2020 Election Live Updates: Republicans Rebuke Trump for Floating Delaying Election, Something He Cannot Do

Trailing badly in the polls, the president baselessly suggested that the November election would be fraudulent. No major Republicans have stepped forward to defend him.

The funeral of Representative John Lewis is taking place today in Atlanta. Follow our live updates.

Top Republicans offered a rare rebuke of President Trump on Thursday, condemning his suggestion that the Nov. 3 general election be delayed — something he has no authority to order.

“Never in the history of the federal elections have we not held an election and we should go forward,” said Representative Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader, adding that he understood “the president’s concern about mail-in voting.”

Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, declined to answer questions on Capitol Hill, but told a reporter for WNKY TV in Kentucky that the election date was set in stone.

Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, 2016 rivals for the Republican presidential nomination who have since become staunch Trump supporters, both dismissed the idea that Election Day could change. Senator Lindsey Graham, Mr. Trump’s foremost public defender in the Senate, said there would be a safe vote in November. And officials in key swing states showed little interest in engaging on the topic.

“We’re going to have an election, it’s going to be legitimate, it’s going to be credible, it’s going to be the same as it’s always been,” Mr. Rubio told reporters at the Capitol in Washington.

Mr. Cruz agreed. “I think election fraud is a serious problem,” he said. “But no, we should not delay the election.”

Even for Mr. Trump, suggesting a delay in the election is an extraordinary breach of presidential decorum that will increase the chances that he and his core supporters don’t accept the legitimacy of the election should he lose to former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

His suggestion came minutes after the Commerce Department announced that the nation’s gross domestic product, the broadest measure of goods and services produced, fell 9.5 percent during the three months ending June 30, the largest quarterly drop on record.

“With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history,” Mr. Trump wrote. “It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”

Rather than back off in the face of widespread criticism, Mr. Trump pinned the tweet atop his Twitter profile.

So far, no major Republican figures have publicly agreed with Mr. Trump’s proposal, though they have avoiding criticizing the president.

“Make no mistake: the election will happen in New Hampshire on November 3rd. End of story,” Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, a Republican who is also facing re-election in November, wrote on Twitter. “Our voting system in NH is secure, safe, and reliable. We have done it right 100% of the time for 100 years — this year will be no different.”

Even Fox News, a loyal Trump ally that the president watches for hours inside the White House, interpreted his proposal as a sign the president is flailing.

“It is a fragrant and flagrant expression of his current weakness,” Fox News politics editor Chris Stirewalt said during a Fox News broadcast Thursday morning. “A person who is in a strong position would never, never suggest anything like that. So Trump may be making a tactical error here by further telegraphing his weak position in the polls and his weak position for re-election.”

It is unclear how seriously Mr. Trump believes there ought to be discussion about changing the date of the election. He often floats extraordinary proposals only to back off from them after they have dominated cable news cycles.

Article II of the Constitution empowers Congress to choose the timing of the general election. An 1845 federal law fixed the date as the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

“Only Congress can change the date of our elections, and under no circumstances will we consider doing so to accommodate the president’s inept and haphazard response to the coronavirus pandemic,” said Representative Zoe Lofgren, Democrat of California and the chair of the Administration Committee, which oversees elections.

Other top Democrats reacted with the resigned horror of a party that has for five years faced norm-breaking attacks from Mr. Trump that would have been considered far out of bounds under previous presidents.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi simply tweeted the section of the Constitution that stipulates the date of the election, while Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Lily Adams called the tweet “a desperate attempt to distract from today’s devastating economic numbers that make it clear his failed response to the coronavirus has tanked the U.S. economy.”

While the White House has officially denied Mr. Trump has any interest in changing the date of the election from Nov. 3, some of his allies and top aides have on occasion floated the possibility.

Mr. Trump has no authority to unilaterally change the date of the election, which is set by federal law. His suggestion comes as polls show him trailing far behind Mr. Biden in surveys of nearly all of the key battleground states. And Mr. Trump’s claim that mail voting leads to inaccurate counts or fraud is false.

But the president’s sustained attacks on mail voting, combined with more robust Democratic efforts to encourage more of their voters to request and submit absentee ballots by mail, has led to a significant Democratic advantage in absentee ballot requests during the ongoing primaries.

During the presidential primaries, states that shifted their balloting largely to the mail saw far larger voter turnout than did states that held their contests primarily in person.

Mr. Trump has delivered mixed messages about whether the election will take place as scheduled.

During an April news conference, he affirmed that “the general election will happen on Nov. 3.” But later in the same briefing, he baselessly asserted that “a lot of people cheat with mail-in voting” and argued that “people should vote with I.D.”

About five weeks later, Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and a senior White House adviser, refused to rule out postponing the presidential election in an interview with Time magazine, despite lacking the authority to do so.

“I’m not sure I can commit one way or the other, but right now that’s the plan,” he said. Mr. Kushner later sought to clarify his remark, saying he had “not been involved in, nor am I aware of, any discussions about trying to change the date of the presidential election.”

Since Mr. Trump won the 2016 presidential election, fellow Republicans have rarely crossed him, and nearly all of those who did were subsequently drummed out of the party.

But when Mr. Trump proposed delaying the Nov. 3 election, something he cannot do, Republicans sought to thread a needle by not attacking him personally while making it clear they had no interest in his idea.

“For now, the Nov. 3 elections should be held,” said Terry Lathan, the chairwoman of the Alabama Republican Party. “The president was asking a question on this topic, not making a statement. He is right to be concerned about the chatter of an all mail-in federally mandated election that the Democrats are pushing.”

(Democrats are not pushing federal mandates for voting by mail. They have enacted some and proposed more federal funding to help states conduct elections during the pandemic. Decisions on how to conduct elections are made by the states.)

Michael Whatley, the chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party, who also said he hadn’t seen the president’s tweet, predicted the elections in North Carolina would be held safely as scheduled.

“The election will absolutely be held on Nov. 3,” Mr. Whatley said. “We believe that people in North Carolina will be able to vote safely in November and we look forward to delivering the vote for President Trump and candidates up and down the ballot.”

Other heads of state Republican parties exhibited a tactic honed by congressional Republicans: Saying they didn’t know what the president had tweeted.

“I haven’t seen anything because I was on ‘Fox and Friends,’” said Kelli Ward, the chairwoman of the Arizona Republican Party.

Andrew Hitt, the chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party, would not say if he thought the election should be held Nov. 3. “I’m not going to go on the record right now,” he said in a brief telephone interview. Of Mr. Trump’s tweet, he said: “I haven’t seen it. I would be happy to talk off the record.”

Juliana Bergeron, a Republican National Committee member from New Hampshire, offered rare and mild rebuke of Mr. Trump for focusing attention on the legitimacy of voting by mail.

“I do not believe it should be delayed nor do I believe it will be,” Ms. Bergeron said. “For one thing, it is not up to the president. I have faith in our system and think we should spend more time getting out the vote, even if it is through absentee ballots, than worrying about fraud.”

And Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator who ran against Mr. Trump for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016 and then became a Trump-supportive cable television commentator, said Thursday morning that he disagreed with any proposal to change the date of the election but declined to say more.

The date of the general election is set by federal law and has been fixed since 1845. It would take a change in federal law to move that date. That would mean legislation enacted by Congress, signed by the president and subject to challenge in the courts.

And even if all of that happened, there would not be much flexibility in choosing an alternate election date: The Constitution mandates that the new Congress must be sworn in on Jan. 3, and that the new president’s term must begin on Jan. 20. Those dates cannot be changed just by the passage of normal legislation.

While the date of the presidential election is set by federal law, the procedures for voting are generally controlled at the state level.

That’s why the United States has such a complicated patchwork of voting regulations, with some states allowing early and absentee voting; some permitting voting by mail or same-day voter registration; others requiring certain kinds of identification for voters; and many states doing few or none of those things.

So it is possible that states could revise their voting procedures in response to a public health crisis, as some already have, by making it easier to vote by mail or through various absentee procedures that would not require people to cluster together on one particular date.

The federal government could also take steps to mandate or encourage different voting procedures, without changing the timing of the election.

At Representative John Lewis’s funeral on Thursday, he will be eulogized by former President Barack Obama. Other former presidents, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, spoke at the service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.

The only living former president who did not attend is Jimmy Carter, 95, who along his wife, Rosalynn, “are not traveling these days and are sending condolences in writing,” a spokeswoman said Thursday.

But Mr. Trump, who declined to visit the Capitol Rotunda where Mr. Lewis’s body was lying in state, is not there either. His absence is not a surprise; if anything, admirers of Mr. Lewis’s lifelong fight for the rights of Black people, for voting rights and for his wish for people to make “good trouble” find the president’s absence a welcome reprieve.

Mr. Lewis, a civil rights icon who represented Atlanta in Congress for more than three decades, died on July 17 at age 80, amid a national reckoning over racism and police brutality. This week, he became the first Black lawmaker to lie in state in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol.

He submitted a New York Times op-ed before his death to be published on the day of his funeral. “Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble,” he said. “Voting and participating in the democratic process are key. The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it.”

Mr. Trump’s avoidance of celebrations of high-profile figures who criticized him publicly is becoming its own tradition.

For the second time in his term, as most of Washington, D.C., and people across the country have grieved for a larger-than-life public figure, Mr. Trump has stood apart in defiance. It is reminiscent of Mr. Trump’s performance when Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, a Vietnam War hero and a vocal Trump detractor, died in 2018. Mr. Trump offered a perfunctory statement and the barest of acknowledgments by lowering the flags at the White House.

Unwilling to be gracious to an adversary or to cede center stage, Mr. Trump is treating Mr. Lewis’s death as if it were incidental.

“No, I won’t be going,” Mr. Trump told a reporter on Monday who asked if he would make the trip to the Capitol, where Mr. Biden, among other political luminaries, paid respects to Mr. Lewis.

At this point in his presidency, few voters expect more from Mr. Trump. But whether they would like more from their president is one of the questions he will have to face on Election Day.

Herman Cain, the former pizza executive whose insurgent campaign for president in 2012 catapulted him to fame as an unlikely hero of Tea Party conservatives, died on Thursday after contracting the coronavirus, a former staff member confirmed. He was 74.

Mr. Cain attended Mr. Trump’s rally in Tulsa, Okla., last month and was photographed not wearing a mask, though he said in a video on his website about the rally that he had worn one at times. He tested positive for coronavirus and was hospitalized in the Atlanta area shortly after.

“People were concerned, because of the media, about whether or not this was going to turn into another uptick in number of cases of Covid-19,” Mr. Cain said in the video. On Twitter, the night of the event, he encouraged attendees to “ignore the outrage” and “shaming.”

Mr. Cain said that all rally participants, including him, had their temperatures checked and that some people had worn masks. Sanitizer stations were scattered throughout the arena.

“Whether or not it’s going to work or not, we don’t know, but the chances are even though it was a crowded room of people, if they took precautions, probably not going to be a big uptick,” he said.

While it is not clear where Mr. Cain contracted the virus, public health officials, who had urged the Trump campaign to call off the rally because of a surge of cases in the state, have said that the event was a likely source of an uptick in cases reported in Tulsa County.

Even after being hospitalized, he tweeted approvingly of masks not being required at Mr. Trump’s Mount Rushmore speech, which occurred nearly two weeks after the Tulsa event. “Masks will not be mandatory for the event, which will be attended by President Trump,” he wrote in a since-deleted tweet. “PEOPLE ARE FED UP!”

Mr. Cain, who was an official surrogate for Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign, also wrote an op-ed after the rally defending the event, writing, “The media worked very hard to scare people out of attending the Trump campaign rally last Saturday night in Tulsa.”

Mr. Cain’s political ambitions were derailed after women stepped forward and accused him of sexual misconduct. But his political celebrity endured after the election as he brought his folksy, irreverent style — best captured by his so-called “9-9-9” tax plan that would have set corporate, personal income and sales taxes to 9 percent — to Fox News and conservative political conferences across the country.

He caught the eye of a similarly styled political novice, Donald J. Trump, who later considered nominating Mr. Cain to a seat on the Federal Reserve’s board of governors. Mr. Trump did not follow through, though Mr. Cain remained a political ally and served on the Trump campaign’s Black Voices for Trump coalition.

At fund-raising events where he has pulled in more than $24 million for Mr. Biden’s campaign in the last two months, Mr. Obama has privately unleashed on Mr. Trump to party donors, bringing up sexual assault accusations against him and warning of his efforts to push “nativist, racist, sexist” fears and resentments.

With less than 100 days until the election, Mr. Obama has laid out the stakes of 2020 in forceful fashion. He has urged support for Mr. Biden while worrying about the state of American democracy itself, even making an oblique reference to Nazi Germany, according to notes made from recordings of Mr. Obama’s remarks, donors and others who have been on the calls.

Mr. Obama remains one of the Democratic Party’s biggest fund-raising draws. A virtual conversation on Tuesday with the actor George Clooney sold out of tickets that ranged from $250 to as much as $250,000.

Donors who have paid six-figure sums to see Mr. Obama on Zoom — he held two other, more intimate, conversations for donors with Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn and a major Democratic donor, and J.B. Pritzker, the billionaire governor of Illinois — have been privy to wide-ranging question-and-answer sessions with the former president.

During his conversation with Mr. Pritzker, Mr. Obama spoke about how Mr. Trump has a core base that is “just glued to Fox News and Breitbart and Limbaugh and just this conservative echo chamber — and so, they’re going to turn out to vote.”

“What he has unleashed,” Mr. Obama added, “and what he continues to try to tap into is the fears and anger and resentment of people who, in some cases, really are having a tough time and have seen their prospects, or communities where they left, declining. And Trump tries to tap into that and redirect in nativist, racist, sexist ways.”

Mr. Trump vowed on Wednesday to protect suburbanites from low-income housing being built in their neighborhoods, making an appeal to white suburban voters by trying to stir up racist fears about affordable housing and the people who live there.

In a tweet and later in remarks during a visit to Texas, Mr. Trump painted a false picture of the suburbs as under siege and ravaged by crime, using fear-mongering language that has become something of a rhetorical flourish in campaign against Mr. Biden.

Mr. Trump said on Twitter that “people living their Suburban Lifestyle Dream” would “no longer be bothered or financially hurt by having low income housing built in your neighborhood.” The president was referring to the administration’s decision last week to roll back an Obama-era program intended to combat racial segregation in suburban housing. The program expanded provisions in the Fair Housing Act to encourage diversification and “foster inclusive communities.”

“Your housing prices will go up based on the market, and crime will go down,” he wrote, even though there was no evidence that the program led to an increase in crime.

The tweet, sent from aboard Air Force One as Mr. Trump traveled to Texas, was the latest example of the president stoking racial division as he seeks to win over voters in his bid for re-election. White suburban voters, particularly women, were key to his victory in 2016 but are slipping away from him.

Mr. Trump’s latest campaign ads warn of left-wing mobs destroying American cities. His recent White House comments have depicted a rampage of violence and a “radical movement” to dissolve the police. His Twitter feed has sounded alarms over an Obama-era fair housing rule he has framed as a threat to “The Suburban Housewives of America” and the “Suburban Lifestyle Dream.”

It all amounts, with little subtlety, to a play on the perceived fears of suburban voters. But there are several reasons to believe that a strategy that worked for Richard Nixon on the heels of urban unrest in 1968 is less likely to be effective for Mr. Trump in 2020.

For one, these are not the American suburbs of the 1960s (and they have a lot fewer housewives). The scale of urban violence and the threats to that suburban lifestyle are a faint echo of that time. And while polling shows that suburban voters disapprove of the president’s job in general, they disapprove even more of his handling of the very issues he is trying to elevate.

Over all, just 38 percent of voters in the suburbs approve of Mr. Trump’s job performance compared with 59 percent who disapprove, according to a New York Times/Siena College poll in June. Suburban voters disapproved of Mr. Trump’s handling of recent protests and race relations by an even wider margin, and 65 percent had a favorable view of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Nearly a year after the El Paso shooting, the deadliest anti-Latino attack in modern American history, Michael R. Bloomberg’s gun control organization is releasing new advertisements directed toward Latino voters in battleground states including Texas, Arizona and Florida.

The group, Everytown for Gun Safety, said it planned to spend more than $2 million on digital, radio and television advertising in both English and Spanish, starting in Texas.

The group’s advertising criticizes Mr. Trump and Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, for not doing more to enact stricter gun control laws since the El Paso attack, accusing them of “empty words and empty promises.” The police said that the suspect in the shooting told them he had been targeting Mexicans and that he had left a manifesto saying he was carrying out the attack in “response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”

“Victory for gun sense candidates up and down the ballot is impossible without the support of Latino voters,” said Charlie Kelly, a senior adviser to the group, Everytown for Gun Safety. “We’re making it a priority to reach the Latino community this cycle with gun safety messages that we know will resonate.”

The group also released new polling showing that Latino voters are more likely to support gun control measures enthusiastically than they were before the El Paso shooting. More than two-thirds of Latino voters said they would not vote for a candidate who does not support background checks on all gun sales and indicated the issue is equally important as health care, job creation, racial equity and protecting children at the border, according to the poll, which was conducted by Equis Research, a Washington-based firm that focuses on Latino voters.

As the coronavirus spread into states that lean Republican, policymakers there have been forced to change course.

Reopening plans have been scuttled, Republican leaders in Washington have broken ranks with Mr. Trump on response policy, and the president himself eventually declared that Americans should wear protective masks.

At the grass-roots level, however, it’s not clear how much the partisan differences in people’s views of the pandemic have changed. There is some evidence of a narrowing on some fronts, but other survey data suggests that Americans disagree about the severity of the crisis as much today as they did two months ago, when people in Democratic counties were hit hardest by it.

To the extent that the presence of the virus is driving attitude change, the infection data shows why. Through late May, counties that supported Mr. Trump in 2016 accounted for just 26 percent of reported cases and 21 percent of deaths, despite making up 45 percent of the nation’s population.

Over the past two months, however, Republican-leaning counties have accounted for 43 percent of new cases and a third of deaths. Of the 100 counties that have seen the most case growth per capita over the past two months, 71 of them backed Mr. Trump in the last election.

A survey released on Thursday by Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy found Mr. Biden ahead of Mr. Trump in Florida by a margin of 50 to 46 percent, just within the margin of error of four percentage points, with 4 percent of respondents undecided.

It is the latest in a string of polls showing Mr. Biden in front of Mr. Trump in the president’s adopted home state, the nation’s largest battleground.

The Mason-Dixon poll, which surveyed 625 registered voters by phone from July 20-23, shows Mr. Biden beating Mr. Trump among independents, women, Black and Hispanic people, and younger voters, while Mr. Trump leads among men, white people and older voters.

An earlier poll by Quinnipiac University showed the former vice president leading Mr. Trump by 13 percentage points, significantly outside the margin of error — a worrisome sign for Mr. Trump in a state he won four years ago.

In that July 23 poll, 51 percent of respondents supported Mr. Biden, compared with 38 percent who supported Mr. Trump; the margin of error was plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.

A man accused of setting a fire to the Arizona Democratic Party headquarters this month was arrested on Wednesday, the authorities said.

The man, Matthew Egler, 29, was arrested on a charge of arson of an occupied structure, the Phoenix Police Department said. Mr. Egler, the police said, was a former volunteer at the office but had been recently barred from volunteer service.

It was not immediately clear whether he had a lawyer, or why he had been barred from volunteering.

The fire took place after midnight on July 24 at the party’s offices in downtown Phoenix, causing damage but no injuries.

The Phoenix police said that Mr. Egler had posted information on social media that linked him to the fire. Investigators were also able to connect a car seen in a surveillance video from that night to a relative of Mr. Egler. The video showed a man arriving in the car and breaking glass to get into the building.

“We are deeply saddened and shocked by today’s news, but appreciate the swift action by law enforcement to ensure that the suspect is in custody,” the Arizona Democratic Party said in a statement.

Reporting was contributed by Maggie Astor, Emily Badger, Luke Broadwater, Alexander Burns, Emily Cochrane, Nate Cohn, Johnny Diaz, Reid J. Epstein, Sydney Ember, Robert Gebeloff, Katie Glueck, Shane Goldmacher, Maggie Haberman, Annie Karni, Patricia Mazzei, Jennifer Medina, Jeremy W. Peters, Matt Stevens and Glenn Thrush.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/30/us/elections/biden-vs-trump.html

News – 2020 Election Live Updates: Republicans Rebuke Trump for Floating Delaying Election, Something He Cannot Do

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