2020 Election Live Updates: Trump Administration Continues Attacks on Mail-In Voting

The Trump campaign has gone off the airwaves, pausing TV advertising in order to review its strategy. Republicans and the White House are at odds over a Senate race in Kansas.

The House of Representatives voted to reprimand Representative David Schweikert, Republican of Arizona, for violating campaign finance laws, the first such action since 2012.

A day after President Trump raised the possibility of delaying the November election, using the coronavirus pandemic to sow concerns about ballot integrity, the White House again suggested that states won’t be ready to hold a fraud-free election in November.

Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, echoed the president’s attacks on mail-in ballots during a media briefing on Friday and repeatedly backed away from supporting any proposals to provide states funding for elections to ensure the process could be made more secure.

“States run their elections, and it is up to states to make sure that they have the capacity,” Ms. McEnany said, pointing to delays counting votes from New York’s June 23 primary. “They are responsible for creating what’s unfolding now and that is certain to get worse in November.”

Voter fraud is rare in the United States, and mail-in voting is not a new or untested idea. Five states — Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Utah, and Hawaii — already conduct voting primarily by mail.

But Mr. Trump has repeatedly tried to sow doubt about the mail-in voting process, despite having voted by mail himself before. His administration’s stance is at odds with an increasing number of Americans who support the process, particularly as the coronavirus pandemic worsens.

A growing number of White House officials have publicly spoken out against mail-in voting in recent days, spreading mistruths alongside Mr. Trump. Stephen Miller, a senior adviser to Mr. Trump, falsely claimed on Fox News on Friday morning that people who vote by mail do not have their identities checked.

“Nobody who mails in a ballot has their identity confirmed,” Mr. Miller said. “Nobody checks to see if they’re even a U.S. citizen. Think about that.”

This is not true. There are several ways that states verify voter data, including collecting signatures, birthdays, drivers license numbers and partial Social Security numbers, which are then compared against existing voter rolls.

“So, understand this, he wants to cancel the election, postpone the election,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday on Capitol Hill. “Really? He learn that from Putin or something?”

It is always risky to read too much into Mr. Trump’s tweets and offhand remarks to reporters. To what degree was he making an explicitly race-baiting appeal to suburban homeowners by promising to block the construction of low-income housing in their backyards? Would he actually try (the Constitution notwithstanding) to postpone the election, as he suggested on Thursday?

These could be the unpremeditated remarks of a public figure who knows how to roil the water, and — from his years playing the corners in the famously raucous New York City media market — how to change the subject. Mr. Trump’s tweet on elections came after the release of a report that noted the economy was contracting at a record rate.

But whether by design or not, Mr. Trump’s latest attack on voting, less than 100 days before the election, sows distrust in one of the basic pillars of the American system at a time when the country is culturally and politically polarized, confronting regular demonstrations and battered by an out-of-control pandemic.

These remarks set the groundwork for disputing the outcome of a close election, should he lose to Joseph R. Biden Jr., empowering his supporters, Republican politicians and lawyers to reject the result if it is not to his liking. That could take the form of recounts, court battles or protests.

The weeks after Election Day — rather than being a time for transition and healing if Mr. Biden wins, or preparations for a second term if Mr. Trump wins — could end up being a period of chaos that eclipses the level of disruption Florida witnessed in the closing days of 2000 after the disputed election between George W. Bush and Al Gore.

It seems noteworthy that when Mr. Trump questioned postponing the election, pushback came from the Republicans who have been his most unquestioning supporters, among them, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. The question now is whether those men, and other congressional supporters of Mr. Trump’s, will be back at his side if the president comes to dispute the legitimacy of the election.

The Trump campaign has completely gone off the air, temporarily suspending all television advertising nationwide as the campaign undertakes a “review” of its advertising strategy under the new campaign manager, Bill Stepien.

“With the leadership change in the campaign, there’s understandably a review and fine-tuning of the campaign’s strategy,” a campaign official said. “We’ll be back on the air shortly.”

The pause comes after several weeks of attacks against Mr. Trump’s opponent, Mr. Biden, on policing issues. The campaign spent more than $30 million since early July on television and digital ads that sought to sow fear and division about the racial justice protests around the country and falsely depict them as violent.

Mr. Trump’s campaign has been prolific on the airwaves since last September, when it began advertising during the impeachment process, and it has continued at a significant pace. Since last January, the campaign has spent $202 million in television and digital advertising, according to Advertising Analytics, an ad tracking firm.

While it has temporarily paused its advertising, the Trump campaign still has more than $146 million in television and radio ads booked through November, a number that far outpaces the Biden campaign. None of those reservations have been altered or shifted yet as part of the current review.

Though the campaign is not on television at the moment, it is still advertising on Facebook, with dozens of active ads. The campaign spent nearly $4 million on the platform over the past week.

The complete pause in advertising followed the campaign’s recent decision to suspend advertising in Michigan, a battleground state that Mr. Trump won by less than 11,000 votes in 2016.

As the Kansas Senate primary barrels to a close, tensions are rising between Senate Republicans and the White House over the potential nomination of Kris Kobach, who party officials fear would jeopardize the seat and further imperil their Senate majority.

Mr. McConnell is worried that Mr. Kobach, the former Kansas secretary of state who rose to national prominence with his hard-line views on immigration and voting rights before losing the 2018 governor’s race, may win the nomination in Tuesday’s primary only to lose the seat in November — and he is frustrated that Mr. Trump is not intervening in the race, according to multiple G.O.P. officials.

Mr. McConnell and other Senate Republican leaders have made urgent pleas to the president to block Mr. Kobach by endorsing one of his opponents, Representative Roger Marshall. But Mr. Trump has so far declined to do so, and his aides said they had no plans to change course. Compounding the frustration of Capitol Hill Republicans, White House aides have refused to tell Mr. Kobach, a longtime booster of Mr. Trump, to stop using the president’s imagery in his campaign materials.

With a number of incumbent Senate Republicans trailing in polls and being out-raised by their Democratic rivals, they have little margin for error as they seek to protect their 53-47 majority. And because of Mr. Trump’s broad unpopularity, and a health crisis that has devastated the economy, even a deeply conservative state like Kansas, which has not sent a Democrat to the Senate since the 1930s, is no sure thing for Senate Republicans this year.

“We have eight months of data that says the majority is gone if Kris Kobach is the nominee,” said Josh Holmes, a top lieutenant to Mr. McConnell. “It’s that simple.”

Mr. Trump’s new attacks on mail voting and attempt to cast doubt on the timing of the November election raise a couple of questions:

At this moment of coronavirus-driven insecurity, where do Americans stand on voting by mail? And how many might be persuaded, as the president argues, that the election’s very legitimacy is in doubt?

Recent polling shows that Americans now overwhelmingly support universal access to mail-in voting. In national surveys from the past few months, all taken after Mr. Trump began attacking the idea as dangerous, upward of six in 10 respondents have said that they would favor making absentee voting universally available.

But surveys also reflect how susceptible many people’s opinions can be to misinformation, when it comes to matters of fraud and vote security. For instance, 49 percent of Americans said in an ABC News/Washington Post poll in mid-July that mail-in voting was “vulnerable to significant levels of fraud.” That lines up cleanly with a Gallup poll from April that showed 49 percent of Americans thought expanding access to mail-in ballots would increase the prevalence of voter fraud.

This despite the fact that studies have consistently proven voter fraud to be exceedingly rare — including in the five states that now conduct all their voting by mail.

The House on Friday took the rare step of reprimanding one of its own members for ethics violations, voting unanimously to fine Representative David Schweikert, Republican of Arizona, $50,000 for breaking campaign finance laws.

The vote came after the House Ethics Committee found that Mr. Schweikert violated 11 House ethics rules. It marked the first time since 2012 that the House has reprimanded one of its members for an ethics violation.

“There is no joy in reprimanding one of our colleagues,” said Representative Dean Phillips, Democrat of Minnesota, who helped lead the investigation into Mr. Schweikert’s actions.

The committee said a two-year investigation had found “substantial reason to believe” that Mr. Schweikert had violated House rules, the Code of Ethics for Government Service, federal laws and other standards.

It cited Mr. Schweikert for campaign finance violations and errors in reporting by his campaign committees; the misuse of his congressional allowance; pressuring official staff members to perform campaign work; and his “lack of candor and due diligence” during the investigation.

House investigators found that Mr. Schweikert’s campaign had accepted more than $270,000 from his then-chief of staff, in violation of campaign finance laws. The former chief of staff also testified that he was pressured to raise money for the congressman’s campaign, a committee report said.

Mr. Schweikert had agreed to a $50,000 fine as part of an agreement to end the investigation.

Few countries have worked harder than Britain to please Mr. Trump. But now, with Mr. Trump trailing in the polls to Mr. Biden, British officials are waking up to an unsettling prospect: The president they tried so hard to accommodate may be out of power.

In Paris and Berlin, a Trump defeat would be welcomed with unalloyed relief, removing a leader who has sundered alliances and threatened a trade war. But in London, where Mr. Johnson’s government just left the European Union, it is more complicated.

At a moment of British isolation, Mr. Trump’s full-throated endorsement of Brexit has made the United States a safe harbor. His promise of a lucrative trade deal gave Mr. Johnson a selling point with voters.

If Mr. Biden wins in November, Britain would face a president who opposed Brexit, would look out for the interests of Ireland in a post-Brexit Europe, and would have little motive to prioritize an Anglo-American trade deal. His former boss, President Barack Obama, once warned Britons that if they left the E.U., they would put themselves at the “back of the queue” in any trade talks with the United States.

“It will not be lost on Biden that the last two British prime ministers went out of their way to be nice to and about Trump,” said Peter Westmacott, a former British ambassador to the United States. “He is instinctively comfortable with Brits, but London will have to work on the relationship.”

Back in April, Jill Karofsky became just the second person in 50 years to defeat a sitting Wisconsin Supreme Court justice. A liberal judge on the state circuit court, Ms. Karofsky is planning to be sworn in at mile 35 of a 100-mile ultramarathon she is running in Wisconsin starting at 6 a.m. Saturday.

Ms. Karofsky, who has run several marathons, will have a say in cases dealing with voting rights and Wisconsin’s pandemic response, and she spoke with our reporter Reid J. Epstein this week. The conversation was edited and condensed.

I was supposed to do a 100-mile race and I just thought, “Why not get sworn in in the middle of this 100-mile run and make it a little more of a bigger deal than it might be otherwise and than other people have done in the past?”

Five miles past Belleville is an old bar called Dot’s Tavern. And when you’re actually doing the run, the deal is you have to run into the tavern, go down to the basement of the tavern, and get a coaster to prove that you were there. So yeah. It’s just for shtick. And that’s at 35 miles.

I’d be happy to finish around 30 hours, so I’d like to be, I’m hoping to be done by noon on Sunday.

So help me with the math, what sort of pace does that mean you’ll be running?

Oh, it’s about 13-minute miles. But you also have to factor in I’m going to lose at least 30, 45 minutes getting sworn in.

I have a couple of friends who are going to meet me out there at different sections of the course. One of my friends is going to run through the night with me.

How is keeping this sort of running regimen helpful to doing a job like being a Supreme Court justice?

No matter what your job is, when you sit down to do your job, to have the clearest mind possible is how we all perform the best. And I think that making important decisions on behalf of the state of Wisconsin, if I can come at those decisions from a place where my mind is clear and I’m not making decisions from a place of stress, then I can perform at my best.

With the death on Thursday of Herman Cain, attributed to the coronavirus, the reality of the pandemic has hit closer to home for Mr. Trump and other Republicans than before, as it claimed a prominent ally whose frequently dismissive attitude about health precautions reflected the hands-off inconsistency of party leaders.

Mr. Cain, a former business executive and candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, had an irreverent, confrontational style that mirrored the president’s own brand of contrarian politics. In his more recent role as a public face for the president’s re-election campaign, he became an emblem of Trump-supporting, mask-defiant science skeptics, openly if not aggressively disdainful of public health officials who warned Americans to avoid large crowds, cover their faces and do as much as possible to limit contact with others.

His view was shared by many conservatives, who have applied a hard-nosed, culture war mentality to the virus, the most serious public health crisis in a century.

Mr. Trump wrote in praise of Mr. Cain on Twitter on Thursday, calling him “a Powerful Voice of Freedom and all that is good.”

But Mr. Cain’s death showed how ill-suited that mind-set is to the country’s current predicament. More than 150,000 Americans have died in a pandemic that is ravaging parts of the country where conservative leaders long resisted taking steps that have slowed the virus elsewhere, such as mask mandates and stay-at-home orders.

Those include places like Tulsa, Okla., where Mr. Cain attended a Trump campaign rally in June and showed his disregard for safety precautions on social media shortly before receiving a diagnosis for the virus.

With a uniformity that has defied rising death tolls in their own backyards, Republican officials at the federal, state and local levels have adopted a similar tone of skepticism and defiance, rejecting the advice of public health officials and deferring instead to principles they said were equally important: conservative values of economic freedom and personal liberty.

Reporting was contributed by Luke Broadwater, Emily Cochrane, Nick Corasaniti, Reid J. Epstein, Katie Glueck, Mark Landler, Jonathan Martin, Adam Nagourney, Jeremy W. Peters, Katie Rogers, Giovanni Russonello and Stephanie Saul.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/31/us/elections/biden-vs-trump.html

News – 2020 Election Live Updates: Trump Administration Continues Attacks on Mail-In Voting

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