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Trump, Biden make 9/11 trip to Pennsylvania, where battle over mail-in ballots continues

The 2020 presidential race struck a somber note Friday, as President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden observed the 19th anniversary of the September 11th attacks. Both candidates visited the Pennsylvania memorial to Flight 93 but did not cross paths there. Yamiche Alcindor reports, and Daniel Bush joins Judy Woodruff to discuss the campaigns and ongoing battles over mail-in ballots.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The presidential race struck a somber note today, as both candidates marked the 19th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

    President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden visited the same Pennsylvania memorial, though they did not cross paths.

    White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor begins our coverage.


  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    In Shanksville, Pennsylvania, today, bells tolled for all 40 passengers and crew who died on Flight 93.


    On 9/11, those on the flight wrestled back control of the plane from hijackers targeting the U.S. Capitol. Instead, it crashed in a rural Pennsylvania field, killing everyone aboard.

    President Trump spoke at a memorial built on the crash site. He talked directly to the family members of those killed.

  • President Donald Trump:

    Today, every heartbeat in America is wedded to yours. Your pain and anguish is the shared grief of our whole nation.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Later, former Vice President Joe Biden also paid his respects at the Flight 93 Memorial. He laid a wreath and met with family members of those who died.

    The Democratic presidential nominee began his day in New York City. He attended the ceremony at Ground Zero of the World Trade Center. There, he stopped to talk with a woman who lost her son in the attacks. He spoke about the pain of losing his own son Beau to cancer.

  • Former Vice President Joseph Biden:

    It never goes away.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Vice President Pence was also at the Ground Zero remembrance. Both men wore masks and spoke briefly, acknowledging each other with an elbow bump.

    At the commemoration, Pence and his wife, Karen, read Bible passages.

  • Vice President Mike Pence:

    Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The vice presidential nominee for the Democrats, Senator Kamala Harris, spoke in Virginia at the Fairfax County Public Safety Headquarters. Her message was to first responders.

  • Sen. Kamala Harris, D- Calif.:

    Some of the heroes from that day 19 years ago are still here serving this community, and I thank you on behalf of all of us for the consistency of your dedication to your country.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Today's solemn tone came after a raucous night for the president in Freeland, Michigan, where he held a rally. Thousands of Trump supporters packed together in an airport hangar. There was little social distancing and few wore masks.

    It came two days after audio conversations with the president tied to a book release by journalist Bob Woodward revealed President Trump knew about the severity of the pandemic early on, but he sought to play it down.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Yamiche Alcindor.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And for more on all this, we have the "NewsHour"'s Daniel Bush, who joins us today from Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

    Hi, Dan.

    So, as we heard, both President Trump and former Vice President Biden were there today.

    What else can you tell us about what they had to say?

  • Daniel Bush:

    Well, Judy, President Trump delivered remarks that were on script. He did not stray from his message, praising the heroism of the people who died here at this site.

    Joe Biden did not deliver official remarks. He did visit this memorial, and then, with his wife, Jill Biden, visited a local firehouse.

    The most interesting thing here to note, Judy, is that, of course, this visit by both these candidates, the backdrop is the election. And we saw two different approaches to being out in public during the pandemic.

    President Trump and the people around him did not wear masks. Joe Biden and his wife and the people he was meeting with did. Joe Biden told donors on a call yesterday that he plans to abide by state restrictions. And that's what we saw here today.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Separately, you have been in Pennsylvania now for several days reporting on how they're preparing for this election and, in particular, looking at how they're going to be voting and some disputes that have come up. Tell us about that.

  • Daniel Bush:

    That's right, Judy.

    Top of mind here, as in other states, is election security, how to get enough poll workers. There's a shortage there, many officials have told me. How to secure safe polling sites.

    But the main issue is a set of lawsuits that are going to dictate how people can actually vote in November. The principal one everyone is watching is a Trump campaign lawsuit, along with the RNC, filed against the state to try and ban drop boxes in November.

    These are the mailbox-style drop boxes that many states have used for a while, that Pennsylvania used in the primary to allow voters to drop off their mail-in ballots in person to avoid long lines and to reduce public health risks.

    The Trump campaign is arguing that those drop boxes are illegal, they're not technically polling places, and that they could lead to voter tampering and fraud.

    But, Judy, on the ground, county officials tell me something different. I spoke to several Republicans who said, no, these drop boxes are secure. One of them told me they are — in the primaries were under 24-hour camera surveillance. Sheriff's deputies are there.

    This official told me that she herself manned one of the drop boxes, and they are not concerned about voter fraud. But that's a case that is playing out in the courts right now.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Dan, you're saying even Republicans are saying this to you?

  • Daniel Bush:

    That's right, Judy. Several Republicans told me that they do not have concerns around voter fraud.

    But there are several challenges around how it is that people can vote, as I mentioned, carrying these off safely, as well as what is going to happen on election night. Several officials from both parties told me that, unless they have more time to begin counting these votes, and if there is this expected increase or influx in absentee ballots and mail-in ballots, they will not be able to count the votes on election night.

    It's so important to all of them to underscore that point. They are saying they can expect to have to count some of these votes for days to come after November 3.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Daniel Bush, so interesting. And I know this is something we're going to want to follow very closely between now and the election.

    Dan, thank you so much.

  • Daniel Bush:

    Thank you.

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