With Joe Biden leading in many public polls, and Democrats getting ready to kick off their national convention on Monday, President Trump’s drive to create confusion and undermine confidence in the election is accelerating, as he attacks mail-in voting and praises his postmaster general despite criticism over mail service and an investigation opened by the Postal Service’s inspector general.
In an appearance on CNN on Sunday, Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, defended the president’s opposition to universal mail-in ballots, which Mr. Trump has called “the mail-in scam,” making charges without evidence that efforts by states to help people vote by mail in the pandemic would lead to widespread voter fraud — a claim that even some Republicans dispute. Mr. Trump has said that higher voter participation would hurt Republican candidates.
When CNN host Jake Tapper pushed back, saying, “there’s no evidence of widespread voter fraud,” Mr. Meadows said, “there’s no evidence that there’s not, either.”
Responding to reports that several mail-sorting machines had been removed, among several recent moves by the Postal Service that have caused mail delays, Mr. Meadows claimed that no mail-sorting machines would be taken off line before Election Day and insisted that the notion that they would be was a false “political narrative by my Democrat colleagues.”
In an interview with CBS News on Sunday morning, Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and a senior adviser, also claimed that a universal mail-in system would be prone to errors and possible fraud.
“I have a friend in New Jersey who just got married, and she got sent two ballots, one in her old name and one in her new name,” he said. “If you have a tried and true system, where there are some security mechanisms built-in, that’s acceptable. But you can’t have a new system and expect Americans to have confidence in the election.”
Pressure continues to grow on the postmaster, Louis DeJoy, a Republican megadonor and ally of the president, who has said he is modernizing the money-losing agency to make it more efficient. Among his moves have been cuts to overtime for postal workers, restrictions on transportation and the reduction of the quantity and use of mail-processing equipment.
Speaking at a news conference in Bedminster, N.J., Mr. Trump praised Mr. DeJoy. “I can only tell you he’s a very smart man,” he said. “He’ll be a great Postmaster General.”
Protesters gathered outside Mr. DeJoy’s apartment in Washington on Saturday and called for his resignation, saying changes under his purview have undercut the Postal Service and threatened the ability of Americans to vote by mail.
The Postal Service’s inspector general, Tammy L. Whitcomb, said Friday she had opened an investigation into complaints that leading Democrats have filed against Mr. DeJoy. Also on Friday, Bill Pascrell Jr., a Democratic congressman from New Jersey, asked his state’s attorney general to open a criminal inquiry into what he called Mr. Trump’s attempts to sabotage the election by undermining the Postal Service.
In letters sent in July to all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Thomas J. Marshall, the general counsel for the Postal Service, told most of them that “certain deadlines for requesting and casting mail-in ballots are incongruous with the Postal Service’s delivery standards.” Mr. Marshall urged those with tight schedules to require that residents request ballots at least 15 days before an election — rather than the shorter periods currently allowed under the laws of many states.
In interviews on the Sunday morning talk shows, White House and Trump campaign officials distanced themselves from a false, racist conspiracy theory about Kamala Harris that President Trump advanced last week, and Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey defended Ms. Harris’s record on criminal justice.
“Let the work that she’s done speak for her,” Mr. Booker said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” noting that he had worked with Ms. Harris on several criminal justice reform bills. “As a guy that’s been in the trenches with her on every major issue relating to everything from policing to re-entry, she has been one of the great voices in the Senate helping us to gain ground and move ahead.”
Ms. Harris’s actions as a prosecutor, including as district attorney of San Francisco and attorney general of California, drew criticism from the left both during her presidential campaign and after Joseph R. Biden Jr. chose her as his running mate last week.
But much of the attention to her over the past few days has focused not on her record or her political views, but on the false argument — amplified in a Newsweek op-ed by a conservative law professor — that she might not be eligible to be vice president because her parents were immigrants. She was born in Oakland, Calif., and is eligible. (Newsweek apologized on Saturday for publishing the op-ed, saying it was “being used by some as a tool to perpetuate racism and xenophobia.”)
Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, was one of the first of Mr. Trump’s top advisers to acknowledge this unequivocally. Asked on CNN whether he accepted the fact that Ms. Harris was eligible, he said, “Sure.” When the host, Jake Tapper, asked if that meant yes, he said, “Yes, I do, yeah.”
Two other Trump advisers said his campaign was not interested in “pursuing” the issue, but chafed when pushed to straightforwardly acknowledge Ms. Harris’s eligibility.
“It’s not something that anyone in our campaign is talking about,” Jason Miller said on ABC. When George Stephanopoulos pointed out that a legal adviser to the campaign, Jenna Ellis, had retweeted a post that questioned Ms. Harris’s eligibility, Mr. Miller said: “She wasn’t speaking for the campaign. I am.”
Steve Cortes, another senior Trump campaign adviser, made similar comments on “Fox News Sunday.” When asked why Mr. Trump did not explicitly disavow the conspiracy theory, Mr. Cortes said, “I don’t know why it’s incumbent upon him to opine on legal scholarship of the Constitution and the 14th Amendment.”
The Constitution’s language is unambiguous: Anyone born in the United States is a citizen.
Top Democrats called on Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and Robert Duncan, the chairman of the United States Postal Board of Governors, to testify before Congress before the end of the month to answer why they are advancing “dangerous new policies” that pose “a grave threat to the integrity of the election.”
The demand, issued by Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the minority leader, comes as the Postal Service has warned states that it may not be able to meet their deadlines for delivering last-minute mail-in ballots. The warning is the latest development in a growing controversy over Mr. DeJoy’s handling of vote-by-mail operations as President Trump rails against the practice.
“The Postmaster General — a Trump megadonor — has acted as an accomplice in the president’s campaign to cheat in the election, as he launches sweeping new operational changes that degrade delivery standards and delay the mail,” the lawmakers said in a statement. “The Postal Service itself has warned that voters — even if they send in their ballots by state deadlines — may be disenfranchised in 46 states and in Washington, D.C., by continued delays.”
Under the leadership of Mr. DeJoy, the Postal Service is undergoing cuts to its operations that appear to have led to slower and less reliable delivery, creating deep unease even among some Republican lawmakers from largely rural mail-dependent states. Mr. DeJoy has framed the changes as essential to modernize an agency suffering billion-dollar losses. Democratic lawmakers have accused the president of sabotaging the Postal Service as a means of voter suppression and have started multiple investigations into the delays.
Ms. Pelosi and other top Democrats in the House have begun discussing bringing lawmakers back early from their summer recess to address the issues.
Protesters in Washington on Saturday called for Mr. DeJoy’s resignation, saying he was undercutting the Postal Service and threatening Americans’ ability to vote.
About 100 people gathered in the wealthy residential neighborhood of Kalorama outside Mr. DeJoy’s apartment complex. Another protest was scheduled for Sunday afternoon outside Mr. DeJoy’s Greensboro, N.C., home.
President Trump’s younger brother Robert S. Trump died Saturday night at age 71. The White House did not say what the cause was, but he had been in poor health for some time.
In a statement, the president said Robert Trump was “not just my brother, he was my best friend.”
“He will be greatly missed, but we will meet again,” he said.
President Trump visited his brother at a Manhattan hospital on Friday, and on Saturday, when Robert Trump was not expected to live much longer, the president called into the hospital from his Bedminster, N.J., golf club.
In a statement posted to Twitter on Sunday morning, Joseph R. Biden Jr. expressed his condolences to the president and his family. He wrote, “Mr. President, Jill and I are sad to learn of your younger brother Robert’s passing. I know the tremendous pain of losing a loved one — and I know how important family is in moments like these. I hope you know that our prayers are with you all.”
Robert Trump, who took blood thinners, had experienced brain bleeds after a recent fall, according to a family friend.
He had no children, but he helped raise Christopher Hollister Trump-Retchin, the son of his first wife, Blaine Trump. Besides the president, his survivors include his second wife, Ann Marie Pallan, and his sisters, Maryanne Trump Barry and Elizabeth Trump Grau. His brother Fred Jr. died in 1981.
“You could consider him the quietest of Trumps,” Michael D’Antonio, a Trump biographer, said. “He was glad to stay out of the spotlight.”
A new ABC News/Washington Post poll shows that a majority of Americans — including a quarter of Republicans — approve of Kamala Harris as Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s running mate.
Over all, 54 percent of respondents said they approved of the choice of Ms. Harris, compared with just 29 percent who disapproved. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
The results among Democrats were 86 percent to 8 percent, and the results among Republicans were 25 percent to 55 percent. The margin of error is higher in these subgroups.
Another poll released Sunday, from NBC News and The Wall Street Journal, showed Mr. Biden leading President Trump 50 percent to 41 percent, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.
That poll showed widespread disapproval of Mr. Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic: 61 percent said the United States’ response had been unsuccessful. Voters said they trusted Mr. Biden more on the coronavirus, health care, race relations and immigration, but trusted Mr. Trump more on the economy.
President Trump and his supporters often argue that his sinking poll numbers don’t tell the whole story — that he will win re-election in November thanks to “hidden” voters who don’t want to admit to pollsters that they like him.
These voters do exist, but both Republican and Democratic pollsters said they thought it unlikely that there were enough of them to sway the outcome of the election.
There is no question that some Trump supporters won’t identify themselves to friends or co-workers. “But I’m still not convinced that not telling your business associate or the people in your Rotary Club or the people in your country club is the same thing as not telling a pollster,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster.
If poll respondents really were holding back, said David Winston, a pollster who works with congressional Republicans, they would probably tell pollsters they were undecided, not that they were supporting Mr. Trump’s opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr. — and polls have not shown an unusual number of undecided voters.
The possibility that Americans are hiding their true intentions from pollsters has provided an irresistible sense of intrigue to presidential elections before, even though there are few confirmed examples where it made a difference. Political experts compare such speculation to the quadrennial predictions of a brokered convention, which has not occurred since 1952.
Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota, a close Trump ally, appears to be the first state lawmaker to decline federal support designed to aid unemployed workers.
“South Dakota is in the fortunate position of not needing to accept it,” Ms. Noem said in a statement, praising the president’s leadership during the economic recovery effort. She said South Dakota had already recovered nearly 80 percent of the job losses associated with the coronavirus pandemic, and credited the state’s rebound with its decision to never shut down in the first place.
“South Dakota is the only state in the nation that didn’t have extended benefits kick in because our insured unemployment rate has been the lowest in the nation,” she said. “South Dakota is open for business — that applies to our business owners and their employees.”
Under an executive order signed by Mr. Trump last week, the president bypassed Congress in order to deliver emergency aid to unemployed Americans. His order diverted billions of dollars from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to unemployed Americans in order to add at least $300 a week to the benefits they are receiving from the federal government. Ms. Noem said her state would not be accepting that additional federal support.
The Democratic National Convention kicks off Monday, and the uncertainties around it are legion.
Can a virtual political convention unfolding in the midst of a pandemic be compelling? How will the speakers inject energy into their performances when they have no audience cheering them on? Will the American people tune in, or is everyone sick of their screens?
Here are five questions to consider — around convention logistics and more traditional political issues alike — heading into a critical week for Democrats.
Can the Democrats unite their party — and win over any Republicans? Despite the extraordinary circumstances of this year’s event, more traditional convention imperatives — energizing the party and engaging swing voters — remain, too. Monday will offer a vivid illustration of the broad coalition the Democrats are hoping to assemble.
Michelle Obama, the former first lady, is the headliner, but the lineup also includes both Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s progressive primary rival, and former Gov. John Kasich, Republican of Ohio.
As Mr. Biden seeks to excite skeptical liberals while reaching out to moderates disillusioned with President Trump, Monday will demonstrate how Democrats hope to thread that needle.
Will the technology cooperate? When Mr. Biden held a “virtual town hall” event in March, things did not go exactly as planned. Since then, America has settled in to communicating via video, but the technology risks at the convention are real. Will the satellite feeds hold? Will prominent participants accidentally mute — or unmute — themselves? Will anyone be interrupted while recording at home by well-meaning visitors, “BBC dad”-style?
The remote style of the convention, however, also brings opportunity. Speakers have been encouraged to seek out interesting locations for their backdrops. Who will claim the most iconic spot?
Can the candidates create any drama? Some politicians — Mr. Biden chief among them — thrive off audience reaction. How will he and other speakers build to crescendos and electrify viewers when there is no enthralled crowd cheering them on?
This past week, when Mr. Biden debuted with his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris, they had only the cameras and a group of journalists to wave to.
Will any new faces emerge? Conventions offer an unmatched platform for up-and-coming politicians to leave an impression in front of a national audience — just ask Barack Obama, whose keynote address at the 2004 convention was a pivotal moment in his rapid ascent from state senator to U.S. senator to president.
Even in a virtual format, there is still plenty of opportunity to get on people’s radar across the country. Who will make the most of that chance?
How will Trump respond? One thing is certain: The convention will place a lot of attention on a lot of Democratic politicians who are not fond of Mr. Trump. And Mr. Trump is unlikely to be restrained in his commentary next week.
One of the most powerful speeches of the 2016 Democratic convention came from Khizr Khan, the father of a Muslim American soldier who was killed while serving in Iraq. Mr. Khan denounced Mr. Trump’s campaign message, and Mr. Trump proceeded to attack Mr. Khan and his wife, igniting a political firestorm. Will a similar dynamic play out next week?
President Trump on Saturday accused Democrats of refusing to fund the United States Postal Service as he faced intense criticism from Democrats who say slowdowns in mail delivery, the removal of sorting machines and other changes are threatening the integrity of the general election.
Speaking at a news conference at his golf resort in Bedminster, N.J., Mr. Trump also continued to rail against mail-in voting, calling it “a catastrophe.” But he did not directly say whether he supported the removal of mail-sorting machines and other changes made under the leadership of his postmaster general, Louis DeJoy.
“I don’t know what he’s doing,” Mr. Trump said. “I can only tell you he’s a very smart man. He’ll be a great Postmaster General.”
Democrats have, in fact, pushed for a total of $10 billion for the Postal Service in talks with Republicans on the coronavirus response bill. That figure, which would include money to help with election mail, was down from a $25 billion plan in a House-passed coronavirus measure.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and House Democratic leadership have begun discussing bringing the chamber back early to address the issues with the Postal Service, a move that would cut short the annual summer recess. While the House is not scheduled to return for votes until Sept. 14, Democratic leaders could call lawmakers back in the next two weeks, two people familiar with the talks said on Saturday.
Among the legislative options under consideration include a measure put forward by Representative Carolyn B. Maloney of New York, the chairwoman of the House Oversight Committee, that would prohibit agency leadership from enacting any operational changes that were in place before Jan. 1 or once the public health crisis subsides. Such changes would include ending overtime pay or any measures that would delay mail. Lawmakers are also discussing adding language to the bill that would ensure all ballot-related mail is considered First Class Mail and treated as such.
While Democrats have been fighting to include funding for the Postal Service in a coronavirus relief package, it is unlikely that Democrats would act on a standalone funding bill, said the two people, who asked for anonymity in order to disclose details of private discussions, because the current crisis the agency is facing is tied to policy, not funding.
President Trump will travel to the battleground state of Pennsylvania on Thursday to deliver remarks attacking Joseph R. Biden Jr. just a few miles from the former vice president’s childhood home, a few hours before Mr. Biden is scheduled to take the stage at the Democratic National Convention.
The Trump campaign said Saturday that Mr. Trump will discuss “Joe Biden’s record of failure” in remarks he will deliver in Old Forge, Pa., roughly six miles southwest of Scranton, Pa., where Mr. Biden grew up. He will offer his comments around 3 p.m. on Thursday, the campaign said.
A spokesman for Mr. Biden on Saturday called Mr. Trump’s event a “sideshow” and “a pathetic attempt to distract from the fact that Trump’s presidency stands for nothing but crises, lies and division.”
Mr. Biden is scheduled to accept the Democratic nomination on the last day of the party’s online convention and deliver his own speech Thursday night around 10 p.m.
Mr. Trump’s planned stop in Pennsylvania on Thursday will cap a week in which he is scheduled to swing through Minnesota, Wisconsin and Arizona — all states that could also be potentially up for grabs in the fall — and attack Mr. Biden on the economy and immigration during a key week for Democrats.
Vice President Mike Pence is also scheduled to travel to Wisconsin on Wednesday, where the Trump campaign said he will criticize Mr. Biden over his record on taxes and trade.
In addition to featuring remarks by Mr. Biden and his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris of California, the Democratic National Convention will feature prime-time keynote speeches by Michelle Obama on Monday, Jill Biden on Tuesday and Barack Obama on Wednesday.
The Trump campaign is launching an aggressive four-day digital advertising campaign that will take over some of the internet’s most conspicuous real estate during the three marquee days of the Democratic National Convention — a nearly all-digital event.
Adhering to the president’s penchant for focusing attention on himself during major Democratic events, the Trump campaign will be taking over the banner of YouTube for 96 hours starting on Tuesday, the second day of the convention, an expensive and far-reaching digital gambit.
The campaign will also blanket the home pages of The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and FoxNews.com with Trump campaign ads. Even non-convention programming will be inundated with Trump ads, as the campaign has bought premium, or “unskippable,” ads on sites like Hulu.
The campaign amounts to “high-seven figures,” a significant sum to spend online in such a short period of time, and could top $10 million (a few digital ads are sometimes charged extra based on engagement). The takeover of the YouTube banner and the news sites’ home pages are national buys, while the spending for Hulu and others will be in swing states.
Trump campaign officials said they were able to grab the digital slots because the Democrats, who moved their original convention date, had not purchased the time for the original week in July, nor for the new one beginning on Monday.