A day after he refused to condemn white supremacists at the first presidential debate, President Trump unleashed a xenophobic attack on Representative Ilhan Omar at a rally in Minnesota Wednesday night, accusing her of telling the overwhelmingly white audience “how to run our country.”
Ms. Omar, Democrat of Minnesota and an outspoken Trump critic, especially on immigration, is one of the first two Muslim women to be elected to Congress. She came to the United States in 1995, at the age of 12, after fleeing Somalia’s civil war and spending four years in a refugee camp, and she has been an American citizen for 20 years, since she was in high school in Minneapolis.
But Mr. Trump, who has a long history of demeaning female adversaries — especially women of color and Ms. Omar in particular — questioned her standing as an American during a rant about a video posted by a right-wing group allied with him that researchers say is part of a coordinated disinformation campaign. The video accuses Ms. Omar’s campaign of ballot harvesting but provides no verifiable evidence that her campaign collected ballots illegally or was involved in voter fraud.
As Mr. Trump rattled off his grievances against Ms. Omar, the crowd chanted, “Lock her up!”
“Harvesting is terrible, but it’s the least of things that she has done,” Mr. Trump said. “Then she tells us how to run our country, can you believe it? How the hell did Minnesota elect her? What the hell is wrong with you people — right? What the hell happened?”
Mr. Trump, his voice rasping amid a cascade of boos, also hammered at his Democratic opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr., for his pledge to roll back sharp Trump administration restrictions on admitting refugees if he is elected. Mr. Biden has called for raising Mr. Trump’s cap of 18,000 refugees admitted per year nationwide to 125,000, slightly above the level President Barack Obama said should be allowed in his final year in office.
“Another massive issue for Minnesota is the election of Joe Biden’s plan to inundate your state with a historic flood of refugees,” he said.
“Seven hundred percent increase, refugees, coming from the most dangerous places in the world, including Yemen, Syria, and your favorite country, Somalia, right?” Mr. Trump said later, to a chorus of boos.
Minneapolis is home to about 57,000 people of Somali descent, and Minnesota has one of the largest Somali populations in the country.
“Biden will turn Minnesota into a refugee camp,” Mr. Trump said.
While Minnesota has not been carried by a Republican since 1972, Hillary Clinton won the state by less than 2 percent in 2016. Polls of the state show Mr. Biden with a substantial lead over Mr. Trump.
Mr. Trump’s comments on Wednesday track closely with a series of tweets last year in which he told a group of four progressive congresswomen of color, including Ms. Omar, to “go back” to where they came from, even though all are American citizens and all but Ms. Omar were born in the United States.
“Not only is the president a racist, but he’s a racist xenophobic,” Ms. Omar said last week after Mr. Trump made similar comments about her at a rally.
“The president clearly loves to prey on people’s fears,” she said. “He spreads the disease of hate everywhere he goes. These cult rallies that he’s holding across the country are now being fueled by fear.”
The group of Trump campaign officials came carrying cellphone cameras and a determination to help the president’s re-election efforts in Philadelphia. But they were asked to leave the city’s newly opened satellite election offices on Tuesday after being told local election laws did not permit them to monitor voters coming to request and complete absentee ballots.
On social media, right-wing news sites and in the presidential debate on Tuesday night, President Trump and his campaign quickly suggested nefarious intent in the actions of local election officials, with the president claiming during the debate that “bad things happen in Philadelphia” and urging his supporters everywhere to “go into the polls and watch very carefully.”
The dark and baseless descriptions of the voting process in Philadelphia were the latest broad-brush attempt by the Trump campaign to undermine confidence in this year’s election, a message delivered with an ominous edge at the debate when he advised an extremist group, the Proud Boys, to “stand back and stand by” in his remarks about the election.
The sinister insinuations and calls for his followers to monitor voting activity are clear. What’s less apparent is how the Trump campaign wants this to play out.
In recent weeks, the Trump campaign has distributed carefully lawyered training videos to prospective poll watchers around the country describing what they can and can’t do while monitoring the voting process, imploring them to be courteous to “even our Democrat friends.” The poll watchers will challenge ballots and the eligibility of voters, but they are not supposed to interact with voters themselves.
Voting rights groups fear that effort could veer toward voter intimidation. But the question is how far Mr. Trump’s supporters will take the exhortations to protect a vote the president has relentlessly, and baselessly, described as being at risk of widespread fraud.
When hundreds of supporters of President Trump gathered for a Labor Day rally in Oregon, a man in the signature black-and-gold shirt of the Proud Boys approached the crowd with a welcoming smile.
If the Republican activists ever needed security for an event, said the man, Flip Todd, the Proud Boys were available. They had sworn loyalty to the country and the president, he said. “We’ll continue to fight for you.”
It took only a few hours to demonstrate what that might entail. As some in the rally caravanned by car to Salem, the state capital, the Proud Boys joined a group of right-wing demonstrators who rushed across a street and began attacking people who had set up a leftist counterprotest. At one point, a large man in a bulletproof vest knocked a much smaller counterprotester to the ground, an event the Proud Boys celebrated later when they posted video of the attack. “Hulk smash!” it said.
The far-right band of brothers who have turned street thuggery into political theater had not quite become a household name before President Trump was asked about the Proud Boys during Tuesday night’s presidential debate, and whether he would condemn white supremacists: “Proud Boys,” he said, “stand back and stand by.”
Within minutes of hearing the president’s remark, Enrique Tarrio, the Proud Boys’ chairman, called down to the T-shirt business he owns in Miami with an order to get the presses rolling. “PROUD BOYS STANDING BY,” the new shirts said.
To Gavin McInnes, the founder and former chairman of the Proud Boys, the president’s request was a call to action against antifa, the loose collective of antifascist activists who have mounted raucous street demonstrations against police violence, corporate dominance and inequality in cities across America this summer.
“I think he was saying that if antifa starts burning down cities again, go in and fight them,” Mr. McInnes said. “I think he was saying I appreciate you and appreciate your support.”
Of the flood of misinformation, conspiracy theories and falsehoods seeding the internet on the coronavirus, one common thread stands out: President Trump.
That is the conclusion of researchers at Cornell University who analyzed 38 million articles about the pandemic in English-language media around the world. Mentions of Mr. Trump made up nearly 38 percent of the overall “misinformation conversation,” making the president the largest driver of the “infodemic” — falsehoods involving the pandemic.
The study, released on Thursday, is the first comprehensive examination of coronavirus misinformation in traditional and online media.
“The biggest surprise was that the president of the United States was the single largest driver of misinformation around Covid,” said Sarah Evanega, the director of the Cornell Alliance for Science and the study’s lead author. “That’s concerning in that there are real-world dire health implications.”
The study identified 11 topics of misinformation, including various conspiracy theories, like one that emerged in January suggesting the pandemic was manufactured by Democrats to coincide with Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial, and another that purported to trace the initial outbreak in Wuhan, China, to people who ate bat soup.
But by far the most prevalent topic of misinformation topic was “miracle cures,” including Mr. Trump’s promotion of anti-malarial drugs and disinfectants as potential treatments for Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. That accounted for more misinformation than the other 10 topics combined, the researchers reported.
Facebook on Wednesday said it would prohibit the purchase of ads that seek to delegitimize the outcome of the 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 Election Day, 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.
There are two more presidential debates left before Election Day, but now, after the debacle of the first debate — 90 minutes dominated by insults, attacks and interruptions by President Trump — everything seems up in the air.
The Commission on Presidential Debates, whose members were frustrated that its marquee event was widely viewed as a failure, announced that it would propose a new format before Mr. Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr. meet for their second debate on Oct. 15.
That idea was immediately rejected by Mr. Trump’s campaign. “Joe Biden is trying to work the refs,” said Tim Murtaugh, the communications director for the Trump campaign. “They shouldn’t be moving the goal posts and changing the rules in the middle of the game.”
Things were so unsettled that Mr. Biden’s aides felt compelled to respond to a wave of speculation that there would be no more debates, announcing that he was not backing out. Why should he? By every measure, Mr. Biden had a good enough night, and there’s little reason, Democrats said, for him to do anything that would make him look wavering and take the spotlight off a struggling Mr. Trump. What’s more, the next debate is a town hall event with voters, the kind of format that should play to Mr. Biden’s strengths.
But might Mr. Trump, who left the stage to withering debate reviews, decide this is just not worth it? Some Democrats suggested that was exactly the way to interpret the fast slapdown by the Trump campaign of the debate commission’s announcement that it was changing the rules.
“If you think that the president gained nothing but trouble from that so-called debate, it’s very easy to imagine him using the proposed rules change as an excuse to skip the last two debates,” said James P. Manley, who was a senior aide to Harry Reid, the former Democratic leader of the Senate.
Still, there are less than five weeks left until Election Day, Mr. Trump is trailing in many polls, and he is running out of opportunities — ideal or not — to shake up the race. And it would seem out of character: Through his public life, Mr. Trump has always seemed more likely to run into the flames than run away from them.
“Useless.” “Ridiculous.” “Horrible.”
Undecided voters approached the first presidential debate between President Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr. with some hope of hearing policies and plans that could help them make a decision they had been mulling for months.
Instead, they listened with a mix of disgust and dismay, appalled by the name-calling and lack of decorum of a debate that seemed to shatter any remaining belief that political norms might prevail in a national moment that is anything but normal.
“They seemed like little kids arguing. Or maybe old guys arguing in a diner somewhere. Maybe that’s where they belong — in some diner arguing, not on the national stage,” said Ellen Christenson, 69, of Stevens Point, Wis. “I am just so disappointed in the evening. I don’t have any more information than when I started watching.”
Ms. Christenson said she leaned Democratic, but was undecided this election. Before the debate, she was considering voting for Mr. Trump.
“It was really kind of useless to the American people. I am just sort of disgusted,” she said. “I don’t feel like voting for either of them really, but especially the president.”
Here are the daily schedules of the presidential and vice-presidential candidates for Thursday, Oct. 1. All times are Eastern time.
3 p.m.: Participates in a round table with supporters in Bedminster, N.J.
3:45 p.m.: Delivers remarks at a fund-raising committee reception.
Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.
Afternoon: Hosts online fund-raiser.
Noon: Delivers a campaign speech at Owen Industries in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
A flood of mail-in ballots that will need processing. Foreign disinformation campaigns. A shortage of poll workers. And voters afraid of catching a potentially fatal disease at the ballot box.
As the person in charge of carrying out a free and fair presidential election in a key swing state this November, Secretary of State Frank LaRose of Ohio, a Republican, is bracing for it all.
He has visited the printing press to see 17 semitrailer trucks ready to ship out 7.8 million absentee ballot forms — the most ever for Ohio.
He fields calls in his work-from-home “driveway studio” (his car) from county officials unsure how they will iron the creases in heaps of wrinkled mail-in ballot envelopes so they can be read by automated machines.
He sets his own mother straight when she calls to ask if that post she saw on Facebook claiming voters’ party affiliations would be stamped across mail-in ballot envelopes is true (it’s not).
Mr. LaRose and other secretaries of state, who serve as the top elections officials in most states in what is usually a partisan elected position, are in charge of managing a chaotic, disinformation-prone, pandemic-plagued presidential vote that none of them envisioned when they took office.
They knew they would be facing a divided electorate this November.
“But I don’t think any of us envisioned a global pandemic, right?” Mr. LaRose said.