Harris, As Biden's Running Mate, Says Case Against Trump Is 'Open And Shut'

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his vice presidential running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, arrive to conduct their first appearance together in Wilmington, Del., on Wednesday.

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his vice presidential running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, arrive to conduct their first appearance together in Wilmington, Del., on Wednesday.

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his newly named running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, made their first joint appearance Wednesday following Biden's announcement of the selection a day earlier.

"I have no doubt that I picked the right person to join me as the next vice president of the United States of America," Biden said in scripted remarks at a high school in his hometown of Wilmington, Del.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, an introductory rally in front of throngs of supporters is not possible. Instead, the two walked out wearing masks, and one person sat several feet away as the other spoke.

Harris is the daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants, and Biden's choice will make her the third woman — and first woman of color — to be nominated for vice president by a major political party.

"This morning," Biden said, "all across the nation, little girls woke up, especially little Black and brown girls who so often feel overlooked and undervalued in our communities, but today, today just maybe they're seeing themselves, for the first time, in a new way — as the stuff of presidents and vice presidents."

Biden listens as Harris speaks during their introductory event Wednesday at Alexis I. duPont High School.

Biden criticized President Trump's personal attacks on Harris. Trump called Harris "nasty," and Biden said Trump is "whining about how she's been 'mean' to his appointees."

Biden added: "It's no surprise because whining is what Donald Trump does better than any president in American history."

The former vice president launched into remarks that closely mirrored his stump speech in which he talks about the need for a better coordinated federal response to the pandemic and a revitalized economy.

Biden noted the day marked the third anniversary of the racist violence in Charlottesville, Va., which he says caused him to decide to run for president to wage "a battle for the soul of the nation."

In her first remarks since being announced as Biden's running mate, Harris said she was mindful of the "heroic and ambitious women before me," using a word that had reportedly been levied against her as a critique.

She recounted her experience as a prosecutor and said the "case against Donald Trump and Mike Pence is open and shut."

"We need more than a victory on Nov. 3; we need a mandate that proves the past few years do not represent who we are or who we aspire to be," she said.

She also talked about the special relationship she formed with Biden's late son, Beau, whom she worked with when he was Delaware's attorney general.

"Ever since I received Joe's call, I've been thinking ... about the first Biden that I really came to know," she said, describing how during the Great Recession she and Beau Biden would sometimes speak multiple times a day.

"Beau was the kind of guy who inspired people to be a better version of themselves," Harris recounted. "He really was the best of us. And when I would ask him, 'Where'd this come from?' he'd always talk about his dad."

Joe Biden, meanwhile, referred to Harris, her husband, Doug Emhoff, and their children as "honorary Bidens."

"Ready to go to work?"

In a tweet earlier Wednesday, Biden shared a video that documents the moment he asked Harris to join the ticket, asking, "You ready to go to work?"

Trump, in a press briefing Tuesday, began his criticism of the new vice presidential candidate, calling her the "most liberal person in the Senate."

In a statement Wednesday, the Trump campaign blasted Harris for pushing "Biden even farther to the left than he had already moved" and that "Joe Biden and Kamala Harris together make up the most extreme, leftist ticket in American major party history."

Harris was a prosecutor in the Alameda County and San Francisco district attorney's offices, and then became the San Francisco district attorney. She won election as California attorney general in 2010 before becoming, in 2016, just the second Black woman in U.S. history to be elected to the Senate.

She gained national attention during the televised Senate hearings for Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court and Russia's efforts to interfere in the U.S. presidential election. Harris ran for president but bowed out in late 2019.

Another onetime Democratic candidate, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, told Here & Now on Wednesday that she spoke with Harris a day earlier.

"I can't wait to see what they will do together, not just as a ticket, but what she will bring to the office of vice president, working side by side with Joe Biden. She knows how to govern," Klobuchar said.

The process of selecting Biden's running mate was extensive. The original list of contenders had more than 20 names on it. Co-chairs from Biden's selection committee met with every candidate, asking them about their vision and agenda — and even what they anticipated Trump's nickname for them to be. The initial list was narrowed to 11 women who were then deeply vetted by a team of lawyers.

"Vice President Biden's focus from the very start was on who would be the best governing partner to help him lead our country out of the chaos created by Donald Trump. Senator Harris is the right person to join Joe Biden in bringing our country together and restoring the soul of the nation," read a joint statement from the Biden campaign's selection committee.

Biden and Harris will formally accept the nominations during the virtual Democratic convention, which is scheduled for next week.

During his remarks, Biden shared that his campaign set a single-day record for online political fundraising, "and I think I know why," he said, smiling at Harris.

Later Wednesday, at a joint virtual fundraiser, Biden said the campaign had raised $26 million over the past 24 hours.

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Biden Reportedly Expected To Announce Running Mate This Week

The field appears to have narrowed for Joe Biden's vice presidential running mate to Kamala Harris, left, and Susan Rice. Pictures: AFP

U.S. Senator Kamala Harris of California and former national security adviser Susan Rice, both Black, are among the top contenders.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has interviewed the finalists to be his running mate and his campaign is readying to announce his choice as soon as this week, a person familiar with the process told Reuters.

Biden and his potential vice president will formally accept the party’s nomination at the Democratic National Convention, scheduled for Aug. 17-20, and he is expected to announce his pick before it begins.

The New York Times reported earlier on Monday that Biden’s campaign plans to announce a decision as soon as Tuesday, but more likely on Wednesday, citing people briefed on the selection process.

The newspaper said the committee that screened the candidates had “effectively disbanded” after completing its work. It noted that Biden has missed previous deadlines to announce his pick, and that the timeline could “slip again.”

A Biden campaign spokesman declined to comment.

Biden, the former vice president under Barack Obama, has committed to picking a woman as his running mate and has come under increasing pressure from some Democratic leaders and activists for her to be Black.

They argue Biden otherwise risks dampening enthusiasm among Black voters who are so crucial to the Democratic base and his hopes of unseating Republican President Donald Trump in November’s election, particularly as the country has been gripped with protests against racial injustice.

Aimee Allison, founder of She the People, a group that promotes women of color in politics, told Reuters she thought it would be politically “reckless” if Biden did not choose a woman of color.

“It’s the most important decision the Biden camp can make to set the tone for the last 80 or so days,” she said. “Picking a Black woman for the ticket is affirmation that we are included in the vision of governance.”

U.S. Senator Kamala Harris of California and former national security adviser Susan Rice, both Black, are among the top contenders.

According to Democratic officials and Biden allies, U.S. Representative Karen Bass, a Black lawmaker from California, and a half dozen other women were under serious consideration. They include senators Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Duckworth, U.S. Representative Val Demings, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

Biden’s choice, the most weighty of his political career, has drawn an unusual amount of attention given his age. If he defeats Trump, he would be 78 on inauguration day next January, the oldest U.S. president in history, and it is possible he may only seek one four-year term.

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Trump using COVID-19 as a cover to gut social security and medicare, critics charge

Critics erupted Saturday after President Donald Trump signed four executive actions that included deferring payroll taxes that provide critical funding for both Social Security and Medicare.

While Trump characterized the move as a financial boost for Americans struggling amid the COVID-19 crisis, critics blasted it a cynical ploy to do what Trump has long intended to do: Gut the vitally important social service programs just as Americans need them more than ever during the pandemic.

“The American people desperately need relief,” noted Rep. Val Demings (D-Florida). “Instead, the president decided to defund Social Security and Medicare.”

Trump also signed an order providing $400 a week in enhanced unemployment benefits  — down from the $600 weekly benefit that expired last month.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) called the orders a “stunt.”

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) pointed out that the president just “unilaterally cut Social Security and your unemployment benefits. In the middle of a pandemic.”

House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) warned in a statement that the move would “endanger” Social Security and Medicare.

Trump himself presented the move as an opening gambit in his long game to eliminate the payroll taxes, which provide the funding for the social service programs. He promised to “terminate” the payroll tax if he’s reelected.

“If I’m victorious on November 3rd, I plan to forgive these taxes and make permanent cuts to the payroll tax,” Trump said at a news conference at his Bedminster golf course in New Jersey. “In other words, I’ll extended beyond the end of the year and terminate the tax.”

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) warned on Twitter that such an action would “gut” the programs if Trump gets a second term.

An organization representing taxpayer interests slammed Trump’s executive order as a “holiday for the wealthy and a death sentence for Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries.”

“Trump’s payroll tax holiday is a lose-lose strategy,” said a statement from Tax March to HuffPost Saturday after the order was signed. “It won’t deliver any relief to struggling small businesses or laid-off workers, but it will dangerously diminish funding for Social Security and Medicare at a time when millions of people depend on these programs.”

Employers typically withhold payroll taxes to send directly to the federal government to fund Social Security and Medicare. Trump’s order would defer workers’ portion of those taxes  — 6.2% for Social Security and 1.45% for Medicare — for those making less than $100,000 annually from September 1 through the end of the year.

It would do nothing to help unemployed workers, and would shrink the funding pool supporting the social service programs, already massively struggling as funds dwindle amid record unemployment.

“Deferred” taxes would presumably have to be repaid at some point, though Trump held out the carrot of cancelled taxes — but only if he’s reelected.

Not only would payroll tax deferments weaken the “bedrock retirement and health programs,” the money might not even reach the pockets of strapped workers, warned economists at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. 

Employers are responsible for ultimately passing on employee’s share of the tax to the government, so they might hang onto it. “Employers could simply withhold the tax and keep the money until the later payment deadline,” the group warned.

It’s unclear how Trump could legally “terminate” payroll taxes. Only Congress has the power to change taxes. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) issued a statement Saturday supporting Trump’s executive actions.

As a candidate in 2016, Trump declared that it was his “absolute intention to leave Social Security the way it is.” But this January he said that his administration would look at cost savings in “entitlement” plans after his massive tax cut to corporations in 2017 slashed Treasury income.


Conspiracy-mongering Republican seeking John Lewis seat gets social media boost from Trump

Angela Stanton-King.jpg

On Thursday evening, amid a fairly typical burst of presidential Twitter activity, President Trump retweeted two recent posts from the account of Angela Stanton-King, a Republican congressional candidate who has repeatedly used her social media feeds to promote content related to QAnon and other fringe conspiracy theories, including wildly implausible internet rumors about sex trafficking of children.  

Trump has also flirted with QAnon memes on social media, although his retweets of Stanton-King were not related to the loosely knit group whose followers have been described by the FBI as “conspiracy theory-driven domestic extremists.”

In the first tweet, which was originally posted last week, Stanton-King describes herself as “a proud Black woman who supports @realDonaldTrump” and is “done with the Democrat Party lying to my community.” Stanton-King is running in the Georgia congressional district that was represented by the late John Lewis. 

Trump also passed along her tweet citing recently reported police data showing that Chicago experienced a 139 percent increase in murders this July compared to the same month last year. “Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and every single NBA player are silent,” Stanton-King charged in the second tweet. “They don’t care about black lives. They care about capitalizing on black lives!”

Stanton-King, who served over two years in prison following a 2004 conviction on federal conspiracy charges related to her role in a vehicle theft ring, was pardoned by Trump earlier this year and has since appeared at the White House along with a handful of other Black Trump supporters. 

“I have never run for office, and I don’t have political experience,” Stanton-King told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Back in March. “But I do have life experiences.”

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Stanton-King, 43, is a native of Buffalo, N.Y., and the goddaughter of former Georgia state Rep. Alveda King, a niece of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and an antiabortion advocate. She said she would fight against what she calls “a Democratic war in support of abortion,” and that criminal justice reform would be a big part of her agenda, noting that during her time in prison she gave birth to a daughter and lost both her mother and grandmother. 

Like the president, Stanton-King — who also dabbled in reality TV before pursuing a career in politics —  is prolific on social media. Besides parroting many of Trump’s favorite talking points, she has frequently repeated ideas related to QAnon, thepro-Trump conspiracy theory centered on the belief that Trump is secretly working to  dismantle an international child sex trafficking ring run by a cabal of “deep state” actors and global elites. 

The FBI has warned that QAnon’s growing network of believers poses a potential domestic terrorism threat. In an intelligence bulletin first reported by Yahoo News last year, the bureau warned that the threat of conspiracy-theory-driven violence would likely increase leading up to the 2020 election, noting that “the advent of the Internet and social media has enabled promoters of conspiracy theories to produce and share greater volumes of material via online platforms that larger audiences of consumers can quickly and easily access.”

In June, Stanton-King ran unopposed in the Republican primary for Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District, which had long been represented by the late Democratic Rep. John Lewis, who died on July 17.  Georgia State Sen. Nikema Williams has since been selected by the state Democratic Party to replace Lewis on the ballot in November and is favored to beat Stanton-King in the heavily Democratic district, which includes most of Atlanta. 

Still, while her chances of getting elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in November may be small, Stanton-King is among a growing list of QAnon-linked congressional candidates who’ve managed to secure a spot on the general election ballot this year. According to federal election records, Stanton-King’s campaign has received $2,200.00 from the Republican National Committee and $2,800 from the Georgia Republican Party. 

On Twitter and Instagram, Stanton-King has posted QAnon-related videos as well as the movement’s well-known hashtags and slogans, such as “Trust the Plan” and “Where We Go One We Go All,” or #WWG1WGA. In a statement to the Associated Press last month, Stanton-King disputed the notion that such posts are evidence that she is an adherent of the movement, suggesting instead that she’s used the QAnon hashtags “to extend her reach” on social media.  

African American supporters lay their hands on President Donald Trump as they pray for him after a meeting in the Cabinet Room at the White House February 27, 2020. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Nonetheless, Stanton-King has continued to promote the core beliefs and language used by QAnon followers, tweeting on July 11, for example, about “Globbal [sic] elite pedophiles trafficking children.” On Thursday evening, after Trump’s back-to-back retweets had already brought Stanton-King to the attention of his 84.8 million followers, she tweeted in all caps, “THE STORM IS HERE,” a popular QAnon rallying cry. In Q parlance, “the storm” refers to the highly anticipated moment when former presidents and other members of the “deep state” and global elite are rounded up for their alleged involvement in pedophilia and child sex trafficking rings.

In an emailed response to questions from Yahoo News Friday, Stanton-King again denied having any association with QAnon, writing, “I am familiar with the name only. I am not familiar with the group, movement or any of its core principles or beliefs.

“I have an obligation to listen to my constituents,” Stanton-King continued in her statement to Yahoo News. “It is their right to express their concerns and my job [to] look into them.”

QAnon isn’t the only fringe conspiracy theory Stanton-King’s social media posts have touched on. Other recent tweets have included references to an older, thoroughly disputed internet rumor known as Pizzagate, which claimed that prominent Democrats including Hillary Clinton and John Podesta were running a child sex ring out of a Washington, D.C., pizza parlor. She has also made reference to a current, thoroughly debunked rumor that  the  online furniture retailer Wayfair is a front for child prostitution.

“Did Ghislane Maxwell tip authorities off about #Wayfair?” Stanton-King tweeted on July 10. Maxwell, a British socialite and longtime companion of the late Jeffrey Epstein, was indicted earlier this year by the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York for her alleged involvement in Epstein’s recruitment and sex trafficking of underage girls. Trump, who has known both Maxwell and Epstein socially for years, has said of Maxwell, who is in jail awaiting trial, “I wish her well. ... Let them [Department of Justice] prove somebody was guilty.” 

With regard to her posts about the Wayfair conspiracy, Stanton-King told Yahoo News, “There are major concerns of pedophilia and child trafficking.  For me, if there is an implication of danger towards children anywhere, no matter the source, I’m on the front lines against it.” 

According to a report by the Washington Post on the rapid online spread of the baseless Wayfair claims, “An increase in calls prompted by the [Wayfair] conspiracy theory is straining the National Human Trafficking Hotline, which provides emergency help to victims.

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Facebook removes troll farm posing as African-American support for Donald Trump

Facebook also removed hundreds of fake accounts linked to conservative media outlet The Epoch Times.

Facebook removed hundreds of accounts on Thursday from a foreign troll farm posing as African-Americans in support of Donald Trump and QAnon supporters. It also removed hundreds of fake accounts linked to conservative media outlet The Epoch Times that pushed pro-Trump conspiracy theories about coronavirus and protests in the U.S.

Facebook took down the accounts as part of its enforcement against coordinated inauthentic behavior, which is the use of fake accounts to inflate the reach of content or products on social media.

The foreign pro-Trump troll farm was based in Romania and pushed content on Instagram under names like “BlackPeopleVoteForTrump” and on Facebook under “We Love Our President.”

Troll farms — groups of people that work together to manipulate internet discourse with fake accounts — are often outsourced and purchased by foreign governments or businesses to push specific political talking points. Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook's head of security policy, said the troll farm’s motivations were unclear, but they didn’t see “clear evidence of financial motivation” or “clear links to known commercial actors in this space.”

Facebook stressed that the takedowns were based on “behavior, not content,” like breaking rules against creating fake accounts to boost engagement on some pieces of content.

Researchers at the Atlantic Council found that many of the troll farm's posts came from a persona called "David Adrian," which used a stolen profile photo and claimed to be living in both Romania and Montana. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have since removed multiple accounts for the David Adrian persona.

A separate troll operation, tied to pro-Trump media organization Epoch Media Group, featured 303 Facebook accounts, 181 pages, 44 Facebook groups and 31 Instagram accounts, which were followed by more than 2 million people across both services. Epoch Media Group is the parent company of the newspaper The Epoch Times. The accounts were tied to a digital media outlet called TruthMedia, which Facebook says it has banned from its services.

The accounts posted about “ongoing U.S. protests and conspiracy theories about who is behind them,” Gleicher said. Some accounts pushed health misinformation about COVID-19, which led to their ban from their services before this month’s takedown.

Stephen Gregory, publisher of The Epoch Times' english-language editions, denied that the company was associated with TruthMedia.

"The Epoch Times and Epoch Media Group are not in any way linked or related with 'Truth Media,' nor do we have any involvement in any operation of 'Truth Media,'" he said in an email.

The same network appears to have created a still-active White House petition to “start calling the novel coronavirus the CCP virus,” according to an investigation from Graphika, which tracks disinformation on social media.

Facebook has twice taken action against Epoch Times-related content, most recently for its use of AI-generated, deepfake-style profile pictures on fake accounts that pushed Epoch Times stories and talking points. Gleicher said that the news Epoch Media Group-related fake accounts primarily used stock photos and not AI-generated photos for profile pictures.

Facebook banned The Epoch Times from advertising on its platform last year after it purchased ads under account names like “Honest Paper” and “Pure Honest Journalism” to get around the social network’s ad review systems. At the time, The Epoch Times was the largest buyer of pro-Trump ads on Facebook outside of the Trump campaign.

An example of the new Epoch Media-related takedown provided by Facebook showed an account called “Truth14” pushing a meme about a baseball player who didn’t kneel during the national anthem, part of the accounts’ strategy to push pro-Trump culture war messaging.“This guy is going to need a lot of support because the mob is coming for him and his family,” the post reads. “‘MLB’ is ‘BLM’ spelled backwards.”

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