Amy Coney Barrett says she’s not a ‘pawn,’ NBC News to host town hall with Trump and a closer look at gifted education

Good morning, NBC News readers.

Judge Amy Coney Barrett is set to face another round of tough questions on Day 3 of her confirmation hearings for the U.S. Supreme Court. President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden spar over the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the campaign trail. And it’s the end of an era for the Soyuz rocket.

Here’s what we’re watching this Wednesday morning.

Trump’s words haunt Amy Coney Barrett as she vows not to be a ‘pawn’ on Supreme Court

Judge Amy Coney Barrett faced a barrage of questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee over more than 11 hours on Tuesday, the second day of her confirmation hearing for the U.S. Supreme Court.

Barrett was sharply questioned by Democratic lawmakers over her personal and judicial philosophies. She repeatedly insisted to senators that she has no “agenda” on issues like the Affordable Care Act, the future of abortion rights or same-sex marriage and that she would be nobody’s “pawn” if confirmed to the Supreme Court.

She has a particularly tough row to hoe given that the person who nominated her to the high court, President Donald Trump, has repeatedly told Americans that his judicial picks will faithfully advance his agenda.

For instance, she declined to commit to recusing herself from a potential lawsuit contesting the result of the 2020 election, even though Trump has clearly stated his desire to fill the Supreme Court vacancy in the event of such a scenario. But she said she would consider the questions surrounding recusal seriously.

“I certainly hope that all members of the committee have more confidence in my integrity than to think I would allow myself to be used as a pawn to decide this election for the American people,” she told Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del.

News analysis: During Day 2 of her hearing, Barrett revealed a road map for reversing landmark abortion and desegregation rulings, NBC News Jonathan Allen writes.

The hearing will resume this morning at 9 a.m. ET. Watch coverage on NBC News, MSNBC and follow our live blog for updates and analysis.

Trump tells coronavirus victims: ‘I feel your pain’

A pumped-up President Trump told supporters Tuesday that he “felt like Superman” after he got his experimental drug treatment for Covid-19.

“To everyone fighting to recover from the virus, I feel your pain because I’ve felt your pain,” Trump told a largely maskless crowd of thousands packed onto an airport tarmac in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.

Trump, once again, insisted at the rally that the country is “rounding the corner” on the virus, which has infected over 7.8 million people in the U.S. and killed over 216,000.

In contrast, Democratic nominee Joe Biden delivered a scathing review of how Trump’s presidency has hurt senior citizens, taking particular aim at the president’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden, speaking to a socially distanced crowd at a senior citizen community center in southern Florida, hit Trump over his statements on possibly cutting Social Security and his record on lowering prescription drug costs, but saved his breath almost entirely for criticism of how the president’s response to Covid-19 has hurt older people in particular.

“While he throws superspreader parties at the White House, while Republicans hug each other, without concern of the consequences, how many of you have been unable to hug your grandkids the last seven months?” Biden said.

“To Donald Trump, it’s simple, not a joke, you’re expendable. You’re forgettable. You’re virtually nobody. That’s how he sees seniors. That’s how he sees you,” the former vice president told those gathered in the battleground state.

Polls in Florida show an exceptionally close race, and Biden has led Trump in five of the last six polls tracked by NBC News, since late September.

NBC News just announced this morning that it will host a town hall with Trump in Miami on Thursday.

Supreme Court allows Trump administration to end census count early

The Supreme Court on Tuesday effectively allowed the government to stop the census count immediately, blocking a lower court order that would have required the Trump administration to continue gathering census information in the field until the end of October.

The Census Bureau said it wanted to stop the count so that it could start processing the data to meet a Dec. 31 deadline, set in federal law, for reporting the results to the president.

But the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the government to keep going with its field work until Oct. 31, concluding that a longer time in the field would increase accuracy.

In a brief unsigned order, the Supreme Court stayed the appeals court order.

The decision sets up a battle for how the data collected in the count mandated by the Constitution to be done every 10 years will be used to determine the distribution of $1.5 trillion in federal aid, as well as how many congressional seats and Electoral College votes each state gets.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented, writing, “The harms caused by rushing this year’s census count are irreparable.”Ted S. Warren / AP file

Gifted education has a race problem. The solution isn’t simple.

White children and those from wealthy families are more likely to be identified as “gifted” — despite decades of effort to make these programs more equal. In a new series, “Gifted Education’s Race Problem,” The Hechinger Report and NBC News examine how gifted classes are segregating schools and what districts can do about it.

Some cities have tried to diversify or grow their gifted programs, while others are eliminating them altogether and teaching students of all abilities together in one class. That’s what Rockville Centre, New York, aimed to do — but the district faced unforeseen challenges.

The series also looks at how advances in genetic testing could enable researchers to predict which students are most likely to succeed in school. That could boost — and complicate — efforts to make gifted programs fairer.

Around the country, gifted and talented programs have come under fire for exacerbating school systems’ already stark racial and economic segregation.Julius Constantine Motal / NBC News

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  • The Justice Department has sued Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, the author of a book about her relationship with Melania Trump, saying she violated a binding promise of confidentiality.
  • India Oxenberg broke her silence about her life and eventual escape from the “inhumane” NXIVM sex cult.
  • The mayor of Anchorage, Alaska, announced his plans to resign after a TV anchor posted what she said was a partially nude photo of him on Facebook.
  • End of an era: The Soyuz rocket departed for the international space station Wednesday on a historic final U.S.-Russian flight.

THINK about it

Cheap drones from China, Turkey and Israel are fueling conflicts in places like Armenia and Azerbaijan, military writer Sébastien Roblin argues in an opinion piece.


Check out the best places to live in America (even during a pandemic), according to U.S. News & World Report’s annual listing.


Amazon Prime Day is on now, but other retailers such as Walmart and Best Buy are putting on their own big sales. Here’s what you should know.

Quote of the day

“I can’t really speak to what the president has said on Twitter.”

— Supreme Court Justice nominee Amy Coney Barrett during Day 2 of her Senate confirmation hearings.

One fun thing

All dog lovers know that their older pets aren’t the same as they were as puppies, but owners often can’t pinpoint the exact personality changes brought on by the passage of time.

A study published Wednesday in Scientific Reports attempts to map out those changes and finds that there are some personality traits — such as attraction to novel experiences, the desire to explore and the urge to run around — that seem to change for most dogs with age.

“A dog’s personality changes over time, and, on average, every dog becomes less active and less curious as they age,” said the study’s lead author.

The study participants included 37 border collies.

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Thanks, Petra

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