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Watch Live: Trump to Announce Amy Coney Barrett as Supreme Court Nominee

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Sept. 26, 2020, 4:51 p.m. ET

Sept. 26, 2020, 4:51 p.m. ET

President Trump is expected to announce his pick at 5 p.m. Eastern at the White House. Republicans and Democrats are gearing up for an election-season confirmation fight unlike any in American history.

VideoVideo player loading President Trump is expected to announce Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his nominee to succeed the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court.CreditCredit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

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Trump to announce Judge Amy Coney Barrett soon at the White House as his Supreme Court pick.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • G.O.P. aims to steer the conversation toward a court fight instead of Trump’s political danger zones.

  • Battle lines are being drawn over Barrett’s nomination.

  • Barrett, with children in tow, is seen leaving her Indiana home.

  • Trump hopes the Barrett nomination can revive his campaign. But it’s unclear that it will.

  • Biden is intimately familiar with the Supreme Court. How would he work with it?

  • Biden doesn’t discuss the court, but accuses Trump of dividing the country.

President Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court is a favorite of anti-abortion activists.Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

President Trump is expected to announce Saturday afternoon that he will nominate Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, setting off a politically explosive scramble to confirm a deeply conservative jurist before Election Day.

Mr. Trump planned to introduce Judge Barrett, a former Notre Dame law professor who now sits on a federal appeals court in Chicago and is a favorite of anti-abortion activists, at a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden, just a little over a week after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Judge Barrett’s confirmation would cement a six to three conservative majority on the court, leaving an imprint that could long outlast Mr. Trump’s presidency.

The nomination is expected to consume the Senate in the weeks ahead and quickly reverberate on the campaign trail, injecting polarizing issues like abortion rights into an election season already weighed down by the coronavirus pandemic and a national reckoning over racism.

Senate Republicans have vowed to confirm the president’s nominee with haste and are preparing to oversee a lightening fast confirmation process that could put her on the bench before Nov. 3. It would be a historic feat: No justice has ever been confirmed so close to an election, and in this case, voters in some states are already casting ballots.

Democrats, still furious over Republicans’ outright refusal to consider President Barack Obama’s nominee to the court in 2016, have argued that they have no right to fill the seat so close to the election. But locked in the minority, they are largely powerless to stop it. The Democrats intend to use the fight to stoke outrage about the possible loss of abortion rights and the Affordable Care Act, both of which could come under threat with Judge Barrett on the court. They hope it can help them reclaim the presidency and the Senate majority.

Indeed, Judge Barrett is in many ways the ideological opposite of Justice Ginsburg — who led the court’s liberal wing. Judge Barrett has an unwaveringly conservative voting record in cases that touch on abortion, gun rights, discrimination and immigration. At 48, she would be the youngest justice on the court, with the potential to shape the law for decades to come.

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The ‘Dogma’ Question That Made Amy Coney Barrett a Conservative Hero

A remark from Senator Dianne Feinstein during Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearing in 2017 became a badge of defiance for conservatives battling what they view as anti-religion bias by Democratic lawmakers.

“You are controversial. Let’s start with that — you’re controversial because many of us that have lived our lives as women really recognize the value of finally being able to control our reproductive systems, and Roe entered into that obviously. I listened to your answers to Senator Grassley’s question, and it leaves me a bit puzzled because you have a long history of believing that your religious beliefs should prevail.” “How do you evaluate the precedents, plural, with respect to Roe?” “The Supreme Court precedents?” “Yes.” “Well, Roe and Casey and its progeny, as you say, Roe has been affirmed many times and survived many challenges in the court. And it’s more than 40 years old, and it’s clearly binding on all courts of appeals. And so it’s not open to me or up to me and I would have no interest in, as a Court of Appeals Judge, challenging that precedent. It would bind.” “Why is it that so many of us on this side have this very uncomfortable feeling that, you know, dogma and law are two different things. And I think whatever a religion is, it has its own dogma. The law is totally different. And I think in your case, professor, when you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for years in this country.”

Video player loading A remark from Senator Dianne Feinstein during Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearing in 2017 became a badge of defiance for conservatives battling what they view as anti-religion bias by Democratic lawmakers.CreditCredit…C-Span

As President Trump moves ahead with his Supreme Court nominee, and Senate Republicans prepare to hold lightning-quick confirmation hearings ahead of the election, they are making risky calculations aimed at navigating difficult political straits with less than 40 days left in the campaign.

In order to achieve a new six to three conservative majority on the court, Republicans are poised to defy a clear majority of voters who have indicated in polls that they want the winner of the election to pick a nominee for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat. They are even willing to energize Democratic turnout in the short run by elevating issues like abortion, if it means achieving the long-term goal of tilting the court further to the right.

Now, though, Mr. Trump’s advisers and party lawmakers are placing wagers on Mr. Trump’s pick, Judge Amy Coney Barrett. It is a gamble based on hope as much as strategy, as Mr. Trump trails in battleground states and the Senate G.O.P. majority appears increasingly precarious.

They believe a partisan fight over the court offers them at least a chance to steer the debate away from political danger zones like the president’s handling of the pandemic and his unceasing rhetorical eruptions, most recently his indication that he would be unwilling to agree to a peaceful transition of power.

“Either the election can be about Trump or about Covid or about the Supreme Court,” said Senator Lamar Alexander, the long-serving Tennessee Republican who is retiring next year.

If Republicans are skeptical that they can retain the presidency and the Senate in any election that is a referendum on Mr. Trump’s leadership, they are betting that Democrats will botch the confirmation process with ferocious attacks that makes his nominee a sympathetic figure.

On this, Republicans say, they have history on their side, as they point to the bitter 2018 fight over Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh that resulted in the party’s adding to its Senate majority.

Like Kavanaugh, Judge Barrett is a popular figure among conservative Catholics and other Christians.

During her Court of Appeals confirmation hearing in 2017, a remark from Senator Dianne Feinstein became a badge of defiance for conservatives battling what they saw as anti-religion bias by Democratic lawmakers.

“The dogma lives loudly within you,” Ms. Feinstein, Democrat of California, said at the time.

Asked whether her Roman Catholic faith would influence her decisions on the bench, Judge Barrett told the senators that she was a faithful Catholic, and that her religious beliefs would not affect her decisions as an appellate judge.

A prayer group in front of the Supreme Court Saturday afternoon.Credit…Tom Brenner for The New York Times

In choosing Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative and a hero to the anti-abortion movement, as his nominee to the Supreme Court, President Trump has found the polar opposite of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a champion of reproductive rights and leader of the liberal wing of the court.

Judge Barrett has been on the bench for only three years, appointed by Mr. Trump to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in 2017. On Friday, opponents of the nomination criticized the Trump administration for rushing the process and said that Judge Barrett, if confirmed, would vote to restrict access to abortion, gut the Affordable Care Act and reverse progress on marriage equality.

“It’s no surprise Trump would want to nominate Amy Coney Barrett, a judge with a track record of anti-L.G.B.T.Q. rhetoric,” the Human Rights Campaign, a prominent lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer advocacy group, said in a tweet on Friday. “She’s argued against trans rights, marriage equality and reproductive rights — and she shouldn’t be on the Supreme Court.”

Judge Barrett, a Catholic jurist with solid anti-abortion credentials, is a popular figure among conservative Catholics and other Christians, and some supporters have sought to frame the opposition to her nomination as an attack on her religious beliefs.

“It’s go time!” Kristan Hawkins, the president of the anti-abortion group Students for Life, tweeted on Friday. “Get ready for a post Roe v Wade America!” The March for Life called Judge Barrett “an excellent choice” and “exactly the trailblazer we want to see on the court.”

While it is possible that the nomination could energize Democratic opposition amid a presidential campaign, Michael Steele, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, said in an appearance on MSNBC that Mr. Trump’s choice could improve his chances of re-election.

“This pick helps,” he said of the president’s campaign. “I think the Biden campaign and the Democrats need to be smart about how they approach this nominee.”

In a tweet on Friday, Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, called Judge Barrett “a legal trailblazer” who respected the country’s founding principles.

People close to Judge Barrett have already begun to fill out a biographical portrait of her ahead of the confirmation process in the Senate.

They believe that many of the establishment conservative groups already know her bona fides, according to a person briefed on the strategy. So now, as people across the country get to know the relatively obscure judge from Indiana, they are trying to highlight her work as a professor, her engagement with students and her years as a working mother.

Her allies are pushing for pieces about her in national publications that show her in a favorable light in the hopes that they avoid her becoming caricatured as too extreme by Democrats who are opposed to her nomination based on rulings that she has made on a number of issues.

Judge Amy Coney Barrett leaving her home in South Bend, Ind., around noon on Saturday. Judge Amy Coney Barrett leaving her home in South Bend, Ind., around noon on Saturday.Credit…Rebecca Ruiz/The New York Times

Judge Amy Coney Barrett and members of her family left their home in South Bend, Ind., shortly after noon Eastern time, several hours before President Trump was expected to name her to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court.

Ms. Barrett, her husband and several of their children were photographed leaving the house in dress clothes.

And a Special Air Mission military aircraft landed in South Bend from Maryland, suggesting that the White House had sent a military jet to bring the family to Washington for Mr. Trump’s announcement that will take place in the Rose Garden.

Mr. Trump has told several people that he plans to announce Judge Barrett as his pick for the seat left open when Justice Ginsburg died last week. Among other things, some political advisers believe that Judge Barrett could be helpful in appealing to Catholic voters in Rust Belt states where Mr. Trump is struggling against his opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr.

People listening to President Trump speak during a campaign rally on Friday in Newport News, Va. People listening to President Trump speak during a campaign rally on Friday in Newport News, Va.Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

President Trump is expected to announce later today that he has selected Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the Supreme Court seat left open by the passing of the liberal icon Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

With that selection, a partisan battle will ensue over a choice that would drastically reshape the highest court in the country. That battle is what Mr. Trump, who is losing to former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. in nearly every public poll, is pinning his hopes on for a change in the arc of the 2020 race.

There is always the chance, however slim, that the mercurial Mr. Trump changes his mind at the last minute ahead of the announcement, currently scheduled for 5 p.m. Eastern at the White House. But aides to Mr. Trump say that he has not interviewed another candidate this week. And Judge Barrett, 48, whom Mr. Trump considered in 2018 to replace the retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, fits the mold of the type of candidate who the president believes will appeal to his conservative base.

That does not mean Mr. Trump’s calculation is right. Several people close to the process said that Mr. Trump wasn’t listening to advice from several people that he consider a judge in Florida, Barbara Lagoa, who was confirmed on a bipartisan vote and who could appeal to the Latino voters the president needs.

But what Judge Barrett does is satisfy the evangelical supporters whose admiration the president craves, and whom Mr. Trump has feared losing throughout his term.

And so begins weeks of debate over the nominee in an election in which Mr. Trump has dwindling chances to change the dynamics.

Joseph R. Biden Jr. in 1993, as Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, with his fellow committee member Orrin Hatch during the Supreme Court confirmation hearing for Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Joseph R. Biden Jr. in 1993, as Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, with his fellow committee member Orrin Hatch during the Supreme Court confirmation hearing for Ruth Bader Ginsburg.Credit…AP Photo/John Duricka

After a half-century in public life, with a lead role in several indelible confirmation dramas through the years, Joseph R. Biden Jr. could, if elected, be saddled with a Supreme Court primed to counteract his policy aims on health care, abortion and other defining issues.

Many Democrats now believe that adding seats to the court is the urgent remedy, an extraordinary step that has not been seriously contemplated since the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt. They argue that the court’s legitimacy has already eroded amid the Republican confirmation maneuvers of the last four years.

Yet for Mr. Biden, a proud man of the Senate, such an effort would amount to the sort of norm-razing exercise that might strike him as an escalation too many.

“My inclination is to think that he would just see that as making it more political instead of making it less political,” said Cynthia C. Hogan, a former Judiciary Committee aide who helped lead Mr. Biden’s search for a 2020 running mate. “I think he wants to restore the court to its earlier place of respect.”

The court has unavoidably moved to the center of the campaign, with President Trump’s expected announcement on Saturday that he is nominating Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a favorite of conservatives, to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the stalwart liberal who died last week.

If the judiciary is a subject with which Mr. Biden is intimately familiar — perhaps more so than any modern nominee — it is also one that he has largely avoided in the presidential race, preferring to focus on the calamitous federal response to the coronavirus pandemic and the perpetual volatility of Mr. Trump’s rule.

The broader irony is not lost on Mr. Biden’s allies: He is, at present, effectively powerless to stop the ideological drift of a court wrenched to the right by a president who ran casinos when Mr. Biden ran the Senate Judiciary Committee.

And even if Mr. Biden is elected, his institutionalist bearing might preclude his support for a possible workaround.

Interviews with more than a dozen former colleagues, aides and other contemporaries from his earlier court clashes present Mr. Biden as a conflicted combatant in the judicial trenches, negotiating the constant tug between precedent and pragmatism, convention and conviction.

Joseph R. Biden Jr. compared President Trump to Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Germany’s minister of propaganda. Joseph R. Biden Jr. compared President Trump to Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Germany’s minister of propaganda.Credit…Kriston Jae Bethel for The New York Times

Joseph R. Biden Jr. ignored the looming fight over the Supreme Court and escalated his attacks on President Trump on Saturday, accusing him of dividing the country into “blue cities” and “red cities.” And in a newly televised interview, Mr. Biden compared the president to Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Germany’s minister of propaganda.

Mr. Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, made the Goebbels comparison when asked in an interview that aired Saturday on MSNBC about Mr. Trump’s claims that he is pushing a socialist agenda.

“I’m not sure anybody that hadn’t already made up their mind they’re for Trump will believe it,” Mr. Biden said. “But who knows. He’s sort of like Goebbels. You say the lie long enough — keep repeating it, repeating it, repeating it — it becomes common knowledge.”

Mr. Biden has made the analogy before when arguing that Mr. Trump often repeats a lie in the hope that it will stick.

Speaking on MSNBC, Mr. Biden also dismissed as “a typical Trump distraction” the president’s continued refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election.

“He’ll leave,” Mr. Biden said.

On Saturday afternoon, as Mr. Trump was preparing to announce his expected Supreme Court nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, Mr. Biden spoke via video to a virtual conference of the nation’s mayors, where he pledged to support cities, regardless of party affiliation.

“If I’m elected president I’m not going to be a Democratic president, I’m going to be an American president,” he said. “Blue cities, red cities, it does not matter to me. I promise you. Every American community deserves the full support of an American president.”

Mr. Biden’s comments were a rebuke of the president’s repeated attacks on “Democrat cities,” which he accuses of giving free rein to anarchists and criminals.

Mayors have a “tough job under any circumstances,” Mr. Biden said. “It’s nearly impossible when the president scapegoats mayors and fans the flames of division.”

Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his grandchildren Hunter and Natalie departed St. Joseph on the Brandywine Roman Catholic Church after attending a Sunday service in Wilmington, Del. Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his grandchildren Hunter and Natalie departed St. Joseph on the Brandywine Roman Catholic Church after attending a Sunday service in Wilmington, Del.Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

Alisa Anderson, a lifelong Catholic from Livonia, Mich., does not typically give much weight to the religious backgrounds of political candidates. But the deeply personal way Joseph R. Biden Jr. discusses his Catholicism has caught her attention.

“Biden has shown us that his faith has led him through some very dark times and I have admiration for someone who can admit that,” Ms. Anderson, 57, who is leaning toward Mr. Biden, said in a recent interview. “Trump has never made mention of his faith, unless it’s for political gain.”

That doesn’t bother Nathan Sullivan, a 29-year-old from Tucson, Ariz. For observant Catholics like him, the motive matters less than the results Mr. Trump achieves on issues like abortion.

“He’s a person of action,” said Mr. Sullivan, who voted for Mr. Trump in 2016 and will do so again this time, citing abortion as his most important issue. “I care a lot more about what he does than what he believes.”

Those two perspectives, from two critical swing states, shed light on the radically different appeal Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump hold for American Catholics, a diverse constituency that includes some of the few swing voters left.

Those voters are likely to receive significant attention in the coming weeks now that Mr. Trump has settled on Amy Coney Barrett, a federal appeals court judge with a deeply conservative judicial record, as his choice to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court.

In recent years, the majority of white Catholics have leaned Republican and Hispanic Catholics tilted Democratic. This year, even as Mr. Trump trails in many polls, each campaign sees opportunities to reduce the other’s margins with Catholic voters — enough, they hope, to tip key states their way.

Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump have vastly different political bases, but both are battling over more conservative, religious Latinos in places like Florida and Arizona.

They are also targeting a segment of persuadable white Catholics in the industrial Midwest — in particular, blue-collar, union households in places like Wisconsin and Michigan. It’s a more competitive voting group than the white evangelicals who are among Mr. Trump’s most loyal supporters, and some polls in recent months have offered signs of erosion in the president’s advantage with white Catholics compared with 2016, when they favored him by about two to one.

“If you’re looking in the religious landscape for something that looks like a possible swing constituency, it’s a group Trump won strongly in ’16,” said Robert P. Jones, an author and the chief executive of the Public Religion Research Institute. “If I’m the Trump administration, I’m less worried about the white evangelical vote. I’d be deeply worried about where white Catholics are.”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death last week has precipitated a huge battle, with Republicans racing to fill her seat. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death last week has precipitated a huge battle, with Republicans racing to fill her seat.Credit…Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

When Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined President Barack Obama for lunch in his private dining room in July 2013, the White House sought to keep the event quiet — the meeting called for discretion.

Mr. Obama had asked his White House counsel, Kathryn Ruemmler, to set up the lunch so he could build a closer rapport with the justice, according to two people briefed on the conversation. Treading cautiously, he did not directly bring up the subject of retirement to Justice Ginsburg, at 80 the Supreme Court’s oldest member and a two-time cancer patient.

He did, however, raise the looming 2014 midterm elections and how Democrats might lose control of the Senate. Implicit in that conversation was the concern motivating his lunch invitation — the possibility that if the Senate flipped, he would lose a chance to appoint a younger, liberal judge who could hold on to the seat for decades.

But the effort did not work, just as an earlier attempt by Senator Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who was then Judiciary Committee chairman, had failed. Justice Ginsburg left Mr. Obama with the clear impression that she was committed to continuing her work on the court, according to those briefed.

In an interview a year later, Justice Ginsburg deflected questions about the purpose of the lunch. Pressed on what Mr. Obama might think about her potential retirement, she said only, “I think he would agree with me that it’s a question for my own good judgment.”

With Justice Ginsburg’s death last week, Democrats are in a major political battle, as Republicans race to fill her seat and cement the court’s conservative tilt.

Mr. Obama clearly felt compelled to try to avoid just such a scenario, but the art of maneuvering justices off the court is politically delicate and psychologically complicated. They have lifetime appointments and enjoy tremendous power and status, which can be difficult to give up.

Still, presidents throughout American history have strategized to influence the timing of justices’ exits to suit various White House priorities.

George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis ignited a national uproar over the treatment of Black Americans by law enforcement and by the country at large. George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis ignited a national uproar over the treatment of Black Americans by law enforcement and by the country at large.Credit…Joshua Rashaad McFadden for The New York Times

Over three months ago, a majority of the Minneapolis City Council pledged to defund the city’s Police Department, making a powerful statement that reverberated across the country. It shook up Capitol Hill and the presidential race, shocked residents, delighted activists and changed the trajectory of efforts to overhaul the police during a crucial window of tumult and political opportunity.

Now some council members would like a do-over.

Councilor Andrew Johnson, one of the nine members who supported the pledge in June, said in an interview that he meant the words “in spirit,” not by the letter. Another councilor, Phillipe Cunningham, said that the language in the pledge was “up for interpretation” and that even among council members soon after the promise was made, “it was very clear that most of us had interpreted that language differently.” Lisa Bender, the council president, paused for 16 seconds when asked if the council’s statement had led to uncertainty at a pivotal moment for the city.

“I think our pledge created confusion in the community and in our wards,” she said.

The regrets formalize a retreat that has quietly played out in Minneapolis in the months since George Floyd was killed in police custody and the ensuing national uproar over the treatment of Black Americans by law enforcement and by the country at large. After a summer that challenged society’s commitment to racial equality and raised the prospect of sweeping political change, a cool autumn reality is settling in.

National polls show decreasing support for Black Lives Matter since a sea change of good will in June. In Minneapolis, the most far-reaching policy efforts meant to address police violence have all but collapsed.

In interviews this month, about two dozen elected officials, protesters and community leaders described how the City Council members’ pledge to “end policing as we know it” — a mantra to meet the city’s pain — became a case study in how quickly political winds can shift, and what happens when idealistic efforts at structural change meet the legislative process and public opposition.

The pledge is now no closer to becoming policy, with fewer vocal champions than ever. It has been rejected by the city’s mayor, a plurality of residents in recent public opinion polls and an increasing number of community groups. Taking its place have been the types of incremental reforms that the city’s progressive politicians had denounced.

In the meantime, “defunding the police” has become a talking point for state and national Republicans looking to paint liberals as anti-law-enforcement. It has been a thorn in the side of Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic presidential nominee, even though he rejects the idea. And it has ignited a power struggle in Minneapolis that has, in some cases, pitted moderate against progressive, young against old, white against Black.

Attorney General William Barr at a roundtable at Mary D. Bradford High School in Kenosha, Wis., on September 1st. Attorney General William Barr at a roundtable at Mary D. Bradford High School in Kenosha, Wis., on September 1st.Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

When the top federal prosecutor in Washington recently accused the local police of arresting protesters without probable cause, Attorney General William P. Barr stepped in.

Mr. Barr, who has frequently voiced his support for police officers, brought in the U.S. attorney, Michael Sherwin, to meet with the chief of the Washington police and other top law enforcement officials, escalating the local dispute to the top of the Justice Department.

The meeting grew heated, but ultimately, Mr. Sherwin backed down, according to three people familiar with the encounter.

The episode was an example of Mr. Barr’s approach to running the Justice Department under President Trump: an agenda that is squarely in line not only with the White House but also with the Trump campaign’s law-and-order platform and assertions that Democrats have made the United States less safe. Critics argued that the department’s norm of independence from politics, widely seen as an anticorruption measure that grew out of the post-Watergate era, was at risk.

Mr. Barr has threatened legal action against Democratic leaders who sparred with the president over stay-at-home orders during the pandemic and echoed Mr. Trump’s accusation that they were not tough enough on protesters during nationwide unrest over race and policing. He led federal agents who patrolled the streets of Washington against the wishes of the mayor. And this week, the Justice Department seemed to play into the president’s efforts to undermine voting by mail, making an unusual disclosure about an investigation into nine discarded military mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania.

Under Mr. Barr, the Justice Department is as close as it has been to the White House in a half-century, historians said. Not since John N. Mitchell steered the Nixon re-election effort from the fifth floor of the Justice Department has an attorney general wielded the power of the office to so bluntly serve a presidential campaign, they said.

“The norm has been that attorneys general try to keep the reputation of the department bright and shiny as a nonpartisan legitimate arm of the government that needs to be trusted by everyone,” said Andrew Rudalevige, a history professor at Bowdoin College who studies the power of the presidency.

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment. Mr. Barr’s defenders said he was simply applying his own judgment and any benefit to Mr. Trump’s campaign was incidental.

An election worker stands ready to hand out “I Voted” stickers for Florida’s Primary Election at the Miami-Dade County Elections Department in Doral, Fla. An election worker stands ready to hand out “I Voted” stickers for Florida’s Primary Election at the Miami-Dade County Elections Department in Doral, Fla.Credit…Scott McIntyre for The New York Times

Many Americans watch fireworks displays on Independence Day, eat turkey on Thanksgiving and, on Election Day, head to a school gymnasium, library or senior center to cast a ballot for their favorite presidential candidate.

A deadly pandemic has turned upside down one of these quintessential American routines: the act of voting.

Numerous voters say they are afraid to risk contagion by casting ballots in person. Many poll workers, often at high risk for infection because they are older adults, are afraid to show up. The best alternative, voting by mail, has become tangled in the politics of a deeply divided America as President Trump sows distrust about the process. And now he is suggesting he may not even honor the results of the vote, refusing to commit to a peaceful transfer of power.

For many election officials, it is a time to stay focused. They are working to set up polling places that are socially distanced and stocked with hand sanitizer. More drop boxes are being installed in some states, and, despite confusion around mailed ballots, county clerks are bracing for processing and counting more of them than ever before.

The pandemic has upended nearly every aspect of election season. Candidates aren’t showing up at roadside diners to court votes by shaking hands and kissing babies. Their supporters aren’t knocking on doors as much as usual or handing out campaign fliers at crowded events, though Mr. Trump has held several rallies. The efforts of get-out-the-vote organizations that typically set up booths at county fairs or concerts have been stymied.

The act of voting has also been complicated, as was demonstrated in the problems faced by some states during the primary election. Voters stood in line for hours to cast ballots in some areas. In others, the tally of mailed ballots took much longer than expected. Officials have warned that the electorate may face similar circumstances during the presidential election.

Many voting rules have changed this year because of the pandemic, making it harder than usual to figure out how to cast your ballot. So we did the work for you, in hopes of helping to make sure your vote is counted.

Plan to Vote? Here’s What You’ll Want to Know

Many rules have changed during the pandemic, so this interactive guide can help you ensure your vote is counted.

Political signs compete for space in Newburg, Wis., on Sept. 18. Wisconsin is another of the “blue wall” states that Donald Trump won in 2016. Political signs compete for space in Newburg, Wis., on Sept. 18. Wisconsin is another of the “blue wall” states that Donald Trump won in 2016.Credit…Lauren Justice for The New York Times

Love it or hate it, the Electoral College is the turnstile to the White House, and that means that a handful of states will swallow up most of the attention on Election Day and, if necessary, in the days that follow as ballots are counted.

Here are some key cities and counties in four states that will play a crucial role in determining the winner. These states and municipalities will also be closely watched for how they handle what is expected to be historic turnout, including unprecedented numbers of mail ballots.

Of course, not all will swiftly meet the surge of mail ballots. Florida and Arizona, for example, will begin counting those ballots well before Election Day, and are expected to report results more quickly. Pennsylvania and Michigan cannot begin counting until Election Day.

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  • How to Vote

    Many rules have changed during the pandemic, making it harder to figure out how to cast your ballot. This interactive guide can help you ensure your vote is counted.

  • Paths to 270

    Joe Biden and Donald Trump need 270 electoral votes to reach the White House. Try building your own coalition of battleground states to see potential outcomes.

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