A day after President Trump’s refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power drew rebukes from Democrats, nervous distancing from Republicans and attempts at reassurance from the White House, Mr. Trump weighed in again Thursday and said that he was not sure the November election could be “honest” because mail-in ballots are “a whole big scam.”
“We want to make sure that the election is honest and I’m not sure that it can be,” Mr. Trump told reporters before leaving the White House for North Carolina.
Mr. Trump was responding to a reporter’s question about whether he would consider the November election results legitimate only if he wins.
Instead of repeating his press secretary’s assurance earlier in the day that he would accept the results of a “free and fair” election, Mr. Trump instead launched into his latest complaint about mail-in ballots, which he has repeatedly asserted without evidence are likely to be tainted by widespread fraud, and suggested that the election will not, in fact, be fairly decided.
“So, we have to be very careful with the ballots. The ballots — you know, that’s a whole big scam,” Mr. Trump said, citing what he said were news reports about ballots found “in a river” and a trash can.
Earlier in the day, Christopher A. Wray, the director of the F.B.I., told lawmakers that he had not seen evidence of a “coordinated national voter fraud effort,” undercutting Mr. Trump’s effort to stoke fears about mail-in ballots.
The president’s remarks struck a different tone from that of other prominent Republicans, who spent the day making it clear that they were committed to the orderly transfer of power. His refusal Wednesday to commit to accepting the results of November’s election — something no other modern president has put in doubt — led Democrats to condemn him as a threat to American democracy.
On Thursday, Mr. Trump cited an August comment by his 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton, who said that former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. “should not concede under any circumstances.” But Mrs. Clinton was referring only to election night itself, warning that a final, accurate tally may not be known until days or weeks later, in part because of potentially late-arriving mail-in votes Mr. Trump aims to discredit.
President Trump’s refusal to commit to accepting the results of November’s election — something no other modern president has put in doubt — led several prominent Republicans, including Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, to insist Thursday that there would be a peaceful transfer of power come January. But they stopped short of directly criticizing the president.
“The winner of the November 3rd election will be inaugurated on January 20th,” Mr. McConnell wrote on Twitter. “There will be an orderly transition just as there has been every four years since 1792.”
Mr. McConnell did not mention Mr. Trump in his comments, and he refused to elaborate on them. But his tweet was in response to Mr. Trump’s comment on Wednesday, when a reporter asked if the president would commit to a peaceful transition, that “We’re going to have to see what happens.”
Mr. Trump went on to question the integrity of “the ballots” — apparently referring to mail-in voting, which he has falsely called rife with fraud — and added that if he were able to “get rid of” the ballots and ensure a “continuation” rather than a “transfer,” it would be peaceful.
The peaceful transfer of power and accepting election results are fundamentals of democracy.
Many Republicans, including Mr. McConnell, while declining to call the president out by name, distanced themselves from the remarks and insisted that there would be a peaceful transfer of power if former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. won the presidency.
When asked if Republicans would stand up to the president should he resist departing the office in event of a political loss, Senator John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, told reporters on Thursday that he believed they would.
“Republicans believe in the rule of law, we believe in the Constitution, and that’s what dictates what happens in our election process,” Mr. Thune told reporters on Capitol Hill.
Moderate Republicans, including those facing tough bids for re-election, dismissed the suggestion that there would be anything other than a peaceful transition of power, with Senator Dan Sullivan, Republican of Alaska, declaring, “of course we’re going to have a peaceful transition of power. We’re the United States of America. We’re not a banana republic.”
“I don’t know what his thinking was, but we have always had a controlled transition between administrations,” said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine. She said “the peaceful transfer of power is a fundamental tenet of our democracy, and I am confident that we will see it occur once again.”
Some Republicans, including Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the minority leader, sought to change the subject from Mr. Trump’s remarks, arguing that his comments were no different from comments Hillary Clinton made last month suggesting Mr. Biden should not concede. Ms. Clinton did not say Mr. Biden should “never” concede, but rather that because vote counting could be protracted this year because of the increase in mail ballots, he should not concede, if he was trailing, until the results were finalized.
“I think there will be a peaceful transfer of power, and I think the real concern in terms of the election is that Joe Biden has been explicit that if he doesn’t win on Election Day, he intends to challenge the legitimacy of the election,” said Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, though it was not immediately clear what remarks he was referring to and Mr. Biden has repeatedly warned that it is Mr. Trump who is seeking to undermine the election results.
Mr. Cruz also raised the specter of Ms. Clinton’s comments. “I think that threat to challenge the election is one of the real reasons why it is so important that we confirm the Supreme Court nominees so that there’s a full Supreme Court on the bench to resolve any election challenge,’’ he said.
In an interview on Fox on Thursday, Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, used the outcry over Mr. Trump’s remarks to push for the quick confirmation of a conservative Supreme Court justice, arguing that the seat should be filled in case the nation’s highest court needed to rule on the outcome of the November election.
“People wonder about the peaceful transfer of power,” he said. “I can assure you, it will be peaceful.” He added, “I promise you as a Republican, if the Supreme Court decides that Joe Biden wins, I will accept the result. The court will decide, and if Republicans lose, we’ll accept the result.”
That promise comes as Mr. Graham and other Republicans face sharp criticism for their sharp reversal on their past vow not to fill a Supreme Court seat during an election year.
Even as he drew a comparison between Ms. Clinton’s remarks and those made by Mr. Trump on Wednesday, Senator Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri, acknowledged that “I think all of this talk, by both the Biden campaign and the president, is unhelpful.”
Democratic lawmakers warned Americans on Thursday to take deadly seriously President Trump’s refusal to commit to accepting the results of November’s election, accusing the president of poisoning the wellspring of democracy in a cynical attempt to hold onto power.
“When a leader with authoritarian tendencies tells you they intend to do something outrageous, like not accept a peaceful transition after an election, as President Trump said, you should believe them,” said Senator Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware and a close ally of Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic presidential nominee.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, the nation’s third highest officeholder, balanced criticizing Mr. Trump with trying to project calm.
“You are not in North Korea; you are not in Turkey,” Ms. Pelosi said to Mr. Trump, citing nations with authoritarian leaders. “You are in the United States of America. It is a democracy, so why don’t you just try for a moment to honor your oath of office to the Constitution of the United States.”
She told reporters that she had a good sense of what Mr. Trump was trying to do and would fight tooth and nail to prevent it. The most important thing, she said, was for Americans to vote and insist their ballots are counted.
“The antidote to almost every ailment I have named is the vote,” she said.
After four years of outrageous statements and threats to bulldoze over institutional norms that govern the nation’s democracy, congressional Democrats are exceedingly accustomed to chiding Mr. Trump. Even so, their comments betrayed a greater level of alarm than normal — and than did remarks by Mr. Biden, who said Wednesday night that Mr. Trump said “the most irrational things” and wondered, “What country are we in?”
Asked during a call with reporters on Thursday to respond to Mr. Trump’s remarks, Kate Bedingfield, a deputy campaign manager for Mr. Biden, said that he “has participated in a peaceful transition of power before. He certainly will this time around as well.”
“Donald Trump is trying to distract from his catastrophic failures as president of the United States in order to talk about something that frankly, you know, spins up the press corps,” she added.
Calling Mr. Trump “the greatest threat to democracy,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the party leader in the Senate, demanded that Republicans join Democrats in insisting Mr. Trump accept the election results. He said too many were trying to “brush it by.”
“At this perilous moment, every Republican in this chamber should stand up and say that a president who isn’t entirely sure if he’ll commit to a peaceful transfer of power isn’t a president at all,” he added.
Several prominent Republicans, including Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, insisted Thursday that there would be a peaceful transition, but they stopped short of criticizing the president directly for his remarks.
Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, who led the drive to impeach Mr. Trump in the House and argued forcefully for his removal in a Senate trial earlier this year, said flatly: “This is how democracy dies.”
He pledged Democrats would fight back.
“America belongs to the people,” Mr. Schiff said.
President Trump on Thursday is announcing his long-awaited health care plan, but one of its core provisions — protecting people with pre-existing medical conditions — is already part of the Affordable Care Act, which he is trying to repeal. Another, a push to end surprise medical billing, is largely symbolic and would require legislation passed by Congress.
Top administration officials, including Alex M. Azar, the health secretary, previewed the plan on a call with reporters Thursday afternoon; Mr. Trump is announcing it on a visit to North Carolina. Mr. Azar said Mr. Trump would sign an executive order declaring it is “the policy of the United States” that people who have pre-existing conditions should be able to get insurance coverage. A White House official billed it as the first such executive order “in American history.”
But Mr. Trump’s predecessor, former President Barack Obama, had to sign a law — the Affordable Care Act — to require insurers to protect pre-existing conditions. Now Mr. Trump is asking the Supreme Court to declare that law unconstitutional. Should the law be overturned, Mr. Azar said, the administration would “work with Congress or otherwise to ensure that they’re protected.”
Mr. Trump is also announcing his plan to give insurers, hospitals and Congress until Jan. 1 — 19 days before his term expires — to pass legislation to prevent the practice of “surprise medical billing,” in which patients are charged for care they have inadvertently received from out of network providers. If that doesn’t happen, Mr. Azar said, the president will direct him to take action.
Mr. Trump has been promising since he ran for president in 2016 that he would put together a plan to lower costs, expand coverage and protect people with pre-existing conditions — the primary goals of the Affordable Care Act.
But it has taken him years to do so, and the plan his aides previewed was less a coherent vision than a laundry list of other executive action and rules the administration has already enacted. Administration officials including Mr. Azar made the case that those actions have already lowered the cost of health care premiums and prescription drugs.
Facebook announced on Thursday that it was taking down three disinformation networks that it says are linked to the Russian military and intelligence agencies, and to the Internet Research Agency, which was central to Moscow’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.
None of the networks were large, and they operated almost entirely abroad — from Japan to Belarus. But Facebook said it was acting proactively to dismantle infrastructure Russia could use around the Nov. 3 presidential election, either in an effort to influence the vote or to dispute its outcome, by calling into question the fairness of the balloting.
“We haven’t seen these networks directly target the 2020 election,” Nathaniel Gleicher, the head of security policy for Facebook, said in an interview. “But they are linked to actors associated with election interference in the U.S. in the past, including in the ‘DCLeaks’ in 2016.” He was referring to a website that was later determined to have been set up by a Russian military intelligence agency, the G.R.U., to make public emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee in 2016.
“We want to be proactive,” said Mr. Gleicher, in a subtle acknowledgment of the criticism Facebook received for being so unaware four years ago of how foreign actors, mostly Russian, were making use of the social network to amplify divisive messages, spread disinformation and even organize protests and counterprotests.
Facebook’s action came only two days after the F.B.I. and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security agency of the Department of Homeland Security issued a joint warning that the vulnerability of American voting systems may be greatest in the days after the election. Intelligence officials have privately and publicly expressed concerns that Russian and other actors will have an major opening if mail-in ballots are slow to be counted, or there are charges and countercharges about the handling of mail-in ballots, which President Trump has already said are being used to “rig” the outcome.
During that time, the two agencies said, hackers could amplify “disinformation that includes reports of voter suppression, cyberattacks targeting election infrastructure, voter or ballot fraud and other problems intended to convince the public of the elections’ illegitimacy.”
Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont gave an address Thursday about a topic he said he had never in his “wildest dreams” expected that he would have to confront: “the need to make certain that the president of the United States, if he loses this election, will abide by the will of the voters and leave office peacefully.”
“This is not just an election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden,” Mr. Sanders said in a speech at George Washington University that was streamed online a day after President Trump declined to commit to a peaceful transfer of power in the event he lost the election. “This is an election between Donald Trump and democracy — and democracy must win.”
Mr. Sanders accused the president of trying to suppress the vote by seeking cuts at the Postal Service and challenging mail-in ballots.
“Finding himself behind in many polls, he is attempting massive voter suppression,” Mr. Sanders said.
Then he outlined his plan to preserve American democracy. He urged voters to turn out, saying that “a landslide victory for Biden will make it virtually impossible for Trump to deny the results and is our best means for defending democracy.”
He called on state legislatures to allow mail-in votes to be counted before Election Day as a way to prevent Mr. Trump from declaring the race over before all the votes had been tallied. And he called for a unified plan from Congress and state legislatures to ensure a peaceful election.
Mr. Sanders also urged media outlets to prepare voters for the reality that the final results might not be known on election night, and urged social media companies to “get their act together and stop people from using their tools to spread disinformation.”
With 39 days until the election, the pivotal state of Ohio remains very much torn between President Trump and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., according to a new poll that showed the two adversaries in a virtual tie.
At the same time, Mr. Biden led Mr. Trump by six percentage points in Pennsylvania, where Mr. Biden was born and which Mr. Trump carried by just over 44,000 votes against Hillary Clinton in 2016.
And in Texas, a state that Republicans have taken in every election since 1980 but where Democrats have been making tangible inroads, Mr. Trump had an edge of five percentage points. He carried Texas by nine points in the last election.
These snapshots of public opinion could influence where the candidates spend their time and money in the closing weeks of the campaign, one that has been waged amid the coronavirus pandemic and upheaval over the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor by the police.
In Ohio, Mr. Biden clung to a 1-point lead over Mr. Trump, 48-to-47 percent, among likely voters, according to a Quinnipiac University poll that was released on Thursday and was conducted from Sept. 17 to Sept. 21. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.
“Ohio could hinge on a sliver of likely voters who signal they may have a change of heart and the four percent who say they are unsure right now who they’ll back,” Mary Snow, a Quinnipiac polling analyst, said.
In Texas, Mr. Trump led Mr. Biden 50-to-45 percent in a Quinnipiac poll that was also released on Thursday and also had a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.
In previous polls, Quinnipiac sampled registered voters, which pollsters said made it difficult to compare them to the latest survey, which was of likely voters.
In Pennsylvania, Mr. Biden led Mr. Trump 48-to-42 percent among likely voters, according to a Franklin & Marshall College poll that was released on Thursday and was conducted between Sept. 14 to Sept. 20. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus six-and-a-half percentage points. Mr. Biden’s lead was nine percentage points among registered voters.
President Trump paid his respects to the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Thursday morning, standing silently by her coffin at the top of the Supreme Court steps as he was jeered by protesters on the street below.
Wearing a face mask — unusual for him — and a sky-blue tie instead of his trademark red power tie, Mr. Trump stared ahead, and closed his eyes at times, near the justice’s flag-draped coffin.
But the quiet of the moment was punctured by the loud boos and shouts of demonstrators about a block away. A chant of “Vote him out!” erupted, along with calls of “Honor her wish!” — a reference to Justice Ginsburg’s deathbed request that her replacement not be confirmed until a “new president is installed.”
It was not clear whether Mr. Trump and his wife, Melania, who joined him, could hear the heckling, which was clearly audible on television. They stayed for less than two minutes.
Following Mr. Trump was his chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and national security adviser, Robert C. O’Brien. Both men also wore masks, and bowed their heads with their eyes closed. Justice Ginsburg, who died last Friday, lay in repose at the court on Wednesday and Thursday.
The Trump campaign released a trio of Spanish-language ads this week, including one targeted at Puerto Rican voters as his campaign tries to keep making inroads among Latinos.
The ad begins with an attack on Mr. Trump’s opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr., showing him face to face with the former governor of Puerto Rico, Alejandro Garcia Padilla, as a narrator claims that Democrats have “ignored Puerto Rico” and supported a law that contributed to the island’s fiscal crisis.
President Trump, the ad claims, has protected Puerto Rico’s future with “historic investments” as scenes of construction and what appears to be rebuilding after the devastation of Hurricane Maria flash onscreen. The ad closes with a new graphic from the Trump campaign: “Boricuas for Trump” — Puerto Ricans for Trump, featuring the Puerto Rican flag.
Despite the ad’s rosy depiction, Mr. Trump has had a contentious relationship with Puerto Rico. He has spent much of his first term harshly attacking the Puerto Rican government, and blocked or placed restrictions on federal assistance following the back-to-back hurricanes that battered the island in 2017. He even discussed the prospect of selling Puerto Rico.
A sentence onscreen trumpets the $13 billion that Mr. Trump released last week to help rebuild the island’s electrical grid and repair schools, but neglects to mention that it was delayed for a full three years after the hurricanes hit.
The ad also notes a contract that the Department of Defense announced last month with a pharmaceutical company to manufacture coronavirus testing swabs in Puerto Rico.
Where It’s Running
On television in Florida, Georgia and Ohio, according to Advertising Analytics.
The Trump campaign has made a concerted effort to chip away at Mr. Biden’s lead among Latinos, most notably in Florida. But the president’s yearslong criticisms of the island’s institutions and officials, and his withholding of federal disaster aid, will likely loom over any outreach to Puerto Ricans.
Mary L. Trump, President Trump’s niece, filed a lawsuit Thursday accusing the president and his siblings of cheating her out of her inheritance, and claiming that, for the Trumps, “fraud was not just the family business — it was a way of life.”
The suit by Ms. Trump, who claimed in her best-selling memoir that the president and other relatives had tricked, bullied and ultimately cheated her out of an inheritance worth tens of millions of dollars, was filed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan. It accused Mr. Trump, his sister Maryanne Trump Barry and their brother Robert, who died in August, of fraud and civil conspiracy. It seeks to recover the millions of dollars Ms. Trump claims to have lost.
Ms. Trump, 55, claims to be one of her family’s victims. Her suit describes a plot against her, broken cinematically into three separate acts: “The Grift,” “The Devaluing” and “The Squeeze-Out.”
It recounts a narrative that began in 1981, when Ms. Trump’s father, Fred Trump Jr., unexpectedly died, leaving her, at age 16, with a valuable minority stake in the family empire. The story ends nearly 40 years later, when Ms. Trump says she discovered, with the help of journalists from The New York Times, that President Trump and his siblings “used their position of power to con her into signing her interests away.”
The White House has previously cast doubt on Ms. Trump’s book, which contains similar allegations, and has said the memoir was “in Ms. Trump’s own financial interest.”
Lawyers for the president and Robert Trump were not immediately available for comment. Maryanne Trump Barry also did not immediately return a telephone call from a reporter.
The F.B.I. has not seen evidence of a “coordinated national voter fraud effort,” its director, Christopher A. Wray, told lawmakers on Thursday, undercutting President Trump’s effort to stoke fears about mail-in ballots by claiming without evidence that voting by mail is an election threat.
Any fraud would have to be widespread and well coordinated to change the election outcome, and carrying it out would be a “major challenge for an adversary,” Mr. Wray said in comments before the Senate Homeland Security Committee. But he made clear he was not minimizing other threats to election security, including smaller-scale frauds on a local level.
Mr. Wray’s testimony came a week after the president publicly attacked him for asserting at a House hearing that Russia was conducting election interference operations and that violent extremism was a significant threat. Though both issues are well-documented, Mr. Trump has long downplayed the Russia threat, seeing it as a threat to his legitimacy. And he has emphasized far-left extremism over the more prevalent threat from the far right and white supremacists.
Earlier this week, the F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security warned of potential interference in the election by foreigners aiming to exploit the extra time it takes to sort through the crush of ballots that are expected to be cast by mail by voters wary of the pandemic.
During that time, the agencies said, hackers could amplify “disinformation that includes reports of voter suppression, cyberattacks targeting election infrastructure, voter or ballot fraud and other problems intended to convince the public of the elections’ illegitimacy.”
President Trump is on the defensive in three red states he carried in 2016, narrowly trailing Joseph R. Biden Jr. in Iowa and battling to stay ahead of him in Georgia and Texas, as Mr. Trump continues to face a wall of opposition from women that has also endangered his party’s control of the Senate, according to a poll conducted by The New York Times and Siena College.
Based on a New York Times/Siena College poll of likely voters from Sept. 16 to Sept. 22.
Mr. Trump’s vulnerability even in conservative-leaning states underscores just how precarious his political position is, less than six weeks before Election Day. While he and Mr. Biden are competing aggressively for traditional swing states like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Florida, the poll suggests that Mr. Biden has assembled a coalition formidable enough to jeopardize Mr. Trump even in historically Republican parts of the South and Midwest.
A yawning gender gap in all three states is working in Mr. Biden’s favor, with the former vice president making inroads into conservative territory with strong support from women. In Iowa, where Mr. Biden is ahead of Mr. Trump, 45 percent to 42 percent, he is up among women by 14 percentage points. Men favor Mr. Trump by eight points.
In Georgia, where the two candidates are tied at 45 percent, Mr. Biden leads among women by 10 points. Mr. Trump is ahead with men by a similar margin of 11 percentage points.
Mr. Trump’s large advantage among men in Texas is enough to give him a small advantage there, 46 percent to 43 percent. Men prefer the president to his Democratic challenger by 16 points, while women favor Mr. Biden by an eight-point margin.
Michigan lawmakers passed a bill on Thursday that would provide an extra 10 hours on Nov. 2 for towns to begin processing what is expected to be a surge of absentee ballots.
Under the bill, municipal clerks in communities with populations of at least 25,000 may start work from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 2, opening absentee ballot envelopes and removing the ballots, each of which is supposed to be in a secrecy sleeve. If the sleeve isn’t included, the clerks must put the ballot in a secrecy sleeve and store it in a locked container until 7 a.m. on Nov. 3, which is when counting may begin.
The new provision on secrecy sleeves could help avoid the possibility of tens of thousands of ballots being thrown out, as Philadelphia’s top election official warned could happen in Pennsylvania, where the State Supreme Court ruled that ballots returned without secrecy sleeves must be rejected.
The Michigan bill also requires clerks to notify absentee voters if their signature on the absentee ballot envelope doesn’t match the signature on the qualified voter list, giving the voter a chance to rectify them.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, has said she will sign the bill, which received wide bipartisan support in both the state House of Representatives and Senate, as soon as it reaches her desk.
The secretary of state, Jocelyn Benson, along with local clerks, has been pleading for extra time for more than a year in anticipation of a record turnout for the presidential election. Many clerks supported the bill but others said they had hoped for even more time and flexibility.
Kyle Whitney, deputy clerk of Marquette, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, said the bill won’t help him at all. His city’s population of 21,000 is just under the threshold for extra processing time. He expects the number of absentee ballots in November to more than triple, and the $35,000 cost for a high-speed tabulator is double his election supply budget.
“In order to conduct the November election, we need more resources or we need more time,” Mr. Whitney said. “We’ve reached the limit on resources and this bill doesn’t give us more time.”
Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina on Thursday reinforced a conspiracy theory that falsely suggests that the government’s coronavirus death toll was inflated because many of those who died also had underlying health conditions.
A Republican in a tight race for re-election, Mr. Tillis told a caller in a telephone town hall that she was “absolutely right” when she claimed the “200,000 death mark” includes deaths “from things like heart attacks and slip and falls.’’ The caller, named Casey, added: “How many people has Covid actually killed? Because I think the numbers are skewed.’’
“You’re making a very, very important point,’’ Mr. Tillis said adding, “In fact, we understand that 95 percent of the deaths were co-morbidities.”
The debunked theory, which has spread on social media and been amplified by President Trump, is a misreading of data from the Centers for Disease Control, according to health experts. It took off in August based on C.D.C. reporting that death certificates for Covid-19 victims listed other causes of death in 94 percent of cases.
Mr. Tillis, according to a recording made by the North Carolina Democratic Party, suggested the C.D.C.’s death count was meant “to encourage people to use social distancing and try and end the spread of the virus.”
“But I think when the final accounting is done, you are going to see, sadly, that a number of people who died from this may have died from an underlying health condition at the same time that they had Covid,’’ he continued. “Now the question is, and what will be difficult to prove out, but for Covid, would they have had that heart attack? Would they have had a complication with diabetes?”
Health experts emphasize that having an underlying health condition doesn’t mean the novel coronavirus was not the cause of death.
“That does not mean that someone who has hypertension or diabetes who dies of Covid didn’t die of Covid-19. They did,” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infections disease experts, said on Sept. 1 as the death toll passed 180,000.
President Trump, who has sought to play down the impact of the virus, retweeted a false claim in August that fewer than 10,000 people had died of Covid-19. That post was removed by Twitter.
Mr. Tillis’s remarks echoed similar ones by Senator Joni Ernst, Republican of Iowa, who earlier this month said she was “so skeptical” of government death statistics for the virus. She later acknowledged the death count from Covid-19 was accurate.
Polls show Mr. Tillis narrowly trailing his Democratic opponent, Cal Cunningham.
A Texas oil billionaire whose company is embroiled in a bitter legal feud with environmentalists and Native Americans over the development of the Dakota Access Pipeline gave $10 million last month to a super PAC aligned with President Trump, new filings with the Federal Election Commission show.
The billionaire, Kelcy L. Warren, made the eight-figure contribution on Aug. 31 to America First Action, a pro-Trump super PAC that has raised nearly $82 million from individual contributors from January 2019 through the end of last month, according to the F.E.C. The contribution was reported earlier by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan organization that tracks money in elections.
Unlike candidates for federal office, who are limited to raising $5,600 from each individual campaign donor, super PACs can accept unlimited sums of money from wealthy donors, a largesse that has drawn scrutiny from election watchdogs.
Mr. Warren is the chairman and chief executive of Energy Transfer, the Dallas company that owns the Dakota Access Pipeline, an oil route from North Dakota to Illinois that has encountered substantial opposition.
Right after taking office, Mr. Trump signed an executive memorandum that sought to fast-track the regulatory approvals for the pipeline project.
In July, Mr. Trump and Mr. Warren’s company faced a setback when a federal judge ordered the pipeline to be shut down and emptied of oil pending an environmental review. A month later, a federal appeals court overturned part of the order, allowing the pipeline to operate but keeping the environmental review in place.
Though they are barred from direct collaboration with candidates, super PACs have left an indelible mark on American politics with an onslaught of television attack ads and advocacy initiatives.
Priorities USA Action, the largest Democratic super PAC, has spent $72.7 million overall this election cycle, while America First Action has spent $50.7 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.