U.S. intelligence shows that Russia is trying to “denigrate” Joe Biden, and China prefers that President Trump lose reelection, while Iran is trying to undermine U.S. democratic institutions and the president ahead of the election, CBS News Intelligence and National Security Reporter Olivia Gazis reports. That is the assessment as described by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the head of the U.S. intelligence community, in an update released Friday on foreign interference efforts less than three months before the presidential election. On Russia, ODNI says Russia is using a “range of measures” to “primarily denigrate” Biden, consistent with Moscow’s past criticism of him.
“For example, pro-Russia Ukrainian parliamentarian Andriy Derkach is spreading claims about corruption – including through publicizing leaked phone calls – to undermine former Vice President Biden’s candidacy and the Democratic Party,” ODNI says. “Some Kremlin-linked actors are also seeking to boost President Trump’s candidacy on social media and Russian television.” On China, ODNI says Bejing sees Mr. Trump as “unpredictable,” and the communist country has grown increasingly critical of the president’s rhetoric. ODNI assesses that Iran is trying to undermine and divide the country and will likely rely on social media disinformation. Iran believes Mr. Trump’s reelection would result in a continuation of the pressure campaign against Iran.
CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga reports the preferences of China and Russia reflect the presidential candidates’ rhetoric on the foreign nations while campaigning ahead of November’s election. While President Trump has piled criticism on China for its handling of the coronavirus, Biden has targeted President Trump for failing to curb Russian threats overseas.
“We don’t need or want foreign interference, and President Trump will beat Joe Biden fair and square,” Trump 2020 communications director Tim Murtaugh said in a statement to CBS News. “The intelligence community’s assessment that both China and Iran are trying to stop President Trump’s re-election is concerning, but clearly because he has held them accountable after years of coddling by politicians like Joe Biden. The Trump Administration has been tougher on Russia than any administration in history, imposing sanctions and expelling diplomats, in contrast with the Obama-Biden administration, which choked in the face of Russian interference after Susan Rice gave the ‘stand down’ order and let Russia get away with it.”
In a statement, Biden campaign foreign policy adviser Tony Blinken saying, “Donald Trump has publicly and repeatedly invited, emboldened, and even tried to coerce foreign interference in American elections. He urged Russia to hack the emails of his opponent in 2016, sided with Vladimir Putin over his unprecedented violation of American sovereignty that year, publicly called on China to investigate Joe Biden while begging them to help him win-re-election, and attempted to blackmail his Ukrainian counterpart into propagating a widely-debunked conspiracy theory about the Vice President — getting impeached in the process. Joe Biden, on the other hand, has led the fight against foreign interference for years, and has refused to accept any foreign materials intended to help him in this election – something that Donald Trump and his campaign have repeatedly failed to do.”
FROM THE CANDIDATES
Joe Biden is once again clarifying comments made in an interview. Late Thursday, the former vice president tweeted, “In no way did I mean to suggest the African American community is a monolith — not by identity, not on issues, not at all.” CBS News political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice and campaign reporter Bo Erickson say this comes after Biden seemed to suggest during an interview hosted by the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and the National Association of Black Journalists that African-Americans are like-minded, whereas Latinos are not. “Unlike the African American community, with notable exceptions, the Latino community is an incredibly diverse community with incredibly diverse attitudes about different things,” Biden said. In his clarification, Biden tweeted, “Throughout my career I’ve witnessed the diversity of thought, background, and sentiment within the African American community. It’s this diversity that makes our workplaces, communities, and country a better place.”
Biden came under fire in the spring for another interview comment — he said if voters couldn’t decide between him and Trump, they “ain’t Black.” He later apologized.
Separately Biden and Arizona’s Governor Doug Ducey, a Republican, traded barbs on Thursday after President Trump praised the state’s pandemic response. CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin says Biden blasted the “Trump-Ducey model” on Twitter, citing high infection and hospitalization figures and criticizing Arizona’s moves to reopen “without adequate testing and contact tracing” and Ducey’s refusal to mandate masks statewide. The Republican fired back, calling on the former vice president to “get out of your basement” and tweeting the “last thing we need is another politician rooting for the virus because it helps them politically.”
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP
President Trump spent Friday at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, with a weekend of campaign fundraisers slated in Long Island’s Hamptons and the Jersey shore. Mr. Trump is set to raise a combined $15 million at this weekend’s GOP fundraisers in South Hampton, New York and Elberon, New Jersey, according to RNC officials.
His campaign kicks off two 85-day cross-country bus tours, Monday. Two neon buses emblazoned with President Trump’s campaign website will carry a rotating cadre of Trump family members, campaign surrogates and local politicians, crisscrossing swing states in the weeks leading up to Election Day, according to CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga. The bus tours “are the perfect opportunity to travel the country and speak with everyday Americans about the issues impacting their communities,” Trump campaign deputy communications director Ali Pardo said in a statement.
Mr. Trump has boarded Air Force One regularly, with visits to 16 states since the pandemic’s outset and resumed in-person campaign fundraisers in June. Official White House visits akin to campaign rallies have landed the commander-in-chief in political battlegrounds like Michiga like Michigan, Arizona, Georgia and recently, North Carolina. And while the GOP’s four-figure army restarted canvassing in June – with a million doors knocked last week, according to the Republican National Committee – Democrats have suspended face-to-face campaigning amid a resurgence of new coronavirus cases.
Campaigning in the age of COVID-19 is complicated by travel concerns. Twenty-four states plus Washington, D.C. have issued quarantine guidelines for inter-state travel, with the majority mandating 14 days of isolation when hailing from a pandemic hotspot. Ahead of its bus tour, a spokesperson for the Trump campaign says it will “adhere to state and local safety guidelines” while on the road.
CBS NEWS COVID CHRONICLES
CBS News is chronicling what has changed for the lives of Americans in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic. After the 2008 financial crisis, a major influx of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, boosted Pennsylvania’s economy. CBS News campaign reporter Zak Hudak says today the state produces more dry natural gas than any state except Texas, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA). But overproduction, a warmer than usual winter and the pandemic have driven its New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) Henry Hub price down over 30% since November.
Unlike the price of oil, which dropped by two-thirds from February to April, natural gas prices began declining last year because rapid production in states like Pennsylvania was outpacing demand and storage ability, says Corey Young, director of the Center for Energy Policy and Management at Washington and Jefferson College. “If the industry were a patient, we could say that it has a number of pre-existing conditions, and that’s made the prognosis in the wake of COVID-19 way more complicated than it might come across at first blush,” he said. “While the pandemic hasn’t hit it quite as hard as many other industries, it certainly hasn’t helped either.”
John Stavovy had become accustomed to getting monthly checks of $7,000 to $8,000 from the energy company that began pumping shale gas from his 285-acre farm in Washington County, Pennsylvania, at the peak of the Marcellus Shale boom. But as the price of natural gas fell to its lowest point in two decades, his checks have dropped to under $2,000. “We use the money to pay for expenses. There’s five of us siblings so we split a little bit of it, but most of it goes to keeping up the farm,” he said. “We’re down probably 75% from where we were a year ago. It’s down to about the time we’re going to make our school tax, and that’ll be it,” he said.
The Pennsylvania Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) estimated earlier this year that gas companies paid nearly $220 million in royalties to landowners in 2017, an increase from $120 million in 2016, the last year that the price of gas per million British thermal units (MMBTU) fell below $2. “You can see how volatile the amounts are year-to-year, and that’s largely attributable to prices,” said Jesse Bushman, a revenue analyst who worked on the IFO’s 2017 royalty estimate. “There may be some other factors at play like the actual lease terms, but any significant change is largely going to be attributable to price changes.”
Stavovy, whose family bought the land he now leases 100 years ago, said his royalty payments just keep falling. “In October, November, December, it went down from $10,000 to maybe $5,000,” Stavovy said. “Then when COVID hit, it went down into the $2,000s and below. And it just keeps going down.”
ISSUES THAT MATTER
The unemployment rate dropped from 11.1% to 10.2% as employers added 1.8 million jobs in July. President Trump boasted about the “great jobs report” on Twitter Friday. The White House suggested the numbers indicate more Americans are getting back to work despite temporary closures in some states.
Democrats accused the Trump administration of mismanaging the pandemic, citing more than 30 million Americans who are still receiving some form of unemployment relief. Federal unemployment benefits expired July 31. With the White House and Congressional leaders deadlocked on a coronavirus relief package, President Trump has proposed using executive orders to restore the $600 weekly payments and other economic benefits.
Former National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling called the potential move “legally dubious” in a call with reporters. “It is perhaps the cruelest form of robbing Peter to pay Paul, I have heard, even if it was legal,” Sperling told CBS News Correspondent Nikole Killion. Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said the ongoing health and economic crises will figure prominently at this month’s mostly virtual Democratic National Convention. “Our convention is going to highlight our values, our leadership. Our bold vision for America. And it’s going to highlight the resilience of everyday Americans,” Perez told Killion. “Our convention is going to be exciting. It’s going to be different, without a doubt, but it’s going to be inspiring and people are going to see every day Americans who are doing extraordinary things.”
Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon released a memo indicating it will be a challenge to process and count votes, since more people are expected to vote by mail this upcoming election due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Processing, storing, and tabulating a significantly greater number of mailed-in ballots, with only a couple of months to prepare for this emergency, presents an incredible challenge to these local governments and to our office,” Simon wrote. “We know they’ll be ready to provide the service that makes Minnesota elections the envy of the nation.” Simon asked Minnesotans for “patience” as he acknowledged that there will be a delay in receiving results.
In Minnesota’s August 11 primary, CBS News campaign reporter Jack Turman says ballots must be postmarked by Election Day and received within two days after primary night. For the general election, ballots must be received within seven days of Election Day and postmarked by Election Day.
City officials have fined a resort in Las Vegas after hosting an “Evangelicals for Trump” event they deemed to be in violation of the state’s 50-person cap on such gatherings, according to CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin. The event Thursday came after Republicans denounced the U.S. Supreme Court for declining to hear a Nevada church’s request to hold services in excess of 50 people, under larger capacity limits granted to casinos and other businesses. “NV governor banned church services but casinos can operate at 50% capacity. So we are praying in a casino,” conservative strategist Ralph Reed, who was billed as one of the speakers at the campaign event, posted on Twitter.