His voice was hoarse and strained.
But during his 65-minute speech on Monday night from an airport hangar in Sanford, Fla., President Trump’s physical presence onstage was his takeaway message: He appeared, for the most part, unchanged despite being hospitalized less than two weeks ago with the coronavirus.
“I feel so powerful,” said the president, who claimed he was now “immune” to the virus and did not wear a mask while boarding Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews before leaving Washington. His physician, Dr. Sean P. Conley, said in a memo that the president had tested negative “on consecutive days” using a rapid antigen coronavirus test not intended for that purpose.
In a previous note, Dr. Conley had said that the president had a polymerase chain reaction, or P.C.R., test, which is more precise, but he did not release the specific results of that test.
“I’ll kiss everyone in that audience,” Mr. Trump said. “I’ll kiss the guys and the beautiful women. Just give you a big fat kiss.”
Mr. Trump, in short, was embodying his advice to Americans struggling through a pandemic that has killed more than 210,000 people in this country: “Don’t let it dominate your life.”
The speech he delivered was a variation of the same stump speech he has been giving for four years. He peddled false conspiracy theories about his political rivals (no, President Barack Obama did not spy on his 2016 campaign), inflating his own accomplishments (being nominated for the Nobel Prize is not really a notable milestone), and claiming that the news media is made up of “frauds.”
The main news event of the week, the confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett, was mentioned only in passing, as part of a rambling list of accomplishments the president ticked off.
While highlighting his own quick recovery, the president also claimed, with no evidence, that his opponent, Joseph R. Biden, Jr., would delay a vaccine and “prolong the pandemic.”
Expect more of the same for the final three weeks of the race, as the president ramps up attacks on Mr. Biden, plays into the fears of voters by making false claims about his opponent’s stances, and maintains a breakneck schedule to show his physical strength after a health scare.
Trump campaign advisers said they expected the president to hold two to three events a day, and as many rallies as possible — all a reminder that the incumbent president is still running from behind.
Instead of trying to expand his political map into Democratic-leaning states like Nevada, Minnesota, New Hampshire and even New Mexico, as he had hoped to do, Mr. Trump is trying to shore up support in states he won four years ago, like Florida and Pennsylvania.
On Monday night, the campaign announced two more rallies, one in Florida and one in Georgia.
A federal appeals court reinstated restrictions late Monday night that would allow just a single ballot drop-off site per county in Texas, allowing Gov. Greg Abbott’s order to proceed over criticism that it would make voting more difficult and dangerous.
The three-judge panel in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, all of whom were appointed by President Trump, reversed a lower court decision from Friday that had blocked the restrictions. The judges wrote that the order “does nothing to prevent Texans from mailing in their absentee ballots, as they have done in the past in election after election.”
It’s unclear if the decision will be the final word in the back-and-forth legal battle.
Gov. Abbott created the rule on Oct. 1, citing election security and saying it would “help stop attempts at illegal voting.” There is no evidence tying mail-in ballots to widespread fraud; Democrats see the move as voter suppression, arguing the restriction targets densely populated areas with more Democratic voters.
Several Texas counties had created multiple drop-off locations, intending to make voting easier for people wary of long Election Day lines or delays in mailing their ballots in. The Texas League of United Latin American Citizens and other civil rights organizations sued over the governor’s restrictions, saying they would harm vulnerable voters.
Polls have indicated Texas, long a Republican stronghold, is competitive this year in both the presdiential and U.S. Senate races. Early voting began in Texas on Tuesday.
Even as President Trump returned to the campaign trail in Florida on Monday, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, warned that holding large rallies was “asking for trouble” with cases of the coronavirus surging in many states.
Dr. Fauci told CNN that Americans needed to be more cautious in the fall and winter months, and warned that rising rates of infections in a number of states suggested Americans should be “doubling down” on precautions rather than casting them aside.
“We know that that is asking for trouble when you do that,” Dr. Fauci said of Mr. Trump’s decision to begin a full schedule of campaign rallies. “We’ve seen that when you have situations of congregate settings where there are a lot of people without masks, the data speak for themselves. It happens. And now is even more so a worse time to do that, because when you look at what’s going on in the United States, it’s really very troublesome.”
He noted that many states were now seeing increases in positive tests. “It’s going in the wrong direction right now,” he said.
He said that people should continue to wear masks and practice social distancing — and avoid large gatherings — to prevent new outbreaks. “That’s just a recipe of a real problem if we don’t get things under control before we get into that seasonal challenge,” he said.
Dr. Fauci’s comments came the day after he objected to a Trump campaign television ad that portrayed him as praising the president’s response to the pandemic.
Dr. Fauci reiterated on Monday that the ad had taken his past remarks out of context, and called his inclusion in it “very disappointing.” He said he had been speaking more broadly about the collaborative efforts of the federal government and was “not a political person.” Asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper whether the ad should be taken down, something the Trump campaign says it has no intention of doing, Dr. Fauci said, “I think so.”
In an interview with The Times on Monday, Dr. Fauci said that he had been unsuccessful so far in having the ad removed.
“I wouldn’t know who to contact in the campaign to tell them to pull it down,” he said. “I spoke to someone who I know well in the White House to figure it out for me and tell me how to get it down. I haven’t heard back from them yet.”
Dr. Fauci said that he did not want to be pulled into the fray of the campaign.
“I never in my five decades ever directly or indirectly supported a political candidate and I’m not going to start now,” he said. “I do not want to be involved in it.”
Dr. Fauci made an even more pointed criticism of the Trump campaign in an interview on Monday with The Daily Beast.
“By doing this against my will they are, in effect, harassing me,” he said. But he said he had not thought about quitting — “not in my wildest freakin’ dreams.”
Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Monday gave his clearest answer in weeks regarding his position on expanding the Supreme Court, saying that he was “not a fan” of the concept but preferred to keep attention on Republican efforts to fill the seat of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with their own nominee only weeks before Election Day.
“I’ve already spoken on — I’m not a fan of court packing,” Mr. Biden told WKRC-TV in Cincinnati as he campaigned there on Monday. “But I don’t want to get off on that whole issue. I want to keep focused. The president would love nothing better than to fight about whether or not I would in fact pack the court or not pack the court.”
Mr. Biden, who served for decades as a senator from Delaware, is a consummate institutionalist and as recently as last year had expressed firm opposition to the idea of court packing. Some on the left have called to increase the number of justices on the nation’s highest court as a countermeasure if Republicans rush through Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation.
Since Justice Ginsburg’s death last month, Mr. Biden has been highly critical of the Republicans’ fast-tracking the confirmation process, noting in recen days that Americans are already voting.But he has also repeatedly dodged questions about whether he would support expanding the court.
“The focus is, why is he doing what he’s doing now?” Mr. Biden said of President Trump. “Why now, with less than 24 days to go in the election?”
Republicans had seized on Mr. Biden’s evasiveness in recent days. During the vice-presidential debate last week, Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris, Mr. Biden’s running mate, clashed about whether she and Mr. Biden supported packing the court, with Mr. Pence demanding a “straight answer” and Ms. Harris declining to give one. Mr. Pence also brought up Mr. Biden’s lack of a clear answer on the issue during a campaign event in Florida over the weekend.
Mr. Biden continues to lead in many key battleground state polls.
The California Republican Party has admitted responsibility for placing more than 50 deceptively labeled “official” drop boxes for mail-in ballots in Los Angeles, Fresno and Orange Counties — an action that state officials said was illegal and could lead to voter fraud.
The dark gray metal boxes have been popping up over the past two weeks near churches, gun shops and Republican Party offices, mostly in conservative areas of a deep-blue state, affixed with a white paper label identifying them as either an “Official Ballot Drop off Box” or a “Ballot Drop Box.”
To the average voter, they are virtually indistinguishable from drop-off sites sanctioned by the state, which are governed by strict regulations intended to prevent the partisan manipulation of ballots.
The actions of the largely marginalized state party come at a moment when Republicans and Democrats are engaged in a bitter national struggle over voting rights, with President Trump’s allies accusing Democrats in Minnesota and elsewhere of undermining the integrity of the electoral process by expanding absentee voting and other measures to increase ballot access.
On Monday, California’s secretary of state, Alex Padilla, and Attorney General Xavier Becerra sent a cease-and-desist order to the state- and county-level Republican parties, ordering them to remove the boxes. They also urged voters who might have unknowingly dropped off their ballots in the receptacles to sign up with the state’s voter tracking website to ensure their vote is counted.
“Misleading voters is wrong regardless of who is doing it,” Mr. Padilla said in a conference call with reporters, adding that the boxes “are not permitted by state law.”
Mr. Becerra called the boxes “fake,” adding that it was “illegal to tamper with a citizen’s vote.” He warned that anyone “engaging in this activity” could be subject to criminal prosecution or civil action.
Hector Barajas, a spokesman for the California Republican Party, said the party would continue to distribute the boxes, without adding any label identifying them explicitly as Republican ballot drops.
Republicans and Democrats offered sharply divergent arguments on Monday in a Supreme Court confirmation fight whose outcome is likely to steer the court to the right for years, vying to define Judge Amy Coney Barrett and frame the political stakes of President Trump’s rush to install her before he faces voters.
In a marathon day of opening statements, Democrats assailed Judge Barrett as a conservative ideologue who would overturn the Affordable Care Act and abortion rights, and whose nomination amounted to an illegitimate power grab by a president in the last days before the election.
Republicans steered clear of addressing Judge Barrett’s anticipated effect on the court, instead promoting her sterling qualifications and accusing Democrats of unjustly attacking her because of her Catholic faith, despite the fact that they made no mention of it on Monday.
Judge Barrett, a former Notre Dame law professor, appeals court judge and mother of seven, sat in silence for much of the day; her expressions were rendered unreadable by a plain black mask she had donned in accordance with the Senate Judiciary Committee’s coronavirus protocol. When it was her turn to speak, she tried to avoid being pulled into the political or policy fray.
“Courts are not designed to solve every problem or right every wrong in our public life,” Judge Barrett said. “The policy decisions and value judgments of government must be made by the political branches elected by and accountable to the people. The public should not expect courts to do so, and courts should not try.”
President Trump has tested negative “on consecutive days” using a rapid antigen coronavirus test not intended for that purpose, the White House physician Dr. Sean Conley said in a statement released Monday before the president began a rally in Florida.
The memo said the president tested negative on a rapid test called Abbott BinaxNOW, but experts cautioned that the test’s accuracy has not yet been investigated enough to be sure that the president is virus-free.
“It doesn’t make much sense in my mind that they should be using the BinaxNOW test for this,” said Dr. Michael Mina, an infectious diseases expert at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “But it’s one additional piece of information.”
The BinaxNOW, which costs $5 and functions like a pregnancy test, looks for a protein produced by the coronavirus. It is most effective when the amount of virus in the body is high, but is much less sensitive than the P.C.R., the gold standard laboratory test. The Trump administration has purchased 150 million BinaxNOW tests and plans to ship them to states for use in schools and nursing homes.
In an announcement of the tests’ deployment to states on Sept. 28, the Department of Health and Human Services cautioned that “results from an antigen test may need to be confirmed with a molecular test prior to making treatment decisions; this may be particularly true for negative results if there is a high clinical suspicion that the patient is infected.”
“Infectiousness should be based more on symptom onset,” said Dr. Ranu Dhillon, a physician at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston. The BinaxNOW, he said, “could be giving false negatives.”
According to guidelines released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with severe Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, may need to isolate for up to 20 days. But it has been unclear when exactly Mr. Trump’s symptoms began, or how severe they have been. On Monday, he departed for his Florida rally without a mask covering his face.
Doctors said it’s somewhat reassuring that Mr. Trump has tested negative more than once, but said without more details from the more sensitive P.C.R. tests, it’s impossible to be sure that he is past the point of infectiousness.
BinaxNOW’s “real power lies in marking someone who is transmissible, not the other way around,” Dr. Mina said. “I think they’re mixing things up a bit.”
In a memo released Saturday night with limited information, Dr. Conley said that Mr. Trump was “no longer considered a transmission risk to others.” That memo did not explicitly categorize the president as “negative” for the coronavirus.
Here are the daily schedules of the presidential and vice-presidential candidates for Tuesday, Oct. 13. All times are Eastern time.
President Donald J. Trump
7 p.m.: Holds a rally in Johnstown, Pa.
Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.
Afternoon: Speaks in Pembroke Pines, Fla. on his vision for older Americans.
Late afternoon: Attends an event to encourage voters to make a voting plan in Miramar, Fla.
Vice President Pence
Noon: Holds a rally in Waukesha, Wis.
Senator Kamala Harris
9 a.m.: Takes part in the Amy Coney Barrett confirmation hearing remotely from the Hart Senate Office Building.