Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, announced on Saturday that the Senate would not meet as planned next week after three senators tested positive for the virus, but indicated that Republicans would press ahead to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court without delay.
“The Senate’s floor schedule will not interrupt the thorough, fair and historically supported confirmation process previously laid out,” Mr. McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, said in a statement, adding that the Senate Judiciary Committee had “successfully” met with senators appearing both in person and virtually since May.
The announcement comes after three members of Mr. McConnell’s conference, two of them on the Judiciary Committee, have tested positive for the coronavirus in the last 24 hours. Others, like Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma, have tested negative but have gone into quarantine.
Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, the third Republican senator to test positive for the coronavirus this week, was exposed to an individual earlier in the week who tested positive for the virus, according to his office, which said the senator was “not experiencing symptoms.” He did not attend President Trump’s nomination ceremony for Judge Barrett at the Rose Garden on Saturday.
Unlike Senators Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Mike Lee of Utah, who tested positive on Friday, Mr. Johnson does not sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee. But his positive test result adds new complications to the timing of Judge Barrett’s confirmation.
Top Senate Democrats demanded that Republicans slow their plans for confirming Judge Barrett.
“If it’s too dangerous to have the Senate in session, it is also too dangerous for committee hearings to continue,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said in a statement. “Leader McConnell and Chairman Graham’s monomaniacal drive to confirm Judge Barrett at all costs needlessly threatens the health and safety of senators, staff and all those who work in the Capitol complex.”
The Sept. 26 Rose Garden ceremony for Judge Barrett was most likely not a “super-spreader” event, because it was outdoors. However, many top Republicans attended without masks or social distancing, raising concerns that others might have contracted the virus but had not yet been diagnosed. And someone who was infected and did not have symptoms could have transmitted the virus to others during indoor discussions inside the White House.
But leading Republicans have said they planned to continue “full steam ahead” to confirm Judge Barrett before Election Day.
Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the Judiciary Committee chairman, said on Friday that his panel would begin four days of public hearings on Judge Barrett’s nomination on Oct. 12, as scheduled. Mr. Tillis and Mr. Lee said they would isolate for 10 days, which would enable them to emerge in time for the hearings.
And in an interview on Friday, Mr. McConnell suggested that the virus’s spread through Republican circles could mean that more lawmakers would participate in the hearings virtually. “This sort of underscores the need to do that,” he said.
But Democrats said that virtual hearings on such a consequential matter would be unacceptable.
Republicans hold a narrow majority in the Senate, meaning they can only afford to lose three votes in their push to confirm her. Two Republicans, Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine have said they would not confirm a nominee before the election.
Joe Biden leads Donald Trump in Florida and Pennsylvania. Both states are crucial to Mr. Trump’s re-election chances.
|2016 Election Result||NYT/Siena
|Pennsylvania (n=706)||1 Trump|| +7 Biden
|Florida (710)||+1 Trump|| +5 Biden
Based on New York Times/Siena College polls of 710 likely voters in Florida from Sept. 30 to Oct. 1 and 706 likely voters in Pennsylvania from Sept. 30 to Oct. 2.
By overwhelming margins, voters in Pennsylvania and Florida were turned off by President Trump’s conduct in the first general election debate, according to New York Times/Siena College surveys, as Joseph R. Biden Jr. maintained a lead in the two largest battleground states.
Over all, Mr. Biden led by seven percentage points, 49 percent to 42 percent, among likely voters in Pennsylvania. He led by a similar margin, 47-42, among likely voters in Florida.
The surveys began Wednesday, before the early Friday announcement that Mr. Trump had contracted the coronavirus. There was modest evidence of a shift in favor of Mr. Biden in interviews on Friday, including in Arizona where a Times/Siena survey is in progress, after controlling for the demographic and political characteristics of the respondents.
One day of interviews is not enough to evaluate the consequences of a major political development, and it may be several days or longer before even the initial effects of Mr. Trump’s diagnosis can be ascertained by pollsters.
The debates long loomed as one of the president’s best opportunities to reshape the race in his favor. He has trailed in Pennsylvania and Florida from the outset of the campaign, and he does not have many credible paths to the presidency without winning at least one of the two — and probably both.
Instead, a mere 22 percent of likely voters across the two pivotal states said Mr. Trump won the debate Tuesday. It leaves the president at a significant and even daunting disadvantage with a month until Election Day.
But while Mr. Trump failed to capitalize on a rare opportunity to claw back into the race, the findings suggest that the debate did not shift the contest decisively in Mr. Biden’s direction, either. The results were close to the average of pre-debate surveys in both states, another reflection of the unusually stable polling results ahead of the election. In Pennsylvania, the race was even somewhat closer than it was in a Times/Siena poll conducted before the debate, which found Mr. Biden ahead by nine percentage points.
The lack of additional gains by Mr. Biden after the first debate might have been all but inevitable in a deeply polarized country. But it might also suggest that Mr. Biden, like the president, failed to capitalize on opportunities of his own.
Attorney General William P. Barr, the nation’s top law enforcement officer, has decided not to self-quarantine, despite potential prolonged exposure to the coronavirus.
Mr. Barr attended last Saturday’s White House reception for Supreme Court nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett — an event where several attendees later tested positive for the virus, including President Trump; the first lady, Melania Trump; Senator Mike Lee of Utah; Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina; Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor; and the president’s former counselor, Kellyanne Conway.
Mr. Barr tested negative for the coronavirus on Friday and Saturday, and will continue to self-monitor and be tested, his spokeswoman said. She did not respond to a request for comment on why Mr. Barr did not wear a mask or follow social-distancing guidelines at the event with Judge Barrett.
Other attendees have said that guests were allowed to no longer comply with guidelines if they had negative coronavirus tests and showed that they did not have fevers.
As more Republican senators tested positive for the virus on Saturday, Andrew G. McCabe, the former deputy director of the F.B.I., said that he would no longer appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday to discuss the Russia investigation.
“An in-person hearing carries grave safety risks to Mr. McCabe, me, and senators and staff who would attend,” Michael R. Bromwich, Mr. McCabe’s lawyer, wrote in a letter to Senator Lindsey Graham, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Mr. Graham has asked other former Justice Department officials to testify about the Russia investigation — which was opened by the F.B.I. and eventually overseen by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III — as part of an effort to highlight problems with aspects of the inquiry and cast doubt on its overall findings.
Mr. Bromwich said that a hearing on something as contentious and sensitive as the Russia investigation should be conducted in person; and that Mr. McCabe was prepared to testify until two Republican members of the Senate panel, Mr. Lee and Mr. Tillis, said they had tested positive for the virus.
“It may well be that other members of the committee and staff who plan to attend the hearing will test positive between now and then, or may have been exposed to the virus and may be a carrier,” Mr. Bromwich said in his letter.
President Trump’s vital signs were “very concerning” over the past day and he is not out of danger, the White House chief of staff said on Saturday, contradicting a rosier picture painted by the president’s doctors on television just minutes before.
While the doctors maintained that Mr. Trump was “doing very well” and in “exceptionally good spirits” after his first night in the hospital with the coronavirus, Mark Meadows, the chief of staff, provided a more sober assessment and warned that the next two days would be pivotal in determining the outcome of the illness.
“The president’s vitals over the last 24 hours were very concerning and the next 48 hours will be critical in terms of his care,” Mr. Meadows told reporters outside Walter Reed Medical Military Center, where the president was flown to on Friday evening and will remain for at least a few days. “We’re still not on a clear path to a full recovery.”
Mr. Meadows’s remarks were attributed to a person familiar with the president’s health in a pool report sent to White House journalists in keeping with ground rules that he set for the interview. But a video posted online captured Mr. Meadows approaching the pool reporters outside Walter Reed after the doctors’ televised briefing and asking to speak off the record, making clear who the unnamed source was.
The mixed messages only exacerbated the confusion and uncertainties surrounding the president’s situation. During their briefing, the doctors refused to provide important details and gave timelines that conflicted with earlier White House accounts, leaving the impression that the president was sick and began treatment earlier than officially reported.
Two people close to the White House said in separate interviews with The New York Times that the president had trouble breathing on Friday and that his oxygen level dropped, prompting his doctors to give him supplemental oxygen while at the White House and decide to transfer him to Walter Reed where he could be monitored with better equipment and treated more rapidly in case of trouble.
Dr. Sean P. Conley, the White House physician, told reporters on Saturday outside Walter Reed that the president was not currently on supplemental oxygen but repeatedly declined to say definitively whether he had ever been on oxygen. “None at this moment and yesterday with the team, while we were all here, he was not on oxygen,” he said, seeming to suggest that there was a period on Friday when he was.
Dr. Conley likewise seemed to suggest that the president was first diagnosed with the virus on Wednesday rather than Thursday night when Mr. Trump disclosed that he had tested positive on Twitter. While describing what he said was the president’s progress, he said Mr. Trump was “just 72 hours into the diagnosis now,” which would mean midday on Wednesday.
On Saturday afternoon, Mr. Trump thanked the doctors, nurses and staff members at Walter Reed. “With their help, I am feeling well!” he wrote on Twitter. In another tweet posted shortly after, he urged Congress to reach a deal on a coronavirus relief package.
“OUR GREAT USA WANTS & NEEDS STIMULUS,” Mr. Trump said. “WORK TOGETHER AND GET IT DONE.”
On a typical day, the Twitter account of President Trump is a barrage of proclamations, attacks, provocations, exclamation points and ALL-CAPS. It drives the news cycles, puts Mr. Trump’s Democratic opponents on the defensive (or offensive) and leaves the news media on guard, ready to leap on the latest presidential proclamation. It has, as much as anything, defined the Trump presidency.
Which has made these past 36 hours a disconcerting reminder of what political life normally is like. With Mr. Trump in the hospital being treated for Covid-19, his tweets have been relatively few and restrained. “Going well, I think! Thank you to all. LOVE!!!” he tweeted after arriving at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. (That “I think” aside prompted some what-does-it-say-about-the-president’s state of mind analysis).
He turned in a slightly more agenda-setting tweet on Saturday afternoon, apparently keeping an eye on the potentially resuscitated negotiations about an economic stimulus package on Capitol Hill. “OUR GREAT USA WANTS & NEEDS STIMULUS. WORK TOGETHER AND GET IT DONE. Thank you!”
It all amounts to a break in the relentless news and political cycles that have marked these four years in American life, a moment of relaxation as Mr. Trump attends to his health. How long will it last? That might prove to be as fine a measure of Mr. Trump’s recovery as anything his medical team is telling the public.
Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey who for several days this week helped President Trump prepare for the debate, said he had tested positive for the coronavirus.
Mr. Christie said on Saturday that he would be receiving medical attention the same day.
“I just received word that I am positive for COVID-19,” Mr. Christie said on Twitter. “I want to thank all of my friends and colleagues who have reached out to ask how I was feeling in the last day or two.”
Mr. Christie was one of several advisers who huddled with Mr. Trump and others for debate preparation from Sunday to Tuesday. Mr. Christie also attended a White House event on Sept. 26 for Judge Amy Coney Barrett in the Rose Garden, which was attended by multiple public figures who have said they recently tested positive for the virus.
The debate preparation team included Hope Hicks, who was the first of Mr. Trump’s closest advisers to test positive for the virus; Stephen Miller, the president’s speechwriter and top domestic policy adviser; and Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer and the former mayor of New York. Mr. Trump’s campaign manager, Bill Stepien, was also present during the debate-prep sessions leading up to the Tuesday event and tested positive for the virus on Friday.
None of them wore masks, Mr. Christie said.
On the night of the debate, Mr. Christie traveled to ABC News’s studios in Manhattan, where he served as a commentator during a live prime-time panel. On the set, Mr. Christie sat a few feet away from the anchor Linsey Davis, the former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, and two other ABC commentators, Sara Fagen and Yvette Simpson.
ABC, in a statement on Saturday, said that Mr. Christie, who is a paid pundit for the network, would not return to its studios until he is cleared by a doctor. “Anyone on our staff in direct contact with the governor as defined by the C.D.C. will self-isolate for 14 days,” the network said. “We wish the governor a speedy recovery.” Fox News said on Friday that it would take precautions, including testing, to assure the safety of its stars who were in the debate hall on Tuesday, including Chris Wallace, who moderated the first presidential debate, and Sean Hannity.
President Trump’s bombshell announcement early Friday morning that he and the first lady had tested positive for the coronavirus has set off a frenzy in the White House and beyond as politicians and operatives who have interacted with Mr. Trump in recent days have raced to get their own tests and, in some cases, report the results.
Here is a quick look at the people in Mr. Trump’s orbit and beyond who have spoken publicly on Thursday and Friday about their health and the virus, taken from official statements, announcements made on social media, and spokespeople.
It can take several days after exposure for the virus to reach levels that are detectable by a test. People show symptoms on average around five days after exposure, but as late as 14 days.
Who has tested positive:
Ronna McDaniel, the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee
Hope Hicks, one of Mr. Trump’s most senior advisers
Bill Stepien, President Trump’s campaign manager
Kellyanne Conway, the former top White House adviser, who attended Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination ceremony at the White House on Sept. 26
Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina, who participated in a debate against his Democratic challenger on Thursday
Rev. John I. Jenkins, the president of the University of Notre Dame, who also attended the ceremony for Judge Barrett last week
Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, he did not attend Judge Barrett’s ceremony last week
Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey
Who has tested negative:
Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state
Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary
William P. Barr, the attorney general
Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff
Dan Scavino, the White House deputy chief of staff
Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser
Ivanka Trump, Mr. Trump’s daughter
Donald Trump Jr., Mr. Trump’s son
Barron Trump, Mr. Trump’s son
Eric Trump, Mr. Trump’s son
Lara Trump, Eric Trump’s wife
Tom Perez, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee
Betsy DeVos, the education secretary
After months of virtually encouraging his supporters to vote for Joseph R. Biden Jr., Bernie Sanders marked his return to the campaign trail on Saturday with a rally in New Hampshire for his one-time rival.
Though many of his words were recognizable to anyone who has long watched the Vermont senator speak, the circumstances were dramatically different from any rally he has held before — a point that was not lost on him.
“I have participated in many rallies in my life,” Mr. Sanders said with a smile. “This is clearly the most unusual.”
But if the rally was atypical for him — unlike his customarily large crowds that pack together, those in attendance were instructed from the outset to maintain social distancing of at least six feet — it also felt familiar. There was Mr. Sanders, walking up to his lectern to the song “Power to the People.” There he was, in his signature sweater and jacket, waving his right hand in the air.
Much of his address, of course, was devoted to Mr. Biden. “It is no great secret that Joe Biden and I disagree on a number of issues,” Mr. Sanders said, as he often does. But unlike during the primary campaign, during which he and Mr. Biden were adversaries, he went on to praise several of Mr. Biden’s proposals, including on the economy and health care.
“While Joe and I disagree on the best path to get to universal coverage, his proposal will greatly expand access to health care and make it more affordable for tens of millions of people across this country,” he said.
And as he has many times since he dropped out of the presidential race in early April, Mr. Sanders unequivocally urged his supporters to vote for the former vice president. “In the worst public health crisis of the last 100 years, we need Joe Biden as our president,” he said.
One notable departure from his now-routine Biden-backing speech occurred at the beginning of his remarks, when Mr. Sanders wished President Trump and the first lady, Melania Trump, who were diagnosed with the coronavirus, “a full and speedy recovery.”
“What the last few days have told us,” he said, “is if there was ever any doubt, it should now be clear that no one — no one — is safe from this pandemic.”
Since March, some of President Trump’s advisers had whispered that there could come a day when the president tested positive for the coronavirus. But it was not an eventuality anyone planned for.
When the day came, early Friday morning, it upended the presidential campaign, and left unanswered questions in its wake.
Mr. Trump is currently at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., where officials said he will be monitored for “a few days,” strictly as a precaution.
But one official said that having Mr. Trump leave the White House on his own was preferable to the possibility of being removed with assistance should his symptoms get worse — and his walk to Marine One, the presidential helicopter, which transported him to the hospital, allowed him to be seen, ambulatory, by reporters after a day during which the ubiquitous president was silent.
What happens next is anyone’s guess. Trump advisers hope that he can quickly recuperate and show what one called “resolve” in the face of a virus that has caused a pandemic.
But the second debate between Mr. Trump and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. is scheduled for Oct. 15, a relatively short time in the life of recovery from the coronavirus.
For now, the reversal of fortune — in which Mr. Biden is out on the campaign trail, and the president, who used to mock his opponent, is out of sight — weighed heavily on the Trump campaign.
Cal Cunningham, the Democratic former state senator and Iraq war veteran who is locked in a closely watched and tight race to unseat Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina, a Republican, apologized on Saturday after a report that he had exchanged romantic text messages with a woman who is not his wife.
Screenshots of some of the text messages first emerged on Thursday; the Cunningham campaign confirmed their authenticity on Saturday morning. In the messages, Mr. Cunningham, who is married and a father of two teenagers, calls the woman “historically sexy,” the two discuss kissing each other and Mr. Cunningham says he had dreamed about his time with the woman.
It is not clear when exactly the messages were exchanged, but they allude to “crazier fall schedules” and Mr. Cunningham writes that he is “nervous about the next 100 days.”
“I have hurt my family, disappointed my friends and am deeply sorry,” Mr. Cunningham said in a statement on Saturday morning. “The first step in repairing those relationships is taking complete responsibility, which I do.”
Mr. Cunningham added that he was humbled and grateful for the support he is receiving from North Carolinians, and that he would “continue to work to earn the opportunity to fight for the people of our state.”
The revelation about Mr. Cunningham’s exchanges comes roughly a month before Election Day and adds a new element of uncertainty into a critical race that had already been thrown into disarray on Friday, when Mr. Tillis announced that he had tested positive for the coronavirus and would quarantine at home for 10 days. In a statement, Mr. Tillis said he had “no symptoms” and felt “well.”
Mr. Cunningham said he would get tested after debating Mr. Tillis a day earlier, and wished the senator a “quick recovery.”
North Carolina is critical battleground state that Democrats have long eyed as they seek to pick up multiple seats in the Senate and wrest control of the chamber from Republicans. A New York Times/Siena College poll last month showed Mr. Cunningham leading the race by five percentage points.
Democrats are likely to lose one Senate seat they currently hold in Alabama, where Senator Doug Jones is a long shot. If Mr. Jones were to lose, they would need to secure four seats currently held by Republicans to get to 50, which would give control of the Senate if Joseph R. Biden Jr. is elected president and his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris, could break ties in the chamber.
Democrats appear to be within range of that goal, as polling has shown their candidates leading in Senate races in Arizona, Maine and Colorado, in addition to North Carolina. Democratic candidates are also competing aggressively in other Senate contests in states President Trump won handily in 2016, including places like Iowa and South Carolina.
Former President Barack Obama and Senator Kamala Harris of California offered their prayers to President Trump and the first lady, Melania Trump, on Friday evening, colliding with the timing of an emailed fund-raising appeal from the Trump campaign.
The subject line: “Lyin’ Obama.”
“Lyin’ Obama and Phony Kamala Harris are calling up their Liberal MEGA DONORS to come and rescue Joe Biden’s failing campaign,” read the message. “They’re holding a COASTAL ELITE fund-raiser RIGHT NOW.”
Just minutes earlier, Mr. Obama and Ms. Harris, the Democratic nominee for vice president, had opened their virtual fund-raiser by wishing the president and his wife a speedy recovery, with the former president urging all Americans to hope for the president’s recovery even in the middle of a contentious campaign.
The combative tone of the email came hours after the Biden campaign pulled down all its negative ads against the president, though some already in circulation could take time to stop airing.
The Trump campaign has said it has no plans to stop its attack ads against the Democratic nominee. Announcing an event on Thursday in Peoria, Ariz., to be headlined by Vice President Mike Pence, the campaign accused Mr. Biden of “advocating for the far-left’s agenda” and having “turned his back on Arizonans.”
During the online fund-raiser for former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., Mr. Obama told watchers: “Even when we’re in the midst of big political battles with issues that have a lot at stake, that we’re all Americans and we’re all human beings, and we want to make sure everybody is healthy. Michelle and I want to make sure we acknowledge the president and the first lady at this difficult time.”
Ms. Harris offered her “deepest prayers,” adding, “Let it be a reminder to all of us that we must remain vigilant and take care of ourselves and take care of each other.”
The two officials, who were joined by the actor Michael B. Jordan, also tried to assuage concerns and dispel misinformation about voting, particularly casting ballots by mail. Mr. Trump has spent weeks waging a disinformation campaign about the integrity of the American electoral system.
All three said they planned to cast their ballots by mail.
“I’m going to fill it out at my kitchen table and I’m going to get over to the drop box and I’m going to drop it off as early as I can,” said Ms. Harris, who added she had the date to request her ballot circled on her calendar.
Mr. Obama, who rattled off the name of his polling place in Hyde Park, Ill., said he had cast mail-in ballots since winning the presidency, in part to avoid the crowds that slow down lines when he appears.
“When I vote in person, there’s a price,” he said. “It slows down a whole bunch of folks.”
President Trump’s positive coronavirus test has raised the possibility, however remote, that he could become incapacitated or potentially die in office if his symptoms worsened.
While that outcome remains highly unlikely, and few in Washington were willing to discuss it on Friday, the Constitution and Congress long ago put in place a plan of succession.
The Constitution makes clear that the vice president is first in line to succeed the president should he or she die in office, and can step in to temporarily take on the duties of the presidency should the commander in chief become incapacitated. Vice President Mike Pence, 61, tested negative for the coronavirus on Friday.
The ascension of a vice president under such circumstances has not been that rare in American history. Eight times a vice president has assumed the nation’s highest office because of the president’s death, most recently in 1963, after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, when Lyndon B. Johnson became president. In 1974, Vice President Gerald Ford became president upon the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon.
The Constitution leaves it to Congress to decide what would happen if the vice president also died or was unable to perform the duties of the presidency. Congress has passed several laws over the years. The Presidential Succession Act was enacted in 1947 after the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. (It was tweaked again in 2006.) The statute states that the speaker of the House is next in line, followed by the president pro tempore of the Senate, and then members of the cabinet, starting with the secretary of state.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, 80, said on Friday that she had been tested for the virus out of an “abundance of caution,” and a spokesman later revealed she tested negative.
Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, is the current president pro tempore in the Senate. He is 87.
A White House spokesman said Friday that Mr. Trump had not transferred power to Mr. Pence.
“No transfer,” said the spokesman, Judd Deere. “The president is in charge.”