President Trump on Thursday conceded a key point congressional Democrats have been making during sputtering negotiations over a new coronavirus economic relief package: The U.S. Postal Service, a frequent target and foil for the president, needs a major infusion of cash to make mass mail-in balloting “work” in time for a presidential election held during a pandemic.
Mr. Trump, in an interview on the Fox Business Network, cited proposals by House Democrats to allocate $25 billion to the service and another $3 billion specifically to help it handle mail-in voting and said, “If you don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting.”
Mr. Trump — who has claimed without proof that widespread voting by mail would enable voter fraud and corrupt the 2020 election — would not say if he intended to drop his demand that the virus package exclude new Postal Service funding, a key hurdle to a deal.
But there did appear to be some movement toward breaking the impasse. Soon after Mr. Trump’s comments, the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, told reporters that senior Trump advisers had indicated a willingness to support new funding, though the conditions had yet to be worked out.
Democrats have been pushing hard to prop up a Postal Service hit by cutbacks and staffing slowdowns since Mr. Trump appointed a major campaign donor, Louis DeJoy, as postmaster general.
Mr. Trump’s opposition to expanding mail-in voting appears motivated at least in part by his conviction that it would help Democrats. In March, he said that making it easier for more people to vote would ensure “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”
That position puts him at odds with Republican strategists, lawmakers and his own staff in states like Florida and North Carolina, who believe mail-in voting is needed to boost turnout in their own ranks. There is little evidence that widespread mail balloting advantages either party.
Democrats have called Mr. Trump’s reluctance to fund the Postal Service a cynical attempt at disenfranchisement.
“The president of the United States is sabotaging a basic service that hundreds of millions of people rely upon, cutting a critical lifeline for rural economies and for delivery of medicines, because he wants to deprive Americans of their fundamental right to vote safely during the most catastrophic public health crisis in over 100 years,” said Andrew Bates, a spokesman for Joseph R. Biden Jr.
Later, during a news conference with Mr. Biden, CNN’s Arlette Saenz asked, “President Trump today said that he opposes funding for the Postal Service, tying it to mail-in voting. What do you think about that?”
Mr. Biden responded, “Pure Trump. He doesn’t want an election.”
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Thursday let stand a Rhode Island judge’s order that makes it easier for voters in the state to vote by mail during the pandemic, dealing a defeat to Republican efforts to block the order.
The judge in Rhode Island had suspended a requirement that voters using mailed ballots fill them out in the presence of two witnesses or a notary.
In asking the Supreme Court to intervene, the Republican National Committee and Rhode Island’s Republican Party argued that the witness requirement imposed only a slight burden and was similar to one in Alabama that had survived a Supreme Court challenge.
But the Supreme Court, in explaining its refusal to stay the Rhode Island ruling, noted that unlike in Alabama, “no state official has expressed opposition” in Rhode Island to suspending the witness requirement. The Rhode Island judge had noted that Rhode Island’s last election was conducted without the witness requirement and wrote that instituting a change now could confuse voters.
Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch dissented from the order.
President Trump, who has ignored or mischaracterized scientific data throughout the coronavirus pandemic, opened a White House press briefing on Thursday with a political attack on Joseph R. Biden Jr., calling his views “anti-scientific” and warning that the presumptive Democratic nominee’s ideas on the coronavirus would trigger an economic depression.
Responding to Mr. Biden’s earlier call for governors to institute mask-wearing mandate to control the spread of the virus, Mr. Trump suggested that the proposal threatened to overstep individual freedoms of Americans, and said Mr. Biden was more interested in keeping Americans “locked in their basements for months on end” over listening to medical experts.
“If the president has the unilateral power to order every single citizen to cover their face in nearly all instances, what other powers does he have?” Mr. Trump said. Later, speaking directly to Mr. Biden, he added, “To Joe I would say: Stop playing politics with the virus. Too serious.”
Mr. Trump, of course, has used his repeated press briefings on the coronavirus to attack his political opponents and warn of dire economic and health outcomes if a Democrat is elected, and Thursday was no exception. He then defended his administration’s own policy toward encouraging mask-wearing as patriotic, without totally supporting the wearing of masks.
“Maybe they’re great and maybe they’re just good. Maybe they’re not so good,” Mr. Trump said. “But, frankly, what do you have to lose?”
Jared Kushner said Thursday during a press briefing that his recent meeting with Kanye West was “a general discussion” about policy and gave little further detail.
Earlier this week, The New York Times reported that Mr. Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, met last weekend with Mr. West, the rapper who will be on the ballot in some states as a presidential candidate in the 2020 election. Mr. West is being aided by allies and supporters of the president, in what many see as an effort to siphon votes from Joseph R. Biden Jr.
During a press briefing to discuss the Middle East, Mr. Kushner was asked about the meeting.
“Kanye’s been a friend of mine for, I’ve known him for about 10 years,” he said. “We talk every now and then about different things. We both happened to be in Colorado. So we got together and we had a great discussion about a lot of things. He has some great ideas for what he’d like to see happen in the country, and that’s why he has the candidacy that he’s been doing. But again, there’s a lot of issues the president’s championed that he admires, and it was just great to have a friendly discussion.”
He was later asked if the two men had discussed the 2020 campaign.
“We had a general discussion, more about policy,” he said.
Democrats are challenging signatures gathered on Mr. West’s behalf in states like Wisconsin, where lawyers supporting his candidacy are arguing that his name should be added to the ballot even though his nomination signatures were submitted 14 seconds after a 5 p.m. deadline.
President Trump and his allies have spent the months since Joseph R. Biden Jr. emerged as the presumptive Democratic nominee cycling through a variety of messages in hopes of denting the reputation of the former vice president.
They have called him soft on China and questioned his mental agility. They have tried to cast him as too tough on crime (at least in appeals to Black voters) and at the same time as anti-police. More recently, the Trump campaign has framed Mr. Biden, who ran throughout the Democratic primary as a moderate, as a captive of the “radical left.”
And on Thursday morning, the president, who twice mispronounced the word “fatality” during an appearance on Wednesday, questioned his opponent’s mental acuity.
“Joe doesn’t even know he is alive,” Mr. Trump said during a high-volume one-on-one with Maria Bartiromo of the Fox Business Network, a sympathetic interview that ended with each praising the other.
None of these slights have particularly stuck as Mr. Biden has maintained a steady lead in the polls.
The early stages of trying to define Kamala Harris, Mr. Biden’s vice-presidential pick, have been similarly scattered, while simultaneously infused with charged language specific to her role as the first woman of color to be part of a major party’s presidential ticket.
On Thursday, Mr. Trump continued to ridicule Ms. Harris, trying out another one of his derogatory nicknames on the California senator — a practice that some Republican officials worry will backfire among suburban women who will see such an attack as sexist.
“Now you have sort of a mad woman, I call her, because she was so angry and such hatred with Justice Kavanaugh,” he told Ms. Bartiromo. “I mean, I’ve never seen anything like it. She was the angriest of the group and they were all angry. They’re all radical left angry people.”
The Biden campaign, for its part, has focused on Mr. Trump’s handling of the simultaneous crises that have erupted in 2020: the coronavirus pandemic, the resulting economic downturn and the national protests after the killing of George Floyd in police custody.
On Wednesday, Ms. Harris simply stepped in as a new messenger. “There’s a reason it has hit America worse than any other advanced nation,” she said of the pandemic. “It’s because of Trump’s failure to take it seriously from the start.”
Those attacks may be potent: Fifty-seven percent of Americans say Mr. Trump is doing a bad job dealing with the virus, and 52 percent say the United States’ response is worse than other countries’, according to a Monmouth University poll released Thursday.
Joseph R. Biden Jr. called on governors to require mask wearing in their states on Thursday, saying that he believed that all Americans should wear face coverings to fight the spread of the coronavirus.
“Every single American should be wearing a mask when they’re outside for the next three months at a minimum,” Mr. Biden said.
The remarks came after Mr. Biden and Kamala Harris met with public health officials in Delaware for a briefing on the virus — yet another signal of their intention to make the pandemic a major part of their effort to unseat President Trump.
So far, more than 30 states have enacted mask requirements, following public health guidance that covering mouths and noses could reduce the spread of the virus. The mandates have been met with resistance from some, including a number of Republican leaders who see the rules as infringements on personal liberty.
Mr. Biden countered by saying that wearing a mask was a necessary civic duty.
“It’s not about your rights,” he said. “It’s about your responsibilities as an American.”
Ms. Harris, who on Wednesday criticized Mr. Trump’s management of the pandemic, supported Mr. Biden’s comments.
“That’s what real leadership looks like,” she said.
The two did not answer questions from reporters.
As Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris continued their focus on the pandemic, Vice President Mike Pence criticized the Democratic ticket during a series of appearances in Iowa.
At a town hall discussion on law enforcement put on by Heritage Action for America, a conservative group, Mr. Pence sought to paint Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris as anti-police and to stoke fears over public safety.
“The truth is you won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America,” Mr. Pence said.
Mr. Biden has supported redirecting some funding from the police to mental-health services or other reforms sought by activists. Ms. Harris, before she was Mr. Biden’s running mate, spoke about “reimagining” the role of law enforcement in America.
When Joseph R. Biden Jr. dialed up Kamala Harris on a videoconference call on Tuesday and asked her The Question — “You ready to go to work?” (to which she replied, “Oh my God, I am so ready”) — his choice as vice president was a well-kept secret but hardly a surprise.
Now that a Biden-Harris ticket is the Democratic reality, here are some takeaways from their debut as a ticket:
Harris’s early plaudits spanned the ideological spectrum. During her own primary bid, Ms. Harris oscillated between explicit appeals to the left (her pre-candidacy embrace of “Medicare for all”) and moves toward the middle (she promised a middle-class tax cut as her top priority). Plopped into the heat of the general election, her lack of ideological definition may prove an advantage. Her choice won plaudits from both the billionaire Michael R. Bloomberg and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont (who notably praised her on health care).
The Harris pick is spurring a wave of cash. By the end of Ms. Harris’s first full day on the campaign trail on Wednesday, the Biden campaign war chest had swelled, according to the campaign, by well over $34 million — and that is probably just the start. One official with the campaign said it had sold $1.2 million worth of yard signs since her announcement.
Harris will “prosecute the case” against Trump. Playing the attack dog is fairly standard fare for vice-presidential picks, and Ms. Harris is well suited to the role. A former prosecutor, she made some of her biggest splashes in her three-plus years in the Senate grilling Trump administration appointees. And she quickly adopted the language of a district attorney on the stump. “The case against Donald Trump and Mike Pence is open-and-shut,” she declared. “Just look where they’ve gotten us.”
Attorney General William P. Barr has been a defiant defender of President Trump — to a fault, his critics say. But on Thursday, Mr. Trump floated the idea that Mr. Barr might not be doing enough.
In an interview on the Fox Business Network, Mr. Trump suggested that Mr. Barr and the F.B.I. director, Christopher Wray, needed to take more forceful roles in steering the supposedly impartial investigation into whether the Obama administration targeted Mr. Trump during the 2016 election toward the result the president wants.
“Bill Barr has a chance to be the greatest of all time, but if he wants to be politically correct, he’ll be just another guy, because he knows all the answers,” Mr. Trump said of Mr. Barr, who assigned John Durham, the U.S. attorney for Connecticut, to investigate the matter in May.
This is amply trampled ground: Mr. Trump drove out Jeff Sessions, his first attorney general, largely for being insufficiently zealous in investigating the F.B.I.’s probe of possible collusion between his campaign and Russia.
During his interview with Maria Bartiromo, Mr. Trump said that Mr. Barr “knows what they have, and it goes right to Obama, it goes right to Biden,” referring to his unproven charge that Democrats conspired with James Comey, then the F.B.I. director, in a coordinated effort to “spy” on him four years ago.
Mr. Trump suggested that Mr. Wray, whom he appointed to replace Mr. Comey, had been reluctant to hand over evidence to Mr. Barr because he was “very, very protective” of the F.B.I. bureaucracy.
“I wish he was more forthcoming — he certainly hasn’t been,” Mr. Trump said.
“There are documents they want to get,” he added, referring to investigators, “and that we have said we want to get. We’re going to find out if he’s going to give those documents.”
Mr. Trump concluded by saying, “Let’s see how Wray turns out. He’s going to either turn out one way or the other.”
Sarah Palin might not vote for Kamala Harris in November, but she has no qualms supporting her in August, at least on a personal level.
The former governor of Alaska, who was selected in 2008 to add dash and diversity to a Republican ticket headlined by a graying male senator, offered words of encouragement (and commiseration) for Ms. Harris as she endures a barrage of early attacks.
“I hope that they will treat her fairly,” said Ms. Palin, John McCain’s former running mate, during an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Thursday, speaking of a news media she viewed as uniformly hostile.
“But at the same time, no kid gloves,” she added.
In an Instagram post a day earlier, Ms. Palin, who went on to a career in reality television, offered Ms. Harris friendly but pointed advice culled from her less-than-idyllic experiences 12 years ago: Don’t forget the women who came before you (Ms. Palin, presumably, included); “trust no one new”; fight to keep “your own team”; and, above all, “don’t get muzzled” by the presidential candidate’s advisers.
“Congrats,” Ms. Palin wrote — before invoking the memory of a charismatic former congresswoman from Queens who became the first-ever woman on a major-party ticket in 1984.
“Climb upon Geraldine Ferraro’s and my shoulders, and from the most amazing view in your life consider lessons we learned,” she added. “Have fun!”
In offering her support for the candidate, if not her candidacy, Ms. Palin is also following the example set by Hillary Clinton, who refused to speak negatively about Ms. Palin when asked about her in 2008.
Halliestine Zimmerman, a 71-year-old retired accountant in Mauldin, S.C., has cast a ballot in every election since she came of voting age, having watched her mother work to get more African-Americans to vote in the 1950s.
“We are just benefiting from that — from our mothers,” she said on Wednesday, the morning after Kamala Harris was chosen as the first woman of color to run on a national presidential ticket. “It is amazing what I have seen in my lifetime.”
For Ms. Zimmerman, there was joy in the moment, in being able to point to Ms. Harris as a role model, one whom her grandchildren could see themselves in.
“There was a time when nobody thought this was possible,” she said. “It was time for the Democrats to recognize who brought them to victory and who brings them to victory every time — it is Black women.”
“Finally,” she added, “they are letting us know they hear us.”
That sense of jubilant vindication is just what a group of activists and strategists imagined hearing when they began a campaign that they hoped would make it impossible for Mr. Biden to choose anyone but a Black woman as his running mate.
But the same activists who organized the push are steeling themselves for the kinds of attacks likely to be aimed at a Black woman on the presidential ticket.
“It is going to be a long road to the White House,” said Moya Bailey, a professor at Northeastern University who coined the term misogynoir, referring to the way Black women experience both sexism and racism. “I do think that the way our country has shown its disregard for Black women will definitely come up in the weeks and months ahead.”
Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s choice of Kamala Harris as his running mate affirmed what many progressives had feared: that any potential Biden administration would govern the same way the former vice president had spent most of his career — firmly rooted in Democratic establishment politics.
But rather than revolt, many progressive activists and elected officials stifled their criticisms and proclaimed their support, reiterating that removing Mr. Trump from office was their priority. Even those prone to denouncing Mr. Biden and other moderates largely tried to make peace.
Larry Cohen, the chairman of the Bernie Sanders-aligned group Our Revolution, described Ms. Harris as “extremely competent.”
The declarations of enthusiasm underscore how delicately progressives are approaching this moment, as they try to balance demands for change with the understanding that Democrats across the spectrum must unite behind Mr. Biden to defeat Mr. Trump. They are also negotiating another political reality: that Ms. Harris could be the party’s face of the future, and that crossing her now will have political consequences that did not exist at the week’s outset.
Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants union and a Sanders ally, said she was focusing on how Ms. Harris, as California attorney general, had helped secure a nationwide settlement with big banks.
“When I think about this moment that we’re in, and I think about the fact that she was one of the A.G.s to take on the banks during the financial crisis and to stand up for working people — I’m hanging on to that right now,” she said. “I can get excited about that.”
YouTube will not allow the posting of hacked material meant to interfere with the 2020 election or this year’s census, the company said Thursday.
Leslie Miller, a vice president of government affairs at YouTube, said the service would remove hacked information that “may interfere with democratic processes.” She offered the example of videos “that contain hacked information about a political candidate shared with the intent to interfere in an election” as something the platform would take down.
In 2016, hackers released emails from an account used by John D. Podesta, then the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. The emails spread online, helping to fuel conspiracy theories, and were widely covered by traditional media outlets. The hackers were linked to Russia, where American intelligence authorities say government officials executed a plan to interfere with the election.
YouTube, which is owned by Google, is not the only tech company to adopt a policy meant to stem the spread of hacked material. Twitter does not allow users to post hacked material or link to it in tweets. Facebook’s community standards forbid the posting, except in “limited cases of newsworthiness,” of “content claimed or confirmed to come from a hacked source, regardless of whether the affected person is a public figure or a private individual.”
All three tech companies are preparing for the possibility their services could be used for election interference in the coming months. On Wednesday, Facebook, Google and other companies said they were forming a group to promote collaboration with the government on securing the election.
Despite the platforms’ efforts at enforcement, they have often struggled to stem the tide of disinformation. Last week Facebook removed a video posted by Trump campaign in which the president claimed children were immune to the coronavirus, but only after it had been viewed nearly half a million times. And hackers seeking to influence the election could post information elsewhere, such as on their own websites.
CENTER OF THE WORLD, Ohio — As he stood outside a Dollar General store, loading groceries into his pickup, Dennis Kuchta pondered what it would mean not to have an Ohio State football season this fall because of the coronavirus.
“It’s a huge loss, and I don’t think people realize that yet,” he said.
With a pillar of autumn Saturdays missing, Mr. Kuchta and others in this football-mad northeastern corner of the state lookied for someone to blame.
“Trump just blew it,” Mr. Kuchta said. “He just didn’t handle it. He could have shut things down for five or six weeks and figured out what he was doing, but he never had a plan.”
That points to a potential problem for Mr. Trump, whose re-election efforts may well hinge on an earlier-than-expected return to normalcy across America.
In battleground states like Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania, where college football serves as an autumn religion, the Big Ten’s decision to postpone its season may be a political stain that the president is unable to blame on Democrats or the media.
“As great as politics is — it’s a sport that so many people enjoy watching — it’s not as important as college football in Ohio, in Georgia, in Alabama,” said Paul Finebaum, who hosts a syndicated college football radio show for ESPN. “Without it, people will be lost and people will be angry.”
Mr. Finebaum predicted that the loss of the season would damage Mr. Trump even among his most faithful supporters.
“We don’t have a day that doesn’t pass where someone doesn’t call up and blame the president,” he said. “Even from the South, I’ve heard more anger directed at the president than I thought.”
President Trump has complained before about the sorry state of the national water pressure. Now he is transforming grievance to governance, trying to roll back a regulation limiting flow through American-made shower heads.
Mr. Trump often eschews written briefing materials and ignores even basic policy matters, according to former administration officials. But he has often focused on minutiae pertaining to matters of personal importance, peeves emanating from his days as a developer and landlord. Low water pressure, often an issue in Manhattan high-rises, is one of them.
“So shower heads — you take a shower, the water doesn’t come out,” Mr. Trump said at a an event touting his business-friendly policies in July. “You want to wash your hands, the water doesn’t come out. So what do you do? You just stand there longer or you take a shower longer? Because my hair — I don’t know about you, but it has to be perfect. Perfect.”
A federal law enacted in 1992 mandates that new shower heads not be allowed to spritz more than 2.5 gallons of water per minute. The Obama administration, target of so many Trump-era anti-regulatory assaults, dictated that the 2.5-gallon cap be applied to the aggregated outpouring of all nozzles in modern-day multihead shower fixtures.
Mr. Trump’s Energy Department proposed a new rule on Wednesday that would allow each nozzle to pump out 2.5 gallons, with no restrictions on the total.
Environmental advocates say the plan is no trivial matter: It could lead to waste of water at a time when large sections of the country are grappling with multiyear droughts.