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Trump v. Biden: Senility becomes 2020 flashpoint

Senility is becoming an overt line of attack for the first time in a modern U.S. presidential campaign.

Why it matters: As Americans live longer and work later into life and there's more awareness about the science of aging, we're also seeing politicians test the boundaries of electability. Biden is 77; Trump, now 74, already is the oldest person to assume the U.S. presidency.


Driving the news: As President Trump ramps up insinuations that his general election rival is doddering, Joe Biden turned the tables on Tuesday, saying Trump “doesn’t seem to be cognitively aware of what’s going on” with his own briefings about Russia and U.S. service members.

At the same news conference where he took a swipe at Trump, Biden was asked by a reporter if he has been tested for cognitive decline.

  • "I've been tested and I'm constantly tested," Biden responded, adding that "I can hardly wait to compare my cognitive capability to the cognitive capability of the man I'm running against."
  • A Trump campaign Twitter feed played back the clip and asked, "Did Biden take a cognitive test? What were the results? Why is he getting frequently tested?"
  • Biden campaign advisers tell Axios' Alexi McCammond and Hans Nichols that the testing Biden was talking about is the past 15 months on the campaign trail and that they see Trump's attacks, in psychological terms, as "projection." They also said Biden wasn't previewing a new theme, just highlighting Trump's attempt to distract from his own vulnerabilities.

Flashback: Candidates’ age and mental state have been questioned in past presidential campaigns — remember Barry Goldwater in '64, Ronald Reagan in '84 and Bob Dole in '96 — but never like this.

The big picture: Cognitive decline is a problem many older Americans deal with and a legitimate question for presidential candidates to be asked — and answer — says historian Julian Zelizer.

  • “We have a race right now where we have two old candidates, that's just empirically true,” he says.
  • "I think this presidency has shown us that somebody's mental state really matters."
  • "With each of these candidates, the question has been raised — Trump because of everything he's said and done" and remarks that often are "just a mishmash of words."
  • "Biden, there's questions, more subtle I think, about he doesn't finish every sentence, or during the debates he'd pause and seem to have trouble thinking about what he wants to say. Those are the moments that then become questions."

Between the lines: Both men's durability as public figures also invites easy comparisons of them now with their younger selves, Zelizer says.

  • "These are two people who at least since the '80s a lot of Americans watched, almost like a family member. These people, we've seen since they were in the prime of their age, and now they're older men."

The bottom line: Though they have different personalities, both Trump and Biden are known for speaking off the cuff, opening themselves to verbal gaffes and criticisms of rambling.

Romney calls Trump's commutation of Roger Stone's sentence "historic corruption"

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) on Saturday tweeted a scathing response to President Trump's Friday night commutation of former associate Roger Stone's prison sentence, calling the move "[u]nprecedented, historic corruption."

Why it matters: Romney has emerged as the party's most prominent Trump critic. He sent shockwaves through Washington after announcing he would vote to convict Trump in the impeachment trial — becoming the only Senate Republican to break ranks and vote for the president's removal from office. Now he is the first major GOP lawmaker to condemn Trump's Friday night call regarding Stone.

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We're losing the war on the coronavirus

By any standard, no matter how you look at it, the U.S. is losing its war against the coronavirus.

Why it matters: The pandemic is not an abstraction, and it is not something that’s simmering in the background. It is an ongoing emergency ravaging nearly the entire country, with a loss of life equivalent to a Sept. 11 every three days — for four months and counting.

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Trump commutes Roger Stone's sentence

President Trump on Friday evening commuted the sentence of his longtime associate Roger Stone, according to two senior administration officials. Stone in February was sentenced to 40 months in prison for crimes including obstruction, witness tampering and making false statements to Congress.

Why it matters: The controversial move brings an abrupt end to the possibility of Stone spending time behind bars. He had been scheduled to report to prison on July 14.

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Appeals court denies Roger Stone's call to delay sentence

The U.S. Appeals Court for the District of Columbia on Friday denied Roger Stone, President Trump's former associate, a requested delay to his 4o-month prison sentence for lying to Congress during the Russia probe.

Why it matters: Stone is set to report for his sentence on July 14. Trump on Friday said he was "looking at" commuting Stone's sentence, adding his former aide and longtime confidant was "unfairly treated," according to the Washington Post.

Which states have set single-day coronavirus records this week

Data: COVID Tracking Project and state health department data compiled by Axios; Map: Danielle Alberti and Naema Ahmed/Axios

13 states this week surpassed records set just last week for their highest number of coronavirus infections in a single day, according to the COVID Tracking Project and state health department data. 16 states in total reported new highs.

The big picture: The United States' alarming rise in coronavirus cases isn't just due to increased testing — particularly where the number of cases has grown fastest over the last month, Axios' Andrew Witherspoon and Caitlin Owens report.

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The reality of the coronavirus brings death and disruptions

It feels like mid-March in America again. The coronavirus is surging, deaths are climbing and the country is dreading a wave of disruptions, less than four months since the first round started.

The big picture: Lingering under all the happy talk of future plans is the reality of this virus — which thrives in potential super-spreader conditions like mass gatherings.

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Podcast: Rural America has its own coronavirus problem

It's often easier to socially distance in rural America, but it can simultaneously be more challenging to get medical care.

Axios Re:Cap digs into the pandemic's urban-rural divide with microbiologist Amber Schmidtke, who has found that coronavirus-related morbidity is higher in many of Georgia's rural counties than in Atlanta.

Biden and Trump tussle over "buy American" proposals

President Trump and Joe Biden are going back and forth over the former vice president's "buy American" economic proposal, which Trump claims Biden "plagiarized" from him.

Why it matters: Biden is directly challenging Trump and his "America First" agenda with the release of his latest plan, focused on economic recovery and re-investing in American manufacturing in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

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