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Silicon Valley’s Big-Money Donors Are Very Excited About VP Kamala Harris

When Joe Biden announced Kamala Harris as his choice for a running mate earlier this week, the mainstream business press was unanimous as to what it meant for Silicon Valley executives: relief.

A sampling of the headlines that followed Biden’s announcement: “With Sen. Kamala Harris ascending to become former Vice President Joe Biden’s running mate, Silicon Valley can breathe a little easier, at least for now” (CNN business). “Silicon Valley Sees Kamala Harris as One of Its Own” (Wall Street Journal). “Kamala Harris could be the best thing that ever happened to Big Tech” (Fortune). “Kamala Harris is a friend, not foe, of Big Tech” (MarketWatch). “Kamala Harris: the First Candidate of Silicon Valley” (Forbes). “Kamala Harris Has Wall Street and Silicon Valley’s Support” (New York Times).

For all the talk of Harris’s supposed ability to unify the Democratic Party, some of her strongest backing comes from a narrow fraction of US capital. Donors to her failed presidential bid included Salesforce’s Marc Benioff, Amazon general counsel David Zapolsky, Microsoft president Brad Smith, LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman, Dropbox CEO Drew Houston, Oracle NetSuite executives Evan Goldberg and Dorian Daley, Cisco CFO Kelly Kramer, former Facebook chief security officer Alex Stamos, and venture capitalist John Doerr.

As Politico reports, “Other past Harris funders include Tony Fadell, co-founder of smart thermostat maker Nest; Jony Ive, the design guru at Apple; Sean Parker, the Napster co-founder and former Facebook president; and Brian Chesky, chief executive of Airbnb, the home-sharing service.” TechNet, a tech industry trade group, quickly applauded Biden’s choice, stating that “TechNet has worked with Senator Harris since her days as California Attorney General, and we know her to be a person of great intellect, integrity, and ability who fights for those who need a strong voice for justice.”

Having risen to her current position in the Senate by ascending the ranks of San Francisco society, Harris has made building relationships with tech executives a well-honed skill, and her ties to the industry date back to her early years in California politics. Recode’s Teddy Schleifer, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky, ex-Yahoo executive Marissa Mayer, and ex-Apple executive Jony Ive, among others, fundraised for Harris’s 2014 California attorney general reelection bid.

Tony West, Harris’s brother-in-law, is chief legal counsel for Uber, a company that is openly threatening to engage in a capital strike — temporarily shutting down its operations and throwing thousands of drivers out of work during an economic crisis — in response to a court ruling mandating that the company classify its drivers as employees rather than independent contractors. While Harris is not responsible for the actions of her family members, West previously helped direct Harris’s 2016 Senate transition operation, and, having served as associate attorney general in the US Department of Justice — the DoJ’s number-three position — has been viewed as a possible candidate for a position in a Biden-Harris administration.

(It should be noted that despite these ties, which extend to Harris’s niece Meena, who worked at Uber until recently, Harris publicly endorsed AB5, taking the opposite side of Uber in the company’s ongoing fight with the state. As a US senator, of course, Harris has no direct role in California labor policymaking, and as Jessica Levinson, a Loyola Law School professor and former president of the Los Angeles Ethics Commission, told the Los Angeles Times last year, it would have been particularly difficult for Harris to oppose the legislation: “Not just because labor is in favor of it, but because she’s going to look otherwise like she’s making a decision to benefit her family.”)

Mere moments after Biden announced Harris’s place on the Democratic ticket, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg — whose best-selling book Lean In Harris helped promote — celebrated the decision as a “huge moment for Black women and girls all over the world.” “Joe Biden you made a great choice!” tweeted Laurene Powell Jobs, a billionaire philanthropist and Steve Jobs’s widow.

As for Harris’s own record on tech issues, while she’s stated that she’s in favor of regulating companies to protect consumer privacy, she is no advocate of Elizabeth Warren’s anti-monopolist line that calls for breaking up companies such as Amazon, Facebook, and Google, nor Bernie Sanders’s calls for a radical redistribution of wealth.

“I believe that the tech companies have got to be regulated in a way that we can ensure, and the American consumer can be certain, that their privacy is not being compromised,” she told the New York Times when asked about the subject. When pressed about breaking up such companies, she evaded the question, responding that her “first priority is going to be that we ensure that privacy is something that is intact, and that consumers have the power to make decisions about what happens with their personal information and that it is not being made for them.”

During her time as California attorney general, Harris did little to stand in the way of Silicon Valley’s massive centralization of wealth, preferring to work with companies rather than against them. As Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog, told MarketWatch, “It was deeply troubling that as AG, she oversaw the growth of the biggest sector in America that dominates our privacy and our choices, and didn’t file a single case to take on that power.”

“Ultimately I have to guess she will be a quiet ally for [the tech industry] behind the scenes,” Bradley Tusk, a venture capitalist, told the Washington Post.

All of this reinforces fears that Harris’s ascent will come at the expense of working-class people, whose labor rights, livelihoods, and privacy are viewed by Silicon Valley companies as impediments to their business models. It’s also likely part of the reason Harris trumped her competitors for the role of vice presidential candidate. As Cooper Teboe, a Democratic Party fundraiser in Silicon Valley told Vox, “She is the safest pick for the donor community.”

It’s incontrovertible that Harris’s addition to the ticket has indeed enthused donors — just look at what it’s done for fundraising over the past forty-eight hours — but we should consider what strings are attached to that support.

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Coronavirus & Congress — How to Get the Pandemic Bill Negotiations Unstuck

(tupungato/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Cross-partisan talks about another pandemic-relief bill are clearly bogged down. But the rhetoric, and even a lot of the journalism, around how that has happened tends to mask more than it reveals.

Republicans say the Democrats are clinging to unreasonable demands and irresponsible spending levels. Democrats say Republicans don’t want a bill and aren’t prioritizing real needs. And the headlines in recent days have been filled with disgust at the decision of both houses (and so both parties) to leave town until after Labor Day without resolving the fate of unemployment benefits, small-business assistance, aid to states, and much else.

Up to a point, all of that is true. But it reflects a set of failed calculations in both houses of Congress and at the White House. House Democrats began this process in May with an irresponsible partisan travesty of a bill—a kind of progressive wish list meant to quiet tensions within the Democratic conference that could never have become the foundation for a real legislative process. Nancy Pelosi, who has a real gift for managing her members, seemed to assume that she could separate her intra-party challenge of keeping the radical wing of House progressives calm from the inter-party challenge of negotiating a bill. It wasn’t a crazy notion, but it has not worked out, and she has found herself instead treating at least the top-line spending numbers in that bill as a foundation for negotiations. That means the Democrats have been backed into entering this process with demands for an unrealistic level of spending, and one somewhat detached from substantive policy aims.

The Democrats can try to present this as a bargaining strategy, but it looks more like a blunder that has undermined their ability to push for their key priorities in a bill and has left them talking about spending levels instead. When reporters asked Pelosi on Thursday when she thought negotiations would resume, she said “I don’t know, when they come in with $2 trillion.” Even if the final bill approaches such overall levels of spending, that wouldn’t happen by demanding a particular overall level of spending. But that is where Pelosi has been stuck for the moment.

This in turn has undermined the strategy that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had hoped to pursue. His goal, in the wake of the process that resulted in the CARES Act in March, was to avoid once again getting stuck as just an observer of negotiations between Pelosi and the administration. So he sought to have the House go first, and propose legislation that Senate Republicans could then negotiate against and work from. He did this in April and May by saying Senate Republicans saw no need for further action, and calling for a pause before any new bill.

When the Democrats used that opportunity to put forward a political sham, however, the Senate found itself in the same place as in March, compelled to start the process of actual legislative proposals. But having left things to the House by saying Senate Republicans saw no urgency in a further legislative measure, McConnell created space for more than a dozen Senate Republicans to publicly commit to opposing any further measure, and found it difficult to get his caucus moving on a new package. Senate Republicans proposed that package only at the end of July. And by that point, the administration had basically started its own process, with Treasury Secretary Mnuchin again negotiating directly with Speaker Pelosi—exactly the process McConnell had hoped to avert.

Some Senate Republicans really don’t want the process to succeed, as the Democrats suggest. Most do, though, including McConnell himself. But he seems resigned to a process that again leaves him largely locked out. One Republican senator told me last week (disapprovingly) that McConnell said to Mnuchin, in front of a group of fellow Senators, that it was imperative that Mnuchin “get a deal done at all costs.”

But meanwhile, the administration’s own attempts at tactical cleverness have also backfired. The executive actions President Trump announced in early August were constitutionally obnoxious but substantively unworkable. The memo aimed at offering tax relief would create such enormous uncertainty for employers that most seem likely to just keep their existing arrangements for payroll-tax payments. The one aimed at giving states more unemployment-insurance funds would require more state spending and an administrative system that likely couldn’t be set up for months. If they were intended to create pressure for Congress to act, they seem to have failed. Instead, they have reinforced everyone’s pre-existing positions, with some Republicans saying they make congressional action less necessary, others insisting that they create added impetus for legislation, and Democrats treating them as evidence that Republicans aren’t engaged with real needs.

Secretary Mnuchin really is trying to advance a deal and to negotiate. It’s far from clear that the president has the same aim, though, and in any case Trump has set no clear priorities and has taken no direct part in the process. He’s content to be an observer and commentator, as usual, which also makes it hard for some Republicans to know where to stand.

So at the moment, things do seem good and stuck. And yet, because decision-making is so thoroughly centralized in this process, the logjam could be broken more quickly than it seems. Congress taking its August break, for instance, strikes me as basically irrelevant to this process. If anything, it lets Pelosi reset a little and reposition for making a deal without her more radical members in her ear.

And it should be possible to reconceive of the process as stuck around a few key substantive disputes, rather than overall top-line numbers. By working from some substantive aims to a cost, rather than aiming for an overall dollar figure to begin with, the differences between the parties might at least become a little clearer.

To the extent that there has been haggling about substantive details, the Democrats have argued for a trillion dollars in relatively open-ended funding to the states and an additional several hundred billion dollars for schools, along with continuing the expanded unemployment-insurance benefits, topping up a variety of federal welfare programs, more money for the postal service, and election support. Republicans’ priorities, largely contained in the Senate package proposed last month, includes a renewal of PPP funds for small business, significant (but lesser) support for schools, liability protections for employers, and a gradual curtailment of the additional unemployment benefits.

Looked at that way, rather than in terms of top-line numbers, some prospects for compromise seem obvious. The toughest arena of contention may be aid for state and local governments, which Republicans did not include at all but for which Democrats are demanding a trillion dollars or more. On that front, to make up lost state revenue due to the shutdowns, lawmakers should consider the option of federal or federally-backed loans to state governments, offered on very easy terms (perhaps even at zero interest) and repayable over a decent interval.

Lost state revenue can be quantified against some measure of expected tax receipts, so that aid is directed to filling revenue gaps rather than addressing longstanding pension problems and the like. And Congress could have the Treasury build on the Municipal Liquidity Facility it established with the Federal Reserve in April to buy state bonds and quickly provide financing, or it could otherwise guarantee loans that could help states replace lost income. Swift support could allow the states to get through this fiscal year’s intense economic hardship without needing to cut back education, welfare, or other core services. And providing such help not as grants but as generous loans that can be slowly repaid to the Treasury as state revenues recover over time can both protect federal finances and avoid favoring higher-tax states.

If Congress offered states a total of a trillion dollars, with say three-quarters of that in the form of loans, and without additional funds allocated specifically to schools (states could decide what portion of their support should go to what essential services), legislators could offer the bulk of the aid the Democrats have in mind at much more like the cost that Republicans were envisioning.

In other areas, compromise should be easier to reach. President Trump’s reckless politicizing of the postal-service funding debate probably means that Democrats are now very likely to insist on money for the post office as a non-negotiable demand. If that’s so, Republicans should agree only in return for changes to the structure of the emergency unemployment benefit, which allow it over time to diminish the perverse incentives against work that the program enacted in March has created. Some election support to the states makes sense, and shouldn’t be outrageously expensive. It should also be tied to reforms of federal law (like the one proposed recently by Senator Rubio) that could allow states more time to count votes if election day turns out to be a complicated mess.

And lawmakers should not forget that we are still fighting the virus. This bill should not only focus on the economic hardship created by the response to the pandemic but also on strengthening the ability of the states to test, track, and respond to outbreaks, which we should expect to recur this fall. There is still a great deal of work to be done on that front (as well as in preparation for the early distribution of vaccine doses, should ongoing trials turn out well.)

This is a lot to pack into a legislative package, and the obstacles created by both Democratic and Republican miscalculations won’t help. But it is important that congress remain engaged in this effort. The needs are real, and this will almost certainly be the last major legislative measure on this front before the election so it needs to meet some of those needs. And a deal will have to be worked out before legislators turn to a government funding measure (which must be completed by the end of September).

There is a plausible path forward, both House Democrats and Senate Republicans will need to use the recess to reset their expectations some, and the administration will need to focus on a few key priorities to help a deal happen. We have seen this done several times this year. It’s not impossible. But it won’t be easy.

Yuval Levin is the director of social, cultural, and constitutional studies at the American Enterprise Institute and the editor of National Affairs.

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McConnell Appears Set to Quietly Suffocate Long-Debated F.B.I. Surveillance Bill

WASHINGTON — Every few years since Congress passed the Patriot Act to bolster F.B.I. surveillance powers after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, parts of it came up for renewal and national security hawks darkly warned that even briefly letting them lapse would unacceptably endanger America.

This year is different.

Those provisions expired months ago, but one of the biggest surveillance supporters in Congress, Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, has single-handedly brought the process of extending them to a halt.

After the House and Senate passed slightly different versions of a bill in May, Speaker Nancy Pelosi appointed a group of House members to a conference committee to reconcile them. But Mr. McConnell has not appointed any senators to it, and the process has been stuck there ever since.

On Thursday, Mr. McConnell closed the Senate for its annual August vacation, meaning that the legislation will remain on ice for at least another month. He has given no sign that he intends to move forward when Congress briefly reconvenes before adjourning again ahead of the November election.

Mr. McConnell’s office has declined to answer questions about why he is keeping the measure in indefinite limbo. But others involved in the process have suggested that Mr. McConnell may be paralyzed by two factors.

First, President Trump, stoking his grievances over the Russia investigation — a small part of which involved wiretapping a former campaign aide under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA — has threatened to veto the bill, saying more time should first be spent scrutinizing the officials who pursued the Russia inquiry.

Mr. Trump’s stance has vaguely suggested that the existing bills, which have some efforts at reform, do not go far enough in curtailing the F.B.I.’s surveillance powers for national security investigations. But the White House has offered no specific proposal or guidance about what he would be willing to sign. Complicating matters, Attorney General William P. Barr opposes the current versions as going too far in the opposite direction of tying the hands of F.B.I. agents fighting terrorism and espionage. Mr. McConnell shares those concerns.

With no clear path to avoiding a veto confrontation with Mr. Trump, and no great love for either version of the bill anyway, Mr. McConnell appears to have decided that leaving the provisions lapsed and doing nothing is the least-bad course of action.

“After they spent years insisting that the Patriot Act was essential to protecting America, it’s striking that Mitch McConnell and Attorney General Barr are willing to wait for months to address it, and still appear to have no plan for moving forward,” Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, said in a statement to The New York Times.

But there is a catch to the current stalemate: The expired surveillance powers have not lapsed for existing investigations.

Congress specified that the powers would remain available for investigations that already existed at the point the laws expired. Among them are the F.B.I.’s ability to obtain business records deemed relevant to a national security investigation, and to get special wiretap authority to rapidly follow a suspect who changes phone lines to evade monitoring.

The F.B.I. has existing, open-ended umbrella investigations into all the major national security threats facing the United States, such as terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State and nation-state adversaries like Russia and China. As a result, until a new rival arises who cannot be characterized as part of the old ones, the bureau may be able to continue business as usual.

But the bill’s collapse also means Congress has been unable to enact a legislative response to an inspector general’s finding of serious problems with the F.B.I.’s use of the main part of FISA for wiretap orders in counterespionage and counterterrorism investigations.

A report by the Justice Department’s independent inspector general found that the applications used in the Russia investigation to wiretap a former Trump campaign adviser with ties to Russian officials, Carter Page, were riddled with errors and omissions.

A follow-up review by the inspector general that looked at the F.B.I.’s preparations to apply for 29 unrelated FISA wiretaps found that there were problems with all of them, suggesting systemic sloppiness. The Justice Department has since told the FISA court that its own further review of those 29 applications found one material omission and one material misstatement, but also said it did not think either made a legal difference.

But the F.B.I. has also conceded that it should not have applied for two renewals of the Page wiretap in 2017, and it has tightened its own rules and procedures for drafting FISA applications. A FISA court judge also imposed additional safeguards. But Congress has not enacted anything.

The expired provisions are unrelated to the type of wiretaps used in the Russia investigation, but the bill has become a vehicle for addressing those problems. Both the House and the Senate have attached different versions of a provision to more frequently appoint an outside critic to analyze a government’s application in certain types of cases, including those that could touch on a political campaign.

But civil-libertarian-minded lawmakers have also been trying to use the bill to impose other new privacy safeguards. A majority in the Senate backed banning the use of one part of FISA — the partly lapsed provision that permits the F.B.I. to obtain business records without a warrant — for gathering internet search histories and browsing records.

For procedural reasons, that idea fell short despite majority support. When the bill returned to the House, Ms. Pelosi came under pressure to permit a vote on the same idea. But the version that came to the House floor was watered down, losing the support of civil libertarians.

Mr. Trump then came out against the bill for different reasons, and many of his Republican allies abandoned it, too, leading the House to instead send a previously passed version to the conference committee to be reconciled with the Senate version — where it has since remained in limbo, waiting for senators to show up.

“It’s clear there is a large bipartisan majority in both the House and Senate for reforming FISA and the Patriot Act,” Mr. Wyden said. “Even Donald Trump agrees that reform is needed, Leader McConnell and A.G. Barr should allow a real debate on reforming government surveillance.”

Nicholas Fandos contributed reporting.

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Former FBI lawyer to plead guilty in probe into origins of Russia investigation

Former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith is expected to plead guilty as part the investigation led by John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, into the origins of the FBI’s investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to a source close to the matter. This is the first criminal case arising from the Durham probe.  Court documents posted Friday show Clinesmith faces one count of “false statements.”

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz found in his December 2019 report that Clinesmith had altered a CIA email cited in the fourth application to the FISA court to surveil former Trump campaign aide Carter Page in 2017. 

In helping to prepare the application, Clinesmith was asked by an FBI supervisory special agent whether Page had ever been a government agency source, as Page had publicly claimed.

Clinesmith altered an email stating that Page was a government “source,” adding words to make it appear that the government agency, later revealed to be the CIA, was saying that Page “was not a source,” according to the Justice Department’s information in the case. 

He later told the FBI agent in an instant message that Page “was a ‘subsource’ and ‘was never a source.'” Asked whether this information was in writing, Clinesmith sent the altered email.

The government information points out that each FISA application “alleged there was probable cause that Individual #1 (Page) was a knowing agent” of Russia. 

That Page had a prior relationship with the CIA providing information as an operational contact about Russia would have been relevant to the surveillance application, and Page has argued it went a long way to explaining his contacts with Russians.

The Mueller report ultimately found that the government investigation “did not establish that Page coordinated with the Russian government” in its attempts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

Clinesmith’s attorney said in a statement, “Kevin deeply regrets having altered the email. It was never his intent to mislead the court or his colleagues as he believed the information he relayed was accurate.  But Kevin understands what he did was wrong and accepts responsibility.”

The source said that Clinesmith’s lawyer approached Durham’s office about a deal after FBI records declassified by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence last month showed that Clinesmith was part of a team using a 2016 defensive briefing to track Russia questions from Flynn and then-candidate Trump. The source said the expectation is that Clinesmith will cooperate with Durham’s investigation which is typical in plea deals. He is expected to be asked, regarding both the 2016 defensive briefing and the altered CIA email, whether he acted independently or at the direction of, or with the approval of his FBI leadership. 

Clinesmith was previously faulted for sending inappropriate texts, including “viva la resistance,” a few weeks after the 2016 election.

An FBI spokesperson said in a statement, “Under Director Wray’s leadership, the FBI has been, and will continue to be, fully cooperative with Mr. Durham’s review. This includes providing documents and assigning personnel to assist his team.” 

Attorney General Bill Barr said Thursday evening there would soon be developments in the Durham probe, including one on Friday. Barr said it wouldn’t be “earth-shattering,” he told Fox News host Sean Hannity in an interview Thursday, but he also added that the timeline of the investigation wouldn’t be “dictated” by the upcoming election in November.

“I have said there are going to be developments, significant developments, before the election. But we’re not doing this on the election schedule. We’re aware of the election. We’re not going to do anything inappropriate before the election,” Barr said. “But we’re not being dictated to by this schedule. What’s dictating the timing of this are developments in the case.”

He summed up the “development in the case” to be revealed Friday as “an indication that things are moving along at the proper pace, as dictated by the facts in this investigation.”

In May 2019, Barr asked Durham to further review the government’s Russia probe, after former special counsel Robert Mueller released his report. The attorney general had previously expressed concern about possible “improper surveillance” of the Trump campaign

The review Horowitz released in December found several procedural errors but overall no “political bias” by the agency.

However, Durham questioned the conclusions of Horowitz’s report at the time.

“Based on the evidence collected to date, and while our investigation is ongoing, last month we advised the Inspector General that we do not agree with some of the report’s conclusions as to predication and how the FBI case was opened,” Durham said in December.

Andres Triay contributed to this report.

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BREAKING: Ex-FBI lawyer to plead guilty to altering evidence in Russia probe

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TV’s Bush v. Gore coverage: scary reminder of election chaos

It was well past 3 a.m. Eastern time on Nov. 8, 2000, when NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw looked into a camera on his network’s election night set and delivered what is likely the most humbling remark to come from a television journalist.

“We don’t have egg on our face,” Brokaw said. “We have omelet all over our suits.”

The words came after the embarrassing debacle of the networks having to retract the call for the winner in the presidential election between Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush.

Bush was declared the victor that night after he was awarded Florida and its 25 electoral votes, giving him a slight edge over Gore, who would win the popular vote. But the networks soon had to pull back their call, as the vote margin between the candidates in the state narrowed as more ballots were counted.

What ensued in the next 35 days was unprecedented in American history as TV news dispensed around-the-clock reports on recounts, voting irregularities, protests and legal challenges. They preceded a U.S. Supreme Court decision that ultimately voted 5-4 in favor of stopping a statewide Florida recount and delivered the election to Bush.

The images from those chaotic days of Florida election officials examining punch-card ballots — looking for “hanging chads” or “dimpled chads” — are likely to be evoked when the votes are counted in November, as the nation conducts a presidential election amid the public health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

By the time election night arrives, TV viewers already will have seen how social distancing to deter the spread of the coronavirus permeates every element of the 2020 presidential campaign, starting Monday with the Democratic National Convention, followed by the Republicans’ event. Both conventions will be a shell of previous gatherings with speakers appearing virtually, while TV anchors will be at their home bases in Washington or New York.

Neither presumptive Democratic nominee former Vice President Joe Biden nor President Trump, who accepts the Republican nomination on Aug. 27, are expected to deliver their speeches in front of cheering crowds of supporters.

While it will be a challenge to turn the conventions into compelling television — broadcast networks ABC, CBS and NBC and cable news channels CNN, Fox News and MSNBC will carry live coverage in prime time — it pales before the monumental task of getting the vote count right on Nov. 3. The expected unprecedented amount of mail-in voting — a process Trump has already called rigged and corrupt without offering proof — guarantees a tabulation process that will be painstakingly slow and could go on for days or weeks. If the election is close, legal challenges are likely to abound.

Network TV news executives know what is at stake because nearly 20 years ago they got it very wrong.

Exit polls taken of voters on Nov. 7, 2000, indicated a victory for Gore. When ballots were tabulated that night by the Voter News Service — the consortium formed by the networks and the Associated Press to collect the results — Gore was awarded Florida shortly after polls in the state closed, only to have it pulled back from his column later in the night.

Tim Russert, moderator for NBC’s “Meet the Press,” had been using a black marker and erasable whiteboard in the days leading up to the election to depict the various combination of states that would bring one of the candidates to the 270 electoral votes needed to win. With Florida back in play, Gore and Bush were tied at 242, which prompted Russert to write three words that became a mantra political pundits still cite today: “Florida, Florida, Florida.”

News anchor Tim Russert, with his famous whiteboard, during the 2000 election coverage on NBC.

(NBC News)

After midnight in the east, a surge of votes came in from Volusia County in Florida. It gave Bush a large enough lead that Fox News called the state and the election for the Republican nominee. The other networks, whose analysts were working off the same data, followed several minutes later. Only the AP held back to do its own vote count.

After seeing the results announced on television, Gore called Bush to concede the election. But by 3:17 a.m. Eastern, the Florida secretary of state’s website showed Bush’s lead shrinking to 565 votes. Gore called again to rescind his concession, a stunning moment in presidential politics.

The networks had to retract the announcement of a victory for Bush and declare the race too close to call. But for the Gore campaign, the damage had been done.

“It wasn’t ambiguous,” said Michael Feldman, managing director of the Glover Park Group, who served as an advisor to Gore’s 2000 campaign. “All the networks said George W. Bush will be the 43rd president of the United States, with flags waving and graphics — that was what the country saw. No matter what the actual vote was in Florida or anywhere else, Gore was always going to be the spoiler trying to unwind something that had happened even though, as we found out later, it hadn’t happened.”

The initial erroneous election call led to conspiracy theories. The Fox News analyst who called the race first, John Ellis, was a first cousin of Bush. While Ellis was a respected political expert previously employed by NBC News, his presence at a network decision desk, where statisticians and political scientists crunch poll numbers, votes and historical data to project winners, appeared to be a conflict of interest.

“What was someone related to Bush doing in any position of responsibility to call an election?” said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.

There was also a rumor that Jack Welch, chairman of then NBC parent General Electric and a longtime Republican backer, was urging his network’s news division to call the race for Bush.

But the main source of the problem was erroneous voting results that came in from Florida’s Volusia County. When the bad data was figured into the state’s total late that night, the network news operations, confident after having a 52-year record of calling presidential races accurately, did not question it.

Bragging rights also were at play. Network news divisions took pride in projecting a winner first.

“There was a lot of competitive pressure to not get beat and not be five minutes behind somebody else,” said Al Ortiz, who worked on CBS News’ election coverage in 2000 and is now vice president of standards and practices for the division. “In the years that followed — and today — there is a lot more patience. If you’ve got a county that goes completely differently from its history or in the models we have, it sets off a round of questioning now that it didn’t automatically back in 2000.”

Even Gore presumed the networks were right, which led to his initial concession call. “Had he known at the time what was actually going on, he probably wouldn’t have made that call,” Feldman said. To this day, Feldman believes the call hampered Gore and helped Bush in the court of public opinion during the weeks that followed.

“Anybody who’s run a recount in any race from president to dog catcher will tell you if you have a lead at the outset and you’ve been declared the winner,” Feldman said, “that is a huge advantage in the process.”

The networks — whose news presidents were called before Congress, where they delivered mea culpas over the breakdown of the 2000 election calls — have taken a more cautious approach ever since.

In 2004, the closest presidential race since 2000, the networks did not declare a winner until the day after election night, when campaign officials for Democratic nominee John Kerry determined there were not enough uncounted provisional votes in Ohio to overtake incumbent Bush’s narrow lead in the state. (Exit polls had pointed to a Kerry victory, further evidence they had become less reliable.)

When Ohio was close again in the 2012 presidential election, Megyn Kelly, then a Fox News anchor, marched down to the network’s decision desk to have analysts explain why the state — and the election — were being called for Barack Obama over challenger Mitt Romney. (The network’s Republican analyst, Karl Rove, had disputed the results.) The moment showed how audiences had become used to seeing their partisan viewpoints reflected in the cable news channels they watched and needed some convincing when the proceedings were not going their way.

Early exit polls in 2016 led networks to believe Hillary Clinton was on her way to beating Trump. The misfire led Fox News and the AP to team up with the University of Chicago to develop a new voter survey that increases the number of people questioned and puts a greater emphasis on early voting. Since then, Fox News has been calling races earlier than its competitors during special elections, the 2018 midterms and the 2020 primaries, with no mistakes so far.

ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN use the firm Edison Research to collect voting data for their election night calls.

While the networks are more careful about reporting the results, an election night that extends into days or weeks involving Trump, who has already assailed the process, means viewers could still be in for a rocky ride.

“I am concerned about that because we are much more polarized than we were in 2000,” Sabato said. “It doesn’t take much to inflame people anymore, and the TV coverage is going to be reflecting social media, which is going to be reflecting the TV coverage, so they’re going to be feeding into one another in this horrible polarized loop.”

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Kevin Clinesmith: Former FBI Lawyer to Plead Guilty in Durham Probe

Attorney General William Barr testifies before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, May 1, 2019. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)

We can end the speculation. Yesterday, Attorney General Bill Barr indicated in an interview that, on Friday, there would be an announcement, significant but not earth-shattering in nature, about the Durham investigation into Trump–Russia probe that was launched by the Obama administration during the 2016 campaign. Now, the Associated Press is reporting that former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith will plead guilty today to a felony false-statement charge.

The announcement of the plea was made by Clinesmith’s defense lawyer. Clinesmith will plead guilty on Friday in federal district court in Washington, D.C.

Clinesmith altered a key document that was germane to the FBI’s surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. Page was subjected to eavesdropping, on the authority of four 90-day warrants that the FBI obtained by filing submissions, under oath, to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). During the course of the investigation, which the FBI codenamed “Crossfire Hurricane,” the CIA informed the bureau that Page had been a CIA informant. This was highly relevant, since the FBI and the Justice Department were portraying Page to the FISC as a clandestine agent of Russia, not a government source who was providing information about Russia to a U.S. intelligence agency.

Prior to the fourth and final warrant application, an FBI agent who was involved in submitting the application to the FISC asked for confirmation that the bureau had checked with other intelligence agencies to ensure that Page was not working for any government agencies. Clinesmith found an email informing the FBI that Page was working for the CIA. He altered it to say that he was “not a source” for the agency. As a result, this misrepresentation was made to the FISC, which granted the surveillance warrant.

Clinesmith’s misconduct was spelled out in Justice Department inspector general Michael Horowitz’s report last year on investigative irregularities in the Trump–Russia probe.

Durham’s investigation is continuing.

The guilty plea is consistent with the approach to the investigation on which Barr has insisted, which I further describe in an essay in the current edition of National Review magazine. The attorney general maintains that there will be no esoteric charges based on extravagant constructions of criminal law in order to make cases on officials connected to the Trump-Russia probe. Rather, only straightforward, “meat-and-potatoes” charges supported by proof beyond a reasonable doubt will be filed. The objective is to achieve accountability for clear law-breakers while keeping the Justice Department, to the extent possible, insulated from politics.

Clinesmith’s crime is about as straightforward as it gets. To the contrary, Barr has thus made it known that neither President Obama nor Vice President Biden is a subject of Durham’s investigation, notwithstanding that there is evidence the Obama White House was complicit in the investigation of the Trump campaign and the withholding of information about the investigation from the then-incoming Trump administration.

To the extent the investigation uncovers government abuses of power that are not clear violations of criminal law, Barr’s public comments and testimony since being sworn in as attorney general in early 2019 indicate that the Justice Department will produce a narrative report. This is warranted, particularly when misconduct has been engaged in by officials of the Justice Department and its component agencies (which include the FBI).

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New Jersey Will Hold Mail-in Election in November, Over Trump’s Objections

New Jersey voters will for the first time cast their ballots for president predominantly by mail in November.

Gov. Philip D. Murphy, a Democrat, announced Friday that the upcoming general election would be conducted using mostly mail-in ballots to ensure voters’ and poll workers’ safety during the pandemic.

The governor, citing the success of the state’s predominantly vote-by-mail primary election last month, said all 6.3 million New Jersey voters would be sent ballots to return either by mail or to deposit in secure drop boxes.

“It doesn’t matter what party you’re in — everybody gets a ballot,” Mr. Murphy said Friday morning on CNN.

He said the state would build on the lessons learned during the July 7 primary, the first broad test of voting by mail in New Jersey. The state, for example, will expand the number of secure locations for in-person delivery of ballots and add more polling places where voters can complete provisional ballots on Election Day.

“We’re going to have more presence of secure drop boxes,” he said. “Make sure there is that physical in-voting capacity.”

New Jersey joins a growing number of states that have shifted to mail-in ballots to minimize the risks posed by the coronavirus, even as President Trump continues to sow doubt, claiming without evidence that the process is plagued by fraud. Voters in at least eight other states and Washington, D.C. — an estimated 38 million people — also are being mailed ballots to cast votes in November.

In addition to the presidential contest, voters in New Jersey will be deciding whether to legalize the recreational use of marijuana after legislative initiatives failed.

They will also be voting on several hotly contested congressional races, including a battle in South Jersey between Representative Jeff Van Drew, a turncoat Democrat who voted against the president’s impeachment before pledging loyalty to Mr. Trump, and Amy Kennedy, a former teacher who is married to Patrick Kennedy, a nephew of President John F. Kennedy.

Elected officials in at least one of New Jersey’s 21 counties, Warren County, have already expressed opposition to relying nearly entirely on mail-in ballots in November.

A May special election for Paterson City Council, conducted using mail voting at the height of the pandemic, led the state attorney general to charge four men with ballot fraud. They were accused of fraudulently collecting groups of ballots and delivering them to be counted. Mr. Trump referred to the Paterson arrests on Twitter.

Amber McReynolds, chief executive of the National Vote at Home Institute, applauded New Jersey’s initiative to expand access to voting. But she said she had urged the state to implement an electronic ballot tracking system to increase voters’ trust in the process as well as provide opportunities for them to troubleshoot before Election Day.

For example, if a voter’s signature was being challenged, the person would be alerted while there was still time to cure the problem.

“Just like tracking an Amazon package,” she said, “you can see where your ballot is at every moment.”

New Jersey’s vote-by-mail primary election was not trouble free.

County clerks complained about supply-chain shortages of envelopes. Some voters got the wrong ballots; other ballots never reached voters. A glitch involving a bar code caused some ballots to be returned in the mail before being counted.

An aide to Mr. Murphy said the governor had had high-level conversations with representatives of the Postal Service to try to safeguard against similar problems leading up to the Nov. 3 election.

There was also a lag time in collecting and counting the primary mail-in ballots that only needed to be postmarked by July 7, and the official results of all the races were not certified until last week. Still, the winners of most races were clear within hours or days, much sooner than some people had anticipated.

Ms. Kennedy’s most formidable Democratic primary opponent, Brigid Callahan Harrison, conceded the race about 20 minutes after provisional ballot locations closed.

Elizabeth Matto, director of Rutgers University’s Center for Youth Political Participation, said it would be crucial for New Jersey and other states that are relying heavily on mail-in ballots to invest in “extensive, accurate, nonpartisan” voter education, especially in areas hardest hit by Covid-19.

“People shouldn’t have to chose between voting and their health,” Professor Matto said.

But she said it would also be important to provide ample in-person voting options, especially in a presidential election when turning out to the polls can be a point of pride.

“You want to go get the sticker,” she said. “You want to take your kids into the voting booth.”

But the success of New Jersey’s shift to a predominantly mail-in election will depend on persuading voters to avoid long lines — and an increased risk of spreading the virus — at locations where voters can cast provisional ballots on Election Day.

Mr. Trump has assailed the Postal Service in recent months, growing increasingly critical of mail-in voting and issuing repeated warnings about the possibility of election fraud.

On Thursday, he repeated an unfounded claim that the election could be rife with fraud if mail ballots were widely used. And he made clear that he opposed Democratic demands for additional funding for the post office to ensure it had the capacity to efficiently process an increased volume of mail.

The comments came amid growing scrutiny of the postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, a Republican donor.

The issue has also become grist in fund-raising appeals to Democrats. In a fund-raising email, a group founded by Democratic members of the House of Representative’s Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Go for Broke for Vets, asserts that the president and his allies are trying to “undercut, under fund” and weaken the Postal Service, one of the nation’s largest employers of veterans.

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Trump vs. Biden Live Polls and Updates

Credit…Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The country’s most outspoken critic of voting by mail has requested his vote-by-mail ballot.

The Palm Beach County elections department in Florida has prepared mail ballots for this Tuesday’s primary election for President Trump and Melania Trump, the first lady, according to local registration records.

The Trumps changed their primary residence last year from Manhattan, which has been less than welcoming to the president since his election, to Mr. Trump’s members-only Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, which had long been their winter home.

How and where a president votes is typically a footnoted formality. But Mr. Trump has broadly questioned the legitimacy of voting by mail, without evidence of significant voter fraud, and made statements suggesting that he views expansion of mail voting as a threat to the Republican Party.

He has sought to deny the option to millions of Americans in states like Nevada, through litigation, while attempting to block additional funding for the Postal Service that he says would be needed to handle a crush of mail-in ballots prompted by the pandemic.

Those moves have raised concerns among Democrats and voting rights groups that he is seeking to undermine the mail-balloting system and lay the groundwork for casting doubt on the November election should he lose.

Gov. Steve Sisolak of Nevada, a Democrat who recently signed a universal mail-in ballot law, has said Mr. Trump’s fraud claims are unfounded. “We have never had any problems,” he told CNN last week.

Mr. Trump has supported mail-in voting in some states where he says it is secure, including Florida, which he suggested last week could handle mail voting successfully because it had “a great Republican governor” in Ron DeSantis, a Trump ally.

Judd Deere, a White House spokesman, said on Thursday, “The president supports absentee voting, not universal mail-in voting, which contain several safeguards that prevent fraud and abuse.”

Mr. Trump suggested Thursday that he was using the funding as a negotiating chip with congressional Democrats on a larger stimulus package. “If we don’t make a deal, that means they don’t get the money,” he said. “That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting, they just can’t have it.”

The Trumps’ ballot request was first reported by The Palm Beach Post. They have until 7 p.m. on Tuesday to return their ballots for the upcoming elections, which include primaries for county commission, state legislature and federal offices.

Credit…Joe Lamberti/Camden Courier-Post, via Associated Press

With President Trump and congressional Democrats fighting over funding the Postal Service, many states — and politicians up for re-election this fall — are grappling with the uncertainty around the expansion of mail-in balloting prompted by the pandemic.

Some key developments in the last 24 hours:

A federal judge in Pittsburgh ordered the Trump campaign to produce proof of voter fraud claims. District Judge J. Nicholas Ranjan on Thursday ordered Republicans who have challenged Pennsylvania’s expansion of mail-in voting to turn over evidence by the end of today that the system has led to ballot irregularities or face the possible dismissal of their suit.

The state Democratic Party and the Sierra Club, which intervened in the case, had requested that the plaintiffs — the Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee and Pennsylvania’s Republican Party — turn over specific evidence of fraud, after the Republicans claimed the changes provided “fraudsters an easy opportunity to engage in ballot harvesting” and other manipulations.

“Plaintiffs shall produce such evidence in their possession, and if they have none, state as much,” wrote Mr. Ranjan, a Trump appointee.

Postal Service warns Pennsylvania on deadlines. In a separate Pennsylvania lawsuit, the Postal Service’s general counsel sent a stark warning to state officials late last month over their last-minute attempt expand voting by mail.

Thomas J. Marshall, the counsel, wrote to Pennsylvania’s secretary of state, Kathy Boockvar, whose department oversees elections, that some mail ballots might not be delivered on time because the state’s pre-existing deadlines for sending out ballots were too tight for its “delivery standards,” The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

In response, Pennsylvania officials petitioned the State Supreme Court to extend the deadlines.

All New Jersey voters will get mail-in ballots. Gov. Philip D. Murphy announced Friday that every registered voter in the state would be mailed a ballot and could choose whether to vote by mail or in person. “We’re going to have a hybrid model in November,” Mr. Murphy told CNN.

New Jersey, which conducted its July primaries almost entirely by mail, would become the ninth state in the country to automatically send voters mail-in ballots if Mr. Murphy takes the actions he outlined.

The House minority leader signaled Republican support for a post office funding deal. Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican and close Trump ally, told CNBC Friday that his members were open to including new cash for mail-in voting in the stalled coronavirus relief package. “The Postal Service will have the funding that it needs,” he said.

President Obama said Mr. Trump was trying to “kneecap” the post office. The former president, speaking on a podcast released Friday, joined the chorus of Democrats accusing his successor of attempted voter suppression.

“What we’ve never seen before is a president say, ‘I’m going to try to actively kneecap the Postal Service to encourage voting, and I will be explicit about the reason I’m doing it,’” Mr. Obama told David Plouffe.

Senator Susan Collins of Maine broke with Trump on Postal Service funding. Ms. Collins, a Republican facing the toughest re-election campaign of her career, said Thursday that she opposed cuts for the post office and believed that her state’s no-questions-asked mail-in voting system was safe and secure.

Ms. Collins said the concerns Mr. Trump has raised about the voting by mail were “no reason not to support assistance” for the Postal Service, according to The Bangor Daily News.

In a letter to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on Tuesday, Ms. Collins expressed concern about delays and other service problems reported by constituents, many of whom rely on mail delivery for prescriptions.

“If people cannot depend on the Postal Service for prompt delivery of mail or packages, it will only further hurt the Postal Service’s financial situation,” Ms. Collins said.

Credit…Eve Edelheit for The New York Times

Joseph R. Biden Jr. has raised more than $50 million since he named Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate, an enormous outpouring of donations that could allow the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee to expand the electoral playing field in the final 80-plus days until the election.

On a Biden staff call on Thursday evening, Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, the campaign manager, told fellow aides to Mr. Biden that the campaign had raised $48 million in the first 48 hours since Ms. Harris was named to the ticket. The campaign has twice broken its own record for its busiest hour collecting money online: the first time immediately after Ms. Harris was named and the second during her first public speech on Wednesday.

Other Biden officials confirmed the campaign had surpassed the $50 million mark later on Thursday.

To put that sum in perspective, it is more than Ms. Harris raised in her own 2020 presidential bid last year and nearly as much as the $60.8 million that Mr. Biden raised in all of 2019.

And there was not similar financial momentum behind beating Donald J. Trump four years ago: Hillary Clinton raised $89 million combined with the Democratic Party in the entire month of July, the month that she named Senator Tim Kaine as her running mate and held the party’s convention.

One small indicator of the energy for the Biden-Harris ticket: The campaign said it had sold more than $1.2 million in yard signs by the end of Wednesday evening.

On Friday, Ms. Harris and Mr. Biden held a photo op in Delaware to sign documents required to formally receive the nomination at the convention next week. Ms. Harris was asked about being the target of attacks by Mr. Trump and his allies.

“I’m signing this because I am in this race to win,” she said, “and with that guy right there, and we’re going to get it done.” Mr. Biden was also scheduled to attend a virtual fund-raiser on Friday.

Mr. Biden has already announced a $280 million fall television and digital ad reservation across 15 states set to begin on Sept. 1, though the specific amounts in each state have not been detailed or fully booked.

The infusion of cash could allow the Biden campaign to invest more heavily in large and expensive states, such as Ohio and Texas, that are not considered as crucial to winning the Electoral College.

Through July, the Biden campaign had advertised almost exclusively in six states that Mr. Trump won in 2016 — Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Arizona — and that are seen as bellwether battlegrounds for 2020.

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Even the most unpredictable presidential campaign has three Big Moments. The first is now behind us, with Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s selection of Kamala Harris for vice president.

The next two are coming up: the conventions — the Democratic event next week, and the Republican one the week after — followed by the debates between the presidential and vice-presidential candidates.

The who-won, who-lost interpretation of debates is often established before any candidate steps onto a stage. And with Ms. Harris in place, that appears to be happening already — to the benefit of Republicans in the vice-presidential debate, and to the benefit of Democrats in the presidential debate.

The coverage of Ms. Harris has focused on her considerable debating skills, on display in the Democratic primary and in her tough questioning in the Senate of, among others, Attorney General William P. Barr.

“Mike Pence is going to have a very, very difficult time in the vice-presidential debate,” Steve Schmidt, a former Republican consultant who is a leader of the Lincoln Project, a group trying to unseat Mr. Trump, said on MSNBC.

So Mr. Pence may be able to credibly claim victory if he merely holds his own.

By contrast, Mr. Trump has — presumably not by design — been lowering expectations for his opponent with his put-downs of Mr. Biden’s mental competence. In truth, while Mr. Biden was not the strongest debater during the Democratic primaries, he did not come across as the doddering 77-year-old that the president has portrayed.

Mr. Trump has set a pretty low bar for Mr. Biden.

“Biden has to just not make a mistake,” said Susan Estrich, who managed the 1988 presidential campaign of Michael Dukakis, a Democrat. “He’s a former two-term vice president. Nothing he says is scary. Trump can’t win the debate. He has to force Biden to somehow lose it. Literally all Biden has to do is not lose it.”

Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

A Pew Research Center poll on the presidential race offers insights into the partisan divide over voting by mail during the pandemic that has fueled President Trump’s campaign against the practice and, in turn, his opposition to new funding for the Postal Service.

Eighty percent of registered voters who support Mr. Trump or lean toward supporting him said they would rather vote in person — with 60 percent saying they would do so on Election Day and 20 percent saying they planned to vote early.

Only 17 percent of Trump voters or leaners cited voting by mail as a preference.

By contrast, a majority of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s backers — 58 percent — said they preferred voting by mail, according to the poll, which was conducted in late July and early August and released on Thursday.

Those percentages closely track other political metrics associated with the pandemic, particularly support for government mask mandates, which are widely supported by Democrats and moderate independents but opposed by many Republicans.

Pew also found stark illustration of the core demographics behind the limited but bedrock-solid support Mr. Trump enjoys from his base.

Whites without college degrees prefer Mr. Trump over Mr. Biden, 64 percent to 34 percent.

For the rest of the electorate, the ratio flips, to 68 percent for Mr. Biden and 30 percent for Mr. Trump.

The overall result, the poll found, is that Mr. Biden leads Mr. Trump 53 percent to 45 percent, a finding consistent with many recent national polls.

Credit…Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Trump on Friday was expected to travel to Manhattan to visit Robert S. Trump, his brother, who was hospitalized at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and is said to be gravely ill.

Robert Trump, two years younger than the president at age 72, has been ailing for months and was also hospitalized in June.

In recent years he has taken on the role of unofficial family spokesman. He helped the president in an unsuccessful bid to block the publication of a memoir by their niece Mary L. Trump — the daughter of their deceased older brother Fred Trump Jr. — that described decades of family dysfunction and brutality that she claims made Donald Trump into a reckless leader.

Robert Trump, who worked in the family real-estate empire, told The New York Times last month that President Trump was “selfless” — “much more so than anyone would ever realize.”

The president is also expected to speak to a New York City police union Friday evening from his private club in Bedminster, N.J.

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

President Trump on Thursday encouraged a racist conspiracy theory that is rampant among some of his followers: that Senator Kamala Harris is not eligible for the vice presidency or presidency because her parents were immigrants.

That assertion is false; Ms. Harris was born in California and is eligible to serve.

Mr. Trump, speaking to reporters on Thursday, nevertheless pushed the attack. “I heard it today that she doesn’t meet the requirements,” Mr. Trump said.

“I have no idea if that’s right,” he added. “I would have thought, I would have assumed, that the Democrats would have checked that out before she gets chosen to run for vice president.”

On Friday, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, declined to forcefully disavow the president’s comment, which echoes the “birther” lie, though when pressed said he had no reason to question Ms. Harris’s eligibility.

“Look, at the end of the day, it’s something that’s out there,” Mr. Kushner said on “CBS This Morning,” when asked if Ms. Harris met the constitutional requirements for the office.

Anthony Mason, the interviewer, interrupted to ask: “That’s not what I’m asking. Do you accept that she’s a qualified candidate?”

“I personally have no reason to believe she’s not,” Mr. Kushner responded. “But again my focus for the last 24 hours has been on the historic peace deal” — referring to the agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates that he helped broker.

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and an informal adviser to Mr. Trump, shot down the claim soon after, writing on Twitter that Ms. Harris was “unequivocally an American citizen.”

Mr. Trump, in his Thursday remarks, appeared to be referring to a widely discredited op-ed article published in Newsweek on Wednesday by John C. Eastman, a conservative lawyer who has long argued that the Constitution does not grant birthright citizenship. Ms. Harris, the daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants, was born in 1964 in Oakland, Calif., several years after her parents arrived in the United States.

Mr. Eastman’s column tries to raise questions about the citizenship of Ms. Harris’s parents at the time of her birth, and argues that she may have “owed her allegiance to a foreign power or powers” if her parents were “temporary visitors” and not residents.

Constitutional law scholars say the argument against her parents is irrelevant and irresponsible because Ms. Harris was born in California.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office said on Friday that President Trump was not entitled to learn more about the scope of its criminal investigation into his business dealings, rejecting Mr. Trump’s latest effort to block a subpoena for his tax returns.

The office of the district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., wrote in a pair of new court filings that Mr. Trump should be treated like any other recipient of a subpoena, who is typically unable to access details of secret grand jury proceedings.

The filings came in response to Mr. Trump’s renewed efforts this month to stop Mr. Vance’s prosecutors from accessing eight years of his personal and corporate tax returns.

Earlier this week, Mr. Trump’s lawyers argued that the subpoena was too broad and amounted to illegal harassment. They asked a Manhattan federal judge for a hearing to discuss whether Mr. Vance’s office should be forced to disclose the justifications for the subpoena.

The office had suggested last week that it was investigating the president and his company for possible bank and insurance fraud, a broader investigation than prosecutors had acknowledged before.

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

During Ms. Harris’s delicate audition to become Mr. Biden’s running mate, she faced daunting obstacles, including an array of strong competitors, unease about her within the Biden family and bitter feuds from California and the 2020 primary season that exploded anew.

Though Ms. Harris was seen from the start as a front-runner, Mr. Biden did not begin the process with a favorite in mind. Interviews with more than three dozen people involved in the vice-presidential search — including advisers to Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris, allies of other prospects and Democratic leaders — showed that he settled on her only after an exhaustive review that forged new political alliances, deepened existing rivalries and further elevated a cohort of women as leaders in their party.

Ms. Harris was one of four finalists for the job, along with Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan and Susan E. Rice, the former national security adviser. But in the eyes of Mr. Biden and his advisers, Ms. Harris alone covered every one of their essential political needs.

Ms. Rice had sterling foreign-policy credentials and a history of working with Mr. Biden, but was inexperienced as a candidate. Ms. Warren had an enthusiastic following and became a trusted adviser to Mr. Biden on economic matters, but she represented neither generational nor racial diversity. Ms. Whitmer, a moderate, appealed to Mr. Biden’s political and ideological instincts, but selecting her also would have yielded an all-white ticket.

Other candidates rose and faded in the process: Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois powerfully impressed Mr. Biden’s search team, but his lawyers feared she would face challenges to her eligibility because of the circumstances of her birth overseas. Representative Karen Bass of California emerged as a favorite among elected officials and progressives — Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke glowingly of her to Mr. Biden — but the relationship-focused Mr. Biden barely knew her.

In the end, Mr. Biden embraced Ms. Harris as a partner for reasons that were both pragmatic and personal — a sign of how the former vice president, who is oriented toward seeking consensus and building broad coalitions, might be expected to govern. Indeed, Mr. Biden has already told allies he hopes a number of the other vice-presidential contenders will join his administration in other roles.

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

Mr. Trump said in an interview Thursday that he planned to deliver his renomination speech for the Republican National Convention from the South Lawn at the White House, a move that raises legal questions about using federal property for campaign purposes.

“I’ll probably be giving my speech at the White House because it is a great place. It’s a place that makes me feel good, it makes the country feel good,” Mr. Trump told The New York Post. “We’d do it possibly outside on one of the lawns, we have various lawns, so we could have it outside in terms of the China virus,” he said, using a term widely criticized as xenophobic to refer to the coronavirus pandemic.

Melania Trump, the first lady, is expected to deliver her speech from the White House residence, according to a person familiar with the plans. And Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and a senior White House adviser, is expected to have a prime-time speaking slot on the same night as her father, and also deliver her speech from the White House, the person said. Vice President Mike Pence, meanwhile, is set to deliver his convention speech from the Fort McHenry monument in Baltimore.

Fort McHenry is also federal property run by the National Park Service, and ethics experts have raised questions about public servants using federal property for political purposes.

Mr. Trump had previously said he was still deciding between giving the speech at the White House or at the Gettysburg battlefield, after plans for a convention in Charlotte, N.C., and then in Jacksonville, Fla., had both been scrapped because of health concerns about bringing a large group of people together in the middle of a pandemic.

But using the White House as the backdrop for one of the peak political moments of the fall campaign raises questions about whether it would be a breach of the Hatch Act, a Depression-era law that prohibits federal employees from engaging in political activities while on the job. Mr. Trump himself is not subject to the act. But everyone who works for him, and who would be involved in setting up the event, would be.

In his interview with The New York Post, Mr. Trump did not address the legal issues. Instead, he appeared to be more concerned with ensuring that he would deliver the address in front of a crowd of supporters. “We could have quite a group of people. It’s very big, a very big lawn. We could have a big group of people,” he said.