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Booker and McGrath Intensify Advertising Blitz in Kentucky

Amy McGrath had already built a $41 million war chest to take on Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, in what was shaping up to be one of his toughest re-election campaigns yet. But over the past week, Ms. McGrath has pumped more than $3.1 million into television ads in the suddenly competitive Democratic primary, flooding television screens across the state at a scale often reserved for the general election.

Ad after ad proclaims that she’s the “only candidate who can win,” a former fighter pilot who has “had to fight the establishment” as she speaks mostly about issues that were central to the 2018 Democratic midterm wave: health care and drug prices.

Her opponent in Tuesday’s primary, Charles Booker, a 35-year-old black state representative, has roared into contention in recent weeks, picking up the endorsements of major progressive figures like Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, as well as endorsements from Kentucky’s largest newspaper. He aired his first television ad just two weeks ago, but has spent $738,000 over the past week thanks to a large infusion of donations.

With both candidates limited in their ability to campaign in-person amid the coronavirus pandemic, the television screens of Kentucky are home to the dueling messages of the two campaigns, with Ms. McGrath reaching to respond to the racial justice movement ignited by the killing of George Floyd, and Mr. Booker enjoying a sudden surge that is, in part, born out of it.

In the final hours before Tuesday’s voting, Ms McGrath was visiting mine workers and a food bank, while Mr. Booker held several rallies.

Mr. Booker, who was recently tear-gassed while marching with protesters, has two ads on the air. The first, which began on June 9, lays out his progressive platform, including “Medicare for all,” as he proclaims he’s “fighting for real change” by “mobilizing young and old, black, brown and white.”

His campaign spent $200,000 on his most recent ad, which features Mr. Booker speaking at a protest, “as your brother, as your cousin, as your neighbor, as your fellow good troublemaker.” That is set against a halting debate answer from Ms. McGrath about why she hadn’t joined a protest.

Ms. McGrath has one ad discussing Mr. Floyd’s death, where she speaks directly to the camera from a living room table. But she has spent only $2,000 on the ad, according to Advertising Analytics.

Notably, her most-aired ad is aimed more at female primary voters. In it, she focuses on “why I’m a Democrat,” and talks about how the party is paving the way for women like herself to be fighter pilots, and her experience as a woman in the military. Her campaign spent $383,000 on that ad over the past week.

The primary election to face off against Mr. McConnell, the Senate majority leader, in Kentucky has been drawing national interest, as much for Mr. Booker’s sudden rise as for the harsh realities wrought by voting during the coronavirus pandemic. Fewer than 200 polling places will be open on Tuesday, a drastic reduction from the 3,700 locations that are often used in a typical election year. Louisville, the biggest city in the state, will have only one location open on Tuesday.

National politicians like Hillary Clinton and Stacey Abrams have decried the reduction of polling locations as voter suppression, accusations that have been joined by celebrities like LeBron James and Ava DuVernay.

But the state, under the leadership of Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, vastly expanded vote by mail, and officials are hoping that big early numbers will help alleviate lines on Tuesday. Large counties like Jefferson, which is home to Louisville, and Fayette, home to Lexington, are seeing record-setting ballot requests that would surpass primary turnouts from previous elections, state officials have said.

But as has been the case in states that have already conducted primaries amid the pandemic, a surge in absentee and mail-in ballots doesn’t always lower in-person turnout.

Ben Self, the chair of the Kentucky Democratic Party, praised the governor’s efforts to expand vote by mail, saying that the likely record turnout for the primary “speaks to the fact that we’ve made it a lot easier to vote by mail.” But, he acknowledged, Tuesday could still bring issues.

“I think there is absolutely going to be lines,” Mr. Self said. “There could be a huge problem tomorrow. We’re going to watch it really closely, and work to alleviate those problems.” The state party was amassing water and making sure adequate bathrooms were available at polling locations.

Mr. Booker has been fund-raising on the potential voting problems, creating a “Voter Bus Fund” that is “organizing buses to help transport voters.”

All told, Ms. McGrath has outspent Mr. Booker by nearly 10-to-1 on television, devoting roughly $11.1 million compared with $1.1 million for Mr. Booker, though that advantage has been cut in half in the campaign’s final week.

On Facebook, Ms. McGrath had dominated as well, spending double, triple and one day, in early June, even 10 times as much on Facebook ads as Mr. Booker.

But that dynamic has been flipped as the primary has approached. On June 12, for instance, Mr. Booker spent more than $25,179 on the platform, compared with Ms. McGrath’s $16,406.

Since then, he has been the one doubling, tripling and quadrupling her spending. In the nine most recent days available, Mr. Booker had spent $544,453 on Facebook, compared with Ms. McGrath’s $184,803.

He was spending heavily nationally as he gained traction with small donors but also heavily in Kentucky, where he has out-advertised Ms. McGrath in recent days.

Shane Goldmacher and Jonathan Martin contributed reporting.

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Sweden’s Shameful Record on Racism Shows Why We Need Black Lives Matter

Over the past weeks, Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests have been organized all around Sweden, both to show solidarity with victims of US police brutality and demand an end to violent racist policing practices at home. Although the protests have been mostly nonviolent, footage has circulated online of Swedish police officers using forms of violence that range from knee-holds to pepper spray — used unprovoked on adults and children alike.

To many observers, the Swedish BLM protests have been surprising. International media coverage of Swedish politics and society rarely discusses race relations and inequality, much less police violence. Instead, it tends to paint the country as an egalitarian utopia. Indeed, even national media has largely dismissed the Swedish BLM movement calling it inorganic — not a response to the realities of racism and policing in Sweden but rather an “import of American racial discourses.”

Yet Sweden is neither some postcapitalist, post-racial utopia, nor does it have a magically benevolent police force. On the contrary, the country has handily participated in the two historical processes that have come to define racist criminal justice systems in the United States and elsewhere — and against which the Swedish BLM movement is now rising up — white supremacy and neoliberalism.

Despite the place it holds in the global left’s imagination, Sweden has its own vicious history of racial subjugation and white supremacy,  its colonial and economic roots having been built on the back of racial slavery. The Swedish colony of Saint Barthélemy, for example, was a locus of the Caribbean slave trade in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, facilitating the buying and selling of thousands of slaves.

In its heyday, in the early nineteenth century, the island brought in a considerable profit for Sweden as the local port of Gustavia became a major transition point for Caribbean goods. Indeed, although the Swedish involvement in the slave trade is often overlooked, Sweden was one of the last countries in Europe to abolish slavery, fourteen years after the United Kingdom.

After abolishing slavery, Sweden extended its tradition of being white supremacist by helping develop the pseudoscience of race biology. In the eighteenth century, the Swedish biologist Carl Linnaeus gained international fame not just for his work in botanical taxonomy, but also for being the first scientist to divide people into biologically-defined races. These biological definitions helped justify the subjugation of nonwhite people around the world for centuries.

In fact, through the Swedish State Institute for Racial Biology, Sweden continued to take a leading role in international “research” dealing with racial eugenics well into the 1930s. Research produced by the institute facilitated the implementation of forced-sterilization laws which pertained to certain groups of people with “unwanted” genes, such as the Swedish Romani population or the indigenous Sámi people — laws which were only completely abolished in the 1970s.

Like in the United States, structural racism in Sweden survived the abolition of both slavery and race biology, and continues to shape its politics and institutions today. Although few Swedes today are descendants of slaves, over one-quarter of all Swedish citizens have foreign heritage — including approximately 350,000 Afro-Swedes, most of whom arrived in the past fifty years.

To these black and minority communities, structural racism is apparent everywhere from the frequent occurrence of racially-motived hate crimes to the widespread prevalence of discrimination in the labor market. And as Black Lives Matter protestors have pointed out, racism also extends to the Swedish criminal justice system:

“It’s important that we realize that Sweden has a high degree of racism in society, including in the criminal justice system,” says Ibbi Chune, one of the organizers of the first BLM protest in Stockholm. “Afro-Swedes like me and my friends know this well from our lived experiences. We are constantly being stopped and harassed by police and security officers, and often using violent measures.”

Although modern structural racism in Sweden can be traced to the country’s disturbing history of colonialism, slavery, and race biology, it has been bolstered in recent years by a contemporary global political development: the growth of the neoliberal state. In Sweden, as elsewhere, this development has exacerbated racial inequality and introduced new techniques for racialized policing.

On the American left, politicians like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez often speak of the “Nordic model,” pointing to Scandinavian countries, and especially Sweden, as successful examples of democratic socialism. However, despite their historical differences in national politics, economic policy in Sweden and the United States have seen an increasing convergence since the late twentieth century when the socialist and working-class coalitions that built Swedish welfare lost much of their momentum.

Over the past four decades, a succession of Swedish governments have drawn inspiration from the neoliberal models advanced by the British and American center-right. Between 1990 and 1991, the Social Democratic Party agreed with the Liberal Party to install the “tax reform of the century,” slashing the top marginal tax rate from 80 percent to 50 percent. Other economic reforms have enabled the privatization of state-owned enterprises, increased the deregulation of labor protection, and led to an expansion of New Public Management through the outsourcing of health, education, and other social services to the private market.

These policies have dismantled much of the social welfare systems that defined Sweden throughout the twentieth century; since the 1990s, income inequality in Sweden has increased faster than any other country in the world.

And although neoliberal policies have adversely affected all working-class Swedes, they have disproportionately impacted racial and ethnic minorities, a trend which is particularly prominent in many of the densely populated suburbs of Stockholm, Malmö, and other major cities.

According to sociologist Tobias Hübinette, suburbs with high populations of immigrants have been increasingly subject to similar trajectories as black neighborhoods in the United States during the Reagan era. This means that a decline of low-skilled living wage jobs has been accompanied by deteriorating housing conditions, a decrease in the quality of education, and increasing racial segregation. Unemployment rates for Swedes of a non-European background currently stand between 25–30 percent — compared to 2.5 percent for white Swedes — and approximately one-third of minority workers have unstable jobs.

As immigrant neighborhoods have become increasingly marginalized, Sweden has primarily sought to solve the growing prevalence of social unrest through increasing policing and security activities. In the past three years, the Swedish Police Authority received an increase of 7.1 billion SEK ($760 million) in government financing.

The decision followed a growing public discussion of immigrant criminality filled with populist tropes of “no-go zones” and minority lawlessness. Police departments have also introduced new techniques for control and surveillance including the deployment of CCTV in public areas, the development of intrusive software for digital wiretapping, and the adoption of new stop-and-search practices, particularly inside immigrant communities.

Similar to the American discourse on “thugs” and “superpredators,” Swedish police operations have extended their target demographic to encompass an entire generation of black and minority Swedes through the deployment of racial profiling. In Randomly Selected: Ethnic/Racial Profiling in Sweden, a recent report by criminologist Leandro Schclarek Mulinari, Afro-Swedes, Muslims, and Romani minorities detail how they are stopped, harassed, and intimidated by police and security guards based on their appearance, oftentimes using unnecessarily violent and intimidating methods.

And although some policing techniques are contemporary developments, the racist stereotypes at the core of racial profiling can be traced back to Sweden’s long history of racial biology — both Linnaeus’s “sly African,” and black and brown residents of Stockholm’s suburbs are considered inherently predisposed to crime.

In fact, by over-policing immigrant communities, the Swedish police have also inflated crime rates for minority Swedes and fueled a racist narrative of immigrant delinquency. For instance, statistics from the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention show that police reports for possession of narcotics increased by 79 percent over the past ten years, primarily due to expanded investigative and intervention activities.

According to Schclarek Mulinari, this supposed clampdown on drugs has disproportionately targeted black and minority Swedes through “selective policing,” despite higher self-reported drug usage in majority white neighborhoods. Today, a second-generation immigrant male is almost two and a half times as likely to be prosecuted for a crime compared to a white Sweden, with narcotic-related crimes constituting a majority of these charges.

Like in the United States, working-class minorities in Sweden have suffered from the intersection of structural racism and neoliberal strategies for managing social instability. Because black and brown Swedes are blamed for the unrest produced by political disinvestment, they are not only missing out on much-needed programs of affordable housing, living-wage employment, and youth support. For they are also forced to carry the psychological and physical burden of racialized surveillance and intrusive policing.

Although racism in the Swedish criminal justice system often takes a different — usually less violent — form from that in the United States, protestors in both countries are rallying against similar patterns of racialized policing, surveillance, and harassment.

As the BLM movement has shown, however, the question of criminal justice is also a question of class and racial inequality under neoliberalism. In both Sweden and the United States, protestors are not just asking to reform or defund the police, but also for a redistribution of resources, to invest in communities long overlooked by white and upper-class politicians:

“What we need is a reversal of funding and resources,” says Chune. “We have to stop closing down youth centers, cutting back costs in the education sector. We need to stop putting more resources toward police and security officers. Over-policed neighborhoods do not make us feel safe, but rather the opposite. Instead, resources should go to supporting the youth, improving our infrastructure, and creating sustainable employment. This needs to happen not just here in the suburbs of Stockholm, but everywhere.”

By suggesting that inequality and crime can be addressed through community support and distribution of resources rather than policing, the BLM movement does not just challenge a global structure of racism and white supremacy. It also represents a reversal of the neoliberal ideology and governance that, in recent years, has found its way into even the most socialist-friendly countries.

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Golden Globes Nabs Date Oscars Abandoned

LOS ANGELES — The 2021 Golden Globes will take place on Feb. 28, a date that the Oscars abandoned last week in an effort to salvage its 93rd installment in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the small group of journalists that hands out the Globes, had not previously announced a date for the 78th ceremony. The Globes have taken place in January since 1973, in part because the press association likes to set the pace for the Academy Awards race — or at least try. The February slot will allow the Globes to maintain that position. The Oscars were rescheduled for April 25, with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences emphasizing that it selected that date by consulting with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

The press association, which collaborates with Dick Clark Productions and NBC to put on the televised Globes ceremony, gave no explanation for its selection. It also did not say how the February date would impact film and television series eligibility, which normally adheres to the calendar year. The window for best picture consideration at the coming Academy Awards was extended to Feb. 28 instead of Dec. 31 to make up for the closing of theaters between March and June because of the pandemic.

As previously announced, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler will host the 2021 Globes, which the press association said on Monday would continue to be “Hollywood’s party of the year.” It will take place as usual at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif. Ms. Fey and Ms. Poehler last hosted the freewheeling show in 2015.

The Globes attract a television audience of roughly 18 million.

In another awards-show postponement, the Critics’ Choice Association on Monday said that its 26th annual ceremony would take place on March 7 with Taye Diggs as the host. The Critics’ Choice Awards, broadcast by the CW, typically takes place in January.

  • Updated June 22, 2020

    • Is it harder to exercise while wearing a mask?

      A commentary published this month on the website of the British Journal of Sports Medicine points out that covering your face during exercise “comes with issues of potential breathing restriction and discomfort” and requires “balancing benefits versus possible adverse events.” Masks do alter exercise, says Cedric X. Bryant, the president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit organization that funds exercise research and certifies fitness professionals. “In my personal experience,” he says, “heart rates are higher at the same relative intensity when you wear a mask.” Some people also could experience lightheadedness during familiar workouts while masked, says Len Kravitz, a professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico.

    • I’ve heard about a treatment called dexamethasone. Does it work?

      The steroid, dexamethasone, is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in severely ill patients, according to scientists in Britain. The drug appears to reduce inflammation caused by the immune system, protecting the tissues. In the study, dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of patients on oxygen by one-fifth.

    • What is pandemic paid leave?

      The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.

    • Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?

      So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.

    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • How does blood type influence coronavirus?

      A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.

    • My state is reopening. Is it safe to go out?

      States are reopening bit by bit. This means that more public spaces are available for use and more and more businesses are being allowed to open again. The federal government is largely leaving the decision up to states, and some state leaders are leaving the decision up to local authorities. Even if you aren’t being told to stay at home, it’s still a good idea to limit trips outside and your interaction with other people.

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.


The pandemic has thrown a wrench into Hollywood’s awards machinery. Many art films that were scheduled for release by the end of the year are still unfinished. Tastemaker events like the Cannes Film Festival have been disrupted. With theaters closed, the organizations behind the Globes and the Oscars said in the spring that streaming films, for the first time, could skip a theatrical release entirely and still remain eligible.

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For Barr, Standoff With Prosecutor Adds to String of Miscues

Geoffrey Berman, who was fired by President Trump on Saturday from his role as U.S. attorney, outside the offices of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan, June 20, 2020. (Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times)

WASHINGTON — From the onset of his tenure, William Barr has been billed as the attorney general that President Donald Trump was looking for. And Barr has taken some pride in this role, telling Fox News this past weekend that he speaks with the president “very regularly.”

But for a man who projects unswerving confidence in his political and legal skills, his efforts this month to play presidential intimate have backfired, embarrassing both him and his boss.

The month has brought a string of unusually high-profile miscues for the attorney general. He has been at odds with the White House at critical moments, showing how even top administration officials known for their loyalty can fall out of sync with a president laser-focused on his own political popularity.

Barr came under fire for his role in ordering federal officers to clear Lafayette Square near the White House on June 1 just before Trump’s widely criticized photo op in front of a nearby church.

He annoyed some White House officials when he said the Secret Service had earlier ordered Trump to shelter in the building’s bunker because of the threat of violence from protesters. That contradicted Trump’s explanation that he was merely inspecting the bunker, not seeking protection.

And Trump distanced himself almost immediately from his and Barr’s decision last week to fire Geoffrey Berman as the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, even though he had discussed the move with Barr and a possible successor to Berman, according to two people briefed on the deliberations.

Barr asked Berman to leave on Friday afternoon, and he announced the prosecutor’s resignation on Friday night after Berman refused to go, essentially firing him in public. Berman then publicly declared that he was not going anywhere. Facing a public relations debacle and legal constraints that made it difficult for Barr to get rid of Berman, the attorney general was forced to ask the president to step in and officially fire him.

But soon after Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, suggested he would not merely rubber-stamp an administration nominee to replace Berman, Trump backed away from the whole affair.

“We spent very little time, we spent very little time talking about it,” he told Fox News on Saturday. “But the president has to sign a document or I guess give the OK.”

The result was that Barr looked as though he had acted without the full backing of the president. He also ended up agreeing to install Berman’s deputy, Audrey Strauss, as the acting U.S. attorney instead of his preferred pick, Craig Carpenito, now the top federal prosecutor for New Jersey.

“As attempted power plays go, this was an abject failure and served only to further undermine the credibility of both the attorney general and the president,” said Greg Brower, a former federal prosecutor who once headed the FBI’s congressional affairs office.

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment for this article.

Even when a judge made favorable statements about the possibility of a legal victory for Trump this month, it was eclipsed by the Berman debacle. A federal judge ruled that the former national security adviser John Bolton may be in jeopardy of forfeiting his $2 million advance or even be prosecuted for failing to scrub classified information out of his new book, as Justice Department lawyers had argued that he was legally required to do.

But the judge refused to order copies of the political memoir seized, noting that more than 200,000 of them were already in the hands of booksellers by the time the department acted. The reasons the department filed so long after the books had been distributed to booksellers are not clear, but days before the judge ruled, the department’s division that was handling the case suddenly found itself rudderless.

Joseph H. Hunt, the chief of the civil division, suddenly resigned without even informing Barr, who had sometimes bypassed him to deal directly with his deputies. Barr’s penchant for closely managing his staff and impatience with what he sees as too much deliberation have grown in recent weeks, according to department employees who have sat in on meetings with him.

Hunt’s departure also seemed to emphasize the risks of handling cases involving Trump’s associates in Barr’s Justice Department. Other federal prosecutors have either resigned or withdrawn from criminal prosecutions of Trump’s former aides after Barr intervened to drop charges or seek lighter punishment.

The month began with a blast of criticism over the law enforcement response to the protests outside the White House that began May 29 over the death of George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis who died after a white police officer pressed his knee into his neck for nearly nine minutes.

While the protest was largely peaceful, some demonstrators threw bricks at the Secret Service, others defaced the Treasury Department building next to the White House with graffiti and several broke through a police barricade before being arrested. Just before Trump set out across Lafayette Square to hold a Bible in front of St. John’s Church on June 1, law enforcement officials fired a chemical irritant at the crowd to clear the area.

Barr played a far more critical role in the law enforcement response than was initially understood, essentially assuming battlefield control over a hodgepodge of security forces in Washington for days from a command center he set up, according to people who received briefings inside the center. He was effectively the general overseeing the operation that allowed the president his photo op.

As criticism deepened over the havoc surrounding the photo op, Barr insisted that he took charge because the protest was turning violent and had to be brought under control — not to set up a publicity stunt. But his presence at Trump’s side that day made him look less like a commander of officers and more like a presidential prop, a situation he privately said made him uncomfortable, according to two people told of those conversations.

In a June 5 interview with The Associated Press, the attorney general gave a hairsplitting description of his role in directing the law enforcement actions. He never issued a “tactical command” to clear the protesters from Lafayette Square, he said, but his attitude was that officers needed to “get it done.”

Barr also insisted two days later in an interview with CBS’ “Face the Nation” that both he and Defense Secretary Mark Esper agreed that as a last resort, the president could invoke the Insurrection Act allowing him to deploy active-duty troops to control protests around the nation, a notion that Esper had previously seemed to disavow.

That controversy was still fresh when the Justice Department, under pressure from a federal lawsuit, released some passages last week that Barr and his aides had previously redacted from the 2019 public report by the special counsel, Robert Mueller, about Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Although Barr has aggressively challenged the basis for that whole inquiry and defended the president, the newly disclosed text showed that prosecutors questioned whether Trump was telling them the truth in written answers to their questions.

The situation with Berman, the top prosecutor for the Southern District of New York, again raised the question of whether Barr was bending over backward to protect the president. A Republican, Berman pursued a string of cases that have rankled Trump, including an investigation of hush payments to a woman whose allegations that she had an affair with him threatened to derail his 2016 campaign.

Berman also obtained an indictment of a state-owned bank in Turkey with political connections that had drawn the president’s attention. In his book, Bolton wrote that Trump had promised President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey in 2018 that he would intervene in the inquiry against the bank for violating sanctions against Iran. Multiple people close to both Berman and Barr said both men felt that charges needed to be brought, but that they clashed over questions of law and strategy.

Prosecutors under Berman are scrutinizing whether the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, violated laws on lobbying for foreign entities in his efforts to dig up damaging information in Ukraine on the president’s political rivals. If the Trump administration was hoping to exert political pressure to derail that investigation, some former prosecutors said, firing Berman appears to have backfired.

“The Berman situation was mishandled both procedurally and substantively,” said Brower, the former federal prosecutor and senior FBI official. “The Southern District of New York continues to investigate whatever it is investigating, and Barr’s preferred new United States attorney doesn’t actually get the job.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

© 2020 The New York Times Company

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The Worrisome Link Between Deforestation And Disease : NPR

The closer humans are to animals, the greater the opportunity for zoonotic spillover, where a pathogen jumps from animal to human.

Zoë van Dijk for NPR


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Zoë van Dijk for NPR

The closer humans are to animals, the greater the opportunity for zoonotic spillover, where a pathogen jumps from animal to human.

Zoë van Dijk for NPR

In 2013, an 18-month old boy got sick after playing near a hollow tree in his backyard, in a remote West African village. He developed a fever and started vomiting. His stool turned black. Two days later, he died.

Two years and more than 11,000 deaths later, the World Health Organization put out a report saying the Ebola outbreak that likely emanated from that hollow tree may have been caused in part by deforestation, led by “foreign mining and timber operations.”

The tree the boy played near was infested with fruit bats — bats that may have been pushed into the boy’s village because upwards of 80 percent of their natural habitat had been destroyed.

“When you disturb a forest, it actually upsets, if you want, the balance of nature, the balance between pathogens and people,” says John E. Fa, a professor of biodiversity and human development at Manchester Metropolitan University, who was part of a team of researchers that linked recent forest loss to 25 Ebola outbreaks that have occurred since 1976.

A finding, he says, that showed a strong correlation between recent deforestation and disease outbreaks.

Scientists have long warned that the reshaping of Earth’s landscapes will have broad ramifications for the climate and biodiversity. A growing body of evidence shows that forest loss and fragmentation can also increase the risk of animal-borne infectious disease, similar to the type that’s currently upending the world.

Health experts say that the novel coronavirus, which has killed nearly half a million people worldwide, originated in an animal. Likely, a bat. And while it’s too soon to know whether deforestation or land-use change played any role in its path to becoming a global pandemic, there are concerns that the economic ruin it’s leaving behind could help set the stage for future pandemics.

There have been reports of increased deforestation in Southeast Asia, Africa and South America in the last few months, as governments have eased regulations and directed their resources and attention towards coronavirus response.

“The perception that people are getting from the media is that nature is getting a break from the virus,” says Edward Barbier, a distinguished professor in the Department of Economics at Colorado State University. “However, what’s happening in tropical forests in particular is basically a field-day for illegal activities.”

A field-day, he says, that could increase the risk of future outbreaks.

A burned area of the Amazon rainforest in Para state, Brazil, in 2019. A growing body of evidence shows that forest loss and fragmentation can increase the risk of animal-borne infectious disease like coronaviruses.

Leo Correa/AP


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Leo Correa/AP

A burned area of the Amazon rainforest in Para state, Brazil, in 2019. A growing body of evidence shows that forest loss and fragmentation can increase the risk of animal-borne infectious disease like coronaviruses.

Leo Correa/AP

Zoonotic spillover

A disease that jumps from animals to humans is called a zoonosis. The jump itself — the event in which a pathogen jumps from animal to human or vice versa — is called a zoonotic spillover, or simply a spillover. And it’s more common than you might think.

Six out of every ten diseases in humans, and three-quarters of the world’s emerging infectious diseases, are zoonotic.

Many of them are familiar: Salmonella, malaria, Lyme disease. Others, like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever or Rift Valley Fever, are more rare. Some are benign. Others, like the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, can be deadly.

For a spillover to occur, a number of things need to line up.

First, a pathogen (think: virus, bacteria, fungus) needs to find a way to make the jump from animal to human. Maybe it gets eaten by a hunter bringing home food. Maybe it gets passed in a mosquito’s bite. Maybe it gets inhaled by a kid playing near a hollow tree.

However the pathogen arrives, its next job is to stick the landing, so to speak, warding off or evading the new body’s defenses long enough for it to replicate and put down roots.

All of this can be made easier for a pathogen by a simple thing: proximity.

The closer humans are to animals (we’re usually the provocateur), the greater the likelihood of interactions between them, and the greater the opportunity for zoonotic spillover.

“A numbers game”

The risk exists everywhere, but is especially high in the tropics where fast-growing human populations abut species-rich forests, says Christina Faust, an infectious disease ecologist at the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics at Penn State University.

“It’s a numbers game,” she says.

Unfortunately, the tropics also happen to be a hotbed of deforestation.

The world lost a soccer-field sized area of mature, tropical forest every six seconds last year, according to a recent report from the group Global Forest Watch.

Brazil alone accounted for more than one-third of the total loss, as wildfires and logging, largely to clear land for agriculture, tore through large patches of the Amazon.

This year is on pace to be worse. In the first four months deforestation in the Amazon was up 55 percent compared to last year, according to satellite data from Brazil’s space research agency.

The country’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, has pushed to weaken environmental protections to boost the country’s economy. Last month, his environment minister was reportedly caught on camera calling for more deregulation while the press was distracted with the coronavirus.

Faust has spent much of her career studying spillover between animals and humans, and trying to understand what drives those events. She says there’s a relationship between deforestation and the emergence of zoonotic disease, but it’s not entirely clear why.

“We don’t know if that’s because we’re losing biodiversity that would otherwise… help dilute that pathogen, or if it’s because we have more humans coming in to the area and doing risky behaviors,” she says.

Forests fragmented

The first theory — dilution — runs like this: If a bat sneezes in a forest rich with biodiversity, it’s more likely that the pathogens carried in that sneeze land on another animal rather than a human. But with the world in the middle of a mass extinction, because of human activities and climate change, increasingly, “There’s not much else out there to help pick up that pathogen,” Faust says.

The second theory got a boost from a recent study out of Stanford University, which found that forest fragmentation near Kibale National Park in Western Uganda created more pathways for human-animal interaction.

“By creating more pathways, you create more edges between human landscapes and forested landscapes,” says Laura Bloomfield, a PhD candidate at Stanford University and the study’s lead author.

Bloomfield found that changes to the landscape drove primates, which are known to carry a number of viruses, to come closer to humans to look for food. At the same time, impoverished people looked to the same places for resources to support their families.

The United Nations has expressed concern that the coronavirus pandemic could push hundreds of millions of people into poverty, driving migrations in some parts of the world from cities to more rural areas, like the kind Bloomfield studied in Uganda.

“The only social safety net they have is the waters, the land and the forest,” which they may cut down for food and fuel, Mette Wilkie of the U.N Food and Agriculture Organization told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

That may feel like a far away dilemma for people in more developed countries, but Bloomfield says the coronavirus pandemic has made clear that “human-animal interaction in one place can cause global devastation.”

“Poking a beehive”

Researchers say there are ways to limit the chances of that happening.

The world could work to limit climate warming greenhouse gas emissions, which are stressing ecosystems and driving extinction, changing the behaviors and range of wild animals.

It could maintain protected areas of habitat, and create buffer zones around them to limit the interactions between people and wildlife.

It could support people in high-risk areas to lessen their dependence on natural resources. Disease, Bloomfield says, is an equity issue.

And it could invest in robust monitoring systems, to identify infectious disease outbreaks before they become pandemics.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) launched a program after the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic to help detect viruses with pandemic potential and coordinate a global response. Funding for the program wasn’t renewed in 2019. It’s since been given two six-month extensions to help with COVID19, but that funding expires Sept. 30.

“There’s a lot of strain on governments right now, financially and politically,” says Amy Vittor, an assistant professor at the University of Florida’s Emerging Pathogens Institute, who’s documented links between deforestation and malaria outbreaks. “It’s a very difficult climate for people to actually come together and work on these kinds of international solutions.”

But she says action is needed because the warming climate and land-use changes are not slowing down. Every time humans alter the landscape, Vittor says, it’s kind of like poking a beehive.

“If we continue to poke the beehive in nature, we will continue to see these kinds of events occur.”

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Coronavirus, Politics And Police : NPR

A bartender wearing a face mask and gloves checks a patron’s ID at Under the Volcano in Houston, Texas, last month. Texas is one of the states seeing a big uptick in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.

Mark Felix/AFP via Getty Images


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A bartender wearing a face mask and gloves checks a patron’s ID at Under the Volcano in Houston, Texas, last month. Texas is one of the states seeing a big uptick in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.

Mark Felix/AFP via Getty Images

About 120,000 Americans have now died from the coronavirus.

While the national number of daily deaths has declined in recent weeks, new confirmed cases are on the rise in almost half the country, including spikes in Florida, Texas and Arizona, where the president is headed Tuesday.

“We saved millions of lives, and now it’s time to open up,” President Trump said definitively Saturday night during his campaign rally in Tulsa, Okla.

Trump’s referring to an earlier estimate that found there could be up to 2.2 million deaths if the country did nothing to contain the outbreak. But he spent months downplaying the virus when health experts were imploring more action sooner. And those experts are now warning it’s not time to act as if the pandemic is over.

“[T]hat’s why I think you’re seeing right now increases in a number of states, because everybody’s back to a pre-pandemic mindset,” Michael Osterholm, director for the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota and author of Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Killer Germs, said on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday. He warned that the coronavirus is like a “forest fire” that is showing no signs of slowing down.

Early on, the pandemic was largely affecting “blue,” or Democratic-leaning areas, especially New York, but now most new cases are in the South and redder parts of the country. The Trump administration and some Republican governors have been blaming increased testing for the rise in cases, but in many places cases are increasing more than testing — and that certainly doesn’t explain away rising hospitalizations in places like Texas.

The campaign of presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden is making competence a core part of its argument against Trump, and it hit him again for it because of other remarks he made Saturday night.

“When you do testing to that extent, you are gonna find more people, you’re gonna find more cases,” Trump said. “So I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down, please.’ They test and they test. We have tests that people don’t know what’s going on.”

The White House says he was being “tongue in cheek,” but Trump has repeatedly said testing makes the United States look bad by, in his view, increasing the number of reported cases. A Democratic group has already cut an ad centering on his remarks.

It will be key to watch political reaction on the right if cases and hospitalizations continue to rise in these parts of the country, as things like wearing masks — something the president initially encouraged Americans to do — have become politicized.

So far, though, Trump’s power of persuasion with his base continues to outweigh the coronavirus’s shift toward Red America.

5 things to watch this week

1. Possible progressive surge in elections: Five states hold primaries Tuesday — Kentucky, New York, North Carolina, Virginia and Mississippi.

State Rep. Charles Booker, pictured, faces Amy McGrath in the Kentucky U.S. Senate Democratic primary.

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State Rep. Charles Booker, pictured, faces Amy McGrath in the Kentucky U.S. Senate Democratic primary.

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In Kentucky, the race between the two Democrats vying for the right to take on Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is coming down to the wire. State Rep. Charles Booker has all the momentum and progressive backing over Amy McGrath, a retired Marine Corps fighter pilot who has all the money and the party endorsement, but also lost a congressional race in the 2018 Democratic wave.

Either faces in an uphill battle in a general election against McConnell in Kentucky, but a new video from Booker encapsulates a lot of the messages Democrats are trying to push nationally about working-class economics, protests and Black Lives Matter.

In New York, pay attention to progressives going after establishment Democrats, especially in the race between longtime Rep. Eliot Engel and Jamaal Bowman, a former Bronx principal who’s won the endorsements of Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Missteps from Engel, who last faced a competitive primary 20 years ago, opened the door for Bowman, who’s raised $2 million and is surging.

2. Battleground Arizona, Wisconsin: Speaking of elections, Trump heads to Yuma, Ariz., Tuesday to survey part of the border fence with Mexico before heading to Phoenix. Vice President Pence, meanwhile, will be in Wisconsin. It’s no coincidence that they’re heading to those places amid the president’s slipping poll numbers. Wisconsin and Arizona could very well be tipping-point states this November.

3. Hearing on DOJ independence Wednesday: Like something out of an episode of Showtime’s Billions, Attorney General William Barr announced the resignation of Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan last week. Problem: Berman, who has been investigating people close to Trump, said he didn’t resign. Barr later said in a statement that Berman had “chosen public spectacle over public service” and asked Trump to intervene and fire him. Trump did, but added, “[T]hat’s really up to him [Barr]. I’m not involved.”

And now Congress is involved to investigate it all.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., is promising to try and secure Berman’s testimony. “The whole thing smacks of corruption and incompetence, which is what we have come to expect from this President and his Attorney General,” Nadler said in a statement. Nadler was already slated to hold a meeting Wednesday with two whistleblowers on political interference at the Department of Justice.

4. Votes on police reform on Capitol Hill expected: The Senate will debate, and possibly vote on, police reform. There’s a key procedural vote scheduled for Wednesday. On Thursday, the House is expected to pass the Democratic police reform bill mostly along party lines. You wonder how many people are tuning into politics for the first time and watching the meat grinder of Congress work and what their impressions are — do they turn away, thinking politics is futile and not a great way to effect change, or does it make them more likely to vote?

5. Trump’s immigration executive order: Following his administration’s loss over the DACA program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, at the Supreme Court last week, President Trump is expected to sign an executive order suspending temporary work visas through the end of the year, NPR’s Franco Ordoñez reports. The suspensions are expected to include visas that affect skilled workers like in the tech industry (H-1B), executives at large corporations (L-1), season workers like hotel and construction workers (H-2B) and research scholars and professors (J-1).

Quote of the weekend

“I said, ‘General, there’s no way I can make it down that ramp without falling on my ass, general.’ ”

— Trump during his Tulsa rally Saturday, delivering a defense of his walking down a ramp at West Point. The president noted he had leather-soled shoes on and didn’t want to fall like former President Gerald Ford coming out of the airplane.

Trump went on a long tangent to discuss and, at times, reenact, his gingerly walking down the ramp and questions raised about his using a second hand to drink water. He said he didn’t want to get any on his tie. Philip Bump at The Washington Post found Trump spent one out of every eight minutes of his Tulsa speech talking about West Point, or 14 minutes and 53 seconds of a one-hour-and-43-minute speech.

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Despite dreamy polls, Dems can’t shake their 2016 nightmare

“I’m not confident at all. I think the easiest way to ensure Trump’s reelection is to be overconfident. Too many Democrats are looking at national polls and finding them encouraging,” said Sen. Chris Coons, (D-Del.), a close ally of Joe Biden. “Too many Democrats assumed that Hillary Clinton was a shoo-in and didn’t vote or didn’t work.”

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), who calls herself “Debbie Downer” for repeatedly raising the alarm in Democratic circles, said she heard directly from people in her district that they plan to vote for Trump in 2020.

“Everyone will roll their eyes and say, ‘that’s Debbie.’ But I was right in 2016,” Dingell said in an interview.

She was among the few Democrats to warn that Hillary Clinton was on track to lose Michigan: “Anybody who believes the polls right now is overconfident.”

That sentiment reflects how uncertain the arc of the Trump presidency really is. But it also illustrates how painful the past four years have been for the Democratic Party.

Apart from winning the House back in 2018 and saving Obamacare, there has been little good news. Democrats have been steamrolled on tax cuts and Supreme Court picks and they face a brutal deficit on lower-level courts. Their impeachment effort led to a near unanimous acquittal in the Senate by the GOP, empowering the president to oust witnesses who testified against him from their government posts. He’s acted with near impunity since.

Surveys are struggling to convey the extent of Trump’s support with his base: White voters without a college education. So to many Democrats, even if Biden were up 20 points in every state they would not acknowledge the forthcoming landslide.

Most polls during the 2016 contest showed Clinton handily beating Trump in Minnesota, for example. Ultimately, she won by barely more than a point and this year Trump is trying to move it to his column. Limited polls show Biden with a lead.

“In 2016 we thought for sure we were going to win in Minnesota. And Trump lost by only a point and a half,” said Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.), who is running for reelection this fall. Surveying the protests, pandemic and economic collapse, she expressed the uncertainty her party is facing: “We didn’t even know six months ago that any of this was going to happen. So, what’s going to happen over the next 20 weeks?”

Yet in interviews with more than a dozen Democratic senators, including many from swing states, there’s an emerging feeling that this moment is not like four years, ago when Trump shocked the world. Trump is doing worse in the polls, has a controversial record as president and is facing a more popular opponent in Biden than he did in Clinton.

Some Democrats are even envisioning a blowout where Trump loses not just in the states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin that won him the presidency, but in places like Iowa, Ohio, Florida and Arizona as well.

“We’re going to beat him in November, and I think we’re going to even beat him in Ohio. And Ohio will mean an Electoral College landslide,” argued Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who won reelection handily in 2018.

“People are worn out. They’re tired … people are really craving for changes and some normalcy,” said Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who squeaked out a reelection win two years ago. “And you’re seeing that frustration in the polls. So unless they change drastically, I think there will be a big change” at the White House.

Still, it’s impossible for some Democrats to fully accept what’s been a rolling wave of good political news over the past few weeks. For one, polls are merely snapshots in time, they say, and less than five months until Election Day offers plenty of time for those snapshots to change, particularly if the economy stabilizes and coronavirus is contained.

And Democrats are also gingerly surveying an upended landscape. This fall’s elections will be like nothing before, with some states mailing ballots to voters and others expected to see massive lines on Election Day.

Citing the uncertainty of coronavirus and turnout, Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said he has “a very tentative feeling about the polling under these circumstances.”

“With coronavirus and the upheaval in the politics of America, I think pollsters are really going to be tested this time,” he said. Of the election writ large he warned: “Anything can happen.”

So far, however, all the unexpected events of the past three months and Trump’s reaction have hampered his ability to make a comeback. The coronavirus has killed more than 100,000 Americans, surveys show voters disapprove of Trump’s handling of the pandemic and the nationwide protests over police killings of African Americans and the economy could take years to fully recover.

“The moment is so different,” argued Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who ran against Biden in the Democratic primary. “Of course, there’s always a way anybody can win any time. But I believe Vice President Biden is the exact right person for this moment.”

Republicans are offering Trump consolation and their own tips about why the polls shouldn’t be believed as well as why he can mount a winning campaign. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), who faces his own tough reelection race, said once Biden is forced back onto the trail then the “gap diminishes pretty quickly.”

Though Republicans narrowly outperformed the polls in 2018 and 2016 in Florida that resulted in integral statewide and federal office wins, Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) said he reminds Trump that surveys are often off by “4 to 7 points.”

“Considering the pandemic, the downturn in the economy and the demonstrations we’re having now … and he comes out 1 point ahead? I think it’s good news,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). “He carried Iowa last time by 9 points. He may not be doing that again. But he’s going to be reelected.”

If Iowa’s neck-and-neck race was a warning sign for Republicans, Michigan is an absolute siren for the GOP. But even there Democrats are refusing to declare an early victory.

“Michigan is always rough and tumble,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, where surveys have repeatedly shown Trump losing by double-digits. “I would never say never” for Trump.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that Democrats won’t fully concede that they and Biden are in the driver’s seat. Many felt that way four years ago and presumptuously began plotting out a Democratic agenda before Election Day.

So now, many Democrats say they shouldn’t take anything for granted. Not Trump being down in Arizona and Florida, not him lagging in the Midwest and not the Senate majority being in play.

“We have to work hard every single day until November,” Dingell said.

Sarah Ferris contributed to this report.

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Jerry Nadler Calls Every GOP Senator Who Voted To Acquit Trump Corrupt

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) said that every single Senate Republican who voted to acquit Trump corrupt.

The exchange between Nadler and Jake Tapper on CNN’s State Of The Union:

TAPPER: I know you announced you’re going to investigate why Berman was fired.

Some congressional Democrats, including Senator Elizabeth Warren, have said that this is it, this is the last straw, Attorney General Bill Barr needs to be impeached.

You have not gone that far. Do you think calls for his impeachment are premature?

Video of Nadler:

NADLER: No, I don’t think calls for his impeachment are immature — premature, any more than the calls for the president’s impeachment were premature.

But they are a waste of time at this point, because we do know that we have a corrupt Republican majority in the Senate which will not consider an impeachment, no matter what the evidence and no matter what the facts. So, we’re going to — we’re instead going to do what we have to do without that, and including barring $50 million from his own personal budget.

TAPPER: You’re calling every Senate Republican who voted to acquit President Trump corrupt?

NADLER: I think, in the sense of being corrupt against the interests of the country, yes.

Chairman Nadler was correct. Barr should be impeached, but impeaching him is pointless because Senate Republicans won’t listen to the evidence, and will do everything in their power to hold a sham trial.

The Senate Republican majority is corrupt. They are afraid to stand up to Trump and carry out their duties as a co-equal branch of government.

Mitch McConnell’s crew has consistently placed Trump ahead of the country, and that is why they are facing losing their majority in November.

For more discussion about this story join our Rachel Maddow and MSNBC group.

Follow Jason Easley on Facebook

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Tik Tok teens sabotaged Trump rally attendance

While the far left and their cohorts in the media were busy celebrating the fact that there were some empty seats in the BOK Center arena in Tulsa Saturday night, the instigator of an organized effort to sabotage attendance may surprise you. Those empty seats were meant as a political statement against President Trump, an action taken to embarrass him and his re-election campaign.

People like socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez are giddy with glee over the fact that so many young adults, teens, and political activists like those ex-Republican grifters who are leading the anti-Trump PAC, The Lincoln Project, pulled off a prank with the help of social media and the popularity of K-pop. The idea came from a grown woman, Mary Jo Laupp, a 51-year-old grandmother, living in Fort Dodge, Iowa. The former campaign worker on the Pete Buttigieg campaign used her Tik Tok account to put out the call – hey, kids, sign up for free tickets to the Trump rally in Tulsa. Laupp uses the excuse of her indignation that the President of the United States dares to come to Tulsa on Juneteenth. The date was changed but the plan was already underway by then.

The campaign offered two tickets for each cell phone request. By texting the campaign for tickets, the campaign gets the person’s contact information. So, Laupp tells the kids that they can stop Trump campaign texts that will come after their ticket requests are filled. Her hope was for the arena to be empty and the president standing on the stage all alone. Ms. Laupp has an active imagination, apparently.

@maryjolaupp

Did you know you can make sure there are empty seats at Trump’s rally? BLM.

♬ original sound – maryjolaupp

So, by now we know that the plan seems to have had some success. There were empty seats in the arena and that is unusual for a Trump rally. The empty seats may also be attributed to the fact that some Trump supporters may have changed their minds about attending, due to the coronavirus or other personal reasons. The arena holds 19,000 people.

In an interview with CNN last week, Laupp said her Tik Tok account, at the time she had 1,000 followers, blew up after she put the political call out. Normally Tik Tok is used for silly dance videos and pranks, not political messages. Lo and behold, Ms. Laupp works at a high school. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that she turned a silly app into political activism. I wonder if she knows she likely opened up the young people and others who participated in the sabotage to the Communist Chinese acquiring their contact information. Anything to own Trump, amirite?

Her idea prompted multiple other TikTok users to post similar videos calling on their followers to do the same — visit the website, register for the event, fail to show up.

One video, with more than a quarter of a million views, called on fans of South Korean pop music in particular to join the trolling campaign. Fans of the music, which is known as K-pop, are a force on social media — they posted over six billion tweets last year alone. And they have a history of taking action for social justice causes.

Earlier this month K-pop fans rallied around the Black Lives Matter movement, drowning out “White Lives Matter” and other anti-black hashtags. It is not clear if K-Pop fans have registered for the Trump Tulsa rally in big numbers.

The K-pop fans are being credited for the large number of young people participating, especially by the likes of AOC. The Tik Toks were often set to the Macarena with the kids doing the dance and showing ticket confirmations.

Trump supporters fired back to some of the culprits.

Even a CNN reporter had to admit it was still a pretty darn big crowd.

The Trump campaign argues against the left’s success.

“Leftists always fool themselves into thinking they’re being clever. Registering for a rally only means you’ve RSVPed with a cell phone number,” said Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh in a statement to Reuters. “But we thank them for their contact information.”

We know that Trump prides himself on his ability to draw very large crowds to his campaign rallies. In contrast to Joe Biden, there is no contest on that claim. Biden has a real enthusiasm deficit, despite his favorable polling at this point in the campaign. Trump’s supporters have remained loyal and enthusiastic about his re-election. Lower attendance than expected is given as the reason for an outdoor rally for the overflow crowd being canceled. Both Trump and Vice-President Pence were to have spoken to them. Parscale blamed agitators, anti-Trumpers disagreed.

Perhaps it was the “teens of America” who enjoyed participating in some easy political action against Trump that caused those empty seats in the arena. There is no way to know. What we do know, though, is that this is a bare-knuckles presidential campaign and there is good reason to believe that Trump is up to the fight. The media, bitter NeverTrumpers and the left are aligning to deliver the election to Joe Biden. That includes using teenagers who may not even be old enough to be registered to vote.

Today Brad Parscale released a statement addressing the gleeful reporters who never even bothered to ask the campaign for comments on the theory that online trolls hacked the event to affect attendance. He blames the over-the-top media coverage before the rally and safety concerns of families due to the possibility of violent protesters.

“Leftists and online trolls doing a victory lap, thinking they somehow impacted rally attendance, don’t know what they’re talking about or how our rallies work. Reporters who wrote gleefully about TikTok and K-Pop fans – without contacting the campaign for comment – behaved unprofessionally and were willing dupes to the charade. Registering for a rally means you’ve RSVPed with a cell phone number and we constantly weed out bogus numbers, as we did with tens of thousands at the Tulsa rally, in calculating our possible attendee pool. These phony ticket requests never factor into our thinking. What makes this lame attempt at hacking our events even more foolish is the fact that every rally is general admission – entry is on a first-come-first-served basis and prior registration is not required. The fact is that a week’s worth of the fake news media warning people away from the rally because of COVID and protestors, coupled with recent images of American cities on fire, had a real impact on people bringing their families and children to the rally. MSNBC was among outlets reporting that protesters even blocked entrances to the rally at times. For the media to now celebrate the fear that they helped create is disgusting, but typical. And it makes us wonder why we bother credentialing media for events when they don’t do their full jobs as professionals.”