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The Democratic National Convention is kicking off Monday night in an unprecedented virtual format. Events will be anchored from Milwaukee, the convention’s original host city, but occur at various locations across the country. Meanwhile, President Trump spent the day holding a series of campaign-style events of his own. Lisa Desjardins and Yamiche Alcindor join Judy Woodruff to discuss.
And joining me now, our own Lisa Desjardins is in Wilmington, Delaware, where Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will deliver their convention addresses later this week. And Yamiche Alcindor is tracking President Trump for us, as always, during this critical week.
Hello to both of you.
Lisa, to you first, in Wilmington, as we just heard. This is the place where Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are going to speak, but, otherwise, a pretty quiet place. Tell us what is going on there. And how does this compare for you to other conventions you have covered?
Judy, there's never been a convention remotely like this, I think as everyone in our audience knows.
But being here feels so different. The convention that Democrats had planned was supposed to be in an auditorium that could seat nearly 20,000 people. Instead, Judy, Joe Biden will be accepting his party's nomination in the building behind me in an auditorium for about 200 people, no audience, just a few members of the press.
So, as you can see, it's an empty parking lot here in what would usually be a place teeming with activity. What the Democrats are getting instead, however, is a very Biden-esque kind of event.
This is just five miles from his home in Wilmington and, as you may hear during this live shot, right next to one of Joe Biden's favorite things, an Amtrak railroad track.
So, it's very Biden-esque, but it certainly is surreal, not like any other major political event I think we have ever seen.
So, Lisa, tell us a little bit about what to expect tonight. What is the message the Biden camp, the Democrats are hoping to convey tonight?
All right, you know there are themes every night. The official theme tonight is "We the People."
But I want to drill down farther into what the campaign is telling me they really want to do tonight, two things. Their theme is going to be unity. And that's probably the theme of this whole convention, Joe Biden as someone that they say will unite this country.
Tonight in particular, they're going to look at the three crises that Democrats say are hitting this country right now, economic crisis, the health crisis with the pandemic, and the racial justice crisis.
So, all through tonight, they're going to raid these — crisis. They're going to say that this is a time when this country needs strong leadership and unity that Joe Biden can provide, and that Donald Trump, as president, has made worse and sometimes even sparked.
Well, speaking of President Trump, Yamiche, I guess it's no surprise the president is not laying low this week. He is out visiting battleground states.
You have been following what he's been doing. And, among other things, he's talking about this controversy raging right now over the Postal Service.
And is Yamiche hearing me?
Yes, I cannot hear Judy.
OK. Our apologies.
We have lost Yamiche, but we will come back to her in just a moment.
One of the things that happens in this wild…
Yes, I can hear you. I can't hear Judy.
So, Lisa, I'm going to come back to you to talk about this issue of the Postal Service.
As we know, President Trump has been very critical. He's talked about cutting the budget. The postmaster general has become a controversial figure. Democrats are now taking action on this. Tell us what they're doing.
This is something else we have never seen during national political conventions, Judy.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is calling back her chamber of Congress this weekend, Saturday, in between the conventions, essentially. We have never had either chamber of Congress meet, Judy, during presidential nominating conventions.
She's doing this specifically to address the U.S. Postal Service situation to pass a bill to essentially force the president to rescind the changes he has made in the Postal Service, changes that the Democrats say are political.
And, in fact, President Trump has talked about his motivations for this. I know Yamiche has good reporting on that. Democrats want to pass a bill this weekend to force him to do that.
Now, of course, the Senate, run by Republicans, would also need to pass that bill. But there is no indication from the Senate that they will come back yet. I have been asking Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell all — his office all day.
They said they have no announcement yet. But the pressure is on them, Judy, because some Republicans, including Susan Collins of Maine, a very vulnerable Republican this season, she is also calling for the Senate to come back in session to deal with the Postal Service.
She wants to raise their funding.
So, Yamiche, we now have your sound, and you can hear us.
But, tell us, what is the president trying to accomplish with this — by stirring up all this controversy about the Postal Service?
Well, the president has a calendar full of counter-programming this week.
And that involves also talking about mail-in voting. He's going to be crisscrossing the country, going to different battleground states, including Arizona, Pennsylvania. Today, he's in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
He's delivering speeches both attacking Joe Biden, saying that he's dangerous for this company — for this country, and also saying that he's someone who would usher in socialism. He said just a few minutes ago, as he's talking just now, that America would turn into Venezuela.
Now, when it comes to mail-in voting, that is also something that he is attacking the Democrats on. He's saying that they're trying to ask for money that they do not need. But he is also saying today that he wants to make the Postal Service great again.
And, in doing that, he says that he's happy to try to work with the Democrats to find some sort of way to get a bill passed when it comes to funding the U.S. Postal Service. But he's still very much against mail-in voting.
And that means states mailing out ballots to people when they did not request them.
Well, it certainly got a lot of attention. And I know we're going to be hearing about it during this Democratic Convention.
Yamiche Alcindor, Lisa Desjardins, thank you both.
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