5.2 Million Americans Cannot Vote Because of Felony Convictions

Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s campaign announced raising $383 million in September, combined with the Democratic National Committee and their shared committees, and entered October with $432 million cash in the bank, his campaign announced on Wednesday.

“That’s more than I’ve raised in my whole life!” Mr. Biden marveled in a short video posted on Twitter on Wednesday evening.

The total means that Mr. Biden has raised nearly $750 million since Aug. 1, in back-to-back months of record-breaking hauls (he raised $364.5 million in August) that have delivered him a significant financial advantage over President Trump in the closing weeks of the campaign.

Mr. Biden has used those additional funds to spend more on television than Mr. Trump in the key battleground states and to stretch the map, with some ads now even airing in Texas.

That Mr. Biden would have a cash advantage over Mr. Trump was hard to imagine earlier this year. The former vice president had struggled to raise money online for most of the 2020 primary and the president’s re-election campaign and the Republican Naitonal Committee entered April with a roughly $187 million edge over Mr. Biden and the D.N.C.

The reversal of financial fortunes is one of the more consequential developments of the general election.

Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, Mr. Biden’s campaign manager, said they had 1.1 million new donors in September and 5.5 million donors overall. She said that $203 million of the total had come online, about the same amount as in August. The biggest share came on the final day of September, the day after last month’s debate, when officials had previously said the campaign raised $24.1 million

Mr. Biden had entered September with $466 million cash on hand combined with the D.N.C. and their joint operations, compared to $325 million for Mr. Trump and the Republican National Committee.

The Trump campaign has yet to announce its September fund-raising haul.

Credit…Saul Martinez for The New York Times

An estimated 5.2 million Americans cannot vote in the 2020 election because they have been convicted of felonies, according to a report released Wednesday by the Sentencing Project — a number that most likely depresses turnout for Democrats.

Only about a quarter of those people are actually incarcerated, the report says, and more than 4 in 10 have completed their full sentence but remain barred from the polls.

The United States is an outlier in permitting the denial of voting rights to people who are former felons, and the specific provisions governing the restoration of those rights vary widely from state to state.

Felony disenfranchisement occurs at higher rates in the South, and is generally believed to hurt Democrats on balance, in part because a disproportionate number of those barred from voting are Black, and Black voters make up a significant part of the Democratic base.

The new report found that Black Americans are disenfranchised by felony records at almost four times the rate of others. In seven states — Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wyoming — more than one in seven Black adults are disenfranchised, it found. That is more than twice the national average of Black felony disenfranchisement.

Thanks to state actions expanding the restoration of voting rights, the total number of people barred from voting is down by 15 percent from the 2016 presidential election, when the Sentencing Project, which tracks incarceration data and advocates for a “fair and effective” criminal justice system, estimated that 6.2 million people were blocked.

In the past four years, several states have removed some barriers to voting, including Colorado, Louisiana, Nevada, New Jersey and Wyoming.

Governors in Iowa, Kentucky, Virginia and New York have restored voting rights to large categories of people through blanket executive orders. Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, for example, has granted 61,075 people on parole the right to vote, according to the state corrections department.

Georgia edged out Florida as the state with the highest rate of felony disenfranchisement, according to the report, but Florida still leads the country in the sheer number of those disenfranchised, an estimated 1.1 million people.

In 2018, Florida voters overwhelmingly approved a measure to restore voting rights after completion of sentence, but the state legislature has since blocked anyone who has failed to pay court-ordered fines and fees from regaining the right to vote.

Credit…Gerry Broome/Associated Press

A federal judge preserved a nine-day extension for absentee ballots to be returned in North Carolina, rebuffing efforts by the Trump campaign to set a hard deadline of Election Day for counting votes sent by mail.

Judge William L. Osteen Jr. of the U.S. District Court in Greensboro ruled that absentee ballots could be accepted until Nov. 12, as long as they are postmarked by Nov. 3, which is Election Day. Not giving voters the extension could be argued as a violation of the equal protection clause of the Constitution, he wrote.

In a separate but related ruling, however, Judge Osteen barred the state from loosening a requirement that envelopes must be signed by a witness, a rule that has been criticized as particularly cumbersome during the coronavirus pandemic.

He ruled that a mechanism that would have allowed voters to sign an affidavit in lieu of a witness signature did not comply with state law.

He wrote that state election officials were creating a new framework of rules for mail-in voting that conflicted with his previous order that upheld the signature requirement.

“Using a Due Process cure procedure to allow some voters to ignore the witness requirement, or have their votes counted without witness signatures, all under a claim of complying with this court’s order, is a flagrant misuse of this court’s injunctive relief,” he wrote.

The rulings have broad implications: North Carolina was a key pathway to the White House for President Trump in 2016 but has been tilting toward former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. It is also home to one of the most competitive Senate races in the nation, pitting the vulnerable Republican incumbent Thom Tillis against the Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham in a contest that could determine control of the Senate.

Judge Osteen noted that 1.3 million absentee ballots had been requested in North Carolina and nearly half a million had already been cast.

Tens of millions of Americans are expected to rely on mail-in voting to avoid casting ballots in person during the coronavirus pandemic. In several states, Republicans have clashed with Democrats over the rules for voting by mail, including in North Carolina, where public-interest groups have criticized the witness requirement as particularly onerous for older residents, including those who live at nursing homes.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Trump delivered a rambling tirade against his personal and political foes at an airport hangar in Des Moines, Iowa, using an unsubstantiated news report to attack Joseph R. Biden Jr. and calling himself a champion of “the farmers” in the heavily agricultural battleground state.

Sounding alternately chipper and deeply embittered, and repeatedly chortling at his own lines, Mr. Trump initially appeared determined to use his first trip to the Midwest since his leaving the hospital to tear into Mr. Biden and his son, Hunter, wielding as his chief weapon a New York Post story instigated by Rudy Giuliani and roundly denied by the Biden campaign. And Mr. Trump did that, at some length.

But soon enough, he moved on to other subjects and other vendettas. There was his call for retribution against people involved in investigating Russian involvement in the 2016 election. “People should pay for the crimes they committed, which turn out to be a total illegal hoax,” Mr. Trump declared.

There was his broadside against Bruce G. Ohr, a low-profile former Justice Department official who has become a target of conservative media because of his connection to federal investigations of Mr. Trump and Russia. “Bruce Ohr is finally out of the Department of Justice!” Mr. Trump crowed, adding, “He should be not only in the Department of Justice out box, he should be someplace else.”

There was his rant against elites who “live behind gated walls and they flooded your communities with illegal immigration, deadly drugs, MS-13 savages that assault, rape and murder innocent Americans” — a return to his harshest rhetoric demonizing undocumented migrants from Latin America. And there were Mr. Trump’s myriad other detours mocking James B. Comey, Beto O’Rourke, Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

Dotting the discursive monologue were references to the coronavirus pandemic and the American economy. The state of Iowa has long been seen as something of a Trump stronghold, but Republicans have grown increasingly concerned that Mr. Biden could pull off an upset there and that Democrats could capture a Republican-held Senate seat. Mr. Trump expressed some lighthearted dismay that the state appeared to be in play, and pointed, among other things, to his administration’s cash support to farmers stricken in his trade war with China.

“Some of the farmers were making more money, the way that I was doing it, than by working their asses off, all right?” Mr. Trump said, chuckling. “They were very, very happy.”

At times, Mr. Trump flicked at a message many Republicans hope he will use in the coming weeks, attacking Mr. Biden for embracing liberal economic policies and arguing that he would imperil an economic recovery. But those were brief notes in a speech defined by a scattershot mixture of grievance and ridicule, and by a continued refusal to grapple with the deep human and economic costs of coronavirus pandemic.

In a state battling outbreaks of the virus, Mr. Trump urged state governments to remove public-health restrictions, boasted again without evidence of being “immune” to the disease and defended calling it “the China virus” despite pleas from Asian-American advocates and lawmakers that he cease doing so. He told the Des Moines crowd to watch forthcoming third-quarter G.D.P. numbers and promised a stock market surge.

“Does everyone have your 401k ready?” Mr. Trump asked the Des Moines crowd. “Because it’s going through the roof.”

After opening his speech with an attack on Mr. Biden’s son, Mr. Trump alluded briefly to his teenage son, Barron, whom Melania Trump revealed on Wednesday had contracted the coronavirus. Mr. Trump cited the experience to argue for returning children to in-person schooling.

“He had it for such a short period of time — I don’t even think he knew he had it,” Mr. Trump said, adding, “Barron is beautiful and he’s free — free.”

Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Joseph R. Biden Jr. leads President Trump by seven percentage points in Georgia in a new poll from Quinnipiac University, and the two are roughly tied in Ohio — two states without which Mr. Trump most likely cannot win re-election.

The polls were conducted from Oct. 8-12, after the vice-presidential debate and Mr. Trump’s release from the hospital following his coronavirus diagnosis. They showed Mr. Biden at 51 percent to Mr. Trump’s 44 percent in Georgia — a lead outside the margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points — and at 48 percent to Mr. Trump’s 47 percent in Ohio, a statistically insignificant difference.

Other polls have shown a closer race in Georgia, and Quinnipiac’s survey could be an outlier. But the fact that the state is in play at all speaks to the trouble Mr. Trump is in less than three weeks before Election Day, given that Georgia has not voted for a Democrat for president since 1992. He is scheduled to hold a rally there on Friday, an unusual move for a Republican so close to the election.

That Mr. Trump appears to be doing better in Ohio than in Georgia, the opposite of the historical norm for Republicans, speaks to the country’s changing demographics, which are making Sun Belt states like Georgia and Arizona more favorable to Democrats and Midwestern states like Ohio and Wisconsin less favorable.

Quinnipiac also asked Georgia voters about the state’s two Senate races. In the regular election between Senator David Perdue, a Republican, and his Democratic challenger, Jon Ossoff, Mr. Ossoff led by six points, 51 percent to 45 percent.

In a special election for the seat now held by Senator Kelly Loeffler, an appointed Republican, the Democratic candidate, Raphael Warnock, had a strong plurality: 41 percent, compared with 22 percent for the Republican, Doug Collins, and 20 percent for Ms. Loeffler.

That race will go to a runoff if no candidate breaks 50 percent, and another Democrat, Matt Lieberman, could help keep Mr. Warnock from reaching that threshold on Nov. 3. Mr. Lieberman, the son of Joseph I. Lieberman, the former Connecticut senator and 2000 Democratic nominee for vice president, had the support of 5 percent of voters in the new poll.

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

Under questioning from the Democratic vice presidential nominee, Senator Kamala Harris, on Wednesday, Judge Amy Coney Barrett said at her confirmation hearing that human-caused climate change is “a very contentious matter of public debate,” a position starkly at odds with the established scientific consensus.

Sounding a bit like the prosecutor she once was, Ms. Harris began by taking Judge Barrett through other scientific matters — asking her whether cigarettes cause cancer and whether the coronavirus is infectious before asking whether “climate change is happening and threatening the air we breathe and the water that we drink.”

Judge Barrett responded, “I wondered if, where you were going with that. You asked me uncontroversial questions, like Covid-19 being infectious or if smoking causes cancer.” Then she accused Ms. Harris of “trying to solicit an opinion from me on a very contentious matter of public debate,” climate change.

“I will not do that, I will not express a view on a matter of public policy, especially one that is politically controversial, because it is inconsistent with the judicial role,” she said.

The science of human-caused climate change is established.

Judge Barrett’s answer is “a dodge that fails to acknowledge the overwhelming scientific consensus that humans are causing the planet to warm,” said Ann Carlson, a faculty director of the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at U.C.L.A. School of Law.

The evidence that the planet is warming, and that warming is having destructive effects, has only grown more pressing as more and more Americans have come to understand the links between extreme weather and their own lives — including more destructive hurricanes and wildfires. The issue is increasingly important to voters, and has become a prominent part of the presidential race; President Trump has continued to scoff at the evidence underlying climate change, even saying recently that “I don’t think science knows, actually,” while Joseph R. Biden Jr. promises an aggressive $2 trillion plan to counter global warming.

It is also important to the Supreme Court. In past decisions, the justices have accepted that human-caused climate change is occurring and determined that the Environmental Protection Agency can regulate greenhouse gases in the case Massachusetts v. E.P.A., but a more conservative Supreme Court might revisit the issue.

To Professor Carlson, Judge Barrett’s response “seems like a pretty strong signal to those in the know that she is skeptical of regulating greenhouse gases.”

Credit…Nancy Lane/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts would not commit on Wednesday to voting for President Trump in next month’s election, the latest hedge by a Republican office holder who is not on the ballot this year.

The question of Mr. Baker’s allegiances came up during a news conference about the state budget and preparations for a second wave of the coronavirus outbreak in the commonwealth.

Mr. Baker, whose embrace of mail-in voting has drawn the scorn of Mr. Trump, and who could be looking ahead to the 2022 governor’s contest in his deep-blue state, acknowledged that he was considering abstaining in the presidential election.

“You know, I think I may take a pass on that one,” Mr. Baker said.

The reservations of Mr. Baker were the latest example of some Republicans’ distancing themselves from Mr. Trump. This summer, the Democratic National Convention highlighted a number of prominent Republicans who are supporting Joseph R. Biden Jr., and some of Mr. Baker’s Republican predecessors in the Massachusetts governor’s office have also come out against Mr. Trump, including William F. Weld and Mitt Romney, who is now a Senator representing Utah, who has signaled his opposition to the president.

Mr. Trump lashed out at the second-term Massachusetts governor on Twitter last month and called Mr. Baker a “RINO,” a pejorative acronym that stands for “Republican In Name Only.” The barb came a day after Mr. Baker defended the integrity of mail-in voting, which the president has repeatedly claimed without evidence is rife with fraud.

“Mail-in balloting has been with us forever,” Mr. Baker said at the time.

In the same news conference on Sept. 24, Mr. Baker rebuked Mr. Trump over his continued refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power should the president lose the election to Mr. Biden.

“It is a appalling and outrageous that anyone would suggest for a minute that if they lose an election they’re not going to leave, period,” Mr. Baker said. “How many times at the end of an election have we heard the words the people have spoken?”

Mr. Baker had previously bucked his party and the president after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg when he urged Republicans to hold off making a nomination for her Supreme Court seat until after the election.

“The Supreme Court is too important to rush and must be removed from partisan political infighting,” he wrote on Twitter.

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

With a half-million votes already cast, President Trump and Senator Thom Tillis trail their Democratic challengers in North Carolina, according to a new poll from The New York Times and Siena College, signaling potential trouble for Republicans in a state critical to both the presidential race and the battle for control of the Senate.

The New York Times /
Siena College poll

Joe Biden leads Donald Trump in North Carolina, a state Mr. Trump won in 2016.

+4 Trump

+4 Biden

Based on a New York Times/Siena College poll of 627 likely voters in North Carolina from Oct. 9 to Oct.13.

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. leads Mr. Trump among likely voters, 46 percent to 42 percent, while Mr. Tillis is behind Cal Cunningham, his Democratic challenger, 41 percent to 37 percent. Both leads are within the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, leads his Republican challenger, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, more comfortably, 51 percent to 37 percent.

The poll was conducted within the last few days, well after Mr. Cunningham offered an awkward public apology for the romantic (but PG-rated) texts he sent this summer to a woman who is not his wife. It found that Mr. Cunningham, a former state senator and an Iraq war veteran, retains a 15-point advantage among women.

Democrats are hoping that Mr. Cunningham will be one of at least four challengers the party needs to win Republican-held seats to take control of the Senate.

While Mr. Cunningham has seen the percentage of likely voters who view him unfavorably jump in the last month from 29 percent to 41 percent, the new poll found that he and Mr. Tillis are viewed as untrustworthy by the same portion of voters: 48 percent.

The New York Times /
Siena College poll

Do you think these Senate candidates are honest and trustworthy?



Don’t know






Based on a New York Times/Siena College poll of 627 likely voters in North Carolina from Oct. 9 to Oct. 13.

Mr. Cunningham’s lead over Mr. Tillis in the Times/Siena poll has held steady since early September, but there is still time and room for the race to shift: 15 percent of voters surveyed said they remained undecided in the Senate race — nearly twice as many as those who said they were undecided in the presidential contest in North Carolina.

Mr. Biden’s standing in North Carolina, a state that Mr. Trump won by almost four points in 2016, is consistent with the leads he has built in other battleground states. The former vice president has significant advantages among women and suburbanites, and is far more trusted to deal with the public health crisis caused by the coronavirus.

Early in-person voting begins in North Carolina on Thursday.

Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

The Biden campaign on Wednesday rejected a New York Post report that Joseph R. Biden Jr. had met with an adviser to the Ukrainian energy company associated with his son Hunter Biden, a claim based on material provided by Republican allies of President Trump who have tried for months to tarnish Mr. Biden over his son.

In a statement, a spokesman for the Biden campaign, Andrew Bates, said that Mr. Biden’s official schedules showed no meeting between Mr. Biden and an adviser to the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma, on which Hunter Biden served. The Post story has cited an email allegedly sent from that adviser, Vadym Pozharskyi, to Hunter Biden, thanking him for “giving an opportunity to meet your father.” The authenticity of the email correspondence could not be independently verified.

“We have reviewed Joe Biden’s official schedules from the time and no meeting, as alleged by the New York Post, ever took place,” Mr. Bates said.

Facebook said Wednesday it had decided to limit the distribution of the story on its platform, saying it invited additional fact-checking. A Twitter spokesman also said it would block links to the story and images of it from being posted on its platform.

Hunter Biden’s business dealings have been a subject of intense Republican focus over the last year, including his ties to a Ukrainian company while Mr. Biden, as vice president, worked on Ukraine policy. Both Bidens have said that the two did not discuss Ukraine with each other . A presidential impeachment tied to the subject and an investigation by Senate Republicans have found no evidence that Mr. Biden, the former vice president, engaged in wrongdoing over his son’s business dealings.

The Post report said the email correspondence was part of a trove of material on a laptop computer that was dropped off for repairs at a shop in Delaware, Mr. Biden’s home state, and never retrieved. It said the store owner made a copy of the correspondence and provided it to the lawyer for Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, who provided the material to The Post.

“The New York Post never asked the Biden campaign about the critical elements of this story,” Mr. Bates said. “They certainly never raised that Rudy Giuliani — whose discredited conspiracy theories and alliance with figures connected to Russian intelligence have been widely reported — claimed to have such materials.”

Mr. Trump was impeached in December for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, charges centered around his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate Mr. Biden and other Democrats. He was acquitted by the Senate in early February.

Senate Republicans have been conducting an investigation into Hunter Biden’s overseas business dealings and whether the elder Mr. Biden had improperly used his influence to help his son. They issued a report last month that concluded that while Hunter Biden had “cashed in” on his father’s name to close lucrative deals, there was no evidence of improper influence or wrongdoing by the former vice president.

Credit…Frederic J. Brown/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

President Trump on Wednesday expressed support for California Republicans who installed more than 50 unauthorized absentee-ballot drop boxes falsely labeled “official” — an extraordinary endorsement by a president of a practice that state officials say is deceptive and illegal.

“Fight hard Republicans,” Mr. Trump wrote in a tweet that linked to an article about California state officials demanding the removal of the unauthorized boxes.

California’s attorney general, Xavier Becerra, has given the state Republican Party until Thursday to remove the boxes, which are labeled “Official Ballot Drop Off Box” or “Ballot Drop Box” and have been placed near churches, gun shops and party offices in Los Angeles, Orange and Fresno Counties over the last two weeks.

The party has refused to remove the boxes or even place disclaimers on them. To the average voter, the gray metal boxes are virtually indistinguishable from drop-off sites established by the state, which are governed by strict regulations intended to prevent the partisan manipulation or theft of ballots.

In recent months, a handful of state and local governments, most of them controlled by Democrats, have expanded the use of drop boxes as a safe alternative to voting in person during the pandemic, and Republicans have tried to reverse those efforts through state orders or lawsuits.

Mr. Trump has repeatedly slammed Democrats for “ballot harvesting” — the practice of assigning a third party to collect batches of voter ballots.

But on Monday, Hector Barajas, a spokesman for the California Republican Party, said state law did not restrict it from collecting voters’ completed ballots. He blamed Democrats for blocking Republicans from making the third-party collection of ballots illegal.

Mr. Trump seized on that point on Wednesday, tweeting, Democrats “have been taking advantage of the system for years!”

But the placement of the boxes goes beyond anything either party has done, and Mr. Becerra said he would consider pressing criminal charges or seeking a civil court ruling against the party.

“This is like nothing I have ever seen before,” Mr. Becerra, a Democrat, said in a phone interview on Tuesday, contending that state Republicans were trying to stir up confusion around drop boxes. “You want people to have confidence in the system, to know that if you submit a ballot it will be counted. How can you do this at a time when people are losing faith in the process?”

Credit…Hilary Swift for The New York Times

Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, expressed concern that if confirmed, Judge Barrett would be the third justice on the high court who worked for Republicans during the Bush v. Gore case about the disputed 2000 election outcome.

“Few understand we are operating in a moment where the president is undermining vote by mail,” Ms. Klobuchar said. “Many argue that Bush v. Gore hurt the court’s legitimacy.”

Judge Barrett said that she couldn’t recall her specific work on the case. “I did work on Bush v. Gore on behalf of the Republican side,” she said Wednesday. “To be fully honest, I can’t remember exactly what piece of the case it was.”

Ms. Klobuchar noted that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh also advised on the matter for President George W. Bush.

After her clerkship with Justice Scalia ended in 1999, Judge Barrett worked as a lawyer for the boutique Washington firm Miller, Cassidy, Larroca & Lewin, which merged with another firm, Baker Botts, in 2001. The firm represented Mr. Bush in the election dispute, and Judge Barrett provided “research and briefing assistance” on the matter as an associate, according to information she first provided the Senate in 2017, as she was being considered for her appeals court seat.

“I worked on the case on location in Florida for about a week at the outset of the litigation,” Judge Barrett wrote in the questionnaire she submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee. She noted that she had worked with Stuart Levey, a former partner at the firm, while the case was in Florida courts, and that she had not continued working on the matter after returning to Washington.

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ultimately ordered an end to the Florida recount, delivering a victory to Mr. Bush. Mr. Bush would go on to appoint two lawyers who had helped that effort — the future Justices Roberts and Kavanaugh — to the federal bench. Mr. Bush later nominated Justice Roberts to the Supreme Court, while President Trump nominated Justice Gorsuch in 2017.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Ms. Klobuchar asked the judge if she thought that pattern of representation among nominees put forward by Republicans was “a coincidence,” and suggested it would be inappropriate to potentially have three justices who had played a part in that litigation considering a possible case relating to the 2020 election.

“Asking whether something would undermine the legitimacy of the court or not seems to be trying to elicit a question about whether it would be appropriate for justices who participated in that litigation to sit on the case rather than recuse, and I went down that road yesterday,” Judge Barrett said. On Tuesday, said she would consider recusing herself from an election-related case, but made no commitment to do so on that matter or in a challenge to the Affordable Care Act.

“The reason I asked about that is that this would be unprecedented,” Ms. Klobuchar said. “Right now we are in unprecedented times where we have a president who refuses to commit to a peaceful transition of power, working to undermine the integrity of this election.”

At last month’s presidential debate, Mr. Trump said he planned to look to the Supreme Court to settle a potential election dispute. “I think I’m counting on them to look at the ballots, definitely,” he said.

Credit…Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

NBC was battered with criticism on Wednesday after it announced plans for a Thursday town hall with President Trump to air opposite an already-scheduled ABC event with his Democratic opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Top Democrats, media pundits, and many journalists inside NBC and MSNBC were taken aback by the network’s choice of the 8 p.m. Eastern time slot, which will make it impossible for Americans to watch both candidates live.

“The point of a news organization is to serve the public,” Vivian Schiller, a former executive at NBC, Twitter, and National Public Radio, wrote on Twitter. “This is the opposite.”

Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden were originally scheduled to face off on Thursday in Miami at a formal debate — until last week, when Mr. Trump abruptly withdrew after the Commission on Presidential Debates decided to stage the event virtually over concerns that Mr. Trump could still be contagious with the coronavirus.

Mr. Biden quickly arranged his own telecast with ABC, prompting Mr. Trump’s campaign to seek its own event that evening. After a lengthy negotiation — NBC wanted proof that the president would not pose a health risk, which it only received on Tuesday — the network announced its plans Wednesday morning.

Numerous staff members at NBC and MSNBC expressed private dismay on Wednesday at their leaders’ decision. One former NBC News executive, Mark Lukasiewicz, who produced political conventions and candidate forums for the network, wrote on Twitter, “This is a bad result for American voters, who should not be forced to choose which to watch.”

Presidential events have a unique draw, particularly at the height of the campaign: Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump’s first debate in Cleveland last month drew 73 million viewers.

Neither town hall on Thursday is likely to come anywhere close to those numbers, given that formal debates air simultaneously across a dozen or more networks.

Whether exposure to a mass audience is politically useful for Mr. Trump is also an open question: he received poor marks for his performance at last month’s debate.

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Senator Lindsey Graham, who is fighting off an increasingly steep re-election challenge in South Carolina, drew criticism on Wednesday after he invoked the “good old days of segregation” at the confirmation hearing of Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

Asking the judge about various Supreme Court precedents as he opened the third day of hearings, Mr. Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, appeared to be trying to drive home the point that there was no longer any meaningful push in America to challenge the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, which held that school segregation was unconstitutional.

“One of the reasons you can say with confidence that you think Brown v. Board of Education is a super precedent is you are not aware of any effort to go back to the good old days of segregation via legislative body. Is that correct?” he asked. Judge Barrett answered in the affirmative.

Mr. Graham later said that he was being sarcastic when he used the expression, but for the second time in a week he found himself on the defensive for remarks about race. Mr. Graham, who has evolved into one of President Trump’s biggest allies from one of his toughest critics, and who reversed himself on the propriety of trying to confirm a Supreme Court justice in an election year now that doing so benefits Republicans, has been tied in recent polls of the state.

His comment drew a swift rebuke from his Democratic rival, Jaime Harrison, who shared a clip of Mr. Graham’s remark on his Twitter account, sending it bouncing across social media.

“The good old days for who, Senator?” asked Mr. Harrison, who is Black. “It’s 2020, not 1920. Act like it.”

During a break in the hearing, Mr. Graham said he had been misunderstood and rebuked his opponent for the criticism. His comments were “dripping with sarcasm,” Mr. Graham said, referring to the era of segregation as “dark days.”

“It blows my mind that any rational person could believe that about me,” he added.

The comment came just a few days after Mr. Graham was roundly criticized for saying during a campaign forum in South Carolina that Black people “can go anywhere in this state” as long as they were “conservative, not liberal.”

He had been talking about his friendship with the state’s other Republican senator, Tim Scott, who is a Black man.







State Department Reviewing Clinton Emails, Pompeo Says

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denied that his department’s review and possible release of additional emails from Hillary Clinton’s personal server was in response to political pressure from President Trump.

“We’ll make sure that all of these emails get to the right place, and we will do everything we can to make sure that the American people get a chance to see as much as we can equitably produce.” Reporter: “If you look at the chronology of public statements surrounding this development, it would appear that this action was taken by you in response to public, pleas from the president. You’ve been secretary of state for two and a half years or so. You’ve had ample time to meet the imperatives of transparency and doing so within three weeks of an election, obviously will strike even fair-minded observers as political in nature.” “I actually have been involved in these emails for a long time. You’ll recall I previously served as a member of Congress, where Secretary Clinton’s use of personal server containing classified information became a very important issue. I think that’s really important for the American people to continue to understand — this isn’t that there was a stray comment on her personal server. This was a system designed to evade State Department rules and regulations on which, on that server, ended up containing highly classified information — that’s important. Second, with respect to our transparency, it’s an ongoing process. We’ve had people out for Covid. We have lots of challenges and production of documents — today, you can go to the State Department’s website and see 35,000-plus emails that came from Secretary Clinton’s server that were provided in response to various inquiries. We’ve provided documents to Capitol Hill all throughout my time in two and half years. And we’re going to continue to do the work as we identify material. We look at it and review it. We’ll make sure we make the right decisions for the American people and transparency.”

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denied that his department’s review and possible release of additional emails from Hillary Clinton’s personal server was in response to political pressure from President Trump.CreditCredit…Pool photo by Manuel Balce Cenata

Under intense pressure from President Trump, who is behind in the polls and seeking a rerun of the help his campaign got from late discussion of Hillary Clinton’s emails in 2016, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that Americans had a right to “transparency” — but did not commit to releasing any more of the emails ahead of the Nov. 3 election.

Mr. Pompeo’s comments to journalists on Wednesday appeared to be an attempt to placate his boss and fuel political outrage against Mrs. Clinton, even as he said that the State Department had already released more than 35,000 documents from her personal server.

“We’re going to continue to do the work,” Mr. Pompeo said. “As we identify material, we’ll look at it and review; we’ll make sure we make the right decisions for the American people, in transparency.”

He refused to say how many more emails have yet to be released from a cache that Mrs. Clinton, who served as secretary of state under President Barack Obama, turned over to investigators as she campaigned for president against Mr. Trump in 2016.

Instead, Mr. Pompeo noted that “35,000-plus emails that came from Secretary Clinton’s server that were provided in response to various inquiries” were posted on the State Department’s website.

Mr. Pompeo also said that the department has continued to release documents since he took over in 2018; the last batch appears to have been posted on the department’s website in May 2019.

Last year, State Department investigators concluded that while she was secretary of state, Mrs. Clinton had risked compromising classified information by using a private email server for official business. But they found that she did not deliberately or systematically do so.

Mrs. Clinton had largely disappeared from public life since 2016. But Mr. Trump, who is trailing Joseph R. Biden Jr. in polls and is seeking to whip up supporters in the homestretch of the campaign, has been reminding voters of the email debacle and lashing out at Mr. Pompeo for not releasing all the documents.

“They’re in the State Department, but Mike Pompeo has been unable to get them out, which is very sad,” the president said last week. “Actually, I’m not happy about him for that — that reason. He was unable to get them out. I don’t know why. You’re running the State Department, you get them out. Forget about the fact that they were classified. Let’s go. Maybe Mike Pompeo finally finds them.”

Mr. Pompeo initially said he would “get the information out that needs to get out.” But his remarks on Wednesday left it unclear when any release might happen. He cited delays in producing additional documents because of the coronavirus and other “challenges.”

He also dismissed as “ridiculous” a question about whether releasing more of Mrs. Clinton’s emails at Mr. Trump’s demand would violate the Hatch Act, which bars political activity at the federal workplace.

Ad Watch

With less than three weeks to go before Nov. 3, it’s the time of year for closing messages. And for candidates with virtually unlimited money, that means highly-produced 60-second TV ads voiced by high-profile surrogates that intend to leave the viewer optimistic and perhaps a bit emotional not just about voting but about America and, maybe, even life itself.

These two ads, from the Democratic Senate candidates Jaime Harrison in South Carolina and Mark Kelly in Arizona, don’t bother to mention the incumbent Republicans each man is trying to defeat. They don’t have to, because by this point in the campaign, voters in each state have been bombarded by tens of millions of dollars of advertising eviscerating Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Martha McSally of Arizona.

Instead, Mr. Harrison and Mr. Kelly are, in the closing weeks of the campaign, pitching voters on a broader idea. For Mr. Harrison, it’s a belief, voiced by the South Carolina-born actress Viola Davis, that a Democrat can win in what has been a solidly Republican state for a generation.

Mr. Kelly’s ad, voiced by his wife, the former Representative Gabrielle Giffords, is her testimonial to his fidelity and loyalty — to her, to the country and, if elected, to Arizona. It almost doesn’t matter what’s in the ad; just hearing Ms. Giffords’s voice, still shaky nine years after she was shot in the head outside a Tucson supermarket, is a moving tribute to his candidacy.

Neither ad touches on any policy stance or political statement. Their aim is simply to tug at heartstrings without offering a political rationale. It’s the television version of the phrase: “If you know, you know.”

Mr. Harrison’s and Mr. Kelly’s ads are airing in their respective states.

These ads are the luxury of a campaign so flush with cash that it can afford a minute-long interruption to the onslaught of vituperative TV spots in battleground states. They bring to mind the classic 2016 Bernie Sanders ad with no words, set to the Simon and Garfunkel song “America,” and represent the campaign’s final efforts to define themselves. For Mr. Harrison, that means inspiring hope that he can actually win. For Mr. Kelly, it’s pitching the idea that the famously prickly former astronaut is actually a nice guy.