Speaking from the Pennsylvania A.F.L.-C.I.O. headquarters in Harrisburg, Joseph R. Biden Jr. told union members he would be “the strongest labor president you have ever had” and gave a blistering condemnation of President Trump, calling him “downright un-American” for reportedly describing fallen service members as “losers” and “suckers.”
Mr. Biden also accused the president of prioritizing the stock market over economic issues, like jobs and union rights, that directly affected working-class people — and even, he said, over Americans’ lives during the coronavirus pandemic.
“President Trump keeps talking about how great this economy is, how the great the stock market is,” he said. “You know the reason he didn’t have the guts to take on Covid and threw up the white flag? He was worried if he started talking about saving people’s lives, the stock market may fall.”
Appearing with Richard L. Trumka, the president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., Mr. Biden cited Gallup polling that showed Americans’ support for labor unions near a 50-year high. Among other things, he pledged if elected to increase essential workers’ wages, pass the PRO Act to give workers more organizational and bargaining rights, and hold executives personally liable if they interfere with unionization efforts.
“Wall Street did not build this country,” Mr. Biden said. “You did — the great American middle class. And the middle class was built by unions — unions — and the American people now finally get it after a long time of being convinced that unions were a problem, not the answer.”
But Mr. Biden was most forceful when talking about the disparaging remarks Mr. Trump reportedly made about service members.
“I’ll tell you something: My Beau wasn’t a loser or a sucker,” he said, describing his son’s service in Kosovo and Iraq. “He didn’t serve with losers and suckers. He served with heroes. He served with American patriots. And none of the veterans you know were losers or suckers. No president has ever talked about our servicemen and women in that way.”
His voice rising in anger, much as it had when he first addressed the reported comments last week, he continued: “I’m sorry if I’m coming close to losing my temper, but the simple truth is, if that’s how you talk about our veterans, you have no business being president of the United States of America. Period.”
He also denounced Mr. Trump, in unsparing terms, for reportedly saying that he could not understand why people chose to serve in the military. (Mr. Trump has denied making the remarks.)
“Does that surprise you coming from a man who only thinks about what helps him?” Mr. Biden said. “He asked, quote, ‘What’s in it for them?’ Does that surprise you coming from a man who only thinks about what’s in it for him? Well, he’ll never understand. He’ll never understand you, he’ll never understand us, he’ll never understand our cops, our firefighters, because he’s not made of the same stuff that the people who serve this nation are made of.”
During a Labor Day news conference outside of the White House, President Trump launched into a personal screed against his rival for president, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., calling him a “stupid person” and dismissing Senator Kamala Harris, Mr. Biden’s running mate, as “not a competent person” whom he predicted would never serve as president.
Mr. Trump, who has been hoping that an October announcement of a vaccine to treat the coronavirus could help his electoral chances in November, said that Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris were spreading “reckless anti-vaccine rhetoric” because they have raised questions about his political motivations for an accelerated timeline.
“Contrary to all of the lies, Biden wants to surrender our country to the virus,” Mr. Trump claimed. “He wants to surrender our families to the violent left-wing mob, and he wants to surrender our jobs to China. Our jobs and economic well-being.”
“Biden doesn’t have a clue,” he said. “You know he doesn’t have a clue. In prime time he wasn’t good, and now it is not prime time.”
Mr. Biden, for his part, said Monday that he would get a vaccine tomorrow if scientists said it was safe and effective, but that Mr. Trump had politicized the process.
“One of the problems with playing with politics is he’s said so many things that aren’t true, I’m worried if we do have a really good vaccine, people are going to be reluctant to take it,” he said. “He’s undermining public confidence. But pray God, we have it — if I could get a vaccine tomorrow, I’d do it. If it cost me the election, I’d do it. We need a vaccine and we need it now.”
At the Republican National Convention, Mr. Trump’s advisers made it clear that the attack line against Mr. Biden they wanted to drive home was portraying him as a “Trojan Horse” of the left. But Mr. Trump on Monday resuscitated a more personal attack from the primaries, noting that he liked to call Hunter Biden, Mr. Biden’s son, “Where’s Hunter,” claiming he benefited from his father’s government position to enrich himself and his business.
“Biden is a stupid person, you know that,” he later claimed.
Mr. Trump said of Ms. Harris, “she will never be president,” and accused her of “disparaging a vaccine so that people don’t think the achievement was a great achievement.”
During the news conference, Mr. Trump lauded a reporter who removed his mask to ask a question, noting “you sound so clear as opposed to everyone else where they refuse” to remove them to speak.
Mr. Trump also defended himself against allegations that he had privately referred to American troops killed in combat as “losers” and “suckers.”
“I’m not saying the military is in love with me, the soldiers are,” he said. “The top people in the Pentagon probably aren’t because they want to do nothing but fight wars so that all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs, who make the planes, and make everything else stay happy.”
President Trump said on Monday that he would support an investigation of the postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, for reportedly pressuring employees at his former company to donate to Republican candidates and then reimbursing them through bonuses.
“Let the investigations go,” Mr. Trump said when asked during a Labor Day news conference at the White House if he would support an inquiry into the practice, which was first reported by The Washington Post.
Mr. DeJoy, through a spokesman, told The Washington Post that he “believes that he has always followed campaign fund-raising laws and regulations.”
The arrangement at New Breed Logistics, Mr. DeJoy’s former company, was described to The Times by three former employees, who said that workers would receive bonuses if they donated to candidates he supported, and that it was expected that managers would participate. A fourth employee confirmed that managers at the company were routinely solicited to make donations. The four former employees spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of professional retaliation.
Monty Hagler, a spokesman for Mr. DeJoy, told The Times in a statement that Mr. DeJoy “was never notified” of any pressure employees might have felt to make a political contribution, and “regrets if any employee felt uncomfortable for any reason.”
Mr. Hagler added that Mr. DeJoy had consulted with the former general counsel of the Federal Election Commission on election laws “to ensure that he, New Breed Logistics and any person affiliated with New Breed fully complied with any and all laws.”
Mr. Trump defended Mr. DeJoy, a former top campaign donor he tapped to serve as postmaster general last May, as a “very respected man.” He said that he was only vaguely familiar with the report about the illegal fund-raising practice.
“I think he’s a very honest guy, but we will see,” Mr. Trump said. When asked whether Mr. DeJoy should lose his job if the campaign finance scheme he was running was proved to be illegal, Mr. Trump said he was open to it. “If something could be proven that he did something wrong, always.”
In a meeting with union members in Pennsylvania on Monday, Joseph R. Biden Jr. condemned President Trump’s job and trade policies and cast the president as an enemy of working Americans.
Mr. Biden, sitting in a supporter’s back yard in Lancaster with four local union members, said that Mr. Trump only cared about the stock market and criticized him for not meeting with congressional leaders on a new relief package for people affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
He argued that strengthening unions would help the country recover from the current recession, and said that, if elected, he would be “the best friend labor has ever had in the White House.”
It was a message that stood in stark contrast to that of the Trump administration, which has scaled back some worker protections and supported efforts to limit collective bargaining. Patricia Bowermaster, a member of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 1156, said the president’s executive orders had gutted unions’ ability to represent workers.
Three of the union members who attended the event with Mr. Biden were also Army veterans, and Mr. Biden asked them about the disparaging remarks Mr. Trump has been accused of making about service members who were killed in combat.
“Do you think most of those guys are ‘suckers’?” he asked Howard Nash, a veteran and member of a pipe fitters’ union.
“No,” Mr. Nash said.
Later in the day, Mr. Biden will travel to the Pennsylvania A.F.L.-C.I.O. headquarters in Harrisburg for a virtual event with the union’s president and members.
In her first excursion to a battleground state since she became the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, Senator Kamala Harris met privately in Wisconsin on Monday with the family of Jacob Blake, a Black man shot repeatedly in the back by police officers.
Family members at the meeting included Mr. Blake’s father and sisters; his mother and Mr. Blake himself participated by phone.
“They’re carrying the weight of a lot of voices on their shoulders,” Ms. Harris told reporters afterward, adding that she had wanted “to express concern for their well-being and, of course, for their brother and their son’s well-being, and to let them know that they have support.”
The police shooting of Mr. Blake in Kenosha, Wis., last month set off major protests there, which President Trump has seized on to support his exaggerated claims that the country is being consumed by violence. Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic presidential nominee, responded by condemning looting and rioting while expressing support for peaceful racial-justice protesters.
While she was in the Milwaukee area on Monday, Ms. Harris also toured an International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers training center and met with union members.
LA CROSSE, Wis. — Vice President Mike Pence used a Labor Day visit to one of the most crucial battleground states to attack Joseph R. Biden Jr. for criticizing law enforcement, claiming that Mr. Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, would perpetuate “polices that have literally led to violence in our major American cities.”
Appearing in western Wisconsin less than a week after President Trump visited Kenosha, Wis., which has endured arson and looting after the police shooting of Jacob Blake, Mr. Pence scorned Mr. Biden for not criticizing Democratic mayors or mentioning Antifa by name in his condemnation of violence.
The vice president said Mr. Trump had “quelled the violence” by sending in federal troops to assist local law enforcement.
While acknowledging that the police use of force should be “thoroughly investigated,” Mr. Pence did not mention Mr. Blake and instead focused on the violent aftermath of his shooting.
“Rioting and looting is not peaceful protest, burning businesses is not free speech,” he said, vowing that those who do so “will be prosecuted to fullest extent of the law.”
Republicans have sought to elevate the issue of law an order to make up ground against Mr. Biden, who has enjoyed a steady lead in the polls in Wisconsin, a state that Mr. Trump carried by less than a point in 2016. Mr. Biden has responded by airing a commercial, here, and in other swing states, that features footage of him from his speech in Pittsburgh, in which he spoke out against violence.
Four days after The Atlantic published a report about how President Trump had privately referred to American troops killed in combat as “losers” and “suckers” during a 2018 trip to France, a former deputy White House chief of staff released a carefully worded statement in which he claimed he was not a source for the story. But he did not dismiss the comments outright.
“You can put me on the record denying that I spoke with The Atlantic!” Zachary D. Fuentes, the former deputy White House chief of staff, on Monday said in a statement he sent to multiple news outlets. Mr. Fuentes served as deputy to John F. Kelly, the former White House chief of staff. At the time, Mr. Fuentes was said to be responsible for making the decision not to fly Marine One to visit Belleau Wood, a cemetery for American soldiers killed in World War I, because of bad weather, and other officials said he had assured Mr. Trump it was fine for him to miss the ceremony there. The Atlantic article cited “four people with firsthand knowledge of the discussion that day.”
In his statement released Monday, Mr. Fuentes said he did not hear the president call anyone “losers when I told him about the weather” and claimed that Mr. Kelly, a former four-star Marine general, would not have “stood by and let ANYONE call fallen Marines losers.”
“Whoever the sources are,” Mr. Fuentes said, “they are unlikely first hand accounts, and they are conflating stories.”
Before contacting The Times, Mr. Fuentes first sent a similar statement to Breitbart News, a right-wing website, saying that the sources for The Atlantic story were likely “conflating those people from something the day after.” His statement to The Times, however, did not make any mention of any conversations occurring “the day after,” and Mr. Fuentes did not respond to a follow-up question seeking clarification.
In his statement, Mr. Fuentes also said he was “disappointed” that Mr. Trump was critical of Mr. Kelly, who so far has declined on the record interviews about the trip, and has told associates he doesn’t want to become a lightning rod for Trump supporters by speaking out about the president.
At a news conference on Labor Day, Mr. Trump, who has been enraged by The Atlantic report since it came out last week, said he was “very heartened to see Zach Fuentes came out with the statement he did last night that it was not true.”
The presidential campaign, long muffled by the coronavirus pandemic, will burst into a newly intense and public phase after Labor Day, with Joseph R. Biden Jr. moving aggressively to defend his polling lead against a ferocious onslaught by President Trump aimed chiefly at white voters in the Midwest.
Private polls conducted for both parties during and after their August conventions found the race largely stable but tightening slightly in some states, with Mr. Trump recovering some support from conservative-leaning rural voters who had drifted away over the summer.
But Mr. Biden continues to enjoy advantages with nearly every other group, especially in populous areas where the virus remains at the forefront for voters, according to people briefed on the data.
No president has entered Labor Day weekend — the traditional kickoff of the fall campaign — as such a clear underdog since George H.W. Bush in 1992. Mr. Trump has not led in public polls in such must-win states as Florida since Mr. Biden claimed the nomination in April, and there has been little fluctuation in the race.
Still, the president’s surprise win in 2016 weighs heavily in the thinking of nervous Democrats and hopeful Republicans alike.
Mr. Trump’s effort to revive his candidacy by blaming Mr. Biden’s party for scenes of looting and arson in American cities has jolted Mr. Biden into a more proactive posture, one that some Democrats have long urged him to adopt.
The former vice president spent last week pushing back forcefully on Mr. Trump’s often false attacks, after encouragement from allies including former Secretary of State John F. Kerry, whose 2004 presidential campaign faltered in the face of a concerted smear campaign about his Vietnam War service.
Both parties see Mr. Trump with a narrow path to re-election that runs through heavily white states like Wisconsin and Minnesota, where his strategy of racial division could help him catch Mr. Biden. But the president is also on defense in diverse Southern and Western states he carried in 2016, including Florida, North Carolina, Arizona and Georgia.
President Trump has made it clear over the last few days that, in his view, the country’s real race problem is bias against white Americans.
Just days after returning from Kenosha, Wis., where he staunchly backed law enforcement and did not mention the name of Jacob Blake, the Black man shot seven times in the back by the police, Mr. Trump issued an order on Friday to purge the federal government of racial sensitivity training that his White House called “divisive, anti-American propaganda.”
The president then spent much of the weekend tweeting about his action, presenting himself as a warrior against identity politics. “This is a sickness that cannot be allowed to continue,” he wrote of such programs. “Please report any sightings so we can quickly extinguish!” He reposted a tweet from a conservative outlet hailing his order: “Sorry liberals! How to be Anti-White 101 is permanently cancelled!”
Not in generations has a sitting president so overtly declared himself the candidate of white America.
While Mr. Trump’s campaign sought to temper the culture war messaging at the Republican National Convention last month by showcasing Black and Hispanic supporters who denied that he is a racist, the president himself has increasingly made appeals to the grievances of white supporters a centerpiece of his campaign to win a second term.
The message appears designed to galvanize supporters who have cheered what they see as a defiant stand against political correctness since the days when he kicked off his last presidential campaign in 2015 by denouncing, without evidence, Mexicans crossing the border as “rapists.”
While he initially voiced concern over the killing of George Floyd under the knee of a white police officer in Minneapolis this spring, which touched off nationwide protests, he has focused since then almost entirely on defending the police and condemning demonstrations during which there have been outbreaks of looting and violence.
“Trump is the most extreme, and he has done something that is beyond the bounds of anything we have seen,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, the president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. “Playing with racism is a dangerous game. It’s not that you can do it a little bit or do it slyly or do it with a dog whistle. It’s all dangerous, and it’s all potentially violent.”
President Trump routinely referred to Black leaders of foreign nations with racist insults. He had an abiding admiration for President Vladimir V. Putin’s willingness to treat Russia like a personal business. And he was consumed with hatred for President Barack Obama.
Those are the descriptions that Michael D. Cohen, a former personal lawyer and self-described fixer for Mr. Trump, lays out in his book, “Disloyal: A Memoir,” which paints the president as a sordid, moblike figure willing to engage in underhanded tactics against anyone opposing him.
“As a rule, Trump expressed low opinions of all Black folks, from music to culture and politics,” Mr. Cohen writes in the book, to be released Tuesday. He describes Mr. Trump calling Nelson Mandela, who led the emancipation of South Africa from white minority rule, “no leader.”
“Tell me one country run by a Black person that isn’t a shithole,” Mr. Cohen quotes Mr. Trump as saying. He also alleges that Mr. Trump called Kwame Jackson, a Black contestant on his reality TV show “The Apprentice,” a homophobic slur, and that he had deep disgust with Black leaders in addition to celebrities and sports figures.
He also was obsessed with Mr. Obama, Mr. Cohen writes. The book describes Mr. Trump hiring “a Faux-Bama, or fake Obama, to record a video where Trump ritualistically belittled the first Black president and then fired him, a kind of fantasy fulfillment that it was hard to imagine any adult would spend serious money living out — until he did the functional equivalent in the real world.”
The video Mr. Cohen describes appears to be a recording that was supposed to be shown the first night of the Republican National Convention in 2012, when Mr. Trump had endorsed the party’s presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, and insisted on having time during the programming.
President Trump was proudly litigious before his victory in 2016 and has remained so in the White House. But one big factor has changed: He has drawn on campaign donations as a piggy bank for his legal expenses to a degree far greater than any of his predecessors.
In New York, Mr. Trump dispatched a team of lawyers to seek damages of more than $1 million from a former campaign worker after she claimed she had been the target of sexual discrimination and harassment by another aide. The lawyers have been paid $1.5 million by the Trump campaign for work on the case and others related to the president.
In Washington, Mr. Trump and his campaign affiliates hired lawyers to assist members of his staff and family — including a onetime bodyguard, his oldest son and his son-in-law — as they were pulled into investigations related to Russia and Ukraine. The Republican National Committee has paid at least $2.5 million in legal bills to the firms that did this and other legal work.
In California, Mr. Trump sued to block a law that would have forced him to release his taxes if he wanted to run for re-election. The Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee have paid the law firm handling this case, among others, $1.8 million.
Mr. Trump’s tendency to turn to the courts — and the legal issues that have stemmed from norm-breaking characteristics of his presidency — helps explain how he and his affiliated political entities have spent at least $58.4 million in donations on legal and compliance work since 2015, according to a tally by The New York Times and the nonpartisan Campaign Finance Institute.
By comparison, President Barack Obama and the Democratic National Committee spent $10.7 million on legal and compliance expenses during the equivalent period starting in 2007. President George W. Bush also spent much less, even taking into account his legal spending on the recount fight that went to the Supreme Court, records show.
The spending on behalf of Mr. Trump covers not only legal work that would be relatively routine for any president or candidate and some of the costs related to the Russia inquiry and his impeachment, but also cases in which he has a personal stake, including attempts to enforce nondisclosure agreements and protect his business interests.