Election Live Updates: Biden Calls Trump ‘Climate Arsonist’ in Speech on Wildfires

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Biden Calls Trump a ‘Climate Arsonist’ in Remarks on Wildfires

During a speech in Wilmington, Del., Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic presidential nominee, attacked the Trump administration’s response to climate change.

The fury of climate change everywhere, all this year, and right now. We stand with our families who have lost everything, the firefighters, the first responders, risking everything to save others, and the millions of Americans caught between relocating during a pandemic or staying put as ashes and smoke pollute the air they breathe. The past 10 years were the hottest decade ever recorded — the Arctic is literally melting. Parts are actually on fire. What we’re seeing in America, in our communities, is connected to all of this. If we have four more years of Trump’s climate denial, how many suburbs will be burned in wildfires? How many suburban neighborhoods will have been flooded out, how many suburbs will have been blown away in superstorms? If you give a climate arsonist four more years in the White House, why would anyone be surprised if we have more of America ablaze? If you have a climate denier four more years in the White House, why would anyone be surprised when more of America is underwater? We need a president who respects science, who understands that the damage from climate change is already here, and unless we take urgent action will soon be more catastrophic.

During a speech in Wilmington, Del., Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic presidential nominee, attacked the Trump administration’s response to climate change.CreditCredit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

As wildfires raged across the West Coast, Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Monday attacked President Trump’s record on climate change, calling the president a “climate arsonist” whose inaction and denial had fed destruction.

In a speech in Delaware, Mr. Biden directly connected the blazes that have displaced thousands of people to climate change, and he also spoke about flooding in the Midwest and hurricanes along the Gulf Coast. He sought to paint a second Trump term as harmful to the suburbs, flipping an attack waged against him by the president.

“If we have four more years of Trump’s climate denial, how many suburbs will be burned in wildfires?” Mr. Biden asked. “How many suburban neighborhoods will have been flooded out? How many suburbs will have been blown away in superstorms?”

He continued: “If you give a climate arsonist four more years in the White House, why would anyone be surprised if we have more of America ablaze? If you give a climate denier four more years in the White House, why would anyone be surprised when more of America is underwater?”

Mr. Biden’s speech, delivered outdoors at the Delaware Museum of Natural History in Wilmington, came as Mr. Trump traveled to California and met with Gov. Gavin Newsom and other officials for a briefing on the devastating wildfires.

Mr. Trump has come under intense criticism for failing for several weeks to mention the blazes that have ravaged parts of California, Oregon and Washington. The president, who has called climate change a hoax, has frequently expressed skepticism about the scientific consensus that warming global temperatures are worsening wildfires.

Campaigning in Nevada this weekend, Mr. Trump suggested forest management was to blame, and in August he threatened to withhold federal aid to California for not listening to his suggestions for managing forests.

In his speech, Mr. Biden criticized Mr. Trump over his “disdain for science and facts,” presenting climate change as another area where the president had failed to provide leadership in the face of a crisis. He made a case for treating the reduction of fossil fuel emissions as a nonpartisan issue that could create manufacturing jobs while preserving the planet.

“We have to act as a nation,” Mr. Biden said. “It shouldn’t be so bad that millions of Americans live in the shadow of an orange sky, and they’re left asking: ‘Is doomsday here?’”




‘Climate Change Is Real,’ Newsom Tells Trump at Briefing

During a meeting with local and state wildfire officials in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom politely disagreed with President Trump’s view on climate change.

“Your administration just entered into a first-of-its-type commitment over the next 20 years to double our vegetation management and forest management.” “Right.” “I want to thank you for supporting that effort, funding that effort. We acknowledge our role and responsibility to do more in that space. But one thing is fundamental: 57 percent of the land in this state is federal forest land. Three percent is California. So we really do need that support. We need that emphasis of engagement. And we are fully committed to working with you to advance that cause. We’ve known each other too long, and as you suggest, the working relationship I value — we obviously feel very strongly that the hots are getting hotter. The dries are getting drier. When we’re having heat domes, the likes of which we’ve never seen in our history: The hottest August ever in the history of the state, the ferocity of these fires, the drought — five-plus years — losing 163 million trees to that drought. Something’s happened to the plumbing of the world. And we come from a perspective, humbly, where we submit the science is in and observed evidence is self-evident that climate change is real, and that is exacerbating this. And so I think there is an area of, at least, commonality on vegetation, forest management. But please respect — and I know you do — the difference of opinion out here as it relates to this fundamental issue, on the issue of climate change.” “Absolutely.” “Appreciate it, thanks.”

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During a meeting with local and state wildfire officials in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom politely disagreed with President Trump’s view on climate change.CreditCredit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Trump arrived in California in a smoky haze on Monday and promptly blamed the wildfires ravaging the West Coast not on climate change but on the failure by western states to properly manage their forests.

“When trees fall down after a short period of time, they become very dry — really like a matchstick,” the president told reporters after disembarking from Air Force One at Sacramento McClellan Airport, where the stench of smoke filled the air. “And they can explode. Also leaves. When you have dried leaves on the ground, it’s just fuel for the fires.”

The president brushed off a question about climate change, suggesting that the query be put to Gov. Gavin Newsom of California instead.

During a briefing for the president by state and local officials fighting the fires or representing communities affected by them, Mr. Newsom pushed back on climate change, though he made a point of doing so exceedingly politely.

He offered thanks to Mr. Trump for federal assistance and agreed with him that forest management needs to be better, but he noted that only 3 percent of land in California was under state control while 57 percent was federal forest land under the president’s management.

“As you suggest, the working relationship I value,” Mr. Newsom said. But he said climate change clearly was a factor in the fires.

“Something’s happening to the plumbing of the world,” Mr. Newsom said. “And we come from a perspective, humbly, where we submit the science is in and observed evidence is self-evident that climate change is real and that is exacerbating this.”

He went on: “And so I think there’s an area of at least commonality on vegetation, forest management. But please respect — and I know you do — the difference of opinion out here as it relates to this fundamental issue on the issue of climate change.”

Rather than argue the point, Mr. Trump deferred. “Absolutely,” he said, and then turned the floor over to another briefer.

But after another speaker also raised climate change, Mr. Trump made clear that he remained unpersuaded. “It will start getting cooler,” he said. “Just watch. I don’t think science knows, actually.”

The president’s comments reflected a longstanding assertion on his part whenever flames erupt in California or elsewhere in the west. But environmentalists, state officials and scientists said the scarred countryside and ashen clouds are the predictable consequence of climate change that has gone largely unchecked by Mr. Trump, who has instead rolled back environmental regulations.

“Raking the leaves and forest floors is really inane; that doesn’t make sense at all,” said Ralph Propper, president of the Environmental Council of Sacramento. “We’re seeing what was predicted, which is more extremes of weather.”

Nearly two years ago, federal government scientists concluded that greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels could triple the frequency of severe fires across the Western states.

But the president has used his time in the nation’s highest office to aggressively promote the burning of fossil fuels, chiefly by rolling back or weakening every major federal policy intended to combat dangerous emissions. At the same time, Mr. Trump and his senior environmental officials have regularly mocked, denied or minimized the established science of human-caused climate change.

Now, as he battles for a second term in the White House, Mr. Trump has doubled down on his anti-climate agenda as a way of appealing to his core supporters. At a rally in Pennsylvania last month, he blamed California’s failure to “clean your floors” of leaves, threatening to “make them pay for it because they don’t listen to us.”

“Talk to a firefighter if you think that climate change isn’t real,” Mayor Eric M. Garcetti of Los Angeles said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “It seems like this administration are the last vestiges of the Flat Earth Society of this generation.”

Credit…Will Cioci/Wisconsin Watch, via Associated Press

The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the Green Party’s presidential candidate will not appear on the state’s presidential ballot, a decision that came as a sigh of relief to election officials who had worried that a wholesale reprinting of thousands of ballots could bring chaos to an already stressed electoral system.

The decision against the candidate, Howie Hawkins, also could provide a small but potentially significant lift to Joseph R. Biden Jr., whose Democratic allies had expressed concern that the presence of a third-party progressive candidate on the ballot could siphon votes away from Mr. Biden and help President Trump.

Both the Biden and Trump campaigns view a path to victory through Wisconsin, which Mr. Trump carried by less than 23,000 votes in 2016.

Days before the start of mail voting, the court ruled that Mr. Hawkins and his running mate, Angela Walker, had waited too long to appeal a decision from the Wisconsin Elections Commission that denied their placement on the ballot, giving the court no recourse.

“Given their delay in asserting their rights, we would be unable to provide meaningful relief without completely upsetting the election,” the court ruled.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission had denied the request on Aug. 20 because of a discrepancy in Ms. Walker’s address on petitions, and it took the Green Party candidates two weeks to file a request for review with the court. The request was filed on Sept. 3.

The court did not rule on the merits of the Green Party case, but concluded that the candidates’ delay in a situation with “very short deadlines” made it impossible to grant the motion without causing “confusion and undue damage to both the Wisconsin electors who want to vote and the other candidates in all the various races on the general election ballot.”

In an interview on Sunday, Mr. Hawkins said his campaign had been working to find a lawyer to take its case to the State Supreme Court and had reached out to a number of progressive lawyers before finally finding a firm that would take the case, acknowledging that the firm was a conservative one whose representation was being financed by an unnamed conservative benefactor.

More than a million Wisconsin voters have already requested absentee ballots, and the prospect of an enormous reprinting would have affected every county and municipal election official in the state.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Trump defended his decision to flout Nevada authorities by holding an indoor rally on Sunday — and said that he felt personally safe at his campaign’s defiantly mask-optional events when asked if he was worried about the disease being spread in his presence.

“I’m on a stage and it’s very far away,” Mr. Trump told The Las Vegas Review-Journal, standing backstage as he prepared to address a non-socially distanced crowd of thousands at a construction-equipment factory owned by a friend, Don Ahern. “And so I’m not at all concerned.”

“What about everybody else?” Abby Phillip, a CNN political reporter who covers the president, wondered aloud on Twitter.

In a video of the brief interview posted on the Review-Journal’s website, Debra J. Saunders, a reporter for the paper, asked Mr. Trump first if he was concerned that he could catch the virus — which he shrugged off.

Then Ms. Saunders, who was wearing a mask and standing about six feet away, interjected “What about people here?” after he had begun to speak.

It is not clear if Mr. Trump did not hear the second part of the question, or chose not to answer it.

Instead he made a joke about the reporter, quipping, “I’m more concerned about how close you are,” even though she was wearing a facial covering and he was not.

The president also said he did not believe he was subject to Gov. Steve Sisolak’s order limiting gatherings to 50 people to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

He blamed Mr. Sisolak, a Democrat, for restrictions that forced his campaign to ditch plans to hold an outdoor rally Sunday near McCarran International Airport and an indoor event that had been scheduled in Reno.

He called Mr. Sisolak “a political hack” and accused him of playing a “game.”

The governor, who has sparred with Mr. Trump over mail-in balloting, slammed the president on Twitter Sunday night for “putting countless lives in danger here in Nevada.”

Mr. Sisolak was not alone in expressing his concern. Some members of Mr. Trump’s own party have questioned his decision to push ahead with mass campaign rallies, especially following the death from Covid-19 of Herman Cain, the 2012 Republican presidential candidate who attended Mr. Trump’s rally in Tulsa in June and was later diagnosed with the virus.

“Indoor rallies are irresponsible. Covid-19 is real and this was a bad idea,” wrote Ari Fleischer, President George W. Bush’s former press secretary and a frequent Trump defender, on Twitter.

Credit…Tony Dejak/Associated Press

Ohio will not automatically provide return postage on mail-in absentee ballots for the November election, after a largely Republican state panel denied a funding request by the Republican secretary of state.

Frank LaRose, Ohio’s secretary of state, last month asked the Ohio Controlling Board, which oversees changes to the state budget, for up to $3 million to prepay for postage for an expected record number of absentee ballots.

So far, more than a million applications for absentee ballots have been filed with county boards of elections in Ohio, and Mr. LaRose has said he expects that number to double by Election Day.

In a statement last month, Mr. LaRose said he wanted the funds to make it “easier than ever” for Ohio residents to cast their ballot by mail.

The controlling board comprises six state lawmakers and the director of the state’s Office of Budget and Management, who is appointed by the governor. Four Republican lawmakers voted against Mr. LaRose’s proposal on Monday; two Democrats voted in favor.

“Today was another missed opportunity by the legislature to make a small change, without an impact on our state budget, that would yield a big improvement,” Mr. LaRose said in a statement after the decision.

At least 17 states have laws requiring local election officials to supply return postage for mailed ballots, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

With a massive expansion of mailed ballots expected this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, some states, including Pennsylvania, Virginia and New Jersey, have approved additional funding for prepaid postage

Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s campaign is establishing a major new legal operation, bringing in two former solicitor generals and hundreds of lawyers in what the campaign billed as the largest election protection program in presidential campaign history.

Legal battles are already raging over how people will vote — and how ballots will be counted — this fall during the pandemic, and senior Biden officials described the ramp-up as necessary to guard the integrity of a fall election already clouded by President Trump’s baseless accusations of widespread fraud.

The new operation will be overseen by Dana Remus, who has served as Mr. Biden’s general counsel on the 2020 campaign, and Bob Bauer, a former White House counsel during the Obama administration who joined the Biden campaign full-time over the summer as a senior adviser.

Inside the campaign, they are creating a “special litigation” unit, which will be led by Donald B. Verrilli Jr. and Walter Dellinger, two former solicitors general, who are joining the campaign. Hundreds of lawyers will be involved, including a team at the Democratic law firm Perkins Coie, led by Marc Elias, which will focus on the state-by-state fight over vote casting and counting rules. And Eric H. Holder Jr., the former attorney general in the Obama administration, will serve as something of a liaison between the campaign and the many independent groups involved in the legal fight over the election, which is already raging in the courts.

“We can and will hold a free and fair election this fall and be able to trust the results,” Ms. Remus said in an interview.

Credit…Beth Nakamura for The New York Times

The mayors of 10 United States cities released an open letter on Monday calling on President Trump to condemn far-right vigilantes who have responded violently to racial-justice protests.

The signers — members of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, part of the gun-control group Everytown for Gun Safety — said that extremists “openly carrying firearms under the guise of upholding law and order” posed a threat to public safety in their cities, and that Mr. Trump’s comments in support of them had fueled the threat of violence.

“We’ve seen an alarming number of fellow elected officials, including yourself, applauding armed intimidation of peaceful protesters,” the letter says. “We are calling for an end to this dangerous rhetoric. Instead of inciting vigilantism, we urge you to join us in condemning reckless escalations by militias and other extremists.”

It continues: “Private citizens brandishing weapons bring deadly risks into volatile situations, and they make it harder for law enforcement to protect the public.”

Asked for comment, a White House spokesman said: “The American people are clamoring for city leaders to support law and order and the men and women in uniform, just as President Trump is doing at the federal level. If city leaders provide community safety or accept the president’s offers of federal assistance, which he has extended many times, Americans’ concerns will be fully addressed.”

Facing widespread disapproval of his handling of race relations and the coronavirus pandemic, Mr. Trump has sought to reframe the November election around false narratives of chaos in American cities and existential threats to the suburbs. He has seized in particular on outbreaks of violence in Portland, Ore., and Kenosha, Wis., which have occurred amid mostly peaceful racial-justice protests nationwide.

In Kenosha, a teenager who supported Mr. Trump and opposed the Black Lives Matter movement fatally shot two people during the protests that followed the police killing of Jacob Blake. In Portland, a self-described Antifa supporter fatally shot a member of a far-right caravan who had come to the city to show support for Mr. Trump.

In many cities, “these militia groups are showing up at protests almost pretending to be — and acting like and looking like — law enforcement or military, and it instantly escalates the situation,” said Mayor Timothy M. Keller of Albuquerque. He said he felt that Mr. Trump “wants to create violence so he can be seen as a person doing something about it.”

Mayor Levar M. Stoney of Richmond, Va., said that Mr. Trump had convinced far-right activists that they needed to take up arms to protect their communities, and that this had created “an unnecessary clash between ideologies.” In Molalla, Ore., for example, some residents refused to evacuate in the face of wildfires because of discredited rumors that left-wing activists were planning to loot their towns after they left.

“I had white supremacists embed themselves within some of the Black Lives Matter protests,” Mr. Stoney said. “I don’t believe that in order to make a political point, you need to walk the streets of my city with an AR-15.”

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina, one of the Republican Party’s most vulnerable incumbents, will try to turn around his faltering re-election campaign on Monday night when he faces Cal Cunningham, his Democratic challenger, in their first televised debate.

The contest in a key swing state is one of a handful of Senate races that could determine control of the body next year, and it has already drawn millions of dollars in outside advertising. Almost every recent public poll shows Mr. Tillis, a first-term incumbent who is mostly allied with President Trump, trailing Mr. Cunningham, a former state senator and Iraq War veteran. Mr. Tillis’s support is also running behind Mr. Trump in polling in the state.

The stakes are unusually high for a little-watched congressional debate. With mail-in ballots already circulating in the state, it may be one of Mr. Tillis’s last, best chances to halt Mr. Cunningham’s momentum and gain ground against him. Mr. Tillis’s chief task will be to chip away at Mr. Cunningham’s reputation as an inoffensive moderate.

He is expected to try to tie Mr. Cunningham, whose virtual campaign has largely avoided missteps, to liberal policies on immigration, taxes and public safety.

But Mr. Tillis also must find a way to reintroduce himself to North Carolina voters. The state has grown rapidly, and turnout this year could be twice as high as in 2014, when he won the seat. Mr. Tillis has oscillated between acting the part of a political independent willing to buck Mr. Trump and a presidential foot soldier.

To win, Mr. Tillis needs to appeal to moderate swing voters — including those in the crucial suburbs around Charlotte and Raleigh — who are skeptical of Mr. Trump. With them in mind, he has emphasized his support for popular coronavirus relief programs Congress passed into law. But he also cannot afford to alienate the president’s base.

It is a difficult balancing act, and Mr. Cunningham is likely to try to push Mr. Tillis off balance by raising Mr. Tillis’s record on health care, an issue that has proved potent for Democrats in recent years as they have reclaimed power after losses in 2016.

As speaker of the North Carolina House, Mr. Tillis helped block the expansion of Medicaid in the state, and then in the Senate, he voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act — two positions now opposed by many North Carolina swing voters.

Credit…Joshua Rashaad McFadden for The New York Times

President Trump’s relentless emphasis on civil unrest has raised the level of overall concern about law and order with voters, but he has yet to make the case that he is the best candidate to solve the problem, according to a Monmouth University poll released on Monday.

About two thirds of those polled said they believed that maintaining law and order was a “major problem” in the country right now, but the Democratic nominee, Joseph R. Biden Jr., held a slight edge, 52 to 48 percent, on the question of who can best deal with the issue.

The poll also found that relatively few Americans were fully swayed by Mr. Trump’s argument that integration posed an existential threat to the suburbs. When asked if “efforts to increase integration of suburban communities could lead to more crime and lower property values,” only 13 percent said it was “very likely,” according to the poll, while 29 percent said it was somewhat likely.

Mr. Trump has suggested that an Obama-era inclusionary zoning plan, intended to counter housing segregation, would “destroy our suburbs” — an argument aimed at winning back white suburban moderates, especially women, otherwise alienated by his response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The poll, which was conducted from Sept. 3 to 8, with 867 adults in the United States, has a margin of error of 3.3 percentage points.

Overall, about three in four Americans said they believed that having more racially integrated neighborhoods in their local communities was either somewhat or very important — virtually unchanged since January 2015, when Monmouth first asked this question.

Still, there were ample warning signs for Mr. Biden, who has recently emphasized his support for peaceful protesters and his opposition to violence at demonstrations opposing police brutality.

The poll found that the percentage of Americans who said that the anger driving the protests was justified had dropped significantly since the start of demonstrations protesting the killing of George Floyd in May. Currently, 39 percent said this anger was fully justified, compared to 46 percent in late June and down from a high of 57 percent in early June.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

The Trump campaign altered its television advertising strategy this week, going completely dark in the state of Nevada while pouring nearly $2 million more into Arizona, Florida, Nebraska, North Carolina and Maine, according to Advertising Analytics, an ad tracking firm.

Campaigns frequently make adjustments to their advertising buys as they respond to changes in the race. But the changes this week come as the Trump campaign is being vastly outspent on television by his rival Joseph R. Biden Jr., and as it has ceded its fund-raising advantage to the Biden campaign.

This week, Mr. Biden, the Democratic nominee, has nearly $25 million in television ad reservations, while President Trump has roughly $14 million.

The decision to go dark for a week in Nevada comes just as Mr. Trump held an indoor rally in the state that the state’s Democratic governor called “reckless and selfish,” and as his campaign has been courting the support of the state’s Latino population. The campaign also went dark on the airwaves in Ohio and Iowa, two states that Mr. Trump won handily in 2016.

The campaign also culled its presence in Wisconsin for the week, reducing its initial reservation by 35 percent.

But the Trump campaign is targeting the Second Congressional district in Nebraska, which includes Omaha and has been leaning Democratic recently. Nebraska, which Mr. Trump swept in 2016, allocates two electoral votes to its statewide popular vote winner but gives an electoral vote to the winner of each congressional district.

The ad shifts in Nebraska included a $113,000 buy in Omaha, the Trump campaign’s first buy of the year in the state, according to Advertising Analytics.


The most-aired advertisement by Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s campaign last week was a minute-long spot that sought to weave together three of the most potent elements of his candidacy: the wrenching loss in his biography, the coronavirus pandemic and Democratic support for health insurance.

The ad begins nearly a half-century ago, when Mr. Biden was sworn in to the United States Senate in a hospital because his wife and daughter had been killed in a car crash and his two sons were still hospitalized. The ad goes on to talk about his son Beau being diagnosed with cancer decades later and told he had “months to live.” While Mr. Biden has been a national figure for decades, Democratic strategists believe many voters still do not know the details of these episodes.

Mr. Biden pivots from his personal losses to the value of health care coverage. “The fact of the matter is health care is personal to me,” he says. “Obamacare is personal to me.”

Then the ad moves to the present day and President Trump, whom Mr. Biden accuses of trying to “eliminate this health care in the middle of a public health crisis — that’s personal to me, too.”

The accident that killed Mr. Biden’s first wife and daughter and hospitalized his sons before he was sworn in is one of the most well-documented and sorrowful of his life; Beau Biden’s later death from cancer was a factor in Mr. Biden’s decision not to run for president in 2016.

Mr. Trump has pressed to repeal the Affordable Care Act during his term but fallen short. His administration is actively trying to have the law scrapped in the courts: Arguments in a Supreme Court case are scheduled for shortly after the election.

In dozens of markets in battleground states and on national cable, at a cost of nearly $3.3 million, according to data from Advertising Analytics.

The ad tries to directly link health care — the issue that powered the Democratic gains in the 2018 midterms — with the pandemic, which party strategists see driving the election. And it uses Mr. Biden’s unique life experiences and losses to make him an especially empathetic narrator of both issues.

Credit…Samuel Corum for The New York Times

Bob Woodward said President Trump’s decision to play down the lethality of the coronavirus in early 2020 may have cost American lives.

Mr. Woodward, the veteran investigative reporter whose new book is based on 18 freewheeling interviews with the president, told NBC’s “Today” show that he believed Mr. Trump “possessed specific knowledge that could have saved lives.”

“This is deadly stuff,” Mr. Trump said on Feb. 7.

“You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed,” the president told Mr. Woodward in audio recordings published on The Washington Post’s website. “And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flus.”

“At that moment if, like, Franklin Roosevelt after Pearl Harbor had told the American people the truth, a lot more could have been done,” Mr. Woodward told the show’s co-host Savannah Guthrie. “It is one of those shocks for me, having written about nine presidents, that the president of the United States possessed the specific knowledge that could have saved lives. Historians are going to be writing about the lost month of February” for years.

Yet Mr. Woodward, who has himself drawn criticism for not going public sooner with the president’s statements, defended not publishing them until now — while continuing to fault the president for not raising the alarm in real time. He said he did not immediately disclose the remarks because he underestimated how quickly the pandemic would spread to the United States.

“In February I thought it was all about China,” said Mr. Woodward, who said he would have published Mr. Trump’s remarks had he known, at the time of the interview, that aides had already told the president that the virus posed a grave threat to national security.

“If you look at what was known in February, the virus was not on anyone’s mind. No one was suggesting changing behavior,” added Mr. Woodward. “Then when it exploded in March, as you know, there were 30,000 new cases a day. Publishing something at that point would not have been telling people anything they didn’t know. They knew very clearly that it was dangerous.”

Credit…Sam Hodgson for The New York Times

The top communications official at the Department of Health and Human Services accused career government scientists on Sunday of “sedition” in their handling of the coronavirus pandemic and warned that left-wing hit squads were preparing for armed insurrection after the election.

In a video he hosted live on his personal Facebook page, Michael Caputo, 58, the department’s assistant secretary of public affairs, said without evidence that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was harboring a “resistance unit” determined to undermine President Trump.

Mr. Caputo, who has been criticized for leading efforts to warp C.D.C. bulletins to fit Mr. Trump’s pandemic narrative, suggested that he personally could be in danger.

“You understand that they’re going to have to kill me, and unfortunately, I think that’s where this is going,” Mr. Caputo, a Trump loyalist installed by the White House in April, said.

During his Facebook video, Mr. Caputo frequently touched on themes of an obstructive “deep state” that Mr. Trump has used throughout his tenure. The president has presented himself as at war with career federal workers determined to hinder his policies and with radical left-wing activists who he claims are sowing violence in American cities.

Mr. Caputo suggested, also without evidence, that the August killing of a Trump supporter in Portland, Ore., by an avowed supporter of the left-wing collective known as antifa was part of a broader left-wing plot to target the administration’s supporters.

“Remember the Trump supporter who was shot and killed?” he said. “That was a drill.”

The man suspected of the shooting, Michael Forest Reinoehl, was later shot dead by officers from a federally led fugitive task force. He “went down fighting,” Mr. Caputo said. “Why? Because he couldn’t say what he had inside him.”

Mr. Caputo then spoke of “squads being trained all over this country” — a conspiracy theory unsupported by evidence.

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