Trump Answers Voters’ Questions at Town Hall Event – The New York Times

“Sometimes you don’t have time to be totally, as you would say, presidential,” President Trump said. “You have to get things done.”
Credit…Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Typically, if voters are hearing from President Trump late at night, it’s because he is either calling into Sean Hannity’s Fox News show, or standing onstage at a rally in front of happy supporters.

But on Tuesday, Mr. Trump found himself in a less familiar forum: forced to answer simple questions from undecided voters at an ABC News town hall event. He didn’t have a roomful of reporters to turn into helpful foils, or a sea of red caps in front of him to draw energy from, but the town hall forum, filmed in Philadelphia earlier in the day and aired that night, provided a potential opportunity to moderate his tone and project the image of a president willing to listen and connect with regular voters.

But Mr. Trump couldn’t even own “presidential.” When asked by one undecided voter if he would do anything different in terms of his behavior to create a more unified message if he won re-election, the president balked.

“I’m fighting a lot of forces,” he said. “Sometimes you don’t have time to be totally, as you would say, presidential. You have to get things done.”

At another point, when pressed on how the economic recovery appears to be benefiting wealthier Americans who invest in the stock market, the president made the tone-deaf claim that “stocks are owned by everybody.” About half of Americans own stocks, according to the CNN reporter and fact checker Daniel Dale.

His campaign strategist, Jason Miller, appeared to be doing rapid response online. “Anybody with retirements and pensions and 401k’s, absolutely,” he wrote on Twitter, trying to offer some context for the president’s statement.

Mr. Trump’s stock attacks on Mr. Biden, and his false claims about his response to the pandemic, were not much different from his appearance on “Fox & Friends” earlier in the day. But especially toward the end of the forum, his attempt at a new tone — soothing, sotto voce and, at times, patient — was striking.

Near the end of the night, Flora Cruceta, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, broke down in tears as she tried to ask Mr. Trump about his immigration policy on behalf of her cancer-stricken mother, who she said died last month.

Mr. Trump remained quiet as Ms. Cruceta composed herself, saying, “Just take your time, it’s fine.”

He added, “The love that you have for your mother, I can see that, it’s hard.”

In some ways, the president’s response represented a rougher-hewn impersonation of the empathetic personal style of Joseph R. Biden Jr., his Democratic opponent.

But then he appeared to conflate the personal story of Ms. Cruceta’s mother’s battle with cancer with the coronavirus. “So many people and they die alone — they die alone, because this is such a vicious thing,” he said. “And hopefully the vaccines are going to be very soon, hopefully.”

He also offered an answer that not only played down the restrictive immigration actions he has taken at the border, but moderated his language on a topic that has often evoked his most crass and provocative language when surrounded by a supportive crowd.

“So we are doing something with immigration that I think is going to be very strong because we want people to come into our country, people like you and like your mother,” he said.

A ventilator helps a Covid-19 patient breathe inside the coronavirus unit in a Houston hospital in July.
Credit…David J. Phillip/Associated Press

President Trump on Tuesday night falsely claimed that “we were short on ventilators because the cupboards were bare when we took it over.” The Strategic National Stockpile, the government’s repository of medicines and medicinal products, contained more than $7 billion worth of supplies when Mr. Trump took office, including more than 16,000 ventilators.

Speaking at an ABC News town hall in Philadelphia, he repeated his characterization of restrictions placed on travel from China and Europe as “bans” that saved “thousands of lives.” The restrictions only applied to foreign nationals and included exceptions, ultimately allowing 40,000 people to travel from China to the United States from the end of January to April. Similar restrictions were placed on travel from Europe, after the virus was already widespread in New York City.

The president also misleadingly claimed that “I was so far ahead with my closing,” which he said occurred in January. In fact, states began in March to issue stay-at-home and social-distancing orders, and Mr. Trump resisted those efforts. One model showed that 36,000 fewer people would have died had those measures been in place one week earlier. Even after the federal government recommended social distancing on March 16, Mr. Trump continued to urge reopening.

He wrongly claimed that “crime is up 100 percent, 150 percent” in New York. Overall, crime has actually decreased 2 percent in New York compared to the same period last year, though murders have increased. And he misleadingly said that “the top 10 most unsafe cities are run by Democrats.” There is no evidence that crime is correlated with partisanship. Crime is generally higher in major metropolitan areas than rural areas, and more than three-quarters of major cities have Democratic mayors.

He claimed undue credit for calling in the National Guard to Minneapolis. It was the governor of Minnesota, not him, who activated the state’s National Guard.

The president falsely claimed “we’re not going to hurt preexisting conditions” while Democrats “will get rid of preexisting conditions.” His administration has asked the Supreme Court to strike down the health care law that includes protections for patients with pre-existing conditions, and in 2017 unsuccessfully attempted to repeal it. Democrats and their nominee Joseph R. Biden Jr. have consistently aimed to uphold that law.

Finally, he claimed that the coronavirus “goes away” even without a vaccine because “you’ll develop like a herd mentality.” Mr. Trump was likely referring to “herd immunity,” which occurs when the virus can no longer spread widely. Public health officials have warned that this could require 70 percent of the population to develop antibodies. Without a vaccine, this could mean an enormous death toll.

President Trump’s appearance on Tuesday at a town hall event in Philadelphia was one of the first he has held in front of a group of voters who were not already supporting him.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

President Trump contradicted his own admission to Bob Woodward that he downplayed the lethality of the coronavirus, telling a group of uncommitted voters at an ABC town hall in Philadelphia on Tuesday night that he actually “up-played” the pandemic.

“Well I didn’t downplay it. I actually, in many ways, I up-played it in terms of action,” Mr. Trump said in response to a question about his interviews with the journalist earlier this year.

That claim contradicted what he said, in a recording with Mr. Woodward, after he had been told that the virus posed a grave national security threat to the country.

“I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Woodward on March 19, according to excerpts of audio interviews obtained by CNN.

The president said he had done “a great job” on the pandemic and claimed that the death toll could have been as high as two million if he had not imposed travel bans against China and Europe in February and March.

As of Tuesday, more than 195,000 Americans have died from the virus.

When George Stephanopoulos, the ABC News chief anchor, pressed him to prove his assertion, the president responded, “We did a very, very good job when we put that ban on.”

The first question at the forum came from a Pennsylvania voter who asked him why he threw him “under the bus” by not responding quickly to the pandemic.

Mr. Trump, as he has done consistently, repeated several unsupported claims about his administration’s response to the virus, and claimed that a vaccine could be ready in “several weeks,” despite warnings by federal officials that it will take much longer.

His responses to questions about the use of masks were confusing. Despite near unanimity in the scientific community that masks stem the spread of the virus, Mr. Trump claimed that there were “some” people who think using masks is still a bad idea.

When a voter asked him why he did not wear a face covering during most of his public events, Mr. Trump deflected and spoke instead about eating in a restaurant.

“Waiters come over, and they serve with a mask, and they are playing with a mask, and they are touching, and then they are touching the plate — that can’t be good,” he said.

The 90-minute pretaped town hall event was one of the first events Mr. Trump has held in front of a group of voters who were not already supporting him. It came two weeks before the first of his three debates against the Democratic nominee, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Protesters took to the streets in cities like New York and Berlin after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May.
Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

President Trump refused on Tuesday to acknowledge any race problem in America when asked by an undecided Black voter at an ABC News town hall event to explain how the slogan “Make America Great Again” would have any resonance with African Americans, and to address systemic racism in the country.

“I hope there’s not a race problem,” Mr. Trump said when the audience member, a young Black man who voted for Jill Stein of the Green Party in 2016, noted the president had yet to address racism in America. “There’s none with me. I have great respect for all races, for everybody. This country is great because of it.”

In his response, Mr. Trump made no mention of the anger and fear that have driven protesters across the country to speak out after the killing of George Floyd in police custody in May. Instead, he simply claimed that the economy, before the coronavirus hit, was boosting Black Americans.

“There was going to be unity,” he said. “Unfortunately, that was hurt because we got set back.”

Mr. Trump said income inequality was a problem but claimed, “I can only compare it to the past. The African-American, the Black community, was doing better than it had ever done by far.”

“There was a gap” in wages between white and Black Americans, he acknowledged, “but we were doing a good job.”

Mr. Trump also pivoted to a defense of the police when asked about the problem of police brutality and how it overwhelmingly affects minority communities.

“You also have bad apples,” he said. “You have 99 percent great people. You have to give the respect back to the police that they deserve.”

When Mr. Stephanopoulous pressed that the statistics — Black Americans are three times more likely than white Americans to be killed by police — showed that there was more at play than “bad apples,” Mr. Trump doubled down.

“I can only say this, that he police in this country have done generally a great job,” he said. “There are crimes, there are problems, and there are chokers. They choke under pressure. I mean, they have one quarter of a second to make a decision, and sometimes they make a wrong decision, and that’s a terrible thing.”







‘We Owe Them,’ Biden Says Of Veterans

The Democratic presidential nominee, Joseph R. Biden Jr., gave an impassioned speech contrasting his experience interacting with veterans to President Trump’s.

Less than 1 percent of the population of our country chooses to serve our country in the military. Less than 1 percent risk everything to defend our nation, our values and everything we hold dear. And the other 99 percent of us, we owe them — we owe them our thanks, our gratitude and our respect. In my view, based on reports and interviews, President Trump has proven he’s unfit to hold the office of the presidency, time and again, but nowhere are his faults more glaring and more offensive, to me at least, then when it comes to his denigration of our servicemembers — veterans, wounded warriors, the fallen. Quite frankly — I won’t say — quite frankly, it makes me very upset the way he gets in front of a camera and crows about how much he has done for veterans, and then turns around and insults our servicemembers and fallen heroes when the camera’s off. Calls them “suckers” and “losers.” But we can do so much better than we’re doing now. We have an obligation to do so much better. We have to help our heroes understand that it’s an honorable thing to do, and take strength to reach out and ask for help if they’re suffering from unseen wounds. They’re so accustomed to being asked not to ask for anything. We have to end the stigma surrounding mental health treatment.

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The Democratic presidential nominee, Joseph R. Biden Jr., gave an impassioned speech contrasting his experience interacting with veterans to President Trump’s.CreditCredit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Tuesday made his first trip to Florida as the Democratic presidential nominee, facing a tight race in the state and a challenge consolidating support among its Latino voters that he moved to address as he campaigned along the increasingly Democratic I-4 corridor.

Against a backdrop of polls that showed Mr. Biden both cutting into traditional Republican constituencies and sometimes underperforming Hillary Clinton’s 2016 showing with Latino voters in Florida, he sought to engage a broad range of voters with stops in Tampa and then in Kissimmee, for a Hispanic Heritage Month event.

Mr. Biden’s campaign on Tuesday also unveiled a plan aimed at supporting Puerto Rico, which comes as he has faced urgent calls from some allies to shore up his standing with Puerto Rican voters, a critical constituency in Florida.

The plan goes beyond the issue of Puerto Rican statehood, though Mr. Biden addressed the subject in his remarks on Tuesday.

“I happen to believe statehood would be the most effective means of ensuring that residents of Puerto Rico are treated equally, with equal representation at a federal level,” he said. “But the people of Puerto Rico must decide, and the United States federal government must respect and act on that decision.”

The plan also called for accelerated disaster reconstruction funding, investments in Puerto Rican infrastructure following devastating hurricanes and efforts to “reduce its unsustainable debt burden,” among other proposals.

Other event participants included the actress Eva Longoria and the singers Ricky Martin and Luis Fonsi, who, speaking from behind socially distanced lecterns, urged viewers to vote and noted President Trump’s record of what critics have seen as callous comments and actions toward Puerto Rico.

“Donald Trump doesn’t seem to grasp, doesn’t seem to grasp, that the people of Puerto Rico are American citizens already,” Mr. Biden said. Jabbing at the president, he continued, “I’m not going to throw paper towels at people whose lives have just been devastated by a hurricane.”

He started the trip earlier Tuesday with a veterans-focused event at a community college in Tampa.

There, Mr. Biden laced into Mr. Trump over a report by The Atlantic that Mr. Trump had referred to American soldiers killed in combat during World War I as “losers” and “suckers” and had repeatedly been dismissive of military service at other points in his presidency. Mr. Trump has denied The Atlantic report.

“Nowhere are his faults more glaring and more offensive, to me at least, than when it comes to his denigration of our servicemembers, veterans, wounded warriors,” Mr. Biden said.

Mr. Biden spoke in often-personal terms about the challenges facing military families and veterans, including mental health and child care concerns. Mr. Biden, whose late son, Beau Biden, deployed to Iraq with the Delaware Army National Guard, also suggested that Mr. Trump pays lip service at best to veterans.

“Our military is the greatest fighting force in the history of the world and that’s not hyperbole,” he said. It “deserves a commander-in-chief who respects their sacrifice, understands their service, and will never betray the values they defend.”

He went on to host a round-table discussion with veterans that touched on a wide range of issues, including Social Security, health care, systemic racism and racial disparities in the impact of Covid-19, and the environment.

“I can guarantee you, if I’m president, there will be no offshore drilling,” he said, calling for “basically a permanent moratorium” on the practice in Florida.

Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, who defeated Jessica Scarane on Tuesday, during an oversight hearing in Washington, D.C.
Credit…Pool photo by Toni Sandys 

Delaware Democrats renominated Senator Chris Coons, a 10-year-incumbent, for a second full term. Mr. Coons turned back Jessica Scarane, a progressive challenger who never attracted the kind of financing or enthusiasm that propelled other left-wing candidates to defeat centrist Democratic congressional incumbents this year.

Ms. Scarane had hoped to tap into the enthusiasm that launched progressive challengers to victories over veteran Democratic congressmen in Chicago, St. Louis and the Bronx. But Delaware’s 2020 Senate race never became a cause célèbre on the left.

A poll conducted last month by a confederation of progressive organizations considering investing in the race on Ms. Scarane’s behalf found Mr. Coons leading by 40 percentage points, a margin sufficient to dissuade them from spending money to help Ms. Scarane.

Mr. Coons still took the race seriously and used an enormous fund-raising advantage to blanket Delawareans with television ads, spending nearly $800,000 compared with Ms. Scarane’s $65,000. The only third-party organization to devote significant resources to the race was the American Chemistry Council, which aired more than $200,000 in ads backing Mr. Coons.

Ms. Scarane, who moved to Delaware from New York 10 years ago, did not have the profile of other left-wing upstarts who have toppled incumbent centrist Democrats. Progressive organizations had first sought to recruit a woman of color to support in the race. Kerri Evelyn Harris, a Black progressive organizer, gave Delaware’s other Democratic senator, Tom Carper, a brief scare in 2018 before Mr. Carper prevailed by nearly 30 percentage points.

Flags flew at half staff around the Washington Monument in May in memory of those who died from the coronavirus. There are now 195,000 deaths in the United States.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times

President Trump on Tuesday night struck a defensive tone when pressed on his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, at one point mounting a bizarre argument that his Democratic rival, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., failed to institute a national mask mandate, even though he currently holds no government position from which to do so.

“They said at the Democrat convention they’re going to do a national mandate,” Mr. Trump said, “They never did it, because they’ve checked out and they didn’t do it. And a good question is, you ask why Joe Biden — they said we’re going to do a national mandate on masks.”

White House officials have questioned whether a national mask mandate would be legal, and it’s not clear what courts would say about the legality of one. But Mr. Trump appeared to blame his Democratic rival for not instituting a policy he said he would support if elected.

It was part of an overall unrepentant stance the president assumed when pressed by regular voters with simple questions about how he and his administration have responded to the pandemic. Mr. Trump did not lose his temper, but the forum appeared to be uncomfortable for him: the president typically castigates reporters who ask him questions he does not like, or simply speaks in front of adoring crowds who don’t challenge him at all. Here, he had no obvious foil to spar with.

When an undecided voter who cast her vote four years ago for Hillary Clinton asked a simple question, “why don’t you wear a mask more often?” Mr. Trump, who has only been photographed while wearing a mask a few times, claimed that he did. “I do wear them when I have to, and when I’m in hospitals and other locations.”

When asked why he played down the virus in public despite telling the journalist Bob Woodward that he knew how deadly it was, he claimed, “in many ways I up-played it in terms of action. My action was very strong.”

When pressed on the death toll — the country is dealing with 195,000 deaths because of the coronavirus, which is still claiming hundreds of lives a day — Mr. Trump said he would not have done anything differently and that the stunning number did not give him pause. “I think we could have had two million deaths if we didn’t close out the country,” he said.

When asked by a voter who supported him in 2016 if he would modulate his tone if he was re-elected, Mr. Trump said it was unlikely. “Sometimes you don’t have time to be presidential,” he said.

People showed their support for Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Senator Kamala Harris in Miami this weekend.
Credit…Maria Alejandra Cardona for The New York Times

As Joseph R. Biden Jr. traveled to Florida, a new poll was released offering him signs of hope there, in one of the most competitive states in this year’s presidential election.

Mr. Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, held a wide lead over President Trump among Latino voters, according to the poll, which was conducted by Monmouth University, and he had the upper hand in the most politically competitive areas of the state.

Mr. Biden had the support of 50 percent of registered voters, while Mr. Trump attracted the support of 45 percent. That difference was within the poll’s margin of error.

Monmouth ran two likely voter projections, one accounting for high levels of voter participation and another for a lower-turnout scenario. When turnout was high, Mr. Biden’s edge remained at five percentage points, but with voter participation lower it ticked down to three points.

The Monmouth poll also showed Mr. Biden leading Mr. Trump 58 percent to 32 percent among Latino voters, who are widely seen as crucial to a Democratic victory in Florida.

The results were more auspicious for Mr. Biden than those of two other quality polls released this month, which had showed him and Mr. Trump roughly splitting the Hispanic vote in Florida. Those polls were a cause for concern among Democrats, as Hillary Clinton won among Florida’s Latino voters by 27 points in 2016, according to exit polls.

Mr. Trump won Florida that year, but only by 1.2 percentage points.

The Monmouth survey showed Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump neck-and-neck among voters 65 and older, reflecting the president’s weakened support among one of the state’s most crucial voting demographics. In 2016, exit polls showed him winning that demographic by 17 points. The Monmouth poll found that 49 percent of older voters supported Mr. Trump, while 47 percent backed Mr. Biden.

Mr. Biden was ahead by a nearly 2-to-1 margin in the seven counties, spread across the state, that were decided by under 10 points in the 2016 election, suggesting that Mr. Trump’s path to victory in Florida primarily involves turning out his base, rather than winning over persuadable voters.

The Monmouth poll, which was conducted from Sept. 10-13, had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.7 percentage points.

Senator Kamala Harris and Gov. Gavin Newsom, both of California, assess the damage from the Creek Fire at Pine Ridge Elementary in Auberry, Calif.
Credit…Gary Kazanjian/Associated Press

Senator Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, traveled to California on Tuesday to survey the destruction caused by the wildfires raging through the American West, blaming the damage on climate change as she visited a heavily damaged area northeast of Fresno.

In her first appearance in her home state since her nomination, Ms. Harris met with Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, and local officials and firefighters at the Pine Ridge School in Auberry, a community ravaged by what is known as the Creek fire.

Ms. Harris, dressed in jeans, a white T-shirt and a green jacket, listened as emergency officials gave an overview of the fire’s extensive damage, then walked with Mr. Newsom to look at the rubble of a destroyed home. As ash fell from the sky, Ms. Harris praised the firefighters and urged a serious campaign to reverse climate change.

“We have to do better as a country,” she said. “We have to understand that California, like so many other parts of our country, has experienced extreme weather conditions. It is incumbent on us, in terms of the leadership of this nation, to take seriously these new changes in our climate and to do what we can to mitigate against the damage.”

Ms. Harris’s visit came one day after President Trump met with Mr. Newsom in Sacramento. Despite a consensus among scientists that climate change is playing a role in both the size and intensity of the fires, the president blamed poor forest management.

The Democratic presidential nominee, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., attacked Mr. Trump, labeling him a “climate arsonist.”

The Creek fire, regarded as the 12th largest in modern California history, has burned an estimated 332 square miles of the Sierra National Forest and destroyed nearly 600 structures in Fresno and Madera counties. More than 64,000 people are under evacuation orders.

Ms. Harris landed Tuesday morning at Fresno Yosemite International Airport. As her convoy drove down Highway 168 outside the town of Prather, north of Fresno, several dozen pro-Trump protesters lined the highway.

President Trump traveled to Philadelphia for a town hall event on Tuesday.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

President Trump on Tuesday spread a scandalous and baseless allegation about his general election opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., retweeting a post with the hashtag “PedoBiden.”

The tweet, originating from an account called “Conservative Girl,” shows a GIF of Mr. Biden standing behind Stephanie Carter during the 2015 swearing-in ceremony of her husband, the former Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.

By retweeting the post, Mr. Trump appeared to be taking the campaign to a new low as well as embracing a fringe theory promoted by QAnon, the far-right conspiracy movement. The group has been spreading the far-fetched idea that Mr. Trump is fighting a shadowy cabal of Democratic pedophiles in Washington.

In the GIF, Mr. Biden appeared to squeeze Ms. Carter’s shoulder and whisper something in her ear.

At the time of the incident, the photo went viral, with some critics suggesting that it illustrated Mr. Biden’s inappropriate behavior toward women.

But Ms. Carter later wrote that not only were the Bidens close friends, but also that the image was misleading and that Mr. Biden had leaned forward to tell her “thank you” on a day when she was uncharacteristically nervous, so much so that she had fallen on ice at the Pentagon.

Mr. Biden has faced criticism in the past for his behavior toward women, with several coming forward in 2019 to allege that he had touched their shoulders or hair in a way that made them feel uncomfortable. None of the women, however, was a minor.

It was the second time a member of the Trump family had smeared Mr. Biden with the incendiary allegation. In May, Donald Trump Jr., Mr. Trump’s oldest son, posted a picture of Mr. Biden on Instagram saying, “See you later, alligator,” along with an image of an alligator saying, “In a while, pedophile.” The inflammatory claim was shared with 2.8 million of the younger Mr. Trump’s Instagram followers.

The younger Mr. Trump, one of his father’s most frequent surrogates on the campaign trail, later said he was “joking around,” echoing one of his father’s tactics.

Sarah McBride was the first openly transgender person to work at the White House when she was an intern during President Barack Obama’s administration.
Credit…Jason Minto/Associated Press

Delaware Democrats on Tuesday nominated Sarah McBride, a longtime transgender activist, for a State Senate seat, advancing her bid to become the nation’s highest-ranking openly transgender elected official.

Ms. McBride, 30, defeated a token primary challenger and is widely expected to win the November general election — the Wilmington-based seat is safely Democratic and is being vacated by Harris B. McDowell III, who is retiring after representing the district for 44 years.

Ms. McBride said in an interview that she wanted her victory to inspire others. “My hope is that this result can help reinforce for a young kid trying to find their place in this world, here in Delaware or anywhere else in this country, that this democracy is big enough for them, too,” she said.

Ms. McBride is no newcomer to national or local politics. In 2012 she became the first openly transgender person to work at the White House when she was an intern during President Barack Obama’s administration. She later lobbied the Delaware state legislature on behalf of a transgender rights bill, which was signed into law in 2013, and is now a national press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest L.G.B.T.Q. civil rights group.

In 2016 she became the first transgender person to speak at a major party’s national convention when she took the stage before Democrats in Philadelphia.

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. — a towering figure in Delaware politics, and now the Democratic presidential nominee — wrote the foreword to Ms. McBride’s 2018 book about her fight for transgender equality.

Battles over transgender rights have played out in state legislatures across the country, with conservative lawmakers in more than two dozen states introducing anti-transgender measures this year.

No openly transgender person has been elected to any state’s senate, though four transgender lawmakers currently serve in lower chambers of state legislatures. Like those politicians, Ms. McBride said she had not focused on her identity while campaigning.

“My identity and the symbolic ramifications of my elections, that doesn’t come up” in conversations with voters, she said. “What comes up is that we need creative and courageous leadership that will meet this moment with meaningful action for people’s lives.”

Voting By Mail

Mail ballots were processed in Butler, Pa., in May.
Credit…Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

County elections officials in Pennsylvania may no longer discard mail ballots simply because they question the authenticity of a voter’s signature.

The Pennsylvania Department of State issued that guidance last week and, on Tuesday, two organizations that had sued the state over the practice dropped a federal lawsuit challenging it.

“As a result of this case, Pennsylvania voters can cast their vote without fear that their ballot could be rejected solely because an election official — who isn’t trained in handwriting analysis — thinks their signatures don’t match,” said Mark Gaber, the director of trial litigation at the Campaign Legal Center, which represented the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh and the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania in the lawsuit.

With the dramatic expansion of mail voting in Pennsylvania this year, the two organizations had filed suit in August arguing that local Boards of Elections in Pennsylvania had made subjective decisions on which ballots to discard.

Research has shown that a variety of factors — including age and disability — cause signatures to change over time.

Election workers processed absentee ballots for Michigan’s state primary in Detroit last month.
Credit…Elaine Cromie for The New York Times

In preparation for a record number of absentee ballots, Michigan lawmakers moved closer on Tuesday to allowing some local clerks to start processing those ballots before Election Day.

The State Senate voted overwhelmingly in favor of a bill that would permit clerks in communities with 25,000 or more residents to begin processing absentee ballots for 10 hours on Nov. 2.

The legislation, which still has to be approved by the Michigan House of Representatives, is meant to address the concerns of local clerks who have been pleading with state lawmakers for changes that would help them count what is expected to be a record number of people voting by absentee ballot.

So far this year, 2.1 million voters in Michigan have asked for absentee ballots for November’s election.

Under the Senate bill, which was approved by 34 votes to 2, clerks will only be allowed to open an envelope that holds a voter’s ballot in a secrecy sleeve. They will not be able to remove a ballot from the sleeve or begin counting it.

Local clerks said the move was a good first step, but they were hoping for a week of pre-processing time.

In a letter to Republican legislative leaders, 17 local and county clerks said the extra days “would give overwhelmed jurisdictions the ability to conduct the election in the most safe and secure manner possible.”

Though Michigan allows any voter to apply for an absentee ballot, the change approved on Tuesday would only be applicable for this year’s election — a provision that helped the bill pass the Republican-led Senate.

“We’re in extraordinary circumstances and therefore, we’re going to make exceptions to regular practices,” said Amber McCann, a spokeswoman for Senator Mike Shirkey, the majority leader. “We’ll see if those measures are necessary for times like these.”

The state’s House of Representatives, also led by Republicans, has previously passed other bills to make it easier for clerks to deal with absentee voting. It is expected to pass this latest measure after a hearing on the bill next week.

Michael Caputo, left, in 2018, after being interviewed by Senate Intelligence Committee staff members investigating Russian election meddling.
Credit…J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

Michael R. Caputo, the assistant secretary of health for public affairs, apologized Tuesday morning for a Facebook outburst in which he accused federal scientists working on the pandemic of “sedition” and warned of coming violence from left-wing “hit squads.”

He is considering a leave of absence to address physical health problems, according to one source familiar with the situation.

Since he was installed at the Department of Health and Human Services last April by the White House, Mr. Caputo, 58, a media-savvy former Trump campaign aide, has worked aggressively to control the media strategy on pandemic issues. But over the weekend, he was engulfed in two major controversies of his own making.

First Politico, then The New York Times and other media outlets, published accounts of how Mr. Caputo and a top aide, Paul Alexander, had routinely worked to revise, delay or even scuttle the core health bulletins of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in an effort to paint the administration’s pandemic response in a more positive light.

Then on Monday, The Times reported that a Facebook video posted by Mr. Caputo the previous night was filled with bizarre and incendiary comments. He had attacked C.D.C. scientists as anti-Trumpers who had formed a “resistance unit,” engaged in “rotten science” and “haven’t gotten out of their sweatpants” except for coffee shop meetings where they plotted against the president. He urged his gun-owning followers to buy ammunition because “it’s going to be hard to get” and warned without evidence that left-wing hit squads across the nation were training for violent attacks.

In a statement Monday Mr. Caputo said since the spring, he and his family had been continually harassed and threatened, including by some individuals who were later prosecuted.

In other fallout, McMaster University in Canada issued a statement on Monday distancing itself from Dr. Alexander, whom Mr. Caputo hailed to his Facebook followers as a “genius.” He did receive a doctorate from the university, but he is not on the faculty, the university said.

Harini Krishnan, the co-California state director of South Asians for Biden, and her daughter watch the Democratic National Convention from their home in Hillsborough, Calif.
Credit…Michael Short/Getty Images

A new national survey of Asian-American voters released on Tuesday found that a majority of Asian-Americans were more enthusiastic about voting this fall than in past elections and that, as a group, they overwhelmingly supported Joseph R. Biden Jr. over President Trump.

The survey, known as the 2020 Asian American Voter Survey, found that 54 percent of respondents planned to vote for Mr. Biden, compared with only 30 percent who planned to vote for Mr. Trump and roughly 14 percent who were undecided.

Roughly 44 percent of those surveyed identified as Democrats, 23 percent as Republicans and about 31 percent as independents or another party.

Though they make up only about 5 percent of the nation’s voters, Asian-Americans are the fasting growing racial group in the country, and experts say their influence is growing in presidential swing states like Nevada, North Carolina, Georgia and others. In addition, large concentrations of Asian-American voters in states like California and Texas could factor significantly into tight Congressional races there.

After Asian-American voters broke turnout records in the 2018 midterm elections, experts have, for months, been predicting that the 2020 general election could see even more of them going to the polls.

“Through this survey, we see that Asian-Americans are ready to exercise their power,” said John C. Yang, the head of Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC, an advocacy group that co-sponsored the survey.

The data released Tuesday was drawn from a survey of 1,569 Asian-American registered voters that was conducted from July 4 to Sept. 10.

Roughly 54 percent of the respondents said that they were more enthusiastic than usual about voting in the fall. Mr. Biden was favored among all Asian-American national origin groups surveyed except for Vietnamese-Americans, who preferred Mr. Trump to Mr. Biden, 48 percent to 36 percent.

Indian-Americans were the group most supportive of Mr. Biden, with two in three saying they planned to vote for the former vice president.

Majorities of the Asian-Americans surveyed also said they would support Democratic candidates over Republican ones in House and Senate races.

The stock image used by the Trump campaign in a digital ad.

The three sleek American fighter jets patriotically swooping over a battlefield in a pro-Trump ad that ran around the Sept. 11 commemoration were, in fact, from Russia.

The five soldiers marching under the planes were Russian too. The whole thing was downloaded from a Shutterstock database of off-the-shelf images accessible for the site’s $29.95 monthly fee.

The Trump Make America Great Again Committee — a joint party-campaign fund-raising group whose donation page is embedded in the Trump-Pence website — ran the photo in a digital ad, urging viewers to “support our troops” on Sept. 8 with a link to send a contribution.

Politico first reported on the origin of the ad, and even managed to track down the artist who created the image, Arthur Zakirov, who said his opus was not only Russia-sourced, but faked.

Mr. Zakirov said he created the composite image five years ago from a model of a MiG-29 — an iconic Soviet fighter from the 1970s — along with models of Russian soldiers set against a backdrop comprising cut-and-paste fragments of sky and land taken from photographs of Greece, France and, inevitably, Russia.

An email to a spokesman for the committee was not immediately returned.

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Author: HOCAdmin