President Trump, in his first televised interview since he announced that he had tested positive for the coronavirus, said Friday night that he was “medication free” and back to normal, a week after he was hospitalized after having trouble breathing.
“I feel very strong,” he said.
In the interview with Dr. Marc Siegel on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on Fox News, Mr. Trump claimed that he went to Walter National Reed Military Medical Center last Friday because he “didn’t feel strong.” But the president denied that he had experienced any trouble breathing, despite multiple people close to the White House saying in interviews that he had, in fact, had trouble breathing and that doctors had given him supplemental oxygen at the White House before his transfer to the hospital.
Mr. Trump said that there had been congestion in his lungs and he lauded his CT scans, which he called “amazing.” He also said he had been tested on the day of the interview — a White House official said that it had been filmed earlier Friday — and claimed to be “either at the bottom of the scale or free” of the virus. He added that he was being tested “every couple of days.”
Mr. Trump said that he didn’t know the results of his most recent Covid test.
“I didn’t feel strong,” he told Dr. Siegel, a Fox News contributor who joked that he was conducting a telemedicine appointment free of charge. “I didn’t have a problem with breathing, which a lot of people seemed to have. I had none of that. I didn’t feel very vital. I didn’t feel like the president of the United States should feel.”
Mr. Trump repeated his claim that he wanted to give all Americans for free an experimental antibody cocktail from Regeneron, which he credits with his quick recovery. He did not explain how he would do that when the drug does not yet have government approval.
“You would have sort of a sore throat, but I felt really very good after taking this for a period of time,” he said. “It’s a transfusion, not a shot. I’d like to send it to everybody.”
Regeneron’s treatment is a combination of two powerful antibodies that are believed to boost the immune response to the virus.
Of the steroid he had taken, dexamethasone, Mr. Trump said he had “tolerated it very well.”
When asked where he thought he had contracted the virus, Mr. Trump used the passive voice and took no responsibility for the spread of the virus after the White House announcement of the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court — a gathering that Dr. Anthony Fauci said Friday qualified as a “super-spreader event.”
Mr. Trump said that as of eight hours before the taping, he was “medication free.”
On Friday, the White House declined to say whether Mr. Trump had been tested for the coronavirus and the White House physician, Dr. Sean P. Conley, did not release a letter about the president’s health, as he had done earlier in the week.
President Trump is planning to host up to 2,000 people on the South Lawn of the White House on Saturday for his first in-person event since he announced he had tested positive for the coronavirus, three people familiar with the plans said on Friday, and his campaign announced that he would hold a rally in Florida on Monday.
The president was expected to make remarks from one of the balconies at the White House to the crowd. More than 2,000 invitations went out for the event, according to one official.
The event, which was first reported by ABC News, continues Mr. Trump’s pattern of using the White House for political events, as he did with his speech to the Republican National Convention in August.
Some in the White House and on the Trump campaign expressed concern that the event would serve to underscore existing criticism that Mr. Trump has been cavalier about a virus that has killed over 210,000 Americans.
The event will come just two weeks after a Rose Garden celebration of the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, an event that White House officials are looking at as the possible source of an outbreak of the coronavirus that has infected Mr. Trump, the first lady and at least two dozen other people.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease specialist, told CBS News Radio Friday that there had been “a superspreader event in the White House,” noting that people had crowded together there without wearing masks.
One person familiar with the planning for the White House event said that all attendees would be required to bring and wear a mask, and that they would have to submit to a temperature check and a fill out a questionnaire.
Mr. Trump is also planning to hit the campaign trail again, even as outside medical experts caution that doing so could pose risks to himself and others: The campaign announced that he would deliver remarks at a “Make America Great Again” event at Orlando Sanford International Airport on Monday at 7 p.m. Eastern time.
Attendees at the Florida event will be asked to sign a disclaimer stating that “you and any guests voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to Covid-19.”
After the president staged his acceptance speech on the South Lawn during the Republican National Convention in August, the president joked about the agitation he had caused among his critics about how he may have violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from engaging in political activities while on the job, by using the White House grounds for political purposes.
He said he thought he would do it more.
Outside medical experts said that resuming public duties might worsen Mr. Trump’s condition, which could still deteriorate in the next several days. Covid-19 patients can take turns for the worse during the second week of illness.
Then there are the potential risks Mr. Trump could pose to others. According to C.D.C. guidelines, people with mild to moderate cases of Covid-19 most likely “remain infectious no longer than 10 days after symptom onset.”
Joseph R. Biden Jr. said on Friday of the planned rally, “I wouldn’t show up unless you had a mask and were distanced.”
Dr. Sean Conley, the White House physician, said on Thursday that Mr. Trump could safely “return to public engagements” on Saturday — a timeline that was questioned by outside experts.
The second Biden-Trump debate, originally scheduled for Oct. 15 in Miami, has been canceled by the Commission on Presidential Debates, according to a statement released on Friday by the commission.
Organizers had initially shifted the debate to a virtual format, citing safety concerns about the coronavirus. Mr. Trump rejected that idea, saying he would not participate unless the debate was restored to its original, in-person format. Joseph R. Biden Jr. then committed to attending an ABC News town hall that evening in Philadelphia.
In a statement, Biden campaign aide Andrew Bates said: “It’s shameful that Donald Trump ducked the only debate in which the voters get to ask the questions — but it’s no surprise. Everyone knows that Donald Trump likes to bully reporters, but obviously he doesn’t have the guts to answer for his record to voters at the same time as Vice President Biden.”
The commission reiterated its intentions Friday to hold the final presidential debate on Oct. 22 in Nashville. The Trump campaign is on board. Mr. Biden’s campaign has agreed to participate, either as a one-on-one matchup with Mr. Trump, or in a town-hall-style format where both candidates take questions from voters.
The Trump campaign and officials at NBC News were negotiating plans for the president to appear at his own town hall on the network next week, likely on the night of Mr. Biden’s ABC event, according to three people with knowledge of the discussions.
The NBC event is likely to only occur if certain medical conditions are met, according to two people familiar with the conversations, including Mr. Trump testing negative for the coronavirus.
Aides to Mr. Trump claim that the debate commission changed the Miami event to a virtual format to aid Mr. Biden. The co-chairman of the commission, Frank J. Fahrenkopf Jr., said on Friday that was not the case. He said that officials at the Cleveland Clinic, which is advising on health protocol, believed a remote format was safest given Mr. Trump’s illness and the uncertainty about his health.
“Our crew, our cameramen, our lighting people, were very, very upset,” Mr. Fahrenkopf said in an interview with the Fox News Radio host Brian Kilmeade. “They were onstage with the president in Cleveland. He wasn’t wearing a mask. They’re upset, they’re concerned about their families.”
Mr. Kilmeade asked Mr. Fahrenkopf if the debate commission would consider an in-person debate in Miami next week if Mr. Trump was recovered by then. Mr. Fahrenkopf said the president’s doctors were in contact with the Cleveland Clinic and that Mr. Trump’s condition remained in doubt.
“We’re talking about something that would happen in less than a week,” Mr. Fahrenkopf said of the Miami debate. “At this point and time, there is no evidence whatsoever whether or not the president tested negative.” He also said the commission could have difficulty finding voters “who aren’t afraid” to share a stage with Mr. Trump at a Miami town-hall event.
“We decided we’re going to do what’s safe,” he said.
On Friday, Mr. Trump tweeted an attack on the scheduled moderator of the Miami debate, Steve Scully of C-SPAN, calling him “a Never Trumper” and adding, “Fix!!!” There is no evidence that Mr. Scully is biased against the president.
Some supporters of Mr. Trump seized on a post that appeared overnight on Mr. Scully’s Twitter account, in which the moderator appeared to be communicating with Anthony Scaramucci, Mr. Trump’s former communications director and now a sharp critic of the president.
C-SPAN said in a statement that Mr. Scully “believes his account has been hacked” and that the debate commission “is investigating with the help of authorities.”
The moderator for the Oct. 22 debate in Nashville is Kristen Welker of NBC News.
President Trump said Friday that it was a “disgrace” that there would not be public findings before Election Day from a Justice Department review of the origins of the investigation into possible conspiracy between his 2016 campaign and Russian officials.
Mr. Trump, speaking during a two-hour radio interview with the conservative host Rush Limbaugh, also revealed that his doctors had said at one point that he was entering a “very bad phase” in his battle with the coronavirus.
The interview was billed as a “virtual rally,” in lieu of the ones that Mr. Trump is not holding as he fights the virus. It was intended to show him as able to sustain a long interview.
When Mr. Trump was told by Mr. Limbaugh about the lack of findings from an investigation into the origins of the Russia inquiry before Election Day, Mr. Trump said, “If that’s the case, I’m very disappointed.”
“I’ll say it to his face,” he said of Attorney General William P. Barr, whom he has been pressing to indict several adversaries, including former President Barack Obama and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., his election opponent. “That’s a disgrace. I think it’s a disgrace. It’s an embarrassment.”
Mr. Trump also complained about the Pulitzer Prizes given to The New York Times and The Washington Post for coverage of the investigation by the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III into possible conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia.
The two-hour event began with the song that Mr. Trump usually uses to open his signature rallies, “God Bless the U.S.A.” Mr. Limbaugh almost immediately said to Mr. Trump when he came on, “We love you!”
Early into their interview, Mr. Trump said he was not in “great shape” when he fell ill with the coronavirus. Then he said something that contradicted an earlier claim that he thought he would have gotten better even without medicine: After he was treated with a cocktail of medicine, including an experimental antibody cocktail produced by Regeneron, “I recovered immediately, almost immediately,” Mr. Trump said, adding, “I might not have recovered at all from Covid” without the drugs.
The radio interview was supposed to be a town hall-style forum, but Mr. Limbaugh ultimately asked only three or four questions. One was about health care, and people’s fears about being covered during a pandemic. Mr. Trump responded by complaining about an article in The Atlantic last month alleging that he had disparaged members of the military.
Mr. Trump acknowledged he had “lingering” impact on his voice from the coronavirus, but he sounded mostly like he usually does.
Mr. Limbaugh, who had tried to coax the president to end the interview by saying “I know you’ve got a jam-packed day left on your schedule,” ended up cutting Mr. Trump off with end-of-program music.
A similar thing happened when Mr. Trump was interviewed by Sean Hannity on Fox News last night.
Ballot news roundup
A federal judge in Texas on Friday blocked Gov. Greg Abbott’s efforts to limit to one the number of ballot drop-off locations in each county.
“The public interest is not served” by the governor’s order, Judge Robert Pitman of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas said in granting a preliminary injunction against the order.
The Texas League of United Latin American Citizens and other civil rights organizations sued the governor over his order. The plaintiffs showed that the move “likely violates their fundamental right to vote,” Judge Pitman said in his ruling, which the state is likely to appeal.
In a statement last week announcing the proclamation, the governor said that the move would enhance “ballot security protocols.”
“These enhanced security protocols will ensure greater transparency and will help stop attempts at illegal voting,” he said.
The proclamation was criticized by some as a move to suppress voting, particularly Democratic votes, as the limit on drop-off sites would have a harsher impact on the state’s more densely populated areas, which typically vote more heavily for Democrats.
The state’s decision to reduce options for locations where voters can drop off their ballots came as questions of voting rights, voter suppression and the integrity of the election have emerged as major issues in the 2020 campaign.
Spokesmen for Mr. Abbott and the secretary of state, Ruth Hughs, who is also named in the suit, did not immediately respond early Saturday to requests for comment about the ruling.
There is no evidence that mail-in ballots lead to widespread fraud.
In other news on ballots and voting:
About 50,000 voters in the swing state of Ohio received a faulty absentee ballot this week, election officials said on Friday. The error took place in Franklin County, which includes the state capital, Columbus. The county election board said that the problem could be traced to Oct. 3, when a scanner that was being used to process ballots malfunctioned. A similar error occurred last month in New York City, where as many as 100,000 voters received faulty absentee ballots.
A federal judge in Ohio has approved a plan pushed by voting rights groups to expand the number of ballot drop boxes there, ruling that state officials failed to prove claims that extra drop boxes would lead to voter fraud. The ruling Thursday night, by Judge Dan Aaron Polster of the U.S. District Court in Cleveland, cleared the way for officials in Cuyahoga County — the state’s second-largest jurisdiction, home to Cleveland, a Democratic stronghold — to place ballot drop boxes at six library branches.
On Friday, a judge in Philadelphia rejected an attempt by the Trump campaign to monitor polling places there. Campaign officials were asked to leave when they tried to monitor satellite election offices in Philadelphia last month, and the campaign objected in an emergency petition last week. In the order on Friday, Judge Gary Glazer of the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas sided with city officials who had said that the monitoring was not allowed under Pennsylvania law.
Even though the crash of Florida’s voter registration website in the hours before Monday night’s deadline may have prevented thousands of new voters from signing up, a federal judge declined on Friday to order the state to reopen registration to make up for lost time. The judge, Mark E. Walker of Federal District Court in Tallahassee, harshly criticized Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee, Florida’s top elections official and an appointee of Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican. But he concluded that extending the deadline would overwhelm county elections supervisors with the vote already underway.
A nonprofit legal group critical of the Trump administration has asked a federal judge to force the Justice Department to produce any communications that it had with the United States Postal Inspection Service regarding voter fraud, a request that comes as President Trump uses federal investigations into postal workers to claim that the election is rigged against him.
The group, Protect Democracy, said in a complaint on Friday that the Justice Department had denied an earlier request for “any and all communications with individuals in the United States Postal Inspection Service regarding participation in any D.O.J. voting or voter fraud task force.”
On Friday the group filed a preliminary injunction asking Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, in a Washington D.C. district court, to force the Justice Department to comply with its request for documents under the Freedom of Information Act. The department did not respond to a request for comment.
With Election Day weeks away, the public “urgently needs to know the information at the heart of Protect Democracy’s FOIA request: the extent to which Defendant may be seeking to involve U.S.P.I.S. in any D.O.J. voter fraud task force,” Protect Democracy said in court papers.
The postal service has become a flash point in President Trump’s ongoing effort to attack the electoral process. Over the summer, as Mr. Trump criticized the practice of voting by mail, Louis DeJoy, a Trump megadonor who became Postmaster General in May, moved to cut service, eliminate overtime and remove mail sorting equipment. That made it more difficult to process the mail, including mail-in ballots.
When Mr. DeJoy later rescinded many of those moves in the face of criticism, Mr. Trump began to suggest, without proof, that mail carriers themselves could be working to upend the election.
Attorney General William P. Barr also said in an interview with a Chicago Tribune columnist that people intent on stealing ballots could easily bribe mail carriers to do so. He later said that he had no evidence to support such claims, and made them based on “common sense.”
As part of his attacks on mail carriers and the Postal Service, Mr. Trump has used federal charges against a mail carrier in New Jersey who threw out more than a thousand pieces of mail, including dozens of ballots, to suggest that voting by mail is rife with risk and fraud. Voter fraud in the United States is relatively rare.
Recent Justice Department guidance made clear that federal prosecutors are able to investigate postal workers before the election. Former government officials say that a spate of investigations into postal service workers could undermine the public’s faith in voting by mail and the electoral process — and even imply that the federal government itself cannot be trusted to hold a free and fair election.
Protect Democracy, a legal group comprised mainly of former government lawyers, including Justice Department alumni, said that rhetoric from Mr. Trump and Mr. Barr “established the existence of serious questions about the integrity of the administration’s interaction with U.S.P.S.”
A help-wanted ad for private security officers to protect “election polls, local businesses and residences from looting and destruction” in Minnesota provoked fears that voters would be intimidated and a call to federal and state law enforcement by Secretary of State Steve Simon, who learned of the ad on Thursday.
Mr. Simon said he did not know who was behind the ad, which was circulated by a Tennessee company called Atlas Aegis that said it had partnered with an unnamed Minnesota security firm. The ad offered people with prior experience as military special operatives $700 a day, plus expenses, to work in Minnesota “during the November election and beyond.”
“The first question I had was, is this real?” Mr. Simon said in an interview. “We’ve never had anything like that in Minnesota.”
The chairman of Atlas Aegis, Anthony Caudle, did not return calls for comment. He told The Washington Post that the ad was placed on behalf of a “consortium of business owners and concerned citizens” who wanted “to make sure that the antifas don’t try to destroy the election sites.”
Mr. Simon said he had no reason to believe that there was any such threat from antifa, a loose-knit group of activists who sometimes use violence to stop people from promoting views they deem fascist or racist. But there are heightened concerns across the country about the election during a time of pandemic, increased threats of right-wing extremist violence and anti-police protests.
Minnesota has been a center of social upheaval since the death of George Floyd in police custody in May. Derek Chauvin, the former officer charged with murdering Mr. Floyd, was given permission on Friday to live out of the state while awaiting trial because of concerns for his safety, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.
As in many states, Minnesota law places strict limits on who is allowed within 100 feet of a polling place. “Independent law enforcement efforts near the polling place are simply not allowed under Minnesota law,” Mr. Simon said. “The laws command that the polling place be tranquil and serene and calm and free of disruption.”
The State Department is preparing to release a new tranche of Hillary Clinton’s emails, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday, a day after President Trump rebuked him for failing to do so earlier.
“We’ve got the emails,” Mr. Pompeo said on Fox News. “We’re getting them out. We’re going to get all this information out so the American people can see it.”
“We’re doing it as fast as we can,” he added. “I certainly think there’ll be more to see before the election.”
Mr. Pompeo was bending to the political demands of the president, who is targeting current and even former Democratic opponents as he seeks to gain ground in the final weeks before the Nov. 3 election.
It was familiar territory for Mr. Pompeo, who as a Republican congressman from Kansas lambasted Mrs. Clinton for sending classified information over her personal email account while serving as secretary of state during the Obama administration.
The issue dogged Mrs. Clinton’s unsuccessful presidential campaign in 2016 as the State Department began releasing thousands of messages that had been routed through her home email server, including some that revealed foreign policy strategy. At that time, officials said thousands more emails were deemed personal and would not be made public.
Last year, an internal State Department investigation concluded that while Mrs. Clinton had risked compromising classified information, she did not systematically or deliberately mishandle it.
Mr. Pompeo has been among the most outwardly loyal of the president’s top advisers, and has openly campaigned for Mr. Trump, including during an official diplomatic visit to Jerusalem, from where he addressed the Republican National Convention.
But on Thursday, in a rare bout of criticism against his most senior foreign policy aide, Mr. Trump said he was “not happy” that the State Department had yet to release some of about 33,000 emails that Mrs. Clinton had turned over to investigators.
“They’re in the State Department, but Mike Pompeo has been unable to get them out, which is very sad,” Mr. Trump told Fox Business Network in a Thursday interview. “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.”
Asked on Friday about the comments, Mr. Pompeo said he was ready to deliver.
“You’ll remember there was classified information on a private server,” he said. “It should have never been there. Hillary Clinton should never have done that. It was unacceptable behavior. It’s not the kind of thing that leaders do. They don’t put that kind of information out.”
Mr. Pompeo also said he did not expect Mr. Trump to declassify any documents that might include sensitive information that would be damaging to American interests once it is made public. “We’ll get the information out that needs to get out,” Mr. Pompeo said. “We’ll do it in a way that protects the intelligence sources that we need to protect.”
A much-anticipated South Carolina Senate debate was canceled at the last minute on Friday after Senator Lindsey Graham refused a request by his Democratic challenger to take a coronavirus test before their joint appearance.
Instead, Mr. Graham and his challenger, Jaime Harrison, answered questions that largely focused on the coronavirus pandemic from a panel of moderators in successive 30-minute sessions.
The tussle was a reminder — as if any was needed — how the coronavirus pandemic continues to shape nearly every aspect of the race for control of the Senate this fall. Mr. Harrison has used the health crisis and economic fallout to unexpected advantage, fighting Mr. Graham to a statistical tie in polls despite South Carolina’s deep red hue.
He continued to hammer away Friday night, calling Mr. Graham “out of touch” and accusing him of prioritizing confirming a new Supreme Court justice over passing a badly needed stimulus bill.
On Thursday, Mr. Harrison, who has a pre-existing condition, said that he would not participate in a second debate with Mr. Graham unless everyone involved was tested. Mr. Graham had been in proximity of at least two Republican senators who tested positive for coronavirus last week, and Mr. Harrison said he would not “allow politics to put my family, my campaign staff, Sen. Graham’s staff, and members of the media at unnecessary risk.”
“That’s all we are asking,” Mr. Harrison said during his segment. “It doesn’t take a whole lot to do that. I don’t understood why Senators Graham’s colleagues can do it, why the vice president of the United States can do it, but he thinks he is so special” that he does not need to.
In a statement, Mr. Graham said he was listening to the advice of his doctors and said he would not be cowed by Mr. Harrison when he did not need a test. He also accused the Democrat of “demanding special treatment” when other South Carolinians could not be tested so frequently, and of trying to use a stunt to avoid a direct showdown that would expose how liberal his views were.
Democrats spent Friday speculating that Mr. Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was refusing to take a test because he was worried a positive would imperil his ability to convene Supreme Court confirmation hearings set to begin on Monday. Mr. Graham and his fellow Republicans are trying to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett before Election Day — a 180-degree reversal from their position four years ago, when they blocked President Obama’s nominee to the court on the ground that it was a presidential election year — and they cannot afford any delay.
During his portion of the evening, Mr. Graham said he took the virus seriously, encouraged Americans to wear masks and said he was pushing for another stimulus bill in Washington worth as much as $2 trillion. But he also sought to divert attention back to bedrock conservative issues that could pull wayward Republicans behind his candidacy.
“This election is not about just the virus,” he said. “What happens if the Democrats take over the Senate, the House and the White House? The most radical political agenda in history comes our way.”
President Trump’s blunt-force 2020 strategy is less about improving his own image outside of his relatively small mosh pit of die-hard supporters than about degrading confidence in the American political system — and stoking negative sentiment about Joseph R. Biden Jr.
It worked in 2016, when he was able to damage the standing of Hillary Clinton, who had come into the race with high disapproval ratings.
Yet one of the most important shifts in the dynamics of the 2020 campaign — and one of the most overlooked — is the fact that Mr. Biden’s standing among voters has steadily risen over the summer and fall, despite Mr. Trump’s relentlessly caustic attacks.
While Mr. Trump’s shrinking share of the electoral pie has dominated coverage, Mr. Biden’s slice — as measured by his percentages of the vote in polls and voter approval surveys — has been quietly and consistently expanding. It is an unmistakable sign that the race is not following Mr. Trump’s seek-and-destroy script.
The president’s approval rating is underwater by about 10 percentage points, roughly 53 to 43 percent, according to various averages of polls. The former vice president, by contrast, has held steady in the high 40s and low 50s in both voter favorability and his share of the vote in head-to-head matchups with Mr. Trump.
Even though the race is still highly competitive in many battleground states, Mr. Biden now holds a near-double-digit national lead, and is peeking above the critical 50 percent threshold, a number experts see as an indicator of a race playing out in the challenger’s favor.
“It’s hard to stress how rare it is for a presidential candidate in the modern era to have such a high share of the vote at this stage,” Nate Cohn wrote in his daily analysis of the polling on Friday. “Just go back through the last decade of Real Clear Politics averages, and you’ll find there’s only one instance when a candidate eclipsed Mr. Biden’s 52 percent over the final few months of a race: Barack Obama on the day of the 2008 election.”
Mr. Biden’s increasing approval ratings have been noted across a range of national and state polls, and were the centerpiece of a polling update provided by the largest Democratic super PAC, Priorities USA, on Friday.
Since September, Mr. Biden’s net approval rating among registered voters has grown from 42 percent to 51 percent, according a survey of 2,019 likely voters in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin from Oct. 2 to Oct. 7 by two Democratic polling firms working with the PAC.
Those changes were particularly stark when it came to specific issues, where Mr. Biden has shown strong gains on his approach to the pandemic, Social Security, health care and the economy, the poll showed.
Making a stop in Las Vegas during a two-day Western swing, Joseph R. Biden Jr. called President Trump’s efforts to undermine trust in the election results an attempt to “scare us” that could be countered only by giving Mr. Biden an unassailably large mandate.
“We can’t just win, we have to win overwhelmingly,” Mr. Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, said. “So he can’t be in a position where he can put the phony challenges that he’s talking about.”
Later, delivering a speech while wearing a mask before a drive-in audience in Las Vegas, Mr. Biden ripped Mr. Trump for his behavior since he contracted the coronavirus.
“His reckless personal conduct since his diagnosis, the destabilizing effect it’s having on our government is unconscionable,” Mr. Biden said. “The longer Donald Trump is president the more reckless he gets.”
Earlier, to a group of Latino leaders, Mr. Biden warned about Mr. Trump’s broader attempts to sow mistrust ahead of an election that public polls show him trailing by making unfounded claims that mail-in voting is rife with fraud. Ballot glitches that have been reported so far have been overwhelmingly caused by incompetence or negligence that does not advantage either side.
Mr. Trump highlighted another on Friday, using his Twitter platform to point out that Franklin County, Ohio — a swing state — had sent voters nearly 50,000 incorrect absentee ballots. “A Rigged Election!!!” Mr. Trump wrote.
Mr. Biden pushed back on the broader effort. “He tried to continue to convince everybody there’s ways they can play with the vote and undermine the vote. They can’t,” he said. “If we show up, we win.”
The Democratic group MoveOn is going up with a pair of ads in the battleground state of… South Carolina? Yes, that’s right. Buoyed by an influx of cash after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, MoveOn will air two ads supporting Jaime Harrison, the former chairman of the state’s Democratic Party, as he challenges Senator Lindsey Graham.
That MoveOn is targeting South Carolina with less than a month until Election Day underscores how optimistic Democrats are about Senate races across the country. As part of its $2 million buy, MoveOn is also targeting races in Maine and Arizona.
MoveOn’s two South Carolina ads have a nearly identical message: That Mr. Graham is “phony,” that he has changed and that he is no longer the best choice for South Carolinians. “We deserve a senator with integrity, a senator who knows the community he serves,” the voice-over says. “Lindsey Graham isn’t that senator.”
The ad plays on a consistent theme among Democrats regarding Mr. Graham, once known for his ability to broker bipartisan deals but more recently one of President Trump’s most loyal backers and a reliable Democrat-basher. Mr. Graham leads the Senate Judiciary Committee and asserted in 2016 that he would refuse to confirm a Republican’s Supreme Court nominee in a presidential election year. Now he is working to ram through a Trump-backed nominee before the election.
The ad includes headlines about Mr. Graham’s vow to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and about how survivors of Covid-19 could lose their insurance or pay more if the act is overturned.
Both of these headlines are true.
“If we can get the House back and keep our majority in the Senate, and President Trump wins re-election, I can promise you not only are we going to repeal Obamacare, we’re going to do it in a smart way where South Carolina would be the biggest winner,” Mr. Graham told a South Carolina radio station in 2019. And if the Supreme Court overturns the Affordable Care Act, millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions could be disqualified from buying health insurance or pay much higher premiums. Pre-existing conditions could include the coronavirus, which can have long-term health consequences.
Where It’s Running
A spokesman said the television commercials were expected to “be up shortly” in South Carolina markets.
Mr. Graham was once regarded as a safe incumbent, but recent polls show a tightening race that the nonpartisan Cook Political Report called a toss-up on Wednesday. Mr. Harrison drew attention last week for bringing his own plexiglass shield to his first debate with Mr. Graham, and a debate on Friday was canceled at the last minute after Mr. Graham refused to take a coronavirus test beforehand.
President Trump has yet to release specifics about his coronavirus infection or details of his care, but he plans to appear on Fox News Friday night for a medical “evaluation” on Tucker Carlson’s TV show — in what will likely be among the most watched tele-health sessions in history.
It will be Mr. Trump’s “first on-camera interview appearance” since disclosing his coronavirus diagnosis last week, according to a statement on Fox News’s website.
The event is being pretaped; the president is not appearing live, a spokeswoman for the network said.
The physician conducting the exam is Dr. Marc Siegel, a Fox News contributor who suggested in 2016, without evidence and without conducting a personal exam, that Hillary Clinton might be suffering from lingering effects of a concussion that could compromise her fitness to serve.
Dr. Siegel, an associate professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center, “will conduct a medical evaluation and interview during the program,” Fox News said in a statement.
“It is virtual,” Dr. Siegel told the Fox Business Network on Friday. “But I’ve been doing tele-visits for months and I’m getting quite good at them.”
Still, he said the exam could not be categorized as an “official” tele-health session and, when asked if he would be able to clear Mr. Trump for rallies and other public events, answered, “I don’t know.”
The network did not say how Dr. Siegel would be able to accurately assess the president’s condition without employing the sorts of procedures used at in-person exams, or if he intended to discuss the kind of sensitive information that typically passes confidentially between doctor and patient.
A spokesman for NYU Langone said that Dr. Siegel’s comments “do not reflect the opinion of” the hospital and that “in his role as senior medical correspondent for Fox News, Dr. Siegel expresses his own personal opinions.”
Mr. Trump has not appeared live in public since he returned home Monday from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Many on his West Wing staff, including his press secretary, have also come down with Covid-19, and those remaining at work have put the sunniest possible spin on his condition.
Dr. Sean P. Conley, the president’s physician. predicted in a memo released Thursday that he could safely “return to public engagements” on Saturday, having completed his “course of therapy for Covid-19” and “remained stable and devoid of any indications to suggest progression of illness.”
The president plans to hold a rally outside the White House on Saturday with hundreds of people in attendance, people familiar with the plans said on Friday.
Risking the ire of its best-known user, President Trump, Twitter said on Friday that it would turn off several of its routine features in an attempt to control the spread of misinformation in the final weeks before the presidential election.
Twitter will make several notable changes.
It will essentially give users a timeout before they can hit the button to retweet a post from another account. A prompt will nudge them to add their own comment or context before sharing the original post.
It will disable the system that suggests posts on the basis of someone’s interests and the activity of accounts they follow. In their timelines, users will see only content from accounts they follow and ads.
If users try to share content that Twitter has flagged as false, a notice will warn them that they are about to share inaccurate information.
Most of the changes will happen on Oct. 20 and will be temporary, Twitter said. Labels warning users against sharing false information will begin to appear next week. The company plans to wait until the result of the presidential election is clear before turning the features back on.
The changes could have a direct impact on Mr. Trump’s online activity. Since returning to the White House Monday after being hospitalized with the coronavirus, he has been on a Twitter tear. On Tuesday evening, for example, he tweeted, or retweeted posts from other accounts, about 40 times.
Social media companies have moved in recent months to fight the spread of misinformation around the election. Facebook and Google have committed to banning political ads for an undetermined period after polls close on Nov. 3. Facebook also said a banner at the top of its news feed would caution users that no winner had been declared until news outlets called the presidential race.
The companies are trying to avoid a repeat of the 2016 election, when Russian operatives used them to spread falsehoods and hyperpartisan content in an attempt to destabilize the American electorate.
Over the last year, Twitter has slowly been stripping away parts of its service that have been used to spread false and misleading information. Jack Dorsey, the chief executive, announced last year that the company would no longer allow political advertising. Twitter has more aggressively fact-checked misinformation, including from the president. Earlier this week, after Mr. Trump went on Twitter and misleadingly compared the coronavirus to the flu, Twitter appended a note saying that the post had violated its rules about spreading false and misleading information about the virus.
Those fact-checks have led to a backlash from the Trump administration. Mr. Trump, who has 87 million followers on Twitter, has called for a repeal of legal protections Twitter and other social media companies rely on.
First, there were the calls for “law and order.” Then, a push to quickly confirm a conservative Supreme Court nominee.
Now, down by double digits in national polling, President Trump is adopting an even more aggressive approach to his re-election campaign — pulling out of a debate, attacking his own aides and threatening to prosecute his opponent — as political tensions grow across the country.
In an erratic hourlong telephone interview on Fox Business on Thursday, Mr. Trump called for the indictments of his predecessor, President Barack Obama, and his current Democratic rival, Joseph R. Biden Jr. The president also assailed his current secretary of state, attorney general and F.B.I. director, as well as a senior Justice Department prosecutor, because they had not charged Democrats or released politically damaging information about them.
“These people should be indicted,” Mr. Trump said of the Democrats.
That outburst was followed by a daylong back-and-forth with the nonpartisan commission that manages presidential debates over plans to hold the event virtually. As Mr. Trump’s campaign pressed for the debate to be held in person, his doctor said on Thursday that the president had completed his treatments to alleviate his coronavirus symptoms and that he would most likely be able to resume public engagements on Saturday.
Just 25 days before Election Day, political pressure is mounting on both sides. House Democrats plan to introduce a measure today creating a bipartisan group of experts to evaluate the president’s mental and physical health and advise Congress whether his powers should be forcibly removed under the 25th Amendment.
Campaigning in Arizona on Thursday, Mr. Biden blamed Mr. Trump for encouraging extremists like those charged with plotting to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan. Mr. Trump lashed out at Ms. Whitmer late in the day, saying she had done a “terrible job” and urging her to ease coronavirus safety restrictions in her state.
Hanging over all the political uncertainty is the unyielding pandemic, which has put enormous pressure on the country’s economy, schools and public health systems. It has also dealt a serious blow to Mr. Trump’s presidential bid, with voters consistently giving him low marks for his handling of the virus.