Election Live Updates: Trump Heads to an Unsettled Kenosha

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Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

President Trump is embarking on a trip to Wisconsin today that has the potential to roil delicate local conditions in Kenosha and rattle his own re-election campaign, after Mr. Trump on Monday declined to denounce a 17-year-old white gunman who is charged with killing two people during a night of unrest in the city last week.

Mr. Trump’s comments in the White House briefing room on Monday came amid a series of developments that undercut his law-and-order campaign message and left his aides straining to defend the president’s public behavior. His apparent sympathy for a teenager charged with murder, who spoke openly about seeing himself as a kind of vigilante, may upend a national debate over criminal justice and safety that Republicans hope will work to their advantage in the presidential race.

The president’s remarks came hours after his Democratic challenger, Joseph R. Biden Jr., challenged Mr. Trump to condemn acts of violence coming from the political right. Mr. Trump did not do so. In addition to making forgiving comments about the teenager, Kyle Rittenhouse, Mr. Trump defended supporters of his who fired paintball pellets and pepper spray into a crowd in Portland, Ore.

Any traditional president would be expected to play a calming and consoling role while visiting an American city that is still reeling from a police shooting and ensuing civil disorder. There is little expectation that Mr. Trump’s presence will act as a balm on the situation. On the contrary, the president has indicated at every turn that he intends to turn the events in Kenosha into a weapon of political division.

Even before his comments in the briefing room, Mr. Trump was criticizing local Democratic leaders in Wisconsin and other places where some protests have turned violent, maintaining a drumbeat of ominous and misleading messaging that defined the Republican convention last week. He attacked “radical left mayors and governors” on Twitter, blaming them for unruly demonstrations and incidences of rioting.

Gov. Tony Evers of Wisconsin, a Democrat, had asked Mr. Trump to put off his visit to Kenosha, but the president proceeded anyway. And so on Monday, Kenosha readied itself for a presidential visit that many people in town would rather not happen at all.

The family of Jacob Blake, the Black man who was shot seven times by a white police officer in Kenosha last week, planned a peaceful gathering at 11 a.m. local time on Tuesday at the scene of the shooting, in a residential neighborhood.

And Kejuan Goldsmith, an activist, said that a large crowd of demonstrators would gather outside the Kenosha County courthouse beginning at 3:30 p.m., with a presence that he hoped would prevail over Mr. Trump’s message.

“We don’t want any of the negativity,” Mr. Goldsmith said. “I know he’s going to try to turn all this positivity into negativity. But we’re out here fighting. We’re doing this because we demand justice.”

As he did in 2016, Mr. Trump has staked his candidacy on a strategy of dividing the electorate along racial lines as he seeks to claw uneasy white voters away from Mr. Biden. But the president is now facing pushback of a kind he was able to avoid last week, when he and his party were able to deliver a deeply divisive message largely unimpeded.

On Monday, Mr. Biden denounced social disorder in his strongest language yet — “It’s lawlessness, plain and simple, and those who do it should be prosecuted,” he said — and accused Mr. Trump of fomenting violence for political purposes.

“Does anyone believe there will be less violence in America if Donald Trump is re-elected?” Mr. Biden asked, trying to turn Mr. Trump’s public safety-themed arguments against him.

After the president’s appearance in the briefing room, Mr. Biden issued a statement saying that if Mr. Trump would not denounce violence by his supporters, “then he is unfit to be president, and his preference for more violence — not less — is clear.”

While it remains to be seen what exactly Mr. Trump might do and say in Kenosha, one omission from his itinerary is clear enough: He is not expected to meet with members of the Blake family.

President Trump compared instances of the police shooting people to golfers who “choke” when trying to sink “a three-foot putt”— and floated a baseless conspiracy theory that powerful people in the “dark shadows” were behind Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s campaign and recent protests in an unrestrained interview on Fox News Wednesday night.

Mr. Trump’s remarks came hours before he was scheduled to visit Kenosha, Wis., the site of protests and violence in the wake of the shooting of Jacob Blake by police.

Local officials have implored Mr. Trump, who has sided with conservative counterprotesters — many of whom have been waving Trump-Pence flags — not to come, out of concern his presence could provoke more violence and stoke more unrest.

When the Fox News host Laura Ingraham, who gave a fiery pro-Trump speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention, asked him about police officers who commit acts of violence against people in their custody, he replied, “They choke. Just like in a golf tournament, they miss a three-foot putt.”

Ms. Ingraham, who repeatedly interrupted Mr. Trump during their interview to moderate his comments, tried to stop him just as he was starting to say the word “putt.”

“You’re not comparing it to golf? Because of course that’s what the media will say,” she said.

“The police are under siege because of things — they can do 10,000 great acts, which is what they do, and one bad apple or a choker, you know, a choker, they choke,” Mr. Trump replied.

“Shooting the guy in the back many times,” he continued, referencing what happened to Mr. Blake, “I mean, couldn’t you have done something different, couldn’t you have wrestled him? You know, I mean, in the meantime he might’ve been going for a weapon. You know there’s a whole big thing there, but they choke.”

At another point in their interview, when Ms. Ingraham asked Mr. Trump who was behind Mr. Biden’s campaign, he replied, “People that you’ve never heard of, people that are in the dark shadows.”

She responded, “That sounds like a conspiracy theory.”

“There are people that are on the streets, there are people that are controlling the streets,” Mr. Trump said. “We had somebody get on a plane from a certain city this weekend. And in the plane, it was almost completely loaded with thugs, wearing these dark uniforms, black uniforms, with gear and this and that.”

There were “a lot of the people were on the plane to do big damage,” Mr. Trump said.

He provided no evidence for his claims. When Ms. Ingraham asked for more detail, he said the matter was still under investigation, adding, “I’ll tell you sometime.”

The language Mr. Trump used — he called the shadowy supporters of Mr. Biden and the protesters “very stupid rich people” — echoed themes swirling around the right-wing QAnon movement, which has spread conspiracy theories alleging that a secret, wealthy cabal of left-wing power brokers are trying to undermine Mr. Trump and the country.

Joe Biden brought pizza during a visit on Monday to a firefighters union in Pittsburgh. 
Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

After Republicans spent their party convention week seeking to cast Joseph R. Biden Jr. as radically anti-law enforcement, the Democratic presidential nominee sought to turn the tables on President Trump on Monday, arguing that he was an incendiary force in American politics in a forceful speech from Pittsburgh, and roundly condemning violence.

The next big question facing Mr. Biden: To what extent does he take that message on the road?

With Mr. Trump expected to visit Kenosha, Wis., on Tuesday, Mr. Biden has faced questions over whether he might do the same sometime soon. Asked by a reporter on Monday, Mr. Biden said, according to a pool report: “I’m checking it out now. We hope to be able to do that.”

Mr. Biden’s advisers had debated whether he should visit Wisconsin on Monday, ultimately ruling against it, but discussions continue about a possible trip. Mr. Biden has rarely held campaign events far from Delaware, his home state, amid the coronavirus outbreak, but he said last week he intended to visit swing states in a concerted fashion after Labor Day. Some political observers on the ground say a trip to Wisconsin can’t come soon enough.

“He needs to go there,” said former Representative Reid Ribble, who served as a Republican from Wisconsin but has been critical of Mr. Trump and hasn’t made a firm determination about his vote. “It’s nice to say the coronavirus is keeping you in, but he’s got to go to Wisconsin.”

President Trump’s approach to a summer of protests has been consistent with a career of combative politics that play to racial animosities.
Credit…The New York Times

President Trump has seized on the response in the streets to police brutality against Black men and women to bolster his re-election campaign, employing provocative and sometimes incendiary language and images to incite his followers, demonize his opponents or both.

He has sought to conflate all protesters with the small minority of people who have looted stores, started fires and engaged in violence against police officers. He has blamed street unrest on Democratic mayors and governors and even Joseph R. Biden Jr.

He has also repeatedly threatened to deploy federal forces. And especially since a man affiliated with a right-wing group was shot and killed in Portland, Ore., on Saturday night, he has seemed to encourage freelance action by his own supporters who have showed up as well in places like Kenosha, Wis., eager to counter the protesters and sometimes engaging in violence themselves.

Mr. Trump’s approach, intended to divert attention from the human and economic costs of the pandemic, is consistent with a career of combative politics that play to racial animosities, going back to his time in business.

Since becoming president, he has seemed to equate white supremacists marching to preserve a Confederate statue in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017 with the people who demonstrated against them. And in 2018, during the midterm congressional campaign, he repeatedly warned that caravans of would-be immigrants heading to the southern border posed a national threat, a topic he quickly dropped after the elections.

Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III, with his wife, Lauren, and their children, is challenging Senator Edward J. Markey.
Credit…Brian Snyder/Reuters

The incumbent Senator Edward J. Markey and his challenger, Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III, are headlining the Massachusetts primary vote on Tuesday, but their bitter head-to-head battle is not the only race on the ballot. Voters also will weigh in on a set of House primaries that have pitted some of the party’s more moderate politicians against a lineup of more progressive upstarts.

In deep-blue Massachusetts — where both of the state’s senators and all nine of its representatives are Democrats — the results of Tuesday’s votes could be a bellwether for the future of the party, and serve as a test of strength for the Democratic Party’s more progressive wing in Massachusetts and elsewhere. Polls opened at 7 a.m. Eastern time and close at 8 p.m.

Seven candidates are running for the seat representing the Fourth District, the one Mr. Kennedy is vacating. The progressives on the ballot — including Jesse Mermell, a front-runner who has been endorsed by Representative Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Ihssane Leckey, who has been endorsed by Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota — might split the vote, which could present an opportunity for Jake Auchincloss, 32, a Marine veteran endorsed by The Boston Globe.

In the Eighth Congressional District, which includes part of Boston, Robbie Goldstein, 36, an infectious disease specialist, has mounted a progressive challenge to the longtime incumbent Stephen Lynch, 65.

And in the First Congressional District in western Massachusetts, the 16-term congressman Richard E. Neal — who, as the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, is one of the most powerful Democrats in the House — is facing a challenge from Alex B. Morse, the 31-year-old mayor of Holyoke.

Mr. Neal, 71, has been in Congress since 1989, the year Mr. Morse was born. Mr. Morse has been endorsed by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York; Mr. Neal has been endorsed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

It has been a tumultuous race for Mr. Morse, who considered dropping out several weeks ago after he was accused of inappropriate advances toward students at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where he was once a guest lecturer. He opted to remain in the race after The Intercept published messages from some of the students who had lodged accusations, revealing that they had discussed how they might damage his campaign.

But none of these races have drawn as much attention as the Senate contest between Mr. Markey, 74, and Mr. Kennedy, 39, who now is trailing in the polls. The two represent different generations of Democratic and state politics but are running on similar platforms, with each campaigning as the bold, progressive insurgent.

Election officials sorted absentee ballots in Atlanta last month. A district judge ordered an extension of the deadline by which absentee ballots must be received to be considered valid.
Credit…John Spink/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, via Associated Press

Republicans and Democrats are waging a legal trench war over the rules for casting a ballot in November that may have decisive consequences in some states. Republicans say they want to tighten voting requirements to prevent fraud, though experts say fraud is a minuscule election problem. Democrats favor rules that make it easier to vote.

Monday saw three developments in that legal war, all in states that could be competitive in the presidential election.

In Texas, the Republican attorney general filed suit to stop the chief election official in heavily Democratic Harris County — Houston, to most people — from sending applications to vote by mail to two million voters. The filing said the mailing would create confusion and encourage fraud.

Texas is mired in a deeply partisan battle over who should be able to cast an absentee ballot in a pandemic, with Republicans largely managing to defend restrictive state rules. Texas is one of just six states that prohibit voters worried about getting Covid-19 from casting ballots by mail instead of in person.

But no law bars county officials from sending applications to voters. The attorney general nevertheless argued that the mass mailing exceeds the authority “implied” under state law.

In Iowa, national Democrats sued to overturn an order by the Republican secretary of state that bars county clerks from sending voters absentee ballot applications that have been pre-completed with details like voters’ names and addresses. Paul Pate, Iowa’s secretary of state, has said that only blank applications are valid; Republicans argue that making voters fill in those missing details is an important security measure.

The issue has consequences: Last week, local judges in two Iowa counties invalidated some 64,000 pre-completed ballot requests that voters had already submitted, effectively making those voters repeat the process. Thousands of additional ballot applications that had been sent out but had not been returned also would be negated. The Democratic lawsuit argues that county officials have sent similarly completed ballot applications in past years without objection.

And in Georgia, a federal district judge sided with national Democrats and ordered an extension of the deadline by which absentee ballots must be received to be considered valid. Current rules invalidate any mail ballot received after the 7 p.m. closing of the polls on Election Day. The ruling extends that deadline to 7 p.m. on the third day after Election Day for any ballot that is postmarked no later than Election Day.

Citing the burdens of the pandemic — and noting that the state rejected 7,821 ballots as late in the state’s June primary election — the judge said the risk that valid votes would go uncounted was considerable.

Credit…Jessica White/The New York Times

Books about politicians and government are not considered surefire commercial hits. But since President Trump entered office, books about his campaign, his administration, his family, his business, his policies, even his golf game have poured out of publishing houses big and small.

And many of these titles have sold extraordinarily well.

“No matter what your political position, there’s really no doubt that the strong feelings around the Trump administration have pushed book sales in a way we’ve never seen before in the political arena,” said Kristen McLean, the executive director of business development at NPD Books, a market research firm. “The volume of best-selling titles is really remarkable.”

Early on in Mr. Trump’s presidency came the first big journalistic exposés, starting with Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury” and then Bob Woodward’s “Fear,” which sold more than two million copies.

Next came the insider accounts of the tumult within the White House from the many officials who resigned or were fired and sought to revive their reputations and fortunes with breathless, often news-making memoirs.

Those included works by Anthony Scaramucci, who served for 11 days as the White House director of communications; Cliff Sims, another former White House communications aide; Omarosa Manigault Newman, former assistant to the president; James Comey, former F.B.I. director; John Bolton, former national security adviser; and Anonymous, a senior figure in the Trump administration.

Credit…Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

If there was any concern that readers would grow tired of tell-alls, it has been relieved by sales figures. Trump book sales are still soaring: This summer, Mr. Bolton’s book sold more than a million copies, while Ms. Trump’s book has gone into its 20th printing.

“Political books broadly have worked more or less in proportion to how polarizing the figure that they orbit is, and you don’t get more polarizing than Donald J. Trump,” said Eamon Dolan, an executive editor at Simon & Schuster who edited Ms. Trump’s book. “However you feel about the president in political terms or existential terms for what he might do for or to the country, he makes great copy.”

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has instituted changes that have resulted in confusion and coincided with a slowdown in delivery times and an effort by the president to attack mail-in voting.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, Democrat of New York and the chairwoman of the House Oversight Committee, said Monday that she would subpoena Louis DeJoy, the postmaster general, for documents she said he had withheld from Congress related to mail delays and communications with the Trump campaign.

The subpoena is the latest sign of escalating tension between the new postmaster general — an ally of President Trump and Republican megadonor — and leading Democrats, who have accused him of injecting dysfunction into the United States Postal Service before the November election. The changes Mr. DeJoy has instituted have resulted in confusion and coincided with a slowdown in delivery times and a concerted effort by the president to baselessly attack mail-in voting as fraudulent, arguing that it hurts his re-election chances.

In a statement, the Postal Service said it was “surprised and confused” by the committee’s subpoena.

“We will continue to cooperate with the oversight committees in both the House and Senate, and we fully intend to comply with our obligations under the law,” the statement said.

The statement also said mail performance was beginning to improve after suffering declines during Mr. DeJoy’s first months on the job, when he put in place cost-cutting measures, including a more regimented schedule for running mail trucks at specified times. Documents released Monday afternoon by the Postal Service on Monday show an improvement in delivery times, but not a full return to the level of service provided before Mr. DeJoy implemented his changes.

For months, members of Congress have sought documents from Mr. DeJoy about delays in election mail, the removal of machinery and how he has chosen to run the agency. Internal documents show some aspects of mail performance had fallen by as much as 8 percent since he took the helm of the agency.

Democrats have raised concerns that Mr. DeJoy is interfering with the mail as part of a broader effort by Mr. Trump to sow distrust in voting by mail ahead of a pandemic-era election in which mail-in ballots will play an outsize role. Among their requests for documents: information about the removal of hundreds of letter-sorting machines and the limiting of overtime — both actions denounced by union officials.

Mr. DeJoy has yet to provide any documents to Congress since a hearing last week of Ms. Maloney’s committee, during which Democrats grilled the postmaster general and some called for him to resign.

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