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Wednesday February 24th, 2021 8:30PM

The Latest: Winfrey boosts Biden at get-out-the-vote event

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

8:35 p.m.

Joe Biden is getting a boost from Oprah Winfrey in the final days of the presidential campaign.

The Democratic nominee made a surprise appearance Wednesday on a virtual get-out-the-vote event hosted by Winfrey that focused on voters in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio.

While President Donald Trump won all but Minnesota in 2016, Democrats are increasingly optimistic Biden can win at least Michigan and Pennsylvania back, and he’s making a play for Ohio as well.

During the event, Biden spoke to Mildred Madison, a 94-year-old Michigan resident who drove over 600 miles to cast her vote in person after her absentee ballot never arrived.

He told Madison that her story “gives me that extra boost of hope and energy and optimism for the country.” Referencing his stump speech slogan that “we’re in a battle for the soul of America,” Biden told Madison, “You are the soul of America.”

Winfrey was an early high-profile endorser of Barack Obama, and her support helped boost him in the 2008 Democratic primary. But while she endorsed Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016, she largely sat out of the campaign that year.

___

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

The presidential campaign shifts west as President Donald Trump visits an Arizona town across the Colorado River from Nevada. Democrat Joe Biden gave remarks on the coronavirus pandemic on Wednesday before he and his wife, Jill, went to cast their ballots.

Read more:

— ‘We need you’: GOP hunts for new voters in Trump territory

— Anxiety 2020: Voters worry about safety at the polls

— Biden faces challenges in quickly combating the pandemic

___

HERE'S WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON:

8:20 p.m.

Kamala Harris is addressing President Donald Trump’s criticism of her while campaigning in Arizona, calling herself a “proud, patriotic American” in the spirit of the late Sen. John McCain.

The Democratic vice presidential nominee said Wednesday during a car rally in Phoenix that “there’s been a lot of talk from the current occupant of the White House about my values.”

Trump has criticized Harris as a force of the “radical left” and a “socialist.” He’s also said it would be an insult for her to be the nation’s first female president.

Harris says one of the values Americans share is the knowledge that the commander in chief’s first priority should be the health of the nation’s people. She’s calling Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic “the greatest failure” of any administration in history.

She says, “I know that we are all prepared to stand for the democracy of our country and to stand for the country we love.”

___

6:35 p.m.

President Donald Trump says a former administration official who penned a scathing anti-Trump op-ed and book under the pen name “Anonymous” was a “sleazebag.”

Speaking at a rally in Goodyear, Arizona, soon after the former administration official, Miles Taylor, acknowledged he was the writer, Trump dismissed the former chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security as “a nobody, a disgruntled employee.”

In fact, Taylor was present at many White House meetings with Trump covering border policy and other major issues involving DHS.

Trump joked to the friendly crowd that he thought “Anonymous” might one of his senior advisers, naming Hope Hicks and his son-in-law Jared Kushner, or Republican Sens. Mike Lee or Rand Paul. The senators, close Trump allies, were on hand for Wednesday’s rally.

___

5:05 p.m.

A spokesperson for President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign says the revelation that Miles Taylor is “Anonymous” is the “least impressive, lamest political ‘reveal’ of all time.”

Miles Taylor, a former chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security, revealed himself Wednesday to be the senior White House administration official known as “Anonymous” who wrote a scathing New York Times op-ed about Trump and a subsequent book, “A Warning.” As “Anonymous,” he claimed to be part of a “resistance” working “from within” to thwart Trump’s “worst inclinations.”

Taylor has been an outspoken critic of Trump’s in recent months and has a contributor contract on CNN.

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows says, “I’ve seen more exciting reveals in Scooby-Doo episodes. What a monumental embarrassment.”

Campaign spokesperson Hogan Gidley says he worked with DHS officials during his tenure at the White House and “even I had to research who Miles Taylor was.” Hogan points out that Taylor lied to Anderson Cooper on CNN in August when he denied being “Anonymous.”

___

4:25 p.m.

President Donald Trump paused a campaign speech in the battleground state of Arizona to admire a fighter jet flying by.

Trump said Wednesday as the jet roared by his rally in Bullhead City: “I love that sound.”

Trump, who identified the jet as an F-35, went back to his remarks briefly before the pilot offered a nifty maneuver that caught both Trump’s and the crowd’s eye again.

North American Aerospace Defense Command says the jet was an F-16 that released a flare to get the attention of a nonresponsive private aircraft that was flying in the restricted airspace near the president’s event. The organization says the private aircraft was escorted out of the area by the F-16 “without further incident.”

After the flare from the jet, the president once again offered his appreciation and segued into a dig on Democrats.

He says, “You know how hard it is to get Democrats to pay for that?”

___

3:40 p.m.

Miles Taylor, a former Department of Homeland Security chief of staff, has announced that he is “Anonymous,” the senior White House administration official who claimed to be part of a “resistance” working “from within” to thwart President Donald Trump’s “worst inclinations.”

Taylor, an outspoken Trump critic, tweeted Wednesday that he wrote the 2018 op-ed in The New York Times and a subsequent book. Anonymous’ identity had been hidden until now.

Taylor writes in a statement six days before the election that he is a Republican and wanted Trump to succeed.

But he writes that, “too often in times of crisis, I saw Donald Trump prove he is a man without character, and his personal defects have resulted in leadership failures so significant that they can be measured in lost American lives.”

Taylor, who served as DHS chief of staff from 2017 to 2019, has already endorsed Democrat Joe Biden in the presidential race and created a group for former administration officials who are now public critics of the president.

He has accused Trump of using DHS for “political benefit” by focusing on issues that would help his campaign at the expense of more pressing matters.

___

3:25 p.m.

The lease holder at a Reno airport hangar where Vice President Mike Pence plans a rally Thursday has signed an agreement that requires the Republican National Committee to adhere to all Nevada COVID-19 restrictions, including a 250-person attendance cap and mandatory masks.

The RNC also must provide proof of at least $1 million in liability insurance in addition to the lease holder’s $5 million policy to cover any damages, fines or legal actions. That’s according to a copy of the special use permit agreement that the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority provided The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The lease holder, longtime GOP donor Perry Di Loreto, signed the agreement Monday. That’s the same day Nevada fined a nearby county and airport more than $5,500 for allowing a campaign event for President Donald Trump that drew thousands of mostly unmasked people in September.

The 50-person cap in place at that time has since been raised to 250.

___

3 p.m.

If he wins the presidency, one of Joe Biden’s first moves will be to call foreign leaders and tell them “America is back.”

That’s what the Democratic presidential nominee told more than two dozen donors on a virtual fundraiser Wednesday. Biden said he would “literally” be on the phone with “key leaders in Europe and Asia” working to rebuild alliances and reassuring them that “you can take our word again.” He also indicated that some of those leaders have “been in contact with me the past year.”

Biden, a former chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was heavily engaged in foreign diplomacy during his time as vice president and has often expressed his desire to rebuild America’s standing globally, something he said Wednesday would be “a monumental task.”

Biden added that the coronavirus pandemic “only makes things more urgent” because “it’s laid bare just how critical global cooperation is.” He said he’d “mobilize the world to fight the defining threats of our time,” including nuclear proliferation, terrorism, the climate crisis, mass migration and “the disruptive impacts of new technologies.” Biden also pledged to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement and the World Health Organization.

___

2:40 p.m.

President Donald Trump is weighing in on two nights of clashes with Philadelphia police and store break-ins following the fatal shooting by police of Walter Wallace Jr.

Trump was asked Wednesday about the violence while speaking in Las Vegas during a campaign swing through Nevada and Arizona. Authorities in Philadelphia say Wallace, a Black man, ignored orders to drop a knife, while his family says he was experiencing a mental health crisis.

Trump says, “You can’t let that go on. Again, a Democrat-run state, a Democrat-run city, Philadelphia.”

Trump says the federal government is reviewing the shooting, too.

The president also claims police were told to stand back during rioting, but adds, “Maybe that’s not so, but that’s what I was told upon very good authority.”

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has also denounced the violence that occurred during some protests in response to the shooting. He says, “There is no excuse whatsoever for the looting and the violence.”

___

2:20 p.m.

Joe Biden will join forces with his old boss, former President Barack Obama, for a rally in Michigan on Saturday.

The Biden campaign announced the rally on Wednesday but hasn’t said where it will be held. Metro Detroit is the Democratic base of the state, with a prominent Black population in the city along with growing nonwhite populations. Democrats also made gains among suburban white voters in the 2018 midterms.

President Donald Trump won Michigan by just under 11,000 votes four years ago, making it his closest margin of victory in any state. He won the state through key gains across southwest Michigan in communities where Obama won or lost narrowly. Democratic support in and around Detroit also fell off from 2012 levels when Obama was reelected.

___

1:50 p.m.

Joe Biden is denouncing violence that occurred in some protests in response to the police shooting of Walter Wallace Jr. in Philadelphia and promising to study ways to prevent such shootings if elected president.

Speaking to reporters in Wilmington, Delaware after voting on Wednesday, Biden said that “there is no excuse whatsoever for the looting and the violence” that’s broken out in Philadelphia in response to the shooting, but he said protesting overall is “totally legitimate.”

Wallace, 27, a Black man, was fatally shot by police Monday after authorities say he ignored orders to drop a knife. But his family’s lawyer said the family had called for an ambulance to get him help with a mental health crisis. The shooting set off two days of protests, and some demonstrators threw debris at officers, injuring two, according to police.

Biden said he’ll be setting up a commission if elected president to study “how you diminish the prospect of lethal shootings in circumstances like the one we saw.” Biden’s criminal justice plan would increase oversight of police departments and offer funds to support police reforms at the local level.

Biden offered the comments after voting early at a government building in downtown Wilmington. Delaware allows residents to vote early by appointment, and he and wife Jill voted together.

___

12:50 p.m.

Joe Biden says Omaha supporters of President Donald Trump who were left in the cold after Trump’s rally is “an image that captured President Trump’s whole approach” to the health crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

In remarks Wednesday, Biden referred to reports that thousands of people who attended Trump’s campaign rally at a Nebraska airport Tuesday night had to wait around in frigid weather for hours after it ended before they could get back to their cars.

Police later said about six or seven of them were taken to hospitals from the airport grounds “due to a variety of medical conditions.”

Most rallygoers had parked in lots a mile or two from the airport and were shuttled into the 7:30 p.m. event on buses. Shuttle buses were unable to return to the airport as traffic snarled and hundreds of people wandered into the streets around the airport as they tried to walk to their cars.

Police tried to clear traffic and respond to medical emergencies including some people who suffered adverse effects from the cold weather, around 30 degrees.

Trump deputy national press secretary Samantha Zager said Wednesday that because of the size of the crowd 40 shuttle buses were deployed instead of the normal 15. But she says “local road closures and resulting congestion caused delays.”

Zager said the campaign had tents, heaters, generators, hot cocoa, and handwarmers available for guests. She added, “We always strive to provide the best guest experience at our events and we care about their safety.”

___

11:55 a.m.

Six days out from Election Day, Joe Biden isn’t campaigning in a swing state. Instead, he’s receiving a briefing from public health experts on the coronavirus as cases surge nationwide.

Biden was briefed virtually at a theater in Wilmington, Delaware, on Wednesday by former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, Center for Science in the Public Interest director Dr. David Kessler, New York University medical school assistant professor Dr. Celine Grounder and Yale University associate professor of medicine Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith.

The Democrat sat on a stage with briefing materials before him in front of a screen with graphs showing the seven-day rolling average of reported daily COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations over the past four months.

Kessler warned Biden, “We are in the midst of the third wave.”

Data compiled by Johns Hopkins shows more than 226,000 people have died from the virus in the U.S. More than 71,000 people a day are testing positive on average, up from 51,000 two weeks ago. Cases are on the rise in all but two states, Hawaii and Delaware.

Biden has made the coronavirus the central focus of his campaign against President Donald Trump, who has insisted “we’re rounding the turn, we’re doing great.” Biden has sought to draw a contrast with the Republican president on how he’d handle the pandemic.

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