biden, donald, president, presidential

A contrast of styles: New Zealand v US leaders' election debate video   15%

New Zealand and the United States both had leaders' debates this week, and some political junkies noticed a distinct difference in tone. In New Zealand, where the Labour leader and incumbent prime minister Jacinda Ardern faced off against National leader Judith Collins, the pair exchanged compliments in a debate described by Collins as 'robust and a win for politics'. Meanwhile, in America, president Donald Trump's attacks on his Democratic rival Joe Biden turned highly person 

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Biden tells Trump 'you are the worst president America has ever had' in battle over taxes video   12%

During the first presidential debate, Donald Trump was pressed on the New York Times story over his tax returns, which showed he paid only $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017. The president claimed he had paid “millions” in income taxes and said he would release his tax returns soon, which he has been saying since 2015. 

Joe Biden said Trump 'does take advantage of the tax code' and 'pays less tax than a schoolteacher'. Trump shrugged off the criticism, saying all business leaders do the same 'unless they are stupid'. The exchange escalated with Biden telling his rival: 'You are the worst president America has ever had'

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Acrid tone dominates debate from the opening minute   12%

President Trump and former Vice President Biden faced off in the first presidential debate Tuesday night.

I have never supported Donald Trump: Portland-area sheriff hits back after president claims his endorsement in debate  

"As the Multnomah County Sheriff I have never supported Donald Trump and will never support him,” Sheriff Mike Reese tweeted.

Why Cant He Just Say It?   26%

The question Chris Wallace posed to President Donald Trump was direct.

“Are you willing, tonight, to condemn white supremacists and militia groups and to say they need to stand down?”

The president shrugged his left shoulder. “Sure, I’m willing to do that. But I would say almost everything I see is from the left wing, not from the right wing.” Trump continued to say words, and to say nothing. “I’m willing to do anything. I want to see peace.”

Wallace pressed the question. “Well, then, do it, sir.” Former Vice President Joe Biden jumped in. “Say it. Do it. Say it.”

For what seemed like the first time during last night’s debate, Trump paused.

“What do you want to call them?” Trump gestured at Wallace. “Give me a name, give me a name.” White supremacists, Wallace answered. “The Proud Boys,” Biden added, referring to the far-right group of self-described “Western chauvinists” who often engage in armed violence at protests.

“Proud Boys, stand back, and stand by,” Trump said.

America has seen this before. It happened when Trump said there were “some very fine people on both sides” of the white-supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia. It happened when he pretended not to know who David Duke is, and that the former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard had endorsed his presidential bid. In moments of direct confrontation, Trump refuses to state clearly that he condemns white supremacy. White nationalists notice, and remember.

[Read: The nationalist’s delusion]

Last month, Kellyanne Conway, who recently left her senior position at the White House, told Fox & Friends that Trump benefits when America is turbulent. “The more chaos and anarchy and vandalism and violence reigns, the better it is for the very clear choice on who’s best on public safety and law and order,” she said. While Trump, Conway, and the rest of Trumpworld blame left-wing activists for the recent unrest, they seem to relish images of a violent America.

The Republican National Committee gave prime-time convention slots to Patricia and Mark McCloskey, the St. Louis couple who have each been charged with a felony for pointing guns at Black Lives Matter protesters who marched past their house. Trump defended Kyle Rittenhouse, who has been charged with homicide for allegedly shooting and killing two people during a protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, saying the 17-year-old may have acted in self-defense. One particularly vivid Trump campaign ad shows hooded protesters carrying Black Lives Matter signs before cutting to Biden kneeling with Black parishioners of an African Methodist Episcopal church in Delaware. “You won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America,” Vice President Mike Pence warns in a voice-over.

[Read: White nationalism’s deep American roots]

If Trump wants chaos, he may be in luck. On the social-media platform Telegram last night, the Proud Boys posted a Photoshopped version of their logo surrounded by the words stand back and stand by. The group’s leader, Enrique Tarrio, denied that the group supports white supremacy in a post on another platform, called Parler, but said he was “extremely PROUD of my Presidents performance tonight.”

After the debate, the Trump campaign’s Twitter account posted a thread pointing out that Trump said “Sure” when asked whether he would condemn white supremacy. And at several points during his presidency, Trump has explicitly condemned racism. “In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry, and white supremacy. These sinister ideologies must be defeated,” Trump said in a speech at the White House after the deadly 2019 shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. Trump’s most vocal supporters, including a number of his evangelical advisers, claim that the media have pushed a false narrative that the president is racist.

And yet more often, in unscripted moments, Trump equivocates. Perhaps the question comes down to loyalty. Wallace “was asking the president to do something he knows the president doesn’t like to do,” former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania said on CNN last night, “which is [to] say something bad about people who support him.”

Ellen Cushing contributed reporting.

Extremism Watchers Raise Concerns Over Trump Failing To Condemn White Supremacists   -27%

In Tuesday's debate, President Trump did not denounce white supremacists and gave fuel to at least one hate group. Extremism experts warn this will only add to an already volatile election season.

Trump namechecks Proud Boys as he refuses to condemn white supremacists in debate video   -13%

Donald Trump declined to condemn white supremacists and violent rightwing groups during a contentious first 2020 presidential debate in which the issue of anti-racism protests and civic unrest was one of the topics of discussion. Asked repeatedly by the moderator, Chris Wallace, to condemn the actions of white supremacists and other groups, such as militias or far-right organisations, Trump ignored the question and sought instead to criticise the actions of leftwing groups and activists

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News Brief: Debate Aftermath, Post-Election Threats, COVID-19 Tests  

Presidential debate organizers are planning changes. During the wait for election results, there are fears conspiracy theories will spread. And, some COVID-19 tests are getting faster and cheaper.

Who won the first presidential debate?   42%

CNN Opinion asked contributors for their takes on how Donald Trump and Joe Biden did in the first presidential debate. The views expressed in this commentary are their own.

Biden campaign faces questions about whether he should skip next debates   31%

This story is published in a content partnership with POLITICO. It was originally reported by Natasha Korecki and Alex Isenstadt on on September 30, 2020.The moment Joe Biden’s first debate against Donald Trump ended, his campaign was already confronted with questions about whether it should be his last.In the two men’s first head-to-head match-up, Trump bullied moderator Chris Wallace, blew past his time limits and repeatedly and loudly interrupted Biden.It resulted in a mockery…

Tax return bombshell puts Trump on the defensive ahead of first debate   10%

As a first US presidential debate gets under way on Tuesday night, President Donald Trump is likely to face questions over his taxes after a New York Times report revealed that he paid just $750 in federal income tax in 2016 and 2017 and nothing at all in 10 of the past 15 years. Democratic challenger Joe Biden released his most recent tax returns just hours ahead of the debate.

Stephen Colbert on Trump's hair: 'He spent $70,000 on that? He should've paid more'   -25%

Late-night hosts react to the Trump tax revelations, from the $750 he paid in 2017 to the $421m he personally owes

The fallout from the New York Times bombshell investigation into two decades of Trump’s tax returns filtered through Monday’s late-night shows, as hosts reacted to the revelation that Trump paid merely $750 in taxes in 2016 and 2017. “Seven hundred and fifty dollars!” Stephen Colbert exclaimed on The Late Show. “Trump paid Stormy Daniels $130,000 and he screwed the country way more.”

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US election: why a Joe Biden win is likely to be bad news for Russia   -7%

In Moscow, analysts for the Kremlin and its security council are working overtime to war-game scenarios for a Joe Biden presidency.Increasingly alarmed at the prospect of a White House without Donald Trump, Russia is trying to determine what that’ll mean for sensitive issues from nuclear arms to relations with China, energy exports, sanctions and far-flung global conflicts, according to people familiar with the efforts.Though few see much prospect for improved ties if Trump is re-elected, Biden…

Trump signs spending bill to keep government open until December 11   3%

President Donald Trump early Thursday morning signed a spending bill to keep the government open until December 11, according to a tweet from White House spokesman Judd Deere.

Adam Schiff: Why my colleagues and I are introducing the first major democracy reforms since Watergate   -33%

Donald Trump has abused the office like no president before him. It's time for serious reform to preserve our democracy.

Trump's latest punt on White supremacy shows a debate rebound will be tough   -19%

President Donald Trump's failure yet again to unequivocally condemn White supremacy Wednesday -- to clear up a chilling moment from his debate clash with Democratic nominee Joe Biden -- shows how he may find it impossible to reboot for their next crucial contest.

Trump says he won't concede. Is he bluffing?   35%

President Donald Trump has expressed doubt in any election outcome that results in a Joe Biden win. But Congressional Republicans have pushed back on his comments, saying they will honor the Constitution and accept the results peacefully.

Facebook bans ads calling US voting fraud widespread or election invalid   27%

The social media platform has also identified an "uptick" in content related to the far-right Proud Boys, after President Donald Trump declined to condemn the group during the first presidential debate

'That is false': Dale fact checks Trump's ballot fraud claim   25%

CNN's Daniel Dale fact checks President Donald Trump's claims about election fraud and mail-in voting made during the first presidential debate of the 2020 election season.

Trumps Climate Self-Own   20%

The painting style of Jackson Pollock is called “gestural abstraction,” but before last night’s debate, I never knew that it was also a governing philosophy. The debate featured many decisions from President Donald Trump that were puzzling, to put it mildly. The president constantly interrupted the moderator, Chris Wallace, and he all but jeered his opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, even as Biden discussed the death toll of the coronavirus pandemic. It was a loud, shabby, obnoxious evening—one of the few civic rituals I can remember that, the morning after, seems to have left viewers with a televisual hangover.

Yet a few of the president’s strangest political decisions came in the debate’s quietest moments: the part devoted to climate change. It was one of the few instances of the debate where Trump did not constantly interrupt Biden, even occasionally allowing the former vice president to finish his paragraphs. That there even was a climate-change section was notable: A moderator had not asked a question about climate change in a general-election debate in 12 years. Even during the 2016 campaign, when Trump was threatening to revoke many environmental policies and withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement, the only climate-change question was asked by an undecided voter, Ken Bone. The climate discussion, a historical novelty, somehow became the most historically normal part of last night’s debate.

That the climate section was so comparatively tranquil also made it among the most revealing. For years, Democrats and some centrists have argued that Trump is so in thrall to falsehood that he is incapable of governing effectively. The argument was convincing, but there was periodically room for doubt: Did Trump actually believe the mistruths about climate change—or health care, or hurricane forecasting—that he mouthed? Or was he more savvy than he let on, and simply an effective messenger for partisan distortions? His administration’s ruinous response to Hurricane Maria spoke to his incompetence. Its muscular initial response to the coronavirus recession (if not to the virus itself) suggested his capability.

But in this moment the truth managed to show through: The president is so tangled in falsehood that he struggles to even campaign effectively. Most politicians lie only when it helps them politically, but Trump lied, remarkably, to his own disadvantage. He defended unpopular rollbacks using arguments that his own administration has discredited. He falsely overstated Biden’s climate policies, allowing Biden to appear moderate by comparison. And he barely managed to explain his administration’s climate policy, even though polls show that environmental policy is among his most unpopular issues.

The first lapse came early in the climate section, when Wallace asked him to explain his deregulatory spree, specifically his decision to freeze the fuel-economy standards, which govern the gas mileage of all new cars and trucks sold in the United States. “If you believe in the science of climate change …” Wallace asked, “why have you relaxed fuel-economy standards that are gonna create more pollution from cars and trucks?”

“Well, not really,” Trump replied. “Because what’s happening is that the car is much less expensive, and it’s a much safer car, and you’re talking about a tiny difference.” In other words, Trump did not rebut that the rollback will increase pollution, but claimed that his policy will make up for that pollution by reducing the cost of new cars to consumers: You might hate the dirtier air, but you’ll love your new car. He went on to claim that his rollback would “at least double or triple the number of cars purchased.”

[Read: ‘We know they had cooked the books’]

But this argument—Trump’s argument—is completely untrue, according to his own administration. It was based, as I wrote earlier this year, on massively flawed math, including a broken computer program that mixed up supply and demand. When that math was fixed, the White House admitted that the gas-mileage rollback will eliminate as many as 13,500 jobs and deal as much as $22 billion in damage to the American economy. It will make consumers pay more for gas. For this reason, among others, several automakers—such as Ford, Honda, and Volkswagen—chose to strike a separate deal with California and ignore the rollback entirely.

The rules that Trump gutted have also saved Americans nearly $500 billion at the pump, according to the nonpartisan Consumer Federation of America. His administration no longer argues that the rollback will save much money for anyone but oil companies and some carmakers. But Trump’s relationship with the truth is so casual that he defended the policy to the public anyway, citing arguments that were discredited by experts who at least nominally serve under him.

His other lapse happened a few minutes later. As Biden explained his own approach to climate policy, Trump cut in, accusing Biden of supporting the Green New Deal. Such a policy, Trump alleged, would cost $100 trillion.

It was a ham-handed attack. Biden does not support the Green New Deal, though he has praised it in limited terms since the primary, saying that he admires its link between the climate and the economy. But the truth is that no Democrat has ever supported a $100 trillion Green New Deal: Even Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who popularized the idea, has only ever sought a $10 trillion package. The sole person who has ever claimed that a Green New Deal would cost $100 trillion is Brian Riedl, a Republican and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank.

Biden slightly muffled his reply, saying that the Green New Deal would not cost $100 trillion before clarifying that the Green New Deal was “not my plan.” But Trump ignored the opening, announcing to the room that Biden’s rejection of the Green New Deal had just lost him the left. The president reiterated the point on Twitter earlier today.

To actual leftists, Biden’s rejection of the Green New Deal is no surprise: The Democratic Party just had a whole primary about it, and the more moderate candidate won. It’s been clear for months that Biden has been desperate to distance himself from any policy such as the Green New Deal that could be construed as anti-fracking, considering the large fracking industry in Pennslyvania, a key swing state. But Trump seemed so captured by a falsehood regularly repeated in the conservative media—that Biden has been commandeered by his party’s left wing—that he seemed to have forgotten about Biden’s actual positions.

But Trump got Biden to reject such a policy, publicly, on prime-time television, then celebrated it as some kind of coalition-dividing masterstroke. Meanwhile, Biden’s actual climate policy—a nearly $2 trillion infrastructure and investment package, which would be by far the most ambitious and expensive climate bill ever passed in the United States—looked like the picture of moderation.

[Read: So has the Green New Deal won yet?]

As a topic, climate change encapsulates Trump’s failures. He struggles to understand that facts exist independent of whether they help or hurt him politically. Asked whether he “believes” human pollution contributes to climate change, Trump replied: “I think a lot of things do, but I think to an extent, yes—I think to an extent, yes, but I also think we have to do better management of our forest.” He could not address the deeper question—do humans cause climate change?—without immediately bickering about the cause of the California wildfires. In the meantime, he showed that he does not understand climate science. Virtually all scientists say that human activity, such as greenhouse-gas pollution, causes the modern warming that we’ve observed.

The president made other mistakes last night, and they will likely loom larger in the historical record than anything he said about the climate. There were many other abnormal moments: As my colleagues have written, he refused to condemn white supremacists, and he undermined trust in the election results. But if Trump loses in November, it will not be solely because of his failure to understand and evoke America’s civic patriotism. It will be his normal failures as a leader, as an administrator, and as a rhetorician that count. They were on gleaming display last night.

The Inside Story of the Mueller Probes Mistakes   30%


ndrew Weissmann was one of Robert Mueller’s top deputies in the special counsel’s investigation of the 2016 election, and he’s about to publish the first insider account, called Where Law Ends: Inside the Mueller Investigation. The title comes from an adapted quote by the philosopher John Locke that’s inscribed on the façade of the Justice Department building in Washington, D.C.: “Wherever law ends, tyranny begins.”

Weissmann offers a damning indictment of a “lawless” president and his knowing accomplices—Attorney General William Barr (portrayed as a cynical liar), congressional Republicans, criminal flunkies, Fox News. Donald Trump, he writes, is “like an animal, clawing at the world with no concept of right and wrong.” But in telling the story of the investigation and its fallout, Weissmann reserves his most painful words for the Special Counsel’s Office itself. Where Law Ends portrays a group of talented, dedicated professionals beset with internal divisions and led by a man whose code of integrity allowed their target to defy them and escape accountability.

“There’s no question I was frustrated at the time,” Weissmann told me in a recent interview. “There was more that could be done that we didn’t do.” He pointed out that the special counsel’s report never arrived at the clear legal conclusions expected from an internal Justice Department document. At the same time, it lacked the explanatory power of last month’s bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report on the 2016 election. “Even with 1,000 pages, it was better,” Weissmann said of the Senate report. “It made judgments and calls, instead of saying, ‘You could say this and you could say that.’”

The Mueller inquiry was the greatest potential check on Trump’s abuse of power. The press gives the president fits, but almost half the country chooses not to believe the news. Congress will protect Trump as long as his party controls at least one chamber. Local prosecutors and civil plaintiffs are severely limited in pursuing justice against a sitting president. Public opinion is immovably split and powerless until the next election. Only the Special Counsel’s Office—burrowing into the criminal matter of Russian interference in the 2016 election, a possible conspiracy with the Trump campaign, and the president’s subsequent attempts to block an investigation—offered the prospect of accountability for Trump. Mueller couldn’t try the president in court, let alone send him to prison, but he could fully expose Trump’s wrongdoing for a future prosecutor, using the enforceable power of a grand jury subpoena. The whole constitutional superstructure of checks and balances rested on Mueller and his team. As their work dragged on through 2017 and 2018, with flurries of indictments and plea deals but otherwise in utter silence, many Americans invested the inquiry with the outsized expectation that it would somehow bring Trump down.

Suddenly, in March 2019, the Special Counsel’s Office completed its work. A report, hundreds of pages long, with many lines blacked out, was delivered to the attorney general. Before releasing it to the public, Barr pronounced the president innocent, in a brazen mix of elisions, distortions, and outright lies—for the report presented extensive evidence of cooperation between the Trump campaign and Russian assets, and of the president’s efforts to obstruct justice. The lesson Trump took from the Mueller investigation was that he could do anything he wanted. He declared himself vindicated, vowed to pursue the pursuers, and immediately turned to extorting favors for another election from another foreign country. Uproar over “Russiagate” gave way to uproar over “Ukrainegate.” The Mueller report faded away, as if it had all been for nothing.

[Read: Robert Mueller and the tyranny of ‘optics’]

“Had we given it our all—had we used all available tools to uncover the truth, undeterred by the onslaught of the president’s unique powers to undermine our efforts?” Weissmann writes in the introduction. “I know the hard answer to that simple question: We could have done more.” Elsewhere, he admits that, “like Congress, we were guilty of not pressing as hard as we could” for evidence. He calls a crucial passage of the Mueller report “mealymouthed”—an easy mark for Barr’s treachery. “Part of the reason the president and his enablers were able to spin the report was that we had left the playing field open for them to do so.”

Weissmann, who now teaches at NYU, is a former federal prosecutor from New York, with an aggressive reputation and a precise manner. He won cases against Mafia bosses and Enron executives, served as Mueller’s general counsel at the FBI, and became the head of the Justice Department’s criminal-fraud section under President Obama. When Mueller was appointed special counsel in May 2017, he chose Weissmann to lead “Team M”—the group responsible for the case against Paul Manafort, Trump’s corrupt former campaign chairman. Theirs was the most straightforward part of the investigation; they produced an early indictment and, ultimately, a conviction of Manafort on tax fraud and other charges.

Team M also came close to establishing a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. On August 2, 2016, Manafort dined in New York City with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Ukrainian-born business associate with ties to Russian intelligence and oligarchs. Manafort, a lavishly compensated hired gun for some of the oligarchs, had been sharing campaign strategy with Kilimnik, including sensitive polling data. Over dinner, Manafort described Trump’s strategy in four battleground states; Kilimnik in turn presented for Trump’s approval a Russian “peace plan” that would amount to the annexation of eastern Ukraine. Last month’s Senate report, going further than Team M, named Kilimnik as an actual Russian intelligence officer and revealed his likely connection to the 2016 election-interference operations. “This is what collusion looks like,” the committee’s Democratic members wrote in an appendix.

In the absence of a discoverable deal between the Trump campaign and Russian assets, the number and flagrancy of contacts and the readiness of Trump and his advisers to lie about them have been too easily minimized. As Weissmann observes in Where Law Ends: “The hope of uncovering something even greater distorted the perception of what was actually brought to light.” Weissmann and his colleagues were thwarted by chance—Manafort’s No. 2, Rick Gates, arrived late for the dinner with Kilimnik and was subsequently unable to tell investigators all that was discussed. They were hamstrung by Mueller’s decision not to look into Trump’s financial dealings with Russia, which might have established a source of Russian leverage over Trump, but which the president had declared a red line not to be crossed. And they were frustrated by perjury—for Manafort never stopped lying to Team M. His lies were encouraged by the president, who made sympathetic noises about Manafort with the suggestion that stonewalling might earn him a pardon. Trump’s pardon power was an obstacle that the prosecutors didn’t anticipate and could never overcome. It kept them from being able to push uncooperative targets as hard as in an ordinary criminal case.

The Special Counsel’s Office also worked under the constant threat that Trump would fire Mueller, as Richard Nixon had fired Archibald Cox, the first Watergate special prosecutor, in the Saturday Night Massacre. Trump tried several times to get rid of Mueller, but he was stopped by his underlings, who knew that it would lead to legal and political disaster. Still, the threat never went away, and in the end, it served the president’s interests well: “The specter of our being shut down exerted a kind of destabilizing pull on our decision-making process.” Where Law Ends describes numerous instances, large and small, when Mueller declined to pursue an aggressive course for fear of the reaction at the White House. For example, the special counsel shied away from subpoenaing Don Trump Jr. to testify about his notorious June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer offering dirt on Hillary Clinton. Ivanka Trump, who didn’t attend the meeting but talked with participants afterward in the lobby, and later discussed with her father how to conceal details from the press, was never even asked to speak with Mueller’s investigators: They “feared that hauling her in for an interview would play badly to the already antagonistic right-wing press—Look how they’re roughing up the president’s daughter—and risk enraging Trump, provoking him to shut down the Special Counsel’s Office once and for all.”

[Read: The president is winning his war on American institutions]

Weissmann blames this persistent timidity on one of Mueller’s other top deputies, a lawyer named Aaron Zebley, comparing Zebley to George B. McClellan (and more zealous team members, including himself, to Ulysses S. Grant). “Repeatedly during our twenty-two months in operation,” Weissmann writes, “we would reach some critical juncture in our investigation only to have Aaron say that we could not take a particular action because it risked aggravating the president beyond some undefined breaking point.”

Weissmann described to me this failure of nerve on Zebley’s part, an aversion to confronting the ugliness coming from Trump. I pointed out that all of these were ultimately Mueller’s decisions. Weissmann agreed.

His portrait of Mueller is admiring and affectionate. The former FBI director is laconic, loyal, demanding, and, very occasionally, drily charming. Weissmann goes to great lengths to understand Mueller’s thinking on two of his central decisions: not to subpoena Trump, and not to state plainly in the report what the evidence of volume two makes clear—that Trump obstructed justice. Neither decision holds up to Weissmann’s scrutiny.

On the subpoena, Weissmann told me that the reason given in the report—that the legal battle would have unduly delayed the inquiry—was less than candid, since a subpoena issued at the start of the investigation could have been resolved by the Supreme Court months before the date of the report’s completion. In Where Law Ends, Weissmann reveals that the real reason for not compelling the president to be interviewed was Mueller’s aversion to having an explosive confrontation with the White House. On the obstruction of justice, Mueller declined to make a determination because of a long-standing Justice Department policy that a sitting president cannot be indicted. Mueller, judging that Trump wouldn’t have his day in court until he became a private citizen again, refrained from stating that Trump had broken the law (even though volume one of the report explicitly cleared the president of the conspiracy charge).

Weissmann politely demolishes this effort at extreme fairness. “I was flummoxed by Mueller’s thinking,” he admits. The special counsel was required to make a legal recommendation on the facts and present it in an internal department document to the attorney general. Barr could decide to keep the report private. Or, if it became public, Trump could use his unparalleled platform to defend himself to the country. Or he could choose to be charged and tried in order to clear his name. Mueller, completely out of character, was “making his own, freelance judgments about what was appropriate and not delivering on what he was tasked with doing.”

Weissmann made these arguments to the lawyer whom Mueller had assigned to draft this tricky passage of the report. “I also think it seems like a transparent shell game,” Weissmann told his colleague. “When there is insufficient proof of a crime, in volume one, we say it. But when there is sufficient proof, with obstruction, we don’t say it. Who is going to be fooled by that? It’s so obvious.”

By abdicating the role of prosecutor, Mueller cleared the way for Barr to take it on himself. Mueller and Barr were old friends. Several weeks before submitting the report, Weissmann writes, Mueller informed Barr of his intent to omit any legal recommendation. Barr didn’t object. Without telling Mueller, he saw a chance to disfigure the report into an exoneration of the president and thereby make its damning truths disappear. “Barr,” Weissmann writes, “had betrayed both friend and country.”

[Andrew Weissmann: America’s prosecutors know what Bill Barr did was wrong]

And Mueller? He was incapable of navigating the world remade by Trump. He conducted himself with scrupulous integrity and allowed his team to be intimidated by people who had no scruples at all. His deep aversion to publicity silenced him when the public badly needed clarity about the special counsel’s dense, ambiguous, at times unreadable report. His sense of fairness surrendered the facts of presidential criminality to an administration that was at war with facts. He trusted his friend Barr to play it straight, not realizing that Barr had gone crooked. He left the job of holding the president accountable to a Congress that had shown itself to be Trump’s willing accomplice. He wanted, above all, to warn the American people about foreign subversion of our democracy, while the greater subversion gathered force here at home.

In our interview, I asked Weissmann if Mueller had let the American people down. “Absolutely, yep,” Weissmann said, before quickly adding: “I wouldn’t phrase it as just Mueller. I would say ‘the office.’ There are a lot of things we did well, and a lot of things we could have done better, to be diplomatic about it.”

And the investigation—was it a historic missed opportunity?

Weissmann’s reply was terse. “That’s fair.”

With the end of the Special Counsel’s Office, the one real check on Trump’s unfettered power was gone, until the next election. Now it’s upon us, and the president remains free to repeat what worked for him in the last one.

Opinion: There's only one way to fix the presidential debates   -30%

There's wide public agreement that the ugly, contentious presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden on Tuesday night was an irritating national embarrassment -- "must-flee TV," as CNN contributor Paul Begala wisecracked. But the Commission on Presidential Debates' announcement that it's considering changes to the format of the two remaining debates won't cure the problem.

What does the first climate question at a US debate in 20 years reveal?  

The question framed the existence of a human-made climate crisis as something that is for some Americans still debatable

The long-awaited climate question in last night’s presidential debate broke a 20-year silent streak from moderators on the crisis – thrusting it into prime time but also revealing just how stuck in the past much of the US is on the issue.

After more than an hour of chaos as the candidates talked over each other, the Fox News anchor Chris Wallace asked Donald Trump: “What do you believe about the science of climate change and what will you do in the next four years to confront it?”

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Far-right Proud Boys celebrate Trump's debate comments  

After the debate, the group debuted a new logo incorporating the president’s words on Telegram

No Comment: The Debate Is a Reminder That, Right Now, Words Dont Mean Much  

Bill McKibben writes about the coming Presidential election, the threats posed by Donald Trump, and the activism of the rock climber Sasha DiGiulian.

Fact-checking the first Trump-Biden presidential debate (part 2)   8%

There were so many false claims made by President Trump in the first debate we needed to produce a second report.

Back in his comfort zone, Joe Biden hits Amtrak and the campaign trail   -15%

A day after a caustic debate with President Trump, the Democratic nominee took to the train tracks for his busiest campaign day in nearly seven months.

Trump's refusal to condemn white supremacy fits pattern of extremist rhetoric   22%

President ‘made his call to violence crystal clear’, critics say, after he exhorted the far-right Proud Boys to ‘stand back and stand by’

Donald Trump’s refusal to condemn white supremacy during Tuesday night’s debate fits into a pattern of extremist rhetoric that has already baselessly stoked fear of voting fraud amid the president’s urging of his supporters to descend on polling stations in November’s election.

Related: Presidential debate reaction: Trump condemned over failure to criticise far-right group – live

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The worst debate in modern American history: how hope was mugged in the Trump-Biden clash   25%

Donald Trump was pugnacious in the extreme. Joe Biden does not fight on those terms, and he was hurt in this first - and most important - of the debates in the US presidential race.

Kate Aronoff: The Climate Crisis Can't Take 4 More Years of Trump. We Must Push Biden from the Left   6%

After massive outcry from activists and young voters, debate moderator Chris Wallace questioned President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden about the climate crisis at the first presidential debate. He did not include it in his initial list of debate topics. Kate Aronoff, author and staff writer at The New Republic, says she didn't expect climate change to come up, but was unsurprised by the responses. "We've known for years that Donald Trump denies the science of climate change," she says. "And we know that Joe Biden doesn't support a Green New Deal."

As it happened: Donald Trump, Joe Biden in fiery clash for first US Presidential debate  

With 35 days until the election, Donald Trump faced off with Joe Biden in what was an 'ugly and confrontational' debate.

'S***show.' 'Dumpster fire.' 'Train wreck': How horrified pundits reacted to the presidential debate   17%

Perhaps the most chaotic presidential debate in modern American history inspired unprecedented reactions on cable and broadcast news by pundits who, in other circumstances, would have been combing over minor moments to gauge who won and lost. The consensus among many commentators: The losers of the night were the American public. “That was a hot […]

First Trump-Biden presidential debate: Trump clashes with moderator  

President Donald Trump clashes with moderator Chris Wallace.

Trump casts doubt on the legitimacy of the election and refuses to condemn White supremacists in chaotic debate   1%

President Donald Trump heads into Tuesday's first presidential debate trailing former Vice President Joe Biden in the polls and on defense about his handling of a pandemic that has killed more than 200,000 Americans and led some 30 million people to file unemployment claims.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was larger than life, but her death could prove more momentous  

Battle over replacing the feminist hero and Jewish icon likely to upend election campaign and could favor the candidate she once called a 'faker', Donald Trump

'Embarrassment': Trump, Biden assess debate as rule change flagged  

The group that manages US presidential election debates said it will take steps to bring order to the final two contests between Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

'Are we going to choose white supremacy?' Voters of color react to Trump's comments   -15%

Voters of color reacted with alarm, or sometimes shrugs, to President Trump's failure to disavow white supremacist groups during Tuesday's debate.

Did Trump display textbook signs of authoritarianism during the debate? Heres what the experts say   -8%

Experts on authoritarianism break down the tactics behind what Trump said during the debate — from telling far right groups to ‘stand by’ to talking over Biden.