At a small campaign rally in Latrobe, Pa., President Trump on Thursday praised himself for wanting to “get along” with Russia and said that when he hears people talking about Russia in the news he “turns it off.”
“They always say, ‘Trump is radical, he is off the — he is too radical, he will get us in wars,’” Mr. Trump said. “I kept you out of wars. What happened in North Korea? I got along with Kim Jong-un. They said that’s terrible. It’s good that I get along. If I get along with Russia, is that a good thing or bad thing? I think it’s a good thing.”
He went on, mentioning Representative Adam Schiff, “These maniacs always talk about Russia. They never talk about China. It is always Russia. I heard it starting again. They said somebody spoke to Russia, Russia, Russia, Russia. The total maniacs, shifty Schiff is a total maniac. I can’t even listen.”
“Getting along with countries and a good — is a good thing,” he added. “It is a very good thing, not a bad thing. It is a very good thing.”
Mr. Trump’s comments came as pressure has increased on the president to sound alarms about the poisoning of Alexei Navalny, a Russian opposition leader. It also came a few weeks after a bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report detailed ties between the Trump campaign in 2016 and Kremlin officials, and as the Department of Homeland Security issued a fresh warning on Thursday that Russians were trying to foment disinformation by amplifying language about voter fraud.
At the rally, Mr. Trump also mocked his Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., for wearing a mask, and suggested it was a sign he has a psychological need to feel safe.
“Did you ever see a man who likes to mask as much as him?” Mr. Trump asked the crowd, to laughter, after offering a caveat that people should wash their hands and wear masks in close quarters.
“A lot of times he has it hanging down because it gives him a feeling of security,” Mr. Trump said, bringing his hand to his ear to imitate how Mr. Biden’s mask drapes one side of his face when he takes it off.
“If I was a psychiatrist, I would say this guy has some big issues. I don’t know. Hanging down,” Mr. Trump said. Until Thursday night, Mr. Trump had been more subdued about mask-wearing to prevent the coronavirus. After months of playing down the coronavirus and making fun of people who wore protective masks, the president had to be persuaded to advocate mask-wearing, which top health experts have said is crucial to limiting the spread of Covid-19.
And he again suggested that people vote twice — once by mail and once in person — a suggestion that is illegal, and the kind of voter fraud that he has railed against.
Two days after President Trump visited Kenosha, Wis., without meeting with the family members of Jacob Blake, a Black man shot by a white police officer, Joseph R. Biden Jr. sought to send a very different message with his own trip to the city, which is at the center of the national upheaval over policing and protests.
Mr. Biden met privately with several of Mr. Blake’s closest relatives for an hour as soon as his plane landed in Milwaukee, and he spoke by phone with Mr. Blake.
“The family was grateful for the meeting and was very impressed that the Bidens were so engaged and willing to really listen,” a lawyer for the family, Ben Crump, who participated by phone, said in a statement.
Mr. Crump said that they had discussed the treatment of minorities by the police, Mr. Biden’s selection of Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate and Mr. Biden’s plans to bring about change. Mr. Crump said that it “was very obvious that Vice President Biden cared” and that Mr. Biden had extended to Mr. Blake “a sense of humanity, treating him as a person worthy of consideration and prayer.”
Mr. Biden then convened a community meeting at Grace Lutheran Church in Kenosha, which is still reeling after the shooting of Mr. Blake and subsequent protests that saw sporadic outbreaks of violence and looting.
Mr. Biden listened as a series of speakers talked about issues ranging from racism in the legal system to the challenges facing business owners who are confronting unrest in the city.
“Hate only hides,” Mr. Biden said, as he described the ways, in his view, Mr. Trump has emboldened bigots. But he predicted that the country had reached an “inflection point.”
“I really am optimistic,” Mr. Biden said as he described the possibilities of a more just future. “I promise you, win or lose, I’m going to go down fighting. I’m going to go down fighting for racial equality, equity across the board.”
He added: “There are certain things worth losing over, and this is something worth losing over if we have to, but we’re not going to lose.”
Mr. Biden has largely remained close to his Delaware home since the coronavirus pandemic broke out in the United States, and the trip to Kenosha was a significant moment for him.
Republicans spent their convention last week painting a picture of a Democratic Party that condones street violence and is eager to slash funding from the police, distorting Mr. Biden’s stance on police funding in the process. Mr. Biden repudiated that characterization in a speech in Pittsburgh on Monday, declaring: “Rioting is not protesting. Looting is not protesting.”
Also on Thursday, Mr. Trump is headed to Latrobe, Pa., east of Pittsburgh, where he will rally supporters in a pivotal state and trumpet a federal grant for the city’s airport.
The dueling events illustrate the growing pressure each candidate is facing from his own party. Democrats are eager for Mr. Biden to start appearing in battleground states, particularly in Midwestern states like Wisconsin where Hillary Clinton assumed victory but fell short.
President Trump on Thursday expanded on his suggestion that people in North Carolina stress-test the security of their elections systems by trying to vote twice in the same election, a move state election officials have explicitly called out as a felony.
In a series of tweets Thursday morning, Mr. Trump sought to clarify his call for voters to both send in an absentee ballot and vote in person, arguing that by doing so, voters would provide a check against the mail voting system he has assailed and ensure that their vote was being tallied.
“In order for you to MAKE SURE YOUR VOTE COUNTS & IS COUNTED, SIGN & MAIL IN your Ballot as EARLY as possible,” he wrote on Twitter. “On Election Day, or Early Voting, go to your Polling Place to see whether or not your Mail In Vote has been Tabulated (Counted). If it has you will not be able to Vote & the Mail In System worked properly. If it has not been Counted, VOTE (which is a citizen’s right to do).”
Twitter added a warning label to his tweets, saying that they violated the company’s terms of service and its policies around election integrity but that the company would leave them up because it was “in the public interest” to do so.
Patrick Gannon, a spokesman for the North Carolina State Board of Elections, told The Times in an interview on Wednesday that officials would “strongly discourage voters from going to the polls on Election Day to find out whether their absentee ballot has been counted, especially since they can determine that at home.”
“There will be social distancing in place on Election Day,” he said. “We want to make sure the process flows smoothly.” He also noted that the state’s voting system would prevent a person from voting twice, because only the first vote recorded would be counted.
Karen Brinson, the executive director of the state board of elections, reiterated in a statement on Thursday that there were “numerous checks in place” to prevent “double voting” in North Carolina, and made plain: “It is illegal to vote twice in an election.”
Mr. Trump made his initial comment in a briefing with reporters on Wednesday.
“Let them send it in and let them go vote, and if their system’s as good as they say it is, then obviously they won’t be able to vote,” the president said. “If it isn’t tabulated, they’ll be able to vote.”
Reyna Walters-Morgan, the director of voter protection and civic engagement for the Democratic National Committee, said Thursday that Mr. Trump had “encouraged his supporters to commit voter fraud” and stressed that “voting by mail is a safe and secure way for Americans to participate in our democracy.”
As the number of people planning to mail in their ballots has increased, Mr. Trump has repeatedly made false claims about widespread fraud in mail voting. His latest suggestion, that voters commit that same sort of fraud he has denounced, is one he has discussed privately with aides in recent weeks amid concerns he is depressing turnout among his base by raising alarms about the security of the process.
The day after President Trump suggested that North Carolina voters attempt to vote twice to test if “their system’s as good as they say it is,” Facebook said it would remove posts of users who shared video supporting the president’s suggestion, or reposted it without proper context.
Voting twice is illegal across the country and is a felony in North Carolina.
Andy Stone, a Facebook spokesman, said that any shared video that showed only Mr. Trump’s comments “violates our policies prohibiting voter fraud, and we will remove it unless it is shared to correct the record.” Facebook said it would leave the initial video and news reports up and would allow shares of the video if they contained correct information.
The move came as the president seemed to attempt to clean up his comments on Twitter Thursday morning, telling supporters to mail in ballots as soon as possible, then go to the polls on Election Day to check if their vote had been recorded.
He later posted those same comments to Facebook, which slapped a warning label under the post: “Voting by mail has a long history of trustworthiness in the US and the same is predicted this year.” The label linked to Facebook’s voting hub, which includes fact checks on voting information and more details on voting, including by mail.
Facebook has been putting warnings under posts from Mr. Trump that have carried dubious claims and falsehoods about voting, but until Thursday the labels had largely been generic warnings to “get the facts” with links to the voting hub. The direct language on the label addressing the claim was a new step.
Also on Thursday, the social network said it would ban any new political ads in the week before Election Day and would strengthen measures against posts that try to dissuade people from voting. Postelection, Facebook said it would quash any candidates’ attempts at claiming false victories by redirecting users to accurate results.
Facebook has become a key battleground for both Mr. Trump’s campaign and that of Joseph R. Biden Jr. The Trump campaign ran Facebook ads falsely accusing Mr. Biden of corruption. Mr. Biden’s campaign has criticized Facebook for allowing lies, while spending millions on ads to appeal to voters.
Thursday’s changes, a tacit acknowledgment by Facebook of its power to sway public discourse, was not enough to satisfy critics who said temporarily blocking ads would do little to reduce misinformation.
Separately, Twitter added a warning label to the president’s tweets on voting, saying that they violated its terms of service and its election integrity policies, but said that the president’s post would remain up as a matter “in the public interest.”
“As a result of the application of the notice, engagements with these tweets will be limited and their visibility will be reduced,” a Twitter spokesperson said, adding that people could retweet them with comments — but not reply, like or simply retweet them.
Gerald Holmes, a forklift operator from Kenosha, Wis., was so passionate about the election four years ago that he drove people to the polls. But this year, Mr. Holmes says he is not even planning to vote himself.
The outcome in 2016, when Wisconsin helped seal President Trump’s victory despite his losing the popular vote and amid reports of Russian interference, left Mr. Holmes, 54, deeply discouraged.
“What good is it to go out there and do it?” he said. “It isn’t going to make any difference.”
As protests have unfolded across the country over the death of George Floyd and the police’s treatment of Black people, activists and Democratic leaders have pleaded with demonstrators to turn their energy toward elections in November.
A block party on Tuesday honoring Jacob Blake, the Black resident of Kenosha who was paralyzed after being shot by a white police officer, included voter registration booths near where the shooting occurred. Joseph R. Biden Jr. is scheduled to visit Kenosha on Thursday, two days after Mr. Trump appeared in the city in the wake of unrest over the shooting.
But people like Mr. Holmes reflect the challenges Democrats face as they try to channel anger over police violence into votes.
In interviews with more than a dozen Black residents of the Kenosha area, many said they were outraged over the shooting of Mr. Blake, but some said they had grown dispirited and cynical and that shooting showed that decades of promises from politicians have done little.
“Let’s say I did go out and vote and I voted for Biden,” said Michael Lindsey, a friend of Mr. Blake’s who protested after the shooting. “That’s not going to change police brutality. It’s not going to change the way the police treat African-Americans compared to Caucasians.”
During the block party near where Mr. Blake was shot, James Hall, the interim president of the Urban League of Racine and Kenosha, tried to get a young woman and man to register to vote.
“Does my vote really matter?” the woman asked, then answered herself, “I know my voice doesn’t count.”
“The people feel disengaged,” said Corey Prince, a community organizer. “They feel disenfranchised.”
For decades, President Trump has sought to undermine opposition by sowing distrust and relying on conspiracy theories, leaving people uncertain about what to believe.
In the last week alone, Mr. Trump has reposted messages asserting that the real death toll from the coronavirus was only around 9,000 and not 185,000, talked cryptically about a planeload of “thugs” in black uniforms flying to Washington to disrupt the Republican National Convention and asserted without a shred of evidence that his Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., was “on some kind of an enhancement” drug.
People who have known the president for years say one of his most sustained assaults, on the integrity of the 2020 election, is straight from tactics he used as a businessman in New York.
The president has said with no evidence that “millions and millions of ballots” have been sent to dead people and dogs and cats. He has floated the possibility of postponing the election because of the coronavirus pandemic — an idea swiftly shot down by his own party. And at the opening of the Republican National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., he asserted that mail-in voting “is going to be one of the greatest scams,” pushing a false argument about fraud.
Mr. Trump’s critics point out that as president he has never had more power to shape public opinion and bend outcomes to his will. Early indications suggest he has created significant doubt about the 2020 election: According to a recent NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, about 45 percent of voters do not believe that the election results can be counted accurately — a jump from 36 percent ahead of the 2016 election.
Asked about Mr. Trump’s behavior over decades, Judd Deere, a White House spokesman, did not respond directly. “The American people know they never have to wonder what the president is thinking or how he feels about a particular topic, which is one of the many reasons why they chose to elect him over the same old recycled politicians who just use the poll-tested talking points,’’ Mr. Deere said.
The Department of Homeland Security warned federal and state law enforcement agencies on Thursday that individuals and groups allied with Russia have amplified allegations that mail-in voting could lead to “vast opportunities for voter fraud,” echoing a baseless claim that President Trump has made repeatedly.
The department said in the intelligence bulletin, “Russia Likely to Continue Seeking to Undermine Faith in U.S. Electoral Process,” that Russian state media and proxy websites have spread disinformation about mail-in ballots since March, claiming the system lacks transparency and procedural oversight, according to two law enforcement officials who reviewed the bulletin.
The people allied with Russia have also amplified claims that voters would not receive their ballots in time to cast their votes, according to the bulletin, which was first reported by ABC News.
“We assess that Russian state media, proxies and Russian-controlled social media trolls are likely to promote allegations of corruption, system failure and foreign malign interference to sow distrust in democratic institutions and election outcomes,” Homeland Security intelligence analysts said in the bulletin. The analysts wrote that they had “high confidence” in their assessment.
Mr. Trump has repeatedly made claims, without evidence, about widespread fraud in mail-in voting, even as his advisers have warned such comments scare his own supporters, among them older voters.
The distribution of the intelligence briefing on Tuesday follows an earlier revelation that the department had not yet published an intelligence briefing from July warning of attempts by entities supporting Russia to denigrate the mental health of Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic presidential candidate. That bulletin also said agents of Iran and China had amplified criticisms of Mr. Trump’s mental health status, although the document focused a majority of its contents on the attacks by Russian allies on Mr. Biden.
A batch of polls released on Thursday reflected a rigidly divided electorate in three key states, with Joseph R. Biden Jr. holding onto his advantage but failing to break away from President Trump in the wake of the party conventions.
A Quinnipiac University poll of Pennsylvania voters showed Mr. Biden with an eight-point lead. But even as he held the upper hand there, the survey reflected that he had not yet won the full confidence of Pennsylvania voters: More than half said they saw Mr. Trump as the better economic steward. (An earlier version of this item misstated which candidate most Pennsylvania voters said they would prefer to lead them in a crisis. A slim majority chose Mr. Biden, not Mr. Trump.) In a Monmouth poll of the state released Wednesday, Mr. Biden had a slimmer, four-point edge.
Quinnipiac also released a new poll of Florida, where it found an even closer race: Mr. Biden’s advantage there was just three points among likely voters, a difference within the poll’s margin of error.
Monmouth released another poll on Thursday from North Carolina, showing a tight race there. Mr. Biden had 48 percent support among likely voters, while 46 percent backed Mr. Trump.
All three of the polls out Thursday demonstrated that the main question on Election Day will be voter participation, not persuasion. In both Florida and Pennsylvania, well over 90 percent of voters who selected a candidate said that their minds were made up, according to Quinnipiac. In North Carolina, Monmouth found 88 percent of voters who selected a candidate were firmly set in their choice.
There are some exceptions to the trend, however, particularly in groups that tend to express dissatisfaction with both candidates. Among voters under 50 in North Carolina, who favored Mr. Biden by a razor-thin three-point margin, 13 percent said they were undecided or planned to vote for a third-party candidate, considerably higher than for other age groups, according to the Monmouth poll. Third-party preference tends to drop significantly as Election Day draws nearer, suggesting that young voters could make the difference if they break one way or the other.
Florida voters can cast early ballots in person or by mail, and just 42 percent of likely voters said they planned to go to the polls on Election Day. Nearly a quarter said they would vote early in person, and another third planned to mail in their ballots. In Pennsylvania, where in-person early voting is not an option, three in 10 voters said they would vote by mail.
Richard Trumka, the president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., on Thursday morning accused President Trump of breaking his promises to bring more manufacturing and infrastructure jobs to working Americans.
They were some of Mr. Trumka’s strongest comments to date — and a recognition that even labor leaders who were willing to give Mr. Trump a chance four years ago are no longer open to finding common ground.
“The jobs he said were coming never came,” Mr. Trumka said during a virtual breakfast with reporters, hosted by The Christian Science Monitor. “Instead of rebuilding America, he’s torn it apart.”
Mr. Trumka’s denunciation of the administration’s policies affecting working Americans came a week after the president promised to turn America into the “manufacturing superpower of the world.” The Trump campaign still needs the support of white, working-class voters in states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin in order to win.
In his nomination acceptance speech last week at the Republican National Convention, Mr. Trump said that he would “cut taxes even further for hardworking moms and dads.” But on Thursday, Mr. Trumka blamed the president for a tax cut that benefited the rich and “accelerated the outsourcing of good-paying American jobs and worsened inequality.”
Mr. Trumka, a union leader who at the beginning of the Trump presidency was criticized by some for being open to an alliance with Mr. Trump, has since become an outspoken critic of the president. And in May, the A.F.L.-C.I.O. endorsed former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.
Four years into the Trump presidency, Mr. Trumka said, “We’ve learned that working people cannot afford Donald Trump. We’ve learned that workers might not be able to survive another four years with Donald Trump. ”
He added: “After months of pandemic politics and generations of systemic racism, Trump is pouring gasoline on the fire. It is a transparent, ugly, last-ditch effort to scare some people into voting for him and scare others away from voting at all.”
WAUWATOSA, Wis. — Outside Grace Lutheran Church in Kenosha Thursday, where Joseph R. Biden Jr. was inside addressing members of the community, Justin Blake said that his family would not rest until the officer who shot his nephew, Jacob Blake, and left him paralyzed, had been indicted and convicted.
“When all the cameras go away, I can’t stand my nephew back up,” he said, speaking through a megaphone. Mr. Blake said he believed Mr. Biden would be part of the “healing” of the country.
While he did not take part in the family’s meeting with Mr. Biden earlier in the day, Mr. Blake said he had talked to his brother, Jacob Blake’s father, who said he had found Mr. Biden to be “a hell of a guy.”
Neighbors living on a narrow side street next to the church took in the scene from porches or lawns, surveying the swarm of reporters, Secret Service agents and onlookers.
Calvin Cooks, 49, said he understood the anger over the police shooting of Jacob Blake on Aug. 23, but said he was also disturbed by the destructive nature of some of the protests that followed.
He said that he supported Mr. Biden and appreciated how the former vice president spoke on policing and issues of race.
Mr. Cooks said he himself was sprayed with Mace several weeks ago by a police officer as he tried to pull his family away from a shooting scene and a crowd that had grown angry with the police.
Still, he said, he thought that the officer who shot Mr. Blake might have been legitimately worried that he had been reaching for a weapon.
“I’d never say it was cool or good he shot him, but that man was thinking about his life,” Mr. Cooks said of the officer.
I followed Joe Biden’s motorcade from Kenosha to Wauwatosa, Wisc., where he’s entered a home in a quiet Milwaukee suburb. The neighborhood is thrilled.
“This is big doings for Wauwatosa,” one woman said. pic.twitter.com/VDYX2SSsZi
— Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs (@NickAtNews) September 3, 2020
A few houses down, April Valdez was hanging a large Trump 2020 banner on her porch after taking it inside on a windy day.
Ms. Valdez said the demonstrations grew so destructive last month that she and her husband briefly sent their three young children out of the area, fearing they would be hurt. She was frustrated that the National Guard had not been sent in immediately.
“The fires, I think, could have been prevented,” she said. “Change-wise, I unfortunately think anything Democratic-handled at this point is going to put us further into destruction.”
Mr. Biden and his wife, Jill R. Biden, ended their trip Thursday afternoon with an unannounced stop. Sitting down with a small group of teachers and parents at a backyard picnic table in the Milwaukee suburb of Wauwatosa, they talked about education. The couple’s arrival surprised residents of the quiet, leafy neighborhood, and by the time they left about an hour later, hundreds of people flooded the sidewalks and lawns and broke into chants of “Let’s go, Joe!”
Chris and Karri Tait, donors to the Biden campaign, said they had only learned the night before that Mr. Biden might want to use their backyard for the meeting.
“We talked a lot about just funding mechanisms, what are the challenges the teachers are facing right now and how they’re going to overcome that,” Mr. Tait said. “It gives a lot of optimism of, if Joe is elected, that he’s going to make some changes.”
President Trump’s call for people to test the integrity of the elections system by trying to vote both by mail and in person has created new headaches for state election officials, who are already dealing with the formidable task of holding an election during a pandemic.
Douglas A. Kellner, co-chairman of the New York State Board of Elections, accused Mr. Trump on Thursday of fueling concern in the minds of voters and, in doing so, adding more work to county elections boards already “stretched to the limit” by a presidential election and coronavirus.
“It’s hard to imagine how we could add any more stress to the system,” said Mr. Kellner, a Democrat.
Maggie Sheehan, a spokeswoman for Frank LaRose, Ohio’s secretary of state, a Republican, said, “Ohio voters are encouraged to choose one way to vote, as any additional effort to cast a ballot will not be counted and unnecessarily burdens election officials.”
And Jena Griswold, Colorado’s secretary of state and a Democrat, said, “2020 has been unprecedented in so many ways, but I never imagined that as secretary of state I would have to inform both the president and the U.S. attorney general that it is illegal to vote twice.”
That was after Attorney General William P. Barr suggested during an interview with CNN that he was not sure whether voting twice was illegal in North Carolina.
A group of Democratic senators on Thursday urged Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to impose economic sanctions on individuals and government entities tied to Russia who are seeking to interfere in the general election.
In a published letter co-signed by Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York along with nine other senators, cited an assessment by American intelligence officials last month that said Russia was using a range of techniques to denigrate Joseph R. Biden Jr. and interfere in the 2020 election to help President Trump. Russia tried to sway public opinion ahead of the 2018 midterm election, but it did not successfully tamper with the voting infrastructure.
A statement last month by William R. Evanina, the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, described the activities of Andriy Derkach, a member of Ukraine’s Parliament who supports Russia and who has been involved in releasing claims to undermine Mr. Biden’s candidacy. Intelligence officials have said he has ties to Russian intelligence.
“Congress has mandated a broad range of sanctions tools, and it is long past time for the administration to send a direct message to President Putin: The U.S. will respond immediately and forcefully to continuing election interference by the government of the Russian Federation and its surrogates,” the letter said. “There is virtually no national security threat more serious than that posed by those who would undermine confidence in, and the effective operation of, our democratic elections.”
A spokesman for the Treasury Department said the department does not generally comment on correspondence with Congress.
House Democrats on Thursday called on the Office of Special Counsel, the independent agency charged with enforcing a law against partisan political activity by government employees, to investigate what they described as “multiple, repeated violations” of the statute, the Hatch Act, during last week’s Republican convention.
“Throughout the convention, administration officials repeatedly used their official positions and the White House itself to bolster President Trump’s re-election campaign,” Democrats on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform wrote in a letter to the office. “We are alarmed that President Trump and some senior administration officials are actively undermining compliance with — and respect for — the law.”
Among the examples: Video of a pardon and naturalization ceremony featuring Chad Wolf, the acting Secretary of Homeland Security; a speech by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo while he was on official travel in Jerusalem; a segment in which a federal housing official interviewed New York City tenants who later said they were not told their testimonials would be used at the convention; and multiple other segments filmed on federal property, including an elaborate ceremony on the White House grounds.
The president and vice president are exempt from the Hatch Act, a 1939 law limitng political activities by federal employees, but it applies to the rest of the administration. Still, despite multiple violations the O.S.C. has found under Mr. Trump and past presidents, the act has rarely been enforced. Penalties for violating it include removal from federal employment and fines up to $1,000.
The Democrats also cited a New York Times article that reported that Mr. Trump had “enjoyed the frustration and anger” he elicited by holding political events on the White House grounds and that he had “relished the fact” that he could not be stopped, according to Mr. Trump’s aides.
A Republican candidate in Texas who is locked in a tight House race has come under scrutiny for campaign ads run this summer that show him shaking hands with and walking alongside a campaign volunteer dressed as a border patrol agent.
The candidate, Tony Gonzales, a former Navy cryptologist, narrowly won the Republican primary and will face Gina Ortiz Jones, a Democrat and a former Air Force intelligence officer, in November. They are vying for the seat of U.S. Representative Will Hurd, who announced last year that he would retire. The 23rd District stretches along the southwest border of the state, from San Antonio to El Paso.
The ads, which were first spotlighted by The San Antonio Express-News, were posted on Facebook in June and July during Mr. Gonzales’s primary race against Raul Reyes and at least one ran on TV. They sought mainly to attract conservative voters by highlighting Mr. Gonzales’s ties to President Trump and his desire to, as one ad put it, “finish the wall.”
In a news release Thursday that flagged the Express-News report, Sharon Yang, a spokeswoman for the Jones campaign, said Mr. Gonzales was on “the wrong side” of the border wall issue.
“South and West Texans overwhelmingly oppose President Trump’s wasteful border wall that is taking private land from families and raiding funding from military bases in this district,” she said.
Matt Mackowiak, a Gonzales campaign spokesman, confirmed that the person in the ads wearing what appeared to be the border patrol’s signature green uniform and patches was not an actual agent.
In a statement, the campaign’s lawyer stressed that government emblems and symbols can be used for the purpose of political debate and “the campaign remains confident that its advertisement complies with all legal and ethical standards.”
“Tony Gonzales has toured the southern border with courageous border patrol agents to see firsthand the security challenges that we face,” Mr. Mackowiak said in his own statement.
A spokesman for Customs and Border Protection said only that the agency was “looking into this issue.”