October 26, 2020 - PBS NewsHour full episode
October 26, 2020 - PBS NewsHour full episode
JUDY WOODRUFF: Good evening. I'm Judy Woodruff.
On the "NewsHour" tonight: eight days to go. President Trump and Joe Biden intensify their
campaign travel, as Vice President Pence's staff endures a COVID outbreak and early voting
continues to break records.
Then: confirmation. The Senate holds a vote to elevate Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the
Supreme Court to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Plus: a troubling surge. Hospitals nationwide struggle to handle a major influx of COVID
patients, as infections rise dramatically across the U.S.
And securing the vote. As the election approaches, questions remain about the integrity of voting
machines in Georgia.
J. ALEX HALDERMAN, University of Michigan: There's a lot more we have to learn about
Georgia's election system, and that's going to help inform how to better secure elections,
not just in Georgia in November, but across the country for years to come.
JUDY WOODRUFF: All that and more on tonight's "PBS NewsHour."
JUDY WOODRUFF: The clock is ticking down, and the candidates' schedules are tightening
up tonight in the U.S. presidential race.
And, as they enter the homestretch, the coronavirus is again roiling the race.
DONALD TRUMP, President of the United States: So, thank you very much, Allentown.
JOE BIDEN (D), Presidential Candidate: And I like Luzerne County!
JUDY WOODRUFF: As the candidates enter the final week of the presidential campaign, the
COVID-19 pandemic is top of mind.
The White House has once again been rattled by the virus, after at least five of Vice
President Pence's close aides tested positive over the weekend.
White House doctors said he's considered essential personnel and cleared Mr. Pence to keep up
his schedule, stumping today in Minnesota.
MIKE PENCE, Vice President of the United States: Four more years means more jobs in the Iron
Range and all over Minnesota. Four more years means more judges who will defend our liberties.
Four more years means more support for our police and more support for our troops.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But the rally also violated state's COVID restrictions, as many of President
Trump's campaign events have done.
This comes after the U.S. set a new daily record for COVID-19 infections on Friday and
nearly matched that high on Saturday, more than 83,000 new cases.
President Trump continues to assure Americans the virus is under control, and he claims
the number of cases is surging because the country has ramped up testing.
In fact, records show testing accounts for only a small percentage of the rise in cases.
But, on Sunday, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows made this concession:
MARK MEADOWS, White House Chief of Staff: We're not going to control the pandemic. We
are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation
JAKE TAPPER, CNN: Why aren't we going to get control?
JUDY WOODRUFF: For his part, President Trump made three stops today in the battleground
state of Pennsylvania.
DONALD TRUMP: Pennsylvania gets it. By the way, we win Pennsylvania, we win the whole
thing. You got to get out there.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
DONALD TRUMP: Got to win. Big deal, right?
JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, this afternoon, Biden paid a brief visit to a site involved
in turning out Democratic voters in Delaware County, Pennsylvania.
JOE BIDEN: The bottom line is, Donald Trump is the worst possible president, the worst
possible person to try to lead us through this pandemic.
And I don't think he just -- he either doesn't have any idea what to do or he just doesn't
JUDY WOODRUFF: Joe Biden campaigned in Northeastern Pennsylvania on Saturday.
JOE BIDEN: Trump ran around saying he represents the forgotten man and woman in his country.
I get it. But then he got elected, and he immediately forgot the forgotten man.
JUDY WOODRUFF: I spoke to voters from the area, which was key in helping then candidate
Trump take the entire state back in 2016.
Northeast Pennsylvania experienced the largest regional flip in the state. President Obama's
roughly 36,000-vote margin in 2012 switched to an 86,000-vote margin for Mr. Trump.
Jim Haigh lives outside Allentown, didn't vote for either Mr. Trump or Hillary Clinton
in the last presidential election. This year, he's voting Biden, based on what he's seen
from the president.
JIM HAIGH, Biden Supporter: Over time, I mean, day after day, month after month, it became
evident to me that there really was no vision, that there really was no moral compass.
If Joe Biden was walking down the sidewalk and found somebody's wallet, he would pick
it up and make sure it got back to that person immediately, where I think Donald Trump would
take that same wallet up, take the cash and credit cards out, and just throw it back on
JUDY WOODRUFF: Annie Howell is a staunch Trump supporter who lives in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania,
where Mr. Biden campaigned Saturday.
Howell praised the president's handling of the pandemic and the economy.
ANNIE HOWELL, Trump Supporter: I think that he was very proactive and aggressive in his
approach. I don't see how he could have done things any better at all. And I'm very in
line with him wanting to reopen the economy. People are suffering.
JUDY WOODRUFF: As you know, there's a lot of comment about the president's style, the
strong language he uses in going after his critics, people who he disapproves of, the
tweeting and so forth.
Do you have thoughts about all that? Does that matter to you?
ANNIE HOWELL: I see it as an asset. I'm not opposed to it at all. And I think a lot of
people think what he's thinking, but he actually has the we will call it bravery to express
JUDY WOODRUFF: Leah Casner supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, and was shocked
by the Trump victory.
LEAH CASNER, Biden Supporter ; I had hoped our institutions would be strong enough to
withstand even a Donald Trump. But I fear that that has proven not to be the case.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And then along comes the pandemic. And you watched, and what did you see?
LEAH CASNER: Nothing being done that needed to be done, the refusal to listen to the scientists,
the belittling of it. In this area, we have most -- many people don't take it seriously.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Casner also praised Mr. Biden for choosing California Senator Kamala Harris
as his running mate.
LEAH CASNER: I think his selection of Kamala has been very good for my view of him. I really
felt that he was not quite as respectful of women and of people of color as he could have
been. And this has certainly changed my view of that.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Stephen Williams is a Trump supporter from Coopersburg. He says he doesn't
always agree with the president's attacks on Joe Biden or his reluctance to wear a mask.
STEPHEN WILLIAMS, Trump Supporter: I don't like the way the president demeans people.
I can -- it's not very presidential. That's not my style. That bothers me.
But the real reason I'm a Republican is because of abortion. The Democratic Party supports
abortion. I'm totally against it.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, thinking about the Trump presidency, how have you thought of it? What's
your impression been?
STEPHEN WILLIAMS: I think he's kept a lot of his promises, most of them, actually. I
have been pleased with the economy, with the sovereign borders, with relations with China
and other countries, the trade deals. I have been very pleased with what he's done so far.
JUDY WOODRUFF: With eight days left until the election, early voting has already soared
to record highs. More than 60 million people have cast their ballots. That's more than
the total who voted early or absentee in 2016.
In the day's other news: The United States Senate moved to confirm federal Judge Amy
Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Majority Republicans lined up behind Barrett, while
Democrats complained again that the Senate should not consider any nominee this close
to an election.
We will report on the debate after the news summary.
Cities across the U.S. are now scrambling to contain fresh waves of COVID-19. Hard-hit
El Paso, Texas, reported a record number of new cases today. Officials urged people to
stay home for two weeks, as patients overwhelm hospitals.
And, in Europe, new surges in Italy forced bars and restaurants to close early, while
a new nighttime curfew in Spain came into force.
Wall Street had a long day, as COVID cases surged and economic stimulus hopes dimmed.
The Dow Jones industrial average lost 650 points, more than 2 percent, to close at 27685.
The Nasdaq fell 189 points, and the S&P 500 fell 64.
In Belarus, factory workers, students and businesses staged a one-day national strike,
as longtime President Alexander Lukashenko again defied demands to resign. Crowds of
pensioners and students filled the streets of Minsk, linking arms in solidarity against
Lukashenko and the arrests of thousands in two months of protests.
WOMAN (through translator): Many social groups are now subject to violence. Those are health
workers, journalists, students, and others. They have already been warned to leave the
country. So, I am very worried. I want to see my children, to raise my grandchildren
here in our country. That's why I made this poster.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The protesters say Lukashenko's August reelection was rigged.
Armenia and Azerbaijan accused each other today of violating the latest cease-fire in
Nagorno-Karabakh. Clashes resumed in the disputed mountainous territory populated by ethnic
Armenians inside Azerbaijan. The cease-fire was agreed on Sunday in talks brokered by
China has upped the ante in escalating tensions with the U.S. The Foreign Ministry announced
sanctions today on U.S. military contractors that supply weapons to Taiwan, including Boeing,
Raytheon and Lockheed Martin.
ZHAO LIJIAN, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman (through translator): As China has repeatedly
pointed out, the U.S. arms sales to Taiwan seriously violates the one-China principle,
and it severely damaged China's sovereignty and security interests. China firmly opposes
and strongly condemns these arms sales.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Beijing also ordered six U.S. news media companies, including ABC, The Los
Angeles Times and Minnesota Public Radio, to file detailed reports on their operations
inside China. Last week, the U.S. ordered six Chinese media outlets to file similar
The 27th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season grew into Hurricane Zeta today. It's
on track to strike Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula tonight, and then head north into the Gulf.
The storm is likely to weaken and to land somewhere between Louisiana and the Florida
Panhandle on Wednesday.
Extreme fire danger is again threatening parts of California. In the South, strong winds
are pushing the Silverado fire in Orange County. That prompted evacuation orders today for
some 70,000 people. In Northern California, more than a million people face blackouts
to prevent high winds from damaging lines and sparking new fires.
The superintendent of Virginia Military Institute resigned today after Black cadets alleged
systemic racism. Retired General J.H. Binford Peay has run the military college since 2003,
and there have been repeated accounts of racist incidents. Virginia's Governor Ralph Northam
has ordered an independent investigation.
And the Republican running for U.S. Senate in Minnesota, Jason Lewis, had emergency surgery
today. His campaign said it was a severe internal hernia, and that the surgery was successful.
Lewis is challenging Tina Smith. He's the incumbent Democratic senator.
Still to come on the "NewsHour": the Senate votes to elevate Judge Amy Coney Barrett to
the Supreme Court; hospitals nationwide struggle to handle a major influx of COVID patients;
the race for Senate in South Carolina remains surprisingly competitive; and much more.
Amy Coney Barrett is poised to become the third Supreme Court justice picked by President
Trump, a legacy that will be felt for years, no matter the outcome of the election.
As John Yang reports, she will quickly have a chance to make her imprint on some big issues.
MAN: Mr. President...
JOHN YANG: As the Senate wrapped up debate on Amy Coney Barrett's nomination to the Supreme
Court today, there have been bold predictions about what she would do as a justice.
SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D-NH): Almost 50 years of precedent upholding a woman's right to
control her own body are in jeopardy.
SEN. STEVE DAINES (R-MT): Judge Barrett will uphold our cherished constitutional rights,
including the Second Amendment.
JOHN YANG: Replacing the late liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg with Barrett, a protege
of the late conservative icon Antonin Scalia, would be the biggest ideological shift in
Marcia Coyle is chief Washington correspondent for "The National Law Journal."
MARCIA COYLE, "The National Law Journal": The court went 11 years without a change in
justices until 2005. That was the longest period in modern history without a change
in personnel on the court. In just 15 years, only four years more, the court has seen seven
new justices. And so that's -- that's something the court itself has to adjust to as well.
JOHN YANG: Once sworn in, Barrett could consider requests for the court to review mail-in ballot
deadline changes for next week's election.
And beginning next week, she's set to take part in oral arguments on some hot-button
cases, November 4, free exercise of religion and nondiscrimination. Can a Philadelphia
Catholic charity reject same-sex foster parents? Questions from Barrett, who describes herself
as a faithful Catholic, are sure to be closely watched to see how she keeps the pledge she
made in her confirmation hearings.
AMY CONEY BARRETT, Supreme Court Justice Nominee: I do see as distinct my personal, moral religious
views and my task of applying the law as a judge.
IRA LUPU, George Washington University Law School: I think she is going to be tested
JOHN YANG: Ira Lupu of George Washington University law school has filed a friend of the court
brief against the charity's position.
IRA LUPU: I think Amy Coney Barrett is going to have some strong personal views about -- about
the freedom of a Catholic organization to provide social services as it chooses and
about same-sex marriage and the way Catholic services should be entitled to relate to the
question of same-sex marriage.
The question, the mystery is to what extent those views are going to translate into constitutional
views or legal views on the court.
JOHN YANG: November 10, the Affordable Care Act. Should it be struck down as unconstitutional?
The fate of the ACA was a focus for Democrats throughout Barrett's confirmation hearings:
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): Your nomination is about the Republican goal of repealing
the Affordable Care Act, the Obamacare they seem to detest so much.
SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL): Unfortunately, that is the cloud, the orange cloud, over
JOHN YANG: As a law school professor, Barrett criticized the previous Supreme Court rulings
upholding the law. In her testimony, she sought to ease concerns.
AMY CONEY BARRETT: I'm not here on a mission to destroy the Affordable Care Act. I'm just
here to apply the law and adhere to the rule of law.
JOHN YANG: And on November 30, the census. Can the Trump administration exclude those
illegally in the country from the numbers used to determine each state's representation
in Congress for the next 10 years?
Not yet on the court's docket, but looming on the horizon, abortion. As a Notre Dame
law school professor, Barrett signed statements affirming her personal anti-abortion beliefs.
During her confirmation hearing, Barrett declined to call Roe vs. Wade a super precedent.
AMY CONEY BARRETT: It's not a case that everyone has accepted and doesn't call for its overruling.
MARY ZIEGLER, Florida State University College of Law: The closest case to the court is Mississippi's
15-week abortion ban. The justices could make a decision to hear that almost as soon as
Barrett joins the court.
JOHN YANG: Florida State University law professor Mary Ziegler:
MARY ZIEGLER: The last time we had a Donald Trump nominee on the court who seemed to make
a difference to abortion in Brett Kavanaugh, we saw a virtual explosion of anti-abortion
legislation in 2019.
And so, I would expect, with Amy Coney Barrett, a justice who is at least personally very
pro-life, that you would have a similar explosion and definitely many more appeals to the Supreme
JOHN YANG: Analysts caution against reading too much into Barrett's early cases.
It can be the case that the effect of a new justice on the court isn't really fully known
for some time.
MARCIA COYLE: I think it was Justice Breyer who said that it takes three to five years
before a new justice really begins to feel comfortable being on the court. So, yes, it
could take a while.
JOHN YANG: At 48, Barrett would be the youngest Supreme Court justice in nearly 30 years.
And lifetime tenure means she will likely be on the bench for generations to come.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm John Yang.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Dick Durbin of Illinois is the second highest ranking Democrat in the
Senate. He is also a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. And he joins us now from
Senator Durbin, thank you very much for talking with us.
As you know, Republicans are on the verge of confirming President Trump's third appointee
to the Supreme Court. She will be -- Judge Barrett will be sitting on the court as early
How -- and this is over the fierce objection of you and every other Democrat. How dig a
setback is this for Democrats?
SEN. RICHARD DURBIN: Well, it's a disappointment, because we -- as you said, we are putting
a person for a lifetime appointment on the highest court of the land.
And to give to President Trump the authority to fill three of those slots with people of
his choosing is a troubling development, particularly at this moment in time.
Judy, if anyone was coursing through the channels today and looking, finding the broadcast of
the United States Senate, they would be shocked to learn that we weren't talking about the
coronavirus. Here we are, with an infection running rampant, 225,000 Americans dead. We
spent five straight days on one Supreme Court nomination.
And, secondly, I think they would be a little surprised that the standard the Republicans
set four years ago to deny President Obama the authority to fill a Supreme Court vacancy
so close to an election is being ignored by the Republicans now.
And then, when they that the hurry-up is so that she will be on the court in time to strike
down the Affordable Care Act in the midst of a pandemic, I think all those things are
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, several things to ask you about there, I mean, but starting with
the Senate Republicans and their refusal to act on President Obama's nomination to the
court, Merrick Garland.
The court -- there were eight justices for a year. Is that an argument for adding a couple
of justices to the Supreme Court?
SEN. RICHARD DURBIN: Judy, I don't think anyone has come up with a formula on what to do with
the court in the future.
But I will tell you what I believe the American people are looking for, balance on the court.
They don't want too many Democrats, too many Republicans. They want some people who are
more moderate. They want decisions that are not predictable. They don't want a political
agenda that is going to dictate this court's future rulings.
And that, I think, sadly, is where we're headed.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Judge Barrett said during this confirmation hearing that she was not on a
mission to destroy the Affordable Care Act. Do you believe her?
SEN. RICHARD DURBIN: Well, I'm skeptical, because she's been very outspoken, critical
of the chief justice when he found the act constitutional.
She published an article saying she disagreed with him openly. Critical as well of the Affordable
Care Act itself. And those raise questions as to whether or not she should recuse herself,
at a minimum, recuse herself from this hearing.
And let me say, even though she denies having any bias on the case, President Trump, in
his prodigious tweeting, has said that was what he was looking for. He wanted a Supreme
Court justice who would eliminate the Affordable Care Act. He believes he found one. She may
deny it, but that's what he said.
JUDY WOODRUFF: There is also -- Senator Durbin, as you know, there are two important mail-in
ballot questions before the court right now that affect this election.
Should Judge Barrett recuse herself? Is it a conflict of interests if she participates
in these cases?
SEN. RICHARD DURBIN: To protect her integrity and the integrity the court, she should recuse
herself from any cases relating to this presidential election, another case where the president
was outspoken in his tweets.
He wanted nine justices on the Supreme Court in case there were any election questions
to come before the court. For goodness' sakes, this president doesn't have an unuttered word.
We know exactly what he's thinking. He wants a friendly justice on the court if he needs
a ruling that makes him a president of the United States again.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, finally, Senator, you brought up the question of COVID relief for
the American people.
There's a $2 trillion bill that has been sitting before the Congress since the summer. And
now we're getting close to this election. Speaker Pelosi has said she doesn't want to
come down from a number close to $2 trillion.
Should she agree -- should she agree to compromise on this because of the many, many Americans
who are hurting right now?
SEN. RICHARD DURBIN: Both sides should agree.
But let's be honest. Senator McConnell sent a message to the White House last week and
said: It's over. We're not going to consider any more COVID-19 legislation.
And, unfortunately, he has boycotted all the negotiating sessions. He just won't even attend
them. He has no interest in it. He doesn't see, as he said, a sense of urgency in dealing
I can tell you, there's a sense of urgency in my state of Illinois and his state of Kentucky,
when you look at the record number of infections and deaths in both of those states. We should
be dealing with this issue. And Speaker Pelosi has tried, tried, tried with this White House.
It would be helpful if the other element, the Republican control of the Senate, would
be part of this negotiation.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But you're saying both parties have a responsibility here to negotiate, to
SEN. RICHARD DURBIN: Oh, absolutely.
And we started at $3.4 trillion. The last number I heard was closer to $2 trillion,
$2.3 trillion from Speaker Pelosi. She's come down dramatically.
But the point she's making was brought home to me today by Illinois hospital administrators.
I had 30 of them on a phone call. They're desperate for help. They are worried that
they can't really meet the needs in my home state with the people who are facing infections
and ICUs. They're looking for a helping hand from Washington.
And here we are doing what? Five straight days on one Supreme Court nominee, not a minute
being spent to find the solution to this coronavirus challenge.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Should Speaker Pelosi accommodate further, more?
SEN. RICHARD DURBIN: Well, I'm calling on both sides to be reasonable.
And I think she has brought the number down dramatically from $3.4 trillion. They're close
enough now, there should be an agreement.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator Dick Durbin, we thank you very much for talking with us.
SEN. RICHARD DURBIN: You bet.
JUDY WOODRUFF: COVID cases are now spiking in parts of the country that were spared the
worst of it earlier on.
But that's not all. Some states are seeing a second surge now. Overall, the country is
averaging close to 75,000 new cases a day over the past seven days.
As William Brangham reports, that's led to a big jump in hospital admissions, straining
health care systems, as we just heard from Senator Durbin, and forcing hospitals to make
very difficult decisions.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: That's right, Judy.
Let's talk about Utah as a prime example of this. There were more than 1,600 new cases
in the state yesterday. That's an increase of about 30 percent from just two weeks ago.
The state has suffered more than 570 deaths since the pandemic began.
Hospital officials say their facilities are operating at near capacity, raising the prospect
they could be forced to prioritize who gets admitted to their intensive care units.
Dr. Edward Stenehjem is an infectious diseases specialist with the Intermountain Healthcare
system, which is the biggest system in Utah.
Dr. Stenehjem, very good to have you on the "NewsHour."
As I mentioned, you are seeing this big uptick in cases week over week. How are you handling
that, with all these people coming to your hospitals?
DR. EDWARD STENEHJEM, Intermountain Healthcare: Yes, thanks, William.
I mean, we're doing everything we can within our health care network to ensure that we
really strategize and put the patients where they need to be.
And so we have quite a few hospitals right here in Utah, and we are spreading our patients
out to ensure that all of our hospitals see COVID patients and non-COVID patients alike.
We have had to open up ICUs down in Southwestern Utah. And then we have also added new beds
in one of our orthopedic spine hospitals to accommodate the surge as well.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Let's see the cases keep going up. Do you guys have the capacity to
keep expanding and expanding and expanding?
DR. EDWARD STENEHJEM: Yes, so, we expect the cases, at least in the hospital, to keep going
up for a number of weeks.
We know that hospitalization is delayed after the cases are detected. That's typically delayed
from seven to 10 days. And so, at this rate, we can expect our hospitalizations to keep
going up for the next at least seven to 14 days.
And that's assuming that something changes in the community. We have plans to accommodate
this surge. And we have a number of surge plans that we will activate. And so we will
continue to open up ICUs, continue to make room for beds. And we will continue to shut
off some elective surgeries to accommodate further surge.
But the biggest issue is not necessarily the beds. The biggest issue is our health care
workers. That's really the resource that's going to be most limited as this continues.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Is that because you simply don't have enough people, or the people you
have are near the end of their rope?
Like, what is that?
DR. EDWARD STENEHJEM: Yes, it's a number of things.
One is, we have been at this for months. And so our caregivers are tired, they're frustrated,
and they keep seeing these patients over and over again.
And the fact of the matter is, as we open up more ICUs, we're not making more ICU doctors.
We're not making more ICU nurses or hospital staff or hospital physicians.
And so we will be in a situation where we will be bringing in physicians, nurse practitioners,
P.A.s to potentially help care for these patients. And so your ICU patient may not be cared for
by an ICU doctor, or they may be overseen by one, but not directly cared for.
And so those are the things we really worry about when our numbers continued to surge,
is that we will have patients that we can't take care of them the way we want to.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: I remember, earlier in the pandemic, when things were really bad in New
York, and then in Minnesota, I talked with some hospital officials there who were having
to have very uncomfortable conversations about, if this capacity gets so stressed, we have
to start triaging, in essence, who gets that crucial ICU bed and who doesn't.
Have you guys had those conversations? And how have those gone?
DR. EDWARD STENEHJEM: Yes, the Utah Hospital Association has certainly put forth some guidance
to that to our governor that is looking for approval.
Fortunately, in Utah, we have not had to be in that situation. At this point, we have
been able to manage our patients effectively with the resources we currently have. We certainly
don't look forward to that day. And we have planned for that day and how that will occur
and what will happen.
But we certainly hope that we can stem this tide and not get to that point.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Can you help me understand what you understand to be the drivers of the
epidemic in Utah?
I mean, are people abiding by social distancing and mask-wearing and all of those precautions?
DR. EDWARD STENEHJEM: Yes, it really started - - this surge of the epidemic started when
schools went back in session.
And we saw a really nice uptick in cases in 15-to-25-year-olds. And then, essentially,
like clockwork, they transmitted it to their parents and grandparents in the community.
And so we have seen this pretty aggressive community transmission really been drive -- driven
by that younger age group.
And now we're seeing cases increase in all age groups. And I think it comes back to the
matter is that, yes, we have some state level guidance that is issued per county based on
the number of cases we have, but in the fact that not everybody's following that guidance.
And we're seeing a lot of people in the community not wearing masks, and we're seeing a lot
of large congregate settings where people are not masked and they're transmitting the
So, it comes back down to simple public health measures of wearing a mask if you have to
go out, abiding by social distancing, not getting together in large groups, outside
is better than inside, and handwashing. It's as simple as that.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: One last question.
The president has alleged that hospitals are exaggerating the coronavirus death totals.
And he said that they're doing it to make more money, that, if you have a COVID case,
you get more money than if that person is not a COVID case.
He cites no evidence for that. Have you seen any evidence that that is occurring?
DR. EDWARD STENEHJEM: Absolutely not.
And, as a health care worker that has been in this fight now for the past seven months,
I find that comment very insulting.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: All right, Dr. Edward Stenehjem of the Intermountain Healthcare system in
Utah, thanks very much for being here.
DR. EDWARD STENEHJEM: Thanks for having me.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The confirmation battle over Amy Coney Barrett has put Judiciary Committee
Chairman Lindsey Graham in the political hot seat, as he seeks a fourth term in the U.S.
With one week left in the campaign, Gavin Jackson of South Carolina ETV reports on how
Graham's Democratic challenger is making this a closer race than even Democrats expected.
GAVIN JACKSON: A park near Charleston, South Carolina, transformed into a political battlefield
where more than 100 supporters sounded the war cry with their car horns as Jaime Harrison
rallied his base.
JAIME HARRISON (D), South Carolina Senatorial Candidate: Enough is enough with the hatred!
Enough is enough with the bigotry! Enough is enough with the division!
CROWD: Fill the seat!
GAVIN JACKSON: This Senate race has become the closest statewide race in decades, one
that has Senator Lindsey Graham in the political fight of his life.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): He says the main reason he's running against me is because
of the way I behaved in Kavanaugh. The main reason I'm going to win is because of the
way I behaved in Kavanaugh.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
GAVIN JACKSON: The same issues that are fueling tight polls and record-breaking fund-raising
by Harrison are the issues Graham hopes will secure him stronger conservative support and
a fourth term, his close support of President Donald Trump and his Supreme Court nominees.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: And thank you, more than anything else, for putting up with the never-ending
bull (EXPLETIVE DELETED) you have to go through.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
GAVIN JACKSON: Graham's push to confirm a Supreme Court nominee in an election year,
despite his previous stance to the contrary, has left many Graham voters fed up.
PATRICK DANIELS, South Carolina Voter: Senator Graham has really disappointed me. I voted
for him several times. Right out of his mouth, what he said: "Use these words against me."
And I did. I used these words against him.
CAROL MORRISON, South Carolina Voter: I'm a 40-year Republican, but you know, I -- we're
voting Biden and Harris. The last four years have been so emotionally disruptive. I have
voted for Lindsey. Sometimes, they're just in office too long. Sometimes, you just need
GAVIN JACKSON: Losing moderates and center-right Republicans, who helped him win the 2014 primary
and later that election by 17 points, is one critical way Jaime Harrison has a pathway
But Graham is still holding on to plenty of Republicans, and enticing others in places
like Anderson, which is part of the ultra-conservative upstate region of South Carolina.
ARTHUR JONES, South Carolina Voter: Six years ago, I probably said I wouldn't have voted
for him, but he's come around to fight for our country. So, I will stand by him.
LINDA COURSEY, South Carolina Voter: I think it's better that he's closer to the president
now, because he stands up for him when all the demon rats in the world are against him.
GAVIN JACKSON: Anderson is also home to longtime Republican activist Susan Aiken, who first
met Graham when he ran and won his first race for the 3rd Congressional District as part
of the Republican revolution of 1994.
SUSAN AIKEN, Chair, South Carolina Republican Party 3rd Congressional District: There's
been times I have not agreed with him, but I'm kind of like Ronald Reagan said. If you
agree with me 80 percent of the time, you are 80 percent my friend, not 20 percent my
GAVIN JACKSON: Jaime Harrison, a former congressional aide, state party chair, lobbyist, and currently
associate chairman with the Democratic National Committee, says Graham's radical shift is
why he got in the race last September.
JAIME HARRISON: I'm about doing the people's work.
GAVIN JACKSON: While South Carolina is growing, and Democrats are energized from the 2018
flip of the 1st Congressional District, home to Charleston and a growing number of new
residents, state Democratic Party chairman Trav Robertson admits the state is far off
from becoming as blue as its neighbors.
TRAV ROBERTSON, Chair, South Carolina Democratic Party: I don't know that we're a purple state.
I think that South Carolina is an independent state that trends Republican because Democrats
have not necessarily run the best of campaigns.
And I think that's one of the things that makes Jaime's campaign so successful, is that
he's actually talking about the values that bind us, instead of the fear that separates
GAVIN JACKSON: And the fund-raising has been successful as well. Harrison's third quarter
$57 million fund-raising hole shattered the Senate record. even Graham broke Senate GOP
records by raising $28 million.
While the TWO continue to saturate airwaves, social media sites and mailboxes, like they
have for months. Harrison's overall fund-raising is on track to total $100 million. The money
has boosted party coffers, funded a wave of resources that will help down-ballot candidates
now and assist in future statewide races, as Democrats look toward the next battle in
their war to shift the state.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Gavin Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Protecting the voting process from outside interference is a high priority
this election season.
In his latest report, Miles O'Brien looks at some of the latest technology being used
in Georgia, and whether it provides a stronger defense against tampering than the traditional
It's part of our ongoing Leading Edge series on science and innovation.
MILES O'BRIEN: In Georgia, early voting turnout is high, the presidential race is a toss-up,
and both Senate seats are in play. So, naturally, the political world is nervously watching
what voters here will do, while, in the world of computer science, they are tensely tracking
what the voting machines will do.
J. ALEX HALDERMAN, University of Michigan: Georgia is kind of a petri dish.
MILES O'BRIEN: Alex Halderman is a professor of computer science at the University of Michigan.
J. ALEX HALDERMAN: There's a lot more we have to learn about Georgia's election system.
And that's going to help inform how to better secure elections, not just in Georgia in November,
but across the country for years to come.
MILES O'BRIEN: He's among a handful of independent election security experts getting unprecedented
access to the inner workings of the state's $107 million voting system rolled out earlier
Also taking a deep dive? Election security white hat hacker Harri Hursti.
HARRI HURSTI, Nordic Innovation Labs: They have set up a complicated system, which is
centralized, and doesn't seem to have any safeguards.
MILES O'BRIEN: Georgia's vote-tallying system is a complex assortment of laptops, iPads,
magnetic cards, touchscreens, printers, and scanners, lots of moving parts.
RICK BARRON, Director of Registration and Elections, Fulton County, Georgia: This is
the Poll Pads. On Election Day, it is used to check in voters.
MILES O'BRIEN: Rick Barron is Fulton County's director of registration and elections. He
gave me a demo.
RICK BARRON: It tells whether we issued an absentee-by-mail ballot, whether somebody's
voted early, whether they have voted that absentee ballot, or whether they are still
eligible to vote.
MILES O'BRIEN: Once a voter is deemed eligible, the iPad activates a magnetic card, which
in turn unlocks a so-called ballot marking device, or BMD OK.
This is a pretty complicated way to do something you could do with pen and paper.
RICK BARRON: Yes.
MILES O'BRIEN: There are advantages here, right?
RICK BARRON: Yes. The advantages are, it puts a true mark on the screen.
MILES O'BRIEN: When done, the voter prints a ballot. Selections are recorded in human
readable text and in a Q.R. code, which is read and counted by an optical scanner.
Georgia's secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, says this is more accurate than pen and paper.
BRAD RAFFENSPERGER, Georgia Secretary of State: The problem with pen and paper is, sometimes,
you have your instructions on what you're supposed to do, but you end up with spoiled
Sometimes, people will put an X here, but then they circle this one here, or they will
make different marks on it. What did they really mean there?
MILES O'BRIEN: Still, elections officials tell us they seldom see a hand-marked ballot
where they can't determine voter intent. In 2019, Georgia bought the devices from a Canadian
company called Dominion Voting systems.
They replaced paperless machines like these made by a now defunct company called Diebold
Election Systems. A federal judge forced the state to scrap the discredited devices. Election
security activist Marilyn Marks was part of the lawsuit that triggered the change. But,
for her, ballot-marking devices, now used widely in 14 states, are not the ideal remedy.
MARILYN MARKS, Coalition For Good Governance: We need paper records that are marked by the
voter, with the voter's own hand, where we know that was recorded the way that the voter
wanted it recorded.
MILES O'BRIEN: So, she and the other plaintiffs took aim at the new voting machines. The lawsuit
came into sharp focus after their chaotic debut in the June primary.
The Poll Pads took as long as 30 hours to download the voter database, displayed the
wrong races, and would randomly shut down. And the power-hungry ballot-marking devices
blew circuit-breakers in numerous locations.
Poll workers, many of whom had no hands-on training because of the pandemic, were often
befuddled by the new technology.
RICK BARRON: We have learned a lot of lessons. We're putting technicians in every single
We have to make sure that not only do the poll workers know how to use the equipment,
but then these technicians are then going to be relied upon to fix any issues. We want
to just fly under the radar and do our jobs and stay away from the news.
MILES O'BRIEN: But election experts working for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against
the state have uncovered several troubling issues.
Alex Halderman looked closely at the Q.R. codes where the votes are encoded for the
J. ALEX HALDERMAN: By analyzing the structure of the Q.R. codes, I have been able to learn
that there's nothing that stops an attacker from just duplicating one, and the duplicate
would count the same as the original bar code.
MILES O'BRIEN: And in late September, another concern came to light. During testing, election
workers found half the names of the 21 candidates for Senate intermittently disappeared from
screens during the review phase.
Dominion sent out a last-minute software patch.
J. ALEX HALDERMAN: I'm worried that the Georgia system is the technical equivalent to the
737 MAX. They have just made a last-minute software change that might well have unintended
consequences and cause even more severe problems on Election Day.
HARRI HURSTI: You never want to rush something which is mission-critical, and this is mission-critical,
into production without proper time for testing.
That's really one of the ways bad actors are finding the vulnerabilities to exploit is
looking for honest vulnerabilities and finding out if they can be weaponized, if they can
MILES O'BRIEN: Despite all the concerns, federal Judge Amy Totenberg decided to let the election
proceed with the ballot marking device system. The secretary of state says post-election
audits will bring any Q.R. code discrepancies to light.
BRAD RAFFENSPERGER: We're in the process of really continuing to expand the capabilities
that we have, so we can audit more of the races. When we do the audit, we actually do
it on the human-readable portion, and not on the Q.R. code.
MILES O'BRIEN: Alex Halderman and his team at Michigan conducted a mock election to see
if voters are likely to catch mistakes on the printouts. Only 7 percent spotted a deliberately
planted error. So, double-check your ballot before you scan.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Miles O'Brien in Atlanta.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Believe it or not, we are a week in a day away from the polls closing
on November 3, and, already, more than 60 million Americans have cast their ballots.
Still, the campaigns are out delivering their closing messages to voters.
Our Politics Monday team is here for analysis of the final sprint, Amy Walter of The Cook
Political Report and host of public radio's "Politics With Amy Walter," and Tamara Keith
of NPR. She also co-hosts the "NPR Politics Podcast."
Hello to both of you.
Only two Mondays to go before Election Day. And as these days dwindle down to a precious
few, Tam, we look even more closely at what the candidates are doing, where they're going.
What do you make of their schedules, their travel, what they're up to right now?
TAMARA KEITH, National Public Radio: President Trump is going everywhere in the next few
He's in Pennsylvania today, as you had in your piece earlier in the show, but he is
truly going all over the place. He's going to Iowa and Michigan and Wisconsin and Nevada
And what he is trying to do is mostly defend ground from the last election. You know, President
Trump really narrowly won by creating almost an impossible scenario, and now he has to
And, at the same time, Joe Biden is -- he is not doing as many events, certainly, as
President Trump. They have made a calculation they don't want him out as much, in part because
- - in large part, because of the coronavirus.
But there are interesting things happening, like Joe Biden going to Georgia and Kamala
Harris going to Texas.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Amy, as you look at the candidates' itineraries, what do you see?
What does it tell you?
AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: Yes, I agree with Tam, in that the Trump campaign's
playing a lot more defense and Biden's on offense.
The fact that -- and I looked at where the president was today in Pennsylvania. These
are in those white working-class kind of areas that he did very well in 2016. But this close
to Election Day, if you are all about just shoring up your base, that's a problem.
This is the part of the campaign where you're getting in your last-minute sale to those
final undecided voters or those handful of swing voters. You should be in those places
right now, not just trying to make sure that the people that already do like you come and
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Tam, pick up on that.
And the message that we're hearing from the president is pretty much the same message
he's been delivering.
TAMARA KEITH: Yes, I mean, I feel like Amy and I are sort of broken records on this.
But President Trump's theory of the case here is that he's going to find new Republicans,
he is going to find people who support him who didn't vote for him last time and get
them out to vote with his amazing ground game.
They say that, you know, they have this voter turnout operation, 2.5 million volunteers
who made 10 million voter contacts in the last week. And they are going -- really, they
are going with a base plan. That is their plan.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Amy, I mean, I looked at one of the spots the president was at to
visit today in Pennsylvania that you just mentioned, Martinsburg, population, I think,
Can he make up in the rural parts of the state the Biden advantage in the urban? I mean,
how do you see that?
AMY WALTER: Right.
That's kind of his plan, right, which is not necessarily to win back some of those -- he's
not there trying to win back some of those suburban voters in and around Philadelphia,
but, instead, is going back to the small towns, rural areas that turned out in droves.
But, remember, Judy, even though they turned out at record numbers, totally, for many,
unexpected numbers, he -- that only got him less than a percentage point victory in 2016.
And what we have been hearing pretty consistently in places like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin,
Michigan is that the president is not only losing by bigger margins in the suburban areas,
but he's not doing as well as he did in 2016 with older voters, seniors, independent voters.
Those are the voters that are going to determine this election.
Now, look, the president does have a very good track record of, at the end of a campaign,
coming in and firing his base up and ensuring that, at the very least, the floor does not
drop out from under him. But in order to win these states, he has got to be able to make
up some ground where Joe Biden has taken some of those votes away from 2016.
And here's the other thing. Joe Biden has been going, actually, not just to the suburban
areas, but he's also been up around the areas where Hillary Clinton underperformed the Obama
number. And so he's trying to not just run up the score in the suburbs, but to at least
lessen the margin by which he loses in some of these whiter working-class areas.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Tam, meantime, the vice president has been hit, his staff -- five
members of the staff have been hit with the coronavirus.
He's still out on the trail. The doctors say he's testing negative, he's an essential worker,
but does this send a good political message for him?
TAMARA KEITH: Well, I mean, it certainly proves how essential they believe it is to have him
out there campaigning, because, you're right, he -- his chief of staff has tested positive
for coronavirus. He's what's considered a close contact, and yet Vice President Pence
is out there.
We did see him campaigning in Minnesota. He wore a mask as he got off Air Force Two, which
he hasn't been doing in the past as often. So, he is making some changes, because the
CDC guidelines say, if you're returning to work as an essential working, you need to
wear a mask at all times.
You know, in terms of the message this sends, this is part of the big divide in this campaign.
Kamala Harris took several days off the trail when people who weren't even considered close
contacts, but had flown on her campaign plane, tested positive.
The Biden campaign has made a calculation that taking coronavirus very seriously is
part of how he's going to win this race. The Trump campaign and President Trump and the
vice president have made the calculation that saying that America is turning the corner,
saying it's going to get better, it is getting better, don't worry about the numbers -- the
president has started saying, cases, cases, cases, in the way he used to say Russia, Russia,
Their calculation is sort of to ignore the coronavirus, pretend it isn't there, and talk
about the economy.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Amy, in the time...
AMY WALTER: You know...
JUDY WOODRUFF: Go ahead, Amy, yes.
AMY WALTER: Yes.
Well, Judy, a while back, a Republican strategist gave me a very good line that I use often
at moments like this. And he said, you can't win on turnout if you're losing on message.
And the president is trying to boost turnout.
But the message on the coronavirus is not where the rest of the country is. A lot of
Republicans do believe the corner's been turned, do not think it's serious, but the majority
of Americans are still worried about getting the coronavirus, and they disapprove of the
job that the president is doing on the issue.
So, the fact that this is front and center in the last week of the campaign is not a
great thing for this president.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Little bit of time we have left, Amy, I just want to ask you about one
thing the president is reported to have said this week to a group of donors.
He said he thinks the Republicans are going to retake the House of Representatives, although
he's less sure about the Senate. What about that?
AMY WALTER: No.
AMY WALTER: In fact, it's more likely than not that not only do the Democrats keep the
House, but they could increase their numbers by more than 10 seats.
And where Republicans continue to lose seats are in the suburbs in places like Texas, Indiana,
in and around sort of midsized cities like Saint Louis and Cincinnati. So, the House
is not in play this year. And, in fact, Democrats are likely to increase their numbers there.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Reality check all the way around.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Amy Walter, Tamara Keith, last seven days to go.
Thank you both.
AMY WALTER: You're welcome.
TAMARA KEITH: You're welcome.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And thanking them.
And with that, we say, that's the "NewsHour" for tonight. I'm Judy Woodruff.
Join us online and again here tomorrow evening.
For all of us at the "PBS NewsHour," thank you, please stay safe, and we'll see you soon.
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