The latest on the 2020 election

By Meg Wagner, Mike Hayes and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 8:33 p.m. ET, October 21, 2020
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8:28 p.m. ET, October 21, 2020

Federal officials say Iran and Russia have interfered with the presidential election

From CNN's Jeremy Herb and Zachary Cohen

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said Wednesday both Iran and Russia have obtained US voter registration information in an effort to interfere in the election, including Iran posing as the far-right group Proud Boys to send intimidating emails to voters.

"This data can be used by foreign actors to attempt to communicate false information to registered voters that they hope will cause confusion, sow chaos and undermine your confidence in American democracy," Ratcliffe said.

Iranians are responsible for a voter intimidation email campaign that was made to look like it came from the Proud Boys and was also spreading disinformation about voter fraud through a video linked in some of the emails.

"We have already seen Iran sending spoof emails designed to intimidate voters, incite social unrest and damage President Trump," Ratcliffe added. "You may have seen some reporting on this in the last 24 hours, or you may have even been one of the recipients of those emails."

Ratcliffe did not explain what he meant by his statement that the emails — which were sent to registered voters from "" and warned recipients to "Vote for Trump or else!" — were intended to damage the President. The Twitter account for Democrats on the House Homeland Security Committee responded to Ratcliffe's remark by saying: "DO NOT listen to Ratcliffe. Partisan hack." Ratcliffe has been accused by Democrats of working to further Trump's political aims by declassifying unverified intelligence.

A source in a Florida election office told CNN that during an FBI briefing Wednesday, agents told them the Proud Boy email threats about voting for Trump came from a nation state — and they are seeing them across the country. The source said the agents told them these emails "were not the work of a Florida guy in his basement."

Russia has not taken the same actions, Ratcliffe said, but has obtained some voter information, just as Moscow did in 2016.

Ratcliffe spoke alongside FBI Director Chris Wray at a hastily arranged news conference on Wednesday evening to announce the foreign election interference.

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7:50 p.m. ET, October 21, 2020

Muted mics "just enforcement" of previous rules, says debate commissioner

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

John Danforth, a member of Commission on Presidential Debates
John Danforth, a member of Commission on Presidential Debates CNN

John Danforth, a member of the Commission on Presidential Debates, brushed aside President Trump's criticism of changes made to the format of Thursday's final debate, saying their plan to mute the microphone of one candidate while the other candidate is speaking during some portions of the debate are merely enforcement of existing rules agreed to by both campaigns during the summer. 

"Back in the summer when the... rules of the debate were negotiated by the two parties, it was agreed by everybody that at the beginning of the 15 minute segment each candidate would be able to speak uninterrupted for period of two minutes," said Danforth, a former Republican senator who has served on the bipartisan commission since 1994.

“It’s the same rule, just an enforcement of that rule," he continued, speaking with CNN's Jake Tapper today. 

On Tuesday, Trump railed agains the commission's announcement saying of the commission, “these are not good people." 

"This commission — a lot of funny things go on with them," Trump added. 

When asked whether he would try to interrupt Joe Biden less during Thursday’s debate, Trump said he “may do that” adding, “there’s a lot of people that say let him talk because he loses his train — he loses his mind frankly.”

Speaking with CNN today, Danforth said he believed the first presidential debate, which devolved into chaos, with the President frequently interrupting the former vice president, was a missed opportunity for the American people. 

"I think it was not a good opportunity for the American people to be educated about the positions of the two candidates on various issues," he said. "People felt they were deprived of what they should have gotten out of that debate."

6:54 p.m. ET, October 21, 2020

Trump again claims the mute button for tomorrow's debate is "unfair"

From CNN's Jason Hoffman

In a newly released clip from tonight’s town hall with Sinclair Broadcasting host Eric Bolling, President Trump again called the mute button at the debate unfair and called NBC News' Kristen Welker and her parents biased.

“Well that’s not fair, plus they changed the topics which isn’t fair, just happened. Plus Kristen Welker is a heavily biased person with her parents being fundraisers and having supported the Democrats and she’s a Democrat, I know her well,” Trump claimed. 

Trump also attacked the moderator of the first debate, Chris Wallace, calling him “very biased” and saying he had to “leave in disgrace.”

Trump said he may let Joe Biden speak uninterrupted in Thursday’s debate, though his strategy might change as the debate goes on. 

“Some people think let him talk because he loses his train, he just loses it, he doesn’t speak the train of thought but we’ll see what happens,” Trump said. “But the fact is I find you always have to just wait. You have a strategy but all of a sudden you change your strategy. We’ll see what it is. Whatever it is, it is.”

6:47 p.m. ET, October 21, 2020

Obama: Americans have been become "numb" and "immune" to Trump's lies

From CNN's Annie Grayer

In his closing pitch to voters in Philadelphia, former President Barack Obama argued that voters need to realize that they have become “numb” and “immune” to the lies President Trump tells every day.

“Our democracy's not going to work if the people who are supposed to be our leaders lie every day and just make things up. And we've just become numb to it. We've just become immune to it. Every single day,” Obama said.

Obama argued that voters cannot lose sight of the core values in this country.

“This notion of truthfulness and democracy and citizenship and being responsible, these aren't Republican or Democratic principles. They're American principles,” Obama said. “Human values. And we need to reclaim them. We have to get those values back at the center of our public life. And we can. But to do it, we've got to turn out like never before.”


6:53 p.m. ET, October 21, 2020

Obama urges Americans to vote: "We cannot leave any doubt in this election"

 Alex Edelman/AFP/Getty Images
 Alex Edelman/AFP/Getty Images

Former President Barack Obama made the case for Joe Biden for president, saying "you're not going to have to think about the crazy things" said every day by President Trump.

"And with Joe and Kamala at the helm you're not going to have to think about the crazy things they said every day. And that's worth a lot. You're not going to have to argue about them every day. It just won't be so exhausting. You might be able to have a Thanksgiving dinner without having an argument," Obama said during a Biden campaign event in Philadelphia.

Obama went on to criticize Trump for going out of "his way to insult anybody who doesn't support him or threaten them with jail."

"That's not normal presidential behavior. We wouldn't tolerate it from a high school principal. We wouldn't tolerate it from a coach. We wouldn't tolerate it from a co-worker. We wouldn't tolerate it in our own family, except for maybe crazy uncle somewhere ... why would we expect and accept this from the President of the United States? And why are folks making excuses for that? Oh, well, that's just him. No, it's —no. There are consequences to these actions. They embolden other people to be cruel and divisive and racist," Obama added.

The former president implored people to get out the vote no matter what the polls may indicate.

"We cannot leave any doubt in this election, because you know, the President's already said, 'if it’s even close, I’m just gonna make stuff up.' He’s already starting to do it, so we can’t have any doubt, we can’t be complacent, I don’t care about the polls," Obama said.


6:19 p.m. ET, October 21, 2020

Obama says Trump treats presidency "like a reality show he can use to get attention"


Former President Barack Obama criticized President Trump this afternoon during a campaign event for Joe Biden in Philadelphia, saying the President has treated his tenure "like a reality show he can use to get attention."

"I've sat in the Oval Office with both of the men who are running for president. And they are very different people. I explained that I never thought Donald Trump would embrace my vision or continue my policies. But I did hope for the sake of the country that he might show some interest in taking the job seriously," Obama said. "But it hasn't happened. He hasn't shown any interest in doing the work or helping anybody but himself and his friends or treating the presidency like a reality show he can use to get attention. And by the way, even then his TV ratings are down. So you know that upsets him. But the thing is this is not a reality show. This is reality."

Obama, who wore a mask with "VOTE" on it before making his speech, also spoke at lengths about how Americans can vote through mail and in-person on Nov. 3.

"We've got 13 days. That's our lucky number. Thirteen days until the most important election of our lifetimes," Obama said. "What we do these next 13 days will matter for decades to come."

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5:53 p.m. ET, October 21, 2020

Andrew Yang will join Young Americans for Biden for town hall focused on student loans

From CNN's Rachel Janfaza

Scott Olson/Getty Images/FILE
Scott Olson/Getty Images/FILE

Businessman Andrew Yang will join Young Americans for Biden and youth-focused organizations Student Debt Crisis and Rise, as well as the student loan start-up Savi, for a town hall and phone bank Wednesday.

Yang, a former Democratic presidential candidate and CNN contributor, ran on a platform that emphasized Universal Basic Income and student debt relief for young Americans.

During the virtual event with Yang, Student Debt Crisis, Rise and Savi will announce the launch of a new joint initiative between the groups, which includes a student loan education tool and hotline for student loan borrowers.

"With 45 million student loan borrowers, it’s a massive bloc of voters who could easily tip the election and Rise’s work with Student Debt Crisis is the first concerted effort to define 'student loan voter' as a category with political power," Rise CEO Maxwell Lubin told CNN.

In September, Rise and Student Debt Crisis teamed up to endorse the Biden-Harris ticket. Wednesday's virtual event with Yang marks the first time the student-focused groups will partner with Savi.

Rise, a student-led advocacy group with chapters on college campuses across the country, has mobilized more than 80,000 students in battle ground states with a get out the vote campaign since the summer, Lubin said. 

Student Debt Crisis is a national organization dedicated to teaching young people how to manage their student loans. They regularly hold clinics to help young people understand their loans and work nationally to reform student debt and higher education policies. 

3:15 p.m. ET, October 21, 2020

More than 40 million Americans have cast general election ballots

From Liz Stark, Adam Levy, and Ethan Cohen

People wait in line during early voting at Des Plaines Public Library in Des Plaines, Illinois, Wednesday, October 21.
People wait in line during early voting at Des Plaines Public Library in Des Plaines, Illinois, Wednesday, October 21. Nam Y. Huh/AP

More than 40 million Americans have already cast their general election ballots, according to a survey of election officials by CNN, Edison Research, and Catalist.

Voters in the 47 states and DC with pre-Election Day data available are already setting records as they seek to cast their ballots either by mail or in-person where available less than two weeks before Election Day.

Ballots cast so far represents almost 30% of the more than 136 million total ballots cast in the 2016 presidential election.

Some voter information comes from Catalist, a company that provides data, analytics and other services to Democrats, academics and nonprofit issue-advocacy organizations and is giving new insights into who is voting before November.

2:06 p.m. ET, October 21, 2020

Romney: "I did not vote for President Trump"

From CNN's Manu Raju 

Sen. Mitt Romney walks to the Senate floor on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, October 20, in Washington, DC.
Sen. Mitt Romney walks to the Senate floor on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, October 20, in Washington, DC. Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

Republican Sen. Mitt Romney told CNN he has already voted in this year's election but he wouldn’t say if he voted for Joe Biden or wrote someone else in.

“I did not vote for President Trump,” he said.