Donald Trump’s decision to pack thousands of people into an arena for his first campaign rally in three months, intended to reinvigorate both his re-election effort and the candidate himself, has instead kept the president on the defensive.
The Tulsa, Okla., rally set for tomorrow was supposed to signal that America is well on its way back to normal after weathering both the coronavirus outbreak and nationwide protests against police brutality. And the event was just as much about lifting the president’s own morale, following broad criticism of his response to the virus crisis and the unrest, according to officials familiar with the campaign.
But instead, the rally has led to new scrutiny of the president’s handling of both the pandemic and the nation’s divisive racial inequities. Health officials in Oklahoma have recommended delaying the event, expected to draw at least 100,000 people to the state’s second-largest city, as cases of Covid-19 rise.
Trump already moved the rally back a day after initially scheduling it for Juneteenth, a commemoration of the end of slavery, drawing criticism that he was insensitive to the plight of African Americans. Moreover, Tulsa is the site of one of the worst incidents of racial violence in American history, the 1921 sacking by a White mob of a prosperous Black neighborhood named Greenwood.
Rallies were the centerpiece of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and continued through his presidency, providing a platform to reach voters directly, and a trove of voter data. Trump began increasing their frequency late last year — until the coronavirus forced the campaign to suspend them in March.
Polls show Trump trailing Democrat Joe Biden nationally and in key swing states as voters express concern over the president’s handling of the virus and national protests that erupted over instances of police brutality and racism. Read more from Mario Parker.
Tulsa Arena Asks Campaign for Virus Safety Plan: The operator of the Tulsa arena that’s hosting Trump’s campaign rally tomorrow said it had asked his re-election campaign for a written plan to safeguard the event against the state’s growing outbreak. Meghan Blood, spokeswoman for the BOK Center, said it’s asked Trump’s campaign for a plan “detailing the steps the event will institute for health and safety, including those related to social distancing.” Alex Wayne and Josh Wingrove have more.
Trump Rally Gives Scientists a New Virus Laboratory: The street protests that spread around the globe following George Floyd’s death while detained by Minneapolis police in late May haven’t sparked the surge in coronavirus infections that public health officials first feared. Now, they have something new to fret about on the eve of Trump’s indoor political rally to kick off his re-election bid.
The rally marks the first large indoor public event since the country all but shut down in mid-March to slow the spread of the coronavirus. In that sense, it’s a test case in using huge indoor arenas to host big public gatherings for sports matches and concerts. “If you don’t get a superspreader event coming out of that it would be surprising,” says Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in California. “You’ve got so many people right on top of each other indoors, people screaming.” Read more from Michelle Cortez and Robert Langreth.
Happening on the Hill
Juneteenth Weighed as Federal Holiday: Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said he plans to introduce legislation to make Juneteenth, first celebrated in his home state to commemorate the day slaves there learned of emancipation, as a federal holiday. Marked June 19 every year, the day is “an opportunity to reflect on our history—the mistakes we have made—but yet how far we’ve come in the fight for equality, and a reminder of just how far we still have to go,” Cornyn said on the Senate floor. Read more from Laura Litvan.
Congress Urged to Extend Dreamer Protections: College groups are pressing Congress to pass legislation offering undocumented students the right to stay in the U.S. permanently after the Supreme Court yesterday gave them a reprieve from deportation. “This is undoubtedly a big win,” said Craig Lindwarm, the vice president for governmental affairs at the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities. “However, it in no way changes what is ultimately necessary, which is a legislative solution.” Read more from Andrew Kreighbaum.
Democrats Stave Off Attacks on Highway Bill: The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved its $494 billion highway bill last night by voice vote after a two-day markup. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said earlier in the day that the legislation will be packaged with provisions on schools, housing, and broadband access. The combined bill will be posted by the House Rules Committee today, according to Henry Connelly, the speaker’s deputy communications director. Read more from Courtney Rozen.
Democrats held off Republican efforts to weaken environmental and climate-friendly provisions in the bill, Dean Scott reports.
National Forest for Hawaii Floated: Congress is considering studying whether to create a national forest in Hawaii to protect the state’s vanishing native trees and ecosystems. If created, it would be the nation’s first new forest in more than 35 years. A new national forest would allow the U.S. Forest Service to help state officials address their declining ecosystems, according to Rep. Ed Case (D-Hawaii) at a House Natural Resources panel hearing. Bobby Magill has more.
Politics & Influence
Private Equity Donors Favor Biden: Joe Biden, who says he wants to tax capital gains at the same rate as ordinary income and pushes left-of-center economic policies, seems an unlikely favorite of private equity firms and hedge fund managers.
But supporters linked to those industries have poured more than $21 million into his campaign and outside groups backing him, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a rate much higher than the support they gave Hillary Clinton in 2016. By contrast, they’ve given Trump and his allied super-PACs just $3.6 million. Through April, Biden’s campaign has received $1.4 million from hedge fund and private equity donors writing checks of $2,800 or less in the year since he announced his candidacy. In 40 months of raising money for his re-election, Trump’s campaign has gotten $361,811 from them. Read more from Bill Allison and Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou.
Biden Campaign Lags in Hiring Top Staff: Biden’s campaign has only begun to hire top officials in key states, leaving him without senior staff in battlegrounds like Wisconsin, Michigan and Florida, alarming some Democrats who say the leadership vacuum could hinder the party’s efforts to defeat Trump in November.
The campaign said today that Jessica Mejia, Biden’s California state director during the Democratic primaries, will be the Arizona state director while Andrew Piatt, the manager of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s (D-Ariz.) successful 2018 Senate campaign, will be a senior adviser. Those roles in other states have not been filled.
The Arizona hires are an exception to a process that has moved more slowly than campaign officials had initially indicated, according to four Democratic officials briefed on the campaign’s operations who requested anonymity to disclose private conversations. Read more from Tyler Pager and Jennifer Epstein.
Klobuchar Removes Herself From Veep Contention: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) took herself out of contention to be Biden’s running mate yesterday, saying the Democratic nominee should select a woman of color for the ticket as the country grapples with racial injustice. “This is a historic moment and America must seize on this moment,” Klobuchar said in an interview with Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC. “And I truly believe, as I actually told the vice president last night when I called him, that I think this is a moment to put a woman of color on that ticket.” Read more from Max Berley.
Biden Widens Lead Over Trump in Fox Survey: Biden widened his national lead over Trump to 12 points after having an eight-point advantage last month, a Fox News survey shows. Among independents, Biden is preferred over Trump 39% to 17%, while 43% say that they’re undecided or supporting someone else, Kim Chipman reports.
Tyson Hires Lobbyist as DOJ Probe Looms: Tyson Foods hired lobbyist Dan Turton, who spent the last year as a senior adviser on the House Rules Committee, to be its senior vice president of global government affairs, according to a press release. His resume includes government affairs roles at General Motors and Entergy, in addition to working in the White House during the Obama administration and serving as floor director to former Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.), Megan R. Wilson reports. Tyson and other meat processors have come under enormous scrutiny as coronavirus cases surge at plants and the DOJ investigates sharply rising meat prices.
California Will Send November Ballots to Every Registered Voter: California Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed legislation requiring county officials to mail ballots to all voters ahead of the Nov. 3 general election. The measure (AB 860) became law a few hours after the Assembly voted on Thursday, with Democrats and most Republicans supporting, including two GOP members who sued over the governor’s June 3 executive order. Read more from Tiffany Stecker.
Twitter Flags Trump Tweet: Twitter has again flagged a tweet by Trump, with the social network warning that it contained “manipulated media.” The tweet showed a video with a CNN-style chyron that read “Terrified Todler Runs From Racist Baby,” created by an account describing itself as a “memesmith.” It showed two children, one Black and one White, on a sidewalk. Read more from Vlad Savov.
Bolton, Trump Set for Battle Over Book
Former National Security Advisor John Bolton’s pending memoir is living up to its publisher’s hype as “the book President Donald Trump doesn’t want you to read.”
Trump’s Justice Department is heading to court today in a last-ditch attempt to block the publication of “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir,” due to be released on Tuesday, even as excerpts that have already appeared in the media paint a damning picture of Trump as an incurious president driven by his political self-interest.
U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth in Washington is scheduled to hear arguments on the government’s emergency motion for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to prevent Bolton from publishing the memoir on the grounds that it contains classified information. Bolton responded yesterday calling the lawsuit an attempt to stifle free speech and help Trump’s reelection. Read more from Erik Larson and David Yaffe-Bellany.
- Trump repeatedly tried to interfere in the U.S. judicial system to curry favor with leaders from Turkey to China, according to Bolton’s book. At a G-20 meeting in 2018, Trump told President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that he thought a key Turkish bank facing a Justice Department indictment “was totally innocent of violating U.S. Iran sanctions” and vowed to “take care of things,” the book claims. Read more from Nick Wadhams and Jennifer Jacobs.
- Also in Bolton’s book, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin emerges as the chief opponent of the administration’s increased reliance upon economic sanctions, worried that an over-reliance on the measures will weaken the global primacy of the dollar. Bolton describes Mnuchin as standing in the way of tough economic punishment against Venezuela, Russia, China and others. Read more from Saleha Mohsin, Wadhams, and Jacobs.
- Secretary of State Michael Pompeo denounced Bolton as “a traitor who damaged America” by writing the memoir, Nick Wadhams and John Harney report. Pompeo, in statement last night, said he had not read the book, “but from the excerpts I’ve seen published, John Bolton is spreading a number of lies, fully-spun half-truths, and outright falsehoods.”
What Else to Know
Corner-cutting Fails Trump at Supreme Court: Trump endured a disastrous week at the high court, losing fights over LGBT job-bias suits and his bid to end the DACA deferred-deportation program. The court also rejected Trump’s challenge to California’s sanctuary-city law, which protects undocumented immigrants. The DACA decision suggested it was Trump’s penchant for short-cuts, rather than any personal animus, that led him to defeat. Read more from Greg Stohr.
Francisco’s Exit Trims Court’s Minority Presence: Solicitor General Noel Francisco plans to step down when the Supreme Court term ends this summer, meaning one of nation’s highest profile non-White lawyers will no longer argue the government’s cases before the country’s most important court. Francisco has argued 17 cases at the high court as solicitor general. The small cadre of elite attorneys that argues a disproportionate share of Supreme Court oral arguments includes few other lawyers of color. Read more from Kimberly Strawbridge Robinson.
China to Accelerate U.S. Farm Purchases: China plans to accelerate purchases of American farm goods to comply with the phase one trade deal with the U.S. following talks in Hawaii this week. The world’s top soybean importer intends to step up buying of everything from soybeans to corn and ethanol after purchases fell behind due to coronavirus disruptions, said two people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be named because the information is private. Read more.
- Pompeo said China’s top foreign policy official committed in a meeting this week to honor all of his nation’s commitments under its first-phase trade deal with Trump. “During my meeting with CCP Politburo Member Yang Jiechi, he recommitted to completing and honoring all of the obligations of Phase 1 of the trade deal between our two countries,” Pompeo said in a tweet yesterday, Nick Wadhams reports.
- Still, Trump said the U.S. could seek a “complete decoupling from China” in response to unspecified conditions, his most forceful statement yet on the souring ties with Beijing. Trump tweeted a rebuke to remarks a day prior by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who said a full decoupling of the world’s biggest markets was not “a reasonable policy option.” Read more from Josh Wingrove.