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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Presidential Election of 2020"

The Voting Will End Nov. 3. The Legal Battle Probably Won’t.

Westlake Legal Group 08DC-VOTING-facebookJumbo The Voting Will End Nov. 3. The Legal Battle Probably Won’t. Voter Fraud (Election Fraud) Trump, Donald J Presidential Election of 2020 Florida Bush, George W absentee voting

The stormy once-in-a-lifetime Florida recount battle that polarized the nation in 2000 and left the Supreme Court to decide the presidency may soon look like a high school student council election compared with what could be coming after this November’s election.

Imagine not just another Florida, but a dozen Floridas. Not just one set of lawsuits but a vast array of them. And instead of two restrained candidates staying out of sight and leaving the fight to surrogates, a sitting president of the United States unleashing ALL CAPS Twitter blasts from the Oval Office while seeking ways to use the power of his office to intervene.

The possibility of an ugly November — and perhaps even December and January — has emerged more starkly in recent days as President Trump complains that the election will be rigged and Democrats accuse him of trying to make that a self-fulfilling prophesy.

With about 85 days until Nov. 3, lawyers are already in court mounting pre-emptive strikes and preparing for the larger, scorched-earth engagements likely to come. Like the Trump campaign, Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s campaign and its network of Democratic support groups are stocking up on lawyers, and Democrats are gaming out worst-case scenarios, including how to respond if Mr. Trump prematurely declares victory or sends federal officers into the party’s strongholds as an intimidation tactic.

The emerging battle is the latest iteration of the long-running dispute over voting rights, one shaped by the view that higher participation will improve the Democratic Party’s chances. Republicans, under cover of dubious or unfounded claims about widespread fraud, are trying to prevent steps that would make it easier for more people to vote and Democrats are pressing more aggressively than ever to secure ballot access and expand the electorate.

But that clash has been vastly complicated this year by the challenge of holding a national election in the middle of a deadly pandemic, with a greater reliance on mail-in voting that could prolong the counting in a way that turns Election Day into Election Week or Election Month. And the atmosphere has been inflamed by a president who is already using words like “coup,” “fraud” and “corrupt” to delegitimize the vote even before it happens.

The battle is playing out on two tracks: defining the rules about how the voting will take place, and preparing for fights over how the votes should be counted and contesting the outcome.

“The big electoral crisis arises from the prospect of hundreds of thousands of ballots not being counted in decisive states until a week after the election or more,” said Richard H. Pildes, a constitutional scholar at New York University School of Law.

If the candidate who appears ahead on election night ends up losing later on, he said, it will fuel suspicion, conspiracy theories and polarization. “I have no doubt the situation will be explosive,” he said.

Some flash points have already emerged:

  • A long-troubled Postal Service, now run by a Trump megadonor and seemingly overwhelmed by the prospect of delivering tens of millions more votes cast by mail with an administration resistant to providing substantial new funding.

  • Concern among Democrats that Mr. Trump or Attorney General William P. Barr could use their bully pulpits to raise loud enough alarms about voter fraud to lead sympathetic state and local officials to slow or block adverse results.

  • Fights over whether mailed ballots should be counted if received by Election Day or simply postmarked by Election Day, not to mention what to do if the post office does not postmark them at all.

  • Fights over the use of drop boxes to return ballots and the number of polling places for in-person voting amid the risk of disease.

  • Fights over whether witnesses should still be required for absentee votes in a socially distant moment and what to do if signatures do not match those on file.

Already, by Mr. Pildes’s count, party organizations, campaigns and interest groups have filed 160 lawsuits across the country trying to shape the rules of the election. About 40 have been filed in 17 states by Mr. Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee, some in response to Democratic lawsuits, as part of an expansive $20 million litigation campaign against policies making it easier to vote on the grounds that they could lead to fraud.

“See you in Court!” Mr. Trump tweeted a few days ago to Nevada, which just passed universal mail-in balloting legislation, under which the state sends a mail-in ballot to every registered voter.

“They are just really efforts to throw tacks in front of the tires to make it so states can’t run their elections this time,” said Michael Waldman, the president of the Brennan Center for Justice and a former aide to President Bill Clinton.

Democrats and their allies, led by Marc E. Elias, the general counsel of the Democratic National Committee, are seeking to expand voting options, particularly through mail-in voting. They have active litigation in numerous battleground states, pursuing relief on deadlines, signature and witness requirements, among others.

Republicans said their own court efforts were aimed at preventing Democrats from changing the rules in the middle of the game.

“People are viewing it as an attack on vote-by-mail,” said Justin Riemer, the chief counsel for the Republican National Committee. But in fact, he said, “it’s by and large protecting the safeguards that are in place.”

Mr. Trump, who also made unfounded claims about fraud in the 2016 election even though he won, has signaled that he will not hesitate to go back to court after Election Day if he does not like the result. Unlike in 2000, when the Justice Department largely stayed on the sidelines, Democrats worry that Mr. Barr will intervene with civil suits, investigations or public statements, casting doubt on the result if Mr. Trump appears to lose. And some Democrats say they are not sure how Mr. Trump would respond, with the presidency on the line, to a court ruling against him.

Some Democrats even express fear that Mr. Trump would send federal agents into the streets as he did in recent weeks in Portland, Ore. Democrats have game-planned situations in which Mr. Trump deploys immigration officers into Hispanic neighborhoods to intimidate citizens shortly before the election and suppress turnout.

“It is very, very much a concern,” said Alex Padilla, the secretary of state of California.

Mr. Trump’s advisers dismiss such talk as overheated partisan messaging. Justin Clark, the president’s deputy campaign manager, said states like California and Nevada trying to expand mail-in voting on the fly were the ones setting the stage for a chaotic election.

“Rushing to implement universal vote-by-mail leads to delays in counts, delays in results and uncertainty about who won an election,” he said.

It took six weeks for the New York authorities to determine the winners of two House Democratic congressional primaries as they struggled with 10 times the normal number of absentee ballots, a case study in the potential for a lengthy count in the fall even if not an example of fraud as Mr. Trump has falsely claimed.

Mr. Clark is one of the party’s top warriors on election fraud fights. In a recording from 2019, he told fellow Republicans: “Traditionally, it’s always been Republicans suppressing votes in places. Let’s start protecting our voters.”

Republicans, he said, should be more aggressive. “Let’s start playing offense a little bit,” he said then. “That’s what you’re going to see in 2020. It’s going to be a much bigger program, a much more aggressive program, a much better-funded program.”

He later said he was referring to false accusations made against Republicans. A federal judge in 2018 lifted a consent decree in place since 1982 that barred the Republican National Committee from certain so-called ballot security efforts.

Asked about those comments, Mr. Clark said: “Democrats have always accused Republicans of voter suppression. The fact of the matter is all Democrats have done this year is pushed crazy voting laws.”

The Trump team has also tried to halt another pillar of absentee voting — the drop box. In 2018 in Colorado, one of five states that already votes nearly entirely by mail, 75 percent of ballots were returned through a drop box or at a polling place. In Pennsylvania, the Trump campaign sued against expanding the use of drop boxes, an action that has concerned election officials across the country.

Jena Griswold, the secretary of state of Colorado, said the president’s attacks on the Postal Service and his refusal to devote enough resources to fix its problems showed his disingenuous motives.

“You do all that and then you attack drop boxes, the alternative to voting safely, it’s a pattern of voter suppression,” she said. “It’s a pattern of voter suppression and I just think it’s really reprehensible.”

Others are looking to head off disqualifying ballots over procedural issues like postmarks and the date of receipt. “Voting shouldn’t be a game of gotcha,” said Ann Jacobs, the chairwoman of the Wisconsin Elections Commission.

The Help America Vote Act, passed on large bipartisan votes in 2002 in response to the Florida recount, was meant to help states upgrade and standardize voting procedures. But it gives the attorney general the power to file civil suits to enforce its provisions and some critics said Mr. Barr could use that to step in.

Some Democrats said they were less worried about direct intervention by Mr. Trump or Mr. Barr, but said they could use their positions to prod sympathetic state and local officials to block votes while fostering a narrative undercutting the credibility of a vote count going against the president.

“The president has very little, if any, power with how elections are conducted,” said Mr. Elias, the Democratic lawyer. “Trump’s power is that he has no shame and that shamelessness has infected his entire political party.”

He added, “You cannot imagine the party of George Bush or of John McCain or Mitt Romney or even Reince Priebus saying out loud the things Donald Trump screams out loud on Twitter, in the Oval Office and the Rose Garden on daily and weekly basis.”

With the prospect of an extended and messy count lasting long past Election Day, new attention is focusing on deadlines set by federal law. Under the so-called safe harbor provision, states have until Dec. 8 to resolve disputes over the results, meaning only five weeks — the same deadline that led to the Florida recount being called off in 2000 with George W. Bush in the lead.

Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, warning about “a nightmare scenario for our nation,” introduced legislation on Thursday extending that deadline to Jan. 1, giving states three-and-a-half more weeks to count. The Electoral College would then meet Jan. 2 instead of Dec. 14, still in time to provide their results to Congress to ratify the outcome on Jan. 6 as scheduled.

In the end, it may depend on how close the count really is.

If “it’s clear one candidate or the other has a clear majority in the Electoral College, then I don’t think there’s much Trump could do if he’s the loser except to complain,” said Trevor Potter, the president of the Campaign Legal Center and former chairman of the Federal Election Commission. “But if it’s close, then I think there is the potential for lots of mischief.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

How Kristi Noem, Mt. Rushmore and Trump Fueled Speculation About Pence’s Job

WASHINGTON — Since the first days after she was elected governor of South Dakota in 2018, Kristi Noem had been working to ensure that President Trump would come to Mount Rushmore for a fireworks-filled July 4 extravaganza.

After all, the president had told her in the Oval Office that he aspired to have his image etched on the monument. And last year, a White House aide reached out to the governor’s office with a question, according to a Republican official familiar with the conversation: What’s the process to add additional presidents to Mount Rushmore?

So last month, when the president arrived in the Black Hills for the star-spangled spectacle he had pined for, Ms. Noem made the most of it.

Introducing Mr. Trump against the floodlit backdrop of his carved predecessors, the governor played to the president’s craving for adulation by noting that in just three days more than 125,000 people had signed up for only 7,500 seats; she likened him to Theodore Roosevelt, a leader who “braves the dangers of the arena”; and she mimicked the president’s rhetoric by scorning protesters who she said were seeking to discredit the country’s founders.

In private, the efforts to charm Mr. Trump were more pointed, according to a person familiar with the episode: Ms. Noem greeted him with a four-foot replica of Mount Rushmore that included a fifth presidential likeness: his.

But less than three weeks later, Ms. Noem came to the White House with far less fanfare — to meet not with Mr. Trump, but with Vice President Mike Pence. Word had circulated through the Trump administration that she was ingratiating herself with the president, fueling suspicions that there might have been a discussion about her serving as his running mate in November. Ms. Noem assured Mr. Pence that she wanted to help the ticket however she could, according to an official present.

She never stated it directly, but the vice president found her message clear: She was not after his job.

There is no indication Mr. Trump wants to replace Mr. Pence. Mr. Trump last month told Fox News that he’s sticking with Mr. Pence, whom he called a “friend.”

Yet with polls showing the president trailing Joseph R. Biden Jr., the presumptive Democratic nominee, and Republicans at risk of being shut out of power in Congress, a host of party leaders have begun eyeing the future, maneuvering around a mercurial president.

Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas was in New Hampshire late last month, Senator Rick Scott of Florida is angling to take over the Senate Republican campaign arm to cultivate donors, and Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming is defending Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the government’s leading expert on infectious disease, while separating herself from Mr. Trump on some national security issues.

At the same time, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is attempting to shore up his conservative credentials by pushing a hard line on China, and Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky are attempting to reclaim their standing as fiscal hawks by loudly opposing additional spending on coronavirus relief.

Drawing less attention, but working equally hard to burnish her national profile, is Ms. Noem. The governor, 48, has installed a TV studio in her state capitol, become a Fox News regular and started taking advice from Mr. Trump’s former 2016 campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, who still has the president’s ear.

Next month, she’ll address a county Republican dinner in Iowa.

“There seems like there might be some interest on her part — it certainly gets noticed,” Jon Hansen, a Republican state representative in South Dakota, said of Ms. Noem’s positioning for national office.

Her efforts have paid off, as evidenced by the news-driving celebration at Mount Rushmore. Yet Ms. Noem’s attempts to raise her profile have not been without complications. And they illustrate the risks in political maneuvering with a president who has little restraint when it comes to confidentiality, and a White House that shares his obsession about, and antenna for, palace intrigue.

To the surprise of some of her own advisers, Ms. Noem flew with Mr. Trump to Washington on Air Force One late in the evening after his Mount Rushmore speech. Joined by Mr. Lewandowski, she and the president spoke for over an hour privately during the flight — a fact that Mr. Trump and some of his aides soon shared with other Republicans, according to officials familiar with his disclosure.

An aide to Ms. Noem, Maggie Seidel, said she did not raise the vice presidency with Mr. Trump. Mr. Lewandowski, who is a paid adviser to the Pence-aligned Great America PAC, also denied that he or the governor ever raised the subject of replacing Mr. Pence on the ticket.

Mr. Lewandowski, in a brief interview, described Ms. Noem as a star who “has a huge future in Republican politics.”

A White House official laughed at the notion that Mr. Trump is open to replacing Mr. Pence, a move that, among other things, would exude desperation. And regarding the phone call about adding the president’s image to Mt. Rushmore, the official noted that it is a federal, not state, monument.

Still, word of the Air Force One conversation quickly reached White House officials, including those in Mr. Pence’s office.

A short time later, Ms. Noem was jetting back to the capital, this time in less grand fashion, after requesting a meeting with Mr. Pence.

White House aides kept Ms. Noem from meeting with Mr. Trump again, one person familiar with the planning said. But Mr. Pence’s office gladly put his session with the governor on his public schedule and the vice president tweeted about it afterward. Ms. Noem’s aides, hoping to tamp down questions about the second trip, emphasized that she had also met with officials from the Department of Health and Human Services and other agencies while she was in the capital.

One official close to the vice president said that Ms. Noem did not discuss her Air Force One flight with Mr. Pence but used the conversation to say she wanted to help the campaign however she could. The official suggested that the vice president’s team has an opportunity for her in mind: helping Mr. Pence prepare to debate whichever woman Mr. Biden selects as his running mate.

Yet one senior Trump adviser has recently lamented to others that Mr. Trump could have boosted his re-election campaign had he replaced Mr. Pence with a woman, according to people familiar with the conversations. One potential candidate mentioned was Nikki Haley, the former United Nations ambassador who is close to the president’s daughter and son-in-law, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.

However, Mr. Pence has been an unstinting ally of Mr. Trump, and the vice president retains a number of allies in the president’s orbit.

“I think we’ll win South Dakota either way,” Brian Ballard, a lobbyist close to Mr. Trump, said.

That these kinds of speculative conversations about a different running mate have taken place at all, though, illustrates the depth of frustration in Mr. Trump’s inner circle over his political fortunes.With early voting starting in less than two months in some states, the president’s ineffectual response to the coronavirus has alienated voters and made the election primarily a referendum on him.

Speculation has long lingered in Republican circles that Mr. Trump could swap out Mr. Pence for Ms. Haley, partly because of the president’s own musings about it.

For a time in 2018, Mr. Trump queried people about Mr. Pence’s loyalty. And officials in the administration, including some close to Mr. Pence, said they believed that Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump were angling to replace him with Ms. Haley.

In his memoir, “The Room Where It Happened,” the former national security adviser John R. Bolton recounts how, flying to Iraq on Christmas night in 2018, the president asked him for his opinion on jettisoning Mr. Pence.

Ms. Noem, the daughter of a rancher who took over her family’s property after her father died, has insisted that she has little appetite to return to Washington, where she served as South Dakota’s sole House member for eight years before becoming governor.

“She’s focused on being the governor of South Dakota,” said Ms. Seidel, her senior adviser.

The president’s transition team contacted her about interviewing for a cabinet post after the 2016 election, but she was already planning to run for governor then. Some of her allies believe she’d also be open to the interior or agricultural secretary roles in a second Trump term ahead of the 2024 race.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_163867125_33a1e450-da99-4ce7-9cb4-a31f0c45c68c-articleLarge How Kristi Noem, Mt. Rushmore and Trump Fueled Speculation About Pence’s Job Vice Presidents and Vice Presidency (US) Trump, Donald J South Dakota Presidential Election of 2020 Pence, Mike Noem, Kristi Mount Rushmore National Memorial (SD) Lewandowski, Corey (1975- ) Haley, Nikki R
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Ms. Noem’s poll numbers have increased after a difficult first year in office. But to some of her aides, Mr. Lewandowski, a hard-charging New Englander, has been a disruptive presence in Pierre, South Dakota’s small state capital. He appeared as a guest speaker at one luncheon with cabinet officials and pressed the governor’s appointees to make a more aggressive case for her, irritating the state officials, according to a person briefed on the events.

The governor is now on her third chief of staff because the last one, Joshua Shields, left in part because of the increased role of Mr. Lewandowski, according to South Dakota Republicans.

Mr. Lewandowski has sought opportunities that could benefit both Mr. Trump and Ms. Noem. He recently discussed with the president’s advisers sending Mr. Trump to the annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis, S.D., where there would be a big crowd and where the two might have appeared together again; Mr. Trump’s aides did not want him in the same politically safe state twice in two months.

Ms. Noem has been a steadfast ally of Mr. Trump and has mirrored his handling of the virus.

She has pushed for schools to reopen for in-person classes, denounced mask mandates and had South Dakota participate in a study on hydroxychloroquine, the malaria treatment Mr. Trump has trumpeted.

It was her star turn at Mount Rushmore, though, that has gotten Republicans talking and been a boon to South Dakota tourism, the state’s second-largest industry.

Recognizing the president’s immense interest in the monument, Ms. Noem worked with his Interior Department to ensure there would be fireworks for the celebration, a longstanding priority for Mr. Trump. There had been no fireworks there for the previous decade because of environmental and fire-risk concerns.

In the weeks leading up to the event, Ms. Noem went on Laura Ingraham’s show on Fox News to make clear she was expecting to “have a large event” for the president and would not require social distancing or masks.

Then, as the president sat watching her remarks in a bunting-wrapped box just offstage, she praised America as a place where someone who was “just a farm kid” could become “the first female governor of South Dakota.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

How Russia Findings Divided Trump and Intelligence Agencies

Westlake Legal Group how-russia-findings-divided-trump-and-intelligence-agencies How Russia Findings Divided Trump and Intelligence Agencies United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Sanner, Beth Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Russia Presidential Election of 2020 National Intelligence Estimates Maguire, Joseph (1952- ) Grenell, Richard Espionage and Intelligence Services Coats, Dan Appointments and Executive Changes

A little more than a year ago, American intelligence agencies drafted a classified document reporting that the Russian government favored President Trump in the 2020 presidential election, a finding that fit with their consensus that the Kremlin tried to help him in 2016.

The director of national intelligence was asked to modify the assessment — he did not — and not long afterward, Mr. Trump declared the director was out.

Soon after the new acting director arrived, an intelligence official changed the document, softening the claim that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia wanted Mr. Trump to win, according to an article published on Saturday by The New York Times Magazine. The investigation includes details not previously reported about the fears of officials in U.S. intelligence agencies under the Trump administration, who described struggling to brief the president without provoking his anger or losing their jobs.

Read the entire article from The New York Times Magazine here.

Following are some key takeaways, based on the reporter Robert Draper’s conversations with 40 current and former intelligence officials, lawmakers and congressional staff.

The early draft of the classified document assembled last year, a National Intelligence Estimate, touched on a chronic sore point between intelligence officials and the White House.

Among other things, the draft concerned Russia’s efforts to influence American elections in 2020 and 2024, according to multiple officials who saw it.

A “key judgment” of the document was that in the 2020 election, Russia favored the current president. To allay any speculation that Mr. Putin’s interest in Mr. Trump had cooled, the judgment was supported by information from a highly sensitive foreign source described as “100 percent reliable” by someone who read the draft.

The intelligence used by the analysts also indicated that Russia had worked in support of Senator Bernie Sanders, then running for the Democratic nomination for president. A veteran national intelligence officer explained to his colleagues, according to notes taken by one participant in the process, that this did not reflect a genuine preference for Mr. Sanders, but instead an effort “to weaken that party and ultimately help the current U.S. president.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_142672992_5a9f68a7-18ba-4bc4-a34d-e0610ea19848-articleLarge How Russia Findings Divided Trump and Intelligence Agencies United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Sanner, Beth Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Russia Presidential Election of 2020 National Intelligence Estimates Maguire, Joseph (1952- ) Grenell, Richard Espionage and Intelligence Services Coats, Dan Appointments and Executive Changes
Credit…Erin Schaff for The New York Times

Later, a suggestion was made to the director of national intelligence at the time, Dan Coats, that the draft be modified. Coats, who recalled the request coming from a staff member, refused. On July 28, Mr. Trump announced that Mr. Coats’s last day in office would be Aug. 15, over a month before he had expected to resign.

In September, a new version of the document was circulated with edits. It no longer clearly said that Russia favored the current president. Instead, in a summary, it said, “Russian leaders probably assess that chances to improve relations with the U.S. will diminish under a different U.S. president.”

The changes reflected what Mr. Draper calls “a sobering development of the Trump era” that has alarmed some current and former officials, lawmakers and congressional staff members: “the intelligence community’s willingness to change what it would otherwise say straightforwardly so as not to upset the president.”

By firing top officials and replacing them with loyalists, said Representative Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, “it’s had the effect of wearing the intelligence community down, making them less willing to speak truth to power.”

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

On Feb. 13, Shelby Pierson, an analyst for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, testified in a classified hearing to the House Intelligence Committee that Russia preferred the current president to win in the 2020 election.

A number of Republicans objected, and Ms. Pierson’s testimony was relayed to Mr. Trump. The next day, on Feb. 14, he interrupted a routine briefing on election security, according to one of the meeting’s participants. He asked the director of national intelligence at the time, retired Vice Adm. Joseph Maguire: “Hey, Joe, I understand that you briefed Adam Schiff and that you told him that Russia prefers me. Why did you tell that to Schiff?”

Although Mr. Maguire tried to explain that it was another official, Mr. Trump continued to question him and the meeting broke up. On Feb. 19, Mr. Maguire was informed that his likely replacement should be let into his office’s headquarters the following morning.

Mr. Trump named his replacement as Richard Grenell, the ambassador to Germany and a former United Nations ambassador’s spokesman, media consultant and Fox News commentator.

Mr. Trump’s speech on the first day of his presidency, in front of the C.I.A.’s Memorial Wall, a tribute to agency officers killed in service, drew intense anger for some in the agency. At the event, Mr. Trump repeated false claims about the size of the crowd at his inauguration, attacked the news media and asked why the lobby of C.I.A. headquarters had so many columns.

One agency veteran called the speech “a near desecration of the wall.”

The president’s penchant for bargaining and gossiping on his private cellphone, and for inviting billionaires into his circle, created anxiety in the intelligence agencies. Intelligence officials of at least one country, a NATO ally, were discouraged by their president from interacting with American counterparts for fear that Mr. Trump would blurt out information to Russians, one former senior intelligence official said.

Mr. Trump also stocked the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board with wealthy businesspeople who, when briefed, “would sometimes make you uncomfortable,” because at times “their questions were related to their business dealings,” one intelligence official said.

Under Mr. Grenell, fears grew that, under the pretext of downsizing, the services might be purged of people like the C.I.A. analyst who filed the Ukraine whistle-blower complaint last year.

“It seems pretty clear to me that, in the wake of the whistle-blower complaint, he’d put a bunch of political hacks in charge, so that he’d never have to worry about the truth getting out from the intelligence community,” said Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, a Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

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Unwanted Truths: Inside Trump’s Battles With U.S. Intelligence Agencies

In early July of last year, the first draft of a classified document known as a National Intelligence Estimate circulated among key members of the agencies making up the U.S. intelligence community. N.I.E.s are intended to be that community’s most authoritative class of top-secret document, reflecting its consensus judgment on national-security matters ranging from Iran’s nuclear capabilities to global terrorism. The draft of the July 2019 N.I.E. ran to about 15 pages, with another 10 pages of appendices and source notes.

According to multiple officials who saw it, the document discussed Russia’s ongoing efforts to influence U.S. elections: the 2020 presidential contest and 2024’s as well. It was compiled by a working group consisting of about a dozen senior analysts, led by Christopher Bort, a veteran national intelligence officer with nearly four decades of experience, principally focused on Russia and Eurasia. The N.I.E. began by enumerating the authors’ “key judgments.” Key Judgment 2 was that in the 2020 election, Russia favored the current president: Donald Trump.

The intelligence provided to the N.I.E.’s authors indicated that in the lead-up to 2020, Russia worked in support of the Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders as well. But Bort explained to his colleagues, according to notes taken by one participant in the process, that this reflected not a genuine preference for Sanders but rather an effort “to weaken that party and ultimately help the current U.S. president.” To allay any speculation that Putin’s interest in Trump had cooled, Key Judgment 2 was substantiated by current information from a highly sensitive foreign source described by someone who read the N.I.E. as “100 percent reliable.”

On its face, Key Judgment 2 was not a contentious assertion. In 2017, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the umbrella entity supervising the 16 other U.S. intelligence agencies, released a report drawing on intelligence from the C.I.A., the F.B.I. and the National Security Agency that found Russia had interfered in the 2016 presidential election and aspired to help Trump. At a news conference with Trump in Helsinki in July 2018, President Vladimir Putin of Russia denied interfering in the election. But when asked by a reporter if he had wanted Trump to win, he replied bluntly: “Yes, I did.”

Yet Trump never accepted this and often actively disputed it, judging officials who expressed such a view to be disloyal. As a former senior adviser to Trump, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told me, “You couldn’t have any conversation about Russia and the election without the president assuming you were calling his election into question. Everyone in the White House knew that, and so you just didn’t talk about that with him.” According to this former adviser, both John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney, who were Trump’s national security adviser and acting chief of staff in 2019, went to considerable lengths to keep the subject of Russian election interference off the president’s agenda. (Bolton and Mulvaney declined to comment for this article.)

The president’s displeasure with any suggestion that he was Putin’s favorite factored into the discussion over the N.I.E. that summer, in particular the “back and forth,” as Dan Coats, then the director of national intelligence, put it, over the assessment that Russia favored Trump in 2020. Eventually, this debate made it to Coats’s desk. “I can affirm that one of my staffers who was aware of the controversy requested that I modify that assessment,” Coats told me recently. “But I said, ‘No, we need to stick to what the analysts have said.’”

Coats had been director of national intelligence since early in Trump’s presidency, but his tenure had been rocky at times, and earlier that year, he and Trump agreed to part ways; Coats expected to resign near the end of September. So it surprised him when on July 28, not long after he was approached about the change to the N.I.E., Trump announced via Twitter that Coats’s last day in office would be Aug. 15. In the days to come, Coats’s regular meetings with Trump on intelligence matters continued. During those conversations, Coats told me, the president never explained what prompted his sudden decision.

Coats’s interim successor would be retired Vice Adm. Joseph Maguire, who at the time was director of the National Counterterrorism Center. Maguire had served under eight presidents in a military or government capacity. Within the intelligence community, his appointment elicited relief but also worry: “From the very beginning,” one former senior intelligence official told me, “there was a lot of consternation over not getting Maguire fired.” One issue looming over the new acting director was the fact that the N.I.E., which had yet to be finalized, contained a conclusion that the president had often railed against.

One of the intelligence officials most directly acquainted with Trump’s opinions on the agencies’ work was Beth Sanner. A veteran of the C.I.A., Sanner now serves as the O.D.N.I.’s deputy director for mission integration. Her responsibilities include delivering the president’s daily brief, the regular presentation of new intelligence findings of pressing importance that Trump, like his predecessors, receives.

Delivering the P.D.B., as it is known, requires an astute understanding of the briefer’s audience. Sanner, who earlier in her C.I.A. career was flagged for promotions by managers who viewed her as an exceptional talent, was tough but also outgoing. In a rare public appearance at an online conference hosted by the nonprofit Intelligence & National Security Alliance last month, Sanner offered a window onto her experience as Trump’s briefer. “I think that fear for us is the most debilitating thing that we face in our personal or professional lives,” she said. “And if every time I went in and talked with the president I was afraid, I would never get anything done. You might be afraid right before you get there. But then you’re there; let it go. You are there because you’re good.” She had learned over time how to put Trump at ease with self-deprecating humor. Encountering the limits of his attention, she once said (according to someone familiar with this particular briefing), “OK, I can see you’re not interested — I’m not interested, I don’t even know why I brought this up — so let’s move on.”

In early September, an email went out from an O.D.N.I. official to the N.I.E.’s reviewers with the latest version attached — which, according to the email, “includes edits from D.M.I. Beth Sanner. We have highlighted the major changes in yellow; they make some of the KJ language clearer and highlight … Russia’s motivation for its influence activities.”

No longer did Key Judgment 2 clearly state that Russia favored the current president, according to an individual who compared the two versions of the N.I.E. side by side. Instead, in the words of a written summary of the document that I obtained, the new version concluded that “Russian leaders probably assess that chances to improve relations with the U.S. will diminish under a different U.S. president.” The National Intelligence Board approved the final version at a meeting on the afternoon of Sept. 26, 2019.

Such a change, a former senior intelligence official said, would amount to “a distinction without a difference and a way to make sure Maguire doesn’t get fired.” But the distinction was in fact both real and important. A document intended to explain Russia’s playbook for the upcoming elections no longer included an explanation of what Russia’s immediate goal was. Omitting that crucial detail would later allow the White House to question the credibility of the testimony of intelligence and law-enforcement officials who informed lawmakers of Russia’s interest in Trump’s re-election in a closed-door congressional committee briefing early this year. It would also set in motion Maguire’s own departure, in spite of the efforts to protect him.

Relationships between presidents and the intelligence agencies they command are often testy, and Trump is hardly the first president to ignore or mischaracterize intelligence. But the alarm in the intelligence community over Russian interference on behalf of Trump’s election in 2016, and Trump’s reciprocal suspicion of the intelligence community, immediately marked their relationship as categorically different from those with past presidents. “Trump’s first encounter with the intelligence community as president-elect was in meetings with James Comey, John Brennan and James Clapper, all of whom turned out to be involved with spying on President Trump’s campaign,” Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, said in a statement responding to a list of factual queries for this article. The investigation of Trump’s campaign, McEnany said, was “the greatest political scandal and crime in U.S. history.” (Although the F.B.I. investigated links between Trump campaign associates and Russian officials, a 2019 report by the Justice Department’s inspector general found no evidence that it had tried to place informants inside the campaign. No claims of spying on the campaign by other American intelligence agencies have ever been substantiated.)

The depth of Trump’s animosity has been known since before his inauguration. What has not been known is the full extent of how this suspicion has reshaped the intelligence community and the personal and professional calculations of its members, forcing officials to walk a fine line between serving the president and maintaining the integrity of their work. The brunt of Trump’s discontent has been borne by those who work in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which was established in late 2004 at the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission to facilitate better communication among the intelligence agencies. The O.D.N.I.’s directors and briefers, like Sanner, have been the community’s most direct point of contact with the president. In the past, that proximity was straightforward. A briefing would be given, and then the briefer would leave the Oval Office so that the president could discuss policy options with his advisers.

Under Trump, intelligence officials have been placed in the unusual position of being pressured to justify the importance of their work, protect their colleagues from political retribution and demonstrate fealty to a president. Though intelligence officials have been loath to admit it publicly, the cumulative result has been devastating. Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, a Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, compared the O.D.N.I.’s decline under Trump to that of the Justice Department, where “they have, step by step, set out to destroy one of the crown jewels of the American government,” he told me. “And they’re using the same playbook with the intelligence community.”

The O.D.N.I.’s erosion has in turn shaped the information that flows out of the intelligence community to the White House — or doesn’t. The softening of Key Judgment 2 signified a sobering new development of the Trump era: the intelligence community’s willingness to change what it would otherwise say straightforwardly so as not to upset the president. “To its credit, the intelligence community resisted during the earlier part of the president’s term,” Representative Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told me. “But by casting out Dan Coats and then Maguire, and replacing them with loyalists, I think over time it’s had the effect of wearing the intelligence community down, making them less willing to speak truth to power.”

This “wearing down” has extended well beyond the dismissal of a few top intelligence officials whom the president perceived to be disloyal. It has also meant that those who remain in the community are acutely mindful of the risks of challenging Trump’s “alternative facts,” as the White House counselor Kellyanne Conway once memorably described them — with consequences that are substantive, if often hidden from view.

That concern was palpable among nearly all of the 40 current and former intelligence officials, lawmakers and congressional staff with whom I spoke — among them more than 15 people who worked in, or closely with, the intelligence community throughout Trump’s presidency. Though these people would discuss their experiences only in exchange for anonymity out of fear of reprisal or dismissal, the unusual fact of their willingness to discuss them at all — and the extent to which their stories could be confirmed by multiple sources, and in many cases by contemporaneous documents — itself was a testament to how profoundly Trump has reordered their world and their work. As one of them told me: “The problem is that when you’ve been treated the way the intelligence community has, they become afraid of their own shadow. The most dangerous thing now is the churn — the not knowing who’s going to be fired, and what it is you might say that could cost you your job. It’s trying to put out something and not get creamed for it.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group 16mag-intelligence-02-articleLarge-v2 Unwanted Truths: Inside Trump’s Battles With U.S. Intelligence Agencies United States Politics and Government United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Sanner, Beth Sanders, Bernard Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Russia Ratcliffe, John Lee (1965- ) Presidential Election of 2020 Pierson, Shelby Patel, Kashyap Office of the Director of National Intelligence Maguire, Joseph (1952- ) Haspel, Gina Grenell, Richard Coats, Dan central intelligence agency
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Like the rest of America, the thousands of people making up the U.S. intelligence community were divided by the election of Donald Trump. Many were wary of a candidate who pledged to bring back waterboarding and assassinate families of ISIS members, who praised WikiLeaks and played down Putin’s extrajudicial assassinations by observing, “What, you think our country’s so innocent?” Three weeks after beginning to receive his first intelligence briefings as a candidate, Trump publicly offered the dubious claim that his briefers “were not happy” that President Obama and his administration “did not follow what they were recommending.” Listening to Trump throughout the campaign, Michael Hayden, who directed the C.I.A. under both George W. Bush and Obama, told me, “I was really scared for my country.” But others in the community were rankled by what they saw as Obama’s passivity in global affairs and were receptive to the prospect of a change.

On Jan. 21, 2017, his first full day in office, Trump addressed an audience of agency employees at C.I.A. headquarters in Langley, Va. Standing in front of the agency’s Memorial Wall, an austere slab of marble engraved with more than a hundred stars commemorating the agency officers who died in service to their country — three C.I.A. paramilitary officers had recently been killed in Afghanistan — he proceeded to unleash one of his stream-of-consciousness diatribes. “Probably almost everybody in this room voted for me,” he declared. He complimented himself on his pick for secretary of agriculture and admonished the Bush administration for not having seized Iraq’s oil after invading the country. He bragged about his inauguration speech and repeated his false claims about the mammoth crowd it attracted and his record number of appearances on the cover of Time magazine. He questioned the judgment of whoever it was who had chosen to build the C.I.A. headquarters lobby with so many columns.

“I was literally in tears,” one senior agency official at the time told me, “as I watched him standing in the most hallowed place we have — so disconnected, talking about himself, asking why our building had columns.” A second agency veteran angrily characterized Trump’s speech as “a near-desecration of the wall,” adding: “I’m tearing up now just thinking about it.”

Trump bragged to the C.I.A. audience that he would be the agency’s most lavish supporter: “You’re going to get so much backing. Maybe you’re going to say, ‘Please don’t give us so much backing.’” But in truth, he already had reservations about the intelligence community. The C.I.A. director John Brennan and the former director Hayden had publicly criticized various statements he made during the campaign. The former acting director Michael Morell, who advised Hillary Clinton’s campaign, had described Trump in an op-ed as “an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.” At Langley headquarters before his speech, Trump met with several of the C.I.A.’s top officials and, according to someone familiar with the conversation, asked several of them individually whether they had voted for him.

Two weeks before his inauguration, the president-elect and his senior aides received a briefing at Trump Tower led by the departing director of national intelligence, James Clapper, outlining the intelligence community’s assessment of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Trump was friendly and attentive but also dismissive. “Anybody’s going to tell you what they think you want to hear,” Trump told them, according to Clapper.

Toward the end of the briefing, Trump’s new chief of staff, Reince Priebus, began to discuss drafting a press statement. Priebus, Clapper recalled, “wanted to include language in it that we said Russian interference had no impact on the outcome of the election. Well, we didn’t have the authority to make that judgment. The only thing we said was that we saw no evidence of tampering with the votes.”

As the briefing concluded, James Comey, director of the F.B.I., spoke with Trump alone. There was another matter to disclose: a dossier compiled by the former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, which discussed Russia’s entanglements with Trump’s campaign and the candidate himself. (Many of these claims were never substantiated or were later disproved outright.) Fusion GPS, the research firm that was involved in producing the dossier, had confidentially organized briefings on Steele’s findings for a handful of reporters. But when BuzzFeed published the dossier four days after Comey’s briefing, the president-elect blamed intelligence officials. “Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to ‘leak’ out into the public,” he tweeted the following morning. “One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?”

Clapper spoke with Trump that afternoon and defended the intelligence community. Trump did not apologize, and he instead asked Clapper to release a statement refuting the dossier’s claims. Clapper declined to do so.

Trump’s hostility was not purely a matter of self-interest. As a candidate, he often railed against the foreign policies of his predecessors, Democrat and Republican alike — in particular the Iraq war, a debacle that was inseparable from the failures of the intelligence community. After it was reported in December 2016 that the C.I.A. had concluded that Russia interfered with the 2016 election on Trump’s behalf, his transition team released a press statement declaring, “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.” Once Trump was in the White House, a former Trump-administration official recalls: “I cannot tell you how many times he randomly raised the Iraq war. Like it morally offended him. He believed the intelligence community purposely made it all up.”

But the gross intelligence failures in the run-up to the Iraq war offered a subtler cautionary tale too. The Bush administration had a tendency to see only what it wished to see of that intelligence, to contort and mischaracterize semi-educated guesses as unassailable facts — a tendency that, in Trump, was compulsive to a nearly pathological degree. As one intelligence veteran who occasionally briefed Trump told me: “On a visceral level, his view was, ‘You all are supposed to be helping me.’ But when you’d bring in evidence that Russia interfered, that’s what he’d refer to as not helpful. Or when he’s wanting to turn the screws on NATO, we’d come in with a warning of the consequences of NATO falling apart. And he’d say, ‘You never do things for me.’”

Historically, the C.I.A. has learned to accommodate the individual presidents it serves, though always with the tacit understanding that the “first customer” would not abuse the courtesy. Bill Clinton’s famously fluid schedule made it difficult for him to commit to daily one-on-one briefings. (When a man in a stolen Cessna 150 plane crashed it into the South Lawn of the White House in 1994, the mordant joke around the C.I.A. was that it was the agency’s director, Jim Woolsey, trying to get a meeting with the president.)

Still, Clinton read his briefing material. George W. Bush, whose father had been a C.I.A. director, faithfully took his briefings six mornings a week — though it famously did not result in his heeding the August 2001 briefing titled “Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in U.S.” Obama, too, took daily briefings for most of his presidency; Lisa Monaco, his homeland-security adviser, earned the presidential nickname Dr. Doom for her grim counterterrorism updates. The briefings were a ritual through which the intelligence community implicitly made the case for itself as something that transcended partisanship and operated on a time scale beyond mere presidencies.

It was inevitable that some adjustments would prove necessary for Trump, novice as he was to government. The new president’s interests were primarily economic, a field that was never the intelligence community’s strong suit. Under Trump, intelligence officials learned to “up our econ briefings game,” as one of them told me.

But the culture clash posed more serious problems too. Trump was accustomed to cutting deals and sharing gossip on his private cellphone, often loudly. He enjoyed being around billionaires, to whom he would “show off about some of the stuff he thought was cool — the capabilities of different weapons systems,” one former senior administration official recalled. “These were superrich guys who wouldn’t give him the time of day before he became president. He’d use that stuff as currency he had that they didn’t, not understanding the implications.” Trump also stocked his President’s Intelligence Advisory Board with wealthy businesspeople who, when briefed by one intelligence official, “would sometimes make you uncomfortable” because on occasion, “their questions were related to their business dealings,” this individual recalled.

The chairman of that advisory board, Stephen Feinberg, is co-chief executive of Cerberus Capital Management, which owns DynCorp, a major defense contractor that has won several lucrative military contracts. Feinberg was a friend of the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, whose expansive role in the new administration also created unease within the intelligence community. “His attitude,” one former intelligence official recalled of Kushner, “is like that of his father-in-law, who always thought that people who weren’t trying to be wealthy but instead went into public service were lesser.” There were obvious security issues that seemed not to have occurred to Kushner, who “would have the Chinese ambassador and his minions wandering around the West Wing unescorted,” recalled one former senior administration official. (The White House disputes this. “No foreign nationals are allowed to roam freely in the West Wing,” McEnany said in a statement.)

Early in the administration, Kushner and an aide showed up to Langley headquarters — conspicuous in their fitted suits — for a meeting to learn how the C.I.A. functions. The agency accommodated them, but afterward, according to one participant in the meeting, concern developed within the agency about Kushner’s potential conflicts. His complicated international business interests, as well as his evolving friendship with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, had raised serious concerns among officials responsible for awarding security credentials. A further concern, another former senior intelligence official said, “was just his cavalier and arrogant attitude that ‘I know what I’m doing,’ without any cultural understanding of why things are classified, that would put our intelligence at risk.”

Trump publicly claimed to know little about Kushner’s security-clearance problem. But in fact, the president “made a huge deal of it and tried to pull all sorts of strings and go around the system,” one former official recalled. Another former official said, “I’d hear the president say, ‘Just do it, just give it to him.’ I’m not sure he understood what it actually meant. He made it sound like Jared was just trying to join a club.”

Some of Trump’s intelligence advisers feared that his carelessness would inevitably get him in trouble when dealing one on one with cannier foreign leaders. “When you’re a president, any slip can be used,” one former national-security aide said. Because of Trump’s indiscretion, one former senior intelligence official told me, the intelligence office of at least one foreign country — a NATO ally that had sent troops to Afghanistan — was discouraged by that country’s president from interacting with its American counterparts, for fear that Trump would be briefed on the information and subsequently blurt it out to the Russians. The president did precisely that four months into his tenure, sharing sensitive intelligence about ISIS with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador during a meeting in the Oval Office, reportedly exposing a source of Israeli intelligence in the process. Two years later, Trump would tweet a surveillance photograph of a damaged space facility in Iran, a sensitive image that almost certainly came from a U.S. drone or satellite.

Credit…Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call, via Getty Images

Trump’s indiscretion wasn’t the only issue. Officials came to realize that his lack of interest and tendency toward distraction posed their own concerns. His briefers, a former senior administration official said, “were stunned and miffed that he had no real interest in the P.D.B. And it wasn’t just the P.D.B.; it was almost anything generated by his N.S.C.” — Trump’s National Security Council. “He kind of likes the military details but just doesn’t read briefing materials. They’d put all this time and effort into these briefing papers, and he’d literally throw it aside.”

Recognizing that Trump responded to visual material, his aides for a time tried to compose briefs out of photos, charts and a limited number of captions, until it became evident that such a presentation would not convey all that a president needed to know. But it remained a challenge to engage Trump, a former adviser said: “Anyone who’s ever briefed him wouldn’t get more than three or four minutes into it, and then the president would go off on tangents.” Such tangents, a former intelligence briefer said, would include Trump’s standing in the polls, Hillary Clinton’s email server and the prospect of holding a military parade in the United States.

For one briefing that concerned an adversarial nation’s weapons system, the C.I.A. briefer arrived with a prop: a portable model of the weapon in question. “Trump held it in his hands, and it’s all he paid attention to,” a former senior intelligence official recalled. “The briefer would be talking about range and deployment, and all the president wanted to know was: ‘What’s this made of? What’s this part here?’”

From the 2016 campaign to early 2019, Trump’s principal briefer was Ted Gistaro, a much-respected C.I.A. veteran whom the president called “my Ted.” Sometime in the spring of 2019, Gistaro accepted a posting overseas, though not before unburdening himself to a former colleague. “I knew you’ve heard how bad it is,” the colleague recalled him saying. “Believe me, it’s worse than that.” (The O.D.N.I. declined requests for an interview with Gistaro.)

By that spring, Trump was souring on Gistaro’s boss, Dan Coats. A 77-year-old former Republican senator who was once in the running to be George W. Bush’s defense secretary, Coats had denounced Trump during his candidacy for his “totally inappropriate and disgusting” comments in the “Access Hollywood” tape. He had not expressed interest in the job of director of national intelligence, and Trump had not even bothered to interview him for it. It was Vice President Mike Pence, a friend from Indiana, who extended the offer on Trump’s behalf and who later swore him in.

Shortly after nominating Coats for the director job, Trump invited him to a dinner gathering at the White House residence. According to the special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s report on his investigation into Russian election interference in 2016 and Coats’s testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, Trump asked his guests what they thought of James Comey. When Trump asked if anyone knew Comey personally, Coats replied that Comey had been a good F.B.I. director and advised the president to get to know him better.

According to the same report and testimony, barely a week into Coats’s tenure as director of national intelligence, he was asked by Trump to publicly clear the president of Russia-related wrongdoing. Coats carefully replied that it was not in his purview to do so.

The president repeated his request in an evening phone call. Coats, an avid college-basketball fan, was watching the Final Four N.C.A.A. semi-finals at the time. He was struck by the abjectness of the new president, alone in the White House on a Saturday night, talking to a near-stranger while his family remained in New York. But he did not buckle. He advised Trump to let the investigation run its course. “I made sure that if the information in the briefing was exact and true, it had to be presented to him, regardless of what the consequences might be,” Coats told me. “And I kept reminding people putting together the P.D.B. that they could in no way modify anything for political purposes.”

This was especially perilous when the subject was Russia. In “The Room Where It Happened,” John Bolton’s recently published memoir of his ill-fated stint as Trump’s national security adviser from April 2018 to September 2019, Bolton recalled watching the president chafe over sanctions on Russia. In 2018, the U.S. government initiated a cyberattack against the Internet Research Agency, a Russian troll farm singled out by Mueller for its efforts to influence the 2016 election. Although the Trump administration would later point to this as proof of the president’s toughness on Russia, three individuals who had real-time knowledge of the attack told me that Trump did not specifically order it.

In March 2018, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen warned a gathering of foreign diplomats that there would be harsh consequences for meddling in the 2018 midterm elections — at which point the Russian representative stormed out of the meeting. The White House communications office subsequently complained privately to the Department of Homeland Security that Nielsen’s remarks were off-message. That July, at an N.S.C. meeting convened for the express purpose of discussing election security, Nielsen got only five minutes into her opening presentation before Trump interrupted her with a barrage of questions relating to the wall he wanted built along the Mexico border.

Coats, too, was at the N.S.C. meeting. He had received a more public snubbing on the subject just a few days earlier, when President Trump, standing alongside Putin at the news conference in Helsinki, responded to a question about Russian meddling in the 2016 election by saying, “Dan Coats came to me and some others, they said they think it’s Russia.” But, Trump went on, “President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.” Coats responded later that day with a statement reaffirming “our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.” Coats’s defense “added fuel to the fire,” Bolton later wrote.

Despite the president’s aggressive indifference on the subject — or because of it — some of his cabinet officials remained concerned that Russia could throw the upcoming elections into turmoil and perhaps even disrupt the results. To them, the intelligence relating to Putin’s aims was indisputable. So was the president’s intransigence. As Bolton would write, “Trump believed that acknowledging Russia’s meddling in U.S. politics, or in that of many other countries in Europe or elsewhere, would implicitly acknowledge that he had colluded with Russia in his 2016 campaign.”

It was against this backdrop that Coats, Nielsen, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis worked together to write an executive order in the summer of 2018 that would enable sanctions on foreign countries trying to interfere with the American electoral process. Trump wasn’t briefed on these efforts, because, as one individual involved in the process recalled, “there was a belief that such a meeting would go sideways.” Instead, according to Bolton’s book, on Sept. 12, 2018, as several aides gathered with the president to discuss the border wall, Bolton seized the moment and held out the executive order for Trump to sign. Suspiciously, the president asked whose idea the executive order was. Bolton volunteered that it was his. “Oh,” Trump said, and he signed it.

Among other things, the executive order set in motion the process of drafting the intelligence assessment that Coats would be asked by a subordinate to change 10 months later. But by the time the order was signed, the fraying relationship between the president and his director of national intelligence was already on the verge of unraveling altogether. On Jan. 29, 2019, Coats and other intelligence-agency leaders presented the intelligence community’s annual threat assessment to the Senate Intelligence Committee. As had now become customary for many public statements that might contradict Trump’s own, the O.D.N.I.’s senior staff labored over the draft of the director’s opening statement and then cleared it with the N.S.C. staff. Still, its stark depictions of Russia’s ongoing election meddling, North Korea’s determination to maintain its nuclear arsenal and the resilience of ISIS amounted to a sweeping rebuttal to the president’s claimed foreign-policy accomplishments.

Trump tweeted his displeasure the following day, writing, “Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!” Two days after their testimony, Coats and Gina Haspel, the C.I.A. director, met with the president, with Bolton in attendance as well. Later, Trump tweeted: “Just concluded a great meeting with my Intel team in the Oval Office who told me that what they said on Tuesday at the Senate Hearing was mischaracterized by the media. … We are all on the same page!”

That was far from the truth, Coats told me. “We basically said this is what we said, and it had already been presented to White House personnel because we knew it was sensitive. The president was not happy that Gina and I pushed back on that and that it was approved by the White House. He said, ‘How did this happen?’”

But, Coats added, “when he made the remarks about going back to school, I knew my time was coming to an end.” Behind his back, Trump was referring to Coats as old, lazy, ignorant and, Bolton wrote, “an idiot.”

Coats was not going to become another Jeff Sessions, the attorney general who spent nearly two years twisting in the wind and weathering scorn until the president finally fired him. He prepared a letter of resignation. Trump rejected it, but only because of its timing: He didn’t want Coats to leave while Mueller’s investigation was ongoing. Coats agreed to wait, figuring that a departure date near the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30, made sense. He also began suggesting potential replacements to the White House.

A federal statute stipulated that should the position of director become vacant, it should be filled on an acting basis by the O.D.N.I.’s deputy director. In this case, that was Sue Gordon, a well-respected former C.I.A. official and onetime deputy director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. When Coats recruited Gordon to be his deputy and introduced her to Trump in 2017, he informed the president that she had been a captain on the Duke women’s basketball team. Trump commented on her height and then, without discussing Gordon’s qualifications for the job, asked her a series of basketball-related questions, concluding by asking Gordon who was likely to win the N.C.A.A. tournament.

A few months after her initial meeting with Trump, Gordon appeared onstage at an intelligence forum with four former directors of the C.I.A., including Brennan and Hayden. The unprecedented war of words between a sitting president and the two former intelligence czars had continued (and would only intensify a year later, when Trump declared that he had revoked Brennan’s security clearance). On this panel, Brennan said that Trump had “undermined” the intelligence community by refusing to accept its assessment of Russia’s election meddling. Hayden asserted that “the most disruptive element in the world today is the United States.” Gordon, the panel’s moderator, kept the conversation moving.

This would be enough to brand Gordon as disloyal to some in Trump’s inner circle, putting her in the same camp as her boss, Coats, who had won over the intelligence community’s senior officials by protecting their work from the pressures coming from the White House. By contrast, both of Trump’s C.I.A. directors seemed more willing to accommodate the president. His first director, Mike Pompeo, aggressively worked to develop a close relationship with Trump. At the Aspen Security Forum in the summer of 2017, Pompeo said that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election — and “the one before that and the one before that.” A year later, when British intelligence officials requested assistance from the C.I.A. in investigating the apparent poisoning of a double agent by Russian operatives, Pompeo was initially disinclined to offer assistance, saying to a roomful of subordinates, according to someone with knowledge of the conversation, that because Britain had done nothing to help the United States when it came to Iran, he saw no reason the United States should help on this matter.

Haspel, who replaced Pompeo after he was tapped to run the State Department, had previously overseen one of the C.I.A.’s notorious overseas interrogation facilities known as “black sites” — a fact that endeared her to Trump, according to one former intelligence official. “He loved that Gina is a badass,” the official said. “He loved her involvement in the prisons.” Still, the director also felt obliged to show her supportiveness in ways that others in the agency found inappropriate, from applauding during Trump’s State of the Union address to saying publicly of his North Korea policy, “After years of failure, I do think that President Trump has shown a lot of wisdom in reaching out his hand to the North Korean leader.”

Coats exhibited no such pretenses of fealty. “What we were standing up for was the integrity of the intelligence,” he told me. That included the intelligence community’s N.I.E. assessing Russia’s interference campaign. “There was a lot of back and forth on that assessment” relating to Russia’s preference for Trump, Coats acknowledged to me. Still, the director held firm by not modifying the assessment. It would be one of his last acts as director of national intelligence.

On Sunday, July 28, Trump announced via Twitter that Coats would be replaced by Representative John Ratcliffe of Texas, a Republican and an outspoken Trump defender. Just four days earlier, while questioning Mueller at a House Judiciary Committee hearing regarding the special prosecutor’s report, Ratcliffe argued that while Trump shouldn’t be above the law, he “damn sure shouldn’t be below the law, which is where Volume 2 of this report puts him.” Some speculated at the time that Ratcliffe’s performance was a job audition.

But Ratcliffe’s nomination for director was immediately stalled by accusations that he had inflated his résumé. In the interim, Adam Schiff, by now one of Trump’s most prominent congressional critics, suggested that Sue Gordon would be “superbly qualified” for acting director. Trump’s son Donald Jr. promptly tweeted: “If Adam Schiff wants her in there, the rumors about her being besties with Brennan and the rest of the clown cadre must be 100% true.” Gordon elected to resign.

Joseph Maguire was named acting director instead — a relief to those in the intelligence community who had recoiled at the thought of a Trump loyalist like Ratcliffe overseeing them. But Trump himself made clear that their relief would be temporary. Explaining to the White House press corps why Ratcliffe was his preference, he said: “I think we need somebody like that that’s strong and can really rein it in. As you’ve all learned, the intelligence agencies have run amok. They’ve run amok.”

Credit…Jussi Nukari/Xinhua, via Getty Images

On July 19, 2019, nine days before Trump announced Coats’s departure, Coats created a new post within the intelligence community: election-threats executive. He awarded the job to an analyst named Shelby Pierson, who had worked in the community for over two decades, most recently as a Russia issues manager, before Coats asked her in 2018 to serve as the O.D.N.I.’s crisis manager for election security.

Less than a month later, a C.I.A. whistle-blower reported to the O.D.N.I. inspector general that Trump and members of his administration had pressured Volodymyr Zelensky, the recently elected president of Ukraine, to investigate the activities of Joe Biden, by then the likely Democratic presidential nominee, and his son Hunter. The nation was soon consumed with the impeachment proceedings against Trump over the Ukraine affair. Beneath the din, Pierson and other senior intelligence officials continued to meet and review Russia’s influence campaign, past and present. They learned that in the 2016 election, Russian cyberattacks compromised voter-registration databases in Illinois and Florida and hacked a Florida-based election-software vendor. They learned as well that Russia would be focusing its 2020 efforts on the battleground states. It was during this same period that the N.I.E. was finalized. In early February of this year, Pierson and other intelligence officials gave a classified briefing on prospective election threats to the Senate Intelligence Committee. Nothing about the contents of this briefing made its way into the press.

On the morning of Feb. 13, Pierson testified before the House Intelligence Committee in the secure hearing room beneath the Capitol Visitor Center that the committee uses for classified briefings. The committee had recently held hearings on the grounds for Trump’s impeachment; tempers were raw and partisan confrontations inevitable. The day before the hearing, a White House official called the committee staff to ask whether someone from the West Wing could sit in on the top-secret hearing. Denied permission to do so, an employee from the White House Office of Legal Counsel nonetheless showed up that morning and was denied entry.

The conference room was full, and nearly every committee member was present. Pierson sat at the witness table, alongside senior officials from the F.B.I., the C.I.A., the N.S.A. and the Department of Homeland Security. Upward of two dozen support staff sat behind them. Pierson began with a routine prepared statement about Russia’s ongoing efforts.

After she finished, Schiff pointedly asked Pierson if the available intelligence suggested whether Russia had a preference in this November’s outcome. Pierson replied that it did, and that Russia’s preference was for the current president. This was in keeping with Key Judgment 2 of the previous July’s N.I.E. draft — the finding that was softened in the final version issued five months before the hearing. Pierson turned to the F.B.I. official seated beside her at the witness table. The bureau official concurred with Pierson’s assessment.

The congressional questioning that followed “was very contentious,” one attendee recalled. A number of Republican members of Congress vehemently objected to Pierson’s assertion that Putin favored Trump. Representative Will Hurd of Texas, a former C.I.A. case officer, expressed doubt about the sourcing of Pierson’s assessment. Asked by one of the Republicans about the Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, Pierson acknowledged that there was recent evidence in the primaries of pro-Sanders activity from Russian trolls and bots. Still, as Coats had, Pierson stood behind the intelligence community’s original judgment. The hearing was adjourned before noon.

Pierson reported to Maguire that the briefing had been heated. Indeed, sometime later that day, according to a former senior intelligence official with knowledge of the events, the House committee’s ranking minority member, Representative Devin Nunes, relayed to Trump what Pierson said in her testimony. The following day, Feb. 14, Trump was given a routine intelligence briefing on election security. Three subject-matter briefers, along with Haspel, Beth Sanner and Maguire, were in attendance.

In the middle of the briefing, according to one participant, Trump interrupted and said to Maguire: “Hey, Joe, I understand that you briefed Adam Schiff and that you told him that Russia prefers me. Why did you tell that to Schiff?” Trump went on to say that he heard this from several members of the committee and wanted to know why Maguire had not informed Trump.

Maguire tried to explain that it was another intelligence official who had given the testimony, during a routine bipartisan hearing. But Trump continued to question Maguire, and the meeting then broke up. According to the participant, as they were leaving, Sanner said: “Mr. President, Joe is not out to undermine you.”

Maguire left the Oval Office knowing that he would soon be fired. On the evening of Feb. 19, he was informed by Robert O’Brien, who succeeded Bolton as national security adviser, that Maguire’s likely replacement would need to be let into O.D.N.I. headquarters the following morning. That morning, Maguire greeted his successor, wished him well and left the building for good.

The new acting director was Richard Grenell, Trump’s ambassador to Germany. A 53-year-old former United Nations ambassador’s spokesman, media consultant and Fox News commentator with no previous experience in the intelligence community, Grenell was best known as a pugnacious Trump loyalist who made undiplomatic comments about his host country’s unwillingness to contribute more to NATO.

Grenell assured Pierson that her job was safe, as Pierson herself later acknowledged to The Times and other media outlets. At the same time, Pierson would have to sit by in silence as administration officials insisted to the media that in the Feb. 13 briefing, she had misrepresented the U.S. intelligence community’s assessments about Russia’s preference for president. On ABC’s “This Week” three days after Maguire’s departure, O’Brien told the host, George Stephanopoulos, “I haven’t seen any evidence that Russia is doing anything to get President Trump re-elected.”

Instead, O’Brien said — echoing a talking point Trump delivered at a rally two days beforehand, and which Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, would also use that same morning on NBC’s “Meet the Press” — that Russia’s likely preference would be Bernie Sanders, a socialist who “honey-mooned in Moscow.” (Sanders visited Russia around the time of his wedding, though not on a honeymoon.) Unnamed “people familiar with the matter” leaked to The Washington Post a classified briefing that took place over a month earlier on Jan. 8, in which the F.B.I. informed Sanders that Russia appeared to be aiding his campaign — omitting the N.I.E. authors’ view that the aid was seen in Moscow as a means to the end of re-electing Trump.

Grenell’s staff, meanwhile, instructed Maguire’s chief of staff, Viraj Mirani, to clear out his office. Other departures would follow during Grenell’s tenure: the O.D.N.I.’s principal deputy, Andrew Hallman; its chief of operations, Dierdre Walsh; its inspector general, Michael Atkinson, who had delivered the Ukraine whistle-blower’s complaint to the House Intelligence Committee after Maguire declined to do so; and Russell Travers, Maguire’s acting replacement as director of the National Counterterrorism Center. An adviser assigned to Grenell, the former Nunes protégé and Trump N.S.C. staff member Kashyap Patel, undertook a thorough reorganization of the O.D.N.I. Even Grenell was wary of Patel, who had expectations of being the acting director’s deputy and who while on Nunes’s staff reportedly shared dubious information about Ukraine with Trump, though that was not his field of expertise. (Patel has denied this.)

With Coats and Maguire both gone, Patel set about fulfilling a White House request to cut the O.D.N.I.’s staff, according to someone familiar with the events. The concern within the intelligence community was that downsizing could offer a pretext for purging individuals like the anonymous C.I.A. analyst who filed the Ukraine whistle-blower complaint. As Sean Patrick Maloney of the House Intelligence Committee told me, “It seems pretty clear to me that in the wake of the whistle-blower complaint, he’d put a bunch of political hacks in charge, so that he’d never have to worry about the truth getting out from the intelligence community.”

In May, Ratcliffe was confirmed as director in spite of the earlier concerns about his résumé. Grenell returned to Germany. In response to detailed questions regarding this article, Grenell offered a statement blasting “the typical Washington types that hate the fact that Donald Trump is a Washington outsider unwilling to play the Washington game.” Trump “won’t just let the system do its thing and give us another Iraq W.M.D.-style assessment,” continued Grenell, who served as a spokesman in the State Department during George W. Bush’s presidency.

Schiff believes that the decision by Joseph Maguire, an apolitical official with the respect of the intelligence community’s rank and file, not to forward the Ukraine whistle-blower’s complaint to Congress was an instructive moment. “Looking back on Director Maguire’s decision to withhold the complaint,” he told me, “I don’t think that would have been done, but for being aware that the administration would have been unhappy had he not.”

The options faced by the intelligence community during Trump’s presidency have been stark: avoid infuriating the president but compromise the agencies’ ostensible independence, or assert that independence and find yourself replaced with a more sycophantic alternative.

But Schiff argues that this is a false choice. For Maguire, “Withholding it was not enough to keep his job,” Schiff said. “And I think people need to understand this about Donald Trump: It will never be enough when you attempt to do his bidding. He’ll bring in personnel who are more malleable, and the result is a degradation in the quality of the information. Maguire is now an object lesson for those in the intelligence community.”

I spoke with Schiff on Friday, July 24. Earlier that day, the O.D.N.I. released an official statement about election security threats by William Evanina, director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center and a Trump appointee. “At this time,” Evanina’s statement said, “we’re primarily concerned with China, Russia and Iran — although other nation states and nonstate actors could also do harm to our electoral process.”

Once again, the compromise was small but hardly meaningless: As several retired intelligence officials pointed out to me, it conflated the aboveboard “influence” campaign conducted by China — pressuring politicians, countering criticism — with the clandestine “interference” efforts by Russia to subvert the voting process. A week later during a classified briefing, Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, upbraided Evanina for his misleading statement.

Just as this article was going to press — and shortly after I submitted a list of questions to the O.D.N.I. relating to its struggle to avoid becoming politically compromised — Evanina put out a new statement. In it, the O.D.N.I. at last acknowledged publicly that Russia “is using a range of measures to primarily denigrate former Vice President Biden and what it sees as an anti-Russia ‘establishment.’” In the same statement, however, Evanina also asserted for the first time that both China and Iran were hoping to defeat Trump. As with the preceding statement, the O.D.N.I. made no distinction between Russia’s sophisticated election-disrupting capabilities and the less insidious influence campaigns of the two supposedly anti-Trump countries. Like its predecessor, the statement seemed to be tortured with political calculation — an implicit declaration of anguish rather than of independence.

It called to mind something the former C.I.A. acting director Michael Morell said several months before, when we were discussing Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. “This is the only time in American history when we’ve been attacked by a foreign country and not come together as a nation,” Morell said. “In fact, it split us further apart. It was an inexpensive, relatively easy to carry out covert mission. It deepened our divisions. I’m absolutely convinced that those Russian intelligence officers who put together and managed the attack on our democracy in 2016 all received medals personally from Vladimir Putin.”

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Russia Continues Interfering in Election to Help Trump, U.S. Intelligence Says

Westlake Legal Group russia-continues-interfering-in-election-to-help-trump-u-s-intelligence-says Russia Continues Interfering in Election to Help Trump, U.S. Intelligence Says Trump, Donald J State Department Russia Presidential Election of 2020 Office of the Director of National Intelligence Iran Espionage and Intelligence Services Classified Information and State Secrets China Biden, Joseph R Jr

WASHINGTON — Russia is using a range of techniques to denigrate Joseph R. Biden Jr., American intelligence officials said Friday in their first public assessment that Moscow continues to try to interfere in the 2020 campaign to help President Trump.

At the same time, the officials said China preferred that Mr. Trump be defeated in November and was weighing whether to take more aggressive action in the election.

Those conclusions were included in a statement released by William R. Evanina, the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center.

But officials briefed on the intelligence said that Russia was the far graver, and more immediate, threat. While China seeks to gain influence in American politics, its leaders have not yet decided to wade directly into the presidential contest, however much they may dislike Mr. Trump, the officials said.

The assessment by Mr. Evanina suggested the intelligence community was treading carefully, reflecting the political heat generated by previous findings: The White House has objected to conclusions that Moscow is working to help Mr. Trump, and Democrats on Capitol Hill have expressed concern that the intelligence agencies are not being forthright enough about Russia’s preference for him and that the agencies are introducing China’s anti-Trump stance to balance the scales.

The assessment appeared to draw a distinction between what it called the “range of measures” being deployed by Moscow to influence the election and its conclusion that China prefers that Mr. Trump be defeated

It cited efforts coming out of pro-Russia forces in Ukraine to damage Mr. Biden and Kremlin-linked figures who “are also seeking to boost President Trump’s candidacy on social media and Russian television.”

China, it said, has so far signaled its position mostly through increased public criticism of the administration’s tough line on China on a variety of fronts.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_175407054_9a9b0d69-0170-45e3-b16e-925039855ed2-articleLarge Russia Continues Interfering in Election to Help Trump, U.S. Intelligence Says Trump, Donald J State Department Russia Presidential Election of 2020 Office of the Director of National Intelligence Iran Espionage and Intelligence Services Classified Information and State Secrets China Biden, Joseph R Jr
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

It is not clear how much China is doing to interfere directly in the presidential election. Intelligence officials have briefed Congress in recent days that much of Beijing’s focus is on state and local races. But Mr. Evanina’s statement Friday suggested China was on weighing an increased effort.

“Although China will continue to weigh the risks and benefits of aggressive action, its public rhetoric over the past few months has grown increasingly critical of the current administration’s Covid-19 response, closure of China’s Houston Consulate and actions on other issues,” Mr. Evanina said.

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Updated 2020-08-07T21:25:09.936Z

Mr. Evanina pointed to growing tensions over territorial claims in the South China Sea, Hong Kong autonomy, the TikTok app and other issues.

The release was short on specifics, but that was largely because the intelligence community is intent on trying to protect the sources of their information, said Senator Angus King, the Maine independent who caucuses with the Democrats.

“The director has basically put the American people on notice that Russia in particular, also China and Iran, are going to be trying to meddle in this election and undermine our democratic system,” said Mr. King, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

While both Beijing and Moscow have a preference to the outcome of the U.S. presidential election, the Chinese and Russian influence campaigns are very different, officials said.

Outside a few scattered examples, it is hard to find much evidence of intensifying Chinese influence efforts that could have a national effect.

Much of what China is doing currently amounts to using its economic might to influence local politics, officials said. But that is hardly new. Beijing is also using a variety of means to push back on various Trump administration policies, including tariffs and bans on Chinese tech companies, but those efforts are not covert and it is unclear if they would have an effect on presidential politics.

The administration is overstating the immediacy of the China threat, said an American official briefed on the underlying intelligence.

Russia, but not China, is trying to “actively influence” the outcome of the 2020 election, the official said.

Democrats see the interference campaign run by Russia as a far more direct and urgent threat.

“The fact that adversaries like China or Iran don’t like an American president’s policies is normal fare. What’s abnormal, disturbing and dangerous is that an adversary like Russia is actively trying to get a Trump re-elected,” said Jeremy Bash, a former Obama administration official.

Russia, tried to use influence campaigns during the 2018 midterm voting to try and sway public opinion, but did not successfully tamper with voting infrastructure.

Mr. Evanina said it would be difficult for adversarial countries to try to manipulate voting results on a large scale. But nevertheless, the countries could try to interfere in the voting process or take steps aimed at “calling into question the validity of the election results.”

The new release comes on the heels of congressional briefings that have alarmed lawmakers, particularly Democrats. Those briefings have described a stepped-up Chinese pressure campaign, as well as efforts by Moscow to paint Mr. Biden as corrupt.

“Ahead of the 2020 U.S. elections, foreign states will continue to use covert and overt influence measures in their attempts to sway U.S. voters’ preferences and perspectives, shift U.S. policies, increase discord in the United States, and undermine the American people’s confidence in our democratic process,” Mr. Evanina said in a statement.

Democrats have pushed intelligence officials to release more information to the public, arguing that only a broad declassification of the foreign interference attempts can inoculate voters against attempts by Russia, China or other countries to try to influence voting.

In meetings on Capitol Hill, Mr. Evanina and other intelligence officials have expanded their warnings beyond Russia and have included China and Iran, as well. Earlier this year, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence put Mr. Evanina in charge of election security briefings to Congress and the campaigns.

Intelligence and other officials in recent days have been stepping up their releases of information about foreign interference efforts, and the State Department has sent text messages to cellphones around the world advertising a $10 million reward for information on would-be election hackers.

How effective China’s campaign has been, or Russia’s efforts to smear Mr. Biden as corrupt, is not clear. Intelligence agencies focus their work on the intentions of foreign governments, and steer clear of assessing if those efforts have had an effect on American voters.

The first reactions from Capitol Hill to the release of the assessment were positive. A joint statement by the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee praised the release, and asked colleagues to refrain from politicizing Mr. Evanina’s statement.

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, the acting Republican chairman of the committee, and Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the Democratic vice-chairman, said they hoped Mr. Evanina continued to make more information available to the public. But they praised him for responding to calls for more information.

“Evanina’s statement highlights some of the serious and ongoing threats to our election from China, Russia, and Iran,” the two men’s joint statement said. “Everyone — from the voting public, local officials, and members of Congress — needs to be aware of these threats.”

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Why Joe Biden Keeps Missing His Own V.P. Deadlines

Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s campaign staff is making plans to introduce his eventual vice-presidential choice to key party constituencies. Donors are readying finance events featuring the still-unnamed running mate — “date and time to be announced.” An in-person reveal is being discussed.

But as the political world awaits his announcement, Mr. Biden himself has not appeared to be in a big rush — no surprise to those who know him well.

His first self-imposed date for naming a running mate, around Aug. 1, came and went. The first week of August, another timeline he publicly floated, is nearly over, and an aide confirmed that an announcement would not happen this week. Mr. Biden has reached the final stage of his deliberations and is expected to name his choice shortly before the Democratic National Convention, which begins on Aug. 17. And while that is in keeping with the timeline of the two previous Democratic nominees, it is at odds with Mr. Biden’s own words.

“The deadline for a V.P. nomination is the convention,” said Representative Cedric Richmond, a co-chairman of Mr. Biden’s campaign. “He’s very deliberative with his decision-making. It works.”

This kind of approach — being openly meditative about the issue at hand, with a penchant for missing his own deadlines as he mulls his options — is in line with how Mr. Biden has made other big political choices throughout his career. Those who have worked with him over the years describe nonlinear decision-making processes with input from allies and family members, a barrage of questions from Mr. Biden, and a habit of extending deadlines in a way that leaves some Democrats anxious and annoyed, while others say it brings him to a well-considered decision, eventually.

[Follow along with The Times’s coverage of Joe Biden’s pick for Vice President.]

That tendency was on display in 2019, as Mr. Biden grappled with whether to run for president, missing one self-imposed deadline after another to make a decision. A similar pattern played out ahead of the 2016 election, when Mr. Biden wrestled for months with whether to run before ultimately deciding against it, devastated by the 2015 death of his son Beau.

Ahead of the 2004 presidential race, he engaged in extensive deliberations about a bid, even going to Boston to discuss the contest with John F. Kerry, the eventual nominee, before ultimately deciding against running. He had a moment of indecision just before he announced his run for president in 1988, too, he wrote in a memoir.

On a different scale, he is routinely late to his own events, he lingers on rope lines and phone calls, and he and his team were slow to formulate responses during several pivotal moments of the 2020 contest.

Mr. Biden is not a man who can be rushed, on issues big or small.

And he views the vice-presidential pick as an especially weighty matter.

“He knows when what he’s decided really matters,” said Senator Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware. “He takes time to make those decisions well. He doesn’t struggle to make those decisions, he makes them in a series. He listens to the relevant experts, he consults the relevant data.”

In this case, Mr. Coons said, Mr. Biden has all the data he needs — he knows the results of the vetting process and his team has heard a range of outside opinions. And he heads into the weekend with a few important conversations left, including, Mr. Coons suggested, with vice-presidential contenders and trusted advisers. Mr. Biden is weighing who would make a “trusted, reliable, capable partner,” the role, Mr. Coons said, Mr. Biden filled as Barack Obama’s vice president.

“He’s taking the time to make sure that he gets the inputs that he would value, both a chance to hear from people who know well and have worked closely with the different candidates, but also time to talk to them directly,” he said Thursday night, asked where Mr. Biden was in the process.

Yet as the process has stretched out, each day has also brought intensive lobbying, uncertainty for the contenders and, increasingly, visible factions.

State Senator Annette Taddeo of Florida said she and other lawmakers and donors had expressed concerns to the campaign about the possible selection of Representative Karen Bass of California, whose record of travel to Cuba as a young activist and respectful remarks about Fidel Castro when he died could alienate voters in Miami.

“It’s our job not just to speak up on his behalf but to speak up when we believe we can avoid an error in the campaign, and that’s what I’ve been doing,” said Ms. Taddeo, a member of Mr. Biden’s Latino leadership committee who spoke highly of her fellow Floridian, Representative Val Demings, and voiced a view privately shared by other prominent Democrats in South Florida. She continued, “We need to hurry up and pick and move on.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_151949856_638c00ac-150a-46f8-b0c7-a55cd4064060-articleLarge Why Joe Biden Keeps Missing His Own V.P. Deadlines Vice Presidents and Vice Presidency (US) Presidential Election of 2020 Politics and Government Democratic Party Democratic National Convention Biden, Joseph R Jr
Credit…Pete Marovich for The New York Times

Ms. Bass, who is well-liked across the ideological spectrum of the Democratic caucus, has said that her views on Cuba had evolved and that she would not repeat those comments about Mr. Castro. A spokesman pointed to a supportive statement made by the Cuban-American mayor of Coral Gables, Fla., Raúl Valdés-Fauli, who praised Ms. Bass’s “commitment to democracy” and governing experience, and said that “the Biden-Bass ticket will win Florida.”

Republicans, in the meantime, are previewing their attacks on several of the potential contenders, including Susan Rice, the former national security adviser, and Democratic opposition research is also flying, aimed at cutting down some contenders in the mix.

Senator Kamala Harris has faced sharp questioning from some Biden supporters about whether she would be loyal to his political agenda — an issue that has played out publicly and created fierce backlash.

“People close to the campaign, to actually start undermining these candidates, was just wrong and so terribly stereotypical, and a throwback to the 1950s,” said Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers. “Joe Biden is being more transparent than I think virtually any other presidential nominee I’ve seen before, but with that unfortunately comes the politics that these incredibly accomplished women are now facing.”

As the process has turned openly divisive, other Democrats wish Mr. Biden had adhered to his original stated timeline and named someone by now. But former Senator Barbara Boxer, who served with Mr. Biden in the Senate, said that he must have time to deliberate, and that it is useful to see potential candidates tested under pressure.

“Joe is a person who has very strong views, and he’s very smart about putting out the positive and the negative on any issue,” Ms. Boxer said. “All this chatter about, ‘hurry up, hurry up’ — I think that’s wrong. Because as we go day by day, we get a chance to see these women in action.”

Andrew Bates, a Biden spokesman, said that Mr. Biden “bases consequential decisions on being informed and hearing from a wide variety of credible experts,” arguing that approach stood in contrast to President Trump’s decision-making style.

Mr. Biden is now determining his personal degree of comfort with a narrowed group of candidates, according to people in touch with the campaign.

Asked in an interview last week if Mr. Biden had ideas about who fit that bill, former Senator Harry Reid of Nevada said: “My knowledge is, I think he knows within two or three people who he feels comfortable with. He’ll have to narrow it down to number one. He’s the only one who can do that.”

Names frequently discussed in Biden circles over the last week, according to interviews with top Biden allies, include Ms. Harris, Ms. Rice and Ms. Bass, along with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan. Some supporters also remain enthusiastic about Ms. Demings and Senators Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Duckworth among others, but acknowledge that there is a fluid process that only Mr. Biden, his wife, his sister and a few close longtime aides probably have full visibility into.

In the meantime, signs of a public rollout have surfaced. Mr. Biden’s campaign is increasingly considering how the eventual candidate should engage important political constituencies, and has sought input regarding the community leaders and organizations the running mate should contact, and what kinds of events she could do, according to multiple people familiar with the proceedings.

In a fund-raising appeal sent Thursday, Mr. Biden wrote, “I’d like to personally invite you to join me and my running mate for our first grass-roots fund-raiser together as the official Democratic ticket.” Details, the message said, will be sent “once they’re finalized.” Another fund-raising invitation hosted by Women for Biden — without specifics on date or time — was headlined, “introducing our running mate.”

Mr. Biden, for his part, has rejected the idea that his search process has been slower or messier than those of previous nominees.

“It’s been very orderly,” he said during an interview that aired Thursday with members of the National Association of Black Journalists and National Association of Hispanic Journalists. “Every one of the women we’ve interviewed is qualified. And I’ve narrowed it down.”

Added Ms. Weingarten, “This is one of those moments where you have to let Joe be Joe, and you have to trust that he knows what he’s looking for and what he needs.”

Jonathan Martin and Shane Goldmacher contributed reporting.

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A 4th Presidential Debate? Commission Says No to Trump

Members of the Commission on Presidential Debates on Thursday rejected the Trump campaign’s request for changes to the fall debate schedule, declining to shift the debates earlier or add a fourth debate to the calendar.

President Trump and his campaign had argued that the current debate schedule, which calls for three debates between Mr. Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr. in late September and October, would render them all but useless to the many Americans who will by then already have voted by mail.

“How can voters be sending in Ballots starting, in some cases, one month before the First Presidential Debate. Move the First Debate up,” Mr. Trump said Thursday morning in a tweet. “A debate, to me, is a Public Service. Joe Biden and I owe it to the American People!”

The president’s urging came one day after Rudolph W. Giuliani, a campaign adviser to Mr. Trump, wrote to the commission to discuss the timing of the debates and sent a list of two dozen journalists “for consideration as moderators.”

In its response to Mr. Giuliani on Thursday, the commission said that people planning to vote by mail could wait until after viewing the debates to send in their ballots if they so choose.

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Updated 2020-08-07T01:49:39.375Z

“While more people will likely vote by mail in 2020, the debate schedule has been and will be highly publicized,” the commission, which is nonpartisan, said in the letter. “Any voter who wishes to watch one or more debates before voting will be well aware of that opportunity.”

The commission also sidestepped Mr. Giuliani’s list of preferred moderators, saying simply that it would exercise “great care, as always, to ensure that the selected moderators are qualified and fair.” Mr. Giuliani’s list was heavy on Fox News personalities and conservative talk-show hosts.

Campaigns have no formal say in the debate schedule, which was set months ago, and at least technically speaking, the commission has sole discretion when it comes to selecting moderators. But officials have already had to change the location of two of its four events, after a pair of universities that were set to host pulled out because of concerns about the coronavirus.

The first presidential debate is scheduled to be held on Sept. 29 in Cleveland; the second on Oct. 15 in Miami; and the third on Oct. 22 in Nashville. A vice-presidential debate, scheduled for Oct. 7, will be held in Salt Lake City.

In his letter to debate officials, Mr. Giuliani wrote that “as many as eight million Americans in 16 states will have already started voting” early by the time the first debate takes place.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_174121248_f234e700-3ba3-49ab-a797-41f9e2a6434e-articleLarge A 4th Presidential Debate? Commission Says No to Trump Trump, Donald J Presidential Election of 2020 Debates (Political) Biden, Joseph R Jr
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

“Simply put, the commission’s current approach is an outdated dinosaur and not reflective of voting realities in 2020,” Mr. Giuliani wrote. “For a nation already deprived of a traditional campaign schedule because of the Covid-19 global pandemic, it makes no sense to also deprive so many Americans of the opportunity to see and hear the two competing visions for our country’s future before millions of votes have been cast.”

Mr. Biden’s campaign had mostly dismissed his opponent’s proposals, calling them a “distraction,” while affirming that Mr. Biden would take part in the events as planned.

“We’re glad that Donald Trump is now following Joe Biden’s lead from June and — at long last— has accepted the commission’s invitation to debate,” TJ Ducklo, a spokesman for Mr. Biden, said on Thursday.

“As we have said for months, the commission will determine the dates and times of the debates, and Joe Biden will be there,” Mr. Ducklo said. “Now that Donald Trump’s transparent attempt to distract from his disastrous response to the virus is over, maybe now he can focus on saving American lives and getting our economy back on track.”

Michael P. McDonald, a political science professor at the University of Florida who studies American elections, said he had discussed the timing of the debates and early voting with the commission. He said Mr. Giuliani was correct in asserting that millions of Americans will have received their ballots and have had the opportunity to vote by mail by Sept. 29.

But he said that based on his research from previous presidential elections, far fewer people will have actually voted by that time. And those who choose to vote very early, he added, are likely not the types of people who would be swayed by a television debate.

“These are people who are hard partisans,” Mr. McDonald said of those who cast early ballots.

“They’ve made up their mind a long time ago as to who they’re going to vote for,” he said, adding that “no debate is really going to sway them one way or another.”

Mr. McDonald said he thought there was “very little risk” involved in having early voting start before a debate has taken place, and that although his data was incomplete, his best estimates suggested that only about 10,000 people had actually voted by late September during the 2016 election.

Many signs point to increased turnout this fall, he said, and because of risks posed by the virus, more people could chose to vote very early by mail. But in all likelihood, he added, “it’s not going to be millions.”

Michael Grynbaum and Maggie Haberman contributed reporting.

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Trump Raises $165 Million With G.O.P. in July, Overtaking Biden

Westlake Legal Group 05trumpbiden-money1-facebookJumbo Trump Raises $165 Million With G.O.P. in July, Overtaking Biden United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Republican National Committee Presidential Election of 2020 democratic national committee Campaign Finance Biden, Joseph R Jr

President Trump raised $165 million in July for his campaign and shared committees with the Republican National Committee, outpacing Joseph R. Biden Jr., who raised $140 million last month as a record-setting pace of money continued to flood into the presidential campaign.

Mr. Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, had outraised Mr. Trump in the two previous months, the first time that he had outraised the Republican incumbent. Mr. Biden raised $141 million in his shared accounts with the Democratic National Committee in June, compared with $131 million for Mr. Trump with the R.N.C.

The sums for both parties are far higher than for the campaigns four years ago, when Hillary Clinton raised $89 million with the Democratic Party in July and Mr. Trump collected $80 million.

Both campaigns announced their dueling July figures on Wednesday evening, with Mr. Biden’s campaign going first and Mr. Trump’s soon following.

“Silent Majority Donors,” wrote Gary Coby, Mr. Trump’s digital director, on Twitter, surrounding the phrase with four American flag emojis.

The Biden campaign cheered how much of its haul it saved for the fall.

“The Biden campaign is on the march, building off the incredible momentum from this summer with another lights-out fund-raising month, banking another $50 million for the final stretch to Election Day,” said Mr. Biden’s campaign manager, Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, in a statement.

She said the campaign and party entered August with $294 million in the bank. Mr. Trump’s campaign said it and the party had more than $300 million cash on hand.

“The enthusiasm behind President Trump’s re-election continues to grow as July’s massive fund-raising totals prove,” said Bill Stepien, Mr. Trump’s new campaign manager. The Trump campaign said that July was its biggest online fund-raising month ever, as donations poured in even as Mr. Trump trails Mr. Biden in national and key battleground polls.

The Biden campaign did not break down how much of its total came from six-figure contributions but said that 97 percent of donations had been from “grass-roots” donors.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Biden campaign announced that it was reserving $280 million in ads beginning in September across 15 battleground states, with $220 million in television ads and $60 million in digital. Mr. Trump’s campaign has reserved $145 million in television ads after Labor Day but has not yet announced the size of its online reservations.

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Biden Will Not Attend Democratic Convention in Milwaukee

WASHINGTON — Joseph R. Biden Jr. acknowledged on Wednesday that he would not appear in Milwaukee to accept the presidential nomination he has sought on and off since the 1980s, bowing to the realities of a pandemic that has altered every aspect of life in 2020, including the November contest.

The decision to cancel major in-person appearances at the Democratic National Convention 90 days before the election, at the recommendation of health officials, was the final blow to the prospect that the fall campaign would resemble anything remotely like a traditional presidential contest, as the country confronts more than 150,000 deaths from the virus and cases continue to rise in parts of the country.

“The conventions as we traditionally have known them are no more,” said Terry McAuliffe, the former Democratic National Committee chairman who oversaw the party’s 2000 and 2004 conventions. “They will be more interactive and more digital, with more on social media.”

Other than the party chairman, Tom Perez, a small handful of Democratic officials will travel to Milwaukee from out of state to attend the convention. Some Wisconsin officials may deliver speeches from the crowd-free soundstage at the city’s convention center, where Mr. Biden was to deliver his nomination acceptance speech. He will now do that from his home state, Delaware.

President Trump and Republicans, who have careened from moving most of their convention from Charlotte, N.C., to Jacksonville, Fla., to canceling the made-for-TV portion of their event, have been slower to give up on the prospect of an in-person convention despite the serious health risks, and 336 delegates are still set to gather in North Carolina.

Party conventions once had a different kind of drama to them.

Much to the chagrin of political junkies, the days of convention floor flights over who would be a party’s presidential nominee are long past. Not since 1980, when Edward M. Kennedy forced a vote to free delegates from a commitment to President Jimmy Carter, has there been any real question about whom a major party would nominate, though Mr. Trump did face some opposition from Republicans at his convention in 2016.

In recent years, convention week has meant prime-time televised addresses from famous names and up-and-comers, highly produced balloon drops and delegates in patriotic regalia, all as a way to introduce voters to the candidate and to kick off the general election. It was a place to conduct party business, and also to throw actual parties — lavish events to reward donors and bigwigs, where celebrities mingled with state party chairs.

An introduction is less essential than ever in 2020, with both major candidates universally known by the American electorate, but Democrats still need to engage volunteers and flatter their foot soldiers, while communicating with a screen-weary homebound American electorate.

“Can you get a bounce? Yes,” said Leah D. Daughtry, who ran the party’s 2008 and 2016 conventions. “Can you make it interesting? That’s the challenge. You’ve got to make it interesting.”

Though a virtual convention will be a challenge, Democrats argued on Wednesday that the decision to forgo an in-person address reinforced a sharp contrast Mr. Biden has been pressing throughout the public health crisis: He takes the coronavirus outbreak seriously, and Mr. Trump does not. It is critical, allies have said, that Mr. Biden serve as a role model who adheres firmly to the public health guidelines Mr. Trump has often flouted.

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Updated 2020-08-06T04:05:02.791Z

“I’ve wanted to set an example as to how we should respond individually to this crisis,” Mr. Biden said at a fund-raiser on Wednesday. “Science matters.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_175341324_96a50878-566e-4e89-8580-0be0bb9c4e83-articleLarge Biden Will Not Attend Democratic Convention in Milwaukee Wisconsin Presidential Election of 2020 Milwaukee (Wis) Democratic Party Democratic National Convention democratic national committee delaware Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Biden, Joseph R Jr
Credit…Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Mr. Trump is sure to suggest that Mr. Biden, who has done very little in-person campaigning since the pandemic hit, is simply hiding back in his home state, even though for the millions expected to watch his address on television and other screens, the experience of seeing Mr. Biden from a soundstage in Delaware will not be much different than it would have been in an empty convention center in Milwaukee.

For Mr. Trump, an August convention was seen as an opportunity to demonstrate that the country was firmly on the path to economic recovery, having vanquished the pandemic. Mr. Trump’s allies moved cities to ensure they could give the president the look and feel of a pre-virus coronation.

But now, with just weeks to go before the president accepts his renomination, and plans in two separate cities foiled, Republicans are still tossing out ambitious ideas of how to create a spectacle that will appeal to Mr. Trump’s supporters and earn high ratings on television.

Both Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump are visibly energized by crowds, and advisers must consider how they can deliver convention-bump-inducing speeches without roaring audiences, or in Mr. Biden’s case, even the smattering of party officials who could have made the journey to Wisconsin.

Democratic donors who are not traveling to Milwaukee will soon receive swag bags in the mail that are filled with commemorative pins, buttons and the formal credentials that would have been waiting for them at their hotels.

Some fund-raisers and donors had the option of “convention packages” that promise activities like “taste of the trail” (for donating $250,000), a “preferred convention welcome kit” ($100,000) or “afternoon briefings and other convention week daytime content” ($50,000 and up) — despite the largely virtual nature of the festivities.

The decision to keep Mr. Biden away from what was left of the Milwaukee convention — an event that in June was moved out of the city’s basketball arena to a smaller convention center, while delegates were told to stay home — came after epidemiologists determined it would not be safe for even 300 people to gather in one place from across the country.

“When it became clear in past days that the pandemic was not abating, we took these actions,” Mr. Perez said in an interview Wednesday. “We have an absolutely top-shelf team of people producing the convention and while it will be different from any convention before, I think it has real possibility to be more exciting and exhilarating than ever before.”

Moving the remaining convention segments planned for Milwaukee is a blow to the city, which has lost the chance to show how pleasant Wisconsin summers are to a global audience — and the hundreds of millions of dollars in economic impact envisioned when Mr. Perez awarded the city the convention in 2018.

“I completely understand the decision,” said Alex Lasry, the finance chairman for the convention’s host committee, but he added he was deeply disappointed for the city.

“For us to go there in person, we would put a whole bunch of people from Milwaukee and surrounding areas in harm’s way — not going to do that,” said Representative Cedric Richmond, a Louisiana Democrat who is a co-chairman of Mr. Biden’s campaign. “The convention is a big TV production anyway. We’re still going to have that, we’ll still have our speakers, make our case for why Joe Biden should be the next president.”

While Mr. Biden will formally accept the nomination from Delaware, other Democrats will appear on television screens from satellite locations from across the country. Stephanie Cutter, a veteran of the John Kerry and Barack Obama presidential campaigns, is still in the process of filling the two hours of nightly airtime.

Wisconsin officials are still expected to give speeches at the convention center in downtown Milwaukee, but leading Democrats, including Mr. Obama, Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, are expected to deliver their addresses from elsewhere.

Credit…Kamil Krzaczynski/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Hours after Democrats announced their entire convention would be conducted virtually, the Republican National Convention released health protocols for its scaled-back party gathering, which plans for 336 delegates to meet for four days in Charlotte in late August.

The Republican proposal includes “pre-travel Covid-19 testing of all participants prior to arrival in Charlotte,” temperature checks, social distancing and mask-wearing. The Democratic convention had required everyone inside the convention’s security perimeter to test negative for the virus each day before entry.

The conventions may be traditional in only this way: marking the start to a fall campaign that, like everything else this year, will be different from any other in modern American history.

The get-out-the-vote effort won’t have armies of volunteers knocking on doors to remind voters to go to the polls. Instead it will mean countless texts and phone calls and video chats to show people the proper procedures to apply for and send back an absentee ballot — and for some voters, in states like Wisconsin that have more restrictive vote-by-mail laws, how to find a legal witness to co-sign their ballot envelope so it can be counted.

For 2020, the days of neighbor-to-neighbor in-person campaigning are essentially over.

“You don’t even want to try,” said Gilberto Hinojosa, the Texas Democratic Party chairman. “You don’t want to upset the voter. The easiest way to lose a voter is to anger them by exposing them to Covid-19.”

Annie Karni contributed reporting.

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Biden Will Not Attend Democratic Convention in Milwaukee

WASHINGTON — Joseph R. Biden Jr. acknowledged on Wednesday that he would not appear in Milwaukee to accept the presidential nomination he has sought on and off since the 1980s, bowing to the realities of a pandemic that has altered every aspect of life in 2020, including the November contest.

The decision to cancel major in-person appearances at the Democratic National Convention 90 days before the election, at the recommendation of health officials, was the final blow to the prospect that the fall campaign would resemble anything remotely like a traditional presidential contest, as the country confronts more than 150,000 deaths from the virus and cases continue to rise in parts of the country.

“The conventions as we traditionally have known them are no more,” said Terry McAuliffe, the former Democratic National Committee chairman who oversaw the party’s 2000 and 2004 conventions. “They will be more interactive and more digital, with more on social media.”

Other than the party chairman, Tom Perez, a small handful of Democratic officials will travel to Milwaukee from out of state to attend the convention. Some Wisconsin officials may deliver speeches from the crowd-free soundstage at the city’s convention center, where Mr. Biden was to deliver his nomination acceptance speech. He will now do that from his home state, Delaware.

President Trump and Republicans, who have careened from moving most of their convention from Charlotte, N.C., to Jacksonville, Fla., to canceling the made-for-TV portion of their event, have been slower to give up on the prospect of an in-person convention despite the serious health risks, and 336 delegates are still set to gather in North Carolina.

Party conventions once had a different kind of drama to them.

Much to the chagrin of political junkies, the days of convention floor flights over who would be a party’s presidential nominee are long past. Not since 1980, when Edward M. Kennedy forced a vote to free delegates from a commitment to President Jimmy Carter, has there been any real question about whom a major party would nominate, though Mr. Trump did face some opposition from Republicans at his convention in 2016.

In recent years, convention week has meant prime-time televised addresses from famous names and up-and-comers, highly produced balloon drops and delegates in patriotic regalia, all as a way to introduce voters to the candidate and to kick off the general election. It was a place to conduct party business, and also to throw actual parties — lavish events to reward donors and bigwigs, where celebrities mingled with state party chairs.

An introduction is less essential than ever in 2020, with both major candidates universally known by the American electorate, but Democrats still need to engage volunteers and flatter their foot soldiers, while communicating with a screen-weary homebound American electorate.

“Can you get a bounce? Yes,” said Leah D. Daughtry, who ran the party’s 2008 and 2016 conventions. “Can you make it interesting? That’s the challenge. You’ve got to make it interesting.”

Though a virtual convention will be a challenge, Democrats argued on Wednesday that the decision to forgo an in-person address reinforced a sharp contrast Mr. Biden has been pressing throughout the public health crisis: He takes the coronavirus outbreak seriously, and Mr. Trump does not. It is critical, allies have said, that Mr. Biden serve as a role model who adheres firmly to the public health guidelines Mr. Trump has often flouted.

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Updated 2020-08-06T04:05:02.791Z

“I’ve wanted to set an example as to how we should respond individually to this crisis,” Mr. Biden said at a fund-raiser on Wednesday. “Science matters.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_175341324_96a50878-566e-4e89-8580-0be0bb9c4e83-articleLarge Biden Will Not Attend Democratic Convention in Milwaukee Wisconsin Presidential Election of 2020 Milwaukee (Wis) Democratic Party Democratic National Convention democratic national committee delaware Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Biden, Joseph R Jr
Credit…Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Mr. Trump is sure to suggest that Mr. Biden, who has done very little in-person campaigning since the pandemic hit, is simply hiding back in his home state, even though for the millions expected to watch his address on television and other screens, the experience of seeing Mr. Biden from a soundstage in Delaware will not be much different than it would have been in an empty convention center in Milwaukee.

For Mr. Trump, an August convention was seen as an opportunity to demonstrate that the country was firmly on the path to economic recovery, having vanquished the pandemic. Mr. Trump’s allies moved cities to ensure they could give the president the look and feel of a pre-virus coronation.

But now, with just weeks to go before the president accepts his renomination, and plans in two separate cities foiled, Republicans are still tossing out ambitious ideas of how to create a spectacle that will appeal to Mr. Trump’s supporters and earn high ratings on television.

Both Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump are visibly energized by crowds, and advisers must consider how they can deliver convention-bump-inducing speeches without roaring audiences, or in Mr. Biden’s case, even the smattering of party officials who could have made the journey to Wisconsin.

Democratic donors who are not traveling to Milwaukee will soon receive swag bags in the mail that are filled with commemorative pins, buttons and the formal credentials that would have been waiting for them at their hotels.

Some fund-raisers and donors had the option of “convention packages” that promise activities like “taste of the trail” (for donating $250,000), a “preferred convention welcome kit” ($100,000) or “afternoon briefings and other convention week daytime content” ($50,000 and up) — despite the largely virtual nature of the festivities.

The decision to keep Mr. Biden away from what was left of the Milwaukee convention — an event that in June was moved out of the city’s basketball arena to a smaller convention center, while delegates were told to stay home — came after epidemiologists determined it would not be safe for even 300 people to gather in one place from across the country.

“When it became clear in past days that the pandemic was not abating, we took these actions,” Mr. Perez said in an interview Wednesday. “We have an absolutely top-shelf team of people producing the convention and while it will be different from any convention before, I think it has real possibility to be more exciting and exhilarating than ever before.”

Moving the remaining convention segments planned for Milwaukee is a blow to the city, which has lost the chance to show how pleasant Wisconsin summers are to a global audience — and the hundreds of millions of dollars in economic impact envisioned when Mr. Perez awarded the city the convention in 2018.

“I completely understand the decision,” said Alex Lasry, the finance chairman for the convention’s host committee, but he added he was deeply disappointed for the city.

“For us to go there in person, we would put a whole bunch of people from Milwaukee and surrounding areas in harm’s way — not going to do that,” said Representative Cedric Richmond, a Louisiana Democrat who is a co-chairman of Mr. Biden’s campaign. “The convention is a big TV production anyway. We’re still going to have that, we’ll still have our speakers, make our case for why Joe Biden should be the next president.”

While Mr. Biden will formally accept the nomination from Delaware, other Democrats will appear on television screens from satellite locations from across the country. Stephanie Cutter, a veteran of the John Kerry and Barack Obama presidential campaigns, is still in the process of filling the two hours of nightly airtime.

Wisconsin officials are still expected to give speeches at the convention center in downtown Milwaukee, but leading Democrats, including Mr. Obama, Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, are expected to deliver their addresses from elsewhere.

Credit…Kamil Krzaczynski/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Hours after Democrats announced their entire convention would be conducted virtually, the Republican National Convention released health protocols for its scaled-back party gathering, which plans for 336 delegates to meet for four days in Charlotte in late August.

The Republican proposal includes “pre-travel Covid-19 testing of all participants prior to arrival in Charlotte,” temperature checks, social distancing and mask-wearing. The Democratic convention had required everyone inside the convention’s security perimeter to test negative for the virus each day before entry.

The conventions may be traditional in only this way: marking the start to a fall campaign that, like everything else this year, will be different from any other in modern American history.

The get-out-the-vote effort won’t have armies of volunteers knocking on doors to remind voters to go to the polls. Instead it will mean countless texts and phone calls and video chats to show people the proper procedures to apply for and send back an absentee ballot — and for some voters, in states like Wisconsin that have more restrictive vote-by-mail laws, how to find a legal witness to co-sign their ballot envelope so it can be counted.

For 2020, the days of neighbor-to-neighbor in-person campaigning are essentially over.

“You don’t even want to try,” said Gilberto Hinojosa, the Texas Democratic Party chairman. “You don’t want to upset the voter. The easiest way to lose a voter is to anger them by exposing them to Covid-19.”

Annie Karni contributed reporting.

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