Monday January 25th, 2021 12:22PM

The Latest: Biden fails to acknowledge crime bill criticisms

By The Associated Press
  Contact Editor

WASHINGTON (AP) — The latest on the presidential campaign (all times local):

9:05 p.m.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is failing to acknowledge the criticisms of the 1994 crime bill, which he as a member of the Senate helped write and pass and which has been used to illustrate systemic racism in the nation.

However, last year Biden publicly accepted responsibility for his part in the passage of the legislation, especially that which toughened sentences for crack cocaine possession, calling it a “big mistake” for its damage to the Black community.

He notes that members of the Congressional Black Caucus supported it, although today Black members of Congress, including his running mate California Sen. Kamala Harris, had previously criticized Biden for his part in it.

Biden notes his lead role in writing the Violence Against Women Act as part of the bill, but not the wholesale incarceration of Black men that mandatory minimum sentencing provisions, allowed by the bill, led to.

“The mistakes came in terms of what the states did locally,” he says.



President Donald Trump is traveling to North Carolina and Florida on Thursday and will participate in an NBC town hall from Miami at 8 p.m. Eastern. His Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, is participating in an ABC town hall from Philadelphia at the same time.

Read more:

— President Donald Trump and Joe Biden will compete for TV audiences in dueling town halls.

— Poll by AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds majorities of Americans are highly critical of Trump’s handling of coronavirus pandemic and his own illness.

— Harris temporarily suspend in-person events after two campaign associates test positive for virus.



9:03 p.m.

President Donald Trump says he didn’t ask Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett whether she’d rule in his favor should the Supreme Court have to decide the 2020 election.

Trump and Republicans have cited the election as one reason they’ve rushed to seat Barrett on the court. Trump said he does not know whether she’d rule in his favor in any litigation over the vote.

Trump said Thursday at his town hall event: “It would be totally up to her.”

The president acknowledged he changed his standard for court appointments this year. In 2016, he argued that President Barack Obama should not be able to fill an empty seat eight months before the election. This year he is pushing Barrett through less than three weeks before Election Day.

Trump said the reason was Democratic opposition to his last nominee, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual harassment in his 2018 confirmation. “The whole ballgame changed when I saw the way they treated Judge Kavanaugh,” Trump said. “I have never seen a human being treated so badly.”


9 p.m.

President Donald Trump is acknowledging he may owe $400 million as part of his business dealings, but he’s not saying to whom he owes money.

Trump on Thursday night was pressed on a New York Times report citing tax returns showing he has business debts exceeding $400 million.

He insisted that he didn’t owe any money to Russia or any “sinister people.”

He described his debts as a “very very small percentage.” He said: “$400 million is a peanut.”

The president suggested repeatedly Thursday night that he would be willing to release details about his debts, but it’s unclear when that might happen. He again repeated his refusal to release his tax returns more than four years after he first promised he would.


8:53 p.m.

Joe Biden is giving a winding explanation about why he should get the votes of young Black people who may not be enthusiastic about supporting him.

Biden initially touched on the criminal justice system during his ABC News town hall Thursday night, suggesting it needed to be made “fair” and “more decent” before moving on to an assortment of economic and educational policies.

He said Black Americans need to be given tools to help generate wealth, including increased loans for Black-owned businesses and homeowners.

The former vice president said America also needs to increase its funding for schools with lower-income families and suggesting adding more school psychologists in schools. He also proposed adding $70 billion to historically Black colleges and universities.

At the end of his five-minute answer, he offered to provide “a lot more” information to the young Black man who asked the question.


8:50 p.m.

The first half of President Donald Trump’s NBC News town hall was dominated by testy exchanges with “Today” anchor Savannah Guthrie after she pushed him on a variety of issues.

Under the intense questioning Thursday, Trump told Guthrie “we should be on the same side.”

Guthrie pressed Trump to say when he last tested negative for the coronavirus before his positive diagnosis earlier this month. He did not say.

She pressed him on his prolific tweeting, telling him he’s not someone’s “crazy uncle” who can tweet whatever they want. He said the tweet she focused on was a retweet.

Guthrie also challenged Trump on his dubious claims about mask-wearing, telling the president that his own government experts are “all in unison” on their benefits.

At one point she exclaimed, “I don’t get it.”


8:47 p.m.

President Donald Trump inaccurately contends there is a tremendous problem with voter fraud and takes issue with FBI Director Christopher Wray saying last month that he has not seen evidence of a widespread issue.

Trump said at a town hall event in Miami: “Well, then, he’s not doing a very good job.”

Trump has baselessly claimed voter fraud is widespread even though studies show it is rarer than being struck by lightning. He has also augmented routine election mishaps to sow distrust in the outcome of the coming election.

The president claimed that pro-Trump ballots were being dumped in garbage cans, an apparent reference to nine military ballots accidentally being thrown out in an elections office in a GOP-controlled Pennsylvania county. He also rattled off several examples of erroneous mail ballots being sent without noting they had all been corrected.


8:45 p.m.

President Donald Trump is insisting he’s going to implement an improved and more affordable health care system, but he’s refusing to give any details.

Trump attacked the Affordable Care Act over and over again when asked about his own plans to lower health care costs Thursday night at a town hall. He claimed, incorrectly, that he’s already lowered health care costs. And while he’s been making similar promises for more than four years, he has yet to outline a specific plan.

In the town hall, he said only that he would implement “much better health care under a much better price.”

Trump also repeated his pledge to protect people with preexisting conditions, even though his administration is trying to overturn the Affordable Care Act -- and its protection for people with preexisting conditions -- at the Supreme Court.


8:40 p.m.

Democrat Joe Biden is hedging on whether he would mandate that all Americans be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Biden said Thursday during a town-hall-style event in Philadelphia that it would depend on the reliability of the vaccine.

He says that it would “have to have a very positive impact and how you can affect positively 85% of the American public,” and that he would likely receive the vaccine if it met that criteria.

Biden says we “should be talking about” mandating the vaccine, knowing that it’s difficult to enforce. But likewise, he says, it’s difficult to enforce a mask mandate, though scientists suggest they slow the spread.

“You can go to every governor and get them in a room,” he says. “The words of a president matter, no matter whether they’re good, bad or indifferent, they matter.”


8:35 p.m.

Democrat Joe Biden says he doesn’t plan to eliminate all the tax cuts enacted by President Donald Trump, just those that apply to the top earners.

Referencing tax cuts for the top 1%, Biden said Thursday at an ABC town hall: “That’s what I’m talking about eliminating, not all the tax cuts that are out there.”

His running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, said in the vice presidential debate that Biden would repeal the tax bill passed by Congress and signed by Trump “on day one″ but also that he wouldn’t raise taxes on people making less than $400,000. Vice President Mike Pence pointed out repealing the entire tax bill would eliminate tax cuts for lower earners.

He referred to a card he pulled from his pocket with facts and figures on how much money would be raised through certain tax rates.

Biden says raising taxes on corporations and high-income earners would bring in a lot of money to invest in programs that can “make your life easier.”


8:30 p.m.

President Donald Trump says, without evidence, that people who wear face masks are getting infected with the coronavirus “all the time.”

Trump made the claim Thursday under questioning during an NBC News town hall event in Miami.

The president was asked about a large White House gathering Sept. 26 that is believed to be a source of coronavirus infections in many people who attended, including the president and first lady Melania Trump. Most guests didn’t wear masks.

Trump says he’s “good with masks” before claiming that “people with masks are catching it all the time.” Trump rarely wears a mask himself.

The director to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said wearing a mask is the best way to prevent infection, short of a vaccine that is still in development.


8:25 p.m.

President Donald Trump is refusing to condemn a conspiracy theory that holds that the government is run by anti-Trump Satanic pedophiles, but he is condemning white supremacy.

Trump gave the initial condemnation under sharp questioning by Savannah Guthrie of NBC News. She pushed him to condemn the movement in a way he had refrained from doing on the debate stage with Joe Biden last month.

“I denounce white supremacy,” Trump said. “I’ve denounced white supremacy for years.”

But Trump refused to make the same statement about the QAnon movement, which believes Democrats and the government are Satanic pedophiles whom Trump will destroy. Trump falsely insisted he knew nothing of the movement, although he has been asked about it many times before. Trump has previously said he was pleased with the movement because it praises him.

“I know they are very much against pedophilia,” Trump said.


8:20 p.m.

Joe Biden is opening an ABC News town hall by criticizing President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

He said Thursday that it’s “a president’s responsibility to lead” and that Trump “didn’t do that.” Biden said Trump focused too exclusively on the stock market while downplaying how the virus spread and threatened both Americans’ health and the economy on the ground.

Biden also criticized Trump for not more actively engaging with Congress to pass another economic relief package for individuals and businesses.

The former vice president acknowledged that he didn’t call for widespread mask use and social distancing until the spring. But he said that was when “the science” had become clearer on how the virus spreads.

Biden repeated that he’d listen to government scientists and public health experts but said that doesn’t mean the economy has to shut down.


8:05 p.m.

President Donald Trump was evasive when asked whether he took a coronavirus test on the day of the first debate, like he was supposed to.

Trump’s comments came in the opening moments of Thursday night’s town hall-style meeting on NBC. His Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, was appearing at a similar event at the same time on another network.

Trump was seated on stage, not wearing a mask, on a set with several voters spaced several feet apart, all of them wearing masks.

Pressed many times, he finally said he “probably” took a test the day of the opening debate last week, but he doesn’t remember. The Commission on Presidential Debates asked the two candidates to take tests before they arrived, but it was on the honor system.

He tested positive for the coronavirus two days after the first debate.

Trump also says he has “nothing, whatsoever” remaining of symptoms from his coronavirus infection. But he acknowledged that doctors determined that his lungs were “a little bit infected” when he was hospitalized.


8 p.m.

The dueling town halls have begun.

President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, are competing for TV audiences on Thursday night instead of meeting face-to-face for their second debate as originally planned.

The two are taking questions in different cities on different networks: Trump on NBC from Miami, Biden on ABC from Philadelphia. Trump backed out of plans for the presidential faceoff originally scheduled for Thursday evening after debate organizers said it would be held virtually following Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis.

The town halls offer a different format for the candidates to present themselves to voters, after the two held a chaotic and combative first debate late last month.


5:55 p.m.

Vice President Mike Pence is rallying Hispanic voters in Florida by highlighting President Donald Trump’s record opposing socialist leaders across Latin America.

Pence said Thursday that their support in the battleground state is crucial to guarantee Trump’s reelection. About 2.4 million Latinos are registered to vote for the 2020 presidential election in Florida.

A few hundred Trump supporters who emigrated from various countries gathered at the Cuban Memorial in Miami’s Tamiami Park to cheer for Pence as he criticized Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden for being part of former President Barack Obama’s normalization of relations with Cuba in 2014.

Pence says, “President Trump brought eight years of appeasement to an end and President Donald Trump will only stand hand in hand with you.”

For the past four years, Trump has been taking steps to reinstate an economic blockade of Cuba and reverse Obama’s thaw.


5:05 p.m.

Kamala Harris says the Democratic presidential campaign’s response to positive coronavirus tests among their team “obviously stands in stark contrast to you-know-who.”

Harris, Joe Biden’s running mate, made the thinly veiled remark about President Donald Trump on Thursday during a virtual fundraising call.

She was scheduled to campaign in North Carolina but canceled the trip after her communications director and a member of the flight crew on a recent trip tested positive for the virus. Harris says she last saw them both seven days ago, and her doctors say her activity doesn’t need to be restricted based on CDC guidelines. Harris tested negative for the virus on Thursday.

Harris says the campaign has been following a strict set of rules to keep people safe.

She says, “Just so you know, I feel great and will proceed with everything that is necessary in these next 19 days.”

She says she’s spoken to both people who contracted the virus and that they “are doing well.”


4:20 p.m.

A third person tied to Joe Biden’s campaign has tested positive for the coronavirus.

The news comes as Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris, paused her in-person campaigning after finding out two others, one of her staffers and a crew member on her flight to Arizona last week, tested positive for the virus. Both Biden and Harris tested negative for the coronavirus Thursday morning.

Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon said in a statement that an administrative staffer for the company that charters Biden’s campaign plane tested positive on Thursday morning. The staffer flew with Biden to Ohio on Monday and Florida on Tuesday, but O’Malley Dillon says they were always over 50 feet (15 meters) away from Biden, and both wore masks for the entire flight.

Because Biden was not in close contact with the person, the campaign’s medical experts have advised that Biden doesn’t need to quarantine.


3:05 p.m.

California Sen. Kamala Harris has tested negative for the coronavirus.

It comes the same day she canceled travel for several days after two people involved with the Democratic presidential campaign tested positive.

The campaign says both Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, tested negative for the virus Thursday.

Harris, Joe Biden’s running mate, was scheduled to campaign in North Carolina, which she has replaced with a virtual event.

The campaign announced Thursday morning that Harris’ communications director and a noncampaign staff member of the fight crew for her travel tested positive for the virus. The campaign says Harris did not have close contact with either within the past 48 hours.

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