Election updates: Republicans lose key battleground ballot cases; anonymous Trump critic revealed

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There are six days left until Election Day. Yet tens of millions of people have already voted and continue to do so as coroanvirus cases spike in several crucial states. On the trail, President Donald Trump is expected to continue his busy travel schedule down the stretch, hitting multiple stops a day, while his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, is slated to make fewer, but just as strategic stops. According to polling averages, Biden holds a wide national lead over Trump, but his margins in battleground states are slimmer. Meanwhile, Democrats are widely expected to hold onto the House, but the battle for control of the Senate is much tighter.

Supreme Court will not block North Carolina's extended mail-in ballot deadline

The Supreme Court has denied a GOP request to block an extended deadline for receiving mail-in ballots in North Carolina, a victory for Democrats in the key battleground state.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett did not take part in the decision.

Republican lawmakers in North Carolina had asked the high court to block lower court rulings that allowed the state board of elections to extend the deadline for mail-in ballots until Nov. 12.

— Spencer Kimball

Supreme Court rejects GOP request to decide Pennsylvania ballot case before election

People wearing masks to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) wait to vote in the primary election in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, June 2, 2020.
Joshua Roberts | Reuters

The Supreme Court won't decide until after Election Day whether the Pennsylvania supreme court erred by extending the deadline for receiving absentee ballots in the state, the justices said.

Pennsylvania Republicans asked the top court to consider their challenge to the state court's three-day extension on an expedited basis. The justices declined to do so. Republicans may still ultimately prevail, which could mean that ballots received after Election Day will be disqualified.

Pennsylvania said on Wednesday that it would keep ballots received after Nov. 3 separated.

Notably, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who started her term on Tuesday, did not participate in the case. While Democrats have called for her to recuse from election-related disputes, a court spokeswoman said that Barrett did not weigh in because she did not yet have time to review all of the filings.

The GOP lost a case at the Supreme Court over the issue earlier this month. Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the court's three liberals and the court deadlocked 4-4, leaving in place the lower court ruling. Barrett's ascension to the bench has raised the possibility that the GOP could win on try No. 2.

— Tucker Higgins

FBI agents call on Trump and Biden to keep Wray as director

FBI Director Christopher Wray speaks during a press conference to announce that two alleged Islamic State militants known as the 'Beatles' will arrive in the United States to face trial on U.S. charges for their alleged involvement in beheadings of Western hostages, at the Justice Department in Washington, U.S., October 7, 2020.
Jim Watson | Reuters

The FBI Agents Association has sent identical letters to President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden asking the candidates to allow Director Christopher Wray to finish his 10-year term "regardless of the outcome of the election."

Brian O'Hare, president of the agents association, asked Trump and Biden to "maintain the stability, credibility, and integrity of the Bureau" by keeping Wray at the helm.

"He has not led the Bureau in a political manner, and politics should not determine his fate as Director," O'Hare wrote. "While the President can remove an FBI Director, doing so could lead to instability and damage to the Bureau's operations, which is why Congress intended to insulate the position of Director from political whims."

The FBI has faced turmoil amid a contentious relationship with President Trump during his first term in office. Trump fired the bureau's former director James Comey in 2017 amid an FBI investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

More than 90% of active duty FBI special agents are members of the association, which has more than 14,000 members.

— Spencer Kimball

'Time to legalize it' — New Jersey governor calls for end of marijuana prohibition

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy is calling for the end of marijuana prohibition ahead of a ballot initiative that would legalize recreational use of the herb.

Public Question 1 would amend the Garden State's constitution to legalize the possession of weed for people 21 or older.

Arizona, Montana and South Dakota will also vote on measures to legalize recreational marijuana this November. Mississippi will decided whether the state should legalize medical marijuana.

Eleven states have already legalized recreational marijuana, even though the plant is still outlawed by the federal government as a "Schedule I" controlled substance.

— Spencer Kimball

2020 election estimated to finish with nearly $14 billion in campaign spending

Election merchandise on sale at a stall in Washington, U.S. October 22, 2020.
Hannah McKay | Reuters

The 2020 election is now estimated to cost nearly $14 billion, as the battle between President Donald Trump and Joe Biden comes to a close.

That estimate came from a new report from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), after they previously expected the election to cost $10.8 billion.

The likely final spending total is between both the presidential and congressional campaigns.

By Election Day, next Tuesday, the presidential race is expected to end up seeing $6.6 billion in total spending, while congressional races are anticipated to finish with just over $7 billion.

Democrats have nearly doubled the spending by Republican candidates up and down the ballot. Democratic contenders are going into the final week of the election spending $6.9 billion while Republicans have put in $3.8 billion into the 2020 fight.

CRP changed its estimate from $10.8 billion to nearly $14 billion due in part to the huge amount of fundraising in the final months of the election.

Biden is on track to be the first candidate in U.S. history to end up raising $1 billion in a single election cycle, CRP said. President Donald Trump's campaign for reelection said that Trump raised north of $950 million during the 2020 election. Those totals do not include how much was raised by either the Democratic National Committee or the Republican National Committee.

The new data shows that employees in certain industries, including those on Wall Street, have largely flipped to Democrats.

While CRP notes that Biden's campaign is powered in part by small dollar donors, it has seen a significant boost from executives in the securities and investment industry.

Biden finished the 2020 election cycle with over $74 million from people on Wall Street, compared to Trump, who received $18 million from those in the same industry.

— Brian Schwartz

Former Trump administration official Miles Taylor authored 'Anonymous' New York Times op-ed

Miles Taylor
Source: MSNBC

Former Trump administration official Miles Taylor, who in recent months became a vocal critic of the president, revealed himself to be "Anonymous," the unnamed figure who in 2018 penned an infamous New York Times op-ed slamming Trump.

Taylor, who had served as chief of staff to former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, confirmed in a blog post on Medium that he had written the op-ed. The Times also identified Taylor in its own story, and Taylor was set to appear on CNN later Wednesday.

But the big reveal had been preempted by tweets from media insiders and was quickly met with scorn online.

Trump campaign press secretary Hogan Gidley ripped Taylor in a scathing statement.

"This is the least impressive, lamest political 'reveal' of all time," Gidley said. "I worked with DHS officials while I was in the White House, and even I had to research who Miles Taylor was. He's just another standard-issue arrogant, Washington, DC swamp bro who loved President Trump until he figured out he could try to make money by attacking him."

Taylor, a Republican who is now working to get Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden elected, had also written "A Warning," a book that was equally critical of Trump.

Taylor had been tapped by Google last fall to work on government and national security issues. But the hire prompted harsh reactions from some lawmakers and employees.

In the blog post, Taylor explained he had been torn about anonymously criticizing the Trump administration while he was still a part of it.

"The decision wasn't easy, I wrestled with it, and I understand why some people consider it questionable to levy such serious charges against a sitting President under the cover of anonymity," Taylor wrote.

"But my reasoning was straightforward, and I stand by it. Issuing my critiques without attribution forced the President to answer them directly on their merits or not at all, rather than creating distractions through petty insults and name-calling. I wanted the attention to be on the arguments themselves."

Kevin Breuninger

Senate results key to market uncertainty, JPMorgan says

While Democratic candidate Joe Biden remains ahead in the polls against President Donald Trump, uncertainty in the market should be more tied to the outcome of Senate races across the country, according to a note from JPMorgan. If Republicans hold onto the Senate or force run-offs in certain races, it would lower the odds of a large fiscal package from a Biden administration, according to the note.

"If Republicans have a strong showing on Election Day, the Senate may not be decided until January as run- off elections will likely be necessary for certain states like Georgia. Fiscal expectations remain tethered to the Senate outcome as execution of any policy agenda relies increasingly on uniform control of government," the note said. — Jesse Pound

Pennsylvania tells Supreme Court it will separate ballots received after Election Day

Pennsylvania told the Supreme Court that it will keep ballots received after 8 p.m. ET on Election Day separated from ballots received before that deadline as the justices continue to weigh whether the later votes will count.

J. Bart DeLone, the state's chief deputy attorney general, notified the justices in a letter.

Republicans are challenging a state supreme court ruling that extended the deadline for counting absentee ballots in the state from Election Day to Nov. 6, three days later, citing Covid-19 related mail delays.

The Supreme Court rejected Republicans' initial attempt to halt that ruling on Oct. 19 by a 4-4 vote in which Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the court's three liberals. The GOP renewed their challenge a few days later, and since then, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative, has joined the bench.

Pennsylvania's action on Wednesday will not have an impact on whether votes received after Election Day are counted, but will prepare the state to disqualify those ballots in case the newly constituted top court sides with Republicans and orders them to do so.

-- Tucker Higgins

Trump endorsed by groups representing truckers, builders in Nevada

President Donald Trump listens as Nevada business leaders talk to the media at Trump International Hotel Las Vegas, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020, in Las Vegas.
Evan Vucci | AP

President Trump revealed endorsements from three Nevada workers' organizations before heading off to Arizona to host a campaign rally.

Representatives from the Nevada Trucking Association, the Retail Association of Nevada and the Associated Builders and Contractors joined Trump at his own hotel in Las Vegas.

Biden has held a lead over Trump in recent polls of Nevada, according to RealClearPolitics' average of the state.

The nation's largest truckers union is the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which endorsed Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, in August.

— Kevin Breuninger

President Obama and Joe Biden will campaign together in Michigan on Saturday

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden wave during the final day of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Sept. 6, 2012.
Tom Pennington | Getty Images

Former President Barack Obama will join Joe Biden on the campaign trail Saturday in the key battleground state of Michigan, where the Biden campaign says the two men will "discuss bringing Americans together to address the crises facing the country and win the battle for the soul of the nation."

The Biden campaign did not release any additional details, but the popular former president is proving to be a potent force this week on the campaign trail, where his drive-in rallies in Pennsylvania and Florida have drawn large, enthusiastic crowds.

Obama has assumed the role of "attack dog" for his former vice president in recent days, unleashing a barrage of pointed criticism at President Donald Trump.

— Christina Wilkie

7 hospitalized, hundreds stranded in freezing cold following Trump's Omaha rally

People attend a campaign event by U.S. President Donald Trump at Eppley Airfield in Omaha, Nebraska, October 27, 2020.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

Seven people were hospitalized and hundreds of other attendees at a campaign rally for President Donald Trump were stranded for hours in biting cold after that gathering Tuesday at an Omaha, Nebraska, airfield.

Omaha police said that 30 people in total at the rally were contacted for medical reasons, some of whom needed medical attention during the event itself.

Buses carried about 25,000 people to the event over a 10-hour period before it began at 8 p.m. local time.

When Trump finished his speech at about 9 p.m., and as temperatures hovered in the mid-30s, many people were left at the field waiting for a ride on the 40 buses ferrying attendees to off-site parking lots, the nearest of which was about 2.5 miles away.

Police said that many people ended up walking to the parking lots instead of waiting for a bus.

The last bus left the event site at 11:50 p.m., almost three hours after the rally concluded.

Democratic presidential Joe Biden on Wednesday cited the logistical snafu in criticizing Trump for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

"Just look what happened last night in Omaha, after the Trump rally ended, hundreds of people, including older Americans and children were stranded in sub-zero freezing temperatures for hours," Biden told reporters.

"It's an image that captured President Trump's whole approach in this crisis ... he makes a lot of big pronouncements, but they don't hold up."

Trump campaign spokeswoman Samantha Zager said, "President Trump loves his supporters and was thrilled to visit Omaha last night. Despite the cold, tens of thousands of people showed up for his rally."

"Because of the sheer size of the crowd, we deployed 40 shuttle buses – double the normal allotment – but local road closures and resulting congestion caused delays," Zager said. "At the guest departure location, we had tents, heaters, generators, hot cocoa, and hand warmers available for guests. We always strive to provide the best guest experience at our events and we care about their safety." 

— Dan Mangan

White House aide Stephen Miller rails against Biden's immigration proposals

A general view shows heavy machinery working on a bollard-type private border wall, crowd-funded by We Build The Wall group at Sunland Park, New Mexico, as pictured from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico May 30, 2019.
Jose Luis Gonzalez | Reuters

Top White House aide Stephen Miller, the architect of President Donald Trump's restrictive immigration policy, joined the Trump campaign's daily press call Wednesday, where he claimed that if Democrat Joe Biden is elected, there will be an immediate "rush on the border on a global scale, unseen before in human history."

Miller said he was helping the campaign in a personal, volunteer capacity, before making many of the same hyperbolic claims about the alleged dangers posed by immigrants and refugees that he makes on television in his official White House role as a senior advisor to the president.

Miller touted a new proclamation from Trump that the United States will further limit the number of refugees it accepts in the coming year, from 18,000 last year down to 15,000. In 2017, the Obama administration admitted 110,000 refugees.

Biden has promised to lift most, if not all, of the Trump administration's draconian immigration policies, including the so called "remain-in-Mexico" policy that forces non-Mexican asylum seekers to wait in Mexico, sometimes for years, while their applications are processed. Biden has also vowed that "there will not be another foot of [border] wall constructed in my administration."

Miller's appearance was timed to coincide with Trump's visit to the southern border state of Arizona Wednesday. Shifting demographics in the suburbs of Phoenix and Tucson are helping to turn this formerly red state blueish purple, and polls show Biden with a narrow lead over Trump.

Arizona is also the site of a pivotal Senate race this year, and polls currently show Democrat Mark Kelly leading incumbent GOP senator Martha McSally by an average of 4.4 points.

—Christina Wilkie

Biden leads Trump in Georgia, new poll shows

How to determine if polling data is trustworthy
How to determine if polling data is trustworthy

A new poll shows Joe Biden opening up a lead over President Trump in Georgia, a traditionally Republican-leaning state that has become competitive in the 2020 race.

Biden holds 50% support among registered voters in Georgia, compared with 45% for Trump, according to Monmouth University's latest poll of the state. A survey last month gave Trump a 1-point edge over the Democratic nominee.

Still, Monmouth's polling director Patrick Murray said Trump still has a good chance to win the state on Election Day.

"The Democratic voters left on the table at this point tend to be less engaged and thus harder to turn out. So, it is still possible for Trump to make up his deficit in the early vote," Murray said in a press release.

The statewide poll conducted phone interviews with 504 Georgia voters. It has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 4.4 percentage points.

Trump won Georgia's 16 electoral votes in 2016, defeating then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by about 5 percentage points. The Peach State has voted for the Republican presidential nominee in every election since 1992.

Journalist and statistician Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight said that Monmouth's poll "is a real warning sign for Republicans" in Georgia.

Kevin Breuninger

Biden and wife Jill cast ballots in Delaware

Democratic U.S. presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill wave as they depart after casting their votes in the 2020 U.S. presidential election in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., October 28, 2020.
Brian Snyder | Reuters

Joe Biden and his wife Jill cast their votes in Wilmington, Delaware today.

"I'm going over to vote with my wife and I'll be happy to take your questions after I vote," Biden told reporters earlier during remarks on health care and the coronavirus.

The former vice president made the announcement after attending a public-health briefing, where he heard from medical experts including former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy.

President Trump cast his ballot in person on Saturday during a trip to West Palm Beach, Florida. Trump, who was born and raised in Queens, New York, become a resident of the Sunshine State late last year.

"I voted for a guy named Trump," the president said.

— Kevin Breuninger

Trump, Biden responses to Philadelphia unrest underscore differing approaches to racial justice and policing

Demonstrators raise their fists in front of police officers during a rally after the death of Walter Wallace Jr., a Black man who was shot by police in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, October 27, 2020.
Bastiaan Slabbers | Reuters

Protests in Philadelphia continued Tuesday night following the police shooting of Walter Wallace Jr., a 27-year-old Black man who suffered a mental health episode.

Demonstrations were largely described as peaceful, though looting took place in parts of the city, according to NBC News. Protesters have called for accountability after officers shot Wallace on Monday. Police have said he approached officers on the scene while holding a knife.

The shooting, along with other police killings of Black Americans this year that sparked nationwide outrage, has illustrated the gulf in how the U.S. presidential contenders aim to address racial justice and police reform. In a statement, President Donald Trump's press secretary Kayleigh McEnany blamed the unrest on what she called "Liberal Democrats' war against the police."

"The Trump Administration stands proudly with law enforcement, and stands ready, upon request, to deploy any and all Federal resources to end these riots," she said in a statement that did not mention Wallace's name.

Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, issued a statement in which they said "Walter Wallace's life, like too many others', was a Black life that mattered." At the same time, they said that "looting is not a protest" and "draws attention away from the real tragedy of a life cut short."

"As a nation, we are strong enough to both meet the challenges of real police reform, including implementing a national use of force standard, and to maintain peace and security in our communities," they continued, arguing Trump fans "the flames of division in our society."

Pennsylvania will be a pivotal swing state in Tuesday's presidential election.

— Jacob Pramuk

Clinton says she agrees with Biden's plan for Supreme Court commission

Hillary Clinton, Former First Lady and U.S. Secretary of State, speaks during a visit to Swansea University on November 15, 2019 in Swansea, Wales.
Matthew Horwood | Getty Images

Hillary Clinton said in remarks aired on Wednesday that she agreed with Biden's plan to create a bipartisan commission to study how to reform the federal judiciary.

 "In the middle of a campaign, you can't stop and look at, 'Well, do we want term limits, do we want to add numbers, what about the circuit courts?' I mean, there's really complicated issues," the 2016 Democratic nominee said on the progressive "Signal Boost" radio show hosted on SiriusXM.

"If you're going to treat the courts like this, having denied Merrick Garland, having packed the circuit courts with unqualified Federalist Society ideologues, most of whom have never tried a case, are robots for the right-wing agenda. What do you expect us to do? There are consequences," Clinton said.

The interview came a day after Justice Amy Coney Barrett, Trump's third appointee, officially began her tenure on the Supreme Court.

Calls for expanding the number of justices on the nine-judge panel escalated after Trump named Barrett to fill the seat vacated by the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg last month.

Biden resisted pledging to do so if elected and instead said on CBS's "60 Minutes" earlier this month that he will form a "commission of scholars" to recommend solutions for reforming the court system.

— Tucker Higgins

Texas becomes a toss-up after leaning toward Trump throughout cycle

A campaign sign for Biden Harris is displayed outside an early voting polling location for the 2020 Presidential elections in Houston, Texas, U.S., on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020.
Callaghan O'Hare | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Texas, a GOP stronghold for more than four decades, now looks to be a neck-and-neck race between Trump and Biden less than a week before the election.

Cook Political Report, a widely followed and respected election-tracking operation that periodically issues ratings in presidential and congressional races, on Wednesday moved Texas from "Lean Republican" to its "Toss Up" column.

NBC News' own battleground map labeled Texas a toss-up state a day earlier.

"Texas is a state that Biden doesn't need to win, but it is clear that it's more competitive than ever," Cook's Amy Walter wrote.

The Lone Star State has voted for the Republican nominee in every presidential race since 1976. It boasts 38 electoral votes, the second-largest share in the nation behind California.

RealClearPolitics' average of polls in the state shows Trump maintaining a narrow 2.4-point lead over Biden. That gap has shrunk a few percentage points in recent days.

Sen. Kamala Harris, Biden's running mate, is scheduled to campaign in Texas on Friday. More than 7.8 million people have already voted in the Lone Star State, about 87% of the state's total turnout in 2016, according to the U.S. Elections Project. — Kevin Breuninger

How Trump and Biden stack up on foreign policy

Getty Images

On January 20, 2021, the president of the United States, whether he is Donald Trump or Joe Biden, will face a plethora of foreign policy challenges across the globe.

  • China trade: The deteriorating trade relationship between Washington and Beijing has intensified following an attempt by the world's two largest economies to mend trade relations.
  • The Middle East: The war in Afghanistan has dragged on for 19 years becoming America's longest conflict and costing U.S. taxpayers $193 billion. Tensions between Washington and Tehran have mounted following the U.S. withdrawal from the landmark Iran nuclear agreement.
  • North Korean nukes: Denuclearization talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have stalled.
  • NATO strife: European and NATO allies have questioned America's role as a reliable partner.

Here's a look at President Trump's and Biden's foreign policy positions ahead of the U.S. presidential election.

— Amanda Macias

Pence tests negative for coronavirus as he gears up for campaign stops

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence pumps his fist as he runs from his plane to the podium while arriving at a rally in Kinston, North Carolina, U.S., October 25, 2020.
Jonathan Drake | Reuters

Vice President Mike Pence tested negative for coronavirus today as he gears up to make campaign stops in Michigan and Wisconsin. President Trump won both states in 2016, but Joe Biden has enjoyed consistent polling leads in each.

Wisconsin, meanwhile, is experiencing a spike in Covid-19 cases. Asked whether that gave Pence and the campaign any pause in their plans to hold a rally in the state, Trump campaign official Hogan Gidley told CNN: "No, it doesn't. The v