Politics

Poll: Majority of Americans support and sympathize with protesters; disapprove of Trump’s response

June 4, 2020

A new Reuters-Ipsos poll of more than 1,000 Americans has found that the majority sympathize with the protests that have swept across the nation since the death of George Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis at the hands of police. Conversely, those same people give low marks to President Donald Trump’s handling of the demonstrations.

Sixty-four percent of respondents said they were sympathetic to the protests that have erupted across the nation, while 27% said they were not, and 9% said they were unsure, The Hill reports.

More than 55% of  respondents said they disapprove of the president’s response to the protests—including 40%, who said they strongly disapproved. The percentage of participants who approved, about 33%, was lower than the number of those who approved of the job Trump is doing in general.

And, while 67% of Republicans approved of his response, that figure was about 15 points behind their overall approval of him.

A majority of both self-identified Republicans and Democrats said they approved of the protests but felt property damage and looting undermined the cause, with fewer than 25% of respondents believing the looting was justified.

Although the bulk of the demonstrations have taken place in cities, majorities in rural and suburban areas also expressed sympathy for the protests, with a little more than half of the respondents from rural areas sympathizing and 70% of those in suburban areas saying the same, The Hill notes.

Respondents said they approve of the police response more than they approve of Trump’s response, but a plurality still disapproved. Forty-seven percent of respondents disagreed that the police were doing a good job; compared to 43%, who agreed. A majority of Republicans agreed with the police response while a majority of Democrats disagreed.

A parallel Reuters-Ipsos poll found presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden leading Trump by 10 points among registered voters, the widest margin since Biden essentially clinched the nomination in early April.

Research contact: @thehill

Biden to address nation—reviling Trump’s actions against protesters, vowing to heal racial wounds

June 3, 2020

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said he would speak to the nation on Tuesday, June 2—seeking to console Americans nationwide who are horrified by yet another death of a black man at the hands of police, as well as by subsequent nights of protest and violence.

Biden is expected to bluntly criticize President Donald Trump’s decision on the evening of June 1 to clear protesters from a Washington, D.C., street so that he could pose with a Bible in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church, The Washington Post reported.

“When peaceful protestors are dispersed by the order of the President from the doorstep of the people’s house, the White House — using tear gas and flash grenades — in order to stage a photo op at a noble church, we can be forgiven for believing that the president is more interested in power than in principle,” the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee plans to say, according to the excerpts released by his campaign.

“More interested in serving the passions of his base than the needs of the people in his care,” he plans to add. “For that’s what the presidency is: a duty of care — to all of us, not just our voters, not just our donors, but all of us.”

The remarks will be delivered at Philadelphia’s City Hall. Philadelphia also was where Barack Obama delivered a heralded speech on race relations more than 12 years ago, entitled “A More Perfect Union.”

Part of the Biden speech will speak to the nation’s concerns over police brutality, with plans to use the words of George Floyd — “I can’t breathe”— as a mantra. Floyd, an unarmed black man, died after a police officer knelt on his neck in Minneapolis.

“George Floyd’s last words. But they didn’t die with him. They’re still being heard. They’re echoing across this nation,” Biden plans to say.

“They speak to a nation where too often just the color of your skin puts your life at risk. They speak to a nation where more than 100,000 people have lost their lives to a virus and 40 million Americans have filed for unemployment — with a disproportionate number of these deaths and job losses concentrated in the black and minority

“It’s a wake-up call for our nation,” he adds. “For all of us.”

Biden’s speech will take on Trump directly, criticizing him for both rhetoric and actions.

“Look, the presidency is a big job. Nobody will get everything right. And I won’t either,” he says in the excerpts. “But I promise you this. I won’t traffic in fear and division. I won’t fan the flames of hate. I will seek to heal the racial wounds that have long plagued this country – not use them for political gain.”

It is unclear whether Biden will outline new policies in the address, the Post says, but he will allude to the challenges ahead if he is elected president.

“I’ll work to not only rebuild this nation,” he says in the excerpts. “But to build it better than it was.”

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Trump retreats into White House bunker as protests rage

June 2, 2020

Unlike ill-fated presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy—who in 1968 famously took to the Detroit streets to calm mobs after the assassination of Martin Luther King—(or even current Democratic candidate Joe Biden, who took to the streets of Delaware over the weekend); President Donald Trump has retreated from public appearances as “Black Lives Matter” and “I Can’t Breathe” protesters fill the streets of Washington, D.C., and other cities nationwide.

Secret Service agents rushed President Donald Trump to a White House bunker on Friday night, May 29, as hundreds of protesters of all creeds and colors gathered outside the executive mansion—some of them throwing rocks and heaving police barricades, The Washington Post reports.

Trump spent nearly an hour in the bunker, which was designed for use in emergencies such as terrorist attacks, according to a Republican close to the White House who spoke with the news outlet on the condition of anonymity. The account was confirmed by an administration official who also spoke on the condition of anonymity.

According to the Post, “The abrupt decision by the agents underscored the rattled mood inside the White House—where the chants from protesters in Lafayette Park could be heard all weekend; and Secret Service agents and law enforcement officers struggled to contain the crowds.”

Friday’s protests were triggered by the alleged murder of George Floyd, a black man who died after he was pinned at the neck by white Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin.

The demonstrations in Washington turned violent and appeared to catch officers by surprise. Indeed, the news outlet reports, they sparked one of the highest alerts on the White House complex since the September. 11 attacks in 2001.

Ultimately, 50 Secret Service agents were rumored to have been injured during the protests at the White House.

“The White House does not comment on security protocols and decisions,” said White House spokesman Judd Deere. The Secret Service said it does not discuss the means and methods of its protective operations. The president’s move to the bunker was first reported by The New York Times.

The president and his family have been shaken by the size and venom of the crowds, according to the Republican. It was not immediately clear if first lady Melania Trump and the couple’s 14-year-old son, Barron, joined the president in the bunker. Secret Service protocol would have called for all those under the agency’s protection to be in the underground shelter.

Trump did not appear in public on Sunday. Instead, a White House official who was not authorized to discuss the plans ahead of time said Trump was expected in the coming days to speak to the American public.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

In tweets about Minneapolis protesters, Trump is accused of “glorifying violence” against them

June 1, 2020

“When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” President Donald Trump threatened by tweet early on Friday, May 30, as Minneapolis and other urban centers nationwide faced violent protests—touched off by the murder of a black man by a white police officer, who placed his knee on the victim’s neck for more than five minutes, despite hearing his cries of “I can’t breathe.”

That officer and four other backup cops have been fired by the Minneapolis Police Department; however, they have not been arrested and no charges have been filed, while the department and federal authorities investigate the incident.

Trump began tweeting about the unrest in Minneapolis around 1 a.m., as cable news showed the police station— where the four city police officers involved in the death of George Floyd were assigned—Inengulfed in a fire set by protesters a short time earlier, The New York Times reported. Protesters also had begun looting businesses in the area.

By the time the president had posted his string of tweets, Governor Tim Walz of Minnesota already had activated and deployed the National Guard in response to a request from local leaders.

“I can’t stand back & watch this happen to a great American City, Minneapolis,” Trump said on Twitter. “A total lack of leadership. Either the very weak Radical Left Mayor, Jacob Frey, get his act together and bring the City under control, or I will send in the National Guard & get the job done right.”

“These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen,” the president wrote in another tweet, which was flagged by Twitter. “Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!”

In saying “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” the president intentionally echoed a phrase coined by a Miami police chief in the 1960s about crackdowns on black neighborhoods during times of unrest.

Twitter officials responded to the threat by appending the tweets with a note saying the posts were “glorifying violence.” The social media site also made it more difficult for readers to see the feed of those comments:  “Mr. Trump’s post can now only be seen after users click a box with a notice saying it violated Twitter’s rules against encouraging violence, but it otherwise remains visible.”

The official White House Twitter account repeated Trump’s comments in a Friday morning tweet, and Twitter appended the same notice to that tweet. The same comments appeared on Mr. Trump’s Facebook account without a cautionary notice.

“We’ve taken action in the interest of preventing others from being inspired to commit violent acts, but have kept the Tweet on Twitter because it is important that the public still be able to see the Tweet given its relevance to ongoing matters of public importance,” Twitter said on its official communications account.

Research contact: @nytimes

N.Y. Governor Cuomo excoriates Congress for politicizing federal funding to hard-hit states

May 29, 2020

After a visit to the White House to discuss New York State-based infrastructure projects that could provide a “bailout with a legacy”—among them, plans for extending the 2nd Avenue Subway in the Big Apple and constructing two new tunnels across the Hudson River to carry Amtrak trains that service the northeast—New York Governor Andrew Cuomo sat down for a briefing at the National Press Club on May 27, delivering a fiery defense of federal funding to states that have been hit hard by the coronavirus.

He excoriated Congressional Republicans for politicizing aid to the states by giving preference to red states over blue. And in doing so, Cuomo specifically directed his message at critics such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and Senator Rick Scott (R-Florida), The Washington Post reported.

 “Stop abusing New York. Stop abusing New Jersey,” Cuomo said to lawmakers in Congress, adding, “Stop abusing the states who bore the brunt of the COVID virus through no fault of their own.”

This hyper-partisan Washington environment is toxic for this country,” said the governor, according to a transcript posted by Yahoo. “We have people saying, ‘Well, we don’t want to pass a bill that helps Democratic states. It would be a blue-state bailout.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell , Republican of Kentucky, said Cuomo, is interested in “Stopping blue state bailouts.”

Senator Rick Scott of Florida (R) has said, according to Cuomo, “We’re supposed to bail them out? That’s not right.”

“This is really an ugly, ugly sentiment,” maintained the New York Governor. “It is an un-American response. We’re still the United States. Those words meant something.”

Cuomo said he isn’t asking the federal government to do his state’s job.

“I understand that states are responsible for the reopening … but, at the same time, the federal government has a role to play and it has to play a part. There cannot be a national recovery if the state and local governments are not funded. That is a fact.”

Washington is now debating a new recovery bill, he said.

“Previous bills have helped large business, small businesses, all kinds of businesses. Hotels. Airlines. That’s great,” maintained Cuomo. But state and local governments fund schools and hospitals, police, fire.

“The COVID states — the states that bore the brunt — they’re one-third of the GDP,” noted the governor. “How can you tell one-third of the country to go to heck and think that you’re going to see an economic rebound?”

“Also, state economies, that’s what the national economy is made of,” he said. “There is no nation without the states. They tend to forget that in this town.”

Scott fired back in a statement, declaring that Congress will not “use a health crisis and taxpayer money to bail out poorly-run states like Governor Cuomo’s New York.”

McConnell’s office pointed to remarks the Senate majority leader made Tuesday, when he said that “there may be some additional assistance” for states in the next round of coronavirus relief legislation “if it’s directly related to COVID-19.”

Cuomo also pushed back on the notion that the coronavirus came to the United States from China, an argument that Trump and GOP lawmakers have increasingly made as the pandemic has swept across the country.

“It didn’t come from China. It came from Europe, and we bore the brunt of it. And now you want to hold that against us because we bore the brunt of a national mistake?” he asked.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

North Carolina throws threat back at Trump; requests public health plan for GOP convention

May 28, 2020

President Donald Trump needs to “feel the love” at the GOP convention, August 24-27 in Charlotte, North Carolina. That means he wants 50,000 Trump MAGA  acolytes in the arena, standing shoulder-to-shoulder, to cheer his nomination on—and to provide testament to his popularity.

Indeed, according to a report by Politico, the president threatened on Monday, May 25, to pull the Republican National Convention out of North Carolina if state officials don’t roll out the red carpet soon.

But on Tuesday, North Carolina pushed back. Officials there said they would put the onus on national Republicans to show they can pull off a 50,000-person event safely, the news outlet said.

In a letter to Marcia Kelly, the president and CEO of the convention, North Carolina Secretary of Health and Human Services Mandy Cohen acknowledged the president’s warning and requested a public health plan for the event.

“The status of Covid-19 infections in our state and in the Charlotte area continues to rapidly evolve [so] it will be important to have several scenarios planned that can be deployed depending on the public health situation,” she wrote. “[M]easured and careful planning efforts are important not only to convention-goers, but also to the North Carolinians who rely on us to protect the public’s health.”

The missive came as Republicans held conference calls Tuesday to decide how to proceed with plans for the convention. People familiar with the discussions said an array of options were considered, including holding the event in a different state. The three most frequently mentioned states include Florida, Texas and Georgia, all of which have Republican governors. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Georgia Governor Brian Kemp have said they would welcome the convention.

Trump has implied that North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, a Democrat, is motivated purely by politics—and not by concern for his electorate during the pandemic.

“We have a governor who doesn’t want to open up the state,” Trump said. “He’s been acting very very slowly and very suspiciously.”

But Republicans involved in convention planning say there remains strong interest in holding the event in North Carolina, a critical swing state. They also acknowledge privately that

Fueling the GOP’s angst is a perception that Cooper is unlikely to lift restrictions to accommodate them. With cases rising in the Charlotte area, Republicans say they’re skeptical that the Democratic governor will allow a mass gathering.

Charlotte City Council member Malcolm Graham, who represents the city’s business district, called Republicans’ plans to host a fully attended convention “literally insane,” citing the number of attendees, vendors and volunteers it would require.

“Obviously, that’s not going to happen in Charlotte, nor would it happen in any other city that they’re going to move it to,” Graham, a Democrat, said in an interview.

Research contact: @politico

Dr. Fauci re-emerges from media blackout; says we’ll be ‘seeing more’ of him

May 25, 2020

He’s back! After a deafening silence that persisted for more than two weeks, top infectious diseases expert Dr. Anthony Fauci re-emerged on the national stage on Thursday, May 21—appearing on CNN’s coronavirus town hall to mark his first major television interview since May 4.

While Fauci has recently been on a “modified quarantine” due to possible exposure to the White House staffers who have tested positive for COVID-19, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) chief has continued to participate in the White House coronavirus task force and testified before the Senate last week via remote, The Daily Beast reported.

Fauci, who has been targeted by pro-Trump figures after appearing to contradict some of the president’s comments on the virus, has been conspicuously absent from TV as the White House pushes for a robust reopening of the economy, as CNN’s Oliver Darcy reported earlier this week. Other public health experts on the task force, such as Dr. Deborah Birx, also have been been noticeably absent.

CNN anchor Anderson Cooper immediately greeted Dr. Fauci on Thursday night by asking why the American public has heard so little from the task force and medical experts in recent weeks.

“And if they aren’t going to have daily briefings about facts and science, can you or the NIH or can the CDC have their own daily briefings with top scientists? There are a lot of Americans out there who still want to hear from scientists every day,” Cooper added.

“That’s a good point,” Fauci reacted. “I think you’re probably going to be seeing a little bit more of me and my colleagues. There was a period of time, there was a little bit of a lull of our being out there with the press.”

“I believe that’s going to change. We’ve been talking with the communications people and they realize we need to get some of this information out, particularly some of the scientific issues for which I’m predominantly responsible for. So hopefully we’ll be seeing more of us,” he continued.

The Daily Beast noted, Fauci would go on to say that the task force has “changed a bit” and that he’s in a subgroup with other public health leaders “talking about some of the scientific issues.” He further noted that the task force as a whole is more focused on reopening the economy and the economic impact of the pandemic.

Research contact: @thedailybeast

Study: Initiating COVID-19 restrictions just one week earlier could have saved 36K U.S. lives

May 22, 2020

Researchers at Columbia University announced on May 20 that an estimated 36,000 lives in the United States would not have been lost to COVID-19 had social distancing and other restrictions been put in place just a single week earlier in March.

In response, ABC News reports, the White House on pointed a finger at China.

“What would have saved lives is if China had been transparent and the World Health Organization had fulfilled its mission,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere said in a statement. He echoed President Donald Trump’s frequent accusations that China and the W.H.O. failed to adequately inform the world about the burgeoning outbreak of COVID-19 in China’s Wuhan Province.

Disease modelers at Columbia University said in a study released Wednesday that 61.6% of deaths and 55% of infections nationwide could have been avoided if preventative measures in place on March 15 had been enacted a week earlier. That equates to about 35,927 deaths and 703,975 cases.

The study has not yet undergone the typical scientific peer review process, and all models are merely estimates, subject to change with new information.

Nevertheless, the Columbia researchers determined that if the measures had begun two weeks earlier, then 82.7% of deaths and 84% of infections — or about 53,990 deaths and 960,937 cases — could have been prevented nationwide, they found.

To try to deflect criticism, the president has frequently cited his decision in late January to block most travelers who had recently spent time in China from entering the United States—although his administration did not enact similar restrictions on travel from Europe until March 14, or recommend widespread social distancing in the United States until March 16.

“What did save American lives is the bold leadership of President Trump, including the early travel restrictions when we had no idea the true level of asymptotic spread,” Deere said. He pointed to the private sector’s work on delivering “critical supplies to states in need and ramp up testing across the country that has placed us on a responsible path to reopen our country.”

While the federal government was slow to recommend social distancing measures, it was governors and local officials who called the shots and who, in many cases, acted more quickly, according to ABC News.

A White House official said the “success” of responding to COVID-19 “has been built on the federal-state partnership, not a federal government coming in and telling governors and mayors what decisions to make for their communities when a bureaucrat in Washington has [no] idea what is best for them.”

While Trump has repeatedly said he prefers governors take the lead on testing and rolling back restrictions, he has also frequently attacked Democratic state leaders—often in political battleground states key to his reelection later this year—for moving too slowly.

Research contact @abcnews

Trump threatens to withhold Michigan, Nevada funding over mail-in voting

May 21, 2020

Unlike President Harry Truman, when President Donald Trump says “The buck stops here,” he means that funding for those whom he dislikes or distrusts really stops at his desk, without going forward to those who need it.

On Wednesday, May 20, the president threatened to withhold federal funding to Michigan after its secretary of state, Jocelyn Benson (D), announced that all of the state’s registered voters would receive applications for absentee ballots in the mail this year, The Hill reports.

Trump charged that the step was done “illegally” and threatened to withhold funding if the state did not reverse course, suggesting the move would encourage voter fraud.

Trump later threatened to suspend federal funding to Nevada, which is holding a mail-in primary election, claiming the state was creating a “great Voter Fraud scenario” and allow people to “cheat in elections.”

“Breaking: Michigan sends absentee ballots to 7.7 million people ahead of Primaries and the General Election,” Trump tweeted. “This was done illegally and without authorization by a rogue Secretary of State. I will ask to hold up funding to Michigan if they want to go down this Voter Fraud path!”

Trump copied Acting Office of Management and Budget Director Russ Vought, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows , and the Treasury Department on his tweet about Michigan and also copied Vought and the Treasury Department on the post about Nevada.

Benson responded to Trump’s tweet, correcting him by saying that the state “sent applications, not ballots” and pointing out that Republican secretaries of state have done the same.

Trump has frequently voiced his opposition to expanding mail-in voting, the Hill notes—leveling unsubstantiated and exaggerated claims that mail-in ballots are riddled with fraud and are “corrupt.”

While voting experts say there are higher levels of voter fraud in mail-in voting than in-person voting, they agree that overall cases of voter fraud are rare, according to the news outlet.

“Republicans should fight very hard when it comes to statewide mail-in voting. Democrats are clamoring for it,” Trump tweeted last month. “Tremendous potential for voter fraud, and for whatever reason, doesn’t work out well for Republicans.”

Trump can withhold federal funding from states, but would face legal hurdles in trying to do so, Elie Honig, a legal analyst and former federal prosecutor told The Hill.

“First, the federal funds must relate substantively to the state-level policy at issue,” said Honig. “Second, funding restrictions can only apply to new sources of funding. The federal government can’t interrupt or impose new conditions on money that already has been allocated or is already flowing.”

“Also there’s a question whether the president himself can withhold funds without congressional authorization,” Honig continued.

Democrats have supported mail-in voting during the coronavirus pandemic as a way to ensure that ballots can be cast safely in the 2020 elections without risking exposure to the virus.

The $2 trillion bipartisan relief package that Trump signed into law in late March provides $400 million for states to prepare for upcoming primaries and the November general election during the coronavirus outbreak.

Benson said in a statement on Tuesday that sending mail-in applications to Michigan’s 7.7 million registered voters would ensure their safety.

“By mailing applications, we have ensured that no Michigander has to choose between their health and their right to vote,” Benson said. “Voting by mail is easy, convenient, safe, and secure, and every voter in Michigan has the right to do it.”

Research contact: @thehill 

Barr: U.S. Attorney’s probe not likely to focus on Obama, Biden—or ‘Obamagate’

May 20, 2020

How low will he go? Even at the behest of President Donald Trump, Attorney General Bill Barr said on Monday that he “doesn’t  expect” either to investigate—or to subpoena for testimony— former President Barack Obama or Vice President Joe Biden, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.

Barr, who to date has been all too willing to do the president’s bidding, said the former heads of state would not be scrutinized as part of an examination into the origins of a federal probe looking at whether the 2016 Trump campaign colluded with Russia. In doing so, he crushed Trump’s Obamagate hopes—making it clear that there would be no criminal prosecution.

Last year the AG appointed John Durham, the U.S. attorney for Connecticut, to review the origins of the 2016 probe into possible links between the Trump campaign and Russian election interference. The investigation, according to people familiar with it, the Journal says, is proceeding on multiple fronts—examining how the initial allegations surfaced in 2016, as well as a separate 2017 U.S. intelligence report that concluded Moscow had interfered in the presidential election in part to help then-candidate Trump.

“As to President Obama and Vice President Biden, whatever their level of involvement, based on the information I have today, I don’t expect Mr. Durham’s work will lead to a criminal investigation of either man,” Barr said in response to a reporter’s question during a news conference called to discuss updates to the probe of a shooting at a military base last year in Pensacola, Florida. “Our concern over potential criminality is focused on others.”

A spokesman for Obama declined to comment to the Journal. Biden didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Barr didn’t provide details on exactly what or whom Durham was investigating, but he expressed concern generally about a trend to “gin up allegations of criminality by one’s political opponents based on the flimsiest of legal theories.”

He didn’t directly address remarks made in recent weeks by President Trump and some of his conservative allies that have suggested without evidence that. Obama and Biden—who is the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and Trump’s expected 2020 opponent—had engaged in criminal acts to spy on his 2016 election campaign.

Speaking at the White House Monday afternoon, the president said he was a “little surprised” by  Barr’s announcement about the former president and vice president, adding that “if it was me, I guarantee they’d be going after me.” He said he had “no doubt” that. Biden and Obama were involved in what he called the “takedown of a president.”

Still, the president called Barr an “honorable man” and said he would rely on him to “make all of those decisions.”

Research contact: @WSJ