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Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said that he believes he would have the legal authority to impose a nationwide mask mandate to slow the spread of coronavirus if elected president, after saying earlier this month that he did not know if such an order would be enforceable.

Speaking to reporters in Delaware on Wednesday, Biden said that he had spoken to his campaign's legal team about the feasibility of imposing such a mandate in certain states, depending on the conditions in the U.


"Our legal team thinks I can do that, based upon the degree to which there's a crisis in those states, and how bad things are for the country," Biden said. If it were deemed legal, he said would sign an executive order requiring people to wear masks when in public.

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Earlier in September, Biden said he would pressure governors and local officials to impose a mask mandate, saying there's a "question under the Constitution" about whether a president can institute a national mandate.

"Why do you wear a mask? To protect your neighbor? To keep someone else from getting sick and maybe dying. I call that patriotic. This is the United States of America. Every generation has made sacrifices to help others in moments of crisis," Biden said at the time.

Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris, called for a three-month nationwide mask mandate in August.

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"Every single American should be wearing a mask when they're outside for the next three months, at a minimum. Every governor should mandate mandatory mask-wearing," Biden said at the time, suggesting that widespread mask use could save 40,000 lives over the next three months. "Let's institute a mask mandate nationwide starting immediately, and we will save lives."

Biden, who has previously cast doubt on a potential coronavirus vaccine produced during the Trump administration, also said on Wednesday that he trusts the words of scientists, but not of President Trump.

"Let me clear: I trust vaccines, I trust the scientists but I don't trust Donald Trump," Biden said.

Bo Erickson contributed to this report.

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Rock star appeals judge Allison Rushing in high court mix

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Called both a legal “rock star” by Republican senators and an “ideological extremist” by critics, Allison Jones Rushing had already landed what most lawyers would consider a career-defining position before turning 40. But the Trump administration may have even bigger plans.

President Donald Trump indicated that Rushing is on his short list of four or five nominees to succeed the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the U.S. Supreme Court. Confirmed just 18 months ago to the federal appeals bench, Rushing’s relatively short legal experience, previous work with a conservative Christian legal group and litigation involving civil rights issues are sure to stoke Democrats and their allies to fight her pick.

The Hendersonville, North Carolina, native would bring both newness and familiarity to the court if confirmed. Born in 1982 and the mother of a toddler, she’d be the first millennial serving at the Supreme Court, where the current youngest justice Neil Gorsuch is 15 years her junior.

But as an appellate specialist while in private practice at the Williams & Connolly law firm in Washington, Rushing filed scores of briefs with the Supreme Court. She also clerked previously for two current, conservative justices — Clarence Thomas 10 years ago and for Gorsuch while he was at the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

She was confirmed to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia in March 2019.

“I can see your resume. You’re a rock star,” Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., said during her October 2018 confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Duke University law school grad also clerked for Judge David Sentelle on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Rushing has support from White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who is helping lead the nomination process and also hails from the North Carolina mountains. But Amy Coney Barrett and Barbara Lagoa have so far emerged as the top two contenders, according to people familiar with the process who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity. Within the White House, Rushing’s age is considered both an asset and liability.

The liberal-leaning Leadership Conference on Civil and Hum­­­­an Rights, comprised of 200 national organizations, fought Trump’s 4th Circuit nomination of Rushing, who ultimately was confirmed in March 2019 on a 53-44 party-line vote.

The group pointed out that she interned in 2005 for what is now called Alliance Defending Freedom, known for its opposition to same-sex marriage and expanded rights for transgender people. An ADF lawyer said last year that she spent that summer co-authoring a legal article about who can sue over religious displays on public property. The Leadership Conference also criticized briefs she filed for clients at the court involving fair housing and workplace misconduct.

Rushing “is a young, ideological extremist who has never practiced law in North Carolina,” Conference CEO Vanita Gupta wrote in 2018 to senators. “The Senate must oppose this controversial and unqualified nominee.”

During her Senate hearing, even Kennedy questioned the extent of Rushing’s life experiences. She was first admitted to the bar in 2007 and had tried just four cases to a verdict or judgment. One included successfully defending HBO in a defamation lawsuit filed by a sporting goods company that claimed a show misled people into believing it used child labor for soccer balls.

“Tell me why you’re more qualified to be on the 4th Circuit than some of the Williams & Connolly (lawyers) that have been there for 20 years, 25, 30 years in the trenches?” Kennedy asked.

“My experience in the federal courts of appeals and the Supreme Court are why I’m qualified — not only the depth of that experience, but the variety,” Rushing replied, citing criminal law, prisoner petitions, product liability and constitutional issues. “I’ve litigated all of those cases on appeal and I will be ready when those cases come before me” if confirmed, she added.

Rushing has written a large number of 4th Circuit opinions for a newcomer, although few of them would be considered high profile, University of Richmond School of Law professor Carl Tobias said this week in an email.

Born to parents who became public school teachers, Rushing apparently enjoys singing, listing chorus group memberships on her resume among previous endeavors. When asked during the hearing about any disappointments in life, Rushing said she wished she hadn’t spent so much time focusing on her career, instead of the family she and her husband now had.

“I’d like to think that everything happens for a reason, and that even though things are disappointing they turn for the best,” she said.


Associated Press Writer Zeke Miller contributed to this report from Washington.

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