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Friday September 24th, 2021 6:17PM

The Latest: Biden accuses Trump of encouraging virus spread

By The Associated Press
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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on the presidential campaign (all times local):

3:55 p.m.

Joe Biden has long accused the Trump administration of giving up on the coronavirus pandemic, but he is getting more aggressive, arguing that the president actively encouraged its spread.

Seeking to keep the focus of the presidential race on a health crisis that has killed more than 220,000 Americans, Biden said Friday of President Donald Trump, “It was as if he decided to go on the offense for the virus.”

The Democratic presidential nominee noted that Trump held large, non-socially distanced and maskless rallies nationwide, even “inviting the virus into the White House” by taking a relaxed approach to the most basic of precautions.

In a speech in Delaware, Biden promised, if elected, to use his transition period to the White House to contact every governor, as well as local officials, to determine their pandemic-fighting needs.

He said he’d ask governors for a universal mask-wearing requirement and, if they refuse, bypass them to local officials.

Biden also said he’d ask Congress to approve a spending bill to combat the virus and its economic fallout by Jan. 30, a mere 10 days after Inauguration Day.

___

HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE PRESIDENTIAL RACE:

President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, are framing their closing messages in the sprint to Nov. 3. Biden spoke in Delaware on Friday on his plans to beat COVID-19 and get the economy back on track. Trump is traveling to Florida for rallies in The Villages and Pensacola.

Read more:

— Trump, Biden lawyer up, brace for White House legal battle

— Battleground states' postal delays persist with mail voting underway

— Vision 2020: What happens if the US election is contested?

— Analysis: Debate is brief interlude of normalcy in 2020 race

— Final Trump-Biden debate is marked by clashes but less chaos

— Biden calls for ‘transition’ from oil, GOP sees opening

— US: Russian hackers targeting state, local networks

___

HERE'S WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON:

3:45 p.m.

Kamala Harris is defending her record as a prosecutor and promising that a Joe Biden White House would push to “decriminalize marijuana” and “expunge” the records of Americans convicted under current federal laws.

The Democratic vice presidential candidate campaigned Friday in Atlanta with a focus on Black voters who will prove pivotal in deciding the outcome in Georgia and other battleground states.

She told a roundtable of Black men that she and Biden understand the barriers Black men face, including the U.S. criminal justice system. She said she discussed the matter, including drug laws, with rapper Killer Mike during a private meeting earlier Friday.

And she offered a spirited defense of her record when another musician, rapper and producer, Jermaine Dupri, asked her to address her history of “putting a lot of Black brothers away.”

Harris said she chose to be a prosecutor to “reform the system” from within, comparing her career path to “going up the rough side of the mountain.” She recounted prosecuting cases for crimes of sexual violence and human trafficking and that “people went to jail” but she framed her efforts more as making changes to steer defendants away from prison.

And she pushed back at the notion of Black prosecutors having to answer for a “flawed” system because “it suggests Black people shouldn’t be prosecutors.”

___

3:15 p.m.

Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris is encouraging young Black voters to embrace Joe Biden.

But she also said while campaigning in Atlanta on Friday that she’s not “going to tell Black men they have to vote for us.” The California senator said, “We have to earn that vote.”

Harris told a roundtable of Black men that the Democratic ticket “is committed” to expanding economic and educational opportunities for Black Americans and overhauling the nation’s criminal justice system.

Harris said Black entrepreneurs “don’t lack for creative ideas” but have too little access to capital.

In a separate event with Black college students, Harris vouched for Biden as someone who “has the ability to speak the words ‘Black Lives Matter’ in a way that other fella does not.”

Only later did she call President Donald Trump by name, blasting him as having a “weird obsession” with overturning any accomplishment of his predecessor, former President Barack Obama.

___

12:50 p.m.

President Donald Trump is reviewing his debate against Democrat Joe Biden, saying he thought it went “really well” and was an “exciting night.”

The Republican president and the Democratic former vice president squared off Thursday in their final head-to-head matchup before the Nov. 3 election. The debate in Tennessee offered more substantive discussion of issues and was lighter on the types of sometimes intense personal clashes that dominated their first meeting in late September.

Addressing reporters in the Oval Office on Friday, Trump says his more straightforward performance “was a more popular way of doing it.”

Trump says he wanted to play by the rules on Thursday although he liked his more aggressive tone in that first debate.

___

12:15 p.m.

Sen. Kamala Harris is clarifying Joe Biden’s comments during the last presidential debate about transitioning away from the oil industry, saying he won’t ban the oil extraction technique called fracking.

Speaking to reporters in Atlanta on Friday, Biden’s running mate said he will “deal with the oil subsidies.”

Republicans have launched a barrage of attacks on the issue.

Biden was asked during Thursday’s debate with President Donald Trump in Tennessee if there would be “any place for fossil fuels, including coal and fracking, in a Biden administration.” The Democrat offered a muddled response, initially saying he would transition away from oil, before clarifying he’d eliminate federal subsidies for the industry.

Biden’s climate plan calls for achieving net-zero carbon emissions in part through nixing subsidies, which would have implications for fracking. Biden also has proposed a ban on new gas and oil permits on federal lands but not a full fracking ban.

Republicans seized on Biden’s answer to again claim that his policies would have damaging implications for the oil and gas industry.

Harris dismisses those attacks, saying Trump “likes to take everything out of context.”

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