Election Live Updates: Biden Campaign Hits Trump on Coronavirus Revelations

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Credit…Hannah Yoon for The New York Times

Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s campaign on Thursday extended its denunciations of President Trump over revelations that he knowingly minimized the risks of the coronavirus, directly blaming his response to the crisis for the loss of American lives.

During a call with reporters addressing Mr. Trump’s admission to the journalist Bob Woodward that he had intentionally played down the virus, the campaign offered a stinging rebuke of the president even as it attempted to stave off questions about Mr. Biden’s own virus response.

“My dad trusted the president,” Kristin Urquiza, whose father died from Covid-19, said during the call, echoing remarks she made at the Democratic convention last month. “He listened to the president and followed his advice. And sure, my dad did not panic. But instead, he died.”

Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, who was also on the call, said Mr. Trump’s decision to play down the virus was “the definition of Donald Trump’s phony populism.”

“He sold the American people these lies, then he betrayed them and people died,” Mr. Brown said.

The call came on a day that had already begun acrimoniously, as Mr. Trump tried to attack Mr. Biden’s own response to the virus, pointing in a memo to Mr. Biden’s early remarks on the threat and his campaign’s decision to hold an indoor rally in Michigan in early March.

The memo did not mention that Mr. Trump also continued to hold rallies even after privately acknowledging the dangers of the virus, or that he held an indoor rally in Oklahoma in June, long after the severity of the virus had become abundantly clear and more than 100,000 people had died in the United States.

“While President Trump was already taking decisive action to protect the country in the early months, Biden was saying barely anything about the pandemic and continuing about his campaign as normal,” said the memo, which was sent to reporters minutes before the Biden campaign’s call.

Attempting to parry Mr. Trump’s attacks, Bill Russo, the deputy communications director for the Biden campaign, laid out steps Mr. Biden took as the outbreak grew, including an op-ed article Mr. Biden wrote about the dangers of the virus in January.

Asked by a reporter about the campaign’s decision to hold an indoor rally in March, on the eve of the Michigan primary, Mr. Russo acknowledged that the rally may have been a mistake but tried to shift the focus back to Mr. Trump.

“Maybe those are decisions that, you know, that look a little bit differently in hindsight,” Mr. Russo said. “But maybe if the president the United States hadn’t been lying about the extent of the crisis that we were facing, we would have had different information to make different decisions.”

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

The forecast for President Trump’s scheduled campaign stop today in Freeland, Mich., is cloudy, appropriately enough.

Mr. Trump, a politician who almost always generates his own weather, finds himself trapped in a self-spun tempest just as he tries to recapture the momentum that led to big victories in the battleground Midwest four years ago.

He endured one of the most turbulent days of his presidency on Wednesday, with the emergence of two highly dangerous late-campaign story lines — the revelation (via the veteran presidential chronicler Bob Woodward) that he intentionally downplayed the lethality of the coronavirus and an accusation from a whistle-blower that his Homeland Security team had tried to intentionally downplay other threats — Russian interference in the 2020 election and violent white supremacy.

Each story has its distinct narrative. But they both converge on a single, damning conclusion, in the view of his critics: that Mr. Trump puts his own welfare, political and personal, above the interests of the country.

“I wanted to always play it down,” the president told Mr. Woodward, as the pandemic built in intensity early this year. “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”

Later, Mr. Trump seized on the “panic” part, saying he was simply trying to marshal national morale at a fearful moment.

The counterpoint: “He knew how dangerous it was,” said Mr. Trump’s opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr., during his own stop on Wednesday in Michigan, a state that the president won in 2016 but where Mr. Biden now holds a modest yet stable polling advantage. “It was a life-and-death betrayal of the American people.”

A few hours after the Woodward excerpts were published, word came that Brian Murphy, the former head of the Homeland Security Department’s intelligence branch, had said in a complaint that he was ordered to stop producing assessments on Russian interference. He added that the Homeland Security secretary, Chad Wolf, had ordered him not to disseminate a report on a Russian disinformation campaign to denigrate Mr. Biden’s mental health because it “made the president look bad.”

Mr. Trump’s appearance in mid-Michigan will take place at the M.B.S. International Airport outside Saginaw. As president, Mr. Trump has shown a preference for staging events at airplane hangars — they are weatherproof, don’t expose him to heckling crowds and, above all, they allow him to get in and out quickly.

He likes to do the same with news cycles.

Will the stories linger, or be swept away in the amnesia winds of Trump-era politics?

Mr. Trump is banking on the latter. By Wednesday night, he was furiously working to change the subject, unveiling his list of second-term Supreme Court finalists, celebrating the life of the baseball great Roberto Clemente (the Puerto Rican vote is critical in Florida’s I-10 corridor) and announcing on Twitter that the Navy would “NOT” be canceling its contract with Catholic chaplains.

A national poll released Thursday shows Joseph R. Biden Jr. maintaining his lead over President Trump as the campaign enters the its last two months, adding to a growing number of surveys that have suggested that the state of the race is largely unchanged since the party conventions.

The poll, conducted by Monmouth University, shows Mr. Biden ahead by nine percentage points among registered voters, with 51 percent compared with 42 percent for Mr. Trump. The survey results are almost identical to those in a survey conducted by Monmouth in early August, before the conventions.

Thursday’s poll also found Mr. Biden with a seven-point lead among likely voters, which tracks with national polling averages at this stage in the race. On average, Mr. Biden has been holding onto a lead of roughly seven to eight percentage points among likely voters nationwide, down slightly from a lead of eight to nine points heading into the conventions.

The Monmouth survey also found that only two percent of likely voters were undecided. The poll was conducted by telephone from Sept. 3 to 8, surveyed 758 registered voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

National polls can provide a broad window into the state of the race, but it is the Electoral College that will decide the outcome. Some recent polls have shown the race tightening in key battleground states like Florida and Pennsylvania.

The Monmouth poll also asked voters about their level of confidence in the integrity of the 2020 election. Mr. Trump has railed for weeks against mail voting, which is expected to be used by tens of millions of voters amid the coronavirus pandemic, claiming without evidence that the practice is rife with fraud. Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have said that the Russian group that interfered in the 2016 presidential election is meddling again.

Thursday’s survey found that only about six in 10 voters were very or somewhat confident that the November election will be conducted fairly. Roughly one in four said they were “not too confident” and 13 percent said they were “not at all confident.”

The poll found that 52 percent of voters thought it somewhat or very likely that the Trump campaign would try to cheat if it was necessary to win in the fall; 39 percent of respondents said the same about the Biden campaign.




Biden Accuses Trump of Lying to the Public About Coronavirus Threat

Joseph R. Biden Jr. accused President Trump of lying to Americans about the dangers of coronavirus, citing a forthcoming book by the journalist Bob Woodward.

On the day that we hit 190,000 dead in the United States because of Covid-19, we just learned from the Washington Post columnist Bob Woodward that the president of the United States has admitted on tape in February, he knew about Covid-19, that passed through the air. He knew how deadly it was. It was much more deadly than the flu. He knew, and purposely played it down. Worse, he lied to the American people. He knowingly and willingly lied about the threat it posed to the country for months. It was a life-and-death betrayal of the American people. Experts say that if it acted just one week sooner, 36,000 people would have been saved. If he acted two weeks sooner, back in March, 54,000 lives would have been spared in March and April alone. This is my schedule. On the back on the schedule there’s always a black box. You can’t really see it. The press may be able to. It says daily U.S. updates. Troops died in Iraq and Afghanistan: 6,922, not over 6,000 — 6,922 because every one of those women and men left behind an entire group of people who relied on them. U.S. troops wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan: 53,188 — not over 53,000. U.S. Covid-infected military, excuse me, U.S. Covid-infected in America: 6,344,700. U.S. Covid deaths: 1,189,506. Military Covid-infected: 118,984. Military Covid deaths: 6,114. Folks, every one of these lives matter. Every one of these lives left somebody behind grieving. We can’t ever forget them.

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Joseph R. Biden Jr. accused President Trump of lying to Americans about the dangers of coronavirus, citing a forthcoming book by the journalist Bob Woodward.CreditCredit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

WARREN, Mich. — Joseph R. Biden Jr. tore into President Trump on Wednesday over new revelations from a forthcoming book by the journalist Bob Woodward that the president knowingly minimized the risks of the coronavirus, arguing that Mr. Trump had lied to the American public and put lives in danger.

Mr. Biden’s remarks came as part of a broader effort to take on Mr. Trump over protecting American jobs, and to blame the president’s handling of the pandemic for the nation’s plunge into recession this year.

“He had the information,” Mr. Biden said during a trip to the critical battleground state of Michigan. “He knew how dangerous it was. And while this deadly disease ripped through our nation, he failed to do his job on purpose. It was a life-and-death betrayal of the American people.”

“It’s beyond despicable,” Mr. Biden added, detailing the crises the nation faces as a result of the pandemic that go far beyond the staggering public health costs. “It’s a dereliction of duty. It’s a disgrace.”

Later on CNN, Mr. Biden used even sharper language to criticize Mr. Trump’s contradictory message about the gravity of the pandemic.

“It was all about making sure the stock market didn’t come down, that his wealthy friends didn’t lose any money,” Mr. Biden said. “He waved a white flag. He walked away. He didn’t do a damn thing. Think about it. Think about what he did not do. It’s almost criminal.”

And in an exchange with reporters Wednesday evening, asked whether he blamed Mr. Trump for “thousands of deaths” given the knowledge the president had earlier in the year, Mr. Biden replied: “Yes, I do. I absolutely do.”

Credit…Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times

A clear majority of American adults worry that political pressure from the Trump administration will lead the Food and Drug Administration to rush through a coronavirus vaccine without making sure it is safe and effective, according to a poll released Thursday by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The poll, conducted between Aug. 28 and Sept. 3, found 62 percent of adults concerned about political pressure on the F.D.A. to approve a vaccine, Democrats far more so than Republicans.

Mr. Trump, hoping to shore up flagging opinion of his handling of the virus, has said as recently as this week that a vaccine might be available by Election Day, a prospect many government medical leaders — including Dr. Anthony S. Fauci; the director of the National Institutes of Health; and the chief adviser for the White House vaccine program — consider quite unlikely.

Nevertheless, the poll, which tracks public attitudes about a range of issues, found that six months into the pandemic, more Americans are feeling that it has passed its peak. Thirty-eight percent said “the worst is yet to come,” down from 74 in early April. Another 38 percent say “the worst is behind us,” up from 13 percent in April.

The poll, a nationally representative random sample of 1,199 adults, has a margin of error of plus or minus three percent.

Credit…Erik S Lesser/EPA, via Shutterstock

Should Bob Woodward have withheld until now a February quotation from President Trump, who privately told him the coronavirus was “deadly stuff” even as he publicly minimized its severity? Could Mr. Woodward have helped save lives by releasing the information sooner?

The revelation of Mr. Trump’s characterization of the virus came Wednesday in reports about Mr. Woodward’s new book, “Rage,” due out next week, for which Mr. Trump spoke to Mr. Woodward extensively.

It prompted a larger debate around journalistic ethics, with some arguing that Mr. Woodward, a lion of American journalism, had an obligation to report Mr. Trump’s assessment sooner.

Many observers argued that the public had a right not only to the information about the deadly potential of the virus early on, but also to the fact that Mr. Trump had been told the truth by experts and yet continued to mislead Americans. An often cited example is his comments in March comparing the coronavirus favorably to the seasonal flu.

“Trump was the key vector of harmful misinformation,” Marc Ambinder, a former White House correspondent for National Journal, wrote on Twitter. “We KNOW that his supporters BELIEVE HIM and altered their behavior because they thought COVID would be less harmful then the flu … cause that’s what Trump said.”

He added, “I’m inclined to say that holding onto this is and was flat out wrong.”

The president himself weighed in — on Mr. Woodward’s side, sort of — in a tweet on Thursday.

“Bob Woodward had my quotes for many months,” the president noted. “If he thought they were so bad or dangerous, why didn’t he immediately report them in an effort to save lives? Didn’t he have an obligation to do so? No, because he knew they were good and proper answers. Calm, no panic!”

Others doubted that revealing Mr. Trump’s comments sooner would have made a difference.

“If you believe that Woodward publishing Trump’s quote in March would’ve changed anything on Coronavirus the last four years have taught you absolutely nothing,” said James Ball, the global editor of The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, on Twitter.

Mr. Woodward did not reply to requests for comment Wednesday evening.

While it is common for journalists and book authors to agree to hold back information or comments from sources until an agreed-upon date, Mr. Woodward told Margaret Sullivan, The Post’s media columnist, that there was no such deal in place.

Rather, he said, he declined to share the comment in February or March because he did not learn until May that it had come from an intelligence briefing. By then, he told The Associated Press on Wednesday, the quote’s significance pertained to politics rather than public health, and the relevant deadline was the November election.

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Tucker Carlson on Fox News, one of President Trump’s most devoted defenders, is pointing a finger at another Trump wingman — Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina — for selling the president on a sit-down with Bob Woodward for his new book.

It is not clear, however, if Mr. Carson blames Mr. Graham for the 17 other times the president spoke to Mr. Woodward for the book, on the record.

“It was Lindsey Graham who helped convince Donald Trump to talk to Bob Woodward,” said Mr. Carlson, citing an anonymous source, during his show on Wednesday night. “Lindsey Graham brokered that meeting. Lindsey Graham even sat in on the first interview between Bob Woodward and the president. How did that turn out?”

He went on to ask, rhetorically, why Mr. Graham (“who is supposed to be a Republican”) walked the president, the senator’s golf partner, into a such a trap.

Mr. Carlson had a theory:

“Keep in mind that Lindsey Graham has opposed, passionately opposed, virtually every major policy initiative Mr. Trump articulated when he first ran — from ending illegal immigration, to pulling back from pointless wars, to maintaining law and order at home. Mr. Graham was against all of that.”

That is true enough; Mr. Graham was a scathing Trump critic before he rose to power.

But that case hit a fact-check wall, and fast: Mr. Trump told Mr. Carlson’s Fox colleague Sean Hannity on Wednesday night that the choice had been his own.

“He called. I didn’t participate in his last one — and he does hit jobs with everybody,” the president said, alluding to Mr. Woodward’s first biography of Mr. Trump, “Fear,” published in 2018.

“On Bush, I guess they did three books — they were all terrible,” the president continued. (Mr. Woodward actually wrote four about George W. Bush.) “So I figured: You know, let’s just give it a little shot — I’ll speak to him. It wasn’t a big deal. I speak to him, and let’s see. I don’t know if the book is good or bad — I have no idea. I probably, almost definitely, won’t read it because I don’t have time to read it.”

Mr. Trump’s explanation comports with his behavior, and his private comments to friends over the years. Mr. Woodward might have been a dangerous inquisitor, but he is also a branded celebrity icon in Washington journalism, and Mr. Trump — who is keenly conscious of his place in the pecking order — respected Mr. Woodward’s status, if not his work.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Trump, who counts his two Supreme Court appointments as among his greatest successes, issued a new list on Wednesday of 20 potential nominees to the court, reviving an issue he believes was a key to his victory four years ago as he faces a difficult re-election fight.

In 2016, similar lists helped persuade wary conservatives to support his unconventional candidacy, particularly because the death of Justice Antonin Scalia had created a pending vacancy. The new list was issued although there is no current vacancy, suggesting that the move had at least partly political aims.

Mr. Trump now has about 40 potential nominees to choose among should a vacancy arise. Before listing the new candidates on Wednesday, he singled out three judges from earlier lists who are widely believed to remain front-runners: Amy Coney Barrett of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, in Chicago; Thomas M. Hardiman of the Third Circuit, in Philadelphia; and William H. Pryor Jr. of the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta.

The new list included three Republican senators: Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri. Over the nation’s history, it was not unusual for sitting senators to be named to the Supreme Court, though it has been almost half a century since a former senator sat on the court.

Mr. Hawley said he had told the president he was not interested in the job. “My principal role in this process, this latest process, was to state where I will begin with judicial nominees, which is asking where they are on Roe vs. Wade,” he said, referring to the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion.

Mr. Cotton, for his part, made his position clear shortly after Mr. Trump spoke. “It’s time for Roe v. Wade to go,” he wrote on Twitter.

Mr. Cruz, also writing on Twitter, said he was honored to be considered.

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

Democratic congressional leaders sent a letter to colleagues on Wednesday pleading with them to urge their constituents to vote as early as possible, citing concerns that President Trump, with the help of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, is working to kneecap the Postal Service to ensure his own re-election.

“Democrats need to convey a loud, clear message to voters about how to overcome these concerns: To prevent Donald Trump from stealing this election, VOTE,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer, the minority leader, wrote in an unusual letter sent from a campaign account rather than an official one. “Americans must vote as early as they can — especially if you plan to vote by mail.”

Mr. Trump has railed against mail-in voting, claiming that it will rig the election against him and asserting without evidence that it is fraudulent. At the same time, Mr. DeJoy, installed in June by a board packed with Republican loyalists, has made operational changes at the Postal Service that have coincided with a mail-delivery slowdown.

The agency recently warned states that it might not have the ability to process all last-minute ballots, opening the possibility that hundreds of thousands mailed in the days leading up to the election could arrive too late to be counted. It has started a public education campaign to reassure Americans that the Postal Service can handle voting by mail and to urge those who plan to do so to send their ballots early. But its ads stop short of encouraging mail-in voting.

In their letter, Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer encouraged Democratic lawmakers to direct their constituents to iwillvote.com, a website funded by the Democratic National Committee where people can register to vote and find out how to do so in person or by mail.

“The best way to avoid lines, obstacles and delays is by not waiting until Election Day to vote,” they wrote. “Stay vigilant: With President Trump actively working to undermine the legitimacy of voting by mail, we must remain vigilant against efforts to discourage or deceive voters.”

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