among the listed speakers, expressed some dismay about not being included in the schedule. Two days after shared his surprise, he announced he has been added to the speaker lineup, and will be appearing on Thursday at 9 p.m.

I’ve got to be honest I kind of expected to speak.

— Andrew Yang🧢🇺🇸 (@AndrewYang) August 11, 2020

Yang is also expected to be part of a virtual segment featuring 13 former 2020 presidential candidates who competed against Biden, a Democratic official confirmed to ABC News. The former candidates, who will be on video through a platform similar to Zoom, will offer a shared vision of the party’s future across two videos, one on Monday, the first night of the convention, and one on Thursday, the night of Biden’s speech.

Some of the candidates will make individual remarks on top of the collective videos, which will feature some of the Democrats in both. The 13 former presidential candidates include Sens. Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren; Reps. Seth Moulton and Beto O'Rourke; Julián Castro, Andrew Yang, Gov. Jay Inslee, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and billionaire Tom Steyer.

All of the speeches are set to take place during two hours of primetime, 9-11 p.m. ET, with each day of the gathering centering around the theme of "Uniting America" -- one that the party views as a sharp contrast between Biden’s vision and leadership and Trump’s and one that also draws on the chief conflict throughout the primary that frequently pitted the moderate faction against the progressive wing.

In the months since wrapping up the Democratic primary and before he formally takes the helm of the party, Biden has attempted to navigate those dueling political currents that he needs to tame to successfully execute his primary goal: to unite the entire Democratic coalition.

The slate of speakers aims to highlight Biden’s efforts to not only court uncertain progressives, but also demonstrate his commitment to broadening the coalition, which includes some disillusioned Republicans such as Kasich, that he hopes will deliver him the White House in November. Additional speakers, including national leaders, advocates and celebrities will be announced in the coming days, according to convention planners.

The convention, which was planned to be in Milwaukee in July, has been hobbled by the virus. Organizers first pushed the date back to August, then pared-back the event by anchoring it in the city with a mix of virtual events and, ultimately, announced earlier this month that the gathering was moving to an almost entirely virtual affair, with Biden scheduled to accept the nomination from his home state of Delaware.

Details around Biden’s speech have yet to be released, but his decision reflects just how much the coronavirus pandemic has transformed planning for the quadrennial event. Delegates and members of Congress, too, were told to stay home rather than travel to Milwaukee.

Less than one week out, an event that historically takes years to plan, is the capstone of the party's nominating process and typically attracts thousands of supporters and party loyalists is still being finalized.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) -- Former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin said she hopes the media will treat Joe Biden's vice presidential pick, California Sen. Kamala Harris, "not as personally rough" as they treated her in 2008, but that shouldn't mean she's given a pass.

"A lot of the coverage of me was quite unfair ... I hope that they will treat her fairly," Palin said in an exclusive interview on ABC's Good Morning America Thursday. "But at the same time, no kid gloves ... the American voter wants to know that we have the most capable people running and who will be elected, regardless of gender, regardless of race."

The former Alaska governor said she has already seen a lot of woman come out in support of Harris, urging against sexist attacks, which she said wasn't done for her or the first female vice presidential nominee, Geraldine Ferraro.

Palin became the second woman chosen to join a major party's ticket when the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chose her as his running mate during his presidential run against Barack Obama in 2008.

Before Palin, Ferraro made history in 1984 as the first woman chosen for the vice presidential slot, when former Democratic nominee Walter Mondale tapped her.

"I would like to think that both Geraldine Ferraro and I, in our respective parties, we were able to kind of bust down some doors and show some American voters who perhaps were hesitant to believe that women are capable of doing a whole lot of things all at once ... we were able to prove that," Palin told ABC News anchor Amy Robach.

After Biden announced he had chosen Harris, Palin took to Instagram to offer some tips for Harris as she navigates the final stretch of the presidential campaign by Biden's side. Two of those tips were "don't get muzzled" and "have fun!"

"Some campaign managers they sure attempted to muzzle and for a while there, I was muzzled. So I hope that she doesn't go through that," Palin said on GMA. "I hope that you know she stands strong and reminds campaign managers, you know, you don't know any more than anybody else."

Palin said she had a blast running alongside McCain, adding, "I would do it again in a heartbeat."

"It was just the most the most amazing experience to get to see America, to get to see Americans and who it is that makes this country so great," she said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) -- Sen. Kamala Harris steps into her new role as Joe Biden's vice presidential nominee on a relative high note. Harris receives strong marks as the pick and Biden receives credit for choosing the California senator, as she is the only contender across both presidential tickets who enjoys a net positive favorability rating, according to a new ABC News/Ipsos poll released Thursday.

Two in three Americans in the new survey, which was conducted using Ipsos' KnowledgePanel, are familiar enough with her to form an opinion, and among those who do, she's viewed slightly more positively than negatively -- a significant accomplishment at a moment of deep political divide and animosity towards the nation's leaders.

Harris, who is less well-known than the three men, has a favorability rating of 35%, while 31% view her unfavorably. Her favorability soars to 71% among Democrats.

That number among Black Americans, a core constituency of the party's base, stands at 52% but a large portion, roughly 40%, doesn't know enough about her to rate her or had no opinion of her.

Just over one-third of Americans have a favorable opinion of President Donald Trump, while a clear majority -- 58% -- have an unfavorable view of the president. Nearly one-third view Vice President Mike Pence favorably, while 45% have an unfavorable impression of him.

For Biden, a slightly higher 40% of Americans view him favorably, compared to 43% who have an unfavorable perception of the former vice president.

Biden also earns positive marks for his decision to place Harris on the ticket, with an equal 40% of Americans both approving of the decision and viewing his decision-making favorably for it. Only 23% disapprove of the move and 26% see the choice as a negative reflection of his ability to make important decisions.

He acknowledged the gravity of his decision when he announced his pick, which 44% of Americans consider to be excellent or good in the new poll, compared to only 28% who rate his choice of Harris as not so good or poor.

"You make a lot of important decisions as president. But the first one is who you select to be your Vice President. I've decided that Kamala Harris is the best person to help me take this fight to Donald Trump and Mike Pence," Biden wrote in an email to supporters.

Biden announced on Tuesday that he asked Harris to be his running mate -- a historic choice that culminated a months-long process that largely took place in secret. She is the first Black woman, the first person of Indian descent and the third woman in history to be selected to be a vice presidential running mate.

Throughout the vice presidential search, Biden repeatedly insisted he was looking for someone who would be "simpatico" with him in their vision of leadership and agenda, and would be ready to step into the role of president "on day one."

The new poll finds that Americans are more likely to believe that Harris is qualified for the nation's highest office than not.

Four in 10 Americans, and 43% of registered voters, believe that the former California attorney general, who was first elected to the Senate in 2016, is qualified to assume the role of president if necessary -- a potentially more salient reality for the Biden-Harris ticket because if Biden is elected in November, he will be the oldest first inaugurated president in the country's history at the age of 78. Only 32% of Americans and 33% of registered voters don't think she would be qualified to serve as president.

Before Harris was selected, there was some angst among those on the left about her tough-on-crime record in law enforcement, despite Harris describing herself as a "progressive prosecutor." She was the San Francisco district attorney from 2004 to 2011, before becoming California's attorney general, a position she held from 2011 to 2017. Aspects of her career were under intense scrutiny throughout the primary, particularly among her more liberal opponents, who believed her progressive posture on the campaign trail did not reflect in her prosecutorial record.

After the campaign where she was cast as too far to the right on criminal justice issues, 9% of Americans, and 8% of registered voters, view Harris as too conservative.

That number ticks up to 13% among Democrats, to 15% among Black Americans and to 18% among Hispanics.

Harris and Biden's relationship was tenuous at times throughout the primary, after she criticized him on his record on race at the early debates. But he embraced his one-time rival -- who was seen as more middle-of-the-road in the primary and has already been a difficult target for the president and his campaign to define.

As the GOP ticket adjusts to their new rival, Harris' marks in the new poll also show more public confidence in her than her Republican counterpart.

By an eight-percentage-point margin, Americans are more likely to believe in Harris' ability to step into the role of president, compared to a two-percentage-point margin for Pence.

Harris is also considered far more inspiring among Americans than Pence, 40% to 28%. Historically, too, she is more well-known at this stage of the cycle than recent vice presidential picks, boasting higher national recognition than Pence and Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., according to a 2016 ABC News/Washington Post poll.

Pence is consistently viewed in a more negative light across every quality polled, including sharing their values: 35%-46%, caring about people like them: 35%-45% and being honest and trustworthy: 38%-42%. Meanwhile, net attitudes about Harris are more positive, with more people than not believing she shares their values: 36%-35%, cares about people like them: 38%-33% and is honest and trustworthy: 39%-30%.

With less than three months until Election Day, the focus on the electorate will likely shift to potentially moveable voters who could tilt the scales of the election. In 2016, one key voting bloc was those who opposed both candidates and more of that group ultimately swung toward Trump over Hillary Clinton. This year, among this group, which makes up 10% of the population in this poll, Harris is also more well-received than Pence.

This ABC News/Ipsos poll was conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs' KnowledgePanel® August 11-12, 2020, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,044 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.3 points, including the design effect. See the poll's topline results and details on the methodology here.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


rarrarorro/iStockBy TRISH TURNER, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Coronavirus relief talks hit a wall once again Wednesday, as negotiators appeared completely unable to find common ground and lawmakers were poised to leave Washington for the month-long August recess.

After five days with no outreach, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin called House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday to discuss a way forward, but the speaker, in a joint statement with Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, made clear that the conversation failed to break the intractable logjam.

"Democrats have compromised. Repeatedly, we have made clear to the Administration that we are willing to come down $1 trillion if they will come up $1 trillion. However, it is clear that the Administration still does not grasp the magnitude of the problems that American families are facing," the two top Democratic negotiators said.

The statement came after Mnuchin appeared on Fox Business pushing Democrats to accept a $1 trillion piecemeal package, something Pelosi and Schumer have refused, saying the size and scale of the pandemic crisis calls for sweeping legislation.

"My view on a negotiation is you agree on the things that you can agree on, pass legislation that's good for the American public, and then come back always for another bill," said Mnuchin, who, along with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, has been negotiating with Democratic lawmakers.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who so far has not been present at the table with negotiators, continued to try to pin the blame for the impasse on Schumer and Pelosi.

"These two individuals are letting the wish lists of wealthy coastal elites stand between every working family in America and the additional help they deserve," McConnell, R-Ky., said Wednesday.

Mnuchin and Democratic negotiators left the door open to future talks on Wednesday, but the two sides have hardly budged after weeks of negotiations. The broken state of the pivotal talks was shocking to even the most seasoned observers.

"It didn't enter my mind that they wouldn't get a deal," said longtime budget expert Maya MacGuineas, president of the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. "This really may be signs of complete dysfunction. It's truly scary that our lawmakers are not able to compromise in order to get something done for the American people. This situation is both more dire and the chance of them coming together is much less, and those two things combined make those observers like me worry about the ability of our lawmakers to find common ground."

With a compromise out of view and lawmakers poised to recess for the month, the path forward for any rescue bill became more fraught as any coronavirus relief aid could possibly be merged with a short-term government funding bill, called a continuing resolution or CR. And any intransigence then -- in a worst-case scenario -- might ultimately lead to a government shutdown.

"That's what it looks like," Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby said last Thursday of merging coronavirus aid with a CR, adding that passing the 12 regular annual government spending bills by the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30, was probably not likely. "I think that's the road we're headed down -- a CR. We've been on that track for about a month or so. Unless the Democrats agree, like we have the last two years to all vote together against extraneous things other than appropriations, we're not going to have a markup. We'd just waste everybody's time. So I think we're headed for a CR. I wouldn't say it's inevitable. It's getting close, though."

Former long-time Senate budget director and appropriations staffer William Hoagland told ABC News that he thinks McConnell has always wanted it this way.

"I truly believe, with some collaboration from some current Senate staff, that McConnell has always wanted to move the COVID package to one vote in September tied to a CR," Hoagland, now a Bipartisan Policy Center senior vice president, told ABC News. "Politically, he did not want to force a vote in the Senate and lose maybe half of his caucus. He also did not want to have vulnerable GOP senators this fall take some tough votes he might not be able to control. So, despite what I understand was some statements about getting back to negotiating, with (White House Chief of Staff) Meadows on vacation this week and as you said, Schumer leaving, along with conventions upcoming, no question we are off until after Labor Day on any action."

Asked for a reaction, an aide to McConnell pointed ABC News to the Republican leader's remarks on Wednesday calling on Democrats to set aside what he referred to a "liberal wish list" and get back to the negotiating table.

One senior Senate GOP aide told ABC News that there is a possibility of a CR that would fund the government until sometime into November or potentially through mid-December, but that any final decisions had not yet been made.

To MacGuineas and Hoagland, the choice of a continuing resolution is risky.

"A CR is already a symbol of failure," MacGuineas said. "To combine that with a second failure of not passing an emergency bill that is well thought out and incredibly transparent, to have two failures smooshed into one big bill is basically a massive sign of dysfunction in all of the areas where we should be governing."

Hoagland said, "Without a resolution to a fifth stimulus package, I see no way that many of the same issues in July and early August won't reemerge on a must-do CR bill."

With jobless Americans still numbering in the multi-millions, a moratorium on evictions and utilities' shutoffs having expired and the small business loan program closed -- all due to inaction in Congress -- it remains to be seen where the political blame might land ahead of crucial elections in the fall.

Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball who analyzes elections for the UVA Center for Politics, sounded the alarm for Republicans, warning that the party in power is usually the one that gets the blame if people perceive the state of the country to be in disarray on Election Day.

"To me the stakes are politically higher for Republicans to intervene in the economy. If things get really bad in the fall, they are more likely to face consequences than Democrats are," Kondik told ABC News.

"In terms of Democrats getting blamed for a new aid package not getting passed, I just don't think it works that way. The public is so focused on the president and the party in power; therefore, they're responsible for inaction," said Kondik. "If I were a Republican, I would be trying to figure out what the federal government can do to best stave off economic calamity, and I would try to pass legislation to that effect."

But trying to put pandemic aid on a measure that keeps the federal government funded, likely an exceedingly complicated feat heading into late August and September -- when hurricanes and wildfires could also present more fiscal hurdles -- risks a shutdown, something Hoagland warned was possible.

"While I find it unfathomable that we could even be thinking about a government shutdown on top of everything else one month out from an election, that still is a risk," said Hoagland. "I always think that a shutdown is a pox on both parties. If this were to occur this time around, however, I think the administration and Senate GOP would take most of the blame."

MacGuineas thought the chances of a shutdown were almost nil.

"At some point, the grown-ups have to come out. We can't shut ourselves down when we have a virus that has basically already shut down our economy," MacGuineas said. "There are still some lines we won't cross."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(WASHINGTON) -- With just under three months until Election Day, Joe Biden's vice presidential pick, Kamala Harris, "needs to be a validator for" for the presumptive Democratic nominee, said former Obama White House communications director Jen Psaki in an interview with ABC News' "Powerhouse Politics" podcast Wednesday.

"Has Joe Biden always historically had the best, most progressive record on race issues? No, he hasn't," said Psaki. "Does she feel confident that he has grown and he has somebody who is listening and wants to do the right thing? I hope she feels that way. Otherwise, she shouldn't have accepted the role."

Psaki was asked about a heated debate moment between the former rivals, turned partners in July, when Harris criticized Biden's past opposition to federally mandated busing as a means to desegregate schools. Biden has made clear that he doesn't "hold grudges," but that moment from more than a year ago re-entered the political conversation when Biden announced Harris would be his running mate on Tuesday.

Psaki, who also once served as the spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department, said that Harris needs to "have a better answer for why she feels comfortable" joining Biden on the ticket after that moment, which she said "felt harsh" to the Biden campaign, but she also noted that it highlights one of Harris' strengths.

"If you separate yourself from the personal side of that, it also shows that she's a very effective attack dog because not only did she attack him, she did it in a way where she weaved her bio in," Psaki told ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl and Political Director Rick Klein. "If you're in the fight of your life, the race of your life -- you're trying to, you know, win the presidency, you want the people who are effective at that -- who can do that to Donald Trump."

Yvette Simpson, CEO of progressive political action committee Democracy for America (DFA), told the podcast in a separate interview that that moment in the debate is an example of Biden's difficulty being challenged by his own political history, but that Harris could help in that.

"We believe that Kamala Harris would be more likely to be responsive to the progressive viewpoint and may be willing to push or pull him along. And that is the expectation and the hope," Simpson, who is also an ABC News contributor, said.

While Harris wasn't progressives' "first or second choice," Simpson said she believes that Harris "may be able to buck the system," noting that the first-term California senator was endorsed by DFA during her 2016 campaign.

Harris has faced criticism for her prosecutorial record, but Simpson said she would "give her a little bit of grace" on that issue.

"Back then, the way that we know criminal justice reformers, they didn't really exist. If you were in the position of prosecutor, you aren't even empowered to take on the police union to make real changes at that time. ... I personally give her a little bit of grace as a lawyer, myself, not a prosecutor, to understand how challenging it was -- could have been for her," Simpson said. "She had said on many occasions, she got into the prosecutor's office because she wanted to change the system from the inside. Anybody who's ever tried to change the system from the inside knows how hard that is."

While Harris did run for president, Psaki said that she now has a new opportunity to reintroduce herself to the public, especially with her primetime speech at the Democratic National Convention.

"She is somebody who has been a rising star in the Democratic Party for more than a decade. She's somebody who has kind of been mapping her way through the system in California," Psaki said. "And even though she wasn't a successful presidential candidate, she also kind of dropped out at a strategically wise moment. Right. Because there was nobody who voted against her."

And of the other women who were on Biden's vice presidential shortlist, Psaki said, "we're gonna see them again," potentially even serving in a Biden administration cabinet position.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images


(WILMINGTON, Del.) -- Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris appeared together for the first time as running mates Wednesday afternoon in Wilmington, Delaware, where much of the focus was on Harris, the first Black woman and Asian American woman on the ticket of a major political party.

They walked in together wearing masks, accompanied by the Curtis Mayfield song "Move On Up," before Biden began his remarks saying they were "playing by the rules," taking precautions due to the pandemic.

"She's a proven fighter," Biden said, as Harris watched from a chair set up well behind the lectern where one candidate could sit while the other spoke in a local high school gym. U.S., state and territory flags served as the backdrop.

"She's ready to do this job on Day One," Biden said.

"The choice we make this November is going to decide the future of America for a very, very long time," Biden said. "I have no doubt that I picked the right person to join me as the next vice president of the United States of America, and that's Senator Kamala Harris."

"This morning, all across the nation, little girls woke up, especially little Black and brown girls, who so often feel overlooked and undervalued in their communities," Biden continued. "But today -- today, just maybe, they're seeing themselves for the first time in a new way -- as the stuff of presidents and vice presidents."

Joe Biden: "On January 20th, 2021, we're all going to watch Senator Harris raise her right hand and swear the oath of office as the first woman ever to serve in the second highest office in America...and then we're going to get to work." https://t.co/L8ujFIudx9 pic.twitter.com/0APT520OON

— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) August 12, 2020

Biden pulled back the curtain and compared his asking Harris to join him on the ticket to when Barack Obama first asked Biden to take the vice presidential slot in 2008, saying Harris, like him, would be the last person in the room.

"When I agreed to serve as President Obama's running mate he asked me a number of questions, as I've asked Kamala. The most important one was, he said to me, he asked me what I wanted, most importantly. I told him I wanted to be the last person in the room before he made the important decisions," Biden said.

"That's what I asked Kamala. I asked Kamala to be the last voice in the room, to always tell me the truth, which she will. Challenge my assumptions if she disagrees. Ask the hard questions. Because that's the way we make the best decisions for the American people," he continued.

Biden then turned the floor over to Harris who repeated what she told Biden when accepting her spot on the ticket.

"As I said, Joe, when you called me, I am incredibly honored by this responsibility and I'm ready to get to work," Harris said.

"Joe, I'm so proud to stand with you. And I do so mindful of all the heroic and ambitious women before me whose sacrifice, determination, and resilience makes my presence here today even possible," she continued.

"America is crying out for leadership," she said, "yet we have a president who cares more about himself than the people who elected him."

Harris said she and Biden are "cut from the same cloth" referring to the significant role family plays in their lives. She said Biden's call reminded her of the first Biden she worked closely with, Biden's late son Beau.

"I learned quickly that Beau was the kind of guy who inspired people to be a better version of themselves. He really was the best of us. And when I would ask him, 'Where did you get that? Where did this come from?'" Harris said. "He'd always talk about his dad."

Playing off her name, Harris said she's had may titles in her career but the title of "Mamala" will always mean the most.

Showing some of her skills as former prosecutor, she argued the case against the Trump administration by slamming the president's coronavirus response.

"Let me tell you, as somebody who has presented my fair share of arguments in court, the case against Donald Trump and Mike Pence is open and shut," she said. "This virus has impacted almost every country, but there's a reason it has hit America worse than any other advanced nation. It's because of Trump's failure to take it seriously from the start."

"Because of Trump's failures of leadership, our economy has taken one of the biggest hits out of all the major industrialized nations," she continued. "But let's be clear. This election isn't just about defeating Donald Trump or Mike Pence. It's about building this country back better."

Harris, a child of immigrants, also shared that her father, from Jamaica, and her mother, from India, came to America "in search of a world class education."

"But what brought them together was the civil rights movement of the 1960s," she said.

Harris harkened back to when her parents would take her and her sister to protests. She said her mother raised them to believe that "it was up to us and to every generation of Americans to keep on marching."

"She'd tell us, don't sit around and complain about things, do something. So I did something," Harris said. "And 30 years ago, I stood before a judge for the first time, breathed deep and uttered the phrase that would truly guide the rest of my career: Kamala Harris, for the people."

Kamala Harris: “I am incredibly honored by this responsibility and I am ready to get to work … Joe, I’m so proud to stand with you and I do so mindful of all the heroic and ambitions women before me.” https://t.co/L8ujFIudx9 pic.twitter.com/JIpw8LUV9t

— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) August 12, 2020

Reporters looked on from inside circles socially-distanced apart and supporters listened from outside.

Just as Biden was forced to make the historic move elevating her via a video call Tuesday, their joint appearance Wednesday looked a lot different from previous vice presidential announcements. After both were done speaking, they walked forward and then greeted their spouses who came to join them -- but Biden and Harris did not join raised arms in the classic image of a political team.

Biden and Harris also were attending a "virtual grassroots" fundraiser in the evening.

Harris had no comment when she and her husband, Doug, left their apartment in Washington, D.C., for Wilmington Thursday morning.

Harris offers the prospect of energizing young, progressive voters who have lamented Biden as the nominee, and it remains to be seen whether Harris, who at age 55 is more than 20 years younger than the 77-year-old Biden, will come across when paired with the presumptive Democratic nominee for president.

Their joint remarks Wednesday come exactly one week before Harris is scheduled to address the Democratic National Convention -- now largely a virtual affair because of the pandemic.

In the minutes after Biden announced Harris as his pick for vice president, the Biden campaign had its best hour of fundraising yet, according to the Biden campaign's deputy digital director.

In an effort to build momentum, the Biden-Harris campaign released a video Wednesday showing the moment Harris accepted Biden's offer.

In the video, Biden is shown seated at a desk. He takes off his face mask before speaking into a laptop.

"Sorry to keep you," Biden says in the video connection. "You ready to go to work?

Harris pauses for a moment before saying, "Oh my God. I am so ready to go to work."

"First of all, is the answer yes?" Biden asked.

"The answer is absolutely yes. I am ready to work. I am ready to do this with you for you. I just deeply honored and I'm very excited," she replied.

.@KamalaHarris is the daughter of proud immigrants—a mother from India and a father from Jamaica—who raised her to take action.
That’s exactly what this moment calls for: action. And we hope you’ll take action with us: https://t.co/K3mVwfTxXJ pic.twitter.com/MZLAx9IN6C

— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) August 12, 2020

Trump and Pence react

Offering a preview of what's to come heading into the election, President Donald Trump was quick to fire insults at Harris, whom he called "nasty," saying she had disrespected both Biden in the primary debates as well as Brett Kavanaugh in his Supreme Court confirmation hearing.

"I thought she was the meanest, the most horrible, most disrespectful of anybody in the U.S. Senate," Trump said at a news conference Tuesday labelling Harris as "phony."

But in its first 24 hours, the Trump team as a whole appeared to struggle with its messaging on Harris.

The Republican National Committee on Wednesday evening sent out an email about the Harris pick with the headline "liberals revolt against Biden" But at nearly the same exact time, an RNC national spokesperson tweeted claiming Harris was "completely controlled by radical left."

Vice President Mike Pence offered his first reaction to the news while at a campaign event in Mesa, Arizona.

"Let me take this opportunity to welcome her to the race," Pence said to laughter. "Joe Biden and the Democratic Party have been overtaken by the radical left, so given their promises of higher taxes, open borders, socialized medicine and abortion on demand. It's no surprise that he chose Senator Harris to be his running mate."

Pence also teased the first the vice presidential debate on Oct. 7 in Utah, adding to his message, "Congratulations. I'll see you in Salt Lake City."

Former campaign trail rivals

During the Democratic primary campaign, Harris -- the sole Black woman in the running -- was amplified as a top contender following a debate performance in which she took Biden to task over his past stances on busing to address desegregating schools in the 1970s.

"There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools and she was bused to school every day. That little girl was me," Harris said at the time.

Following the debate, Biden complimented Harris, calling her "a first-rate intellect, a first-rate candidate and a real competitor."

Harris suspended her presidential campaign in early December and endorsed Biden after his Super Tuesday sweep. She served as a top surrogate and fundraiser for his campaign amid the pandemic landscape.

She spoke at Biden's final Biden campaign rally before COVID-19 largely shut down the trail in March.

ABC News' John Verhovek and Molly Nagle contributed to this report.


ABC News' John Verhovek and Molly Nagle contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(WASHINGTON) -- In one of his first attacks on former Vice President Joe Biden's pick for vice-president, President Donald Trump criticized Sen. Kamala Harris as being “extraordinarily nasty” during the confirmation hearings for his then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

“She was nasty to a level that was just a horrible thing ... the way she treated now Justice Kavanaugh, and I won't forget that soon,” he told reporters Tuesday afternoon.

The forceful questioning by Harris, a former prosecutor, went viral on social media in the days after her exchange and it may be how she's best known to many Americans and it's a reason supporters say she will be a formidable opponent of both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

The California Democrat, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, made a a splash when she asked Kavanaugh if he had discussed special counsel Robert Mueller's probe with any employees of a law firm run by Trump’s lawyer Marc Kassovitz.

“Well, is there a person you're talking about?” Kavanaugh asked Harris.

“I'm asking you a very direct question. Yes or no?” she responded.

After a continued back and forth, Kavanaugh told the senator, “I would like to know the person you're thinking of.”

“I think you're thinking of someone and you don't want to tell us,” Harris shot back.

But an exchange that gained even greater attention came when asked Kavanaugh about reproductive rights.

“Can you think of any laws that give government the power to make decisions about the male body?” she asked.

Kavanaugh froze for several seconds before responding, “I'm happy to answer a more specific question.”

“Male versus female,” Harris replied.

After a back and forth, Kavanaugh told Harris, “I'm not thinking of any right now, senator.”

The exchanges received considerable play on late-night talk shows and on social media.

Harris similarly garnered attention a year later during Attorney General William Barr’s hearing on the findings of Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.

When Harris asked if the president or anyone at the White House had ever asked or suggested that he open a Justice Department investigation into anyone, Barr, acting uncertain, at first repeated part of her question, "the president or anyone else..."

"It seems you'd remember something like that and be able to tell us," Harris said pointedly, implying he was being evasive.

“Yeah, but I’m trying to grapple with the word ‘suggest,’" Barr responded. "They have not asked me to open an investigation."

"Perhaps they suggested? Hinted? Inferred? Harris pressed him.

When Barr failed to finish his answer, she said, "You don't know," sarcastically.

Later, she asked Barr if he, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein or anyone in his office had questioned or reviewed the underlying evidence supporting the report's findings. Barr told Harris he had not.

Harris responded, expressing disbelief and questioning Barr's decision to accept charging recommendations without reviewing underlying evidence when making a "critical decision" about "the person who holds the highest office in the land and whether or not that person committed a crime."

"I think you've made it clear, sir, that you have not looked at the evidence and we can move on," Harris said.

ABC News' Soo Rin Kim contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump wasted no time Wednesday continuing to attack Sen. Kamala Harris, saying former Vice President Joe Biden's vice presidential pick is “the kind of opponent everyone dreams of!”

“@KamalaHarris started strong in the Democrat Primaries, and finished weak, ultimately fleeing the race with almost zero support,” Trump tweeted Wednesday morning. “That’s the kind of opponent everyone dreams of!”

.@KamalaHarris started strong in the Democrat Primaries, and finished weak, ultimately fleeing the race with almost zero support. That’s the kind of opponent everyone dreams of!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 12, 2020

But that criticism was relatively muted and at his White House news conference Tuesday, Trump reverted to his familiar line of attack on powerful women, calling her "nasty," just as he notably did with his 2016 presidential opponent, former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, and what he's said as well about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and late former first lady Barbra Bush.

“She was nasty to a level that was just a horrible thing,” Trump said. “She was the meanest, most horrible, most disrespectful of anybody in the U.S. Senate,” referring to her treatment of his Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

On the policy front, while Trump has repeatedly hammered Biden as weak on crime, and has falsely claimed that he wants to "defund the police," that line of attack is now more complicated because Harris is a former attorney general who has a tough-on-crime reputation as a prosecutor.

GOP struggles to label Harris

Usually, Trump can come up with original, yet insensitive or offensive, nicknames for his political foes, calling Biden “Sleepy Joe” and Sen. Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas,” for example.

But he seems to have struggled coming up with one he thinks he can stick on Harris, beyond calling her "phony."

In that same press conference and in a Fox News interview that same evening, Trump attempted to labeled Harris as “the most liberal person” in the Senate.

That would be news to her progressive Senate colleagues Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders -- who is a self-proclaimed Democratic socialist.

Even as Trump attacked Harris as a liberal, campaign aide Brad Parscale said Harris would be rejected by liberals.

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel echoed Trump’s sentiments saying in a statement, “Kamala Harris’ extreme positions … show that the left-wing mob is controlling Biden’s candidacy, just like they would control him as president.”

However, later that evening the RNC argued a very different point, saying “Liberals revolt against Biden, Harris ticket” in a news release.

Vice President Mike Pence Tuesday came out swinging at Harris during an event in Arizona characterizing her to supporters as representing the “radical left” with promises of “socialized medicine and abortion on demand.”

“As you all know, Joe Biden and the Democratic Party have been overtaken by the radical left," Pence said. "So given their promises of higher taxes, open borders, socialized medicine and abortion on demand, it’s no surprise that he chose Sen. Harris."

He added, "So my message to the Democratic nominee for vice president: Congratulations. I’ll see you in Salt Lake City,” site of their October debate.

Trump’s past donations and compliments

As Trump’s attacks on Harris are just ramping up, as a private citizen the president donated thousands of dollars to her campaign twice when she was a candidate for California attorney general.

Trump gave Harris a total of $6,000 in 2011 and in 2013 in addition to $2,000 from his daughter Ivanka Trump in 2014. While it is well known that Trump has given large sums to Democrats in the past, ABC News can only find two Democrats other than Harris that Trump gave money to on the federal level after 2010.

After 2010, almost all of Donald Trump's political donations were going to Republicans -- but he was still giving money to Harris.

Trump campaign senior adviser Katrina Pierson Tuesday said that Trump donating to Harris proves he is not a racist.

"I'll note that Kamala Harris is a black woman and he donated to her campaign so I hope we can squash this racism argument," Pierson said on a campaign call with reporters.

A spokesperson for Harris told ABC News that this money was donated to charity in 2015.

While the president is not financially supporting Harris’ bid against him this fall, Trump did have positive things to say about her candidacy for president earlier this year.

When asked by the New York Times in February whether there was anyone in the immense 2020 Democratic field who he thought might be his toughest opponent he cited Harris.

"I would say, the best opening so far would be Kamala Harris," Trump responded. "I would say, in terms of the opening act, I would say, would be her."

ABC News' Terrance Smith, Benjamin Siegel, Will Steakin and Zohreen Shah contributed to this report

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(WASHINGTON) -- Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez told Amy Robach on ABC’S "GMA3" that when he heard former vice president and now presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden had chosen California Sen. Kamala Harris as a running mate, he had "goosebumps" -- a nod to the historic nature of the first Black woman and first South Asian woman running on a major party ticket.

"I had goosebumps quite frankly, Amy. This was an historic day, shattering so many glass ceilings, glass ceilings for women, glass ceilings for women of color, and Kamala Harris is ready to govern day one," he said.

Biden, after becoming the sole Democrat left in the race, announced his running mate would be a woman. After months of deliberation, calls got even louder for his pick to also be a person of color.

"He ran a really inclusive process for the vice-presidential determination and I think he picked the perfect running mate," Perez told Robach.

Perez said criticism of Harris as the running-mate pick falls flat when you "look at the facts" of her record.

"Look at the facts, Kamala Harris is a fighter, she took on big banks in California, got a $20 billion settlement for victims of mortgage fraud," Perez said. "She ran the Department of Justice in California. The only Department of Justice bigger than that is the United States Department of Justice -- and she undertook major reforms there, including the use of body cameras to make sure that law enforcement was transparent. Her entire life has been fighting for the underdog."

"I'm so proud to have her on the ticket," he added. "The more you learn about Kamala Harris, the more you will love her."

Perez also touched on the scaled-back Democratic National Convention, which is set to launch Monday after delays and massive changes to the typical programming amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Democrats significantly scaled back the convention, announcing in late June that officials were planning for a mix of in-person and virtual elements. But over the last two months, as the coronavirus hobbled planning, organizers further pared back the event, urging members of Congress, state delegations and delegates not to travel to Wisconsin. Biden, who was scheduled to accept the party's nomination in the key battleground state on Aug. 20, will now accept the nomination from Delaware.

Delegates are also voting entirely by online ballot, which began on Aug. 3 and will run until Saturday, two days before the convention kicks off. The results are expected to be announced on Monday, the first night of the event.

"I think it's going to be an exciting week, it’ll be different than past conventions, there will be less podiums and more conversations around kitchen tables and union halls across America," Perez said.

"You’ll see people that you know and love, like Michelle Obama and Barack Obama and other great leaders of our party, governors and mayors who've led, and you'll also see everyday Americans, ordinary people who have done extraordinary things through this pandemic," he added. "It's about bringing America together. We need to unite this country and we're going to have our unity on full display next week. I'm a big believer that hope triumphs over fear."

Perez said a Biden- Harris ticket is what the country needs to be united through 2021 and beyond -- a theme that will be on full display next week.

"Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are two of the most optimistic people I know. You’re going to see that optimism. We’re fighting to make sure we take back our country, we build back a better America, not an America we saw in 2016, but an America we need to have in 2021 and beyond. I'm really excited. And there’ll be a few surprises, too," he said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Official White House Photo by Shealah CraigheadBy CONOR FINNEGAN, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- A new report released Wednesday said that Woody Johnson, President Donald Trump's envoy to the United Kingdom and the co-owner of the New York Jets, made "inappropriate or insensitive comments on topics... such as religion, sex, or color" as ambassador.

In an assessment of the U.S. mission to the U.K., the State Department's Office of the Inspector General -- an independent, nonpartisan federal watchdog -- found faults with Johnson's leadership. But it did not weigh in on allegations that Johnson lobbied on Trump's behalf to have the British Open golf tournament played at his resort in Turnberry, Scotland.

The new OIG report comes as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his senior aides have gone to battle against the office, having the previous inspector general fired in May and preempting another report's release this week to claim "full" exoneration.

The report applauded Johnson's efforts to reach out to staff and found his leadership improved after the previous deputy chief of mission, an embassy's second-in-command, departed.

But amid media reports that Johnson made sexist and racist comments, the OIG said it "learned, through employee questionnaires and interviews, that the Ambassador sometimes made inappropriate or insensitive comments on topics generally considered Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO)-sensitive, such as religion, sex, or color."

The report did not offer specifics, but it recommended that the State Department's Office of Civil Rights investigate further.

More broadly, the OIG said Johnson "did not always model the Department's leadership and management principles... regarding communication and self-awareness." It faults him for casting any hesitation or push back from career diplomats as "resistance" and at times questioning embassy staff's motives or tacitly threatening to have them replaced.

"This caused staff to grow wary of providing him with their best judgment," the report found, adding his "demanding, hard driving work style... had a negative effect on morale."

But the report notes that improved when a new deputy chief of mission took over in January 2019, who worked better with Johnson than Lew Lukens, a senior Foreign Service officer who had previously served as U.S. ambassador to Senegal and to Guinea-Bissau.

The report also commends applauds Johnson's effort to reach out to staff and get "to know them better, to convey his appreciation for their work, and to continue to familiarize himself with the many aspects of the complex, multi-agency mission he was leading."

Johnson himself took issue with the report's finding about "insensitive" remarks, writing in a May 27 letter to the OIG, "If I have unintentionally offended anyone in the execution of my duties, I deeply regret that, but I do not accept that I have treated employees with disrespect or discriminated in any."

"I believe that team cohesion in our mission is better than ever," he added, noting the "absence of any official complaints against me" by staffers.

Both he and State Department leadership rejected the OIG's call for an Office of Civil Rights assessment. Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Europe Phil Reeker told the OIG in a July 1 memo that Johnson is "well aware of his responsibility to set the right tone for his mission and we believe his actions demonstrate that."

The department said that Johnson watched a video on workplace harassment, had senior embassy staff do the same, and encouraged personnel to take unconscious bias training.

But the OIG was not satisfied with that response -- leaving the issue "unresolved" in its final report and reiterating that Johnson's behavior should be independently assessed.

While the 43-page report focuses on several other issues, from locally employed staff's pension fund to consular office layout, it does not touch on Johnson's alleged outreach on behalf of President Trump to persuade the British government to hold the British Open at his golf course and resort in Scotland.

Johnson told colleagues that Trump personally asked him to do so, according to Lukens, who was in his role at the time but later pushed out. Lukens told ABC News that he counseled Johnson that it would be unethical, but that Johnson did it anyway and raised the issue with the U.K.'s secretary of state for Scotland, David Mundell.

Trump denied that was true, and the British Open has not been held at Trump Turnberry. A U.K. government spokesperson told ABC News, "Mr. Johnson made no request of Mr. Mundell regarding the British Open or any other sporting event."

The OIG report said Johnon's "in-country outreach activities" were deemed "consistent" with his "duties to develop local contacts and potential leaders," but it's unclear if that includes any alleged efforts related to Trump Turnberry or whether the OIG investigated the issue in this report.

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State Department Photo by Ronny Przysucha / Public DomainBy CONOR FINNEGAN, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- A new report from the State Department's federal watchdog found that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was within his legal authority to bypass Congress and approve $8.1 billion of arms sales, but it is not the "full" vindication that the top U.S. diplomat says it is.

The report from the State Department's beleaguered Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has been highly anticipated, as the investigation may be one of the reasons why Pompeo had former inspector general Steve Linick fired in May.

At the request of Democratic lawmakers, the OIG probed Pompeo's use of an emergency authority in May 2019 to sell weapons, ammunition and training to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who are fighting rebels in neighboring Yemen, even after members of Congress had objected to them and placed holds on their approval.

The State Department took the rare step of briefing journalists Monday, the day before the report was released to the public. A senior State Department official said the report found "the department acted in complete accordance of the law and found no wrongdoing in the administration's exercise of the emergency authorities."

But that's not entirely true. The report said Pompeo's "emergency certification was executed in accordance with the requirements of the" law, but it faulted the department for not meeting its requirement to "fully assess risks and implement mitigation measures to reduce civilian casualties."

It also made clear that the OIG was not rendering a judgment on whether there was an "emergency" dire enough to legitimize the use of this special authority, which is relatively rare.

"No one ever doubted that the law provides for the authority to expedite the sale of weapons in the case of an emergency. The question was always, 'Did the administration abuse that authority in order to ram through more than $8 billion in sales to Gulf countries?'" said House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., after the report's release Tuesday. "This report tells us everything we suspected: The emergency was a sham. It was cooked up to get around congressional review of a bad policy choice."

The department's justification to Congress last year was the pressing threat of Iranian attacks and weapons in the region, particularly in Yemen, where it backs the Houthi rebels against the Yemeni government propped up by the Saudi coalition. That May, Iranian vessels attacked oil tankers in the Persian Gulf with mines, according to the U.S., amid Houthi rocket and drone attacks into Saudi territory.

But the department began work on an emergency certification in early April, according to an un-redacted version of the unclassified report, which was transmitted to Congress but not shared publicly. The OIG said redactions in the unclassified report were made at the State Department's insistence, citing classified information and, in the case of the classified version that was sent to Congress, executive privilege.

Democratic lawmakers like Engel have also seized on the report's finding that only four of 22 packages Pompeo authorized had been delivered by the time the report was concluded in December 2019.

In a statement to the OIG included in its report, R. Clarke Cooper, the top State Department official for arms sales, said, "The most critical deliveries... occurred in the near-immediate aftermath of the certification," but he didn't provide an update on how many packages had been delivered since then.

Cooper also pushed back on the OIG's main concern -- that the department didn't properly take into account its obligation to ensure U.S.-sold weapons didn't kill or injure civilians. The Saudi-led coalition's airstrikes have caused the majority of civilian casualties, according to the United Nations, and many of those weapons, particularly precision-guided munitions or "smart bombs," are American-provided.

Beyond the $8.1 billion of emergency arms, the Trump administration has also authorized since January 2017 $11.2 billion of arms in smaller packages that did not require congressional approval -- bypassing possible obstruction through another technically legal process, including with more smart bombs.

"The department carried out, and continues to carry out, due diligence on all sales to the standards required by law" and acted within its authority on the smaller transfers, Cooper told the OIG.

Cooper has played a central role in the fight, testifying before the House last June, and Democrats attacked him Tuesday, accused him personally of lying.

"This report confirms what we already know: This Administration has no qualms about lying to the American people. Rarely, however, are those lies so blatant and so dangerous as this one," said Rep. Andy Levin, D-Mich., who questioned Cooper during that hearing last year.

In the face of Democrats' outrage Tuesday, Pompeo again said the report had "fully vindicated" him and his staff, turning as he has repeatedly to attack Democratic lawmakers: "I'm sorry that @RepEliotEngel and @SenatorMenendez misuse their committees for political games," he tweeted.

Pompeo declined to be interviewed for the report, citing his travel schedule, according to the OIG. While its investigation wrapped in December, it did not release the report as it sought that interview and then because of restrictions on personnel due to COVID-19.

Pompeo, who later submitted answers in writing to the OIG, had President Donald Trump fire the inspector general under whom the investigation began, Steve Linick. Calling him a "bad actor," Pompeo at one point seemed to cite the OIG probe of the emergency arms sales for his ouster.

"He was investigating policies he simply didn't like. That's not the role of an inspector general. This didn't have anything to do with retaliation. This was about an IG who was attempting to undermine the mission of the United States Department of State," Pompeo told Fox News on May 28.

After Linick was fired, Trump tapped a Stephen Akard, a longtime aide to Vice President Mike Pence, to fill in as acting inspector general. But Akard, who also retained his title as director of the State Department's Office of Foreign Missions, resigned from both positions last week after less than three months on the job.

Akard had recused himself from this probe, with Diana Shaw, his former deputy and the new acting inspector general, signing off on the final report.

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(SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) -- After a full year of government turmoil, many Puerto Ricans were expecting to exercise their democratic right on the island's primaries Sunday -- but ballots were not ready.

Primaries for the two main parties in Puerto Rico were scheduled to start at 8 a.m. and end by 4 p.m., but by Sunday morning at least half of the island's voting precincts didn't have ballots.

Around 9 a.m., Puerto Rico's Election Committee issued a statement announcing an extension of voting hours to those centers reporting a delay in ballot handouts. The extension made the hours for voting 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

"Despite the committee's stepbacks, the people of Puerto Rico can be certain that they will be able to exercise their right to vote in these local primaries," read the written statement.

By noon, some electoral teams were still at the committee's headquarters organizing voting materials, while hundreds of Puerto Ricans kept arriving at voting centers.

Some electoral volunteers were forced to tell voters that "ballots never arrived."

As the situation became dire, presidents of the pro-statehood Progressive New Party (known as PNP in Spanish) and Popular Democratic Party (known as PPD in Spanish) held an emergency meeting with the head of the island's electoral commission demanding answers for the delay.

After the meeting ended, PNP president Thomas Rivera Schatz and PPD's president, Anibal Jose Torres, said they were suggesting the suspension of primaries in centers that had not received ballots by 1:45 p.m.

This determination was later submitted in a resolution by the electoral commissioners' secretary, Angel Rosa Barrios.

What went wrong?

Candidates, including the active governor, Wanda Vázquez Garced, suggested the electoral commission was responsible for this chaotic situation.

"It's clear that the electoral commission has been highly irresponsible," Vázquez Garced said Sunday, while demanding the resignation of the commission's president, Jose Ernesto Dávila.

In an interview with El Nuevo Día, Dávila said the issue was linked to a delay in the handout of ballots from the printing company, leading to a slow preparation of the voting material.

Despite knowing about the delay, Dávila said he didn't flag it earlier thinking they could ultimately complete the task in time.

"No one, including electoral commissioners and myself, raised the issue earlier because we thought we could move forward with the event," said Dávila.

Days before the primaries, multiple local outlets reported issues such as lack of organization, lack of materials and ballot shortages. But despite the uncertainty, Dávila assured El Nuevo Día, at the time, that the primaries would be a "success."

What's next?

Since hundreds of Puerto Ricans across the island weren't able to vote due the halt in primaries, multiple complaints have been filed in courts.

The Puerto Rico Supreme Court intervened and took claim of at least four complaints made by candidates. It has yet to make a decision regarding next steps.

The PNP party has two candidates running for the gubernatorial nomination: Vázquez Garced and Pedro Pierluisi. The PPD party has three candidates running for the gubernatorial nomination: Sen. Eduardo Bhatia, D-P.R., Mayor Carlos Delgado and Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz.

Mayors, representatives and senators of multiple municipalities in the island were also part of Sunday's primary.

Some candidates are demanding to resume elections as soon as possible, but Dávila said in a radio interview Tuesday that the commission won't be able to resume primaries before Sunday.

While the Puerto Rico Supreme Court has yet to announce a decision, the island is scheduled to have general elections on Nov. 3.

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