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Mark Zuckerberg says he doesn't have a secret deal with Trump

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, under fire for allowing President Trump to post inflammatory statements on his platform, tells Axios there's no truth to whispers that the two have a secret understanding.

Why it matters: Zuckerberg, facing a growing ad boycott from brands that say Facebook hasn't done enough to curtail hate speech, has become increasingly public in criticizing Trump. "I’ve heard this speculation, too, so let me be clear: There's no deal of any kind," he told Axios, calling the idea "pretty ridiculous."


  • The CEO panned the administration's coronavirus response during a live interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci last week.

The context: Facebook has removed Trump ads and posts at least five times going back to 2018, for reasons that include "targeting personal attributes" and copyright violation.

  • Zuckerberg pointed out that "under this administration, we've faced record fines of $5 billion, are under antitrust investigation by multiple agencies, and have been targeted by an executive order to strip protections in Section 230," which shields tech companies from liability for content on their platforms.

I asked Zuckerberg about Trump after the CEO told a companywide Q&A on Thursday, in remarks obtained by Axios:

  • "One specific critique that I've seen is that there are a lot of people who've said that maybe we're too sympathetic or too close in some way to the Trump administration."
  • "I just want to push back on that a bit," Zuckerberg told employees. "[W]e need to separate out the fact of giving people some space for discourse, from the positions that we have individually."
  • Zuckerberg went on to cite many disagreements with Trump, including immigration, climate change and "his divisive and inflammatory rhetoric."

Axios and others have reported on private conversations between Trump and Zuckerberg, and even a White House dinner.

  • "I accepted the invite for dinner because I was in town and he is the president of the United States," Zuckerberg said. "I also had multiple meals and meetings with President Obama ... including hosting an event for him at Facebook HQ."
  • "I also believe deeply in giving people a voice, even when I disagree with them," Zuckerberg added. "I believe in a broad definition of free expression, especially around political speech."

A White House official told me Trump "has always respected Zuckerberg’s strong pro-First Amendment position."

  • "He’s entitled to his position, as are the tens of millions of Trump supporters on Facebook."

Podcast: How hospitals are prepping for the new COVID-19 surge

Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are surging, particularly in areas that had been largely spared in the spring. One big question now is if hospitals are better prepared for this new wave, including if they'll be able to continue providing elective services.

Axios Re:Cap digs into what hospitals have, and what they still need, with Lloyd Dean, CEO of CommonSpirit Health, one of America's largest operators of hospitals and health clinics.

Belgium imposes lockdown, citing "health emergency" due to influx of COVID-19 cases

Belgium is enforcing a strict lockdown starting Sunday amid rising coronavirus infections, hospital admissions and a surge of deaths, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced on Friday.

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Driving the news: The three-minute ad, titled "We Count! A Patriotic Musical Extravaganza," features the voice of "The Big Bang Theory's" Jim Parsons and Broadway star Barrett Doss. The spot will appear on Facebook targeting voters in the swing states of Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

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2020 early voting has already reached 61% of 2016's total turnout

Early voting in the 2020 election across the U.S. on Friday had already reached 61% of 2016's total turnout, according to state data compiled by the Elect Project.

Why it matters: The coronavirus pandemic and its resultant social-distancing measures prompted a massive uptick in both mail-in ballots and early voting nationwide, setting up an unprecedented and potentially tumultuous count in the hours and days after the polls close on Nov. 3.

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Republicans gear up for day-of and post-Election Day litigation

Republican Party officials say they're already looking to Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Nevada as likely battlegrounds for post-election lawsuits if the results are close.

The big picture: As pre-election lawsuits draw to a close, and with President Trump running behind Joe Biden in national and many battleground state polls, Republicans are turning their attention to preparations for Election Day and beyond, and potential recounts.

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Federal Reserve expands lending program for small businesses

The Federal Reserve said on Friday it would again lower the minimum loan size for its pandemic-era small business program.

Details: Businesses and nonprofits will be able to borrow a minimum of $100,000 from the facility, down from $250,000 — a move that might attract smaller businesses that don't need as hefty of a loan. Since the program launched earlier this year, the minimum loan size has been reduced twice.

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Whoever wins the presidential election will steer the auto industry's future

President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden would likely steer automotive policy in different directions over the next four years, potentially changing the industry's road map to the future.

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