What to Know in Washington: Trump’s Show of Force Fizzles

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President Donald Trump faced a dwindling set of options to address nationwide unrest, after a backlash erupted over the government’s violent dispersal of peaceful protests outside the White House, plunging the president into more election-year turmoil.

For Trump and his conservative backers, his photo op late Monday in front of historic St. John’s Episcopal Church with Bible in hand was a show of strength — a symbolic move meant to reassure Americans that he would restore law and order after several nights of chaos in major U.S. cities over the death of George Floyd.

Instead, Trump’s display prompted a cascade of condemnation from religious leaders, Democrats and even some Republicans. Images of police using tear gas and flash-bang devices to clear protesters from Lafayette Square ahead of Trump’s walk to the church marred his presidency anew at a time when his public support was already slipping over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

No Republican governors publicly accepted Trump’s invitation to send the military to crush riots and looting; Texas’s Greg Abbott said at a news conference that “Texans can take care of Texans.”

And the show of force failed to deter demonstrations in the nation’s capital and other cities. Large crowds of protesters began marching on public streets in Washington last night, challenging both the city’s 7 p.m. curfew and Trump’s authority.

A Monmouth University poll released earlier this week showed 74% of Americans say the country is on the wrong track, an alarming response to a question pollsters consider important in judging a president’s re-election chances. Trump’s approval rating was at 42%, down from 46% in March. Read more from Jordan Fabian.

Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images
Police officers hold a perimeter in front of the White House on Tuesday.

Protest Update: At least 9,300 people have been arrested in connection with protests across the U.S. in the days following the death of George Floyd, according to an Associated Press count.

Law enforcement last night deployed a pepper spray-style chemical and pepper bullets against protesters at Lafayette Square, the Washington Post reported. Video showed a TV camera operator being sprayed at a fence erected at the edge of the park just north of the White House.

In New York, hundreds of demonstrators who had marched through Brooklyn and headed to the Manhattan Bridge were stopped by police who prohibited their entry into Manhattan. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), in responding to video of the bridge protests, said “this is dangerous,” and she’s “heading there now.” The standoff eventually diffused largely without incident.

Follow the latest updates from Bloomberg News here.

Lawmakers Target Military Gear For Police: A Pentagon initiative that has transferred more than $7 billion in excess military equipment to U.S. police departments is in congressional cross-hairs as law enforcement officers in riot gear have used rubber bullets, flash-bang devices, and pepper spray to disperse nationwide protests.

Lawmakers from both parties are targeting the fiscal 2021 defense authorization measure which sets military policy, including provisions concerning what’s known as the 1033 program to transfer military equipment. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said yesterday that possible restrictions to transferring military equipment may come up as part of deliberations over the defense bill. Roxana Tiron has more.

The Pentagon, meanwhile, moved multiple active duty Army units into the National Capitol Region “as a prudent planning measure in response to ongoing support to civil authorities operations,” DOD spokesperson Jonathan Rath Hoffman said in a statement. “The overall number of active duty troops recently moved from Fort Bragg and Fort Drum is approximately 1600 troops,” he said.

More Updates:

  • Police Say Pepper Balls Used on Monday: The U.S. Park Police acknowledged that its officers used smoke and irritating pepper agents to clear out protesters outside the White House on Monday before Trump walked to a historic church that was damaged by arson. The police agency denied in a statement yesterday it used “tear gas” to disperse the protesters, who it claimed—in contradiction to news coverage—had attacked its officers. Read more from Jordan Fabian.
  • Minnesota Files Civil Rights Charge in Floyd Death: The state of Minnesota filed a human rights complaint against the Minneapolis Police Department in Floyd’s death. Gov. Tim Walz (D) and the state’s Department of Human Rights announced the filing at a news conference yesterday afternoon, the Associated Press reported.
  • U.S. Vows to Protect Journalists: The U.S.’s top official in Australia said his country is committed to protecting journalists after a television crew from one of America’s top allies was assaulted by police while covering a peaceful street demonstration. Television footage on Monday in the U.S. showed a cameraman and reporter from Australia’s Channel 7 network being struck by police while live on air ahead of Trump’s walk to a church near the White House. Read more from Jason Scott.
  • D.C. Protests Shutter Federal Circuit: The Federal Circuit closed its offices early yesterday after receiving advice from law enforcement monitoring protests in Washington. It was the second day in a row that the court, located near the White House in downtown Washington, has changed its operations because of protests. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit sits in the National Courts Building on Lafayette Square, the scene of protests over the last several days. Read more from Perry Cooper.

Happening on the Hill

Republicans Push ‘Obamagate’ Probe: Amid dual national crises over policing in black communities and the coronavirus, Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is sticking to plans for a hearing today renewing GOP efforts to portray Trump as the victim of anti-Trump forces in the FBI and Justice Department more than three years ago.

The witness will be Rod Rosenstein, who took criticism from Republicans and Democrats at various points in his tumultuous term as deputy attorney general. Rosenstein, who resigned about a year ago, has signaled he may help bolster Graham’s case. “Even the best law enforcement officers make mistakes” and “some engage in willful misconduct,” Rosenstein said in a statement last week.

The impact of Rosenstein’s testimony may be undercut, though, by debate over whether the topic should be top-of-mind for lawmakers right now. “There shouldn’t be hearings on President Trump’s wild conspiracies about the 2016 election” as “the Covid pandemic continues to rage and Americans are taking to the streets to express their anger at police violence and racial injustice,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Monday on the Senate floor. Read more from Chris Strohm and Steven T. Dennis.

Lawyer Confirmed to Be Virus Spending Watchdog: The Senate confirmed White House lawyer Brian Miller to be the federal watchdog overseeing trillions of dollars in loans and grants being provided to boost the U.S. economy reeling from the global pandemic. As special inspector general for pandemic recovery, Miller will lead oversight of money going from the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve to airlines, national security companies and other companies seeking low-interest loans. Read more from Laura Davison.

Trump’s Budget, Inspector General Nominees Pledge Transparency: The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is poised to approve the nominations of Russell Vought to be director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, and Craig Leen to be inspector general of the Office of Personnel Management after a hearing yesterday free of partisan dust-ups where members from both parties focused on concerns about the administration’s transparency. Read more from Cheryl Bolen and Louis C. LaBrecque.

Colleges Ask for Tax Credit: Colleges face a huge unfunded mandate to offer paid sick and family leave unless Congress makes them eligible for a tax credit to cover the cost of the benefit, higher education lobbying groups are warning lawmakers. Congress required employers to offer two weeks of paid sick leave and 10 weeks of partially paid leave in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. But public colleges weren’t eligible for a refundable tax credit. Read more from Andrew Kreighbaum.

GOP Grills Whitmer in Hearing on State Responses: Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), a potential running mate for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, took sharp questioning from Republicans yesterday during a House hearing on governors’ responses to the pandemic. Republicans blasted Whitmer, a first-term Democrat, saying she allowed elderly patients infected by the coronavirus to return to nursing homes. Read more from Alex Ebert.

Foreign Drug Reliance Won’t Wane, FDA Says: The coronavirus won’t be the last time the U.S. grapples with a pandemic, so it should shore up its domestic drug manufacturing capacity now, an FDA official told lawmakers. The U.S. is heavily reliant on drug manufacturing in India and China, making the supply chain vulnerable during global disease outbreaks. Drug companies could move more production back to the U.S. using advanced, albeit costlier, manufacturing techniques that hasten production and reduce environmental impacts more than traditional production measures. Read more from Jacquie Lee.

Wicker Unveils Aviation Safety Measure: Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), unveiled a bill that seeks to improve air safety by codifying recommendations from an investigation related to two Boeing 737 Max crashes. The legislation would mandate the adoption of Safety Management Systems for manufacturers, require the FAA to review its assumptions on pilot reaction time and ensure a representative sample of pilots around the world participate in flight testing, according to a statement. Read more from Alan Levin.

Lawmakers Split on FCC’s 5G Timing: House Democrats are urging the Federal Communications Commission to delay a planned action aimed at fostering 5G networks, a day after GOP lawmakers applauded the move. The agency June 9 plans to consider a declaratory ruling and notice of proposed rulemaking aimed at fostering 5G deployments. The declaratory ruling would, among other things, clarify that environmental assessments aren’t required before existing wireless structures are modified, if the FCC and other parties have a deal on mitigating impacts on historic properties. Read more from Julia Weng.

Elections, Politics & Probes

Iowa’s King Loses Primary: Rep. Steve King, a nine-term Iowa Republican who had been rebuked by party leaders and stripped of committee assignments over his inflammatory statements about race and immigration, was defeated in a primary last night, the Associated Press reported. Randy Feenstra, a state senator, took advantage of the intra-party dissatisfaction with King and endorsements by party leaders to take the GOP nomination to run for the seat in November’s election, Daniel Flatley reports.

Iowa was one of seven states holding congressional primaries yesterday amid a once-in-a-century pandemic and the civil unrest that have sharpened political divisions across the U.S. King’s race was the most prominent and the only one where a veteran of Congress was facing a serious fight to stay in office.

  • Businesswoman Theresa Greenfield won the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate in Iowa, advancing to face Sen. Joni Ernst (R) in November, AP projects. Greenfield was backed by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and was the the best-funded Democrat in the race.
  • Teresa Leger Fernandez defeated former CIA operative Valerie Plame to win the seven-candidate Democratic primary for a House seat in New Mexico, AP reports.
  • Rep. Greg Gianforte won the Republican primary in the Montana governor’s race, AP reports. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) is term-limited and is seeking a U.S. Senate seat. Bullock won the Democratic primary last night for the Senate seat currently held by Steve Daines (R), AP projects. Tripp Baltz and Alex Ebert have more on the Montana governors’ race.

Cyber Officials Give Voting Update Amid Unrest: State and local election leaders and federal partners have not reported any widespread disinformation about yesterday’s primary day related to the ongoing civil unrest, senior Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency officials told reporters in a briefing yesterday afternoon, Shaun Courtney reports.

Agency officials noted that the virus will likely push many voters to vote by mail in the November election and said yesterday’s primary is a good preview of what to expect in the fall. Officials did not address Trump’s comments and tweets about the security of vote-by-mail—they said their job is to provide a security solution to states that do opt for expanded absentee and vote-by-mail.

Biden, Rescued by Black Voters, Now Has to Enthuse Them: Joe Biden’s political resurrection in the race for the Democratic nomination was due largely to overwhelming support from black voters. Yet racial tensions laid bare by nationwide protests have revealed a problem for Biden in the November election — he doesn’t excite younger black voters who want change, not just a sympathetic ear.

Biden’s African-American supporters have been urging him to offer concrete solutions to the trifecta of crises hitting black voters in 2020 — they are disproportionately harmed by the coronavirus, the recession and the police brutality that drew them into the streets. And they say not being Donald Trump isn’t enough.

The support of younger black voters is crucial to Biden as the pandemic may squelch older voters’ turnout in key cities like Detroit and Philadelphia and there are numerous states trending Democratic, like Georgia and Texas, where the young black vote could make a difference. Read more from Jennifer Epstein.

  • Democratic donors are pouring money into Biden’s campaign in the wake of the protests. “Donors are saying he’s not doing it, he’s not capable of doing it, so our only option is to dig deeper and make sure he doesn’t win a second term,” Mitchell Berger, a longtime Democratic fundraiser from Florida, said, referring to Trump. Read more from Bill Allison.

Trump Says ‘Forced’ to Re-locate GOP Convention: Trump said the Republican Party has been “forced to seek” a new city for its national convention, planned for Charlotte, North Carolina, in August, because of coronavirus restrictions put in place by the state’s governor. The president, in a series of tweets last night, did not say what other cities were being considered or if the party was definitely pulling out of Charlotte. Read more from John Harney and Ryan Teague Beckwith.

Trump Sued Over Social Media Order: Trump’s executive order targeting social media companies was challenged in court by a non-profit group that claims the edict violates free-speech protections guaranteed by the First Amendment. The Center for Democracy and Technology sued in Washington federal court yesterday, claiming the order is an unconstitutional retaliation against Twitter and that it seeks to discourage other companies and individuals from disagreeing with the government. Read more from Bob Van Voris.

  • Twitter defended its recent decision to label some of Trump’s tweets, but also said world leaders’ comments on the social media service will stay up, even if they break the company’s rules. In a reiteration of established policies, which Twitter calls its health principles, the company published a series of tweets yesterday explaining its rationale after it was heavily criticized by Trump and other conservative politicians. Their allegation was Twitter’s actions exhibited political bias, whereas the company stressed its top priority was to “decrease potential for likely harm.” Read more from Kurt Wagner and Vlad Savov.
  • Yesterday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told employees at a companywide meeting he won’t change his mind about a decision to leave up posts shared by Trump last week that many workers felt violated the company’s policies against violent speech. Kurt Wagner and Sarah Frier have more.

What Else to Know Today

Relief Funds Drive ‘Cornucopia’ of Fraud, Top IRS Official Says: Criminal investigators at the IRS are seeing a “cornucopia of fraud” as the pandemic drags on and trillions of dollars in aid flows out of the federal government, a top official said. Read more from Jacob Rund.

NIH Bringing Back Non-Covid-19 Research: The National Institutes of Health is in the early stage of physically bringing back staff who work on matters that are not related to Covid-19 research, NIH Office of AIDS Research Director Maureen Goodenow said yesterday at a meeting on the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. Read more from Shira Stein.

Hospitals, Health Providers Get $250 Million to Combat Virus: Hospitals and other health-care providers will use a $250 million grant from the CARES Act to provide workforce training, expand telemedicine offerings, and purchase protective gear and equipment to help fight Covid-19. Read more from Tony Pugh.

Philippines Walks Back Move to End U.S. Pact: The Philippines halted its move to end a 22-year old military agreement with the U.S, the Southeast Asian nation’s top diplomat said. “The abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement has been suspended” upon President Rodrigo Duterte’s instruction, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin said on Twitter with a copy of the diplomatic note to the U.S. ambassador dated June 1. Andreo Calonzo and Cecilia Yap have more.

U.S., South Korea Reach Stopgap Deal: The U.S. and South Korea reached a deal to fund Korean labor at American military facilities through the end of this year, a partial step that leaves unresolved a thornier issue of a comprehensive cost-sharing agreement. Read more from Jon Herskovitz.

Labor Watchdog to Exit: Labor Department Inspector General Scott Dahl said he will retire, becoming the latest agency watchdog to leave the Trump administration. He announced he’s stepping down after several other federal watchdogs were pushed out or fired by Trump in recent weeks, although Dahl insisted he was not told or asked to resign. Read more from Ben Penn.

Trump Hotel Maid Says She Was Fired For Refusing to Work Sundays: Sonia Perez, 56, said she worked at Trump International Hotel from 2010 to 2015 without incident, with Sundays off so she could attend religious services at her non-denominational Christian church. But after the employees unionized in 2018, Perez says in a lawsuit filed yesterday in Las Vegas federal court, her shift was changed to include Sundays. Perez refused to come to work on Sundays “because of her sincerely held religious belief,” according to the lawsuit. Read more from Joe Schneider.

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

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