Joe Biden waited 37 days to directly address the allegation of sexual assault lodged against him from a former Senate staffer, CBS News campaign reporter Bo Erickson and CBSNews.com political reporter Grace Segers report. Tara Reade said on a podcast in March that in 1993, Biden penetrated her with his hand while in the U.S. Capitol complex, when she was a staff assistant in his Senate office.
The allegation expanded on her previous claims a year ago that Biden had harassed her 27 years ago. In a television interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Biden was asked directly whether he had sexually assaulted Reade in 1993. “No, it is not true,” he said. “I’m saying unequivocally, it never, never happened.”
Biden said that while women who make accusations like this “deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, and when they step forward they should be heard,” their stories “should be subject to appropriate inquiry and scrutiny.”
Before the morning TV interview, Biden released a statement questioning her claim, noting that she said she had “raised some of these issues with her supervisor and senior staffers,” but the two people identified said “unequivocally, that she never came to them and complained or raised issues.”
The former VP wrote in his statement that any complaints by Reade — if they exist — should be released by the secretary of the Senate. Senate personnel records are managed by the secretary of the Senate, who did not respond to requests for comment. Some have questioned whether there is a mention of Reade in Biden’s personal Senate papers, housed at the University of Delaware. Biden insists there is not, and said he doesn’t want them released yet because they are mostly political. The papers are scheduled to become public two years after Biden leaves public office.
Read more here about CBS News‘ reporting about Reade’s accusation and the Biden’s campaign’s response to the allegations.
FROM THE CANDIDATES
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP
Twice in the past two days, President Trump has addressed sexual assault allegations made against his presumed 2020 Democratic rival, Joe Biden. Mr. Trump told reporters Thursday testimony from Tara Reade “could be false accusations,” reports CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga. He added, “I have been falsely charged numerous times. And there is such a thing.”
In a podcast interview with supporter Dan Bongino Friday, the president expressed sympathy for the former vice president, noting he too has been accused of sexual assault.
“I guess in a way, you could say I’m sticking up for him,” Trump told listeners, in his lengthiest comments yet about the accusation, which Biden addressed directly Friday for the first time, unequivocally denying Reade’s claim.
Reade said on a podcast in March that while working in Biden’s Senate office in 1993 as a staff assistant, he pushed her against a wall in an office building, put his hand up her skirt and penetrated her with his hand. The allegation went beyond her previous claims of harassment.
Biden flatly denied Reade’s accusation in an interview on MSNBC on Friday morning, calling upon the National Archives to release documents “relevant” to her allegation.
“It’s a terrible thing, it’s a very scary thing,” Mr. Trump said of the situation, Friday. “With that, Biden’s going to have to go out and fight his own battles.”
The president suggested more accusers could “come out” against the former vice president in the future. “He’ll probably have others come out. He might,” Trump said. At this point, Reade is the only woman who has ever alleged that Biden sexually assaulted her.
This is familiar territory for the president. More than a dozen women have accused him of sexual misconduct, including columnist E. Jean Carroll, who accused him of raping her in a New York City department store dressing room in the 1990s. The ongoing claims waged against Trump range from inappropriate comments to sexual assault.
Today, the President also announced plans to visit Keystone, South Dakota ahead of the fourth of July, for a fireworks display at Mount Rushmore National Memorial. “I’m going to go there on July 3rd and they’re gonna have the big fireworks,” the President told podcast host Dan Bongino.
The office that monitors the Small Business Administration said it has opened dozens of investigations into fraud in the distribution of loans meant to keep small businesses afloat and paying their employees during the COVID-19 crisis, following requests from Senator Elizabeth Warren and other lawmakers for it to do so.
“I want to assure you my office will perform our work to the highest standards to promote transparency of this vital stimulus program and make recommendations for corrective action to ensure the funds are used efficiently, effectively and in accordance with the law,” SBA Inspector General Hannibal “Mike” Ware wrote in a letter to Warren and Representative Nydia Velazquez.
CBS News campaign reporter Zak Hudak says the lawmakers had written to Ware a week earlier, asking that his office review whether the SBA and Treasury Department had ensured lenders and small businesses could access Paycheck Protection Program loans “quickly and equitably” and that it minimized waste, fraud and abuse.
They also called for an investigation into whether banks played favorites with wealthier customers and whether companies with political connections received priority access to loans. Ware noted that his office had been proactive in releasing fraud schemes related to PPP and had been the first to commission reports on waste, fraud and abuse in COVID-19 funding.
He said his office plans to release a flash report on PPP implementation at the request of several other senators by May 8 and another on the the loan forgiveness piece of the program. Ware also said they planned to investigate the questions posed by the lawmakers.
“It is unlikely that a single review will cover all three aspects sought in your request; however, we believe our planned work, to include the flash reports, will provide the transparency necessary to inform the concerns noted relative to lending practices of the banks in implementing PPE,” he wrote.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order on Friday that will allow some low-risk industries, such as construction and real-estate activities, to get back to work on May 7. But as she faces pressure to reopen more parts of the state and a possible legal challenge from the GOP-controlled legislature over her use of executive powers, Whitmer says she’ll continue making decisions based on advice from public health experts.
“I will not be making decisions based on an arbitrary timeline or political or legal pressure. I’m not here to play games,” she told reporters during her briefing on Friday. She accused Republicans in the legislature of engaging in “political gamesmanship without substance” after they refused to extend Michigan’s state of emergency and authorized leaders to take legal action against Whitmer for her COVID-19 response. After the legislature did not extend the state of emergency, Whitmer signed executive orders Thursday night keeping it in place through May 28.
CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster says Whitmer also responded to a tweet from President Trump on Friday morning calling on her to “make a deal” with the protestors who showed up at the Capitol building in Lansing to protest Whitmer’s stay at home order.
“These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again,” Trump tweeted. “We’re not in a political crisis where we should just negotiate and find some common ground here. We’re a public health crisis,” Whitmer said.
She opened her briefing by talking about the protesters, including some who were armed and entered the Capitol building, criticizing some of the attendees. “Yesterday’s scene at the Capitol was disturbing, to be quite honest,” Whitmer said. “Swastikas and Confederate flags, nooses and automatic rifles do not represent who we are as Michiganders.” Whitmer declined to say whether she should remove her name from the list of potential vice presidential nominees, given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. But she insisted, “all of my focus is right here at home in Michigan. This is the only place I’ve ever called home. And this is the place where I always want to be.”
BIDEN V. TRUMP
President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign has spent over $54 million on Facebook and Google advertisements since the 2018 midterm elections. By comparison, the Biden campaign has spent just under $19 million on the same platforms since his 2019 launch. While the president has outspent Joe Biden digitally overall, Biden has outpaced Mr. Trump specifically in Facebook spending since the end of March. According to Bully Pulpit Interactive’s 2020 Campaign Tracker, Mr. Trump has spent $7 million on Facebook and Google while Biden has spent $5.3 million from March 28 to April 25, but Biden has spent $4.3 million to Trump’s $4.1 million on Facebook.
CBS News political unit associate producers Sarah Ewall-Wice and Eleanor Watson note a review of the Facebook ad library found many of the ads that Biden has aired on the social network over the past month involve “healing” the soul of the nation, taking on Mr. Trump, teasing his VP pick, defeating the NRA, protecting Obamacare, touting endorsements and meeting fundraising goals. The president’s ads on Facebook, meanwhile, have focused on slamming Biden and Democrats, building a wall, promoting online events, selling merchandise and reaching fundraising deadlines.
The pro-Trump America First Action PAC launched a new round of TV ads in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania Friday taking aim at Joe Biden. It’s part of the group’s $10 million investment in the battleground states through the end of May. In Michigan, an ad titled “China Prosperity” has clips of Biden praising China; in Wisconsin, an ad titled “Stop China” also uses video of Biden remarks to accuse the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee of trying to protect China amid the coronavirus outbreak; and in Pennsylvania, the ad titled “Travel Ban” uses a clip of Biden criticizing the China travel ban. It’s the latest in a series of efforts to paint Biden as aligned with China over U.S. interests. At the same time, Democratic groups have made similar efforts to tie Trump with China as well for his initial praise of China’s coronavirus response.
Meanwhile, CBS News political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice reports that the Senate Majority PAC, which works to elect Democrats, is running its first television ad in Montana for the 2020 election cycle this weekend. This comes after the state’s Democratic governor, Steve Bullock, decided to challenge GOP Senator Steve Daines, putting the race closer in play. The ad titled “Maybe” accuses Daines of supporting not only corporate tax cuts, but also cuts to Medicare. It’s a six-figure buy that will start running statewide on Saturday. According to Kantar/CMAG tracking, Daines has already spent more than $600,000 on ads in the race, including both TV and digital. Bullock has spent $114,000, but all of his ads so far have been digital.
This weekend marks the beginning of “Phase 1” for some states, as the federal guidelines on social distancing expires and some governors look to gradually reopen businesses in their states. Texas, Arkansas, Maine, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Georgia are among some of the states to lift restrictions on restaurants, gyms, hair salons and retailers this weekend or on Monday.
In total, CBS News counts 35 states that have begun or will begin to lift some social distancing regulations. In other states with ongoing increases in COVID-19 cases, governors have extended their stay-at-home orders and are waiting for a clear break in the data to start any notable waves of reopenings.
“It’s this simple: Data determines dates. When we see our benchmarks on key factors, like testing or hospitalizations, we can begin considering a specific timetable,” New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy Tweeted Friday.
For governors in states near regional hotspots like New York and Massachusetts, the approach to reopening has them watching their neighbors for new outbreaks.
“We also have to recognize that states like Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey and New York – states right on our borders and just a few hours away – are still confronting massive outbreaks and it only takes one spark, or one unhelpful decision, to reignite this fire. We all need to continue to be smart, cautious and disciplined to preserve our hard-earned gains,” Vermont Governor Phil Scott said Friday, reports CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro.
TO STAY OR NOT TO STAY
The Wisconsin Supreme Court will decide whether Governor Tony Evers’ safer at home order will remain in place. The Republican-controlled legislature asked the court to block the order. The court announced on Friday that oral arguments in the case will take place on Tuesday morning.
Legislative Republicans filed the lawsuit after Wisconsin Health Secretary-designee, Andrea Palm, extended the safer at home order until May 26 at the direction of Evers. They argue the Evers administration has overreached its executive powers and say Palm didn’t have the authority to extend the order on her own. Evers and Palm have defended safer at home, saying it’s working to keep Wisconsin safe, and believe the law is on their side. Conservatives hold a 5-2 advantage on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
More than a dozen Democratic House incumbents and several Senate candidates in competitive races have yet to endorse Joe Biden, nearly a month after the former vice president became his party’s presumptive presidential nominee, report CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro, CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin and CBS News Associate Producer Eleanor Watson. The holdouts underscore challenges facing Biden as he prepares to lead a party fighting to defend a House majority and win back the Senate.
During the primaries, Biden often campaigned on being the candidate to help down-ballot races. “It’s not just whether or not the person you pick as the nominee can win. It’s whether or not that person you pick as the nominee can bring along a Democratic Senate,” Biden said in January.
The most vulnerable incumbent Democrats in the Senate have all endorsed Biden, though several candidates challenging incumbent Republicans in battleground states have yet to officially endorse. More than a dozen House Democrat “Frontline” members also have yet to endorse, which other Democratic campaign operatives and members tell CBS is a matter of timing, business with the pandemic or keeping their campaign hyper-local.
“Remember, this crop of people was viewed as incredibly independent from the Democratic party,” former DCCC Executive Director Dan Sera said about the freshman House Democrat class. “I think there are places where you have to ask, what else is going on politically?” Read the full story here.
IN THE HOUSE
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee launched a new “Virtual Action Center” on Friday, serving as a one-stop shop for volunteers to get connected with House campaigns. Since the pandemic has transformed any sense of traditional campaigning, the center aims to get volunteers involved through virtual events like phone and text banks, registration drives or Zoom conference meetings. Most of these volunteer events begin with a Zoom training session.
“We’re giving those Americans a way to change the channel on Washington Republicans – and they can do it from their sofa,” DCCC Chairwoman Cheri Bustos said in a statement.
The DCCC’s hub also highlights the upcoming special election in California’s 25th District, where Democrat Christy Smith is facing Republican Mike Garcia for Katie Hill’s former seat. President Trump began Tweeting about the election Tuesday night, pointing out her past comments about Garcia’s military service, and pushing the Republican argument that Smith voted to fire teachers. While Smith has apologized about her comments on Garcia, she pushed back against Mr. Trump’s argument about her vote, saying that no teachers were fired.
“I helped manage a school district during the worst of the Great Recession. I’m the candidate in this race endorsed by CFT and NEA. Looking forward to meeting Betsy DeVos in a hearing soon,” she Tweeted.
CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro says the race between Smith and Garcia in the Los Angeles and Ventura County district is considered a toss up, despite Hill’s 10-point win in the district in 2018.
In a Thursday interview with Pod Save America, Smith says that Democrats are underperforming compared to Republicans in the ballot returns so far, “because Republicans more persistently vote.”
“Everything that’s a special election anywhere becomes a tossup, simply because unfortunately, we haven’t figured out what that magic is to get our Democratic voters to turnout in those off-cycle elections,” she said. “We’re taking a different approach with contacting voters, but turnout is everything in this moment.”
Lastly in special election news, there will be a debate on Monday between Republican Tom Tiffany and Democrat Tricia Zunker in Wisconsin’s 7th District, formerly held by Republican Sean Duffy.
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