President Trump on Thursday night gave a clearer condemnation of the Proud Boys, the far-right extremist group whose members support him, after he gave them a call to “stand back and stand by” during the first presidential debate of the general election this week. Mr. Trump has stopped short of fully condemning the group since that comment, giving indirect disavowals of white supremacists when pressed by reporters since the Tuesday night debate.
In an interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News, he went further. “I’ve said it many times and let me be clear again: I condemn the K.K.K., I condemn all white supremacists, I condemn the Proud Boys,” Mr. Trump said.
In fact, Mr. Trump has only sporadically issued such condemnations, and at other times he’s qualified them. In the debate against former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., Mr. Trump initially said “sure” when the moderator, Chris Wallace of Fox News, asked him if he would denounce white supremacy.
But Mr. Trump, when pressed, asked to be given a group in particular. It was Mr. Biden who mentioned the Proud Boys, prompting Mr. Trump to say they should “stand back and stand by.” The statement has caused alarm for Republicans in the Senate who are facing difficult contests in their own elections, and who fear being dragged further down by disapproval of Mr. Trump’s behavior.
For two days, several reliable allies of the president have called on him to clarify his initial remark, which the Proud Boys have seized on as proof of the president’s support for them. They’ve sold merchandise with the president’s phrase on it.
WASHINGTON — President Trump said early Friday that he and the first lady have tested positive for the coronavirus, throwing the nation’s leadership into uncertainty and escalating the crisis posed by a pandemic that has already killed more than 207,000 Americans and devastated the economy.
Mr. Trump received the test results after one of his closest advisers, Hope Hicks, became infected, bringing the virus into his inner circle and underscoring the difficulty of containing it even with the resources of a president. Mr. Trump has for months played down the severity of the virus and told a political dinner just Thursday night that “the end of the pandemic is in sight.”
Mr. Trump’s positive test result could pose immediate difficulties for the future of his campaign against former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., his Democratic challenger, with just 33 days before the election on Nov. 3. Even if Mr. Trump, 74, remains asymptomatic, he will have to withdraw from the campaign trail and stay isolated in the White House for an unknown period of time. If he becomes sick, it could raise questions about whether he should remain on the ballot at all.
Even if he does not become seriously ill, the positive test could prove devastating to his political fortunes given his months of diminishing the seriousness of the pandemic even as the virus was still ravaging the country and killing about 1,000 more Americans every day. He has repeatedly predicted the virus “is going to disappear,” asserted that it was under control and insisted that the country was “rounding the corner” to the end of the crisis. He has scorned scientists, saying they were mistaken on the severity of the situation.
Mr. Trump has refused for months to wear a mask in public on all but a few occasions and repeatedly questioned their effectiveness while mocking Mr. Biden for wearing one. Trailing in the polls, the president in recent weeks increasingly held crowded campaign events in defiance of public health guidelines and sometimes state and local governments.
President Trump abandoned plans to hold a rally Saturday night in La Crosse, Wis., and will move the event to another part of the state after the mayor pleaded for the event to be canceled because the area is experiencing a spike in coronavirus cases.
The president planned to go ahead with rallies in Wisconsin, a key battleground state, even though the White House coronavirus task force said in a report this week that the state’s high rate of infections put the state in the “red zone” for new cases. “To the maximal degree possible, increase social distancing mitigation measures until cases decline,” it urged Wisconsin officials in a recent report.
La Crosse County is one of the trouble spots in the state: the White House coronavirus task force also designated the county a “red zone.” The mayor of La Crosse, Tim Kabat, told local reporters on Thursday that “the last thing we need is another spike in cases, we’re already in that severe or high risk, and we don’t need anymore.”
The president’s campaign said Mr. Trump will hold a rally at an airport hangar in Janesville instead of La Crosse. Janesville is in Rock County, which has seen spikes in coronavirus cases, but is designated as an “orange zone,” by the task force, indicating a less severe spread of the virus. But some local officials in Janesville pleaded with him on Thursday not to hold a rally there, either.
The virus is hitting Wisconsin hard, with hospital beds filling up as new cases and deaths surge. “We have to get this virus under control, and we cannot do that if folks continue to go about their lives as usual,” Gov. Tony Evers said Wednesday on Twitter, when 26 new deaths were announced statewide, a single-day record.
“We need Wisconsinites to wear a mask if they have to go out,” Mr. Evers added, “but right now, the bottom line is that we need folks to stay home.”
A spokesman for Mr. Trump’s campaign insisted that the decision to change the venue was not related to the coronavirus, but was instead made because of an issue with “the lease” of the La Crosse location. The campaign still intends to hold a second rally in Green Bay on Saturday night as planned. The Green Bay area is in the red zone, according to the task force.
Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas issued a proclamation on Thursday ordering counties to offer only one location for voters to drop off mail-in ballots in person.
Several counties — including the state’s two largest, Harris County (which includes Houston) and Dallas County — had opened or planned to open satellite drop-off locations in addition to their central election offices. Those satellite locations must close as of Friday.
The state’s decision to reduce options for voters to drop off their ballots comes as questions of voting rights, voter suppression and the integrity of the election have emerged as major issues in the 2020 campaign, and it follows disputes over drop boxes in other states, including Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Courts are examining an order by the Ohio secretary of state which, like Mr. Abbott’s, would allow only one drop-off spot per county. In Pennsylvania, Republicans sought to ban drop boxes entirely, but a court rejected their challenge.
In announcing the change in Texas, Mr. Abbott described it as necessary for security. His spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday afternoon about why the governor considered the satellite drop-offs insecure.
“The state of Texas has a duty to voters to maintain the integrity of our elections,” Mr. Abbott said in a statement accompanying his proclamation. “As we work to preserve Texans’ ability to vote during the Covid-19 pandemic, we must take extra care to strengthen ballot security protocols throughout the state. These enhanced security protocols will ensure greater transparency and will help stop attempts at illegal voting.”
There is no evidence that mail-in ballots lead to widespread fraud.
The move drew immediate criticism from Democrats, who are more competitive in Texas this year than they have been in past election cycles, and from voting rights groups.
“Republicans are on the verge of losing, so Governor Abbott is trying to adjust the rules last minute,” Gilberto Hinojosa, the chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, said in a statement.
The Harris County clerk, Chris Hollins, also denounced the change, saying he would have been willing to allow poll watchers at drop-off locations in order to keep those locations open, and noting that the county had been advertising the now-closing locations for weeks.
“To force hundreds of thousands of seniors and voters with disabilities to use a single drop-off location in a county that stretches over nearly 2,000 square miles is prejudicial and dangerous,” Mr. Hollins said on Twitter.
Mr. Abbott has also come under fire from fellow Republicans over voting measures. A group of prominent Republican lawmakers and party leaders asked the Texas Supreme Court to stop him from expanding the early-voting period. Mr. Abbott ordered early voting to begin on Oct. 13 instead of Oct. 19 to help protect voters and others from the coronavirus. The group of conservatives argued that only the Legislature, not the governor, has the power to extend the early-voting time.
Texas has long been a center of voting rights disputes. Among other things, it has a strict voter ID law that was subject to several years of litigation before it was ultimately upheld.
Just this week, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that the state did not have to offer a straight-ticket voting option, which allows voters to choose a party’s entire slate by making one selection at the top of the ballot. The Republican-dominated Texas Legislature had passed a law eliminating the option, which was popular with Democrats, and a federal judge tried to block that law. But an appeals court said it was too close to the election to change voting rules.
Two right-wing political operatives were charged Thursday with a series of felonies in connection with a robocall scheme that Michigan’s attorney general said was part of a broad effort intended to intimidate minority voters from casting mail-in ballots.
The operatives, Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl, made automated calls to around 12,000 Michigan residents in August, warning them that their personal information from mail-in ballots could be used to execute outstanding arrest warrants or by credit card companies to collect unpaid debts, the authorities said.
Many of the residents who were targeted live in Detroit and other cities, said Dana Nessel, Michigan’s attorney general.
The calls — believed to be among 85,000 made nationally by the operatives — also claimed that mail-in voting information could be used by the government to track people for mandatory vaccination programs, the attorney general’s office said.
Both men have drawn attention for their efforts to smear opponents of President Trump.
“This effort specifically targeted minority voters in an attempt to deter them from voting in the November election,” Ms. Nessel said in a statement. “We’re all well aware of the frustrations caused by the millions of nuisance robocalls flooding our cellphones and landlines each day, but this particular message poses grave consequences for our democracy and the principles upon which it was built. Michigan voters are entitled to a full, free and fair election in November and my office will not hesitate to pursue those who jeopardize that.”
Mr. Burkman, 54, of Arlington, Va., and Mr. Wohl, 22, of Los Angeles, were each charged with intimidating voters, conspiracy to intimidate voters, using a computer to intimidate voters and conspiracy to use a computer to intimidate voters, according to a criminal complaint.
Mr. Burkman, who is well known for peddling right-wing conspiracy theories and who has tried to smear public figures that included the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III with fabricated sexual misconduct allegations, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Efforts to reach Mr. Wohl, who has contributed to The Gateway Pundit, a right-wing news site, were unsuccessful. Mr. Wohl’s Twitter account was suspended. Mr. Wohl was charged last month with a felony in California related to the sale of a security, according to court documents.
It was not immediately clear if Mr. Burkman, a lawyer, and Mr. Wohl would face charges in other states to which they had made robocalls. Those included New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Illinois, the authorities said.
The allegations that the two operatives tried to prevent voters of color from casting mail-in ballots came just days after Mr. Trump again sought to discredit mail-in voting during Tuesday night’s debate, saying it was rife with fraud.
Tens of millions of voters are expected to use mail-in ballots to avoid voting in person because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s nominee to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat on the Supreme Court, signed a newspaper ad in 2006 that supported overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision establishing the right to abortion.
The ad, which ran across two pages in The South Bend Tribune and was first reported by The Guardian on Thursday, quoted Justice Byron White’s dissent in Roe v. Wade, and called the decision “an exercise of raw judicial power” and urged overturning its “barbaric legacy.”
Judge Barrett’s opposition to Roe is in line with a pledge by President Trump to appoint justices to the court who would overturn the ruling. On Tuesday, during his first debate with Joseph R. Biden Jr., Mr. Trump sought to walk back that promise, disputing that abortion was “on the ballot” and telling Mr. Biden of Judge Barrett, “you don’t know her view on Roe v. Wade. You don’t know her view.”
But with news on Thursday that Judge Barrett had signed the open letter, which was also signed by her husband, Jesse Barrett, a fellow lawyer and former federal prosecutor, the nominee’s view on the ruling became clear. Though the judge’s participation in other groups had indicated her personal opposition to abortion, her stance on the court decision specifically had not been widely known.
Some supporters of her nomination, however, had already expressed confidence in how she might rule. “I think her record’s awfully clear,” Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, said on Tuesday. “I think that’s one where she meets my standard of having evidence in the record, out there in public, on the record that indicates that she understands Roe was really an act of judicial imperialism and wrongly decided.”
Judd Deere, a spokesman for the White House, pointed to Judge Barrett’s statements at her confirmation hearing in 2017. “As Judge Barrett said on the day she was nominated,” Mr. Deere wrote in an email Thursday, “‘a judge must apply the law as written. Judges are not policymakers, and they must be resolute in setting aside any policy views they might hold.’”
Most Americans support keeping abortion legal. In a recent New York Times/Siena poll, 56 percent of likely voters said they would be less likely to vote for Mr. Trump if his appointee would help overturn Roe v. Wade, while 24 percent said they would be more inclined to vote for him.
The poll found that 71 percent of independents believed abortion should be legal all or most of the time, and 31 percent of Republicans said the same. A third of the country said it should be illegal all or most of the time.
Ms. Barrett lives in South Bend, Ind., and has extensive ties there, having graduated from Notre Dame Law School in 1997 and taught there since 2002. The ad in question was placed by a local anti-abortion group called St. Joseph County Right to Life.
“Please continue to pray to end abortion,” the ad urged.
Democrats, seeking to exact a political price from Republicans for supporting Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, forced a largely symbolic Senate vote on Thursday to bar the Trump administration from continuing its litigation to overturn the Affordable Care Act.
Six Republicans — including five locked in tough re-election fights this fall — joined Democrats backing the measure, but they fell short of the 60 vote threshold needed to proceed. Still, Democrats’ decision to insist on its consideration reflects their emerging strategy for the intensifying election-season confirmation fight over Judge Barrett, President Trump’s conservative nominee.
The Republicans joining Democrats were Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Cory Gardner of Colorado, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Martha McSally of Arizona. All but Ms. Murkowski are up for re-election this fall.
For now, Democrats have opted against using parliamentary tactics to grind the Senate to a complete halt and try to delay a confirmation vote until after the election, as some progressive groups have demanded. But they do intend to exploit every opportunity to make the case to voters that Republicans are racing to install someone on the nation’s highest court who would endanger the health care law, including its protections for millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions, in the middle of a deadly pandemic.
The calculation appears rooted in realism: Democrats have neither the parliamentary power to delay the confirmation until after Election Day nor the votes to block her eventual approval. But by zeroing in on an issue that polls indicate is among the most important to voters this fall, they intend to apply maximum political pressure on embattled Republicans for embracing Mr. Trump’s nominee.
“We’re fighting this Supreme Court nomination with the tools that we have,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said on MSNBC on Wednesday night, boasting of his maneuvering to force the vote.
Republicans, he added, “all say, ‘Oh, yeah, I’m for protecting pre-existing conditions.’ They’ll have a chance to show it tomorrow.”
The vote was a rare instance in which Republicans allowed themselves to be procedurally outmaneuvered by Democrats. As the majority party, they generally control the Senate floor, including what comes up for a vote and what does not. But in this case, Mr. Schumer waited until no Republicans were present on the chamber floor, sought recognition to speak and then, catching the majority by surprise, managed to wrestle away control and schedule a vote.
The bill would bar the Justice Department from arguing in court to strike down the Affordable Care Act when the Supreme Court hears a challenge to the law next month.
Republicans facing difficult races in politically competitive states have tried to avoid taking a position on a law that infuriates their conservative base but has become broadly popular.
Democrats, pointing to Ms. Barrett’s legal commentary before she became a judge, argue that she could cast a deciding vote in favor of striking down the law, which guaranteed protection for pre-existing conditions and drastically expanded the number of Americans covered by health insurance.
A day after he refused to condemn white supremacists at the first presidential debate, President Trump unleashed a xenophobic attack on Representative Ilhan Omar at a rally in Minnesota Wednesday night, accusing her of telling “us” — meaning his overwhelmingly white audience — “how to run our country.”
Ms. Omar, Democrat of Minnesota and an outspoken Trump critic, especially on immigration, is one of the first two Muslim women to be elected to Congress. She came to the United States in 1995, at the age of 12, after fleeing Somalia’s civil war and spending four years in a refugee camp, and she has been an American citizen for 20 years, since she was in high school in Minneapolis.
But Mr. Trump, who has a long history of demeaning female adversaries — especially women of color and Ms. Omar in particular — questioned her standing as an American during a rant about a video posted by a right-wing group allied with him that researchers say is part of a coordinated disinformation campaign. The video accuses Ms. Omar’s campaign of ballot harvesting but provides no verifiable evidence that her campaign collected ballots illegally or was involved in voter fraud.
As Mr. Trump rattled off his grievances against Ms. Omar, the crowd chanted, “Lock her up!”
“Harvesting is terrible, but it’s the least of things that she has done,” Mr. Trump said. “Then she tells us how to run our country, can you believe it? How the hell did Minnesota elect her? What the hell is wrong with you people — right? What the hell happened?”
Mr. Trump, his voice rasping amid a cascade of boos, also hammered at his Democratic opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr., for his pledge to roll back sharp Trump administration restrictions on admitting refugees if he is elected. Mr. Biden has called for raising Mr. Trump’s cap of 18,000 refugees admitted per year nationwide to 125,000, slightly above the level President Barack Obama said should be allowed in his final year in office. Mr. Trump, meanwhile, wants to lower the cap even further to 15,000 next year, according to a notice sent to Congress late Wednesday.
“Another massive issue for Minnesota is the election of Joe Biden’s plan to inundate your state with a historic flood of refugees,” he said.
“Seven hundred percent increase, refugees, coming from the most dangerous places in the world, including Yemen, Syria, and your favorite country, Somalia, right?” Mr. Trump said later, to a chorus of boos.
Minneapolis is home to about 57,000 people of Somali descent, and Minnesota has one of the largest Somali populations in the country.
“Biden will turn Minnesota into a refugee camp,” Mr. Trump said.
While Minnesota has not been carried by a Republican since 1972, Hillary Clinton won the state by less than 2 percent in 2016. Polls of the state show Mr. Biden with a substantial lead over Mr. Trump.
Mr. Trump’s comments on Wednesday track closely with a series of tweets last year in which he told a group of four progressive congresswomen of color, including Ms. Omar, to “go back” to where they came from, even though all are American citizens and all but Ms. Omar were born in the United States.
“Not only is the president a racist, but he’s a racist xenophobic,” Ms. Omar said last week after Mr. Trump made similar comments about her at a rally.
“The president clearly loves to prey on people’s fears,” she said. “He spreads the disease of hate everywhere he goes. These cult rallies that he’s holding across the country are now being fueled by fear.”
Republicans’ rush to fill the Supreme Court seat of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg while they still have a slim majority in the Senate has become a clarion call for the fund-raising efforts of the Democrats who are trying to flip the chamber.
Several of the party’s candidates announced staggering totals for campaign contributions to close out the third quarter, which covered July, August and September.
In North Carolina, where one of the most fiercely contested Senate races in the nation is being waged, the Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham said on Thursday that his campaign had raised $28.3 million in the past three months.
Mr. Cunningham, a military veteran, is facing Senator Thom Tillis, who is widely regarded as one of the most vulnerable Republicans in the chamber.
As of Thursday night, Mr. Tillis had not said how much his campaign raised in the third quarter. From April 1 to June 30, his campaign raised $2.6 million, compared to $7.4 million for Mr. Cunningham, which The News & Observer reported was a record at the time for a Senate race in North Carolina.
Democrats need to pick up three seats to take control of the Senate if Joseph R. Biden Jr. is elected to the presidency and four if President Trump wins re-election because Vice President Mike Pence would hold the tie-breaking vote in the chamber.
In crowded special election for the Senate in Georgia, the Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, raised $12.8 million in the third quarter, a campaign spokesman said on Thursday. The sum was first reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Dr. Warnock, the senior pastor at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, has received more than 500,000 campaign contributions totaling more than $17 million for the cycle, his campaign spokesman said.
In a Sept. 29 Quinnipiac University poll, Dr. Warnock led the field in the key race, which includes Senator Kelly Loeffler, the Republican incumbent. Ms. Loeffler, one of the wealthiest people ever to serve in Congress, was appointed in 2019 by Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia to fill the term of Senator Johnny Isakson, who resigned, citing health reasons.
The race also includes Representative Doug Collins, a key ally to Mr. Trump.
The Trump campaign attacked the Commission on Presidential Debates on Thursday after it announced plans to adjust the format of the year’s remaining matchups to avoid the kind of disruptions that marred this week’s debate, during which President Trump’s frequent interruptions often made it difficult for his opponent or the moderator to get a word in edgewise.
“Why would I allow the debate commission to change the rules for the second and third debates when I easily won last time?” Mr. Trump tweeted, scoring his performance very differently than most political analysts did and seeming to raise the prospect that he might not go ahead with the second scheduled debate after all.
A short time later, his political advisers devoted a 20-minute campaign call with reporters denouncing the commission and accusing its members of “bias.” Jason Miller, a senior adviser, called the commission “permanent swamp monsters that care more about helping themselves out.” The advisers insisted that Mr. Trump would take part in future debates, though.
“Echoing what President Trump said earlier, we do not want any changes to what has already been laid out to the second and third” debates, Mr. Miller said.
Debate officials are thinking of imposing new limits on speaking times to replace an open-ended discussion portion, and also are weighing whether to grant moderators the power to shut off a candidate’s microphone to help restore order. Officials at the commission were frustrated by the way Mr. Trump frequently interrupted both his Democratic opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr., and the moderator of the debate, Chris Wallace of Fox News.
Speaking to reporters in Wilmington, Del., Mr. Biden seemed open to changes — “as long as we have an opportunity to respond to the question of the people in the audience.” The next matchup will have a town-hall-style format.
Andrew Bates, a spokesman for the Biden campaign, reiterated that the campaign had consistently said Mr. Biden would participate in all three debates.
“Only the Trump campaign has been erratic and chaotic in their approach to this, demanding control over the selection of moderators, changes in the dates of the debates, an ear canal inspection rule and all sorts of other insanity,” he said.
“Our position is clear: We will participate under the C.P.D.’s rules,” he said. “The only real question left is whether the president will start following the rules in the next two debates.”
Melania Trump, the first lady, delivered a profanity-laced rant about White House Christmas decorations and mocked the plight of migrant children who were separated from their parents at the border, during a 2018 conversation secretly taped by her former aide and close confidante.
“I’m working like a — my ass off at Christmas stuff,” Mrs. Trump laments to Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, who served as a top aide in the East Wing and has just published a tell-all book. Mrs. Trump continues, “You know, who gives a fuck about Christmas stuff and decoration?”
Later in the conversation, which occurred in July 2018, the first lady complains that President Trump and his administration were being criticized that summer for separating families in a crackdown on illegal immigration.
“I say that I’m working on Christmas planning for the Christmas, and they said, ‘Oh, what about the children?’ That they were separated.” She uses another profanity to express her frustration, asking Ms. Wolkoff: “Where they were saying anything when Obama did that?”
The audio recording, which was first aired on CNN’s “Anderson 360” program on Thursday night, puts Mrs. Trump’s frustrations on full display just weeks before her husband faces voters in his bid for another four years in office.
In a statement, Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s chief of staff, accused Ms. Wolkoff of releasing the recordings to increase profits for her book, “Melania and Me.”
“Her only intent was to secretly tape the first lady in order to peddle herself and her salacious book,” Ms. Grisham said. “There is no way to know if these recordings have been edited and it’s clear the clips were handpicked and presented with no context. The first lady remains focused on her family and serving our country.”
The Biden campaign is expanding its voter canvassing in battleground states amid growing concern among Democrats that the former vice president was not doing enough to counter the Trump campaign’s get-out-the-vote efforts, Democratic officials said.
For months, the Biden campaign has maintained a minimal in-person canvassing operation, out of concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, instead focusing its resources on digital and phone-banking operations. That has created anxiety among some local Democrats who fear that Mr. Trump’s campaign, less constrained by health precautions, will have a decisive edge in an election where every vote matters.
Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, the Biden campaign manager, has recently begun to shift that strategy back toward direct voter contact, buoyed by a massive influx of campaign contributions, in an effort to compensate for the potential impact of Republican efforts to limit mail-in balloting.
The new push, involving several hundred volunteers in Nevada, Michigan, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, will kick off this weekend, and expand to other states soon after, according to a Democratic official who shared a summary of the plan. Over 6,000 people have already volunteered for the effort in the Pennsylvania, the official said.
The effort will include an expansion of on-site flyer distribution and the targeting of voters who have been hard to reach online or by phone. The campaign has recently conducted a series of dry runs and test drives to determine the most efficient and safe way to conduct the expanded outreach, according to the plan, which was first reported by The Associated Press.
“Our voter contact operation is the most innovative and technologically advanced of any presidential campaign in history,” Ms. O’Malley Dillon said in a statement provided by the campaign. “We’re now expanding on our strategy in a targeted way that puts the safety of communities first and foremost, and helps us mobilize voters who are harder to reach by phone now that we’re in the final stretch.”
Last weekend, two hundred volunteers, many of them union members, fanned out to early voting locations in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. This weekend, the campaign plans to open dozens of tables at campuses in Michigan and Florida.
Less than a week before the first and only vice-presidential debate, Hillary Clinton shared several pieces of advice with Senator Kamala Harris in a podcast about facing Vice President Mike Pence, telling her to brace for falsehoods and indignities.
Ms. Harris was a guest on Mrs. Clinton’s new podcast, “You and Me Both,” which was released on Thursday.
“I think you should also be prepared for, you know, the slights, the efforts to diminish you, you personally, you as a woman who’s about to be our next vice president,” Mrs. Clinton said. “So I do think that there will be a lot of maneuvering on the other side to try to put you in a box.”
Mrs. Clinton asked Ms. Harris what she was doing to prepare for the debate, which will take place next Wednesday at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.
Ms. Harris said, “I guess the biggest thing, just to be candid with you, is to be prepared for what is, I think, very likely to be a series of untruths.”
While she said that she didn’t necessarily want to play the role of a fact-checker, Ms. Harris said she was prepared to do so. Ms. Harris said she has been poring over the Trump-Pence record, as well as the positions of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who in August chose her as his running mate.
Mrs. Clinton, who won the popular vote in 2016 but lost the election to Mr. Trump, cited Mr. Pence and Mr. Trump’s comments about the coronavirus pandemic as an example of what she said were falsehoods.
“Well, and, you know, he and Trump will say anything and assert anything,” Mrs. Clinton said. “Like, ‘What a great job we did on the coronavirus.’ And, you know, people are sitting there going, ‘What is he talking about?’”
The Trump campaign is turning the battle over filling the vacancy on the Supreme Court directly into a campaign issue, aiming to capitalize on Republican unity around Judge Amy Coney Barrett in an ad released on Wednesday.
The narrator begins by touting Judge Barrett’s conservative credentials as if she herself were running for office: “a constitutional conservative, proud Christian and mother of seven.” Her nomination is quickly described as opposed by the “radical left” while images of Joseph R. Biden Jr., Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer, superimposed over scenes of fire and protest, fill the screen.
The narrator claims that the “radical left” is attacking Judge Barrett’s faith and family, before cutting to a clip of the late-night host Bill Maher describing her as “really, really Catholic.”
The ad closes by framing what will largely be a battle in the Senate as an election issue, asking viewers to “help Amy Barrett and President Trump fight back” and text “confirm” to the Trump campaign to “support President Trump.”
The ad makes it appear that Democratic officials like Ms. Pelosi or Mr. Schumer have attacked Judge Barrett’s faith, but the only evidence provided is a crack from a late-night comedian.
The ad also suggests that Judge Barrett’s confirmation could hinge on the election, when in fact Mr. Trump and Senate Republicans will have the power to seat her regardless of who wins in November and are actually trying to get her confirmed before Election Day.
Where It’s Running
On “network cable,” according to the Trump campaign, as part of an “eight-figure” buy. Likely heavy rotation on national Fox News broadcasts.
Placing a conservative justice on the Supreme Court is among the most unifying issues for Republicans, and the Trump campaign is quickly trying to capitalize on the energy around the court battle as they seek to make gains in the margins against Mr. Biden.
The 2020 federal elections will cost nearly $11 billion, according to an estimate from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, a record price tag for American democracy and a 66 percent increase over the cost of the 2016 campaign.
The pandemic and mass joblessness have not curbed political spending. Already, federal committees have reported spending $7.2 billion, according to the analysis, topping the $6.5 billion spent in 2016.
“The 2018 election smashed fund-raising records for midterms, and 2020 is going to absolutely crush anything we’ve ever seen — or imagined — before,” said Sheila Krumholz, the center’s executive director.
Democrats have a large overall spending advantage, the group reports, even after removing the spending from two Democratic billionaires, Tom Steyer and Michael R. Bloomberg, on their failed presidential runs. (Mr. Bloomberg, who spent $1 billion on his 2020 bid, alone accounts for 12 percent of the total raised in the cycle.)
All told, Democrats account for 54 percent of total spending, compared to 39 percent for Republicans.
The presidential campaign is the biggest driver of spending, with the center projecting that $5.2 billion will be spent on the race. Spending in congressional races is projected to top $5.6 billion.
Women are giving more than ever, accounting for 43 percent of political donors, a new high.
And donations from small contributors — those giving $200 or less — now account for 22 percent of all fund-raising by federal committees, up from 14 percent in 2016.
Joseph R. Biden Jr. raised more money in August than any past presidential candidate had in a single month: $364.5 million. Now he has done it again.
Mr. Biden broke his own record again in September, according to three people familiar with the matter, who said the campaign and its joint operations with the Democratic National Committee had raised more than the August haul but less than $400 million.
The record-breaking sum for a second month in a row is likely to expand Mr. Biden’s financial advantage over President Trump, who had reported raising $210 million in August. Mr. Biden’s September fund-raising haul was first reported by Bloomberg.
Mr. Biden and the D.N.C. had entered September with $466 million cash on hand, compared to $325 million for Mr. Trump — a $141 million edge — and they are far outspending Mr. Trump on television.
The Democratic advantage is a striking reversal from the spring, when Mr. Trump began the general election, together with the Republican National Committee, with $187 million more in the bank than Mr. Biden and the Democrats.
Mr. Biden’s September total was boosted heavily in the final two days, which included Tuesday’s debate. From 9 p.m. until midnight on debate night, Eastern time, the campaign brought in nearly $10 million online.
The following day was Mr. Biden’s biggest yet: $24.1 million raised online, according two campaign officials.
Enrique Tarrio, the Florida state director of Latinos for Trump, a national grass roots organization unaffiliated with the Trump campaign, is also the chairman of the Proud Boys, a far-right organization linked with white supremacy and acts of violence.
Mr. Tarrio said in an interview Thursday night that he has “personally knocked on 40,000 doors for the president” and is a close personal friend of Roger Stone, a former presidential adviser.
When he was asked at the presidential candidates’ debate on Tuesday to denounce the Proud Boys, the president said, “stand back and stand by.” Mr. Tarrio said he did not interpret Mr. Trump’s comments as a call to arms but rather, “what I took from it personally was to stand by him.”
Mr. Tarrio said that his group has benefited from former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s making an issue out of white supremacy in America.
Mr. Biden “should have focused on Covid,” he said. “To him, the Proud Boys are a bigger threat to the nation than Covid. He’s doubled our numbers.” Mr. Tarrio denied that he was associated in any way with white supremacy.
Still, the Trump campaign on Thursday was quick to distance itself from Mr. Tarrio. “This individual is not affiliated with the Trump campaign, the family, or our official Latinos for Trump coalition,” a spokesman, Ken Farnaso, said. “He is also not the state director of our coalition and is not on our advisory board.”
In fact, the Trump campaign in 2019 sent the Latinos for Trump organization a cease and desist letter, asking its leaders to stop all activities that suggested any formal affiliation with the campaign.
The group’s new president, Bianca Gracia, said in an interview that since then, the group has new leadership and willingly attached disclaimers to all of its activities. She said there has been no further friction with the campaign. In fact, she said, her entire leadership team (but not Mr. Tarrio) would be attending a fund-raising lunch in McAllen, Texas, on Friday, where Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, is speaking. The event is hosted by the Hidalgo County G.O.P.
She also defended Mr. Tarrio. “He’s my state director, doing a fantastic, fabulous job,” she said. “A lot of us wear different hats.”
Multiple USB memory sticks and a laptop used to program voting machines in Philadelphia were stolen from a warehouse, city officials confirmed on Thursday.
It was not immediately clear when the materials were stolen, nor whether any machines had been compromised. Mayor Jim Kenney of Philadelphia said that law enforcement was investigating the incident, and that he was providing additional resources to strengthen security at the warehouse.
But city election officials pledged that the theft would not disrupt the November election. “This matter should not deter Philadelphians from voting, nor from having confidence in the security of this election,” Mr. Kenney said in a statement.
The machines’ manufacturer, Election Systems & Software, said in a statement that the theft “will not in any way compromise the integrity of the election.”
“The laptop did not hold any sensitive data related to elections,” said Katina Granger, a spokeswoman for the company. “It was not used to program the election or interact with USBs used in elections. The USBs are encrypted and contain multiple levels of security. Upon learning of the theft, ES&S immediately changed the employee’s corporate network user account and the device address was blocked and passwords changed.”
Ms. Granger also noted that the USBs, once programmed, are married to a specific machine and cannot be used elsewhere. All machines, once programed, are sealed until Election Day. It was not clear how many of the machines had already been programmed and sealed.
The machines record both a digital tally and a paper backup for each vote. Philadelphia bought 3,750 of the machines and first used them in an election last year.
The theft, first reported by The Philadelphia Inquirer, comes as President Trump cast the city as riddled with election problems during Tuesday’s presidential debate, falsely claiming that Republican poll workers were unfairly barred from polling places.
Philadelphia recently opened seven satellite election offices that allow voters to request and fill out absentee ballots; they are not polling locations, and poll watching is not permitted.
But technical glitches plagued the first day that the satellite election offices were open, including a period where the state voter database went down. Some voters waited for over an hour while the technical issues were sorted out.
Fired after an article portrayed him and senior aides as disrespectful of Obama administration officials, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal added a coda to the story: He endorsed Joe Biden to be the next commander in chief.
In a Rolling Stone article that electrified Washington in 2010, General McChrystal, the commander of American troops in Afghanistan, and his aides were quoted as having privately mocked several government officials. One McChrystal aide referred to Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. using the phrase “bite me.”
President Barack Obama promptly fired the general, putting an end to a storied career that had included running the military’s most secretive Special Operations missions and the American-led war effort in Afghanistan.
“I worked most closely with President Obama and Vice President Biden when I commanded in Afghanistan,” the general told Joe Scarborough on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
“They didn’t see everything the way I did,” he added. “But in every instance, they listened. In every instance, they took in my view. In every instance, I felt that they were trying to make the best decision based on all the information they had, and based on a bedrock of values.”
The Biden campaign immediately embraced General McChrystal’s statement.
WASHINGTON — President Trump, for whom no routine military personnel matter is too small to prevent his involvement, said Thursday that he will overturn the Navy’s efforts at inclusion. He said he would reverse a change in the language used by Navy SEALs to be more gender neutral.
The president re-tweeted a Twitter post about the Navy’s efforts toward inclusivity for women, by removing words like “brotherhood” and “man” from the official language of the SEALs.
“I will be overturning this ridiculous order immediately!” Mr. Trump tweeted.
The Navy had removed gendered words, changing “brotherhood” and “man” to “citizen” and “warrior.”
The president has made a common practice of inserting himself into, and against, Defense Department efforts to be more inclusive of minorities, and now, women. Earlier this summer, Mr. Trump objected to efforts in the Pentagon to rename military bases that are named after Confederate generals.
President Trump and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. both appeared in pretaped videos at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner on Thursday, honoring in a virtual way a 75-year tradition that usually brings Republicans and Democrats together for a lighthearted moment of bipartisanship just before the election.
In past years, presidential candidates have roasted each other — and themselves — at the white tie dinner, which honors Mr. Smith, a former New York governor and the Democratic presidential nominee in 1928, who battled anti-Catholic bias for years.
The dinner was hosted by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, who gave the blessing at the Republican National Convention in August. The event raises money for Catholic charities.
But little was normal Thursday night. Neither Mr. Trump nor Mr. Biden made any jokes in their brief, recorded remarks. And both offered serious expressions of sympathy for the victims of the coronavirus pandemic, which struck New York particularly severely.
“Our problems are so systemic, the losses are so catastrophic,” Mr. Biden said. “At times it feels easy to say, we’re done. It’s over. What’s the point? But the American people don’t give up. There is no quit in America. Mark my words, one day we’ll look back in awe, not at how far we fell but how fiercely we fought back as a country.”
Mr. Biden recalled the time in 2015 when he met Pope Francis during his visit to the White House.
“Our son Beau had just died a few months earlier,” Mr. Biden said. “Pope Francis took the time to meet with my entire family. To help us see the light through the darkness. I live in an amazing country. We all live in amazing country where an Irish Catholic kid like me from Scranton, Pa., would one day befriend the Jesuit Pope. But that’s who we are as a country where anything is possible.”
Mr. Trump was more political in his remarks, though he, too praised New Yorkers for their endurance during the pandemic: “We saw New Yorkers respond with a same grit and tenacity courage and selflessness that have always defined this city that we love so much,” he said.
The president did not directly attack Mr. Biden, but he denounced what he said was the “anti-Catholic prejudice that you see even today coming out of the Democrat party.” He was also explicit about calling on Catholics to vote for him because of his positions on school choice, abortion and the Supreme Court.
“We are defending the sacred right to life,” Mr. Trump said. “Remember that when you vote; that’s so important and so important to the Supreme Court.”
Cardinal Dolan joked after the two videos played that it had been a “peaceful transition” of microphones.
Thousands of boxes of food intended to help feed the hungry across the country will include a letter from President Trump, raising concerns among some food banks that critical aid to families was being exploited for political gain just weeks before the Nov. 3 election.
Some food banks said they were removing the letters to protect their nonpartisan status.
“This close to the election, we’ve never seen anything like this,” said Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Food Banks.
She said her legal counsel had assured her that the letters will not compromise her organization’s nonprofit status or violate the Hatch Act, which restricts political activity by government employees. But she said she remained concerned that food aid is being needlessly politicized at a time when millions of Americans have lost work and need help feeding their families.
“I think a lot of us have had some concerns about it,” she said. “This is just an unwarranted and unnecessary distraction.”
Michael Altfest, a spokesman for the Alameda County Community Food Bank in Oakland, Calif., said his organization had enlisted volunteers to remove the letters. He said his food bank expected to receive about 24,000 boxes “so that’s a lot of work.” In place of the letters, he said, volunteers are putting in a flier emphasizing that the food bank is nonpartisan. He said the letters from Mr. Trump “could be perceived as an endorsement” and his organization wants to protect its nonprofit status.
“We do firmly believe that hunger is a nonpartisan issue and we want to make sure it remains that way,” he said.
The letters, written in Spanish and English, include Mr. Trump’s signature and urge Americans to practice social distancing, stay home if they feel sick and wash their hands.
“We will support America’s recovery every step of the way,” the letters state. “Together, we will overcome this challenge, and our Nation will emerge from this crisis stronger than ever before.”
The letters were included in the third round of the Farmers to Families Food Box Program overseen by the United States Department of Agriculture. The department has required its contractors to include the letters in the food boxes, according to Lauren Lathan Reid, a spokeswoman for the California Association of Food Banks.
“A lot of the food banks are adding their own letters,” making clear that they do not take political stances, Ms. Reid said.
The Farmers to Families Food Box Program has distributed more than 90 million food boxes to help families during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the department.