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Half of Trump’s National Security Council advisers are women

Where is Annie Leibovitz when we need her? Leibovitz, a widely-celebrated photographer with a liberal political philosophy, is well-known for her photos of famous celebrities and public figures. If the current administration was a Democrat one, you can bet that her assistant would be booking a photography session with a historic group of women in the Trump administration.

President Trump has a historic first in American history to document – for the first time, half of the senior leaders of the National Security Council are women. Twelve of the 24 directorates are led by women, including three of the six regional directorates. Not bad for an Orange Man who is supposed to have a low opinion of women, right? Not surprisingly, this milestone has not received much notice in the press at all.

Leibovitz is probably best known for her work for Vogue magazine, for which she is compensated with a multi-million dollar annual contract. She regularly photographed the Obama family and members of his administration. The last big splash Annie Leibovitz made that I’ve noticed was when she took a photograph of five Democrat women running in the Democrat primary for the presidential nomination. Remember that photo of Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Kirstin Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar, and Tulsi Gabbard? Sorry, Marianne Williamson.

So, the women in the Trump administration are speaking up and commending the president for his appointments. The women speaking out include Ivanka Trump. (That will tick off #TheResistance feminists.) The Federalist has a quote.

“President Trump has demonstrated his commitment to empowering women in the U.S. and across the world, implementing a pro-growth, pro-family agenda that lifts up women of all backgrounds. It’s no surprise that women are leading the way across the Trump administration, including more women leaders at the National Security Council than at any other time in history,” adviser to the President Ivanka Trump said.

The phoniest trope of all coming from the left is that the Democrat Party is the party for women. Not only is the Democrat Party the one of abortion on demand right up until the time of birth but it has sheltered and protected bad actors like Bill Clinton, JFK, Harvey Weinstein, Chris Dodd, Ted Kennedy, and so on. Democrat women have supported them most of all – right up until the #MeToo movement began to expose a lot of nefarious behavior. I am old enough to remember a woman reporter who “joked” that she’d be happy to, um, service Bill Clinton on Air Force One. Joe Biden is running on past legislation he is taking credit for that he says benefitted women but even sleepy old Joe has a pervy history of his own – and there’s the Tara Reade story. Did you notice the press didn’t bother to report about her allegations until they absolutely had to do so?

I wish Republican politicians were more skilled at noting important appointments of women by Republican presidents. Ronald Reagan appointed Jeane Kirkpatrick as the first woman to serve as United States Ambassador to the United Nations and Sandra Day O’Connor as the first woman Supreme Court justice. George W. Bush appointed Condoleezza Rice as the first female National Security Adviser and then the first black female Secretary of State. President Trump’s campaign produced the first woman campaign manager to win a presidential election. Frankly, the Trump administration should be better at tooting its own horn.

Last year, National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien announced he would be streamlining the National Security Council. Past administrations have had security councils of different sizes, with Obama’s being particularly large – over 200 staffers. (And he still got everything wrong!) O’Brien wanted to get back to more of a George H.W. Bush size model under Brent Scowcroft or George W. Bush size model under Condoleezza Rice. Members of the community approve of his decision.

“Under President Trump’s leadership, over the past nine months we have brought the NSC back to its proper size and role as a lean and efficient advisory body, and we were able to make that happen because we have some of the strongest leaders in the history of the NSC, half of whom are women for the first time ever,” O’Brien said.

The streamlined NSC has received plaudits within the national security community. “There are some exceptionally capable people over there focused on getting wins on the board for the country,” said Rebeccah Heinrichs, a national security scholar with the Hudson Institute, citing a “willingness to reconsider approaches to persistent problems and guts to do some things that are long overdue.”

Despite how the left speaks about Trump, he doesn’t seem to have a problem working with women in leadership positions. In February, O’Brien named Deborah Birx to the NSC, where she works on detail from the State Department. She was named the head of the Coronavirus Task Force. O’Brien said that streamlining the NSA and making it more efficient was a priority for Trump.

“Under previous administrations, the NSC more than doubled in size and duplicated many of the functions of DoD, State and the intelligence community,” O’Brien told The Post on Tuesday.

“Under President Trump, we have brought the NSC back to its proper size and role as a coordinating body,” he continued.

“To make that happen we require the best leaders, many of whom are women. Our goal is always to find the very best professionals for each job, and I am very proud of the team we have assembled at the NSC to further President Trump’s agenda,” he said.

Any time a government organization can be cut and streamlined is ok with me. To bring in smart, accomplished women to make up half of the top leadership positions is the icing on the cake.

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Anarchists ‘takeover’ of Seattle: More threats, distortions from Trump


President Trump has accelerated his tweet storm and threats against Seattle, local and state officials, and the six-block area some are calling the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone.

But the 45th president can’t bring himself to mention the name of Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan.

“Seattle mayor says, about the anarchist takeover of her city, ‘It is a summer of love.’ These Liberal Dems don’t have a clue. The terrorists burn and pillage our cities, and they think it’s wonderful, even the death. Must end this Seattle takeover now.”

Trump is continuing to issue threats, although apparently leaving it to Gov. Jay Inslee to carry them out.

In a Thursday interview with Fox News, his media echo chamber, Trump declared, “What I mean is very simple: We’re not going to let Seattle be occupied by anarchists.”

The 45th president added a moment later, “If we have to go in, we’re going to go,” but then said, “The governor’s either going to do it — let the governor do it. He’s got great National Guard troops.”

Trump watches a lot of television, and is reflecting a vision of Seattle being drummed home by Fox News hosts Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham. Consider Hannity’s description of the Autonomous Zone: “Dozens of homes now under siege. A police precinct is now under anarchist control.”

“The citizens of Seattle are now literally in danger and are watching it in real time as these Democratic so called leaders are looking the other way as a group of idiot anarchists destroy their own city.”

The untruths abound, not surprising given a) Hannity’s history of conspiracy theories; b) Carlson’s dog-whistle racism and and crime-laden commentaries — he actually lectured Trump with the words, “People will not forgive weakness;” — and c) Trump’s tendency to tweet what he sees on TV.

Seattle has not been taken over. A visitor to Capitol Hill finds food trucks, a boarded up East Precinct station, and no siege for the area’s 500 residents.  Durkan was interviewed by Chris Cuomo on CNN and was asked when the SPD will get  back into East Precinct. She couldn’t give a date, and then joked, “And we may have a summer of love.”

Nor are protests against police misconduct limited to Seattle and the Puget Sound area. A march will be held Friday night in the remote Methow Valley town of Twisp, followed by a candlelight vigil in Omak.

Inslee is a longtime Trump critic. When Trump came to Washington in May of 2016, the governor joked about building a wall around the state to keep him out. Inslee mocked Trump, to his face, taking about first grade teachers “packing heat,” after Trump proposed arming teachers as a means of preventing gun violence. Trump has called Inslee “a snake” for his trenchant criticism of the Trump Administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of events on Capitol Hill, and Trump’s initial tweet, Inslee responded.

“Although unpermitted, and we should remember we are still in a pandemic, the area is largely peaceful. Peaceful protests are fundamentally American, and I am hopeful there will be a peaceful resolution.”

One of Seattle’s critics is, however, hurting today. A bevy of big advertisers — Disney, Papa John’s, T-Mobile and Poshmark — have pulled or discontinued their spots given Carlson’s comments on the Black Lives Matter protests.

“Bye bye Tucker Carlson,” T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert said in a post.


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Trump says he’ll leave office peacefully if he loses in November

Still, he told Faulker that if he loses, “I think it would be a very bad thing for our country.”

Faulkner posed the query after former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump’s likely Democratic rival in November, raised the prospect during a TV appearance on Wednesday.

In an interview on “The Daily Show,” Biden warned Trump could “try to steal this election” by attempting to suppress votes, pointing to the president’s fervent opposition to mail-in voting and his unfounded allegations that widespread mail-in voting was ripe with fraud.

Host Trevor Noah then asked the vice president if he’d given any consideration to what would happen if Trump refused to leave office at the end of his term, to which Biden replied that he had.

“I was so damn proud to hear that four chiefs of staff coming out and ripping the skin off of Trump, and you have so many rank-and-file military personnel saying, ‘Whoa we’re not a military state, this is not who we are,’” Biden told Noah, a reference to rebukes of Trump for his attempts to militarize the response to nationwide protests.

“I promise you, I am absolutely convinced they will escort him from the White House with great dispatch,” Biden said.

Biden’s warning comes as recent polling shows the former vice president taking the lead across national polls five months out from the election.

Trump regularly trolls his critics on the issue, joking at campaign rallies and on various occasions about extending his presidency past the constitutional limit of two terms. In addition to the president’s vocal accusations of widespread voter fraud and claims of “rigged” American elections, of which there is no evidence, Trump has sometimes suggested that his supporters might “demand” he remain in office past his second term.

In 2018, when China’s ruling Communist Party eliminated that country’s two-term limit and paved the way for President Xi Jinping to serve indefinitely, audio leaked of Trump apparently joking at a closed-door fundraiser, “maybe we’ll have to give that a shot someday.”

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It Appears Republicans and Democrats Were Both Justified in Worrying About John Bolton’s Book

Melissa Sue GerritsGetty Images

(Permanent Musical Accompaniment To The Last Post Of The Week From The Blog’s Favourite Living Canadian)

It was a foregone conclusion that John Bolton’s book was going to infuriate everyone. It was going to infuriate the folks at Camp Runamuck because the president* is a boob and a crook and the people at Camp Runamuck hate anyone who points that out. And Democrats were going to be infuriated because they were trying to relieve the Republic of this walking catastrophe and Bolton clearly saved the really good stuff for his book. In their own ways, it appears, both sides were entirely justified in their pre-emptive fury, because, well, wow. From Politico:

Bolton writes that the House should have broadened its impeachment inquiry to other areas of his foreign policy, contending that he can document — and identify witnesses to — “Ukraine-like transgressions … across the full range of his foreign policy,” according to a description by Simon & Schuster released Friday. The revelations are likely to reverberate on Capitol Hill, where Democrats have warned that Trump’s conduct toward Ukraine was far from isolated and that he presents an existential threat to the country if allowed to remain in office. House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff declined to comment, but others involved in the impeachment inquiry were livid that Bolton delayed revealing potentially pertinent evidence until months after it would have bolstered their case. “At the time the country needed him most, and history will reflect, he chose to sell books,” said Rep. Mike Quigley, a member of the House Intelligence Committee. “It wasn’t a question in his mind of whether or not he should talk about it. It’s whether or not he should profit from talking about it. Not exactly ‘Profiles in Courage.’”

No question, Bolton is a greedy poltroon, but he is a greedy poltroon who owes the president* and the administration* absolutely nothing, and to whom they cannot exact revenge commensurate with the damage he can do. I have no intention of buying this book, but rumor has it that it runs almost 600 pages, so when I go browse it in whatever is left of bookstores after the pandemic, I’m packing a healthy lunch.

This week’s political poor soul is Denver Riggleman, a first-term Republican congresscritter from Virginia, and his plight is a good window into how much work the GOP has to do on itself in areas that have nothing to do with the incumbent president*. Riggleman is in danger of losing his party’s nomination because he officiated at a same-sex wedding, an activity that is, of course, completely legal in the United States. (The principals were two men who’d worked for Riggleman’s campaign, so good for him.) From Politico:

“The Republican Party, when you look at the creed to protect civil liberties and religious liberties, could be the most inclusive party in the country,” Riggleman said in an interview. “And you know, why aren’t we a big-tent party? Why aren’t we looking at liberties first? Why aren’t we allowing people to live the way they want to live and stopping the government from reaching into every aspect of our lives?”

united states   february 26 rep denver riggleman, r va, talks with a reporter in his office in washington on wednesday, feb 26, 2020 photo by caroline brehmancq roll call, inc via getty images

Denver Riggleman.

Caroline BrehmanGetty Images

Because your party has made an insane asylum out of itself over the past four decades? Just spitballing here.

The vote will be a signal about whether socially conservative positions out of step with the majority of Americans are still considered wedge issues for GOP voters. But Good, who stepped down from the Liberty University athletic department to run, has said his opposition to Riggleman extends beyond his willingness to officiate a gay marriage. “What does Denver stand for?” Good said in a radio debate between the two candidates last month. “What conservative Republican issue is he strong on? What can you point to? He’s out of step with the base of the party on life. He’s out of step on marriage. He’s out of step on immigration. He’s out of step on health care, on climate, on drug legalization.”

Res ipse loquitur, Denver. Sorry, man. Chickens, roosts, and all that.

A still crazier story unfolded this week when the president* tweeted out his gratitude for an unsolicited mash note from a retrograde Catholic archbishop, who seems to be conducting services at the Basilica Of St. Bannon. From the Washington Post:

“On the one hand there are those who, although they have a thousand defects and weaknesses, are motivated by the desire to do good, to be honest, to raise a family, to engage in work, to give prosperity to their homeland, to help the needy, and, in obedience to the Law of God, to merit the Kingdom of Heaven,” read the June 7 letter to Trump from Archbishop Carlo Vigano, a former Vatican diplomat to Washington. “On the other hand, there are those who serve themselves, who do not hold any moral principles, who want to demolish the family…In society, Mr. President, these two opposing realities co-exist as eternal enemies, just as God and Satan are eternal enemies…it is quite clear that the use of street protests is instrumental to the purposes of those who would like to see someone elected in the upcoming presidential elections who embodies the goals of the deep state.”

Vigano is a notorious crackpot, but I didn’t know he was quite as much of an Essene in his theology as he apparently is. The famous War Scroll discovered at Qumran near the Dead Sea goes on and on about the war between the Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness. I guess the ancient scribes didn’t have the imagination of the folks at OAN because they didn’t come up with The Deep State. Nonetheless, it’s unnerving to hear an archbishop shouting out wingnut talking points at a president* of the United States. Steve Bannon has been playing footsie with fringe conservative Catholics for a while now. I sense his presence in every line of this letter.

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: “The Devil’s Food Tastes Like Cake” (Mercy Brothers): Yeah, I pretty much still love New Orleans.

Weekly Visit To The Pathe Archives: Here is General Edwin Walker, arriving back in Dallas in 1962 after helping to incite violent insurrection at the University of Mississippi in opposition to the enrollment of James Meredith. Nice flag-waving, no? Depending on where you come down on the guilt of Lee Harvey Oswald in the events of a year later, Walker was the first guy he supposedly took a shot at. History is so cool.

london, england   july 12 bob dylan performs as part of a double bill with neil young at hyde park on july 12, 2019 in london, england photo by dave j hogangetty images for aba

Dave J HoganGetty Images

Historian Douglas Brinkley got a sitdown with The Master for The New York Times, and the results are yet another stroll through a very interesting—and quintessentially American—mind. For example, check out what Dylan says about bluegrass music.

Bluegrass music is mysterious and deep rooted and you almost have to be born playing it. Just because you are a great singer, or a great this or that doesn’t mean you can be in a bluegrass band. It’s almost like classical music. It’s harmonic and meditative, but it’s out for blood. If you ever heard the Osborne Brothers, then you know what I mean. It’s an unforgiving music and you can only it stretch so far. Beatles songs played in a bluegrass style don’t make any sense. It’s the wrong repertoire, and that’s been done. There are elements of bluegrass music for sure in what I play, especially the intensity and similar themes. But I don’t have the high tenor voice and we don’t have three-part harmony or consistent banjo. I listen to Bill Monroe a lot, but I more or less stick to what I can do best.

He always has been the best musicologist ever among his peers. If the previously released tracks are any indication, the upcoming album should be a monster. He never will stop surprising us, and now, as the Old Man Of The Mountains, he’s more of a trickster than he’s ever been before, a mystery even unto himself.

“I Contain Multitudes” is more like trance writing. Well, it’s not more like trance writing, it is trance writing. It’s the way I actually feel about things. It is my identity and I’m not going to question it, I am in no position to. Every line has a particular purpose. Somewhere in the universe those three names must have paid a price for what they represent and they’re locked together. And I can hardly explain that.

Is it a good day for dinosaur news, It’s always a good day for dinosaur news!

These tracks are more than twice as large as any previously reported batrachopodid tracks and closely resemble Batrachopus with well-preserved pes footprints with clear digital pad impressions and localized skin traces. Surprisingly the trackways never include manus imprints and therefore appear to indicate exclusively bipedal progression, a gait not known or previously inferred from fossil crocodylomorph trackways, or argued convincingly from the functional morphology of potential trackmakers.

In other words, the ancient crocodiles used to walk on two legs and chase their prey. I’m glad evolution took the course it did or else we’d be down quite a few golfers by now and, in that, some way, it can be argued still that they lived then to make us happy now.
I’ll be back on Monday and I’m sure the speech at West Point will be a large burrito full of half-mad bullroar. Be well and play nice, ya bastids. Stay above the snake-line and, remember, play “Down In The Boondocks” for Terry Malloy.

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How Not To Build a Transpartisan Coalition for Police Reform –

Democrats seem surprised that Rep. Tom McClintock (R–Calif.), a libertarian-leaning conservative, favors the abolition of qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that often shields police officers from liability for violating people’s constitutional rights. The Democrat opposing McClintock in this year’s election, Brynne Kennedy, claims his position on qualified immunity, which she calls “a welcome surprise,” implies that he should support the rest of her agenda, including such completely unrelated issues as Medicare, Social Security, and price controls for prescription drugs. If McClintock really wants to prove his bipartisanship, she says, he should agree with her about those issues too.

Given McClintock’s history and ideology, Democrats should not have been surprised by his position on qualified immunity, and Kennedy’s argument implies that true bipartisanship requires Republicans to agree with Democrats about everything. Her reaction to his stance, whether sincere or not, reflects a broader obstacle to building a trans-ideological coalition for police reform in the wake of George Floyd’s death and the ensuing protests. Many left-leaning supporters of that cause either do not understand or willfully ignore the perspective of people like McClintock, and that incomprehension or misrepresentation risks alienating potential allies who disagree with them about a lot of other things.

As the Raleigh News & Observer noted, McClintock is not a newcomer to police reform, which he supported as a state legislator. Back in 2007, McClintock was outraged by the California Supreme Court’s decision in Copley Press v. Superior Courtwhich shielded police disciplinary records from public view. “The Copley decision basically said that disciplinary proceedings against police officers are none of the public’s business, even if conducted by a civil service commission under all due process considerations and even if the charges are proven,” he said. “In short, once a citizen complains about the misuse of police power, even though the complaint is found to be entirely true, the public has no right to know. That is nuts.”

Nor is McClintock a milquetoast when it comes to police invasions of people’s homes. Here is what he had to say about no-knock raids this week: “No-knock warrants have proven to be lethal to citizens and police officers, for an obvious reason. The invasion of a person’s home is one of the most terrifying powers government possesses. Every person in a free society has the right to take arms against an intruder in their homes, and the authority of the police to make such an intrusion has to be announced before it takes place. To do otherwise places every one of us in mortal peril.”

Regarding qualified immunity specifically, the News & Observer notes, “libertarians have long been clamoring for change on the issue.” The paper mentions the Institute for Justice, which for years has been backing cases aimed at restricting or eliminating qualified immunity. Conservatives such as Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and 5th Circuit Judge Don Willett, a Trump appointee, also have criticized the doctrine.

McClintock’s opposition to qualified immunity makes sense if you understand where he is coming from. During his 2008 House campaign, my former Reason colleague Dave Weigel observed, McClintock “saw the real political split in this country (and everywhere else) as between ‘authoritarians and libertarians,’ with authoritarians in the saddle now but libertarians coming on strong.” McClintock also told Weigel, “I am concerned with civil liberties in this country, and with warrantless surveillance of Americans.”

McClintock has been an outspoken critic of the PATRIOT Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and he supported amnesty for National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. “I think it would be best if the American government granted him amnesty to get him back to America where he can answer questions without the threat of prosecution,” McClintock told a Sacramento TV station in 2013. “We have some very good laws against sharing secrets, and he broke those laws. On the other hand, he broke them for a very good reason: because those laws were being used in direct contravention of our Fourth Amendment rights as Americans.”

McClintock also has broken with most of his Republican colleagues in backing marijuana reform. He was an early supporter of legislation aimed at stopping federal raids on medical marijuana dispensaries and repealing the national ban on cannabis as it relates to conduct that is allowed by state law. McClintock opposed federal marijuana prohibition years before many prominent Democrats decided it was safe or politically expedient to do so. That position reflects not just a libertarian sensibility but a principled defense of federalism, a cause that many conservatives abandon when it proves inconvenient.

The fact that progressives can find common ground with McClintock on some issues, of course, hardly means he is about to embrace the rest of their agenda. Likewise with other conservatives, libertarians, and moderates, whether they have long supported police reform or are newly sympathetic because of the problems highlighted by George Floyd’s death and other recent travesties.

It may seem obvious that you cannot build a coalition on an issue like police reform if you insist that your allies agree with you about everything or if you mistakenly treat them as Johnny-come-latelies. But progressives are making both of those mistakes.

Instead of supporting the four-page, stand-alone qualified immunity bill that Rep. Justin Amash (L–Mich.) introduced, House Democrats produced a 134-page bill that addresses qualified immunity but also includes several provisions Republicans are likely to oppose, including increased Justice Department scrutiny of local law enforcement polices and practices, government-backed racial profiling lawsuits, “training on racial bias” for federal law enforcement agents, and financial penalties for states that fail to ban chokeholds or are deficient in reporting data on traffic and pedestrian stops, body searches, and the use of force.

There is a huge gap between the Democrats’ grab bag of proposals—many of which are worthy ideas—and the reforms that Republicans seem inclined to support. “The fact that it has no Republican sponsors, the fact that there was no effort to contact any of us to have us weigh in on the legislation, suggests it’s designed to be a message piece, as opposed to a real piece of legislation,” says Sen. Mitt Romney (R–Utah), who plans to introduce a bipartisan police reform bill. “We should vote on each proposal separately,” Amash argues. “Massive bills with dozens of topics aren’t serious efforts to change law. They’re messaging bills with no expectation of getting signed. They cram in so much that they’re never written well or reviewed carefully.”

The “defund police” slogan adopted by many activists (but wisely eschewed by most Democrats in Congress) poses similar problems. Some people who use it mean it literally, while others have in mind a restructuring of police departments and/or the transfer of money from them to social programs. Whatever the intent, the slogan is bound to alienate people who would otherwise be inclined to support reforms aimed at preventing police from abusing their powers and holding them accountable when they do. The fact that Donald Trump has latched onto the meme as a way of discrediting Democratic reformers is not a good sign. While “defund police” may appeal to some progressives and libertarians, it is not a message that will help attract broad public support for reform.

It is also a strategic mistake for progressive reformers to act as if they own this issue when many people who don’t agree with them on other subjects have been fighting this battle for a long time. As a libertarian who has been covering police abuse, the drug war, criminal justice reform, and civil liberties for more than three decades, I find that attitude irritating, and I’m sure other nonprogressives do as well. But this is not about personal pique; it’s about how people with different ideological perspectives can come together on this issue now and avoid squandering an opportunity, perhaps the best we’ve had in many years, to do some good.

David Menschel, a criminal defense attorney, activist, and documentarian who runs the Vital Projects Fund, describes himself as a “left-winger,” but he recognizes that progressives and libertarians are natural allies on this issue. He poses some provocative questions to libertarians about whether they are prepared to support social programs aimed at performing functions currently handled by the police. While that is a good conversation to have, it is not directly relevant to seizing this moment, which requires not only getting along with people who have different political views but also compromising with grudging supporters of reform who may be willing to back specific, concrete proposals to address police abuse that fall far short of the fundamental restructuring Menschel has in mind.

Much of the action on police reform is happening on the local and state levels, as you would expect given our federalist system of government. But to the extent that Congress can address the issue, we should be thinking about changes that might gain the support of not only Tom McClintock and Mitt Romney but also Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R–Ky.), who has not heretofore distinguished himself as a criminal justice reformer but lately has been making noises about racial disparities in law enforcement. I’m not sure how much change someone like McConnell can stomach, but reform-minded legislators should find out before it’s too late.

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Biden picks a fight with Trump over the Confederacy

The Trump campaign did not respond to whether they would ban Confederate flags at the president’s rallies, which are scheduled to resume next week in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Some people have sported the stars and bars on t-shirts and flags at past rallies. The Trump campaign also did not respond to Biden’s statement, though the president weighed in on Twitter earlier this week.

“[M]y Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations,” he wrote, adding that “[o]ur history as the Greatest Nation in the World will not be tampered with.”

It is just the latest instance of Biden and Trump taking starkly different approaches in response to the killing of George Floyd by a white police officer and protests over racism and police brutality across the country.

Trump has amplfied his “law and order” message, focusing on rioting that’s occurred during the unrest and betting that his largely white base can still put him over the top in November. Biden has expressed solidarity with the protestors and tried to appeal to some white voters’ consciences with a call for “an era of action to reverse systemic racism.”

Trump administration officials, from Attorney General Bill Barr to director of the National Economic Council Larry Kudlow, have said this past week that they do not believe there is systemic racism in policing, casting the killing of Floyd as a case of a few “bad apples” in law enforcement.

The national debate over racism in 2020 has led to partisan fights around the country about the legacy of the 1861 southern rebellion to maintain slavery.

The renaming proposal that Biden is supporting passed the Senate Armed Services committee with bipartisan support on Wednesday as part of a larger defense appropriations bill. Though it’s unclear whether it will clear the chamber, the measure has put some Senate Republicans at odds with Trump. It would require that any base, installation, facility, aircraft, ship, plane or type of equipment with a Confederate name on it be changed within three years.

In a statement through a spokesperson, Warren welcomed Biden’s support of her amendment.

“Changing the names of our bases won’t erase the history of slavery and legacy of white supremacy in our country, but it’s long past time to stop honoring this ugly legacy,” she said. “Joe Biden will be a Commander-in-Chief who will keep our country safe and secure, not spend his time insisting that our bases be named for confederates who fought against our nation to preserve slavery.”

Republican and Democratic state legislators in Tennessee are fighting over eliminating Nathan Bedford Forrest Day, named after the Confederate General and early Ku Klux Klan general. The two parties in Congress are squabbling over the removal of the 11 Confederate statues in the Capitol, including the president and vice president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis and Alexander Stephens, respectively.

Republicans have accused Democrats of trying to censor history as part of a campaign of political correctness, while Democrats contend it’s about not placing slave-owning traitors in places of honor.

The fight has spilled out far beyond the political realm. HBO Max took down “Gone With The Wind” from its streaming service on Monday, which prompted some consumers to make it the top-selling movie on Amazon on Tuesday. Country group Lady Antebellum changed its name to Lady A. Clemson University is debating whether to rename its honors college, currently named after John C. Calhoun, one of the staunchest pro-slavery politicians in American history.

While Trump has dug in on preserving Confederate monuments and soldiers’ names on military bases, some Republicans have signaled they no longer have the appetite to defend the Southern heirlooms. The Republican Speaker of the House in Mississippi expressed support for a bipartisan push to do away with the state flag featuring the stars and bars.

Republican Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota also told reporters that he voted for Warren’s amendment.

“I agree with the President that we don’t want to forget our history,” he said. “But at the same time that doesn’t mean that we should continue with those bases with the names of individuals who fought against our country. … We should name bases after people that fought for the United States of America.”

Marianne LeVine contributed to this report

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Flynn team and DOJ fight to end ‘further impermissible intrusion’ in appeals court

The Justice Department and lawyers for retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn clashed with the lawyer who represents the presiding judge in the case against the former Trump national security adviser on Friday.

“We are here now to stop further impermissible intrusion” following the judge’s decision not to grant the Justice Department’s motion to dismiss the case immediately, said Sidney Powell, a former federal prosecutor who took over Flynn’s representation last summer. Addressing a three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Powell said the government “provided an extensive and thoroughly documented” argument for why the case should be dismissed.

The Justice Department told the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia last month “that continued prosecution of this case would not serve the interests of justice” as it sought to drop the false statements charges against Flynn, but instead, Judge Emmet Sullivan, a Bill Clinton appointee who has been handling the Flynn case since December 2017, appointed retired New York federal Judge John Gleeson to serve as an amicus curiae to present arguments in opposition to the Justice Department’s motion and to explore whether Flynn should be charged with perjury or contempt.

The judges on the appeals court panel, two appointed by Republican presidents and one by a Democrat, appeared skeptical of some of the Flynn team’s arguments.

Judge Karen Henderson was appointed to the appeals court in 1990 by President George H.W. Bush, Judge Neomi Rao joined the circuit court following an appointment from President Trump in 2019, and Judge Robert Wilkins made his way to the appeals court in 2010 after being appointed by President Barack Obama.

Flynn’s attorneys were joined by the Justice Department last month in asking the D.C. appeals court to issue a writ of mandamus instructing Sullivan to dismiss the case, but Sullivan hired an outside lawyer to argue that he is not a “rubber stamp.”

Flynn’s lawyer pointed to the “extraordinary exculpatory evidence that came to light” following a review by Jeffrey Jensen, a U.S. attorney appointed by Attorney General William Barr, and she pointed to alleged abuse of power and a lack of authority by the judge.

“It cannot go on any longer,” Powell said. “This is the quintessential case for mandamus.”

Sullivan was represented by attorney Beth Wilkinson, who is also representing former Hillary Clinton chief of staff Cheryl Mills as Judicial Watch pursues testimony from her related to the Clinton email scandal. Wilkinson said Friday that this was an extraordinary instance where the Justice Department was trying “to stop the district court from even considering a pending motion.”

“It would be inappropriate to grant mandamus” in a case where the Justice Department was “raising novel constitutional issues,” Wilkinson said, calling the petition for a writ of mandamus “an end run” around the district court.

Wilkinson also dismissed the “parade of horribles” presented by the Justice Department, downplaying Sullivan’s actions by saying that he was only “receiving briefings and having a hearing” and that all the court was trying to do was get answers.

Rao repeatedly asked who the amicus would “be arguing on behalf of” given that the Justice Department and the defendant were in agreement. Wilkinson said Gleeson was there to take the “adversarial position” normally taken by the government and that “the judge doesn’t have to listen to the amicus.”

Principal Deputy Solicitor General Jeff Wall, representing the Justice Department, argued that “it is so harmful to allow this case to continue to play out in the district court” and said Sullivan was “required” to accept the motion to dismiss.

When Rao asked what he thought the separation of powers problems were with the case, Wall said, “They are as stark and as concrete here as they come.”

Wall also lamented the “public spectacle” of the case, saying he believed it would do harm to the executive branch “and to the judiciary as well.”

Wall said the case “is playing out in a politicized environment” and that it was “made worse” by the “polemic” filed by Gleeson this week, which alleged wrongdoing by Barr and Trump.

Gleeson argued Wednesday in district court that the Justice Department is engaged in “a gross abuse of prosecutorial power.”

Henderson said Sullivan “may have appointed an intemperate amicus, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t going to grant the motion.” She added, “For all we know, he will say this amicus brief is over-the-top, and the dismissal motion is granted.”

Wall said that “this is a separation of powers case” and pointed to constitutional concerns under “Article II, Section 3.” He also said Gleeson was “impugning the motivations of the attorney general of the United States … in what threatens to be a spectacle in the district court.”

Wilkins repeatedly pressed Wall on whether, in a hypothetical situation, the Justice Department would be able to use a racial motive to dismiss a case where a white officer pleaded guilty to excessive force against a black victim without the district court being able to intervene. Wall argued that such an unconstitutional motivation in violation of the equal protection clause was far different than the allegations being made in the Flynn case.

Flynn’s lawyers have touted recently released FBI records as exculpatory evidence that was concealed from the defense team. The documents show, among other things, that then-FBI agent Peter Strzok and the FBI’s “seventh floor” leadership stopped the bureau from closing its investigation into Flynn in early January 2017 even though investigators had uncovered “no derogatory information.”

Powell took over Flynn’s representation from Covington & Burling LLP, under whose guidance Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to investigators about his conversations with Russian diplomat Sergey Kislyak. Earlier this year, Flynn sought to withdraw his guilty plea and declared that he was “innocent of this crime.”

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American Federation of Teachers launches $1 million ad campaign for HEROES Act

WASHINGTON — The American Federation of Teachers launched a $1 million ad buy on Friday to support the HEROES Act, the House-passed legislation on coronavirus aid. The Senate has not yet moved on the bill which was passed on May 15. 

The new ad, entitled “Essential”, will run for two weeks on Facebook, CNN, MSNBC and Fox News in 10 states plus Washington D.C.: Arizona, Colorado, Ohio, Maine, West Virginia, Kentucky, Florida, Pennsylvania, Montana and North Carolina. 

The 30-second ad, focuses on two teachers and a food services manager providing students with meals and teaching virtual classes. The campaign also includes a 15-second ad version. The AFT argues that as coronavirus cases begin to increase as states relax restrictions, a second wave could lead to massive layoffs and leave essential workers more at risk to contracting the virus. 

“If the HEROES Act fails to pass, and states and schools don’t get the support they need to reopen safely, then they’ll stay shut and the economy will stall — it’s that simple,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said in a statement.

The HEROES Act is a $3 trillion piece of legislation that included another round of stimulus checks for Americans, pay raises for frontline workers, an extension of the $600-per-week unemployment compensation and additional state and local aid. Republicans have called it a “liberal wish list”, and President Trump called the bill “dead on arrival.” 

Joanne Collins Brock, a second grade teacher at St Francis School (Goshen) , teaches online in her empty classroom on April 15, 2020 in Goshen, Ky.Andy Lyons / Getty Images file

Weingarten added, “There are no magic fixes — the only path to recovery is a stimulus package that funds, rather than forfeits, our future. We urgently need the federal dollars included in the HEROES Act to help states, cities, towns and schools weather this rolling storm.” 

It’s unlikely the Republican-controlled Senate will take up any other further pandemic relief until mid-July, after the July 4 recess. After a better-than-expected jobs report in May, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said future relief bills would have to be more “focused”. 

“As Senate Republicans have made clear for weeks, future efforts must be laser-focused on helping schools reopen safely in the fall, helping American workers continue to get back on the job, and helping employers reopen and grow. We must keep the wind in our sails, not slam the brakes with left-wing policies that would make rehiring even harder and recovery even more challenging,” McConnell said last week. 

New Biden digital ad hits Trump for reaction to protests

WASHINGTON — For the second time in the past month, Joe Biden’s campaign is accusing President Donald Trump for acting like a “deer in the headlights” as he’s tries to deal with two major crises.  

The campaign’s latest digital ad focuses on the use of force used on protestors in Washington last week to clear the way for Trump’s walk across the street from the White House for a photo-op in front of St. John’s Church.

“The nation marches for justice and like a deer in the headlights, he’s paralyzed with fear. He doesn’t know what to do so he hides in his bunker,” the narrator says in between images of peaceful protestors chanting George Floyd’s name. 

“Then, he’s afraid he looks too weak so he has tear gas and flash grenades used on peaceful protestors, just for a photo-op,” the narrator continues. “Where is Donald Trump? Too scared to face the people. Too small to meet the moment. Too weak to lead.”

The Biden campaign has tried to define the two major crises of the year — the pandemic and nationwide protests against police mistreatment of African Americans — as moments that show stark contrasts between the president and the presumptive Democratic nominee. In the past week alone the campaign has released two digital ads using Biden’s civil unrest speech in a Philadelphia that highlight his promise not to “fan the flames of hate” like Trump and commitment to support protestors urging progress towards a more equal America.

The latest ad builds on one played across five battleground states last month, where they first made the charge that Trump reacted to the coronavirus pandemic like a “deer in the headlights” at a time when the economy was worsening and the death toll climbing. It will target voters on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube across Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

This is the campaign’s sixth digital ad since the beginning of the pandemic in mid-March that targets social media users in key battleground states. They have exclusively left TV ad spending to pro-Biden Super PACs.

Poll: 57 percent of registered voters think government should be doing more to solve problems

WASHINGTON — The share of voters who say that the government should do more to solve Americans’ problems has reached new heights throughout President Donald Trump’s time in office, with the latest NBC News / WSJ poll showing the sentiment just shy of its all-time high. 

Fifty-seven percent of registered voters want the government to solve more problems. Just 38 percent think the government is doing too much, tied for the lowest share since the poll began asking the question in 1995. 

Simultaneously, the share of voters who think the government is doing too many things better left to businesses or individuals has remained at an all-time low. 

During past presidencies, public demand for the government to do more — and to do less — has fluctuated. Under former President Barack Obama, these sentiments oscillated around the high forties and low fifties, with both sides hitting majority support over Obama’s eight years in office.

But at the beginning of the Trump presidency, public opinion sharply diverged in favor of governments doing more. By early 2018, 58 percent felt that the government should do more and 38 percent felt the government should be doing less. That 20-point gap decreased slightly in 2019, only to increase again in 2020. 

While Republicans have historically called for smaller government, Trump at times has bucked that convention. 

During Trump’s 2015 campaign announcement speech, he said he wanted to “save Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security without cuts.”

The president’s 2020 budget proposal aimed to make hundreds of billions in cuts to Medicare over the next decade. But after facing pushback, Trump reversed course, tweeting, “I will totally protect your Medicare & Social Security!” 

Anxieties over the cost of entitlement programs like Medicare and Medicaid, along with other government programs and benefits, could be further exacerbated by the current coronavirus pandemic. There have been more than 2 million coronavirus cases in America, and more than 100,000 deaths from the virus. 

Congress has passed a handful of coronavirus relief bills, including direct payments to Americans and the Paycheck Protection Program, loans that would be forgiven provided businesses kept on employees and used the money for certain, approved expenses. 

There have been disagreements among lawmakers as to whether more help is needed, with many Senate Republicans wanting to wait and see before discussing new aid. 

Breaking the latest data down by party, the starkest divide is among Democrats, with 86 percent saying the government is doing too little and 11 percent saying it is not doing enough. 

A slim majority, 51 percent, of independents agree that the government is under-involved. 

The GOP divide on the question of government involvement is less unequivocal than it is for Democrats, but not by much. Twenty-five percent of Republicans wish the government was doing more and 77 percent feel the government is doing too much. 

Ahead of November’s election, some of the key voting groups that led Trump to victory in 2016 are calling for more government involvement. 

For example, 57 percent of white women want the government to be doing more, a group Trump won over Clinton by 9 percent, according to exit polls

Fifty-one percent of working-class whites want the government to do more, along with 52 percent of white voters and 57 percent of those who live in swing states. 

NBC and the Wall Street Journal polled 1000 registered voters between May 28 and June 2. The margin of error is +/- 3.1 percent. 

Georgia Republican poised to make House runoff after comparing pandemic punishments to socialism

WASHINGTON — In April, we took a look at how three Republican candidates running in for a Republican-leaning open seat in Georgia were messaging on coronavirus.

One highlighted his Air National Guard service to help his community respond to the virus, another blasted “weak Republicans” and “deranged Democrats” before shooting a sign labeled “COVID-19.”, and one called fines for violating social-distancing orders “Chinese-style socialism.”

So with votes still coming in across the after an election plagued by issues, the Associated Press is projecting that the two candidates with the more fiery messaging of the three will advance to a runoff.

With no candidate hitting the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff, the AP is projecting that Marjorie Taylor Greene and John Cowan will advance to a runoff in August (while a significant portion of the statewide vote is still outstanding, all but one precinct has reported in the 14th Congressional District, according to the AP’s figures). 

Taylor Green, a business owner who was endorsed by Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan, ran the ad decrying the “Chinese-style socialism” of punishing people for violating coronavirus-related restrictions.

In the final days before the primary, her messaging largely focused on socialism and criticizing “antifa.” She ran a TV ad blasting “antifa terrorists” who were “declaring war on our cities,” before appearing to chamber a round and telling them to “stay out of northwest Georgia.”

And she ran a spot where triggered explosives by shooting at them with a rifle as she rattled off ideas she wanted to stop in Congress, including gun control, the Green New Deal, open borders and socialism. 

Cowan, a neurosurgeon who ran the ad attacking “weak Republicans” and shooting a mock-up of the virus, continued to run that one spot down the stretch.  

Priorities USA electoral projection puts Biden over 300, while cautioning election still volatile

WASHINGTON — Priorities USA, the major Democratic super-PAC backing former Vice President Joe Biden, has the Democrat leading President Trump in its electoral college projection 305 votes to 204.

Florida is the only state on the map considered a toss-up in the analysis, which the group considers a state where the candidates have between 49.5 and 50.5 percent of the vote. The group’s analysis is culled in part from its recent battleground and national polling and is based on where the race stands today, not a projection for the November election. 

Priorities’ current polling has Biden ahead in the crucial states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, as well as in Arizona and North Carolina. Recent public polls have shown Biden up in many battleground states as well. 

But Priorities also points out that just a 3-point drop for Biden – among both white working-class voters and minority voters – would narrow the Democrat’s advantage over Trump to 259 to 248, with Trump winning Florida and North Carolina, and with Arizona and Pennsylvania moving to the “toss-up” category.

Before this recent surge by Biden, Priorities says the overall Trump-vs.-Biden race has been fairly close over the past year. This is the first time in the group’s projection Biden eclipsed the 300 electoral vote mark. 

“We have seen some significant movements over the course of the last four weeks in particular, in Arizona and North Carolina, although those states are still within 2 points,” Priorities chairman Guy Cecil told reporters during a Wednesday media briefing. 

“Structurally, while we’ve seen improvements, this race continues to be close.”

Priorities’ polling also shows Trump’s current job rating (at 41 percent approve, 55 percent disapprove) at one of the lowest levels of his presidency.

“We are very quickly approaching the -17 points that we saw immediately following the shutdown at the beginning of last year. This is among the worst approval ratings in our internal data has shown since Donald Trump became president,” Cecil said. 

Trump approval rating drops 10 points in Gallup poll

WASHINGTON — President Trump’s approval rating dropped 10 points from May to June among adults, according to Gallup’s latest poll. 

The new numbers, which show Trump’s approval at 39 percent and disapproval at 57 percent, is one of the largest dips in a single-month period for the president in Gallup’s tracking. In May, Gallup showed Trump’s approval and disapproval ratings nearly even at 49 and 48 percent respectively. 

President Donald Trump walks on the South Lawn of the White House on May 30, 2020.Stefani Reynolds / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

The dip comes as more Americans take issue with the president’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and protests across the country against police brutality. In the most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 80 percent of registered voters said they felt things in the U.S. were “out of control.” Additionally, President Trump continues to struggle in national and state polls against presumptive 2020 Democratic nominee Joe Biden. 

A group of Fox News polls released last week show Trump trailing Biden in Arizona, Wisconsin and Ohio. Trump won those states handedly in 2016, and those states could be must-win for the president in November. 

The president met with senior advisers and campaign officials last week to discuss concerning internal polling in reliably Republican states like Texas. But on Twitter, Trump has argued that publicly released polling hasn’t been accurate. On Monday Trump announced he hired an outside polling group to analyze polls he “felt were fake.” 

Republican senators launching ads attacking Joe Biden

WASHINGTON — Two Republican senators have launched ads attacking former Vice President Joe Biden as the Democrat continues to lead President Trump in recent polls. 

Arizona Republican Sen. Martha McSally has aired two ads in recent days evoking Biden as a foil, alongside likely Arizona Democratic nominee Mark Kelly.

And Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton has a new digital spot blasting Biden as “too confused to lead.” 

The McSally spots aim to tie Biden to Kelly — one argues the pair won’t be able to hold China accountable (Republicans have hit Kelly on the airwaves for his business ties to China), while another says that Kelly will “help Joe Biden pass a new government-controlled health insurance system” (Both Kelly and Biden support a public option, not Medicare-for-All). 

McSally was down big in Fox News’ recent poll of the Senate race (trailing Kelly 50 to 37 among registered voters). And Biden led Trump by 4 points in that same poll of the state that Trump won by 3.5 points in 2016.

While that Biden lead is within the margin of error, there are signs that there could be trouble in Arizona at the top of the ticket, as Democratic groups are pushing into the once reliably Republican state. 

Meanwhile, Cotton, who has no Democratic opponent in the fall, just released a new digital ad attacking China for “lies” that “spread the China virus across the world,” as well as Biden by rounding up a complication of his recent missteps to argue he’s “too confused to lead.” 

The spot, first reported by Breitbart News, will run in Michigan and Iowa as part of an initial, five-figure buy. 

Cotton’s political website features another anti-Biden video, one from March that calls Biden “weak on China.” 

And Cotton’s not the first Republican without a Democratic challenger in the fall to try to give his party air cover by attacking Biden. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., bought TV time ahead of the Iowa caucuses to criticize Biden and defend the president during impeachment.

While Cotton is running for reelection this year, the Democrats couldn’t field a challenger to run against him after one candidate dropped out shortly after the filing deadline. 

Multiple states hold key primaries as coronavirus pandemic, Floyd protests continue

WASHINGTON — On the day of George Floyd’s funeral in Houston and as coronavirus cases continue to rise, several states are holding primaries to determine which candidates will represent their parties come November.

Here are the races the NBC News political unit are paying closest attention to:

Georgia Senate: The top primary contest to watch is in Georgia, where several Democrats are running for the right to challenge Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., in the fall.

The favorite in this Democratic primary is 2017 congressional nominee, Jon Ossoff, and his top challengers are former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson and businesswoman Sarah Riggs Amico. The Cook Political Report lists the race as “Lean Republican” for November.

If none of the candidates break 50 percent, the Top 2 will advance to an Aug. 11 runoff.

Jon Ossoff delivers his concession speech to supporters at his election night watch party in Atlanta on June 20, 2017.Bill Clark / CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images file

South Carolina Senate: Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Democrat Jaime Harrison receive nominal primary opposition ahead of their expected November showdown in the Palmetto State. Harrison has raked in significant fundraising ahead of today’s contest. 

Nevada 3rd District: Republicans will pick their nominee in Nevada to face Democratic Congresswoman Susie Lee, D-Nev., in the competitive Nevada district. 

Nevada 4th District: Also in Nevada, incumbent Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford, who recently admitted to having an affair with a former Senate staffer, is receiving a primary challenge from multiple Democrats, as well as Republicans who are trying to reclaim the seat. 

For the contests in both the third and fourth House districts in the state, it’s important to note that Nevada secretary of state, Barbara Cegavske, has sent mail-in ballots to all of Nevada’s registered voters. 

—Liz Brown-Kaiser contributed.

Dem group American Bridge launches $20 million battleground state ad buy

WASHINGTON — American Bridge is rolling out a $20 million ad campaign over 10 weeks in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin in the hopes of softening up President Trump in the blue wall states he flipped to secure his 2016 victory. 

The first spots feature voters who backed Trump in 2016 explaining why they are now backing former Vice President Joe Biden. 

In one Wisconsin spot, a Vietnam veteran named John argues that the “Trump economy” isn’t working for the working class. 

“This time, I’m voting for Joe Biden because I think that Joe Biden has the good of the country in his heart,” he says.

“To compare Donald Trump with Joe Biden — I can bet my life on most of what Joe Biden has to say. I wouldn’t bet my life on the next three things that come out of Donald Trump’s mouth, because one of them will probably be a lie.” 

In another spot airing in Pennsylvania, a Westmoreland County voter named Janie said that she’s “disappointed” in Trump, while “Joe Biden understands how the government works, and I trust him.” 

The new buy runs through the end of August, and will include TV, radio and digital ads. The group is targeting a smattering of markets across the state, including many of the Trump-leaning areas that the president’s campaign recently targeted with its recent ad buy. 

Trump campaign seizes on calls for Dems to support ‘defund the police’ movement

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign is seizing on mounting calls to defund police by calling out prominent Democrats who are supportive of the movement after the death of George Floyd, who was killed when an officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

The Trump re-elect effort held a call with reporters on Monday to criticize the “left’s radical proposals to defund the police,” specifically pressuring apparent Democratic nominee Joe Biden to speak out in opposition to the idea. 

A protester holds a sign that reads, “Defund the Police” during a protest in Brooklyn, N.Y., on June 7, 2020.Eduardo Munoz / Reuters

Minutes later, the Biden campaign issued a statement doing so.

“As his criminal justice proposal made clear months ago, Vice President Biden does not believe that police should be defunded. He hears and shares the deep grief and frustration of those calling out for change, and is driven to ensure that justice is done and that we put a stop to this terrible pain,” spokesman Andrew Bates said, stressing Biden supports the “urgent need for reform.”

On the call, the Trump campaign slammed members of the so-called “Squad,” including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar, for being open to defunding and disbanding police.

“It is consuming the entire Democrat party as the most extreme elements have the loudest voices and demand acquiescence,” communications director Tim Murtaugh said, also name-checking notable Democrats such as Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Rep. Val Demings — who is currently being vetted as a possible running mate for Biden.

Murtaugh jabbed at Bowser for not stepping in and stopping activists from adding the words “DEFUND THE POLICE” to the existing city-commissioned “BLACK LIVES MATTER” mural on 16th St., near the White House.

The campaign also had two surrogates on the call with reporters to attack Democrats: former Cincinnati Mayor Ken Blackwell and former Chester County Sheriff Carolyn Bunny Welsh. 

They both argued it was impossible to operate cities “without local law enforcement” and took the extreme view of the concept in terms of disbanding police, seemingly ignoring one of the larger ideas of the movement in terms of allocating resources differently.   

“Should law enforcement be accountable? Absolutely,” Welsh conceded, but the idea of dismantling police “will do nothing but create chaos and anarchy” she claimed. 

Asked about whether any of the people on the call believe systemic racism exists in policing, Murtaugh said: “No one hates a bad cop worse than a good cop. I think that there are people who have bad attitudes … in all organizations.” The others referred to a “few bad apples,” which is something top Trump administration officials have echoed in the last few weeks. 

The campaign could not comment on any particular policy proposals that would be forthcoming on the larger issue of police reform from the president and deferred to the White House on that. 

If the president’s feed is any indication, this issue will continue to be highlighted by both him and the campaign this summer. The re-elect effort has already sent fundraising list emails this weekend, saying: “We can’t stand by while the Left tries to DEFUND THE POLICE.”

Biden campaign launches turnout effort targeting LGBTQ voters

Joe Biden’s presidential campaign on Monday announced the launch of a robust get-out-the-vote effort targeting LGBTQ voters.

The effort, called, “Out for Biden,” will be aimed at turning out a record number of LGBTQ voters in November by fostering “relationships with pro-equality partners to register and mobilize LGBTQ+ voters around the country, with an emphasis on key battleground states,” the campaign said in a statement.

“Our campaign’s decision to launch Out for Biden in the shadow of historic protest elevates the power of the moment and encourages deep — and sometimes difficult — dialogue within our LGBTQ+ community as Pride month begins,” said Reggie Greer, the Biden campaign’s LGBTQ+ vote director. “LGBTQ+ people of color are central to the fabric of our communities. We must elect a government that will center their voices and celebrate the contributions of LGBTQ+ people everywhere,” Greer added.

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Russia may be ‘manipulating’ the International Criminal Court

The United States authorized sanctions against the leaders of the International Criminal Court, accusing the group of improper politicized targeting of Israel and of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and claiming it is corrupt and manipulated by U.S. foes.

President Trump signed an executive order dated Thursday proclaiming that “any attempt by the ICC to investigate, arrest, detain, or prosecute any United States personnel without the consent of the United States … constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”

Attorney General William Barr, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, and national security adviser Robert O’Brien held a press conference Thursday to announce that the U.S. rejected the “kangaroo court” and denied the legitimacy of its “politically motivated” investigations into the U.S. and Israel. They claimed the ICC was undermining U.S. foreign policy through malign influence by U.S. adversaries, placing the focus on Russia.

Although much of recent foreign policy focus in recent months has been on the Chinese Communist Party, a persistent source of concern for the U.S. government has been Russia. The U.S. intelligence community concluded the Kremlin attempted to undermine U.S. elections in 2016 and 2018, and the Trump administration’s National Counterintelligence Strategy warned that “Russia remains a significant intelligence threat to United States interests.”

The U.S. officials pointed out Thursday that the U.S. is not a signatory of the Rome Statute, the international treaty adopted in 1998 creating The Hague-based ICC. Earlier this year, the ICC opened an investigation into “alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Afghanistan” and another into “alleged crimes committed in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.”

“The ICC’s recent decision to authorize an investigation into the conduct of U.S. personnel who were fighting to defeat terrorists in Afghanistan and bring peace and prosperity to the Afghan people validates our longstanding concerns about the ICC,” Barr said. “This institution has become, in practice, little more than a political tool employed by unaccountable international elites. These people wield this tool to manipulate and undercut the foreign policies of a democratically accountable sovereign nation.”

Barr said that “we are concerned that foreign powers, like Russia, are also manipulating the ICC in pursuit of their own agenda.” Barr did not elaborate on the role of Russia, which withdrew from the ICC in 2016. Russia has long sought to undermine NATO, the broad American and European alliance founded during the Cold War, which emerged as a bulwark against the Soviet Union and has increasingly expanded toward Russia’s border. And the international coalition in Afghanistan dubbed “Operation Resolute Support” is NATO-led.

The attorney general said the U.S. “has reason to doubt the honesty of the ICC” and that the Justice Department “has received substantial, credible information that raises serious concerns about a long history of financial corruption and malfeasance at the highest levels of the office of the prosecutor,” which “calls into question the integrity of the ICC’s investigations.” Barr said the Justice Department “is investigating — and we are committed to uncovering and, if possible, holding people accountable.”

Barr said the U.S. sanctions “will ensure that those who assist the ICC’s politically motivated investigation of American service members and intelligence officers without the United States’s consent will suffer serious consequences.”

O’Brien asserted, “The ICC is a failed institution” and that “the court is ineffective, unaccountable, and a politically motivated bureaucracy.” He argued, “We have every reason to believe our adversaries are manipulating the ICC by encouraging these allegations” related to U.S. actions in Afghanistan. The national security adviser also said, “We know that there is corruption and misconduct at the highest levels of the ICC and in the office of the prosecutor.”

Pompeo said the ICC’s decision to initiate an investigation into U.S. actions in Afghanistan “was a persecution of Americans.”

“We cannot, we will not stand by as our people are threatened by a kangaroo court,” Pompeo said. “I have a message to many close allies around the world: Your people could be next, especially those from NATO countries who fought terrorism in Afghanistan right alongside of us.”

The U.S. signed a tenuous deal with the Taliban earlier this year in an effort to draw down U.S. troops by next year, although the Pentagon’s inspector general has pointed out the Taliban’s reluctance to break with al Qaeda.

Pompeo said the U.S. is “also gravely concerned about the threat the court poses to Israel.” The secretary of state said, “It’s clear the ICC is only putting Israel in its crosshairs for nakedly political purposes.” He pointed to a bipartisan letter signed by dozens of senators and congressmen last month, which criticized the ICC’s actions.

Pompeo said the ICC had spent over $1 billion and had over 1,000 staff members yet has only achieved four major convictions, saying that “this record of botched prosecutions and poor judgment casts grave doubt on the court’s ability to function at the most basic level and demonstrates [its] highly politicized nature.”

The secretary of state said the U.S. was “authorizing the imposition of economic sanctions against ICC officials directly engaged in the ICC efforts to investigate U.S. personnel or allied personnel against that allied state’s consent, and against others who materially support such officials’ activities.” He said the U.S. would be expanding visa restrictions against these ICC officials and their families too.

“Today’s announcement is yet another assault on vital institutions that help people look after one another and provide survivors of rights abuses with justice,” said Daniel Balson, the advocacy director for Amnesty International USA.

Andrea Prasow, the Washington director of Human Rights Watch, said, “The U.S. assault on the ICC is an effort to block victims, whether in Afghanistan, Israel, or Palestine, from seeking justice.”

Esper argued that “our justice system ensures that our people are held to account under the United States Constitution, not the International Criminal Court.” He added that “there is no other force more disciplined and committed to compliance with the laws of war than the United States military.”

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Pete Davidson reigns in ‘King of Staten Island’



Rated R. On Amazon, iTunes, VUDU, Apple TV and other platforms.

Grade: B-

Judd Apatow’s latest brings together all the director’s basics: crude humor, foul language, excessive weed usage played for laughs, friendship and family-based sentimentality. It adds two other Apatow essentials — a protagonist whose charisma might be deemed dubious and an Apatow family member in the cast.

In the past, Apatow has bet on such actors as Steve Carell (“40-Year-Old Virgin”), Seth Rogen (“Knocked Up”), Adam Sandler (“Funny People”) and Amy Schumer (“Trainwreck”), who in some cases co-wrote the screenplays or in Schumer’s case was sole writer. In this case, Apatow wagers on lead actor and co-writer Pete Davidson of “SNL” fame, whose charm might be up for debate for many viewers.

Dedicated to Davidson’s late New York City fireman father, “The King of Staten Island” tells the story of Scott Carlin (Davidson), a screw-up suicidally traumatized by the death of his father, with ADHD, no self-respect, a serious weed addiction and in fact fondness for almost anything mind-altering.

Scott, 24, is an aspiring tattoo artist covered in tats, which seem to be his version of cutting. He dresses in T-shirts, shorts and sandals and lives in Staten Island with his mother, Margie (an endearing Marisa Tomei), an ER nurse. His fellow outcast friends include the very short Igor (Moises Arias), the troubled Oscar (Ricky Velez) and the large and very stoned Richie (Lou Wilson).

Scott has sex with his friend Kelsey (Bel Powley, another asset). She has feelings for him. But he does not think of himself as her boyfriend because he is too screwed up, and he has a point.

In the opening, the big crisis is whether or not Scott will attend the high school graduation party of his college-bound sister, Claire (a charming Maude Apatow, who thankfully looks more like her mother). Little sister Claire has spent her life worrying about what big brother Scott will do next and has tried to take care of him.

At the same time, Margie meets, in not-so-cute fashion, divorced fireman with punchable face and Red Sox fan Ray Bishop (Canton’s talented Bill Burr), and after 17 years of abstaining has a torrid affair with him and tells Scott, who has dreams of starting a “tattoo restaurant,” where you can eat while getting inked, that he must move out.

You might think this would send Scott into an Oedipal spiral. He gets high with Ray’s ex (secret ingredient Pamela Adlon), and, against even his better judgment, he agrees to break into a neighborhood pharmacy.

Davidson brings an edge and a darkness to Scott’s disagreeableness that make it hard to like him much, if at all, for the first half of this 137-minute comedy. Then, when Apatow piles on the Capra-corn in the last 45 minutes, mostly in the form of Scott bonding with Ray’s (and Scott’s late dad’s) firemen pals, including Steve Buscemi, you may feel manipulated, and you were.

Manhattan shimmers like a silvery Oz in the distance in a scene in this Staten Island-shot film.

“The King of Staten Island” may not be regal, but eventually you warm up to the royal pain in the butt at its predictably soft center. But I did not melt.

(“The King of Staten Island” contains drug use, profanity, sexually suggestive scenes and more drug use.)