September 23, 2020

President Trump's campaign is discussing "contingency plans" that would involve bypassing the result of November's election, reports The Atlantic.

The report delves into possible scenarios if Trump apparently loses the 2020 presidential election but doesn't concede, noting that although we're used to electors being selected based on the popular vote, "nothing in the Constitution says it has to be that way." Citing Republican Party sources, The Atlantic says that Trump's campaign is "discussing contingency plans to bypass election results and appoint loyal electors in battleground states where Republicans hold the legislative majority."

The campaign would reportedly assert that this step was necessary due to claims of supposed voter fraud, which experts have noted is extraordinarily rare, ahead of the "safe harbor" deadline to appoint 538 electors on Dec. 8.

"Trump would ask state legislators to set aside the popular vote and exercise their power to choose a slate of electors directly," The Atlantic reports. "The longer Trump succeeds in keeping the vote count in doubt, the more pressure legislators will feel to act before the safe-harbor deadline expires."

A Trump campaign legal adviser who spoke to The Atlantic said that in this scenario, "the state legislatures will say, 'All right, we've been given this constitutional power. We don't think the results of our own state are accurate, so here's our slate of electors that we think properly reflect the results of our state." Lawrence Tabas, chair of the Pennsylvania Republican Party, also told The Atlantic he has discussed the direct appointment of electors with the Trump campaign, saying, "I've mentioned it to them, and I hope they're thinking about it too." The Trump campaign said it is "fighting for a free and fair election."

This potential scenario is just one part of the broader piece in which experts warn "conditions are ripe for a constitutional crisis." Read more at The Atlantic. Brendan Morrow

10:00 p.m.

President Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden went toe-to-toe at the final presidential debate on Thursday over their respective tax returns. "I have not taken a penny from any foreign source ever in my life," Biden stressed. "We learned that this president paid 50 times the tax in China," he added, evidently citing a report in The New York Times this week that Trump International Hotels Management L.L.C. paid nearly $200,000 in taxes in China between 2013 and 2015.

Biden went on to say, "I have released all of my tax returns. Twenty-two years. Go look at them. Twenty-two years of my tax returns. You have not released a single, solitary year of your tax returns. What are you hiding? Why are you unwilling? … Release your tax returns, or stop talking about corruption."

In his response, Trump repeated the falsehood that he cannot release his tax returns because he is under audit. But "much more importantly than that," Trump went on, "people were saying $750. I asked [my accountants] a week ago, 'What did I pay?' They said, 'Sir, you prepaid tens of millions of dollars.' I prepaid my tax."

The Wall Street Journal's Richard Rubin offered some clarification of the comment: "Though it's not clear exactly what [Trump] meant, it's common for people to make estimated income tax payments in advance and then use those balances to settle their tax liability, just like salaried people have income taxes withheld from their paychecks and settle up on their tax returns," he wrote.

The New York Times' Peter Baker added, however, that "when [Trump] says he paid millions of taxes, that does not mean he paid federal income taxes. According to the tax records our colleagues obtained, he paid just $750 in 2016 in federal income taxes and $750 in 2017 and zero in 11 of 18 years examined." Watch the back-and-forth below. Jeva Lange

Jeva Lange

9:32 p.m.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden had a powerful response to President Trump's insistence that America should learn to live with COVID-19.

As he has throughout the pandemic, Trump downplayed the severity of the coronavirus during Thursday's final presidential debate. He talked about how he went to the hospital after his COVID-19 diagnosis but recovered quickly, implying that Americans can easily defeat the virus. "We're learning to live with it," Trump insisted.

Biden relayed a different reality. He spoke directly to Americans who didn't have a family member at their kitchen table this morning, and then spun Trump's words into a message about all the people the U.S. has lost. "Learning to live with it?" Biden questioned. "People are learning to die with it."

More than 220,000 Americans have died of COVID-19, and millions have contracted it. Case counts and hospitalizations have started to spike again in recent weeks as businesses and schools reopened. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:28 p.m.

President Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden offered dueling approaches to tackling the coronavirus crisis during their opening comments at the final presidential debate on Thursday.

Trump opened the night by touting his response to the pandemic, claiming that 2.2 million people had initially been "expected to die," quoting a worst-case scenario projection if the government had done nothing to stop the spread of the virus. Trump also downplayed spikes around the country, claiming "it will go away. We're rounding the turn. We're rounding the corner. It's going away."

Biden painted a different picture, describing a "dark winter" ahead for America if more robust action isn't taken to stop the spread of the disease. "Over 200,000 Americans are dead," Biden said. "If we just wore these masks, the president's own advisers told us, we could save 100,000 lives. And we're in a circumstance where the president still has no comprehensive plan."

Biden appeared to be once again citing the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation forecast, which said as of September that "224,000 more people in the U.S. could die from the coronavirus by January, but with near-universal mask use the number of projected additional fatalities could decrease by more than half, or at least 100,000," CNN reports.

“I will take care of this. I will end this," Biden concluded. "I will make sure we have a plan." Jeva Lange

Jeva Lange

9:06 p.m.

Gap Inc. announced on Thursday it plans on closing 30 percent of its Gap and Banana Republic stores in North America over the next three years in order to focus on outlet stores and e-commerce.

This will affect 220 Gap and 130 Banana Republic stores. The Gap has been a mall mainstay, but that's no longer working, the company said, and after the closures 80 percent of the remaining stores will be outside of traditional malls. "We've been overly reliant on low-productivity, high-rent stores," Gap CEO Mark Breitbard said. "We've used the past six months to address the real estate issues and accelerate our shift to a true omni-model."

Two other Gap Inc. brands, Old Navy and Athleta, are doing well, and there are plans for both to grow over the next three years. Old Navy has 1,200 stores, and last year brought in $8 billion in sales; that number is expected to increase to $10 billion annually by early 2024. Athleta now has 200 U.S. locations, and the goal is to have about 300 by 2024. Catherine Garcia

8:29 p.m.

About 47.5 million ballots have already been cast in the U.S. presidential election, data compiled by the U.S. Elections Project shows.

This is about eight times the number of early votes cast at this same time in 2016, Reuters reports. That year, more than 47.2 million early votes were eventually cast.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic and safety concerns, more people are using mail-in ballots or taking advantage of early in-person voting. University of Florida Prof. Michael McDonald administers the U.S. Elections Project, and he predicts there will be a record turnout of 150 million — the highest rate since 1908. This would represent 65 percent of all eligible voters.

FiveThirtyEight is projecting something similar — forecasting that the total election turnout will be 154 million, with an 80th percentile range between 144 million and 165 million. In 2016, turnout was 137 million. "The primary ingredient in our turnout estimate is polls that ask people whether they're more or less enthusiastic about voting than usual, and those polls are showing record levels of enthusiasm," editor-in-chief Nate Silver tweeted. Catherine Garcia

7:56 p.m.

Kate Rubins joined the 47 million people who have voted in the U.S. election so far on Thursday when she cast her ballot from 254 miles above the surface of the Earth.

Rubins is the only American currently in space, working alongside Russian astronauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov at the International Space Station. Seeing as she isn't due to return to the ol' blue marble before April 2021, she chose to cast her vote from orbit, which has been an option for U.S. astronauts since 1997.

Rubins previously voted in the 2016 election from the space station as well, listing her address at the time as "low-Earth orbit." As she explained to The Associated Press, "I think it's really important for everybody to vote. If we can do it from space, then I believe folks can do it from the ground, too." Jeva Lange

7:44 p.m.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and President Trump will face off for the second and final time Thursday night.

Every major network and cable news outlet — ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News, PBS, and MSNBC — will air the debate live on TV from 9-10:30 p.m. EST. ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, Fox News and C-SPAN will all stream the debate on YouTube, as well as Facebook. The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other outlets will also air the debate on their websites, as will major networks. Roku users can watch the debate via the Roku TV Channel, while on other devices, Newsy, CBS News, CNN, NBC News, Fox News, and ABC News all have apps that will air it.

NBC News' Kristen Welker will moderate the debate, and will be the first Black woman to do so in decades. Last week's debate was called off after Trump tested positive for COVID-19 and refused to participate in a virtual debate. Kathryn Krawczyk

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