Written by 1:55 pm New York News

Election Updates: Facebook to Ban New Political Ads in Week Before Election Day

Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Facebook on Thursday moved to clamp down on confusion about the November election on its service, rolling out sweeping changes to limit voter misinformation and prevent interference from President Trump and other politicians.

The social network said it would ban any new political ads on its site in the week before Election Day. It said it would also strengthen measures against posts that try to dissuade people from voting. Postelection, Facebook said it would quash any candidates’ attempts at claiming false victories by redirecting users to accurate information on the results.

Facebook is bracing for a contentious presidential election, as Mr. Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr. ratchet up their attacks on each other. Mr. Trump has questioned the legitimacy of mail-in voting and suggested that he may not accept the election results.

“This election is not going to be business as usual,” Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, wrote in a post. He said he was concerned about the challenges that people could face when voting in a pandemic and how the count might take days or weeks to finalize, potentially leading to more unrest. As a result, he said, “we all have a responsibility to protect our democracy.”

Facebook has become a key battleground for the Trump and Biden campaigns. Mr. Trump’s campaign has run ads on the social network featuring false corruption accusations about Mr. Biden. Mr. Biden’s campaign has criticized Facebook for allowing lies, while also spending millions of dollars to buy ads on the service to appeal to voters.

The social network is striving to prevent itself from being misused. It also wanted to keep either Republicans or Democrats from saying that it unduly influenced voters. In particular, Facebook wants to avoid a repeat of 2016, when Russians used the service to promote Mr. Trump.

At the time, Mr. Zuckerberg shrugged off the idea that his social network had influenced the election and Mr. Trump’s victory. After evidence of Russian meddling through Facebook became overwhelming, he spent billions and hired thousands of employees to secure the social network and worked with intelligence agencies and other tech companies to prevent foreign meddling.

Even so, Facebook has continued to face criticism as domestic misinformation about this year’s election — including from Mr. Trump — has proliferated. Mr. Zuckerberg has declined to remove much of that false information, saying that Facebook supports free speech. Many Facebook employees have objected to that position.

On Tuesday, Facebook said the Kremlin-backed group that interfered in the 2016 presidential election, the Internet Research Agency, tried to meddle on its service again using fake accounts and a website set up to look like a left-wing news site. Facebook said it was warned by the F.B.I. about the effort and removed the fake accounts and news site before they had gained much traction.

Thursday’s changes, which are a tacit acknowledgment by Facebook of how powerful its effect on public discourse can be, are unlikely to satisfy critics. Some of its measures, such as the blocking of new political ads a week before Election Day, are temporary. Yet they demonstrate that Facebook has sweeping abilities to shut down untruthful ads should it choose to do so.

Credit…Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, the two nominees for president have waged very different campaigns.

Joseph R. Biden Jr. has scarcely left the Delaware area, paying strict heed to social distancing guidelines, while President Trump has continued to travel and appear before crowds, only scaling back his indoor rallies.

This dichotomy will begin to change on Thursday, reflecting a new phase of the campaign. Mr. Biden is traveling to Kenosha, Wis., which is still reeling after the police shooting of a Black man and subsequent protests with sporadic outbreaks of violence and looting. At the same time, Mr. Trump is headed to Latrobe, Pa., east of Pittsburgh, where he’ll rally supporters in a pivotal state and trumpet a federal grant for the city’s airport.

The dueling events illustrate the growing pressure each candidate is facing from his own party. Democrats are eager for Mr. Biden to start appearing in battleground states, particularly in Midwestern states like Wisconsin where Hillary Clinton assumed victory but fell short. And Republicans, growing nervous about polls that continue to show Mr. Trump trailing in a number of the states he claimed in 2016, believe he must keep Pennsylvania in his column to win.

A survey released from Fox News on Wednesday showed Mr. Biden with an eight-percentage-point lead in Wisconsin, but a Monmouth survey of Pennsylvania voters suggested Mr. Trump was narrowing Mr. Biden’s advantage there.

This is still the corona campaign — even Mr. Trump will only appear outdoors at the airplane hangar. But with just over two months until the election, and ever fewer days to appear before voters, the two candidates are both in their own ways back on the campaign trail.

Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

Despite the spotlight of the Republican convention and the unrest in Portland, Ore., and Kenosha, Wis., a big wave of new polls Wednesday showed that President Trump continues to trail Joe Biden by a significant margin both nationwide and in the critical battleground states.

On average, Mr. Biden maintains a lead of around seven to eight percentage points among likely voters nationwide, down from a lead of eight to nine points heading into the conventions. In a direct comparison, an average of the new polls showed Mr. Trump faring a mere seven-tenths of a point better than polls by the same firms conducted in early August before the Democratic National Convention.

The new results suggest that the president’s effort to reframe the race around law and order at the Republican convention hasn’t fundamentally reshaped the race to his advantage; Mr. Biden, in fact, won stronger approval on that issue in crucial states, according to new Fox News polls.

For now, at least, Mr. Trump finds himself in an unenviable position: He trails by a wide margin, even at a moment that usually represents the high-water mark for the president’s party in the polls. More often than not, a president goes on to fare worse in election results than in the polls taken just after the convention.

Usually candidates enjoy a fleeting bounce after their convention, as they bask in the afterglow of a nationally televised four-day infomercial. To the extent the president’s modest gains are attributable to the lingering effects of the convention, Mr. Biden’s lead could grow again in the weeks ahead.

But sometimes a bounce lasts and becomes a bump. This year, the case for a possible Trump bump is straightforward: The national political environment has seemed to change in the president’s favor over the last few months. The number of new coronavirus cases has dropped significantly. The stock market has reached record highs. At the same time, unrest in Kenosha and Portland gave the president and the Republican convention an opportunity to shift the national political conversation, at least temporarily, to an issue where Republicans might be on stronger ground.

Credit…Al Goldis/Associated Press

Former Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan became the latest Republican to publicly rebuke President Trump and endorse former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. for president.

In a column posted Thursday by USA Today and the Detroit Free Press, Mr. Snyder called Mr. Trump a bully who didn’t deserve to be re-elected. He joined a number of other prominent Republican officials who have thrown their support behind the Democratic nominee.

“When elected to office, you do not represent only your supporters, you represent all of your constituents,” Mr. Snyder wrote. “I was at the nation’s Capitol when Trump gave his inaugural address. I had hoped this first speech as president would be a message to unify a divided nation. Instead, I heard a speech directed at how he would help the people who supported him. And sadly, that is how President Trump continues to govern.”

He called Mr. Biden a man with strong moral character and empathy who would bring civility back to a nation that is badly divided.

Mr. Snyder was also included in a group of dozens of current and former officials who announced Thursday that they had formed a coalition called “Republicans and Independents for Biden.”

The group, led by former Gov. Christine Todd Whitman of New Jersey, who appeared at the Democratic National Convention last month, includes Rosario Marin, who served as treasurer under President George W. Bush, and former Gov. William F. Weld of Massachusetts, who ran against Mr. Trump in the 2020 G.O.P. primary for almost a year.

Mr. Snyder also refused to endorse Mr. Trump in 2016, choosing instead to work for Republican candidates for state offices.

“I am still a Republican who also will be publicly supporting Republican candidates at the local, state and federal level,” he wrote in Thursday’s piece.

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

President Trump has directed federal officials to find ways to cut funding to a string of cities controlled by Democrats, citing violence amid protests against systemic racism in policing, a move that threatens billions of dollars for many of the country’s largest urban hubs as the president makes the unrest a centerpiece of his re-election campaign.

Mr. Trump laid out the directive in a memo, released Wednesday, to Russell T. Vought, the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Attorney General William P. Barr. It accuses state and local officials of abdicating their duties.

“Anarchy has recently beset some of our states and cities,” Mr. Trump wrote in the memo, mentioning a few cities specifically: Portland, Ore.; Washington; Seattle; and the president’s birth city, New York. “My administration will not allow federal tax dollars to fund cities that allow themselves to deteriorate into lawless zones.”

With polls showing him trailing his Democratic rival, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., Mr. Trump has tried to shift the public’s attention away from his administration’s failed response to the coronavirus pandemic and to what he depicts as out-of-control crime in New York and other cities. He has seized on an uptick in crime and has tried to blame it on local Democratic leaders.

The president has repeatedly sought to paint cities as hellscapes that only he can save, regardless of how limited the violent outbreaks have been during broader protests against acts of brutality by police officers against Black people.

The memo, “Reviewing Funding to State and Local Government Recipients That Are Permitting Anarchy, Violence and Destruction in American Cities,”first reported by The New York Post, ratchets up Mr. Trump’s argument.

But the move is almost certain to face legal challenges, and Democratic officials reacted furiously. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York declared Mr. Trump “persona non grata” in New York City and said, “He can’t have enough bodyguards to walk through New York City.”

Credit…Christian Monterrosa for The New York Times

The Trump administration unleashed a barrage of complaints last month when it ordered the Census Bureau to wrap up the counting portion of the 2020 census four weeks early, by Sept. 30 instead of Oct. 31. The administration ordered the speedup to ensure the delivery of population figures — used to reapportion the House of Representatives among the states — by Dec. 31, before President Trump’s term ends.

But with the count already thrown into chaos by the pandemic, critics said, an early end would force the Census Bureau to cut corners and ignore inaccuracies like never before, leading to a deeply flawed count.

Census officials have rejected such arguments. But a document released on Wednesday by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform lends new weight to those charges.

The document is an internal Census Bureau slide show, prepared last month, detailing how the agency might finish the population count by the end of September, then process its data to meet the Dec. 31 deadline. The objective, the slide show stated, was to meet the administration’s order while “achieving an acceptable level of accuracy and completeness.”

But the slide show details a long list of shortcuts proposed to meet the new deadlines, including reducing the number of times door-knockers try to reach a household that hasn’t responded, eliminating double-checks of the bureau’s address list, eliminating reviews of some data by state and internal experts, and other changes.

While some changes would probably have a negligible effect, the document stated, shortening data processing to meet the end-of-year deadline “creates risk for serious errors not being discovered in the data — thereby significantly decreasing data quality.”

“Additionally, serious errors discovered in the data may not be fixed — due to lack of time to research and understand the root cause or to re-run and re-review one or multiple state files,” the analysis stated.

In a letter to congressional leaders released on Wednesday, the chairwoman of the Oversight Committee, Representative Carolyn B. Maloney of New York, called for legislation to nullify the administration’s new deadline and delay the delivery of population numbers for reapportionment until next year.

The 2020 census has been dogged by accusations that the Trump administration is seeking to skew its results to favor Republicans when population totals are used next year to divvy up seats in the House of Representatives — and, later, to draw thousands of federal, state and local political boundaries. Critics say a rushed count would miss hard-to-reach residents — the poor, people of color, immigrants, the young — who tend to support Democrats.

But the White House has said that getting population totals by year’s end is just one part of an anti-immigrant policy that has been pursued from the administration’s earliest days. It says the goal is to adjust those totals to exclude millions of noncitizens — in particular undocumented immigrants — before the numbers are forwarded to Congress for redistributing House seats among the states.

The census has counted everyone in the country, regardless of citizenship, for the purpose of allocating House seats since the very first head count in 1790. A host of opponents have already sued to overturn Mr. Trump’s policy, and if he wins re-election in November, the dispute may well go to the Supreme Court.

Credit…Michael A. McCoy for The New York Times

The National Rifle Association’s former second-in-command breaks with the group’s orthodoxy and calls for universal background checks and so-called red flag laws in a new book assailing the organization as more focused on money, internal intrigue and “appealing to the paranoia and darkest side of our members” than on the Second Amendment.

The former executive, Joshua L. Powell, who was fired by the N.R.A. in January, is the first critical look at its recent history by such a high-ranking insider.

He describes the N.R.A.’s longtime chief executive, Wayne LaPierre, as an inept manager but a skilled lobbyist with a deft touch at directing President Trump to support the group’s objectives, and who repeatedly reeled in the president’s flirtations with even modest gun control measures.

The book, “Inside the N.R.A.: A Tell-All Account of Corruption, Greed, and Paranoia Within the Most Powerful Political Group in America,” is to be published next week, the latest public calamity for an organization that has faced years of headlines detailing allegations of corruption, infighting and even infiltration by a Russian agent.

The attorney general of New York, Letitia James, filed a lawsuit last month that seeks to dissolve the N.R.A. and seeks millions in restitution from Mr. LaPierre and Mr. Powell, among others.

In the book, Mr. Powell writes about how after the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn., the N.R.A. rebuffed gun control measures and instead promoted a “School Shield” program in which it would review and recommend school safety measures like arming security guards. Mr. Powell writes that in the four years after Sandy Hook, the N.R.A. assessed the safety of only three schools.

“Wayne was out there selling the program to our members, raising money off it, claiming we were protecting kids’ schools,” he writes. “It was another example of the wizard behind the curtain — lots of inflamed rhetoric and fireworks and noise, but very little effective action on countering gun violence.”

Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

The Department of Homeland Security has declined to publish a July 9 intelligence document that warns of Russian attempts to denigrate Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s mental health, prompting new scrutiny of political influence at the department.

The intelligence bulletin, titled “Russia Likely to Denigrate Health of U.S. Candidates to Influence 2020 Election,” was drafted to inform state and local law enforcement officials that Russian state media agencies were posting “allegations about the poor mental health of 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden,” ABC News first reported on Wednesday.

But before the bulletin was distributed, senior Homeland Security officials intervened to halt publication, department officials confirmed.

Officials from the Office of Intelligence and Analysis briefed Chad F. Wolf, the acting secretary of Homeland Security, on the document sometime this summer, the department said in a statement. But in an interview with Fox News on Wednesday, Mr. Wolf said he and other career officials at the intelligence office had questioned the quality of the “very poorly written report.”

“They’re hard at work on rewriting that report, putting it in better context,” Mr. Wolf said. “I hope to see that record out soon.”

But Miles Taylor, a former chief of staff for the Department of Homeland Security during the Trump administration, told CNN on Wednesday that it would be highly unusual for political appointees at the department to halt an intelligence report about the Russians.

“We had instances like this happen, where the White House didn’t want us to talk about Russian election interference, and we had to go around the White House to do it anyway,” Mr. Taylor said.

The department did not provide additional details about the document or the intelligence briefing that prompted senior officials to intervene.

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

President Trump on Wednesday suggested that people in North Carolina stress-test the security of their elections systems by voting twice — an act that constitutes the kind of voter fraud the president has railed against.

Mr. Trump made the comment in a briefing with reporters, where he was asked about his faith in the state’s system for voting by mail, which is expected to be more expansive in the 2020 presidential election than in previous years because of concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.

Mr. Trump encouraged people to send in an absentee ballot and then go vote in person on Election Day.

“Let them send it in and let them go vote, and if their system’s as good as they say it is, then obviously they won’t be able to vote,” the president said. “If it isn’t tabulated, they’ll be able to vote.”

“That’s the way it is,” he added. “And that’s what they should do.”

Voting twice in the same election is illegal.

But Mr. Trump’s suggestion that people should vote twice is one he has discussed privately with aides in recent weeks amid concerns he is depressing turnout among his supporters by raising alarms about the security of mail-in voting.

As the number of people planning to mail in their ballots has increased, Mr. Trump has repeatedly made false claims about widespread fraud in mail voting. With his advisers trying to tell him that he’s scaring his own supporters, including older voters, with his broad condemnations, he has sought to draw a distinction between universal mail voting and more limited absentee voting in which the person is away from home or has a disability.

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

For much of his life, President Trump has promoted himself as a virtual superman who has endless energy, needs little sleep, rarely gets sick and excelled at sports in his youth. As he once dictated in a statement put out in the name of an agreeable doctor, he is “the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.”

So as Mr. Trump seeks to become the oldest individual ever elected to the office for a second term, recent questions about his mental and physical condition have sent him into paroxysms of pique. They have complicated his own efforts to question the health of his challenger and fellow septuagenarian, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

The president elevated the issue this week by taking the bait of a critic’s tweet and denying that he had “mini-strokes” last year around the time of a mysterious trip to the hospital. But Mr. Trump only raised more questions when he could not keep his explanations for that hospital visit straight. He wrote that it “was to complete my yearly physical” — contrary to how he explained it at the time, when he said it was “phase one of my yearly physical” to be completed later.

The matter comes up only weeks after Mr. Trump’s appearance at a commencement ceremony at the United States Military Academy at West Point provoked speculation because he had trouble lifting a water glass to his lips, requiring him to use two hands, and he seemed especially tentative walking down a ramp as if afraid he might fall. He bristled at the talk and ridiculed the idea that he had any trouble that day. He has since boasted that he has aced a dementia test showing that “I’m cognitively there.”

Just last week, in an interview with The New York Times, Mr. Trump volunteered without being asked that he was in strong shape. “I feel good,” he said. “I think I feel better than I did four years ago.”

Credit…David Degner for The New York Times

Aside from a Kennedy losing, election night in Massachusetts on Tuesday felt almost normal.

Despite the disruption of the coronavirus pandemic, results for a hotly contested statewide race trickled in throughout the night, with a winner called around 10:30 p.m. Nearly one million absentee ballots were counted by midnight. There were even timely victory and concession speeches.

For those looking to Massachusetts as a possible model for how to successfully hold the November general election, voting rights groups and election experts said the state’s primary provided a mix of smart policies and harsh deadlines — which possibly disenfranchised numerous voters.

Indeed, Massachusetts may have offered the country a model for how to count votes, but casting ballots wasn’t always as seamless. And certain factors helped the state: The type of partisan vitriol that has led to last-minute litigation over voting in other places was mostly absent, and coronavirus rates have been under control.

As in other states’ primaries, there were anecdotal reports of voters never receiving their ballots, not receiving the privacy envelope for returning a ballot, or receiving ballots too close to the deadline to mail them back. A court decision ruled that all ballots had to be received by 8 p.m. on Tuesday to be counted, regardless of whether they had been mailed by Election Day and simply suffered from postal delays.

But the state still shattered its record for primary participation, with more than 1.6 million ballots cast. Though interest in the Democratic Senate primary, in which Senator Edward J. Markey fended off a challenge from Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III, was high, election officials said that a law signed this summer by Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, that expanded mail-in voting and early voting had been essential to voting during the pandemic.

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