Facebook on Wednesday said it would prohibit the purchase of ads that seek to delegitimize the outcome of the Nov. 3 election, as the social network prepares for a turbulent next few weeks.

Facebook, under its amended policy, said it would not allow paid ads on its site that try to undermine the election process, such as by declaring voter fraud. The change builds on the company’s recent moves to keep out political ads that make premature declarations of victory and to stop candidates from purchasing political ads entirely in the week before Nov. 3.

“For example, this would include calling a method of voting inherently fraudulent or corrupt, or using isolated incidents of voter fraud to delegitimize the result of an election,” said Rob Leathern, a director of product management at Facebook, in a tweet on Wednesday.

The changes will apply to ads on both Facebook and Instagram, Mr. Leathern said, and are effective immediately.

Facebook updated its policies less than 24 hours after President Trump, in a debate Tuesday with the Democratic nominee, Joseph R. Biden Jr., refused to agree to accept the election outcome. Mr. Trump repeatedly railed against voting and the integrity of the election, suggesting without evidence that voter fraud was rampant and telling his supporters to go to the polls and watch voters closely.

Facebook has struggled with how to police political advertising. The company’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, has said he supports unfettered speech on his platform while also trying to minimize the amount of harm Facebook can do to the electoral process.

That position has been tested as Mr. Trump has spread falsehoods about the voting process, something that Facebook has asserted it would prohibit on the platform. Critics have slammed Facebook for unevenly policing its election-related posts and advertising, citing the company’s unwillingness to upset conservatives and the White House.

Over the past two years, Facebook has stepped up its efforts to fight against malicious actors and foreign influence campaigns across its service. Mr. Zuckerberg has vowed not to see a repeat of the 2016 election, in which Russian operatives used Facebook to manipulate Americans and sow discord.

A record 84 million people watched the inaugural matchup between Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Credit…Mark Makela for The New York Times

More than 73 million people tuned in to watch the chaotic presidential debate across the broadcast networks and three major cable news channels on Tuesday night, about a 13 percent decline from the first presidential debate four years ago, according to Nielsen.

In 2016, a record 84 million people watched the first debate between Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton.

The Nielsen numbers do not include people who streamed the inaugural matchup between President Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr., the former vice president, or watched it online, which is even more widespread now than it was four years ago.

Presidential debates, which air on at least a dozen networks, are typically among the most-watched telecasts of the year. The Super Bowl, which had about 100 million viewers this year, is one of the few events with wider reach. Election night coverage in 2016 was watched by 71 million television viewers.

This year’s Republican and Democratic National Conventions drew television audiences smaller than the ones they had in 2016, with a drop of about 25 percent for each. The declines for the conventions and the debate could be explained by the shift in viewing habits, from traditional TV to streaming platforms and websites — but no outside group credibly measures the online viewing audience.

The downturn may also result from the fact that Mr. Trump’s presence in a political arena — which helped shatter ratings records throughout the 2016 campaign — has become less of a novelty.

Viewers did not appear to be turned off by all the cross talk that marred the debate. Audience figures on the broadcast networks and the three cable news channels grew in the first 30 minutes and peaked with an average of 68 million viewers between 9:30 and 9:45 p.m. Eastern time, according to Nielsen. Declines after that were relatively modest. Sixty-four million people were still tuned in for the final few minutes of the debate, according to Nielsen.

About 17.8 million people tuned in to Fox News to watch the debate, by far the highest tally for any network. ABC, the only broadcast network to have an hour of pre-debate coverage, had an audience of 12.6 million, the second highest of any outlet.

Correction: Sept. 30, 2020

An earlier version of a photo caption with this article misspelled Hillary Clinton’s first name.

President Trump leaving the Oval Office to take questions from reporters outside the White House on Wednesday.
Credit…Tom Brenner for The New York Times

Republicans distanced themselves Wednesday from President Trump over his failure to unambiguously condemn white supremacists during the presidential debate the night before, as Mr. Trump faced a torrent of criticism including a rare rebuke from the Senate’s top Republican.

The president scrambled to defend himself on Wednesday afternoon, falsely claiming that he had “always denounced any form” of white supremacy. And after saying at the debate that the Proud Boys, a far-right group that has endorsed violence, should “stand by,” Mr. Trump asserted on Wednesday that he didn’t even know who the group is.

The president’s continued efforts to sow doubts about the integrity of the vote, both at the debate and on Wednesday, alarmed election-monitoring experts who said that they feared that he was laying the groundwork to delegitimize the election results. And his raucous, interruption-filled debate performance led the Commission on Presidential Debates to say Wednesday that it would make changes to the format of this year’s remaining debates.

Taken together, the developments suggested that the debate was shaking up the campaign with a little over a month left until the election.







Republicans’ Mixed Reviews on Trump’s Refusal to Condemn White Supremacy

President Trump’s refusal to explicitly condemn white supremacy during the first presidential debate drew muted concern from some Republicans on Capitol Hill, while others defended his remarks.

Reporter: “Do you find that concerning, the president’s refusal last night during the debate, to condemn white supremacist groups?” “I think he misspoke in response to Chris Wallace’s comment. He was asking Chris what he wanted to say. I think he misspoke. I think he should correct it. If he doesn’t correct it, I guess he didn’t misspeak. Thank you.” Reporter: “He was asked about condemning white supremacy —” “He should have been very clear, and he should have made it very clear, that there is no room for people on the far-left or the far, far-right — when it comes to either antifa or these white supremacist groups. He should have been very clear.” Reporter: “So were you a little disturbed by that?” “Well, today I, like I said, I saw it afterwards. I was hoping for more clarity.” “You know, we didn’t get great clarity from the debate last night about the differences in vision for the future of this country, and I did think that that was unfortunate.”

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President Trump’s refusal to explicitly condemn white supremacy during the first presidential debate drew muted concern from some Republicans on Capitol Hill, while others defended his remarks.CreditCredit…Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

The president’s comments on Wednesday came after Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, the chamber’s only Black Republican, said in a written statement, “White supremacy should be denounced at every turn. I think he misspoke, I think he should correct it. If he doesn’t correct it I guess he didn’t misspeak.”

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader and a close ally of the president’s, told reporters Wednesday that he agreed with Mr. Scott, sharply rebuking Mr. Trump’s refusal to categorically denounce white supremacy during the presidential debate Tuesday night.

Other Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill largely sought to distance themselves from the president’s remarks at the debate, and urged Mr. Trump to clearly denounce white supremacy.

Senator John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 2 Republican, said Mr. Trump should “clear it up.” Senator Bill Cassidy, Republican of Louisiana, told reporters “he should unequivocally condemn white supremacy.” Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, told reporters “it was the least educational debate of any presidential debate I’ve ever seen” and said that Mr. Trump should “absolutely” condemn white supremacy.

So on Wednesday Mr. Trump addressed the issue, retreating from his debate night comments that the Proud Boys, a far-right group that has endorsed violence, should “stand by.” Speaking to reporters as he left the White House for a campaign trip to Minnesota, he said: “I don’t know who Proud Boys are, but whoever they are, they have to stand down, let law enforcement do their work.”

But the president once again quickly added that left-wing violence was “the real problem” and falsely accused former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. of refusing to say the words “law enforcement” during Tuesday night’s presidential debate.

Mr. Trump diverted a question at the debate about whether he would condemn white supremacists and militias into an attack on left-wing protesters.

“Are you willing, tonight, to condemn white supremacists and militia groups and to say that they need to stand down and not add to the violence in a number of these cities as we saw in Kenosha and as we’ve seen in Portland?” Chris Wallace, the moderator, asked the president.

“Sure. I’m willing to do that,” said Mr. Trump, but quickly added, “Almost everything I see is from the left wing. Not from the right wing.”

When Mr. Wallace pressed on, the president asked, “What do you want to call them?”

“White supremacists and right-wing militias,” the moderator replied, as Mr. Biden mentioned the Proud Boys, a far-right group that has endorsed violence.

“Proud Boys, stand back and stand by,” Mr. Trump said. “But I’ll tell you what. I’ll tell you what. Somebody’s got to do something about antifa and the left because this is not a right-wing problem. This is a left-wing problem.”

The president’s words prompted celebration by members of the Proud Boys.

President Trump and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. debated in Cleveland on Tuesday night. The Commission on Presidential Debates is adjusting its debate format after the initial chaotic presidential debate but offered no details.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times.

The Commission on Presidential Debates said on Wednesday that it would adjust the format of this year’s remaining matchups in the wake of Tuesday night’s melee in Cleveland, where frequent interruptions from President Trump led to a chaotic and often incoherent event.

Several changes are under consideration, including new limits on speaking times that would replace an open discussion portion of the debate where candidates have traditionally been encouraged to freely engage, according to two people with knowledge of the commission’s discussions on Wednesday.

Currently, candidates are granted two minutes apiece to answer a moderator’s question before being allowed to respond directly to one another — ground rules that Mr. Trump routinely flouted on Tuesday.

Members of the commission, a bipartisan nonprofit that has organized the debates since 1987, were frustrated by the way Tuesday’s event played out, as Mr. Trump interrupted both his Democratic opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr., and the moderator, Chris Wallace of Fox News.

The commission is also weighing whether to grant moderators the power to shut off a candidate’s microphone to help restore order, the people said, although both cautioned that those discussions were in a preliminary phase.

Cutting off a microphone, although widely prescribed on social media as a remedy to Tuesday’s problems, can be complex from a television production standpoint and may not prevent a candidate from continuing to speak in the debate hall.

Another option under consideration is to penalize an interrupting candidate by forcing him to yield more time back to his opponent, the people said.

A spokeswoman for the debate commission declined to comment on Wednesday.

“Last night’s debate made clear that additional structure should be added to the format of the remaining debates to ensure a more orderly discussion of the issues,” the organization wrote in a formal statement, which did not elaborate on the specific changes its members had in mind. “The C.P.D. will be carefully considering the changes that it will adopt and will announce those measures shortly.”

The statement also praised Mr. Wallace, who received some tough criticisms online, “for the professionalism and skill” he brought to Tuesday’s debate. The commission said it “intends to ensure that additional tools to maintain order are in place for the remaining debates.”

Ground rules for the debates are set by the commission, but the candidates’ campaigns often litigate many of the details before agreeing to participate.

The next debate, to be moderated by Steve Scully of C-SPAN, will be a town-hall format where Florida voters are allowed to ask many of the questions.

The third debate, with Kristen Welker of NBC News as moderator, will resume the format Mr. Wallace contended with on Tuesday night.

Kate Bedingfield, a Biden deputy campaign manager, said on Wednesday that Mr. Biden was looking forward to the town-hall debate and that he would “be focused on answering questions from the voters there, under whatever set of rules the commission develops to try to contain Donald Trump’s behavior.”

Tim Murtaugh, the Trump campaign’s communications director, also issued a statement on Wednesday about the commission’s plan to change its rules, saying, “President Trump was the dominant force and now Joe Biden is trying to work the refs.”

“They shouldn’t be moving the goal posts and changing the rules in the middle of the game,” Mr. Murtaugh said.

The specter of widespread voter fraud has been a cornerstone of President Trump’s efforts to cast doubt on the validity of the Nov. 3 election, in the event that he loses. A New York Times Magazine investigation published on Wednesday has found that the idea, based on a flimsy set of sensationalist, misleading or outright false claims, was intentionally planted in the public discourse as part of a decades-long disinformation campaign by the Republican Party and outside actors.

Though the goals of the campaign complement and build on long-running disenfranchisement efforts aimed at Black and Latino voters, the investigation shows that the Trump administration has used the full force of the federal government, from the Department of Homeland Security to the Postal Service, to prop up limp claims of fraud as no White House has ever before.

The strategy was hatched soon after Mr. Trump won the 2016 election and has included the involvement of top officials, including the president and Vice President Mike Pence.

Despite the attention paid to it by administration officials and the right-wing news media, voter fraud is a largely nonexistent problem. Law enforcement investigations have repeatedly failed to find major wrongdoing in cases hyped for political gain, often based on sloppy data analysis.

The Times investigation is based on a review of thousands of pages of court records and interviews with more than 100 key players.

Some of the main takeaways include.

  • Trump is taking an old strategy to new extremes

  • Pence played a larger role than was previously known

  • Most claims of fraud have fallen apart upon investigation

President Trump’s fans watched the presidential debate Lititz, Pa., on Tuesday. Mr. Trump implored his supporters to act as poll watchers, in line with his repeated attempts to undermine faith in the electoral process.
Credit…Mark Makela for The New York Times

President Trump’s inflammatory comments at Tuesday’s debate — undermining confidence in voting as no modern president has ever done, and refusing to pledge to ask his supporters to remain calm after the election — alarmed election-monitoring experts who said that they feared the president was laying the groundwork for political violence.

Mr. Trump used the biggest audience of his campaign to urge his supporters to “go into the polls and watch very carefully,” and to continue to suggest, despite no evidence of widespread problems, that the vote would be “fraudulent.” He also declined to promise not to declare victory until the election was independently certified.

“This is the type of comment that international observers typically would latch onto as an attempt at foul play,” said Judith Kelley, the Dean of the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, who has studied international election monitoring. “As far as the rest of the world, this is the kind of comment we would expect in a more authoritarian environment. Certainly not in a country that purports to be a beacon of democracy.”

Authorized election observers are typically trained to follow guidelines to ensure that they do not intimidate voters, she noted.

“In an environment where we want both to de-densify the polling station environment to keep it as safe as possible from a public health standpoint, and an environment where there is ongoing civil unrest that has turned violent at times, Trump’s urging is even more concerning,’’ she wrote in an email.

Thomas Carothers, the senior vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said that “it is unprecedented in modern U.S. history having a sitting U.S. president attack the integrity of the election before an election — there is no parallel.”

Mr. Carothers said that the president’s call for his supporters to go into the polls to watch raised concerns about possible voter intimidation, noting that he had just spoken to a friend who had gone to vote early in Virginia only to be met by a small crowd of Trump supporters.

“He’s preparing the ground for violent conflict over the election, and preparing the ground for a lack of legitimacy for the process,” he said.

Mr. Trump’s remarks, he said, threaten to convince his supporters that if he loses, it is only because the election was not fair.

Mr. Trump’s opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr., aired similar concerns on Wednesday, saying that Mr. Trump was trying to suggest to his supporters that if he lost, the results would not be legitimate. “I don’t know any president has ever done that before,” he said.

Rosa Brooks, a professor at Georgetown Law who organized a series of exercises in June aimed at identifying potential risks to the election and transition, said that she found the president’s remarks shocking, and added that election monitors and political violence experts would view them as “a major early indicator of potential problems.”

“His rhetoric is dangerously and profoundly anti-democratic,” she wrote in an email. “It’s the kind of language you might expect from a dictator, not from the supposed leader of the free world. His job should be to unite Americans and foster stability. Instead, Trump’s comments increase the risk of political violence — which is shockingly irresponsible from the president of the United States.”

News Analysis

After the debate Tuesday night, President Donald Trump and Melania Trump descend from Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. 
Credit…Tom Brenner for The New York Times

President Trump’s angry insistence in the last minutes of Tuesday’s debate that there was no way the presidential election could be conducted without fraud amounted to an extraordinary declaration by a sitting American president that he would try to throw any outcome into the courts, Congress or the streets if he was not re-elected.

His comments came after four years of debate about the possibility of foreign interference in the 2020 election and how to counter such disruptions. But they were a stark reminder that the most direct threat to the electoral process now comes from the president of the United States himself.

His unwillingness to say he would abide by the result, and his disinformation campaign about the integrity of the American electoral system, went beyond anything President Vladimir V. Putin could have imagined. All Mr. Putin has to do now is amplify the president’s message, which the Russian leader has already begun to do.

Everything Mr. Trump said in his face-off with Joseph Biden Jr. he had already delivered in recent weeks, in tweets and rallies with his faithful. But he had never before put it all together in front of such a large audience as he did on Tuesday night.

He began the debate with a declaration that balloting already underway was “a fraud and a shame” and proof of “a rigged election.” He encouraged his supporters to “go into the polls” and “watch very carefully,” which seemed to be code words for a campaign of voter intimidation, aimed at those who brave the coronavirus risks of voting in person.

And his declaration that the Supreme Court would have to “look at the ballots” and that “we might not know for months, because these ballots are going to be all over” seemed to suggest that he will try to place the election in the hands of a court where he has been rushing to cement a conservative majority with his nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

Taken together, his attacks on the integrity of the coming election suggested that a country that has successfully run presidential elections since 1788 (a messy first experiment, which stretched just under a month), through civil wars, world wars and natural disasters now faces the gravest challenge in its history to the way it chooses a leader and peacefully transfers power.

“I never dreamt that it would go off the tracks the way it did,” Chris Wallace, the moderator of the first presidential debate, said on Wednesday.
Credit…Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

“I’m just sad with the way last night turned out.”

Chris Wallace, the “Fox News Sunday” anchor and moderator of Tuesday’s melee of a debate between President Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr., was on the phone Wednesday from his home in Annapolis, Md., reflecting on — in his words — “a terrible missed opportunity.”

“I never dreamt that it would go off the tracks the way it did,” he said.

In his first interview since the chaotic and often incoherent spectacle — in which a pugilistic Mr. Trump relentlessly interrupted opponent and moderator alike — Mr. Wallace conceded that he had been slow to recognize that the president was not going to cease flouting the debate’s rules.

“I’ve read some of the reviews, I know people think, well, gee, I didn’t jump in soon enough,” Mr. Wallace said, his voice betraying some hoarseness from the previous night’s proceedings. “I guess I didn’t realize — and there was no way you could, hindsight being 20/20 — that this was going to be the president’s strategy, not just for the beginning of the debate but the entire debate.”

Recalling his thoughts as he sat onstage, with tens of millions of Americans watching live, Mr. Wallace said: “I’m a pro. I’ve never been through anything like this.”







Biden Courts Trump Voters During Train Tour in Ohio

Joseph R. Biden Jr. embarked on a train tour that brought him to eastern Ohio, where in 2016, President Trump won over working-class white voters who had traditionally voted for Democrats.

Last night’s debate and this election is supposed to be about you, Tiffany, about you and all the people I grew up with in Scranton and people in Youngstown and Claymont, Del., and all the people who make a difference. You know — and does any president, does your president understand at all what you’re going through, what so many other people are going through? Question is, does he see you where you are and where you want to be? Does he care — has he tried to walk in your shoes to understand what’s going on in your life or does he just ignore you, and all the folks all over America who are in a similar situation? I’ll always tell you the truth. I’ll always care about you, whether you vote for me or not. If elected, I’m not going to be a Democratic president. I’m going to be an American president. Whether you voted for me or not, I’m going to be your president. And I’ll never forget the people, the working people of this country, because that’s where I’ve come from. And that, if given just half a chance, the American people can do anything.

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Joseph R. Biden Jr. embarked on a train tour that brought him to eastern Ohio, where in 2016, President Trump won over working-class white voters who had traditionally voted for Democrats.CreditCredit…Gabriela Bhaskar for The New York Times

ALLIANCE, Ohio — A day after a staggeringly contentious first debate, Joseph R. Biden Jr. sought again to put President Trump on the defensive on Wednesday by courting some of the voters who propelled him to the White House in 2016.

In his most vigorous day of campaigning in months, Mr. Biden embarked on a train tour that brought him to Pittsburgh as well as a host of smaller towns in eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania, a region where in 2016 Mr. Trump won over working-class white voters who had traditionally voted for Democrats.

Mr. Biden began the tour with a speech at Cleveland’s Amtrak station, where he was introduced by a teacher whose husband worked at the General Motors plant in Lordstown, Ohio, that closed last year.

Mr. Biden said the debate on Tuesday night was supposed to be “about you and all the people I grew up with in Scranton,” his Pennsylvania hometown.

“Does your president understand at all what you’re going through, what so many other people are going through?” Mr. Biden asked. “The question is: Does he see you where you are and where you want to be? Does he care? Has he tried to walk in your shoes, to understand what’s going on in your life? Or does he just ignore you and all the folks all over America who are in a similar situation?”

After his speech, Mr. Biden boarded a chartered Amtrak train and headed to his next stop, the town of Alliance in northeast Ohio, where he kept up his criticism of Mr. Trump.

“What I saw last night was all about him,” he said. “He didn’t speak to you or your concerns or the American people even once.”

Taking questions from reporters, Mr. Biden said Mr. Trump “did what I expected him to do last night.” He called the debate “a wake-up call for all Americans,” and said the way Mr. Trump conducted himself was “a national embarrassment.”

“For 90 minutes, he tried everything to distract — everything possible,” Mr. Biden said. “It just didn’t work.”

Katie Glueck reported from Alliance, and Thomas Kaplan from Washington.

Senator Kamala Harris campaigning in Raleigh, N.C. She called out President Trump for “dog whistling through a bullhorn” in his references in the debate to white supremacist groups.
Credit…Pete Kiehart for The New York Times

Senator Kamala Harris, the Democratic nominee for vice president, accused President Trump of “dog whistling through a bullhorn” at Tuesday night’s debate when he refused to categorically denounce white supremacists after being asked a question about violence perpetrated by right-wing extremists.

Speaking to CNN’s Jake Tapper late Tuesday night after the debate, Ms. Harris was asked for her reaction to Mr. Trump’s having called on the Proud Boys — a far-right group that has endorsed violence — to “stand back and stand by.”

“I heard what we all heard,” Ms. Harris said in the CNN interview, shaking her head slightly as she absorbed the question. “The president of the United States, in the year of our Lord 2020, refuses to condemn white supremacists.”

“People talk about, ‘Is he dog whistling?’” she added, speaking about Mr. Trump. “Dog whistling through a bullhorn is what he’s doing.”

In the hours since the debate ended, Mr. Trump has been barraged by criticism over his comments, including some blowback from Republicans, including Mitch McConnell, the Senate’s majority leader.

Mr. Trump insisted Wednesday that he had “always denounced any form” of white supremacy, and retreated slightly from his previous comments about the Proud Boys, claiming that he was not familiar with the group.

“I don’t know who Proud Boys are, but whoever they are, they have to stand down, let law enforcement do their work,” Mr. Trump sad, speaking to reporters as he left the White House for a campaign trip to Minnesota.

In her own separate comments to CNN on Tuesday night, Ms. Harris, who is biracial — her father immigrated from Jamaica and her mother from India — continually sought to draw contrasts between her running mate and Mr. Trump. On the issue of race, she said Mr. Biden was a leader “who is not afraid to speak the phrase ‘Black lives matter’” and would seek to unify Americans rather than divide them.

Despite the night’s chaos, she said the former vice president would never “refuse to talk to the American people,” implying that he would happily debate Mr. Trump again.

And emphasizing the differences between Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump, Ms. Harris argued that the former vice president had sought Tuesday night to have “a mature conversation” at a weighty time in which America faces multiple crises. Mr. Trump, Ms. Harris said, had spent his time onstage “interrupting, bullying the moderator and lying.”

President Trump paid $750 in federal income tax in the years 2016 and 2017, The New York Times reported this week, a surprisingly low number given his stated wealth. Which raises a question: What kind of company does that place him in?

The answer: The typical Americans who pay that much federal tax are among the working poor, equivalent to a full-time employee who earns something close to the minimum wage.

For most people, a $750 income tax payment would imply that they had about $7,500 in taxable income; the lowest tax bracket is 10 percent. Most people who ended up paying that $750 had higher incomes before accounting for deductions and credits.

In 2017, according to I.R.S. data, tax filers earning between $15,000 and $20,000 paid an average of $671 in federal income tax, similar to President Trump’s tax payments. For context, a person who earned the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour and worked 40 hours per week all year would earn $15,080.

Those numbers represent federal income tax only. They do not include state income tax and other state and local taxes, nor do they include federal payroll taxes that fund Social Security and Medicare, which are a combined 7.65 percent.

Mr. Trump’s tax payments ended up at $750 because of a complex combination of earnings and reported losses.

A meaningful share of Americans pay no federal income tax, as Mitt Romney famously observed in a secretly taped meeting with donors before the 2012 election. Data at the time showed 46 percent paid no federal income tax (Mr. Romney, the Republican nominee that year, said it was 47 percent).

That includes people with no income and those with relatively low incomes that are completely offset by deductions and credits. Those numbers also do not include state taxes or federal payroll taxes. According to The Times’s reporting, in 10 of 15 years preceding 2016, Mr. Trump was among those Americans.

Brad Parscale, President Trump’s former campaign manager, at a campaign event in November last year.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times

President Trump’s former campaign manager, Brad Parscale, is stepping away from the president’s 2020 re-election effort three days after he was hospitalized and the police were called to his Florida home, a Trump campaign official confirmed on Wednesday night.

The news was first reported by Politico, which cited a statement from Mr. Parscale in which he said that he was “stepping away from my company and any role in the campaign for the immediate future to focus on my family and get help dealing with the overwhelming stress.”

Mr. Parscale did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but a Trump campaign official confirmed the accuracy of the Politico report to The Times.

Officers from the Fort Lauderdale Police Department responded to Mr. Parscale’s home on Sunday night after being summoned there by his wife, who reported that her husband had guns and was threatening to hurt himself, according to a statement and report released by the authorities. Mr. Parscale was eventually coaxed out of the home and taken to Broward Health Medical Center for an evaluation, the police said.

Mr. Parscale was replaced as campaign manager over the summer as the president’s standing in the polls was sinking and Mr. Trump himself complained about the way the campaign’s money was being used. Still, Mr. Parscale had stayed on as an adviser to the campaign, primarily dealing with digital fund-raising and digital advertising. He continued to face criticism even after switching roles, at least partially because of the many months he spent publicly representing the campaign.

In a statement at the time of Mr. Parscale’s hospitalization, Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for the campaign, said: “Brad Parscale is a member of our family and we all love him. We are ready to support him and his family in any way possible.”

Twitter removed about 130 accounts that appeared to originate in Iran and that had attempted to disrupt the conversation around Tuesday’s U.S. presidential debate, the company said in a statement on Wednesday.

Twitter removed the accounts after receiving a tip from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the social media firm said, and passed on information about the accounts to its peers in the industry.

“They had very low engagement and did not make an impact on the public conversation,” a Twitter representative said. “Our capacity and speed continue to grow, and we’ll remain vigilant.”

In sample tweets from the accounts provided by Twitter, the account holders commented on the performance of Chris Wallace, the debate moderator, and President Trump’s call for the Proud Boys to “stand by.”

The top elections official in Pennsylvania indicated that nine military ballots found to have been improperly discarded in Luzerne County were thrown away by mistake rather than as part of “intentional fraud,” as Trump allies had suggested.

“The investigation is still going on, but from the initial reports we’ve been given, this was a bad error,” said the secretary of state, Kathy Boockvar, in an online news conference on Wednesday. “This was not intentional fraud. So training, training, training, training.”

The ballots quickly became a national story when the Justice Department announced an investigation and revealed that seven of the discarded ballots contained votes for President Trump.

The announcement was highly unusual for a department that often refrains from commenting on ongoing investigations, and it raised concerns that the president’s allies were wielding the levers of law enforcement to sow doubt about the election. Attorney General William P. Barr personally briefed Mr. Trump on the case.

Mr. Trump may have been alluding to this case Tuesday night when he complained on the debate stage that officials had “found ballots in a wastepaper basket” that “all had the name Trump on them.” He has tried to make the case that an election relying on so many mail-in ballots invited fraud, even as top law-enforcement officials have said they have seen no evidence of widespread fraud.

In the news conference, Ms. Boockvar appeared to be referring to a report by county elections officials last week that said the military ballots had been “incorrectly discarded into the office trash” by a special contractor hired to help sort election-related mail. Shelby Watchilla, the county election director, discovered that the ballots had been improperly discarded and initiated an investigation.

To avoid further errors, the county, in its report, said it would provide “supplemental extensive training” to staff and contractors.”

“Clearly this person wasn’t trained,” Ms. Boockvar said. She indicated that the temporary worker had not been properly instructed on the way the appearance of ballots from overseas differed from domestic ballots. “This is an explanation, not an excuse,” she said.

Anthony Davis, LeBron James and Quinn Cook of the Los Angeles Lakers kneel during the national anthem with VOTE shirts on.
Credit…Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

More Than a Vote, the collective of athletes headlined by the basketball superstar LeBron James, will announce Wednesday that its initiative to increase the number of poll workers in Black electoral districts had amassed 10,000 volunteers since it began.

The effort, which is called “We Got Next” and is a collaboration with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, will be highlighted during the first game of the NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Lakers, the team featuring Mr. James. During the game, first-time poll workers will be among the virtual fans, seated alongside basketball legends including Dwyane Wade, Shaquille O’Neal and Julius Erving.

In a release provided to The New York Times, More Than a Vote and the Legal Defense Fund said the second phase of their push would be more targeted, aimed at 11 cities “where significant poll worker shortages remain,” the release said.

Those cities include Black voter hubs in the South, like Birmingham, Jackson, Houston, San Antonio and Montgomery, as well as cities with significant Black populations in critical battleground states: Charlotte, Cleveland, Detroit, Flint, Milwaukee and Philadelphia.

Elections officials throughout the country have cited a shortage of poll workers to staff in-person voting sites as a major problem for November’s election, which has been upended by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The shortage has been particularly acute in Black communities, which have historically experienced longer wait times and have had fewer polling locations than many white communities.

In an earlier interview, Sherrilyn Ifill of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund said increasing the number of poll workers was critical to fighting attempts at voter suppression. Ms. Ifill also said it was important to create trust among Black voters, a population that has been targeted by suppression efforts in the past and has traditionally relied on in-person voting even more so than other demographic groups.

“We need more poll workers, and we need younger poll workers who can be resilient and work during early voting as well,” Ms. Ifill said.

A new Quinnipiac poll shows a surprisingly close race between President Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr. in South Carolina, which Mr. Trump won by more than 14 percentage points in 2016 and which has not voted for a Democrat for president since 1976.

The poll, conducted before Tuesday’s debate, found that 48 percent of likely voters in South Carolina planned to vote for Mr. Trump, and 47 percent planned to vote for Mr. Biden. That difference was well within the margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points. The poll collected information from 1,123 likely voters from Sept. 23-27.

The race between Senator Lindsey Graham and his Democratic challenger, Jaime Harrison, is tied 48 percent to 48 percent. These numbers were not as surprising as the presidential results because several previous polls had already shown a tight Senate race.

Likely voters were close to evenly split on which candidate, Mr. Trump or Mr. Biden, would be better at handling two key issues: health care (48 percent Biden, 47 percent Trump) and Supreme Court nominations (50 percent Trump, 47 percent Biden).

Fifty-five percent said they supported Roe v. Wade, compared with only 37 percent who opposed it, even though South Carolina is known for being socially conservative. Fifty percent said the Affordable Care Act should remain in place, while 43 percent said it should be overturned.

Ad Watch

The morning after a presidential debate dominated by President Trump’s constant interruptions, refusal to disavow white supremacists and casting doubt on the legitimacy of the election, the Biden campaign went back to its bread and butter: talking to voters about health care and the coronavirus.

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The Message

The campaign debuted a pair of Spanish-language ads on Wednesday. One, airing in Arizona, begins with a reminder that 200,000 Americans have died from the virus and quickly pivots to say, “Trump insists on taking away health insurance when we need it most.” More than 42,000 Latinos have died from the virus, the ad states as it offers a pitch to ethnic pride: “We are grandparents, grandmothers, uncles, entire families. We are someone and we will prove it.”

Another ad, airing in Florida, hammers the theme that Joseph R. Biden Jr. has a plan to defeat the virus. Five times in 22 seconds, the ad shows the Spanish phrase “vencer el virus” — beat the virus. In its closing frame, the ad says that to beat the virus, it’s necessary to “vencer a Donald Trump.”

Fact Check

Mr. Trump campaigned in 2016 on repealing the Affordable Care Act, which guarantees protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions. His administration is in court seeking to have the act declared unconstitutional. Mr. Trump has promised for years to deliver a health care proposal but has yet to do so, and claimed without evidence that he has already protected Americans with pre-existing conditions.

Where It’s Running

On television in Phoenix and Tampa, Fla.

The Takeaway

The ads are a reminder that, for all of the attention paid to the debates, when Democratic campaigns have a chance to speak directly to voters, the things they want to talk about are health care and Mr. Trump’s mishandling of the virus.

President Trump drew a crowd at a rally in Mosinee, Wis., on Sept. 17.
Credit…Al Drago for The New York Times

Struggling to hold on to a state that was a key to his 2016 victory, President Trump will travel to Wisconsin this weekend for two large outdoor campaign rallies, even as the White House coronavirus task force warned that the state was in the “red zone” for new cases.

“To the maximal degree possible, increase social distancing mitigation measures until cases decline,” the task force urged Wisconsin officials in a recent report.

Mr. Trump, who trails Joseph R. Biden Jr. in the polls in a state he narrowly won in 2016, will speak at airports in La Crosse on Saturday and Green Bay on Sunday, his campaign website says.

The president’s rallies have often prompted criticism from public health authorities about the lack of social distancing and the absence of masks. One held on Sept. 17 in Mosinee, Wis., drew an estimated 5,000 people.

Since that event, the White House coronavirus task force warned officials in Wisconsin that the virus was surging in the state and advised them to become more vigilant.

“Wisconsin has continued to see a rapid worsening of the epidemic in the last week with the governor declaring a health emergency,” the task force said in a Sept. 27 report obtained by The Times. The state’s rate of new cases in the past week is the country’s third highest.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel earlier reported that Mr. Trump was going ahead with the rallies despite the warnings.

In addition to designating the whole state a “red zone,” the task force warned that the Green Bay and La Crosse-Onalaska metro areas were red zones themselves.

Mr. Trump’s defiant approach to campaigning amid the pandemic has stood in stark contrast to the guarded path taken by Mr. Biden, who has avoided large in-person events and whom Mr. Trump has criticized as being cloistered.

“We have tremendous crowds as you see and, literally, on 24 hours notice, and Joe does the circles and has three people someplace,” Mr. Trump said at Tuesday’s debate.

Mr. Biden responded that Mr. Trump didn’t care about the health of his supporters.

“He’s been totally irresponsible the way in which he has handled the social distancing and people wearing masks, basically encouraging them not to,” Mr. Biden said.

Mr. Trump also mocked Mr. Biden over how often he wears a mask.

“Every time you see him, he’s got a mask,” Mr. Trump said.

At a rally for Mr. Trump in Ohio last week, the state’s Republican lieutenant governor was booed by the crowd when he tried to promote wearing masks.

Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, with Vice President Mike Pence at the Capitol on Tuesday.
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, participated in her second day of private meetings with senators on Wednesday, sitting down with Republicans eager to approve her confirmation before the general election on Nov. 3.

The effusive support for Judge Barrett, who was confirmed to the appeals court in Chicago in 2017, underscored the likelihood that Senate Republicans would succeed in completing the confirmation process in about a month.

Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, was the first senator to meet with Judge Barrett Wednesday, joking that after being quizzed in college, he was “looking forward to the opportunity to return the fire — to turn the tables, if you will — to ask a question or two of a former law professor.”

He added, “I’m sure we’ll have a very interesting and informative opportunity to speak with each other.”

Mr. Romney, like several senators on Tuesday, declined to answer a question about whether Judge Barrett should recuse herself from any election-related cases that appear before the Supreme Court if she is confirmed.

Judge Barrett is also meeting with Senators Tim Scott of South Carolina, Todd Young and Mike Braun of Indiana, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler of Georgia, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, John Cornyn of Texas and Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi.

Seven female Republican senators also held a news conference to rally support for Judge Barrett, arguing she should be celebrated for being a woman of faith with seven children and saying they were defending her from what they viewed as unfair personal attacks.

“Folks, this is what a mom can do,” Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa said.

Senator Martha McSally of Arizona condemned what she said was “the hypocrisy we’re seeing from some of the media and the left attacking her for being a mom.”

Asked for evidence of the unfair attacks on Judge Barrett, Republican staff members referenced a 2017 comment from Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, that the “dogma lives loudly within” her, an apparent reference to her Catholicism. They did not produce evidence of attacks on her motherhood.

Noticeably absent from the news conference were Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who have urged the Senate to wait until after the presidential election to vote on a new Supreme Court justice.

A few Democratic senators, including Senators Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Cory Booker of New Jersey, have indicated that they will speak with Judge Barrett before hearings begin next month, even as several of their colleagues have said they plan to boycott the usual courtesy meeting. They are fiercely opposed to filling the seat when voting is underway in many states, accusing Republicans who refused to consider President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee in 2016 of rank hypocrisy.

“The best thing we can do is basically expose this process for what it is,” Ms. Klobuchar said on Tuesday.

Ms. Klobuchar and her Democratic colleagues on the Judiciary Committee made a last-ditch appeal on Wednesday to delay the confirmation process until after the inauguration, though they have virtually no chance of success.

In a letter to Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, they said two weeks was simply not enough time for senators or the F.B.I. to vet Judge Barrett’s background or conduct a thoughtful hearing.

“This timeline is a sharp departure from past practice,” they wrote. “Even more, it undercuts the Senate’s ability to fulfill its advice and consent role and deprives the American people of a meaningful opportunity to gauge the nominee and her record for themselves.”

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. executed his main goal of presenting a stable contrast to the man beside him.
Credit…Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

Joseph R. Biden Jr. cast the first presidential debate as a leadership test for President Trump; Mr. Trump framed it as cognitive test for a supposedly senile Mr. Biden.

One of them passed.

While Mr. Biden did not deliver a stellar performance on Tuesday — and the mud-spattered spectacle in Cleveland left no participant unsullied — he was good enough, easily surpassing the low expectations set for him by a Trump campaign that portrayed him as a doddering weakling incapable of facing an alpha president.

Mr. Biden, who has kept a relatively low profile since securing the Democratic nomination, arguably had more to lose going in: He was shaky in some primary debates and has kept a light public schedule, in part to allow his opponent, who craves the spotlight, to roast in it alone.

But the former vice president, who turns 78 next month, had the physical stamina to stand comfortably upright for 90 minutes — an ability that aides to Mr. Trump, 74, had literally questioned leading up to the debate. And while Mr. Biden was often overshadowed and outshouted, he executed his main goal of presenting a stable contrast to the man beside him, despite a few word fumbles and some heated retorts directed at the heckling president, whom he called a “clown” and a “fool.”

At no point did Mr. Biden seem disoriented, demented, drugged or unable to cogently answer any of the policy questions put to him, even as Mr. Trump blared into his right ear like a boombox with a busted volume knob. It was noteworthy that Trump stalwarts like Sean Hannity, who have loudly questioned Mr. Biden’s mental acuity, mostly avoided the topic in post-debate wrap-ups.

One of the few politically coherent lines of attack pursued by Mr. Trump was to accuse Mr. Biden of being a Trojan Horse for radical leftists — figuring he would either have to hug progressives and thereby alienate moderates, or distance himself, risking a revolt on the left.

The centrist former vice president chose to emphatically distance himself from his party’s progressive wing and threw in a low-key “l’etat, c’est moi” declaration. When the president accused him, falsely, of supporting “socialist” health-care proposals, Mr. Biden responded, “The party is me. Right now, I am the Democratic Party,” adding, “The platform of the Democratic Party is what I, in fact, approved of.”

At another point, when Mr. Trump claimed that Mr. Biden “agreed with Bernie Sanders, who is far left,” Mr. Biden batted the remark aside like a bug: “The fact of the matter is: I beat Bernie Sanders.” The president tried to seize on the moment, insisting, “You just lost the left.”

Mr. Sanders was having none of it on Wednesday. “What Joe Biden said was right. He does not agree with me,” he said on “The View.” “I wish he did, but he does not.”

The senator added, “It is terribly important that we defeat Trump, that we elect Biden and that we have the largest voter turnout in the history of the country.”

President Trump on Wednesday morning continued his angry and misleading tirade from Tuesday night’s debate, tweeting false and exaggerated accusations about Joseph R. Biden Jr.

In one tweet, Mr. Trump claimed that Mr. Biden refused to use the term “law and order” during the debate even though the Democratic nominee used the term several times.

Mr. Trump insisted in another tweet that Mr. Biden “wants to Pack the Supreme Court,” even though the former vice president repeatedly refused to say whether he supports that idea; that Mr. Biden “wants no fracking,” overstating his rival’s plan for limits on the practice; and that the “Second Amendment is DEAD” if Mr. Biden is elected, a clear exaggeration of his position.

The tone of the president’s tweets mirrored the aggressive approach he took during the debate, interrupting and heckling Mr. Biden throughout the proceedings.

“Nobody wants Sleepy Joe as a leader, including the Radical Left (which he lost last night!),” Mr. Trump tweeted, attempting to drive a wedge between Mr. Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders, who lost the Democratic nomination to the former vice president. “He disrespected Bernie, effectively calling him a loser!”







Trump Refuses to Condemn White Supremacists

President Trump dodged a question from the moderator Chris Wallace about whether he would directly condemn violence by white supremacist and militia groups at protests.

“You have repeatedly criticized the vice president for not specifically calling out antifa and other left-wing —” “That’s right.” “— extremist groups. But are you willing tonight to condemn white supremacists and militia groups —” “Sure.” “— and to say that they need to stand down and not add to the violence in a number of these cities, as we saw in Kenosha and as we’ve seen in Portland.” “Sure, I’m willing to do that, but —” “Then do it.” “Go ahead, sir.” “I would say, I would say almost everything I see is from the left wing, not from the right wing.” “So what are you, what are you saying —” “I’m willing to do anything — I want to see peace.” “Then do it, sir.” “Say it. Do it. Say it.” “You want to call them — what do you want to call them? Give me a name, give me a name.” “White supremacists and —” “Go ahead, who would you like me to condemn?” “Proud Boys.” “Who? “White supremacists and right-wing militia.” “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by. But I’ll tell you what, I’ll tell you what. Somebody’s got to do something about antifa and the left, because this is not a right-wing problem, this is a left-wing —” “His own F.B.I. director said the threat comes from white supremacists. Antifa’s an idea, not an organization —” “Oh, you’ve got to be kidding.” “— not a militia. That’s what his F.B.I, his F.B.I. director has said.” “Well then, you know what? He’s wrong.”

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President Trump dodged a question from the moderator Chris Wallace about whether he would directly condemn violence by white supremacist and militia groups at protests.CreditCredit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Trump refused to categorically denounce white supremacists on Tuesday night, diverting a question about right-wing extremist violence in Charlottesville, Va., and Portland, Ore., into an attack on left-wing protesters.

“Are you willing, tonight, to condemn white supremacists and militia groups and to say that they need to stand down and not add to the violence in a number of these cities as we saw in Kenosha and as we’ve seen in Portland?” Chris Wallace, the moderator, asked the president.

“Sure. I’m willing to do that,” said Mr. Trump, but quickly added, “Almost everything I see is from the left wing. Not from the right wing.”

When Mr. Wallace pressed on, the president asked, “What do you want to call them?”

“White supremacists and right-wing militias,” the moderator replied, as Joseph R. Biden Jr. mentioned the Proud Boys, a far-right group that has endorsed violence.

“Proud Boys, stand back and stand by,” Mr. Trump said. “But I’ll tell you what. I’ll tell you what. Somebody’s got to do something about antifa and the left because this is not a right-wing problem. This is a left-wing problem.”

When Mr. Biden pointed out that Mr. Trump’s own F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray, had said that antifa was an idea, not an organization, the president replied, “Oh, you’ve got to be kidding.” (Mr. Wray also said this month that “racially motivated violent extremism,” mostly from white supremacists, had made up a majority of domestic terrorism threats.)

The president’s words prompted celebration by members of the Proud Boys. Within minutes, they were posting in private social media channels, calling the president’s comments “historic.” In one channel dedicated to the Proud Boys on Telegram, a private messaging app, group members called the president’s comment a tacit endorsement of their violent tactics.

In another message, a member commented that the group was already seeing a spike in “new recruits.”

Twitter and Facebook both suspended the Proud Boys from their platforms in 2018. Since then, the group has continued to expand its numbers on other social media platforms, and has become more visible at protests.

On Wednesday, Mr. Biden sent a different message to the Proud Boys: “Cease and desist.”

“My message to the Proud Boys and every other white supremacist group is cease and desist,” Mr. Biden said in Alliance, Ohio, where he was on a campaign swing. “That’s not who we are. This is not who we are as Americans.”