What to Know in Washington: Trump Threatens to Deploy Troops

President Donald Trump threatened to deploy the U.S. military to end “riots and lawlessness” across the country in a Rose Garden address punctuated by the sound of explosions as federal officers dispersed peaceful demonstrators just outside the White House gates.

Trump last night called on governors and mayors to “dominate the streets” and announced that he was sending thousands of heavily armed military personnel into the nation’s capital after days of violent outbursts following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, at the hands of Minneapolis police.

The comments preceded another night of sometimes-violent unrest in U.S. cities.

After speaking, Trump took an unannounced walk across the street from the White House through Lafayette Square — with tear gas hanging in the air that had been used to clear away protesters — to visit Saint John’s Episcopal Church. The house of worship, known as “The Church of Presidents,” had been damaged in a fire the previous night, as police and protesters clashed in the streets of Washington.

At the church, Trump held a Bible he had brought from the White House in the air and gathered top aides to pose for photos.

“We have the greatest country in the world,” Trump said. “We’re going to keep it safe.”

The president’s words and actions drew immediate outcries from his critics, who argued that Trump had only further inflamed tensions and undercut his claim — made as flash-bang grenades detonated mere blocks away — that he was “an ally of all peaceful protesters.” Democratic lawmakers said they were alarmed by Trump’s threat to dispatch the U.S. military against Americans demonstrating against police brutality.

But the president made clear that yesterday’s show of force was intended to show that his patience had run out over three days of protests that at one point flared violently enough to drive Trump into an underground security bunker. Read more from Jennifer Jacobs.

House Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said Trump’s move to invoke the Insurrection Act should be reversed.

That 1807 law, previously used to intervene during the 1992 Los Angeles riots, allows the president to federalize the National Guard and bring in the U.S. military if states are unable to safeguard constitutionally protected civil rights.

“We live in a democracy, not a dictatorship,” Smith said in a statement. “It is un-American to use our service members to ‘dominate’ civilians, as both the President and Secretary of Defense have suggested.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) condemned Trump’s move in a joint statement.

“Tear-gassing peaceful protestors without provocation just so that the President could pose for photos outside a church dishonors every value that faith teaches us,” they said.

  • The Pentagon said 600 to 800 National Guard troops were being sent to D.C. Defense Department officials said an active-duty unit from outside the city area has been moved into the area and put on heightened alert but wasn’t immediately deployed into the capital city. Read more from Travis J. Tritten.
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel were also deployed to D.C. to assist law enforcement, CBP acting Commissioner Mark Morgan said in a tweet, Teaganne Finn reports. The agency later released a statement saying they were “ready to assist in protecting our law enforcement partners from any lawless rioting, domestic acts of terrorism, and other criminal activities.”
Photographer: Shawn Thew/EPA/Bloomberg
Trump walks from the White House to St. John’s Episcopal Church.

Trump Rattles Saber, Biden Listens in Split-Screen Moment: Trump threatened to send troops against protesters while presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden listened to pleas for systemic change in the lives of African Americans, giving voters a split-screen view of the stark differences in how the two men approach a national crisis. In a tweet last night Biden said that Trump is “using the American military against the American people. He tear-gassed peaceful protesters and fired rubber bullets. For a photo.” Read more from Tyler Pager and Jennifer Epstein.

America’s Few Black CEOs Are Speaking Out: Some of the country’s most prominent black corporate leaders are weighing in publicly on the protests gripping the U.S., drawing from their own personal histories as they call for unity and seek to reassure employees. The CEOs from companies including Tapestry and Merck are hardly the first prominent executives to comment on the topic. But by calling attention to their own backgrounds and relating painful experiences of discrimination, they are adding their voices to corporate America’s call for unity and calm. Read more from Kim Bhasin and Jeff Green.

Philadelphia Congressman’s District Office Broken Into, Looted: Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.) said last night one of his district offices was broken into and “is currently being looted,” according to a Twitter post, reports Emily Wilkins.

Happening on the Hill

Stimulus Bill Would Add $3.5 Trillion: The latest House-passed stimulus measure would add about $3.5 trillion to the deficit over the next 10 years, according to a report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The section of the Heroes Act that would provide another round of $1,200 checks would cost $557 billion, the study said. Extending boosted unemployment insurance through January 2021 would cost $437 billion, and the higher education provisions would cost $169 billion, according to CBO, Jack Fitzpatrick reports.

Drug Price Measure Said Still Alive: Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said he intends to push for a vote this year on a measure that would limit price hikes of drugs, even as pharmaceutical companies race to find treatments and vaccines for Covid-19. The drugmaking sector has been pouring resources into researching new therapies as the disease wreaks havoc on public health and the economy. That’s helped quiet a long-running debate over rising prescription costs.

“There’s no better time to address this issue,” said Grassley, a co-sponsor of the drug-price legislation, in an interview yesterday. He cited a need to prepare for future pandemics and to keep “bad actors” in the drug industry “from hiking prices astronomically” in the next health crisis. If the measure fails to pass, Grassley said he’s worried drugmakers will charge “whatever they want to” for Covid-19 drugs. “It will be the Wild West.” Riley Griffin and Emma Court.

  • As drugmakers keep up efforts to find a coronavirus vaccine and treatment, governments and other research funders may be missing an opportunity to help speed the development of coronavirus vaccines and treatments by not insisting the drug companies share intellectual property, research data, and other information, watchdogs and patient advocates argue. Read more from Matthew Bultman.

Bill Aims to Protect Privacy on Tracing Apps: Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) are among senators proposing a bill aimed at protecting consumers’ privacy on contact-tracing smartphone apps. The “Exposure Notification Privacy Act” would seek to create privacy protections for commercial automated exposure notification services, such as those provided under Apple and Google’s coronavirus tracing tools that would partner with public health authorities. The measure would prohibit any automated exposure notification service that is not operated by or used in collaboration with a public health authority. It would also require consumers to give consent and be allowed to request data deletion at any time. Read more from Rebecca Kern.

Virus & Reopening Efforts

EPA Positioned to Reopen Three More Offices: The EPA is nudging its regional offices in Boston, Dallas, and Denver closer to reopening, agency chief Andrew Wheeler said in an internal email yesterday. The three EPA offices will be closed for seven days to assure that any viruses in the facilities are rendered inactive, Wheeler said. Several smaller facilities, not identified in the email, will also be included. The seven-day closure starts June 1, but no precise date for reopening was announced. Wheeler said the phased reopening of agency offices will be “measured and deliberate.” Read more from Stephen Lee.

Health-Care Small Businesses Are Top U.S. Relief Loan Recipients: Small businesses in the U.S. health-care and social-assistance industry have emerged as the top recipients of federal coronavirus relief loans, even as the net amount of approved funding in the program continues to decline amid loan cancellations. The Small Business Administration released a report yesterday of Paycheck Protection Program totals through May 30 with loan approvals by industry for the first time since the first round of funding ended on April 16. Read more from Mark Niquette.

WHO Exit Threatens Polio, Tuberculosis Along With Covid: Global efforts to control polio and tuberculosis stand to suffer alongside the battle against the pandemic as a result of Trump’s plans to withdraw from the World Health Organization. Trump’s decision last week to terminate the U.S. relationship with the global health body, about a month after he halted funding, leaves many unanswered questions. If he plans to withdraw all U.S. financing and expertise from the WHO, scientists fear a resurgence of deadly diseases the agency has spent years trying to destroy. Read more from Suzi Ring.

Pentagon Taps Aid to Use A.I. for Virus: The Defense Department is seeking to adapt artificial intelligence technology it employs to hunt terrorists with drones or predict when a plan will need maintenance for a new purpose: screening and testing novel coronavirus treatments and vaccines. The Pentagon plans to boost existing programs with money Congress provided under the virus-relief CARES Act for the development of A.I. models to “rapidly screen, prioritize, and test” the FDA’s approved therapeutics for new coronavirus drug candidates. Read more from Roxana Tiron and Tony Capaccio.

26,000 Dead in U.S. Nursing Homes: Close to 26,000 nursing home residents died of Covid-19, the U.S. government said yesterday, the first nationwide tally of a population especially hard hit by the illness. There were 60,000 confirmed cases in nursing homes, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said in a news release describing the findings. The agency also outlined plans to bring enforcement actions against homes that don’t take sufficient steps to control and prevent infections. Read more.

  • Many nursing-home workers around the country are losing pay after catching Covid-19 or being forced into quarantine, according to union officials, nursing home operators and workers. It’s an unwelcome development for people who earn little pay in some of the country’s most heavily infected workplaces. Longterm-care facilities have been associated with at least 200,000 infections and more than 39,000 deaths, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of the data available from 39 states. Meanwhile, some nursing-home operators that don’t pay sick workers have benefited from millions of dollars in taxpayer aid. Benjamin Elgin has more.

Masks Can Help Slow Virus, Study Says: Widespread use of face masks could help economies reopen safely from lockdowns when combined with continued social distancing and other prevention measures, according to a new study. The risk of viral transmission is lower in households and among contacts of infected people when masks are worn, according to the study, published in The Lancet medical journal. For medical professionals in a health-care setting, respirator-type devices provide a higher level of protection than standard surgical masks, the report said. Read more.

Elections, Politics & Influence

Return of Primary Season Kicks Off: A big month for congressional primaries starts today with contests across seven states. On this week’s episode of Downballot Counts, BGOV’s Kyle Trygstad and Greg Giroux highlight the major contests to watch.

Listen to the latest episode of Downballot Countshere, and Subscribe and listen to Downballot Counts from your mobile device via: Apple Podcast | Overcast | Stitcher | Spotify

Trump’s grip on the Republican Party will be tested in a handful of today’s House primary contests. Two primaries in Iowa and New Mexico illustrate how intra-party fights are coloring the general election outlook for both the GOP and Democrats. Billy House and Daniel Flatley have more.

Twitter Hides Gaetz Tweet, Suspends Users: Twitter placed a rule violation notice on a tweet from Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) last night stating it glorified violence. In the tweet, Gaetz called the far-left, anti-fascist protesters known as Antifa “terrorists.” He then asked, “can we hunt them down like we do those in the Middle East?”

Twitter hid the tweet behind a message saying it violated company rules, meaning that users need to click in order to view it, but the company didn’t remove the tweet from the service. Twitter does not remove tweets from well-known politicians who violate its rules, citing a “public interest” in seeing what elected officials say.

Trump tweeted Sunday morning that he was going to designate Antifa as a terrorist organization. A Twitter spokesperson confirmed Gaetz’s tweet “is in violation of our glorification of violence policy,” Kurt Wagner reports.

  • Twitter yesterday also suspended hundreds of accounts associated with spreading a false claim about a communications failure during protests in Washington. The action was part of an active investigation into the #dcblackout hashtag, according to a Twitter representative yesterday, who cited the company’s policy prohibiting spam and platform manipulation. The hashtag was associated with false claims that authorities had blocked communications to hinder protesters, the Washington Post reported. Read more from Wagner and Alyza Sebenius.

Menendez Urges Facebook on Fake Claims: Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) called for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to apply warning labels to false or harmful speech on the social media platform. Menendez sent a letter asking Facebook to label content such as Twitter did last week with several of Trump’s tweets. Read more from Rebecca Kern.

  • Meanwhile, Zuckerberg hosted a nearly hour-long video call with U.S. civil rights leaders to discuss ongoing issues around his company’s policies as they relate to race, elections and other topics. But participants were left disappointed, according to Color of Change President Rashad Robinson, who concluded that Zuckerberg can’t fully grasp the change they seek. In an interview with Bloomberg News immediately after the call, Robinson said that “the problem with my ongoing conversations with Mark, is that I feel like I spent a lot of time, and my colleagues spent a lot of time, explaining to him why these things are a problem, and I think he just very much lacks the ability to understand it.” Read more from Jeff Green.

Flynn Judge Says Dismissal Request ‘Unprecedented’: The judge overseeing Michael Flynn’s prosecution called the Justice Department’s attempt to drop its case against the former national security advisor “unprecedented” and asked a federal appeals court not to short-circuit his inquiry into the U.S. government’s actions. U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan in Washington yesterday argued in a court-required brief the unusual developments in the case give him a plausible reason to question the “bona fides” of the motion. Read more from Erik Larson.

What Else to Know Today

Climate Cases Poised for Bigger Fights: Judges have issued momentous decisions in climate-focused lawsuits in recent months, but state and local governments have a long way to go in their efforts to hold BP, Exxon Mobil, and others liable for the impacts of global temperature rise. The lawsuits are part of a nationwide campaign by state and local governments to tap oil company coffers to deal with impacts like floods, sea-level rise, and damage to roads and stormwater infrastructure. Read more from Ellen M. Gilmer.

Democrats Want Federal Help to Clean Oil Wells: Fossil fuel companies going bankrupt in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic are expected to leave behind thousands of abandoned oil and gas wells, and some congressional Democrats are calling for a federal program to ensure they’re cleaned up. There are 56,000 known abandoned oil and gas wells in the country, leaking methane and other air and water pollutants, said Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) yesterday. Read more from Bobby Magill.

Juul Asks Court to Toss Teen Vaping Suits: Personal injury, class action, and government suits alleging Juul Labs improperly marketed its vaping product to teens and conspired with Altria Group in a racketeering scheme should be put on hold or thrown out, the two companies urged a federal court in California. Juul said the consolidated federal litigation should wait for the FDA to weigh in on its application for product approval. Read more from Marina Barash.

Hong Kong’s Leader Decries U.S. ‘Double Standards’: Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam blasted the U.S. for “double standards” in the way it handles protests after the Trump administration vocally supported sometimes-violent demonstrations in the Asian financial hub. Read more from Karen Leigh, Alfred Liu and Iain Marlow.

To contact the reporters on this story: Zachary Sherwood in Washington at zsherwood@bgov.com; Brandon Lee in Washington at blee@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Giuseppe Macri at gmacri@bgov.com; Loren Duggan at lduggan@bgov.com; Michaela Ross at mross@bgov.com