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Mollie Hemingway: Media Has ‘Overstated Their Confidence’ In Mask-Wearing, Using It As ‘Political Cudgel’

Fox News contributor Mollie Hemingway cited the lack of concrete scientific evidence to support widespread mask-wearing to contend that the media has “overstated their confidence” in the practice and are using it as a “political cudgel” against skeptics.

Fox News anchor Howard Kurtz introduced the topic on Sunday morning’s “Media Buzz” by pointing out prominent Republicans who are now encouraging mask usage, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and former Vice President Dick Cheney.

“Why are the pundits so rankled that President Trump is not a leading proponent of mask-wearing?” Kurtz asked Hemingway.

WATCH:

“Right, the outrage and shame directed at skeptics of mask-wearing is excessive and almost certainly counterproductive,” Hemingway responded. “The CDC couches the evidence in support of widespread mask-wearing as undetermined.”

“It’s emerging they say but it’s undetermined,” she continued. “It’s totally fine for people to wear a mask and it might cause no problems, but I think the media have overstated their confidence based on this and just using it as a political cudgel. That’s not good to do in times of public health crises.” (RELATED: Rep. Andy Biggs And Neil Cavuto Duke It Out Over Masks: ‘If You Let Me Respond I Will Refute Every One Of Those Data Points’)

Medical professionals on both sides of the issue have voiced their opinions. Democratic New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy urged mandatory mask-wearing earlier Sunday.

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How Donald Trump Has Redefined Watergate

But the biggest differentiator? Trump fights, Nixon quit.

“He left. I don’t leave,” Trump said in early 2019. “Big difference. I don’t leave.”

The juxtaposition is striking to historians. “He compares himself to Nixon, but he does so with a guarded view of Nixon as a loser and Trump as a winner,” said Gerhardt. “Nixon gave up.”

To Trump, the Roy Cohn acolyte, giving up is anathema to his marketed personality. Can’t repay a loan? Countersue. Advisers telling you not to pull out the Iran nuclear deal? Do it anyway. Under pressure for touting hydroxychloroquine? Take it yourself.

Implicitly, however, Trump’s words also cast Nixon in a new light. Nixon is no longer a man whose corrupt behavior left him with no choice — resign or be fired. Instead, Trump frames Nixon as a man who prematurely walked off the battlefield.

“He’s trying to say, ‘Well Nixon just screwed up by getting caught,’” Dean said.

It’s an attitude, Gerhardt added, that pervades Trump’s entire team: “You can hear it in his lawyers’ arguments during the impeachment trial — and since.”

The consequence of a changing Watergate story

It’s been nearly five decades since the break-in at the Watergate that started it all.

The moment arguably seeded a shift in American culture. The short-term fall-out rattled society: a president resigned from office. The long-term fall-out reshaped America.

For years, post-Watergate cynicism instigated exhumations: How are elections financed? How do authorities spy on and investigate suspects? How does the government keep a check on its own malfeasance?

The answers, uncomfortable at times, spurred a “post-Watergate morality” era. Caps were placed on campaign contributions; limits were placed on government surveillance; transparency laws were strengthened; inspectors general were institutionalized; a new law codified how an independent counsel might investigate future presidents. Congress tried to rein in the president’s war powers and asserted its right to force the president to spend money it had approved.

“The greatest effect of Watergate was a string of reforms that gave more power to the Congress and took it away from what was seen to be a rampant executive,” said Farrell, Nixon’s biographer.

“You had this widespread feeling in the 1970s,” he added, “that really there was rot at the core of the apple.”

Elizabeth Holtzman, the New York Democrat who sat on the House Judiciary Committee during the Nixon impeachment investigation, authored a bill that formally established rules for appointing an independent counsel outside of the Justice Department.

“What we did in that legislation,” she said, “was to remove as much as we constitutionally could the attorney general from the prosecution, investigation of the president.”

Yoo and other conservatives saw a different outcome: a corruption of the traditional structure in which each branch — executive, legislative, judicial — checks the other branches. “Ambition would counteract ambition,” as Yoo said the founders intended.

In the decades since Watergate, many of the 1970s good-government statutes have been rolled back. The independent counsel statute expired in 1999. Court rulings eroded campaign financing restrictions. Surveillance soared after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Trump fired numerous inspectors general with no legal ramification. And when it came time to investigate Trump and his campaign, it was up to the attorney general to appoint a special counsel — exactly what Holtzman wanted to avoid.

“If you forget history, you pay a terrible price,” she said.

Inevitably, though, the years make Watergate’s lessons distant. The fault-lines become muddied. The story we tell ourselves is fuzzier. U.S. history textbooks are vague about the details.

“Watergate as the great right-and-wrong drama of one generation’s time I think has faded,” Farrell said.

And Trump can exploit that.

“Does our pretty primitive grasp of history allow manipulation of that history? Yes, it absolutely does,” said Michael Schudson, a Columbia Journalism School professor who wrote a 1992 book, “Watergate in American Memory.”

Trump, his lawyers and his supporters don’t even have to tell their own clear story about Watergate to have an impact. The insinuations that Nixon “may” have been guilty, or that Nixon only left office because he chose to quit, “injects this element of doubt,” said Matthew Dallek, the political historian, spurring suspicions “that there are conspiracies everywhere to take powerful people down.” That’s a narrative Trump eagerly flames when confronted with many allegations — from charges of sexual assault to criticism of his coronavirus response.

And if everything is “worse than Watergate,” Watergate becomes run-of-the-mill political intrigue, not the archetype of presidential corruption. It creates, Dallek said, “a kind of numbing effect.” A numbing effect Trump can use to normalize his own behavior, his critics argue.

“Truth doesn’t matter, what matters is the narrative,” Gerhardt said. “It’s much more important what people believe than what they know.”

A changing Watergate narrative creates opportunities. Opportunities for lawyers to challenge Watergate’s legal principles, as Trump’s lawyers have done, arguing the president doesn’t have to respond to subpoenas or submit to investigations. Opportunities for a president to morph already eroding post-Watergate norms, as Trump has done, attempting to bypass Congress on funding for a border wall, opining about DOJ cases involving his allies, authorizing the assassination of an Iranian commander without telling Congress.

And on and on and on.

The future Watergate story

Trump will not be president forever. His take on Watergate will recede.

Then what?

Those on the frontlines of Watergate insist the event has durability. Decades later, Nixon’s misdeeds are not factually in dispute, the loosening of post-Watergate oversight laws is not permanent, the famous court rulings of the era have been challenged but not completely upended.

If anything, they argue Trump’s time in office has spurred renewed interest in the kinds of anti-corruption laws that were passed after Watergate. They see a future that includes a resurgent Congress passing bills to prohibit some of Trump’s actions — punishing inspectors general, redirecting congressionally approved funds — the way a post-Watergate Congress moved to forbid some of Nixon’s behavior.

“He’s going to weaken the presidency,” Dean said, “not strengthen it.”

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Wisconsin’s Supreme Court Won’t Rule on a Potential Voter Purge Until September

The Washington PostGetty Images

And speaking of elections, and the consequences thereof, the Wisconsin state supreme court has seen its customary monkey mischief monkey-wrenched, which is all for the good. When last we looked in on this pack of vandals, they were forcing an in-person primary vote in the middle of a pandemic. This tactic backfired when the voters of Wisconsin risked their alveoli and swamped the Republican incumbent justice who was up for re-election. (Here is where I mention again that an elected judiciary is the second-worst idea in American politics.) This was a triumph for democracy that shouldn’t have been necessary in the first place.

Now, with yet another election to fck up looming in front of them, that election already seems to be having an effect. Several of the state’s prominent conservative organizations appealed to the court to expedite a ruling on a voter-purge law that could remove 100,000 names from the Wisconsin rolls. They wanted the decision handed down before the November election. By a 5-2 vote, the court declined to do so. It will take up the case on its regular calendar in September, which makes it unlikely that a decision will be handed down before election day. This also means that the court will take up the case after newly elected Democratic Justice Jill Karofsky has replaced conservative Daniel Kelly, narrowing the court’s Republican majority to 4-3. This also has inconvenienced the local conservative faithful. From the Wisconsin State Journal:

Justice Rebecca Bradley, who voted in dissent along with fellow conservative Justice Daniel Kelly, said the court’s order Tuesday likely means a ruling will not be made until next year. “Under this court’s typical briefing and oral argument schedule, the people of Wisconsin would most likely not receive a decision in this case until after every single one of Wisconsin’s 2020 elections has come and gone,” Bradley wrote. “The majority’s unusual order delaying oral argument in this case until at least September 29, 2020, renders a timely decision impossible.”

milwaukee, wi  april 7 a line to vote in wisconsins spring primary election wraps around for blocks and blocks on tuesday, april 7, 2020 at riverside high school in milwaukee, wi photo by sara stathas for the washington post

A line to vote in Wisconsins spring primary election wraps around for blocks and blocks on Tuesday, April 7, 2020.

The Washington PostGetty Images

But Justice Bradley need not entirely despair. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has her back. In a spectacular bit of judicial activism, and after three years of pondering the question, the Seventh Circuit this week upheld changes in the Wisconsin voting laws, including restrictions on early voting, a mechanism that is now all the more vital for the public health during the pandemic than it was when the law was passed. The majority opinion by Judge Frank Easterbrook takes the Supreme Court’s decision in the Rucho case and expands that finding into Huey Long territory. (In Rucho, the Supreme Court took itself out of the question of the constitutionality of purely partisan gerrymandering.) Quite simply, Easterbrook ruled that the franchise should be utterly at the mercy of whoever happens to be in the legislative majority at the time.

“If one party can make changes that it believes help its candidates, the other can restore the original rules or revise the new ones. The process does not include a constitutional ratchet.”

This, of course, turns the franchise into a political volleyball and injects an unnecessary element of uncertainty into the simplest act a citizen can carry out in a democratic republic. Moreover, Easterbrook simply hand-waves the notion that, possibly, laws meant to suppress Democratic votes may well be de facto racially discriminatory.

“The record does not show that legislators made any of the changes because Democratic voters are more likely to be black (or because black voters are more likely to support Democrats). The changes were made because of politics.”

From this, the detached observer can only conclude that Judge Easterbrook resides on Neptune.

It is clear that the pandemic is going to require serious adjustments to how we vote in November. It is also clear that our current system makes those adjustments prone to drunk-McGyver improv that is likely to come apart at the seams. It is also clear that the president* and his campaign are fully prepared to use a chaotic system to create more chaos and claim without foundation that he has been cheated out of re-election. Expanded early voting and expanded vote-by-mail are logical steps to ensure that the franchise is fairly carried out here in our time of social distancing.

But, unless the media does a helluva job explaining why that is, they’re also measures that are easily demagogued. Hell, there’s already some howling on the progressive left that Charles Booker may have been euchred out of the Democratic senatorial nomination in Kentucky because Amy McGrath’s win was secured by counting mailed-in ballots over the week following the primary. And that’s a pillow fight compared to what the president*’s people can muster up.

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Susan Rice defends her qualifications to be Biden’s VP

Former White House national security adviser Susan Rice on Sunday defended her qualifications to become presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s running mate, arguing she had accumulated substantial campaign experience despite never having held elected office.

The remarks from Rice, Biden’s former Obama administration colleague, came on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” after host Andrea Mitchell asked her how Americans should feel about potentially supporting a vice presidential candidate with no background in electoral politics who had not previously run a national campaign.

“Well, Andrea, let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, right?” Rice replied. “Joe Biden needs to make the decision as to who he thinks will be his best running mate. And I will do my utmost, drawing on my experience of years in government, years of making the bureaucracy work.”

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Duckworth declines to say Biden should select Black woman as running mate

Pressed further by host Dana Bash on whether Biden needs to choose a Black woman as his vice presidential nominee, Duckworth again did not offer a definitive response, instead arguing that he “needs to make his own mind and will make his own mind.”

“I don’t think it’s on any of us to dictate to him. He knows best who he needs as a vice president, who can help him connect with the American people, who can help him overcome the crises that we’re operating under right now,” Duckworth said, adding: “There’s a lot of problems that Donald Trump is leaving and Joe Biden’s going to have to clean up, and he’ll pick the right person to help him to do that.”

Biden previously revealed during a primary debate in March that he would select a female running mate, and nationwide protests against racial injustice and police brutality have heightened pressure on his campaign to pick a woman of color for the position.

Duckworth, a Thai American woman and an Iraq War combat veteran who had both of her legs amputated after her helicopter was hit with a grenade in 2004, has seen her veepstakes stock rise in recent weeks, and has reportedly been asked to submit documents to the Biden campaign for vetting.

Other women speculated to be among the campaign’s top candidates for the vice presidential slot include California Sen. Kamala Harris, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former White House national security adviser Susan Rice, Florida Rep. Val Demings, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and a handful of others.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a former Democratic primary rival of Biden’s who was perceived to be in contention, withdrew her name from consideration last month, asserting that the campaign should select a woman of color.

Biden said last week he will make his final decision in “early August” ahead of the Democratic National Convention, which is set to take place in Milwaukee from Aug. 17-20.

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What Happens When Politics Goes Viral?

Don’t count out the Falstaffian Trump until this fall.

I realized that the shutdown had finally gotten to me on Friday, May 23. Castaways on desert islands dream about food and drink. On May 23, when I woke abruptly at three in the morning, I was dreaming about getting my hair cut in a barbershop. Sigmund Freud would probably have called it a tonsorial wet dream.

To me it was an annoying reminder of how easily people can be stampeded—and their lives and livelihoods disrupted—when politics literally goes viral. The original argument for drastic shutdown measures was that, based on purely theoretical number-crunching, only a shutdown could prevent our hospital system from collapsing and millions of Americans dying needlessly. The projections proved false. But by that time the shutdown crowd had come up with an alternative rationale for cutting off oxygen to the economy.

The hard numbers showed that the overwhelming majority of those suffering serious consequences from the virus were the (often ailing) elderly and others with pre-existing health problems, e.g. heart disease, respiratory conditions, diabetes, and compromised immune systems. But instead of concentrating on protectingand if necessary, isolatingthe relatively small segment of the population at serious risk, the mainstream media and the liberal political establishment converted a dubious short-term shutdown measure into an open-ended, economically crippling embargo on many aspects of normal human behavior. Scare predictions dominated the headlines. When they failed to materialize, they were replaced by new scare projections that also proved false. Meanwhile, millions of people lost their jobs, family, community, and social life were suppressed, and many small businesses closed their doors forever.

Obviously, those who led the charge to shut down America have a vested interest in trying to discredit anyone who pointed out how wrong they were. Ironically, they will try to exploit the very economic suffering they brought on to scapegoat their opponents. Some of the punditsincluding a few I ordinarily agree withare predicting that, because of this, the ultimate virus victim could be the Trump presidency.

I’m not so sure. This election is far from settled. Both presumptive nominees are almost grotesquely flawed. The outcome will hinge on which of the two seems most glaringly out of sync with reality and voter concerns this fall when ordinary Americans start focusing on the election. The presidential debates could be a major game changer in 2020 just as they were in 2016 when a supposedly more qualified, experienced Democratic contender with overwhelming support from the mainstream media was expected to trounce Trump. 

Against expectations, Trump won the debates and then the election.

Of course, Joe Biden’s handlerskeepers might be a better wordmay decide to lock him in the basement and forego debates. But that would be the ultimate acknowledgment that goofy old Uncle Joe isn’t up to the job of a few hours on camera with the Donald, much less four years as commander-in-chief. Assuming there are debates, don’t expect many edifying moments. We’re not dealing with Towering Titans here; sad to say, it’s more a case of Dueling Dorks. But Donald Trump is likely to think quicker, respond faster, and land more successful punches than Joe Biden. Trump’s brash, louche, but energized Falstaff should take out Biden’s deluded, babbling King Lear, probably with a TKO.

Much, of course, will depend on what’s happeningand how the voters perceive itthis autumn. If confidence and the economy are both trending upward and most of the country is back to work, Trump will enter the last lap of the race as successful, a president on the rebound in a country on the rebound.

Another irony: the liberal media establishment, arm-in-arm with Pelosi and company, could actually contribute to the rise in Trump’s standing as their repeated, hysterical attacks seem more and more detached from reality. Voters are unlikely to forgetand Trump will keep reminding themthat the Donald was pushing to get America back on its feet while his opponents were demanding that we stay locked in, unemployed, and out of toilet paper.

Of course, none of this is a sure thing. On the debit side, as some intelligent observers have pointed out, Donald Trump is now at the head of the government he ran against as an insurgent outsider four years ago. Another significant difference between then and now is that in 2016 he enjoyed the priceless advantage of having Hillary Clinton as his opponent. Joe Biden, who already had a long history of lying and flip-flopping before he started losing his marbles, may be a pathetic old hack, but he isn’t loathed by as many voters of both parties as Hillary was. This is another reason why so much may hinge on the debates, when voters will have a chance to see two highly flawed contenders interacting face-to-face for the first time.

Anything could happen, but if I had to bet on the outcome today, I’d probably put my money on Falstaff.

Aram Bakshian Jr. is a former aide to presidents Nixon, Ford, and Reagan. His writings on politics, history, gastronomy, and the arts have been widely published in the United States and abroad.

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Donald Trump’s shrinking electoral map

The most telling sign of Trump’s defensive posture is his recent mammoth TV ad buys. The campaign is spending big to retain states he won in 2016 and to shore up support in places a Republican should already dominate in, like Georgia or Florida’s Panhandle.

Publicly, the Trump campaign asserts their candidate is still competitive in each of the 30 states he carried in 2016. They say presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden faces an enthusiasm deficit among his party’s likeliest voters and that public polling — much of which has shown the president trailing far behind Biden nationally, and more narrowly in battleground states — does not jibe with their own internal numbers.

“President Trump plans on winning every state that he did in 2016, plus picking up others. We’re in a great position to be on offense and would rather be in our shoes than in Joe Biden’s,” said senior adviser Jason Miller.

But privately, campaign aides, senior administration officials and GOP donors have begun to acknowledge what they call a more plausible scenario: a pair of losses in the Rust Belt, most likely Michigan and Wisconsin. That would mean the president has to win some proven Trump-averse states to crack the 270-vote threshold needed to clinch a second term.

Gone are the days of forecasting a landslide victory, said one person close to the Trump campaign. The president’s team is now recasting its expectations to identify not where Trump can win more, but how he can lose less.

“We don’t need 306. We just need 270. We can lose Michigan and lose Pennsylvania and still win,” said a top Trump adviser, noting that a win in New Hampshire, combined with one in Nevada or New Mexico, would provide enough Electoral College support to prevent defeat even if Biden wins big in the industrial Midwest.

That strategy accounts for a base of 260 electoral votes, a sum of every state Trump carried four years ago minus Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, which total a combined 46 Electoral College votes. To ensure its effectiveness, the campaign has recently moved to shore up its base states, including North Carolina, Georgia, Arizona and Iowa. The president’s standing among independents and seniors has eroded in those places amid his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, economic slowdown and unrest spurred by the killing of George Floyd.

A fall advertisement blitz reserved by the Trump campaign last week reflected the campaign’s efforts to solidify states he carried four years ago. On Monday, the campaign dropped $95 million on broadcast TV ads that will air from early September until Election Day in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. A second purchase set to bring the campaign’s total ad spending this week to $188 million is expected to include Michigan, New Mexico and Iowa.

Both Florida and Ohio, the latter of which Trump won handily in 2016, recently reentered swing state territory, a development that has troubled Trump allies who previously viewed them as easy wins. Trump’s ads in Georgia and Arizona — reliably red states in 2016 — indicate that his team sees Biden as a threat in the Sun Belt.

“We’re shoring up the base of our house to build to 270. We need to solidify them the best we can, with Florida being the linchpin of all of it,” said the top Trump adviser, who added that Iowa and Ohio are “closer than we want at this juncture.”

The campaign’s latest ad buy also included a nearly $10,000 investment in the Atlanta market. That worried one GOP operative who said the campaign’s ground operation in the state, which is run by the Trump Victory Team, “has been begging for direction from the campaign or Republican National Committee for several months to no avail.”

The last time Georgia broke for the Democratic presidential nominee was in 1976, but a recent poll by Fox News both showed Biden with a narrow lead.

Biden is spending far less on advertising. He is on air only in the six battlegrounds Trump won in 2016: Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Arizona.

Biden leads Trump in all of those states, according to Real Clear Politics polling averages, which also show the Democrat ahead of Trump in the four states Trump campaign officials have eyed as potential pick-ups: New Mexico, New Hampshire, Minnesota and New Hampshire.

Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale has previously claimed the president’s policy agenda is capable of attracting Latino voters in states like New Mexico, which has voted blue in every presidential cycle since 1992 and currently boasts an all-Democratic congressional delegation.

“Let’s go straight into Albuquerque,” Parscale told Trump at one point last summer, as previously reported by POLITICO. The campaign eventually held a rally in the Albuquerque suburbs last September.

Now it’s Biden’s campaign that’s swaggering.

“We’re playing offense, buying programs like daytime Fox News and NASCAR to get in front of a large volume of Obama/Trump voters,” Biden’s campaign said in an internal memo obtained by POLITICO that outlines their ad buys.

Biden’s current five-week, $15 million TV buy is scheduled to be burned up by the end of next week, according to the Democrat’s campaign. So far, he has spent and reserved about half of that amount, according to the tracking firm Advertising Analytics.

Biden’s campaign is zeroing in on the one swing state Trump can’t afford to lose: his newly adopted home state of Florida. The Trump campaign placed a massive $32 million fall ad buy this week. Other media buys by the Trump campaign have underscored Biden’s reason to go after Panhandle voters: the campaign last month spent $205,000 in the Pensacola television market, which shares viewers with Mobile, Ala. — conservative bastions where Republican campaigns seldom feel the need to get on air five months before Election Day.

“Right from the get-go we’re establishing a presence in the Tampa, Orlando, and Jacksonville markets,” the memo stated, promising a “strong presence in the Panhandle to get in front of white working-class voters who moved from Obama in ‘12 to Trump in ’16.”

In a sign of Trump’s Florida struggles, the president on Thursday brought back his former Florida campaign fixer Susie Wiles, who had been chased out by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for unknown reasons in September. At the time of her ouster, a top Trump advisor predicted to POLITICO she would return if Trump found himself in trouble.

With the November showdown between Trump and Biden still four months away, the president’s campaign maintains that voters — particularly in tougher Midwest battlegrounds — will break his way closer to the election.

“For us, Michigan was a late-term play last time,” said the person close to the Trump campaign, who was also involved in the president’s 2016 effort. “And I suspect that’s what will happen this time around.”

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Trump wants a park for statues of ‘American heroes.’ Just how might that work?

“These statues are not ours alone, to be discarded at the whim of those inflamed by fashionable political passions; they belong to generations that have come before us and to generations yet unborn,” Trump’s executive order reads, an opinion he drove home repeatedly at his South Dakota rally and in the weeks preceding it, and in an address from the White House’s South Lawn on Saturday.

The executive order to establish the park, which had not been announced beforehand, sets the stage for what could be a heated debate over which prominent American figures make it in. The order proposes statues of 28 Americans, among them John Adams, Susan B. Anthony, Davy Crockett, Frederick Douglass, Amelia Earhart, Billy Graham, Martin Luther King, Jr., Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, Jackie Robinson, Harriet Tubman and George Washington.

The executive order also floats for inclusion Christopher Columbus and Junipero Serra, two Europeans immortalized in U.S. history for their roles in the colonization of North America but whose involvement in the deaths and enslavement of Native Americans has for years come under intense scrutiny. Protesters have toppled statues of both figures in recent weeks.

In response to the destruction of memorials nationwide, the president has called for a decade in prison for protesters who damage federal monuments, and has threatened to cut federal funding to cities who don’t protect statues. Those same prioritized prosecutorial actions would also be used to protect Trump’s statues garden, the president conspicuously states in his executive order.

In perhaps another wink to the president’s supporters — or “my people” as Trump refers to them — the order states of the figures to be included: “None will have lived perfect lives, but all will be worth honoring, remembering, and studying.”

Trump in recent weeks has stood firmly opposed to the removal of monuments to historical figures whose connections to slavery, colonialism or racist policies. Infamously, Trump blamed “both sides” for deadly violence perpetrated by white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Va., in August 2017, following plans to remove a statue of Confederate commander Gen. Robert E. Lee from a park.

The president’s words sparked a nationwide outcry and rare criticism from within his own party.

Trump’s order may fuel further conflict in Congress, which would likely have to provide funding for any national monument garden.

“To the extent that Congress even wants to engage is likely to be extremely contentious,” said Carl Tobias, the Williams Professor of Law at the University of Richmond, who added that Trump will likely to need support from Congress to fund the monuments with an appropriations bill.

Congress has also recently seen its own debate over Confederate statues play out after Speaker Nancy Pelosi in June called for the removal of nearly a dozen such statues scattered throughout the Capitol building. A day later, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the statue placements were up to the states, which each get two allocations.

Immediate congressional reaction to Trump’s executive order was muted.

On Wednesday, Trump dangled the possibility of a veto to any defense bill that scrubs the names of Confederate figures from military bases, tweeting that the names have become part of a “Great American Heritage.”

In his Mount Rushmore speech, he ripped the national conversations on revered American figures who owned slaves or advocated for racist policies as a “left-wing cultural revolution [that] is designed to overthrow the American Revolution.”

“The radical view of American history is a web of lies — all perspective is removed, every virtue is obscured, every motive is twisted, every fact is distorted, and every flaw is magnified until the history is purged and the record is disfigured beyond all recognition,” Trump said Friday.

The executive order establishes a task force for the project, which will be chaired by the Secretary of the Interior. If all goes according to Trump’s plan — and there are no guarantees it will — the garden will be open by July 4, 2026.

In the short term, it signals no end to a divisive, wedge issue the president believes he can use to his advantage as he heads into the final stretch of his re-election campaign behind in the polls.