2020 Election Live Updates: With Clock Ticking Down, Trump Lashes Out


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Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

First, there were the calls for “law and order.” Then, a push to quickly confirm a conservative Supreme Court nominee.

Now, down by double digits in national polling, President Trump is adopting an even more aggressive approach to his re-election campaign — pulling out of a debate, attacking his own aides and threatening to prosecute his opponent — as political tensions grow across the country.

In an erratic hourlong telephone interview on Fox Business on Thursday, Mr. Trump called for the indictments of his predecessor, President Barack Obama, and his current Democratic rival, Joseph R. Biden Jr. The president also assailed his current secretary of state, attorney general and F.B.I. director, as well as a senior Justice Department prosecutor, because they had not charged Democrats or released politically damaging information about them.

“These people should be indicted,” Mr. Trump said of the Democrats.

That outburst was followed by a daylong back-and-forth with the nonpartisan commission that manages presidential debates over plans to hold the event virtually. As Mr. Trump’s campaign pressed for the debate to be held in person, his doctor said on Thursday that the president had completed his treatments to alleviate his coronavirus symptoms and that he would most likely be able to resume public engagements on Saturday.

Just 25 days before Election Day, political pressure is mounting on both sides. House Democrats plan to introduce a measure today creating a bipartisan group of experts to evaluate the president’s mental and physical health and advise Congress whether his powers should be forcibly removed under the 25th Amendment.

Campaigning in Arizona on Thursday, Mr. Biden blamed Mr. Trump for encouraging extremists like those charged with plotting to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan. Mr. Trump lashed out at Ms. Whitmer late in the day, saying she had done a “terrible job” and urging her to ease coronavirus safety restrictions in her state.

Hanging over all the political uncertainty is the unyielding pandemic, which has put enormous pressure on the country’s economy, schools and public health systems. It has also dealt a serious blow to Mr. Trump’s presidential bid, with voters consistently giving him low marks for his handling of the virus.

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

President Trump’s hopes to hold campaign rallies this weekend faded on Friday after they were met with skepticism and alarm from outside medical experts, who questioned whether ending the president’s isolation met guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Mr. Trump had called into Sean Hannity’s show on Fox News on Thursday night and said that he wanted to hold a rally in Florida on Saturday and another in Pennsylvania on Sunday. That came after the White House physician, Dr. Sean P. Conley, had announced that Mr. Trump could safely “return to public engagements” on Saturday, a timeline that was questioned by outside experts. Within the White House, aides argued against Mr. Trump doing outside events this weekend, and as of Friday morning he was not expected to resume campaign-style events until Monday at the earliest.

Outside medical experts said that an inappropriately expedited return to the public for Mr. Trump could risk infecting others. And resuming public duties might worsen his condition, which could still deteriorate in the next several days. Covid-19 patients can take turns for the worse during the second week of illness.

Based on the information provided, “No, I would not clear him to start public engagements on Saturday,” said Dr. Phyllis Tien, an infectious-disease physician at the University of California, San Francisco, where she conducts and advises on Covid-19 clinical trials.

If the president recently came off dexamethasone, a steroid normally administered only to severely sick Covid-19 patients, his well-being could take a dip in the next couple of days, said Dr. Krutika Kuppalli, an infectious-disease physician based in South Carolina.

Then there are the potential risks Mr. Trump could pose to others. According to C.D.C. guidelines, people with mild to moderate cases of Covid-19 most likely “remain infectious no longer than 10 days after symptom onset.” Dr. Conley’s statement cited Saturday as “Day 10 since Thursday’s diagnosis.”

Dr. Tien said she was skeptical of such an assessment. The slew of treatments Mr. Trump received, she said, suggest that his disease was severe, which could extend the duration of his recommended isolation to 20 days after the onset of symptoms.

Mr. Trump might be able to end his isolation early if he tested negative using a very accurate laboratory test, Dr. Tien said. But no such results were reported in Thursday’s memo, which mentioned only a “trajectory of advanced diagnostics.”

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Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland, proposed legislation that would create a bipartisan group of outside experts to advise Congress as to whether President Trump’s powers should be forcibly removed under the 25th Amendment.CreditCredit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, elevating questions about President Trump’s fitness to govern, introduced legislation Friday morning that would create a bipartisan group of outside experts to evaluate his mental and physical health and advise Congress whether his powers should be forcibly removed under the 25th Amendment.

The measure has no chance of enactment under Mr. Trump, whose signature would be needed to make it law. A version was introduced before the president was hospitalized with the coronavirus, but in publicly presenting it now, Ms. Pelosi, who has suggested that drugs the president has received to treat the virus may have affected his mental state, is moving to call attention to the issue.

“A president’s fitness for office must be determined by science and facts,” Ms. Pelosi said. “This legislation applies to future presidents, but we are reminded of the necessity of action by the health of the current president.”

The president has raged against the idea, calling Ms. Pelosi “Crazy Nancy” and accusing her of staging a coup. Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, called the measure “an absurd proposition” on Friday and countered that Ms. Pelosi was “projecting.”

“The only one who needs to be looking at the 25th Amendment is Nancy Pelosi herself,” Ms. McEnany said on “Fox & Friends.” (The 25th Amendment only applies to presidents, not members of Congress.)

The measure, introduced by Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland, would create an 11-member commission of health experts, doctors and former senior executive branch officials, such as a former president, to report to Congress on the president’s competence. Top Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate would each select members.

Republicans have blasted the legislation as an attempt to overturn the results of the November election.

“Right here in this last three weeks before the election, I think those kinds of wild comments should be largely discounted,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, said on Friday.

Credit…Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

MIAMI — Even though the crash of Florida’s voter registration website in the hours before Monday night’s deadline may have prevented thousands of new voters from signing up, a federal judge declined on Friday to order the state to reopen registration to make up for lost time.

The judge, Mark E. Walker of Federal District Court in Tallahassee, harshly criticized Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee, Florida’s top elections official and an appointee of Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican.

But he concluded that extending the deadline would overwhelm county elections supervisors with the vote already underway, pointing to the state’s notorious elections history.

“Notwithstanding the fact that cinemas across the country remain closed, somehow, I feel like I’ve seen this movie before,” Judge Walker’s 29-page ruling began. “Just shy of a month from Election Day, with the earliest mail-in ballots beginning to be counted, Florida has done it again.”

Judge Walker, who was appointed by President Barack Obama, harshly criticized the state for “hastily” implementing what he called a “half measure”: announcing, at noon on Tuesday, that the deadline would be extended only until 7 p.m. that day.

“This left less than seven hours for potential voters to somehow become aware of the news and ensure that they properly submitted their voter-registration applications, all while also participating in their normal workday, school, family and caregiving responsibilities,” the judge wrote.

The website crashed Monday evening after 49,000 unique users tried to register, creating a bottleneck that gave them error messages. The users then hit refresh over and over, leading to more than a million requests, which overwhelmed the system.

Judge Walker compared new registrations with figures from 2018 and found that the combined totals from Monday and Tuesday were about 21,000 submissions short of what would have been expected if the website had not experienced technical problems.

Several voter-rights groups had argued that the extension was too short for people to be properly notified. “Confidence in the election requires that people who are eligible and follow the rules be able to vote,” Stuart C. Naifeh, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said during the hearing.

But in the end, Judge Walker wrote that he worried about causing chaos. Two county elections supervisors submitted declarations on behalf of the state saying that another extension could be problematic.

“Another extension under the circumstances will serve to reinforce the confusion and mistrust voters have surrounding this election, further strengthening the rampant misinformation and disinformation campaigns that are already undermining the November general election,” wrote Mark Earley, the supervisor in Leon County.

The voting-rights groups said in a statement Friday morning, “Sadly, this is another episode in Florida’s long history of voter suppression.”

The Biden campaign has announced the release of five new ads — targeting Hispanic voters, rural communities, working families, the elderly and veterans — in 16 states, including all the major battlegrounds.

The campaign would not say how much it is spending on the spots.

But the new ads are part of the leading edge of an enormous fall advertising blitz that is already outpacing the Trump campaign in most of the key battleground states.

In addition to hammering away at the economy and health care — the core issues that Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s team sees as the path to victory — the ads also include pointed references to President Trump’s disparaging remarks about the military, reported by The Atlantic and vociferously denied by the president.

The ads, an array of 30- and 60-second spots, are a mix of positive and negative messaging, emphasizing Mr. Biden’s record and slamming Mr. Trump.

They are also aimed at hybrid voter audiences. One of the spots that will air nationwide, titled “More Important,” targets Latinos and veterans.

It features a direct-to-camera testimonial from a retired Army veteran, Paul Cruz, who calls out Mr. Trump for calling fallen soldiers “suckers and losers,” according to the report in The Atlantic.

Another of the ads returns to familiar themes of Democratic political advertising — protecting Social Security and Medicare and accusing Mr. Trump of endangering those programs — as the Biden campaign seeks to press its surprise advantage among older voters.

Credit…Jim Watson/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

More than 1,600 clergy members, religious scholars and other faith-focused officials and activists are endorsing Joseph R. Biden Jr., the largest group of faith leaders to back a Democratic presidential candidate in modern times, organizers of the initiative said.

The endorsement, announced on Friday, was organized by Vote Common Good, a progressive organization that opposes President Trump and is focused on engaging Christian voters.

The endorsements represent a range of major religions in the United States but come largely from Catholic, evangelical and mainline Protestant Americans, organizers said. Majorities of white voters from those religious traditions supported Mr. Trump in 2016, according to the Pew Research Center, and while have stayed with him — white evangelicals are among the president’s most loyal supporters — the Biden campaign is hoping to cut into Mr. Trump’s 2016 base.

Doug Pagitt, a pastor and the executive director of Vote Common Good, summed up the attitude among some endorsers as, “‘I don’t know that I’ll ever do this again, I haven’t done it in the past, but I need to be clear about this moment that we’re sitting in.’”

Certainly, the list includes people who are hardly strangers to politics, including former Obama administration officials, members of the Democratic National Committee, and others involved in local or state Democratic parties.

But there are also many people who have not been involved in actively endorsing before, Mr. Pagitt said. The list has plenty of representation from battleground states: a church deacon in Parma, Ohio; ministers from Milwaukee; activists with the group Pittsburgh Catholics4Biden; and church elders across the country.

“We hope this show of support will encourage other voters of faith to make their values, not party affiliation, their primary voting criteria this year,” Josh Dickson, the national faith engagement director on Mr. Biden’s campaign, said in a statement.

Mr. Biden aims to be the nation’s second Catholic president, after John F. Kennedy. He is a regular churchgoer and is in direct competition with Mr. Trump for the support of persuadable white and Hispanic Catholic voters in the industrial Midwest and the Sun Belt.

Credit…Hilary Swift for The New York Times

There are 25 days until Election Day. Here are the schedules of the presidential and vice-presidential candidates for Friday, Oct. 9. All times are Eastern time.

President Trump

Noon: Holds a “virtual rally” on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show.

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

1:20 p.m.: Greets voters and community leaders at the East Las Vegas Community Center.

4:15 p.m.: Speaks at a “Las Vegas Drive-In Event” at Southeast Career Technical Academy, Las Vegas.

Vice President Mike Pence

TBD.

Senator Kamala Harris

TBD.

Credit…Hilary Swift for The New York Times

You know the story well: Not a single public poll in 2016 showed Donald J. Trump beating Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin, and forecasters suggested he had almost no shot. FiveThirtyEight gave him less than a one-in-six chance of winning the state.

But after the votes were counted, with turnout down in key Democratic areas, Mr. Trump eked out a victory by fewer than 30,000 votes.

This year, again, virtually every poll has shown the Democrat, Joseph R. Biden Jr., with at least a slight edge over Mr. Trump. A New York Times/Siena College survey last month gave Mr. Biden a five-percentage-point advantage among likely voters. Polls taken since then by CNN and NBC News/Marist College have each given Mr. Biden an outright, 10-point lead.

And with the coronavirus now raging in Wisconsin, particularly in the politically competitive northeastern region, Mr. Trump faces an uphill battle toward repeating his victory from four years ago.

“Certainly, with the sharp rise in cases here, it’s on the agenda for voters,” said Charles Franklin, a political scientist who runs the Marquette Law School poll, which is seen as the definitive political survey in the state. “His handling of Covid does appear to be having a bigger effect on people’s vote than either the economy or his handling of the protests.”

And concern about the pandemic has ticked upward recently. More than six in 10 Wisconsin voters in a recent Marquette poll described themselves as at least fairly worried — including 27 percent who said they were very worried, up from 21 percent last month. Fully 50 percent of Wisconsin voters said they did not expect the virus to be under control for at least another year, running counter to Mr. Trump’s insistence that it is already being handled effectively.

Credit…Tony Dejak/Associated Press

A federal judge has approved a plan pushed by voting rights groups to expand the number of ballot drop boxes in Ohio, ruling that state officials failed to prove claims that extra drop boxes would lead to voter fraud.

The ruling Thursday night, by Judge Dan Aaron Polster of the U.S. District Court in Cleveland, cleared the way for officials in Cuyahoga County — the state’s second-largest jurisdiction, home to Cleveland and a Democratic stronghold — to place ballot drop boxes at six library branches.

While the ruling focused on one county, it could lead to additional drop boxes being placed in other locations around the state.

Kristen Clarke, chief executive of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, one of the voting rights groups that filed the lawsuit, called the added drop boxes “crucial” in allowing safe voting during the pandemic.

“The court’s order protects the right to vote for tens of thousands of Ohioans, especially Black voters and people of color who disproportionately reside in some of the state’s major population centers,” Ms. Clarke said in a statement, noting long lines at early voting locations in Cleveland. “No voter should have to sacrifice their health and well-being to cast their ballot.”

Secretary of State Frank LaRose, Ohio’s top elections official, said he would appeal the decision to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. “The place to make changes in how we run our elections is the statehouse, not the courthouse,” Mr. LaRose, a Republican, said in a statement Friday morning.

Mr. LaRose had limited ballot drop boxes to one per county and required that they be situated outside county elections offices. Mr. LaRose had approved one extra drop box in Cuyahoga County at the request of local elections officials.

Among reasons for the limits, Mr. LaRose argued, was that drop boxes added to the risk of fraud and abuse. But Judge Polster found that Mr. LaRose had failed to support that claim, adding that “any drop box location can be monitored 24/7.”

Lawyers for both the Trump campaign and the Ohio Republican Party had joined the case on Mr. LaRose’s side.

Credit…Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times

New polls show that President Trump’s support is collapsing nationally, as he alienates women, seniors and suburbanites.

He is trailing not just in must-win battlegrounds but according to private G.O.P. surveys, he is repelling independents to the point where Mr. Biden has drawn closer in solidly red states, including Montana, Kansas and Missouri, people briefed on the data said.

Nowhere has Mr. Trump harmed himself and his party more than across the Sun Belt, where the electoral coalition that secured a generation of Republican dominance is in danger of coming apart.

“There are limits to what people can take with the irresponsibility, the untruthfulness, just the whole persona,” said Jeff Flake, the former Republican senator from Arizona. Mr. Flake is crossing party lines to support Mr. Biden, who made his first visit of the general election to Arizona on Thursday.

Many of the Sun Belt states seemingly within Mr. Biden’s reach resisted the most stringent public-health policies to battle the coronavirus. As a result, states like Arizona, Georgia and Texas faced a powerful wave of infections for much of the summer, setting back efforts to revive commercial activity.

Mr. Biden is mounting an assertive campaign and facing rising pressure to do more in the historically Republican region. He is buttressed by a fund-raising gusher for Democratic candidates, overwhelming support from people of color and defections from the Republican Party among college-educated whites in and around cities like Atlanta, Houston and Phoenix.

“Cities in states like Arizona and Texas are attracting young people, highly educated people, and people of color — all groups that the national Republican Party has walked away from the last four years,” said Mayor David F. Holt of Oklahoma City, a Republican. “This losing demographic bet against big cities and their residents is putting Sun Belt states in play.”

Credit…America First Action Super PAC, via YouTube

America First Action, the super PAC delegated by President Trump as his main conduit for big-donor spending, is embarking on a new $10 million television and digital campaign in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Florida to a counter a wave of Democratic advertising.

The PAC, eschewed by some major donors who fear it is too closely tied to the president and his family, has been ramping up its activities in recent months, thanks to an infusion of cash from new benefactors and by shuffling millions from an associated dark-money group into its advertising operation.

The bare-bones ad features three white men and one white woman sitting, mask-less, in a bar reacting to a video of Joseph R. Biden during a pre-pandemic campaign rally saying “your taxes are going to be raised, not cut.”

The clip has been edited to remove the larger context of his remarks — that he has promised to eliminate tax cuts for families earning over $400,000 passed by Mr. Trump and Republicans in Congress, which would not impact a vast majority of working- and middle-class taxpayers.

The ad will run statewide in Pennsylvania, starting this week, for a total cost of $5.5 million, adding to the $18.4 million the group has already spent in the state.

America First, run by the longtime Trump ally Linda McMahon, the former head of the Small Business Administration, has spent about $119 million since April.

In the last month, some of the party’s megadonors have poured $80 million into a new committee, Preserve America, that has been running ads in battleground states, especially Florida, to counter enormous ad buys by Michael R. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York and a Biden ally.

Even with the new spending, Mr. Trump and his related committees are being significantly outspent, thanks to a wave of small-donor contributions to Mr. Biden’s campaign and through the party’s ActBlue online fund-raising platform.

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