The hunters came from at least 21 states to the deep-cut canyons and Sand Hills of Nebraska to bag trophies for their walls back home.
More than 100 people from states like New York, Wisconsin, Virginia and Utah paid $2,500 to $7,000 to take aim at big bucks, pronghorn antelopes and turkeys, all with the help of Hidden Hills Outfitters near Broken Bow.
But they weren't really big game hunters. They were poachers — using bait, spotlights at night and other illegal tactics to guarantee their success.
And now many of them have been convicted of federal crimes or other violations after a major federal and state investigation.
So far, 30 people have pleaded guilty, $570,453 in fines and restitution have been assessed, and 53 years' worth of hunting and fishing permits have been forfeited. Other cases are still working their way through the system.
Jacob Hueftle, 30, the co-owner and chief operator of Hidden Hills Outfitters, was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison by U.S. District Judge Joseph F. Bataillon earlier this month. He was also ordered to pay $214,375 in restitution, jointly with his company, to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
As part of his plea agreement, Hueftle won't be able to hunt, trap or engage in any related business for 15 years once he gets out of prison.
The case is the largest such bust in Nebraska history, according to Dick Turpin, the 83-year-old retired chief game warden at Game and Parks.
"All the guys hunting and fishing in this state ought to write (the judge) a letter thanking him," Turpin said. "Somebody is sticking up for our interests."
The case started with a tip that investigators won't divulge and was undertaken jointly by agents with Game and Parks and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Over about five years, investigators found, Hidden Hills Outfitters and its clients engaged in hunting practices that were illegal under either Nebraska or federal law.
They shot animals that had been lured to them with bait and whose movements had been carefully scrutinized via trail cameras.
Some used rifles during archery season. Others hunted at night and with spotlights. Or lacked a permit. Or shot animals from the road. Or lied about who killed their animal and how it was killed.
To hide their actions from others, hunters sometimes put noise suppressors on their guns.
And they sent their ill-gotten gains home, across state lines.
At least 97 game animals were illegally killed: 30 white-tailed deer, 34 mule deer, six pronghorn antelope and 27 turkeys.
Ethical hunters, frustrated by poaching in Nebraska, are celebrating the case. They say they aren't aware of poaching at this scale among other operations in the state, but they say illegal hunting has been penalized too lightly.
"It's outstanding that they finally put some teeth in these violations and sentenced someone to something meaningful, rather than a fine," said Tom Lanz, a lifelong hunter who has been active in Nebraska hunting organizations.
"We manage wildlife for the benefit of everybody," he said. "That wildlife has a value to society. When they steal that, they steal from all of us. It's just offensive."
In addition to being illegal, some of the killing was wanton.
The heads were cut off of some animals, with the meat left to rot. And some hunters took part in target practice using birds. An unknown number of migratory nongame birds such as hawks and falcons were illegally killed, typically while perched on fence lines or power lines, according to court records.
Hidden Hills' plea agreement says "J.H." personally killed at least 100 nongame birds.
Reached by phone, Hueftle said he would provide a statement but did not follow through.
In 2012, Hueftle had been convicted of violating federal hunting law and sentenced to probation for five years.
Later that year, he began operating Hidden Hills, and in 2013, he and others created a limited liability corporation for the business. Opening an outfitting business was legal under his probation, according to court documents, but he was banned from using weapons or killing animals himself — probation restrictions that he violated.
In the current case, the court found Hueftle and Hidden Hills Outfitters guilty of violating two federal laws: the Lacey Act, which prohibits trafficking in illegal game, and the Migratory Bird Act, which prohibits killing hawks, falcons and other nongame migratory birds.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Nebraska won't comment on whether the investigation continues or how many others will be prosecuted.
Court documents say Hueftle and unindicted co-conspirators, including employees and associates, collaborated on the scheme from 2013 through at least November 2017.
According to court records, Hidden Hills drummed up business online and at out-of-state events, including the Great American Outdoor Show, a nine-day event in Pennsylvania that bills itself as the world's largest outdoor show. Through these efforts, and some word-of-mouth, Hidden Hills attracted at least 118 clients, almost all of them from outside Nebraska.
For at least one client, it was about more than trophy mounts.
Big game archery hunter and television personality Rod Owen brought his commercial video equipment to hunts in Nebraska from 2015 to 2017.
Owen has been featured in Field & Stream and on the Outdoor Channel and was a castmember for the popular Drury Outdoors media company.
While working as a contract employee for Drury, he participated in a celebrity reality hunting show called "Dream Season." He was paired with professional bull rider J.W. "Ironman" Hart. Owen, of Blue Springs, Missouri, touted his Nebraska hunts on Drury's "100% Wild Podcast."
"You got to use all your different skills when you get out there," he said of the Nebraska Sand Hills. "You got to play to win."
In reality, Owen knew that the animals were lured into range with bait — he even helped place some of the bait.
And while he's gained fame for his prowess with a bow and arrow, two animals that he wounded with an arrow were ultimately killed with a rifle.
He fired the shot that killed a wounded whitetailed deer, and a guide delivered the fatal shot to a mule deer.
In both instances, he misrepresented the hunt in video submitted to Drury Outdoors, according to court records.
Owen made about $810 from Drury for one video and $3,067 on another. In exchange for being promoted in the video, Hidden Hills halved the fee it charged Owen.
Owen has been ordered to pay $50,000 in fines and restitution.
In a statement, Drury Outdoors said the company cooperated with the investigation and parted ways with Owen after learning of the violations.
According to court documents and Owen's description on "100% Wild," Hidden Hills operated across a large reach of Nebraska. Its network of hunting sites spanned at least eight Nebraska counties: Custer, Blaine, Valley, Sherman, Logan, Frontier, Keith and Morrill. According to Owen, the outfitter had access to about 200,000 acres through leases and other arrangements.
At least 68 sites were baited to attract turkey and big game.
Indeed, Hueftle acknowledged in his plea that from 2013 to 2017, he and others set out 115,378 pounds of deer bait or its components. As part of his operations, Hueftle had set up two companies to make bait that he dubbed PrimeTine andHard Rack Candy.
For white-tailed deer hunts, about 80% of clients using a bow and arrow and about 50% of those using a rifle did so near a bait site, Hueftle said in his plea agreement. Under Nebraska law, it is illegal to hunt within 200 yards of bait.
The company also illegally allowed the hunting of mule deer in an area set aside for conservation of the species.
In addition, it allowed the use of altered hunting permits, purchasing a permit after an animal was killed and taking turkey in excess of limits.
Among the company's clients, a Wisconsin auto dealer stands out for his eagerness to participate.
Duane S. Mulvaine of Fox Lake provided Hidden Hills with vehicles and guns and served as a guide, according to his plea.
Mulvaine hunted in Nebraska with Hueftle from 2012 through 2017 and killed at least nine animals illegally: three white-tailed deer, three mule deer and three pronghorn antelope.
In one instance, he killed a white-tailed deer at night using a spotlight and semiautomatic rifle equipped with a suppressor. On top of that, it was archery season, not rifle season, and he shot the animal from a vehicle along a roadway (also illegal) in Sherman County.
Similarly, he killed a mule deer in Custer County while seated in a vehicle on a roadway with a .223-caliber bolt-action rifle equipped with a suppressor (because it was archery season).
In another instance, according to his plea, he and other man loaded his illegally killed pronghorn antelope onto an all-terrain vehicle to take to a location that would provide a better backdrop for a trophy photo.
Mulvaine also provided weapons he knew would be used illegally. Court documents describe the weapons as: a Howa Model I 500 .223-caliber bolt-action rifle with a Mack Brothers suppressor, a Savage M-25 .17-caliber Hornet bolt-action rifle with a SilencerCo suppressor, a Hogan Model H223 multi-caliber semiautomatic rifle, and a Browning BAR .243-caliber semiautomatic rifle.
The car dealer brought family members to Nebraska to hunt and provided guide services to them.
As part of his sentencing, he was forced to give up 13 wildlife trophy mounts unlawfully killed in Nebraska: five mule deer, three whitetailed deer, three pronghorn antelope, a turkey and a badger. He also forfeited four scoped rifles, three suppressors, a compound bow and a crossbow.
He has also been ordered to pay $95,000 in restitution and fines.
Both Mulvaine and Owen declined to comment.
Mulvainewas 40 years old when he was sentenced in August; Owen was 57 when he was sentenced last year. Neither will be allowed to hunt or fish during their five-year probations.
Twenty other people were ticketed through what's known as the Central Violations Bureau, which is less serious than U.S. District Court. It's not clear from court documents whether any of those people lost their hunting privileges.
The Nebraska hunting community wants penalties for poaching to be even stiffer, said longtime hunter and hunting advocate Janice Spicha.
"The ethical hunters of this state want things like this stopped and stopped for good," she said. "If you knowingly participate in illegal hunting activities, then you shouldn't be able to hunt again. Ever."
After Nebraska's reopening led to record COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, the state is changing course in hopes that renewed public health restrictions will stanch the infections.
Gov. Pete Ricketts continues to lean on personal responsibility to make the difference in the pandemic. In his announcement Friday, the governor also emphasized a new public service message urging people to avoid problem situations to help slow the virus.
But the strategy shift that Ricketts announced Friday recognizes the limits of personal responsibility, addressing Nebraska's growing public health emergency.
The World-Herald interviewed health officials and experts around Nebraska on how the state needs to move forward. Officials asked for more from the governor and state government and said they see room for improvement in fundamental strategies to rein in the uncontrolled coronavirus pandemic.
Nebraska's centerpiece testing system, TestNebraska, has been returning recent results in an average of 4.3 days — meaning some sick and worried patients have been waiting the length of a workweek without an answer.
One source said local health departments are overwhelmed with contact tracing, even as Ricketts says the state has untapped tracers awaiting work.
Major differences also remain over how forceful Nebraska's response should be.
Ricketts continues to reject calls for a statewide mask mandate — even though 11 states without one are among the U.S. leaders in new cases, according to Covid Act Now. In asking people to make better choices on physical distancing and gatherings, the governor urged last week, "Please, folks."
In an interview with The World-Herald, Ricketts said he is trying to have "as light a touch as possible" to preserve the state's hospital capacity.
"We can't do this just with mandates," he said.
Others want stronger public health restrictions, and it's clear the changes announced Friday are in many ways a modest turn back. The biggest change could happen at bars, where patrons will need to be seated — no standing crowds allowed. Ricketts noted that "standing room only" won't be allowed for those gathering at bars to watch the Huskers' season opener against Ohio State on Saturday.
Mask mandates are in place in Omaha and Lincoln, and at least a few other Nebraska communities want to pursue the option, too. The health director from the Kearney area said he wants to mandate masks locally because of sparse mask-wearing, but the state won't authorize it.
Some local health districts also are asking for leeway to set their own regulations.
Last week, 100 local leaders in the Grand Island area held a video meeting to discuss extra measures their communities need going forward, said Teresa Anderson, director at the Central District Health Department.
Grand Island suffered with high case numbers and deaths in the pandemic's first wave, and Anderson said she intended to submit a plan to Ricketts.
Anderson said she asked Ricketts last week for approval to mandate masks locally through a health measure, but the governor declined.
Said Anderson, "I think people are starting to say, 'Wait a minute — we're not going to go back to April and May.' "
Two weeks ago, leaders from the University of Nebraska Medical Center warned of a "potential perfect storm" striking Nebraska. Dr. James Lawler, a director at UNMC's Global Center for Health Security, stepped away from support for Nebraska's phased reopening — a response that the university helped develop.
Back in April, Ricketts and Lawler joined together to show support for Nebraska's unique pandemic regulations: tailored restrictions, carried out by regional health districts, without a uniform lockdown.
At phase four of Nebraska's reopening, the state had rolled back most of its public health restrictions — only to find record numbers of cases from the novel coronavirus (1,286 new infections reported on Friday alone), an all-time high in COVID-19 hospitalizations (322 and rising) and 547 Nebraskans dead.
Lawler said those phases were helpful early in the pandemic. But he said officials have learned about how the virus behaves in communities, and current conditions do not call for businesses and schools to open fully and community activities to continue as normal.
Lawler told The World-Herald last week that the state needs to again use what public health officials call "non-pharmaceutical interventions."
"What we are seeing is a complete lack of personal responsibility," he said, "and a complete lack of collective responsibility in the community to band in and protect each other."
Still, Lawler said the choice is not to lock down fully or open fully.
On Friday, Lawler stood with Ricketts in announcing Nebraska's change.
"It's really important for all of us to buckle down at this point, to take action to reduce transmission in the community," he said.
UNMC's Dr. Ali Khan also has presented an eight-week coronavirus response plan to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, according to the university.
Khan, the dean of the College of Public Health, declined to be interviewed by The World-Herald before the governor could respond to the plan.
Khan, speaking at an Omaha City Council meeting earlier this month, described a plan to get kids in schools, fans in stadiums and people back to work.
Khan said containing and controlling the virus is "pretty straightforward" through a three-pronged approach: leadership, decreasing transmission through testing-tracing-isolating, and community engagement around masking, social distancing and hand-washing.
"We have the power to affect the trajectory of this outbreak today, right now, before a vaccine ever shows up," Khan said.
Dr. Joann Schaefer, Nebraska's former chief medical officer, said one key issue going forward is expanding and improving the state's testing capacity — including finding a good use for antigen testing for a rapid diagnosis.
"When people are sick or mildly symptomatic, they want to know right now if they have it," Schaefer said.
The White House Coronavirus Task Force also has recommended the state step up its restrictions — with regulations Nebraska has declined to implement.
According to an August report from the task force, obtained by the Center for Public Integrity, Nebraska should: implement a mask mandate in counties with 20 or more cases, close bars, restrict indoor dining and limit social gatherings to 10 or fewer people in areas with the most cases.
Nebraska HHS declined a request from The World-Herald for more recent reports.
Ricketts said he has recognized the rise in hospitalizations, some 40% higher than Nebraska's earlier peak in May. He said he's particularly seen the rapid increase in the last three weeks, and continuing issues at long-term care facilities around the state.
On Friday, the state also announced $40 million in funding to boost staffing at 21 hospitals around the state. Ricketts said that plan has been in the works for a couple of weeks, as has the shift in the state's directed health measures.
Ricketts continues to oppose any state mask mandate or other a local mandate from local health officials. When asked if he would consider requiring masks in specific settings, Ricketts said no.
The governor said his goal is to educate people about the use of masks and why it's important for protecting hospital capacity. He wants voluntary compliance.
With a vaccine still down the road, Ricketts said the state will need to manage the virus for the months ahead. He acknowledged the state might need to make more changes to its directed health measures in the future.
On testing, Ricketts said the state has helped TestNebraska's lab catch up, and by Tuesday it was turning around results within 48 hours on 84% of its tests. But he said that's an issue the state will continue to manage.
Asked if Nebraska's approach will be enough to control the pandemic, Ricketts said: "I believe it will because Nebraskans do the right things when you ask them to do it."
Many health officials also acknowledge a lot of recent cases stem from small gatherings of family and friends — placing public health issues squarely in the privacy of someone's home.
When The World-Herald asked Douglas County Health Director Adi Pour what more should be done to address the pandemic, she said, "This is all about personal responsibility. We have put everything in place we can."
But Dr. Bob Rauner, president of Partnership for a Healthy Lincoln and a Lincoln School Board member, said asking people nicely won't get the public response needed to manage the pandemic.
Rauner said he sees no consistency in the state's message, although he was encouraged Ricketts brought in Lawler for Friday's announcement. "It's a public health response," he said in his 43rd community coronavirus update, "which means our politicians and leaders need to get on top of this."
Lancaster County is Nebraska's lone county with stricter pandemic restrictions than the state authorizes, allowed because of an exception provided to the community in state health statutes. Even with the state's changes announced Friday, Lancaster's restrictions will remain stronger.
The county's directed health measure sets restrictions on gatherings, restaurants, bars, salons, child care centers and gyms.
Officials there credit the measure — which includes an indoor mask mandate — with helping keep control of the virus. According to the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department, it has not had clusters traced to salons or restaurants, and they say the rules have substantially limited spread in child care settings.
Health department officials from around Nebraska held a conference call last week with the governor to discuss stepping up the public health response. Several health districts want the state to authorize their own local directed health measures.
Early in the pandemic, a few health departments — including Douglas County and Two Rivers Public Health Department in Kearney — took that step. But the state later said any local measure needed authorization from the state's chief medical officer, officials say.
Jeremy Eschliman, director of the Two Rivers department, said he would mandate masks through a local directed health measure, and he believes that step has support in the community. But he said the state will not approve.
Eschliman said conferences are still meeting in Kearney — and many people do not wear masks. If masks aren't required, he said, toomany people decide the guidance isn't for them.
"Without additional restrictions at this point, it's going to be challenging, quite honestly," he said.
Susan Bockrath, executive director of the Nebraska Association of Local Health Directors, said many health departments feel that the pandemic strategy across the state has largely forgotten prevention.
"We are fully in response mode," Bockrath said early in the week.
Bockrath said the time and effort to track growing crowds of infected people and their contacts is overwhelming the health departments. She said departments are asking: "How do we make it so people don't have to be contacted?" — by preventing the cases from happening in the first place.
Out of that, the association last week started a public service campaign around avoiding the "Three C's" — crowded places, close contact and confined spaces.
A flyer that has started circulating offers simple advice: Avoid gathering in groups when you can't keep 6 feet of distance, wear a mask when with people you don't live with and avoid enclosed spaces with poor ventilation.
On Friday, the Governor's Office publicly endorsed the effort and held it out as key to the state's response.
Said Ricketts, "This is vital for us to be able to preserve our hospital system."
firstname.lastname@example.org, 402-444-1128 twitter.com/jeffreyrobb
WASHINGTON (AP) — Amid the tumult of the 2020 presidential campaign, one dynamic has remained constant: The Nov. 3 election offers voters a choice between substantially different policy paths.
President Donald Trump, like many fellow Republicans, holds out tax reductions and regulatory cuts as economic imperatives and frames himself as a conservative champion in the culture wars.
Democrat Joe Biden is a center-left Democrat who frames the federal government as the force to combat the coronavirus and rebuild the economy. The former vice president and U.S. senator also offers his deal-making past as evidence he can do it again from the Oval Office.
Where the rivals stand on key issues:
Low unemployment and a soaring stock market were Trump's strong suits before the pandemic. While the stock market has clawed its way back after cratering in the early weeks of the crisis, unemployment stands at 7.9%, and the nearly 10 million jobs that remain lost since the pandemic began exceed the number that the nation shed during the entire 2008-09 Great Recession.
Trump has predicted that the U.S. economy will rebound in the third and fourth quarters of this year and is set to take off like a "rocket ship" in 2021. He promises that a coronavirus vaccine or effective therapeutics will soon be available, allowing life to get back to normal. His push for a payroll tax cut over the summer was thwarted by stiff bipartisan opposition. But winning a second term — and a mandate from voters — could help him resurrect the idea.
First and foremost, Biden argues that the economy cannot fully recover until COVID-19 is contained. For the long-term recovery, he pitches sweeping federal action to avoid an extended recession and to address longstanding wealth inequality that disproportionately affects nonwhite Americans.
His biggest-ticket plans include a $2 trillion, four-year push to eliminate carbon pollution in the U.S. energy grid by 2035 and a new government health insurance plan open to all working-age Americans (with generous subsidies). He proposes new spending on education, infrastructure and small businesses, along with raising the national minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Biden would cover some but not all of the new costs by rolling back much of the 2017 GOP tax overhaul. He wants a corporate income tax rate of 28% (lower than before but higher than now) and broad income and payroll tax hikes for individuals with more than $400,000 of annual taxable income. All that would generate an estimated $4 trillion or more over 10 years.
Biden frames immigration as an economicmatter as well. He wants to expand legal immigration slots and offer a citizenship path for about 11 million residents who are in the country illegally but who, Biden notes, are already economic contributors as workers and consumers.
Trump has pushed for schools to fully reopen for in-person learning and announced that the federal government will begin distributing millions of rapid coronavirus tests to states. He urged governors to use them to reopen schools for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.
Trump has also used his call for schools to fully reopen as an opportunity to spotlight his support for charter schools and school choice. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a longtime proponent of charter schools and school voucher programs, has suggested that families be allowed to take federal money allotted to school districts that don't open and spend it on private schools that do open. Formost of Trump's first term, his administration sought major increases to federal charter school grant aid. Congress responded with relatively small increases.
With higher education, Trump has repeatedly alleged that colleges campuses are beset by "radical left indoctrination." He has threatened to defund universities and said he would ask the Treasury Department to reexamine the tax-exempt status and federal funding of unspecified schools.
Biden wants schools to get more federal aid for pandemic-related costs through the same federal law used after national disasters like hurricanes and wildfires.
Beyond COVID, Biden wants the federal government to partner with states to make public higher education tuition-free for any student in a household earning up to $125,000 annually. The assistance would extend to everyone attending two-year schools, regardless of income. He also proposes sharply increasing aid for historically Black colleges. His overall education plans carry a 10-year price tag of about $850 billion.
He calls for universal access to prekindergarten programs for 3 and 4-year-olds; tripling Title I spending for schools with higher concentrations of students from low-income households; more support for non-classroom positions like on-campus social workers; federal infrastructure spending for public school buildings; and covering schools' costs to comply with federal disability laws. Biden also opposes taxpayer money being routed to for-profit charter school businesses, and he's pledged that his secretary of education will have classroom teaching experience.
As a candidate for the White House, Trump promised that he would "immediately" replace President Barack Obama's health care law, called the Affordable Care Act, with a plan of his own that would provide "insurance for everybody." He has not yet offered his plan.
Trumpwants the Supreme Court to overturn the ACA. He is reiterating his 4-year-old promises for quality health care at affordable prices, lower prescription drug costs, more consumer choice and greater transparency.
He also announced executive orders calling for an end to surprise medical bills and declaring it the policy of the U.S. government to protect people with preexisting conditions, even if Obamacare is struck down. However, protections for preexisting conditions are already the law, and Trump would have to go to Congress to cement a new policy through legislation.
Trump touts the repeal of Obamacare's individual mandate to have health insurance.
Biden wants to expand Obama's law to provide more generous coverage to a greater number of people and add a "Medicare-like public option" that would compete with private insurers and be available to working-age Americans. Biden estimates that would cost about $750 billion over 10 years.
That positions Biden between Trump, who wants to scrap the 2010 law, and progressives, who want a single-payer system to replace private insurance altogether. Biden sees his approach as the next step toward universal coverage and one he could get through Congress.
Biden also has sought to turn the current Supreme Court vacancy into a health care matter, noting that the late liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a key vote in upholding the 2010 health care law, while Trump's nominee, federal appellate Judge Amy Coney Barrett, has criticized the court's reasoning in that decision.
Trump has recently and repeatedly said the U.S. is "rounding the corner" on the COVID-19 pandemic. He has largely placed responsibility with governors for leading the response.
Biden draws some of his sharpest contrasts with Trump on the pandemic, arguing that the presidency and federal government exist for such crises and that Trump has been an abject failure responsible for tens of thousands of preventable deaths.
Biden endorses generous federal spending to help businesses and individuals, along with state and local governments. He's also promised aggressive use of the Defense Production Act, a wartime law a president can use to direct certain private-sector activity. Additionally, Biden promises to elevate the government's scientists and physicians to communicate a consistent message to the public, and he would have the U.S. rejoin the World Health Organization. He's also willing to use executive power for a national mask mandate, but whether that is enforceable is questionable.
Congress approved about $3 trillion in coronavirus relief in March and April, and Democrats and the White House have been at loggerheads over another significant round of funding, with Trump sending mixed messages on what he wants.
Trump has won praise from anti-abortion groups for his administration's efforts to restrict access to the procedure. As a candidate and as president, Trump has consistently expressed his opposition to the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide and said the issue should be decided by states.
Trump has expressed support for the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits Medicaid from being used to pay for abortions in most circumstances, and he's sought to restrict access to two drugs that are used to induce abortions in the first 10 weeks of pregnancies.
Nominating Barrett, a 7th Circuit Court of Appeals judge, has the anti-abortion movement hopeful that the high court — should she win confirmation — will tilt decisively to the right and pave the way for the court to eventually overturn the Roe case.
Biden has declined to offer his own list of prospective Supreme Court nominees, but he's said repeatedly that he supports Roe v. Wade's finding that the Constitution establishes a woman's right to terminate a pregnancy. He's endorsed calls for Congress to codify that right, a move that would keep abortion legal even if the court struck down the constitutional protections.
A practicing Catholic, Biden talked publicly for years of his personal struggle over abortion as a moral issue. He cited that as a reason he supported the Hyde Amendment ban on federal taxpayer funding for abortion services. But he reversed that position early in his 2020 campaign after coming under pressure from women's groups and Democratic activists. Biden said he wasn't bowing to pressure but instead argued that Republican legislatures around the country had restricted abortion access to the point that the Hyde Amendment had become an untenable barrier for poor or working-class women to access a constitutional right.
Trump views the signing of two major trade deals — an updated pact with Mexico and Canada and Phase 1 of a China agreement — as signature achievements of his presidency.
U.S. and China signed Phase 1 in January, less than two months before the pandemic put an enormous strain on U.S.-China relations. Trump says Phase 1 led to China buying roughly $200 billion over two years in U.S. agricultural products, energy and other American products. In return, the U.S. canceled planned U.S. tariffs on Chinese-made smartphones, toys and laptop computers. The U.S. also cut in half, to 7.5%, the tariff rate levied on $120 billion in other China imports.
Phase 2 of the deal was expected to focus on some tougher issues between the countries, including Trump's wish to get China to stop subsidizing its state-owned enterprises. But for Trump, who has come to frequently refer to the coronavirus as the "China virus," it remains to be seen whether he could effectively reengage Beijing on trade. Trump recently said he's currently "not interested" in talking to China.
Biden has joined a bipartisan embrace of "fair trade" abroad — a twist on decades of "free trade" talk as Republican and Democratic administrations alike expanded international trade. Biden wants to boost U.S. manufacturing by directing $400 billion of federal government purchases to domestic firms (part of that for buying pandemic supplies) over a fouryear term.
He wants $300 billion in new support for U.S. technology firms' research and development. Biden says the new domestic spending must come before he enters into any new international trade deals. Hepledges toughnegotiationswith China, the world's other economic superpower, on trade and intellectual property matters. China, like the U.S., is not yet a member of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the multilateral trade agreement that Biden advocated for when he was vice president.
During his first term, Trump built his foreign policy around the mantra of "America First." But in the final lap before Election Day, Trump has been offering himself as an international peacemaker for nudging the Persian Gulf monarchies of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates to sign agreements with Israel opening business and diplomatic relations. Trump says other Arab nations are on the cusp of opening formal relations with Israel.
He also counts asmajor achievements building part of his promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, cajoling more NATOmembers to fulfill their pledge to spend 2% of their gross domestic product on defense spending and reducing the U.S. military footprint in Afghanistan and other hot spots.
Trump also announced his intended withdrawal from the Paris climate accord. Trump says the accord — which sets the goal of holding global warming below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit — "disadvantages the United States to the exclusive benefit of other countries." The deal, which was signed by Obama, stipulates that no nation can leave until four years after signing on. For the U.S., that's Nov. 4 — one day after the U.S. election.
Trump has also made clear his desire to leave Afghanistan sooner than the timeline laid out in the Feb. 29 peace agreement with the Taliban, which set the path for U.S. troops to leave the country in 12 to 14 months if the insurgent group met certain conditions. There are about 4,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan now, and Trump has said he wants them all to be withdrawn by the end of the year.
Trump also counts his engagement with North Korea's Kim Jong Un as a monumental achievement. The president has not been able to prodKim to give up his nation's nuclear program, but he hasmet Kim three times — something Trump critics say has only legitimized the authoritarian leader.
Biden says he would begin "the day after the election" rebuilding relationships with allies ruffled by Trump's approach, which Biden mocks as "America alone." Biden's top priority is reestablishing the foundations of NATO, the postWorld War II alliance of Western powers that Biden said is necessary to counter Russia's aggressive, expansionist aims in eastern Europe and Asia.
Biden also says he would immediately confront Russian President Vladimir Putin about his country's interference in U.S. elections. Biden pledges to "end forever wars" but says U.S. special forces — as opposed to large-scale ground missions — remain a vital part of world stability. He calls for rebuilding a decimated U.S. diplomatic corps, rejoining the Paris climate accord and pushing China and other large economies to reduce carbon pollution.