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Health

As the coronavirus continues to spread, covid-19 trails the economy as top issue for voters, exit polling shows



But about one-third said they were primarily motivated by the economy, including 6 in 10 of the voters who supported President Trump.

A slight majority of voters said it is more important to contain the coronavirus now, even if the necessary measures hurt the economy. About 4 in 10 said the economy is more important, even if restoring the nation’s economic health hamstrings efforts to limit the spread of the virus.

Amid the resurgence of the coronavirus in much of the United States, preliminary exit polling showed that voters are closely divided on whether U.S. efforts to contain the virus are going “well” or “badly.” But roughly twice as many voters say efforts to control the pandemic have gone “very badly” than say they have gone “very well.”

Millions of voters who cast ballots in person Tuesday were braving the worst stretch of the pandemic to do so. Nearly 88,000 new infections were reported Tuesday, bringing the U.S. total to more than 9.3 million cases. The virus continued its surge through the Midwest and Plains states. Seven states set records for hospitalizations of patients with covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, including Indiana, Iowa, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Control of the White House and the Senate was up for grabs Tuesday, circumstances not lost on voters whose families and finances have been battered by the coronavirus.

“It’s very personal to me, because it’s right in my immediate family,” said Betty Sullivan, 59, as she stood in line to vote in Jackson, Miss., on Tuesday morning.

Two of Sullivan’s sons and three of her grandchildren have contracted the coronavirus. Her oldest son, who is 36 and lives in Atlanta, tested positive after going to a bar. Her youngest son, 32, apparently was infected by a co-worker. Her grandchildren, ages 6, 8 and 14, contracted the virus after being in day care and school within the past three weeks, she said.

“I think in the past, we’ve not really thought too much about voting; we’ve kind of been really, really casual about it sometimes, but, just with everything with the virus, with the pandemic, with the political climate, everybody now really realizes how important it is to get out, to come out and vote,” Sullivan said.

Regardless of the election outcome, the recent staggering increase in coronavirus cases has set the country on a difficult course for the next several weeks. A sharp rise in hospitalizations, already underway, follows the jump in infections, and a subsequent surge in deaths is expected in the weeks after that.

“The trajectory that we’re on is one that we should expect to be on for the coming weeks,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “We should expect to be hunkered down for the coming weeks.”

Stopping a surge in the pandemic, experts said, isn’t like throwing a switch. It’s more like trying to turn around an oil tanker at sea.

“The virus doesn’t know elections, doesn’t know borders, doesn’t know demographics,” said Ali Mokdad, a University of Washington epidemiologist. “Unfortunately, the virus is taking its course irrespective of what happens today.

“The election is not going to change the virus,” Mokdad added. “Our behavior, our response to the virus, hopefully will change.”

Barring a major change in behavior, meaning much more widespread adoption of masks, social distancing and other mitigation measures, Mokdad believes that “some states, a large number of states, will have to do a hard stop, lockdown” by December or January.

Although mortality rates have improved thanks to better medical techniques and drugs, the key driver of the pandemic is rampant community spread in much the country.

“Even a vaccine won’t flick any switch. There will be the hard work of actually vaccinating people,” William Hanage, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said in an email Tuesday.

Columbia University epidemiologist Jeffrey Shaman said part of the problem is that human behavior is not easily changed. There is “huge inertia,” he said, and that will make it difficult for officials to slow outbreaks in many parts of the country.

And if the United States follows Europe and enters a new phase of restrictions, there will probably be growing pressure for another large relief package, something Congress has been unable to agree on since the first one expired.

“There’s growing evidence about the need for providing resources to help people comply with public health recommendations,” Nuzzo said. “I fear we have focused on increasing number and type of tests, but have not eliminated the disincentives that people may experience about getting tested. Lost income, in particular.”

Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said he hopes that after the election, “we can come together as a country and collectively fight the virus and not each other. There are no longer red and blue states, counties or cities. They are all covid-colored.”

Sarah Fowler in Jackson, Miss., and Scott Clement and Emily Guskin in Washington contributed to this report.



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Politics

Trump’s lost his edge on the economy and trails Biden on every other major issue


Overall, the poll gives Biden a 9-point lead among likely voters nationally, 50%-41%, but the strength of Biden’s position is built upon the issues voters care about. 

Likely voter preferences on the issues
BidenTrump
Economy47%48%
Coronavirus52%40%
Unifying America55%36%
law and order50%44%
Choosing a Scotus justice49%43%

Trump has been effectively neutralized on the two issues he has deliberately pushed most over the closing months of the election: the economy and law and order. The poll also found that voters broadly support passage of a new $2 trillion stimulus deal to boost the economy, 72%-21%, but Trump hasn’t had the juice to get that done amid a revolt by Senate Republicans (who would sooner die than do anything to help struggling Americans).  

But Trump’s fall on the economy could be an indication that at least half of voters now view the national economic outlook as inherently linked to how well the country is handling the pandemic. Michael Zemaitis, an independent voter in Minnesota who is supporting Biden, said he clearly believed a Democratic administration would better tackle the coronavirus than Trump has. “Once that is dealt with, the economy will fall back into line,” he said. 

Additionally, most voters reject Trump’s assertion that we’ve “turned the corner” on the pandemic, with 51% saying the worst is yet to come while just 37% believe the worst is behind us.

Trump is also losing important demographics in the poll, with 56% of women holding a “very unfavorable” view of him along with 53% of white college-educated voters. In 2016, Trump lost women by 13 points while the Times poll shows him losing them by 23 points, 35%-58%. Likewise, Trump won white college-educated voters by 3 points last cycle while he is losing them by 19 points now, 37%-56%. 

Trump won his strongest demographic—non-college whites—by 37 points in ’16. The Times poll shows him winning that bloc by just 23 points now, 36%-59%.





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Breaking New

Joe Biden Mockingly Urges People To Take Donald Trump’s Word On One Specific Issue



Joe Biden exposed the hypocrisy of President Donald Trump’s fearmongering over mail-in voting with just one tweet on Friday.

Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, assured supporters on Twitter that “voting by mail is safe and secure.” “And don’t take my word for it,” the former vice president continued. “Take it from the President, who just requested his mail-in ballot for the Florida primary on Tuesday.”

Trump has ramped up his rhetoric on mail-in voting in recent weeks, making unfounded claims that it is ripe for fraud.

On Thursday, the president seemingly admitted he is blocking funding for the U.S. Postal Service in an attempt to frustrate its operations ahead of the election in November. The service is expected to face a tide of mail-in ballots because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Hilary Clinton, Trump’s Democratic rival in the 2016 election, also noted the hypocrisy of the president’s move.

“What’s good enough for the Trumps should be good enough for the people they work for ― the rest of us,” tweeted the former Secretary of State:





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Health

Antivirals Tied to Heart Issue in COVID Patients


FRIDAY, July 10, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Older, critically ill COVID-19 patients who are given a combination of two common antiretroviral drugs can experience a drastic slowing of their heart rate, French researchers report.

In their study of 41 patients treated with lopinavir and ritonavir twice daily for 10 days, 22% developed a slow heart rate condition called bradycardia. When the drugs were stopped or doses lowered, the patients’ heart rates returned to normal, according to the team from Amiens University Hospital, in France.

“There are extensive investigations underway to find therapies that are effective at treating patients infected with COVID-19,” said Dr. Gregg Fonarow, a professor of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, who had no part in the study.

The lopinavir-ritonavir combo had been considered a promising treatment for COVID-19 based on very small reports, randomized clinical trials and off-label use, Fonarow said.

But earlier studies have suggested that this combination may also lead to heart block, a problem with electrical signals in the heart. “Determining how these drugs lead to the bradycardia will require further study,” Fonarow said.

Doctors prescribing these drugs should be aware of the potential for bradycardia and carefully monitor patients, he added.

“Moreover, preliminary clinical trial results suggest this therapy is not effective in COVID-19, so use in this setting will likely be very limited going forward,” Fonarow said.

Lopinavir and ritonavir have also been used to treat other viruses, including SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) and HIV. The researchers noted that bradycardia has also been seen among HIV patients treated with the drugs.

Normally, adults’ hearts beat between 60 and 100 times a minute. In bradycardia, the rate falls below 60 beats per minute, causing decreased blood flow that can lead to fainting, chest pain, low blood pressure and heart failure.

Patients in the French study who developed the problem were older than ones who did not, averaging 62 to 80 years of age, the researchers reported.

Dr. Marc Siegel, a professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City who reviewed the findings, noted that the two-drug combo had not helped hospitalized COVID-19 patients in other recent trials.





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Lifestyle

Fall 2019 Issue Out Now


Digital Edition:
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Collectors Edition Print Issue:
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EXERCISES FOR ENHANCING LONGEVITY

By Dr. Steven R. Gundry

Not all exercise is created equal. Learn which ways of moving the body are best for extending lifespan.

 

NATURAL NOOTROPICS: MIND MEDICINES

By David Winston

Discover ancient herbal medicines backed by modern science for supercharging memory, mood and more.

 

RECIPE: TAHINI CHOCOLATE CHIPS COOKIES

By Sarah Grossman & Tamara Green

These fall favorites are gluten-free, extremely easy to make and most importantly, delicious.

 

EMOTIONAL EQUILIBRIUM: RETURN TO PRESENT

By Rajshree Patel

Learn proven techniques for letting go of the negative and staying grounded in a positive heart and mind.

 

REPROGRAMMING PAIN INTO POWER

By Dr. Kelly Brogan

Pain is always pointing you towards pleasure if you know how to handle it. Here is sage guidance on doing that.

 

SHAMANIC REALITY: OPENING THE DOORS OF PERCEPTION

By Daniel Pinchbeck & Sophia Rokhlin

Daniel Pinchbeck takes us on a profoundly deep journey into the mystical realms of shamanism.

 

CREATING AN ECO-FRIENDLY KITCHEN

By Christine Liu

Learn how to make your food and lifestyle habits ultra-sustainable to do your part towards a healthy planet.

 

RELATIONAL INTERDEPENDENCE

By Nancy Levin

Learn how to spot and work through unhealthy patterns that are sabotaging the quality of your relationships.

 

TRAVEL: A PHOTO JOURNEY THROUGH OUR ANCIENT PAST

By Meghan McDonald

Take a visual journey through some of the planet’s most beautiful, ancient and mysterious sacred sites.

 

ART: ESCAPING REALITY

The Art of Emma Rodriguez

Slightly real, slightly surreal, artist Emma Rodriguez’s mystical landscapes transport you into an alternate reality.

 

CONSCIOUS EVENTS, BOOK REVIEWS, ENLIGHTENED PRODUCTS & MORE

Vote with your wallet for a better (and more stylish) future by supporting these conscious, sustainable brands.

– OR –

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Winter 2020 Issue Out Now


Digital Edition:
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Collectors Edition Print Issue:
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BALANCING YOUR BODY RHYTHMS

By Cate Stillman

Coming into alignment with the rhythms of your body is a potent and often overlooked path to peak health.

HERBS AND SUPPLEMENTS FOR EPIC ENERGY

By Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., CNS

Learn how to boost your energy levels sustainably with natural supplements that won’t deplete your body or mind.

RECIPE: BRUSSELS SPROUT SALAD

By Dr. Steven R. Gundry

This flavorful, highly nutritious salad takes only five minutes to put together and is surprisingly delicious.

THE POWER OF MICRODECISIONS

By Justin Faerman

Learn how to optimize your mind to make success- and flow-enhancing decisions on autopilot.

BUILDING BETTER BELIEFS

By Peta Morton

Building better beliefs is a key life skill that reliably leads to greater happiness, health and inner peace.

HEALING ANCESTRAL TRAUMA

By Pritam Atma

Learn how to purify your heart and mind from emotional patterns that may or may not be yours.

PURIFYING YOUR HOME FOR HEALTH

By Gay Browne

Since we spend much of our lives in our home, if it’s not healthy and pure, neither are we.

GETTING RELATIONSHIPS RIGHT

By Melanie Joy, Ph.D.

Learn the art of conscious conflict resolution to shift your relationships to new heights of coherence and flow.

TRAVEL: A PHOTO JOURNEY THROUGH JOSHUA TREE

By Meghan McDonald & Justin Faerman

Take a visual journey through one of the most surreal and beautiful landscapes on planet earth.

ART: ETHEREAL FEELINGS

The Art of Nathalie Huijbers

Escape from everyday life into the magical realms of nature-inspired multidimensional fantasy and awe.

CONSCIOUS EVENTS, BOOK REVIEWS, ENLIGHTENED PRODUCTS & MORE

Vote with your wallet for a better (and more stylish) future by supporting these conscious, sustainable brands.

– OR –

Order the Print Edition Summer 2019 Issue (Coming Soon!)

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Breaking New

Iowa governor says she will issue executive order restoring felons’ voting rights



“We’re working on that right now, sitting down with various groups, listening to what they think is important what is contained in that executive order,” Reynolds, a Republican, told reporters Tuesday in Osage, Iowa, according to Radio Iowa. “And then I’ve got my legal team working on it.”

CNN has reached out to the governor’s office for comment.

Reynolds has faced increasing pressure from state advocates who want the governor to take action, after a constitutional amendment that would restore the voting rights of former felons in Iowa failed this week in the state legislature. Iowa is the only state with a lifetime ban on voting for convicted felons unless they appeal to the governor and are granted restoration.

“We’re hopeful that the governor will make good on her commitment,” said Mark Stringer, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Iowa.

After meeting with Reynolds on Friday, Des Moines Black Lives Matter activists said that the governor committed to drafting an executive order and that she would allow them to review the draft in another meeting Monday.

However, the governor did not have language of an executive order or anything ready for them to review, Des Moines Black Lives Matter’s lead organizer Courtnei Caldwell told CNN on Wednesday.

“We didn’t get accomplished what we really need to get accomplished,” said Caldwell, who attended the meetings with Reynolds.

Caldwell also told CNN there are no plans as of yet for Des Moines Black Lives Matter to have a third meeting with the governor, but said the group intends to be at the Capitol to push for another sit-down.

The governor agreed to issue the executive order sometime between late summer and early fall, according to Caldwell and the Iowa chapters of the NAACP and ACLU, two other participants in Monday’s meeting with Reynolds.

Some advocates say that timeline falls too close to the November general election.

“The biggest issue we’re having is (the governor) is acting as if this is not urgent,” Caldwell told CNN. “But for folks who don’t have that right to vote, this is urgent.”

Betty Andrews, the NAACP’s state area president for Iowa and Nebraska, told CNN on Wednesday the group would need sufficient time to educate and alert the public that their voting rights have been restored.

The Iowa state legislature adjourned on Sunday and failed to pass a joint resolution that would allow for a constitutional amendment that would restore voting rights to certain convicted persons.

Reynolds had signed a state Senate bill earlier this month that excluded certain felony convictions, including homicide, child endangerment that results in the death of a minor, and election misconduct, like bribery or voter fraud — unless they received a pardon from the governor. The act also required full payment of restitution. The act would have gone into effect had the constitutional amendment been ratified.

On Tuesday, Reynolds appeared to suggest that her executive order would include some of the same provisions outlined in the constitutional amendment.

“We’re working on the language to see what that looks like, but hopefully it would mirror what we would put in a constitutional amendment so that we could be consistent in what we’re trying to do,” Reynolds said, according to Radio Iowa.

The NAACP Des Moines, ACLU Iowa and Des Moines Black Lives Matter all told CNN that they want all Iowans with prior felony convictions to be able to vote without exceptions.

Stringer told CNN that his organization is pursuing the most expansive executive order it can get from the governor.

“We don’t know the contents of the executive order at this point,” Stringer said, adding that the governor has asked for time to listen to constituents.

Andrews told CNN that an executive order would allow Iowans with felony convictions to vote while they still seek a constitutional amendment, which could take as long as three to four years.

“It’s not the permanent fix we’d hope for, but it is progress,” Andrews said.

Reynolds, who began her first term as governor in 2019, has supported the constitutional amendment. She reviewed and approved over 400 felon voting applications in January, according to CNN affiliate KCCI. On Tuesday, Reynolds said she still would not give up on a “permanent solution” from the state legislature, Radio Iowa reported.

Former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, a Democrat, had issued an executive order in 2005 to restore voting rights for residents who completed their sentences. His decision was reversed in 2011 by his successor, Republican Gov. Terry Branstad.

According to ACLU Iowa, the current law has been “especially devastating to Black communities across Iowa, where one in 10 Black adults cannot vote because of a felony conviction.”



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Christianity Today’s split with Trump highlights deeper issue in white evangelical America


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – After evangelical publication Christianity Today published a blistering editorial on what it called Donald Trump’s “grossly immoral character”, some church leaders and the U.S. president himself denounced the criticism as elitist and out-of-touch.

FILE PHOTO: Faith leaders place their hands on the shoulders of U.S. President Donald Trump as he takes part in a prayer for those affected by Hurricane Harvey in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., September 1, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

The Dec. 19 editorial sparked a Christmas holiday debate over religion in U.S. politics, and posed new questions about the close alignment between white evangelical voters and Trump, who has given their beliefs strong political support.

However, the coziness with the Republican president, who was impeached this month by the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, is exacerbating a long-term crisis facing white evangelicalism, some Christians say – it is being abandoned by younger generations.

There has been a big drop-off in white evangelical church participation among adults under 40, and publications such as Christianity Today and religious leaders are struggling to engage “Gen Z,” or those born after 1996.

“One of the major factors is that the church is too tied up in right-wing politics,” said Greg Carey, a professor at Lancaster Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania. Evangelical activism against gay rights is particularly repellant to many members of a generation where “everyone has friends who are LGBTQ,” Carey said.

Trump’s presidency may make the age gap worse, some evangelical Christians believe. “Having to go out and defend this guy day after day, as many of these Trump evangelicals are doing, they’re just destroying their credibility,” said Napp Nazworth, who until Monday was politics editor of another publication, the Christian Post.

Nazworth resigned over the Christian Post’s plans to criticize Christianity Today for its anti-Trump editorial.

He told Reuters many younger evangelicals opposed Trump’s immigration and asylum policies and were concerned about alleviating poverty, in contrast to older members of the faith. Evangelical leaders standing with Trump “will have no moral authority to speak to moral issues of the day after defending him,” Nazworth said.

‘RELIGIOUSLY UNAFFILIATED’

Evangelicalism, like all forms of Christianity in the United States, is struggling to attract younger members, amid an unprecedented surge in recent years of the number of people identifying as religiously unaffiliated.

White evangelical protestants declined as a proportion of the U.S. population between 2006 and 2018, falling to 15% from 23%, according to analysis by the Public Religion Research Institute.

Higher-than-average voter turnout among evangelicals means the group still represents more than a quarter of the U.S. electorate, but a failure to draw young worshippers means their electoral heft is set to diminish, said Robert P. Jones, chief executive and founder of PRRI.

(Chart: tmsnrt.rs/39jbIyP)

The median age of white evangelicals and white Christians overall is 55, according to PRRI data, compared with 44 for the overall white population.

The evangelical church’s “singular focus” on same sex marriage, relationships and abortion is failing to engage younger generations, said Randall Balmer, a professor of religion at Dartmouth University, and a former editor at Christianity Today.

They are motivated by a broader set of issues, he said, adding “in terms of sexual orientation the younger generation just shrugs about that.”

‘PARTISAN ATTACK’

The perhaps unlikely alliance between conservative Christians and the twice-divorced New York real estate developer has been important for Trump in a country that is more religious than most other western democracies and where a president’s spiritual life is closely examined.

White evangelical Christians overwhelmingly voted for Trump in 2016, when exit polls showed he won 81% of their votes. They have mostly stuck with him despite the controversies over his harsh attacks on political rivals and demeaning comments about women, thanks largely to Trump appointing scores of conservative judges who support restrictions on access to abortion.

Many U.S. evangelicals also strongly support conservatives in Israel, and hailed Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. embassy there.

Trump, who describes himself as Presbyterian and whose advisors include evangelical figures such as Florida televangelist Paula White, dismissed Christianity Today as “far left”.

A group of nearly 200 leaders from the conservative wing of evangelicalism defended him in a letter to the magazine, praising the president for seeking the advice of “Bible-believing Christians and patriotic Americans”.

Franklin Graham, son of the magazine’s founder Billy Graham, who advised both Republican and Democratic presidents over several decades, said the editorial was a “totally partisan attack.”

Meanwhile, other religious scholars and leaders have signed a petitihere in support of Christianity Today, stating that the “United States evangelical and Christian community is at a moral crossroads.”

Younger evangelicals are put off by church leaders’ seemingly unconditional support for Trump despite his “cruel” treatment of migrants and deregulation that could damage the environment, said Marlena Graves, a Christian author on faith, culture and justice, who signed the petition.

“No political party embodies Jesus’s teaching closely. You can’t depend on government to do what Jesus says because, oftentimes, you have to go against the government,” she said, citing evangelical believers who worked to abolish black slavery and Christians who resisted Nazism in Germany.

The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment. It announced on Friday the Jan. 3 launch of “Evangelicals for Trump”, a coalition to support the president in the November 2020 election.

Reporting by Simon Lewis and Heather Timmons; Editing by Daniel Wallis



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Christianity Today again slams Trump, raises issue of ‘unconditional loyalty’


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Christianity Today, the magazine founded by the late Reverend Billy Graham, renewed its criticism of President Donald Trump in a new editorial that cited his “misuses of power” and asked fellow Christians to examine their loyalty to him, days after a controversial editorial that called for his impeachment.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks at the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach, Florida, U.S. December 21, 2019. REUTERS/Marco Bello

The 130,000-circulation magazine, which has 4.3 million monthly website viewers, in its editorial last week cited Trump’s “profoundly immoral” conduct in office, drawing immediate criticism from Trump and dozens of evangelical leaders.

Evangelicals have been a bedrock of support for the Republican president, and the magazine noted in its new editorial, published Sunday, that Trump “has done a lot of good for causes we all care about.”

But the magazine’s president, Timothy Dalrymple, wrote in the editorial, headlined “The Flag in the Whirlwind,” that evangelicals’ embrace of Trump means being tied to his “rampant immorality, greed, and corruption; his divisiveness and race-baiting; his cruelty and hostility to immigrants and refugees.”

“With profound love and respect,” Dalrymple said, “we ask our brothers and sisters in Christ to consider whether they have given to Caesar what belongs only to God: their unconditional loyalty.”

The editorial praised the Trump administration’s judicial appointment, “advocacy of life, family, and religious liberty.” But it said, “It is one thing to praise his accomplishments; it is another to excuse and deny his obvious misuses of power.

Dalrymple pledged to open up a “serious discussion about how our activity as Christians shapes our activity as citizens” in 2020. He declined to be interviewed until after the Christmas holiday.

Evangelical Christians make up about 25% of the U.S. population. According to a Pew Research poll here from last January, 69% of white evangelicals approved of the job Trump is doing, compared with 48% of white mainline Protestants and 12% of black Protestants.

On Jan. 3, Trump will hold an “Evangelicals for Trump coalition launch” in Miami.

Graham’s son Franklin had slammed the original Christianity Today editorial and said his father knew, believed in and voted for Trump, an endorsement that other family members dispute here Dozens of evangelical leaders signed a letter criticizing the magazine’s impeachment call, and Trump said on Twitter he would stop reading the publication.

Christianity Today was founded in 1956, and its current impact in the evangelical community is limited, said Greg Carey, a New Testament professor at Lancaster Seminary in Pennsylvania. “Like other traditional media, their platform has fragmented, so I’m skeptical that they have the real punch to change a movement.”

Still, the way Trump and others have pushed back showed the outlet is being heard. “There are those who feel that a crack in that foundation (of evangelical support of Trump) is a threat” that needs to be patched, Carey said.

For evangelicals who have doubts about Trump’s conduct in office and the church’s embrace of the president, “having an institutional voice that has some respect gives them cover to voice their opinion,” Carey said.

Reporting by Heather Timmons; Editing by Leslie Adler and Cynthia Osterman



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Justice Department watchdog to issue report on FBI handling of Russia probe


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department’s internal watchdog is expected to announce on Monday that the FBI, despite some mistakes, was legally justified in 2016 in opening its investigation into contacts between President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia, according to sources familiar with the findings.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz testifies before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. September 18, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

Michael Horowitz, the department’s inspector general, is set to release findings from a review begun in 2018 of the politically explosive matter.

The Republican president has accused the FBI of improperly launching the investigation, including “spying” on his campaign, in a bid to destroy his candidacy and protect Democrats, and has advocated to “investigate the investigators.” FBI officials have said the inquiry was launched because of legitimate concerns about unlawful foreign influence in U.S. elections.

Democrats have accused Trump of seeking to discredit a legitimate investigation that detailed extensive interactions between his campaign and Russia and long cast a cloud over his presidency.

Horowitz’s inquiry focuses on whether the FBI made any serious mistakes or omissions when it applied to the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) in 2016 to obtain a surveillance warrant to track the communications of Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser. This court handles U.S. government applications for electronic surveillance and other investigative actions for foreign intelligence purposes.

People familiar with the findings, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Horowitz concluded that the FBI had the proper legal basis to open the investigation. They said that Horowitz did find some mistakes in the process of obtaining the warrant, though this did not undermine the wiretap’s legality.

The report is expected to fault some FBI actions. U.S. media outlets have reported Horowitz found that a former low-level FBI lawyer, Kevin Clinesmith, improperly altered an email submitted to the FISA court when the surveillance warrant was being renewed.

An FBI spokesperson declined to comment.

Horowitz’s report will not be the final word on the subject. Attorney General William Barr, a Trump appointee, in May appointed John Durham, a federal prosecutor in Connecticut, to examine whether the Russia investigation was properly predicated. Durham’s work has become a criminal investigation.

The FBI investigation, launched in the summer of 2016 ahead of the November election pitting Trump against Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, was taken over in May 2017 by former FBI chief Robert Mueller after Trump fired James Comey as the agency’s director.

Mueller’s 22-month special counsel investigation detailed a Russian campaign of hacking and propaganda to sow discord in the United States, harm Clinton and boost Trump. Mueller documented numerous contacts between Trump campaign figures and Moscow but found insufficient evidence of a criminal conspiracy.

Trump called the investigation a witch hunt and assailed FBI leaders and career staffers who worked on it.

STEELE DOSSIER

Trump’s supporters have accused the FBI of improperly relying on a dossier by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele when it sought to justify to the FISA court the Page wiretap. Trump’s allies have accused the FBI of failing to disclose that Steele was employed by a firm funded by Democrats to conduct opposition research on him.

Horowitz is expected to conclude that the dossier was not the sole piece of evidence used to convince the court, the sources said.

Clinesmith was identified during a congressional hearing last year by Republican congressman Mark Meadows as the “FBI Attorney 2” mentioned in a previous Horowitz report that examined how the agency handled its investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state.

Clinesmith, former FBI attorney Lisa Page and former special agency Peter Strzok were found to have exchanged text messages critical of Trump.

In one instance, FBI Attorney 2 sent a message to another agency lawyer commenting about the amount of money a person under investigation had been paid while working on Trump’s campaign. When the lawyer asked if that had made him “rethink” his commitment to Trump’s administration, FBI Attorney 2 responded, “Hell no. Viva le resistance.”

Lisa Page, not related to Carter Page, has since left the FBI. Strzok was fired over the texts and has sued the Justice Department, claiming wrongful termination.

While Horowitz found that the texts “cast a cloud” over the FBI’s handling of the investigation, he concluded in that prior report there was no evidence showing political bias impacted its decision-making.

Durham’s investigation’s is ongoing. Durham and Barr traveled to Rome in September to meet with Italian intelligence officials about Joseph Mifsud, a Maltese university professor who, according to Mueller’s report, had contacts with Russian intelligence officials.

According to Mueller’s report, Mifsud met with former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos and told him Russia possessed potentially damaging emails on Clinton. Papadopoulos was later charged with lying to the FBI as part of Mueller’s investigation and pleaded guilty.

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Mark Hosenball; Additional reporting by Brad Heath; Editing by Will Dunham



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