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If you dare to defend your home from the mob, your guns will be confiscated

Fox News reported on Friday that the Missouri couple who dared to defend their home from protesters had their home searched by police and their rifle taken away from them.

During the search, police seized the rifle that Mark McCloskey was shown holding during the June 28 incident, KSDK-TV of St. Louis reported.

In the June incident, Patricia McCloskey said, the couple was startled just before dinnertime when “300 to 500 people” entered the gated community where they live.

“[They said] that they were going to kill us,” Patricia McCloskey told Hannity on Monday night. “They were going to come in there. They were going to burn down the house. They were going to be living in our house after I was dead, and they were pointing to different rooms and said, ‘That’s going to be my bedroom and that’s going to be the living room and I’m going to be taking a shower in that room’.””

Click here for full story on Fox News.


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C’mon, let’s take out Mitch McConnell in November

I won’t be participating in the effort but I think it’s a fine idea to start the post-election party bloodletting early. Until something changes meaningfully about the pandemic and/or Trump’s approach to it, there’s nothing to say about November. Trump’s on track to lose, probably badly. And if he does, there’ll be an unholy cyclone of recriminations followed by a power struggle over what a post-Trump GOP should look like.

Why wait? Start the purges now.

Coulter’s effort is actually a counter-purge. McConnell’s the one trying to purge Kris Kobach by spending big money against him in the Kansas Senate primary. He tried to recruit Kansas native Mike Pompeo to run for that seat but Pompeo ended up passing. Kobach is the biggest name left in the field, with his only real competition coming from GOP Rep. Roger Marshall. Cocaine Mitch has at least three reasons to dislike him. One is that Kobach’s a populist, a stalwart border hawk who wasn’t above taking a sustained interest in Barack Obama’s birth certificate back in the day. People like that aren’t as easily controlled by McConnell inside the caucus as establishmentarians are.

Two is that Kobach’s proved he’s capable of losing a big statewide race against a Democrat, falling five points short in the gubernatorial election in 2018 — in Kansas. He’s not Roy Moore but he’s Moore-ish in the sense that he seems to have already alienated enough of his state’s Republican majority to make what should be an easy victory in a red state needlessly competitive.

Three is that McConnell knows what the GOP is up against this fall. Even Kansas isn’t safe from turning blue if you believe Republican internal polling. Kobach is an especially risky choice in a climate like that. The GOP may still have a modicum of influence over the Senate next year if Democrats end up with a narrow majority since centrists like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema will be wary of left-wing policy programs, but every seat that’s added to Schumer’s margin gives a would-be President Biden more room for defections.

So … why not turn Kentucky blue too by electing Democrat Amy McGrath and let ’em go hog wild?

Three million dollars is a big ad buy in a rural state like Kansas:

After CNN reported on the effort Monday night, [Plains PAC] publicly announced its plans on Tuesday morning, attacking Kobach’s record and saying his loss in the 2018 gubernatorial race means he can’t win a Senate race in November. The group said it will launch a multimedia campaign — worth $3 million — with its first ad emphasizing Kobach’s “ties to white nationalists.”

“Kris Kobach gave Kansans the most liberal governor in our history,” Plains PAC Executive Director CJ Grover said in a statement. “Kansas Republicans support President Trump and his positive vision for America, but not Kobach’s consistent affiliation with a toxic ideology explicitly rejected by the President and Kansans of all stripes. Plains PAC’s mission is to remind primary voters why a vote for Kobach is too big a risk for our future.”…

The group’s media buyer, Mentzer Media Services, has worked on behalf of Republicans, including Senate candidates and the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC affiliated with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

Kobach’s campaign called the “white nationalist” charge garbage, stressing that they immediately severed ties with an independent contractor when they found out he held those views.

Coulter’s probably right that the only way to teach establishment dark-money groups to stay out of primaries is to take a scalp from one of their heroes. If McConnell gets to scalp-hunt, populists get to scalp-hunt too. An obvious distinction is that Plains PAC is hunting in a primary whereas Coulter’s going nuclear by hunting in a general election, with a Democrat the direct beneficiary of the “Stop Mitch” push. But a Democrat will benefit indirectly in Kansas from the PAC’s gambit against Kobach if he emerges as the nominee anyway, since the “white nationalist” stuff might stick to him in the general election campaign. And if the attacks on him work and Marshall ends up winning the primary, it’s an open question how many disgruntled Kobach fans will turn out for Marshall in the fall after their guy was savaged. Seems like a clusterfark in the making no matter what happens, which is very on-brand for the GOP in 2020.

As for Trump, he’s been quiet about this race as far as I’m aware. No doubt he’d prefer Kobach over Marshall, but (a) he’s probably spooked by Kobach’s dismal showing in 2018 and doesn’t want to gamble any of his own political cred on him and (b) McConnell’s doubtless begging him to hold off on endorsing, knowing that Trump declaring his support for Kobach might decide the primary. If anything, Mitch probably has Trump lined up to campaign for Marshall in case he defeats Kobach, as maybe only POTUS has the juice to convince Kobach voters not to hold a grudge against the nominee.

Given the way things are going for Trump right now, I wonder if Marshall would even want that endorsement. Better to keep his distance, run his own race, and trust that Kansas Republicans who turn out for Trump against Biden will pull the lever for him too, however reluctantly.

Anyway, before the purges begin, I think it’s heartwarming that ardent populists like Coulter are capable of aligning with ardent anti-Trumpers like the folks at the Lincoln Project (George Conway, Rick Wilson) in a common cause. The LP is trying to sink McConnell and other Republican senators as punishment for their years of loyalty to the president. Now here’s Coulter trying to sink McConnell as punishment for his years of machinations against populists. Together, the sky’s the limit on the number of red Senate seats these two rascally factions might potentially flip this fall. Two ads here for your enjoyment. Our unity is our strength.


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Mitt Romney Calls Roger Stone’s Commutation ‘Historic, Unprecedented Corruption’ : NPR

Roger Stone, seen here leaving a federal courthouse earlier this year in Washington, D.C., will not have to serve his three-year prison sentence for lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstruction of justice.

Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images


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Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

Roger Stone, seen here leaving a federal courthouse earlier this year in Washington, D.C., will not have to serve his three-year prison sentence for lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstruction of justice.

Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

Democrats have had no shortage of descriptors for President Trump’s decision to commute Roger Stone’s prison sentence. Since Trump granted clemency to his longtime confidant Friday night, Democratic lawmakers have described it as “appalling,” “despicable,” an abuse of power and a “mockery of our democracy.”

Yet some harsh words Saturday came from a voice within his own party as well.

“An American president commutes the sentence of a person convicted by a jury of lying to shield that very president,” Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, tweeted Saturday morning, describing the move as “unprecedented, historic corruption.”

The comments come less than a day after Stone received his reprieve from the White House. That call came down Friday night, when Trump abruptly relieved his close adviser of his 40-month prison sentence for lying to Congress, obstructing its investigation and witness tampering.

A jury last fall found that Stone supplied lawmakers with false statements during their probe into the 2016 presidential election, in an effort to cover up his outreach to WikiLeaks. The group had obtained — and eventually released — thousands of hacked Democratic emails.

In February, Stone received a lighter sentence than he could have gotten — but that did not satisfy the president, a longtime friend of the GOP political operative.

“Roger Stone was targeted by an illegal Witch Hunt that never should have taken place,” the president tweeted Saturday.

As of midday Saturday, Romney was the only prominent Republican to break with the president. It’s not his first time doing so. The senator has repeatedly clashed with the president and delivered the lone GOP vote for Trump’s conviction in his impeachment trial.

Other Republicans either have expressed their firm support — as Sen. Lindsey Graham and Rep. Jim Jordan have — or have kept silent.

Democrats, however, have felt no such hesitation commenting on Stone’s commutation. Among the dozens of Democrats to join the chorus of criticism were three high-profile members of the party: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and former Vice President Joe Biden, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee.

“President Trump has once again abused his power, releasing this commutation on a Friday night, hoping to yet again avoid scrutiny as he lays waste to the norms and the values that make our country a shining beacon to the rest of the world,” the Biden campaign said in a statement released shortly after the commutation.

“He will only be stopped when Americans make their voice heard at the ballot box this fall. Enough.”

Pelosi vowed that “Congress will take action.” In a statement Saturday, she called for the introduction of legislation “to ensure that no President can pardon or commute the sentence of an individual who is engaged in a cover-up campaign to shield that President from criminal prosecution.”

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Second stimulus check: GOP senators not ready to commit to direct payments

WASHINGTON — While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said the Senate will discuss a second stimulus package and President Donald Trump has vowed it will happen “soon,” it remains unclear whether a direct payment or check will be part of that process.

Democrats are urging for another round of money to be sent to Americans while Republicans aren’t ready to commit to the idea.

Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, says we should get a little more clarity on the new stimulus package when Congress returns to Washington after the current recess.

“What the components of it are, I can’t tell you completely because there’s been a lot of work behind the scenes on various ideas. We know that a direct payment to individuals was done initially because they needed some financial help,” said Cornyn.

The senior senator went on to note that expanded unemployment insurance and the Paycheck Protection Program included in the first stimulus package seemed to work well.

“There are other parts of it that I think we may need to reprogram…some of the money we’ve already appropriated to put it in other places,” added Cornyn.

Republican Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana offered a similar perspective, saying, “If you put a gun to my head and said, ‘Tell me what’s going to happen, give me your best guess,’ I’d have to tell you honestly, I don’t know.”

Kennedy acknowledged senators would examine another direct payment but did not directly endorse it.

Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio spoke with WKBN-TV in Youngstown twice this week about supporting another round of stimulus, but the Republican never mentioned the possibility of direct payments. Instead, he focused on helping the unemployed and providing tax-relief incentives for companies and businesses that take measures to safely reopen.

Where we stand

McConnell has said lawmakers will begin discussing a stimulus package following the current two-week congressional recess. During a Monday event in Kentucky, McConnell noted a stimulus check could be included in the package — and it might be targeted to those hardest hit, according to The Washington Post.

On Thursday morning, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he was hopeful stimulus legislation could be passed by the end of July. That seems to echo Trump, who said earlier this week that the next round of checks would be coming sooner than later.

“We are working on another stimulus package, and that will take place … very soon,” Trump told Jessi Turnure, a reporter for the Nexstar Washington, D.C., Bureau.

Trump said his administration and Congress are currently negotiating the exact amount included in the next round of coronavirus relief.

Congress and the Senate will recess until July 20. It’s unlikely the Senate will consider any additional relief packages before that time.

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Donald Trump chooses distraction politics over leadership

In thumbing his nose at justice — intervening on behalf of a former political adviser who was convicted of crimes that included lying to Congress in part, prosecutors said, to protect the President — Trump continued turning a blind eye to the Americans for whom coronavirus has actually been a death sentence.

At a time when his poll numbers are sinking, the President has refused to take on a greater leadership role to beat back the virus. Instead, he seems caught in a cycle of anger and self-pity about ancillary issues that he believes are more important to his political fortunes.

The gulf between reality and the President’s delusion was in sharp relief during his visit to Florida, where cases are up 1,237% since the state’s reopening in early May. After touching down in a county where the rate of positive cases hit 28% on Friday, Trump focused on issues that are far from the pressing concerns of most Americans, underscoring once again that he has no strategy for confronting the virus that has infected more than 3 million Americans.

The President visited Southern Command to discuss drug trafficking prevention efforts and held a roundtable with dissidents who decried communist and socialist regimes in Latin America, which at times sounded like a campaign spectacle meant to praise the President and attack former Vice President Joe Biden and the Democrats.

The day’s political pettiness — which included more false tweets about mail-in ballots being tied to fraud — was capped off with Stone being spared from serving prison time.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany described Stone’s prosecution, arrest and trial as “unfair” in a statement Friday night and said Stone was “a victim of the Russia Hoax that the Left and its allies in the media perpetuated for years in an attempt to undermine the Trump Presidency.”

“Roger Stone has already suffered greatly. He was treated very unfairly, as were many others in this case,” McEnany said. “Roger Stone is now a free man!”

Jeffrey Toobin, a former federal prosecutor and CNN legal analyst, called the President’s move “the most corrupt and cronyistic act in perhaps all of recent history.”

“Richard Nixon, at the height of Watergate, never pardoned or commuted the sentences of any of the people involved in Watergate. He thought he could never get away with it,” Toobin said Friday night on “Anderson Cooper 360.”

“But our standards have sunk so low that the President could reach out to someone who was convicted of a crime that — everyone who was convicted of that crime goes to prison,” Toobin said, adding that while Stone was sentenced to 40 months, “he will do no time for the only reason that he is the President’s friend.”

Biden cited the commutation of Stone’s sentence as evidence that the President has “abused his power,” alleging that Trump made the announcement on a Friday night “to avoid scrutiny as he lays waste to the norms and the values that make our country a shining beacon to the rest of the world.”

“He will not be shamed,” Biden said in a statement Friday night. “He will only be stopped when Americans make their voice heard at the ballot box this fall.”

Trump’s distraction politics

But three years into a presidency where Trump has used many Friday nights to fire his perceived enemies or make moves that he believes will help him politically, the commutation of Stone’s sentence came as little surprise.

For months now as the pandemic has raged on in America, Trump has been consumed with grievance politics, using Twitter and his campaign events to lash out at his opponents, while complaining to allies and friends about how poorly he is being treated by the press.

Now in a critical danger zone four months before the election as he trails Biden in critical swing states, the President shows no signs of correcting course — instead blithely continuing to distract from the devastating effects of the virus, which has now killed more than 133,000 Americans, while distorting the facts about the grave situation that the country is facing as it confronts Covid-19.

On Friday, the number of new coronavirus cases in the US rose to 63,900, a new single-day record according to John Hopkins University data.
A new ABC News/Ipsos poll released on Friday showed that two-thirds of Americans (67%) now disapprove of Trump’s handling of the response to the coronavirus. That number had increased even among Republicans — 78% of GOP voters approve of his handling of coronavirus compared to 90% in June. And in the midst of a national reckoning on race following the death of George Floyd, 67% of Americans disapprove of Trump’s handling of race relations, a finding that held across all racial groups.

While many Americans are scared of soaring coronavirus cases and worried about the risks of sending their children back to school, Trump threatened this week to withhold federal money from schools if officials do not reopen them in the fall and doubled down on his insistence that the states need to get their economies reopened as quickly as possible.

But a clear majority of Americans do not share that view. In the ABC/Ipsos poll, 59% of Americans said they believe the economy is reopening too quickly.

Trump doesn’t seem to be listening. Instead, while the red states that elected him are seeing staggering case numbers, he’s railing against his perceived political enemies.

The chief example of that this week was Trump’s angry reaction to the Supreme Court rulings on efforts to obtain his financial records — even though the immediate outcome was essentially a win for him politically.

The Supreme Court ruled that House Democrats could not access Trump’s financial records but ruled that the President is not immune from a subpoena for his financial documents from a New York prosecutor. The cases were sent back to lower courts for further review, giving him a reprieve by making it unlikely that he would have to hand over those records before the November election.

Still, Trump tweeted: “The Supreme Court sends case back to Lower Court, arguments to continue. This is all a political prosecution. I won the Mueller Witch Hunt, and others, and now I have to keep fighting in a politically corrupt New York. Not fair to this Presidency or Administration!” (His attorney, Jay Sekulow, by contrast, hailed the decisions as a win).

Trump won’t have the opportunity to channel those grievances in front of a friendly rally crowd this weekend. His campaign postponed a Saturday campaign event in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, citing weather.

Ahead of the campaign rally, which would have been his first since the one in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where crowds didn’t meet expectations, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway appeared to downplay crowd expectations, suggesting that supporters might stay at home during the pandemic because they already support Trump — an implicit admission that even Trump supporters are concerned about their health.

Trump has repeatedly made light of the virus’ danger — perhaps no more glaringly than last week when he falsely said that 99% of case are harmless. But this weekend, in a surprising reversal, and after weeks of pressure, Trump may do something publicly that his own public health advisers say is essential to curtailing the spread: wear a mask.
Trump has said he’ll wear one when he visits wounded service members at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, on Saturday. It’s a decision that came only after repeated pleading by aides who urged the President to set an example for his supporters, according to aides familiar with the deliberations.

“You’re in a hospital setting, I think it’s a very appropriate thing,” the President told Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Thursday. “I have no problem with a mask.”

“If I’m with soldiers, people that — you know, I don’t want to spread anything,” Trump said.

“Hopefully I’ll look good in a mask,” he told Telemundo on Friday.

If he follows through, it will be a rare example of the President putting the common good before his own needs and his vanity — a simple move that could help him change his current trajectory, which appears headed toward defeat in November.

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If the community doesn’t want the statue, the statue shouldn’t be there

One of the lesser-known bits of trivia about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is that her roots are found in Baltimore, Maryland. (In fact, her father served as the Mayor of Baltimore in the late 40s.) As such, when political controversy boils over in Charm City, Pelosi is occasionally called on to comment. That was the case when a mob of protesters recently tore down the statue of Christopher Columbus in Baltimore on the 4th of July. It’s a bit of an interesting cross-section of political issues since Pelosi is an Italian-American on both sides of her family. So what did she think about this wanton display of destruction of public property? Hey… the people are going to do what the people are going to do, amirite? (CBS Baltimore)

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi weighed in on the toppling of Baltimore’s Christopher Columbus statue on the Fourth of July, saying at a news conference Thursday that, “if the community doesn’t want the statue there, the statue shouldn’t be there.”

The Baltimore native said the statue’s removal doesn’t diminish her pride in her Italian American heritage, adding she doesn’t care much about statues.

“I’m more interested in what people have accomplished,” she said. “I think that it’s up to the communities to decide what statues they want to see.”

When a reporter had the temerity to press Pelosi on the question, asking if it would be better for the City Council to order the removal of the statue rather than having it be torn down by “protesters,” Pelosi at first granted that having the city do it would be better in terms of safety. But she then went on to cavalierly declare, “People will do what they do.”

This casual dismissal of vandalism and destruction of public property came to the attention of the state’s governor.

Pelosi is trying to dance on the head of a pin here. She’s previously gone on record as saying that it’s okay to tear down Confederate statues, but not those of Washington or the other Founders. But at the same time, when she was asked about vandals tearing down the statue of Saint Junipero Serra in her own district, her only response was to say that she’s too busy dealing with the pandemic to worry over such things.

Pelosi is clearly uncomfortable discussing this subject and for good reason. She doesn’t want to anger the party base during an election year and plenty of them are in the mood to riot. But overall, such public acts of destruction don’t poll well at all with most of the country. A plurality of voters is “mildly opposed” to tearing down statues of Confederate generals. But a serious majority oppose doing that with monuments to former presidents, even if they were slave owners.

I wanted to swing back to Pelosi’s comments regarding what happened in Baltimore for a moment, however. It’s fairly easy to say that if “the community” doesn’t like a particular statue standing in their neighborhoods, then “it shouldn’t be there.” Using the word community at least leaves room to imply that the community in question could petition their elected municipal leaders and obtain an order for the monument to be safely removed. Nothing wrong with that.

But when you say “People will do what they do,” all bets are off. Apparently it’s okay to break the law, provided the illegal activity is popular with your base. But now you’ve opened the door to any other mischief people want to get up to. And by “mischief” I mean looting, arson, and attacking the police. The Speaker apparently has lost all sight of the requirement that law and order be maintained on our streets. But hey… it’s an election year, right? So anything goes until the Bad Orange Man is out of office.

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Rift grows between Trump, health experts amid coronavirus surge

As President Donald Trump threatens to cut funding to schools that don’t reopen in the fall and continues to host mega-rallies as cases of coronavirus increase, there appears to be a growing rift between the Trump White House and its top health advisers.

The president has taken his criticism of the government’s top expert on infectious diseases and of leaders at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention into the public forum in his massive push to reopen the country.

MORE: Fauci, other health advisers at odds with President Trump on whether to slow testing

Despite coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx asking Americans in hot spot zones to avoid indoor gatherings and reduce them to 10 people or fewer, Trump on Friday delivered remarks and attended a home fundraiser in Florida as cases there rise — one day after the state saw a record death toll.

PHOTO: President Donald Trump speaks as he is briefed on Enhanced Narcotics Operations at the US Southern Command in Doral, Fla., July 10, 2020. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

The trip came as Trump seeks to downplay the danger in states like Florida, Arizona, Texas and California struggling to control outbreaks — which he calls “embers” — and openly disputes coronavirus task force officials.

In a series of interviews this week, Trump questioned the expertise of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institutes of Health for more than three decades and a prominent member of the White House coronavirus task force, who continually polls higher in favorability than the president.

PHOTO: Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, rubs his forehead. (ERIN SCHAFF/The New York Times/Redux)
PHOTO: Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, rubs his forehead. (ERIN SCHAFF/The New York Times/Redux)

“Dr. Fauci is a nice man, but he’s made a lot of mistakes,” Trump told Fox News’ Sean Hannity Thursday night, insisting Fauci was against his travel ban on China and wrong on face masks.

“A lot of them said don’t wear a mask, don’t wear a mask,” added Trump, who has yet to don one himself in public. “Now they are saying wear a mask. A lot of mistakes were made, a lot of mistakes.”

MORE: Situation ‘really not good’ as new COVID-19 cases break records: Fauci

Trump used the same criticisms in an interview Tuesday, when directly asked about Fauci’s assessment one day earlier that the country is “knee deep in the first wave” of the virus.

PHOTO: Dr. Anthony Fauci, right, listens as President Donald J. Trump speaks with the coronavirus task force during a news conference at the White House, March 20, 2020 in Washington. (The Washington Post via Getty Images, FILE)
PHOTO: Dr. Anthony Fauci, right, listens as President Donald J. Trump speaks with the coronavirus task force during a news conference at the White House, March 20, 2020 in Washington. (The Washington Post via Getty Images, FILE)

“Well, I think we are in a good place,” Trump told “Full Court Press” with Greta Van Susteren in response. “I disagree with him.”

Notably, when Fauci testified before House lawmakers in March as the pandemic took off, he said he supported Trump’s travel bans on China and Europe, calling the case for them “pretty compelling.” The decision to advise against wearing masks, until an official CDC recommendation in April, was due largely to a nationwide shortage, officials said.

PHOTO: Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a House Oversight Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., March 11, 2020. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
PHOTO: Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a House Oversight Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., March 11, 2020. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Fauci is not the only expert under fire from Trump.

Throughout the week, Trump has also criticized guidelines from the CDC on reopening schools — calling them “very tough & expensive” — and has characterized the decision to reopen schools as a political one, even as coronavirus cases surge across the country.

“It is politics,” Trump said, at an event unrelated to the pandemic in the Rose Garden Thursday. “They don’t want to open because they think it will help them on November 3rd. I think it’s going to hurt them November 3rd.”

PHOTO: Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Robert Redfield talk prior to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington DC on June 30, 2020. (Kevin Dietsch/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Robert Redfield talk prior to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington DC on June 30, 2020. (Kevin Dietsch/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

After Vice President Mike Pence, backing the president, said the guidelines on reopening schools would be changed, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield wouldn’t say if that was a direct result of the president’s demand but instead stressed that the guidelines are “intentionally non-prescriptive.”

MORE: No revisions to school reopening guidelines despite Trump demand, just ‘additional information’: CDC director

While Birx and Redfield are more controlled in their press appearances, careful not to clash with Trump’s positive outlook, Fauci this week characterized the entire country as “living in the perfect storm.”

In an interview with the Financial Times out Friday, the infectious disease expert revealed the last time he saw the president in person at the White House was on June 2 and that he has not briefed him for at least two months.

“I have a reputation, as you probably have figured out, of speaking the truth at all times and not sugar-coating things,” Fauci said. “And that may be one of the reasons why I haven’t been on television very much lately.”

PHOTO: White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx, left, and Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci, both wearing face masks listen at the White House on Friday, May 15, 2020. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
PHOTO: White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx, left, and Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci, both wearing face masks listen at the White House on Friday, May 15, 2020. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Back in March, Trump praised the doctor as a “major television star for all the right reasons” — a key metric for Trump — but as the pandemic worsened it appears their relationship did, too.

Trump, the ever-optimist, and Fauci, who calls himself “cautiously optimistic” soon diverged on their messaging — whether on the promise of potential treatments such as hydroxychloroquine or the speed at which Americans should return to normal life.

MORE: Fauci throws cold water on Trump’s declaration that malaria drug chloroquine is a ‘game changer’

In April, after Fauci told CNN the administration “could have saved lives” had firm social distancing guidelines been enforced earlier and added that there was “pushback about shutting things down,” Trump retweeted a former Republican congressional candidate’s attack on Fauci, including the hashtag of #FireFauci, sparking concern over his future on the task force.

And in May, after Fauci urged caution when it comes to reopening schools, Trump told reporters, “He wants to play all sides of the equation.”

PHOTO: President Donald J. Trump listens as Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks with members of the coronavirus task force, April 22, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
PHOTO: President Donald J. Trump listens as Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks with members of the coronavirus task force, April 22, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Both parties seem to agree that politics are at play.

Fauci on Thursday, asked by FiveThirtyEight’s Anna Rothschild if the country’s hyper-partisan environment has made it more difficult to suppress the virus, said, “I think you’d have to admit that that’s the case.”

MORE: Fauci: ‘I Don’t Think You Can Say We’re Doing Great. I Mean, We’re Just Not.’

“You have to be having blindfolders on and covering your ears to think that we don’t live in a very divisive society now, from a political standpoint,” Fauci said. “You’d have to make the assumption that if there wasn’t such divisiveness, that we would have a more coordinated approach.”

While Fauci has done several podcast, print and social media interviews in the last month, his presence on TV and as a leading face at the once-daily task force briefings has diminished — though coronavirus cases have resurged prompting several state and local officials to halt or reverse their reopening efforts.

PHOTO: Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks as U.S. President Donald Trump looks on during a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic, in the press briefing room of the White House on March 24, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks as U.S. President Donald Trump looks on during a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic, in the press briefing room of the White House on March 24, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

At an afternoon White House briefing Wednesday, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany wouldn’t say when directly asked whether Trump still has confidence in the government’s top expert on infectious diseases.

“The president has confidence — confidence in the conclusions of our medical experts, but it’s up to him to determine what to do with that information and to take what we hear from Dr. Fauci, Dr. Birx and others and take what he values in their opinion and come to the ultimate consensus that’s best for this country,” she said.

MORE: Tensions with Trump: Dr. Anthony Fauci on telling the truth

Fauci, notably absent from Wednesday’s task force briefing, was reportedly asked to go to the White House at the same time it was being held at the Department of Eduction, which meant he could not answer questions from reporters on schools reopening.

PHOTO: Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing, July 8, 2020 in Washington. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing, July 8, 2020 in Washington. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

“Look, that’s a decision for the task force as to who appears at the briefing, but you’ve heard from a lot of our doctors today,” McEnany said to justify his absence.

She noted that Fauci has appeared on six TV programs since June 1, he spoke during a task force briefing on June 26 and participated in Pence’s briefing on June 29.

PHOTO: President Donald Trump pumps his fist as he arrives at Miami International Airport in Miami, July 10, 2020. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
PHOTO: President Donald Trump pumps his fist as he arrives at Miami International Airport in Miami, July 10, 2020. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

But while the Trump White House this week said the world is looking to the U.S. as the leader in the ongoing pandemic, Fauci has asserted the opposite.

“As a country, when you compare us to other countries, I don’t think you can say we’re doing great,” Fauci said. “I mean, we’re just not.”

Rift grows between Trump, health experts amid coronavirus surge originally appeared on abcnews.go.com

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Trump allies want Michael Flynn to stage a campaign trail comeback

“If you’re a fan of Flynn, then you’re already part of the Trumpian base that believes the deep state is out to railroad Trump and his associates,” said Republican strategist Rob Stutzman. “Involving Flynn would just be one more tactic that seems solely focused on energizing Trump’s base instead of expanding it.”

A former White House official questioned why Flynn would want to return to Trump’s orbit after all he’s been through. “If you dodged a bullet, why come back in the firing line?” the former official asked.

Flynn’s lawyer, Sidney Powell, did not respond to a request for comment.

Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, served as a senior adviser to the president’s 2016 campaign focused on foreign policy and national security. As one of Trump’s few military surrogates at the time, he defended the New York businessman’s vow to improve U.S.-Russia relations and led calls for the jailing of his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. During a fiery speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention, Flynn led the crowded arena in a “Lock her up!” chant — a staple of Trump’s marquee rallies.

His spirited defenses of Trump and sharp criticism of the Obama administration earned him the campaign job that led to his appointment as national security adviser. But just 22 days into his job, Trump fired Flynn for lying to Vice President Mike Pence about his conversation with the Russian ambassador. Flynn also eventually pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about those same conversations.

Pence apparently holds no grudge.

“I think Gen. Michael Flynn is an American patriot; he served this country with great distinction,” Pence said in May in an interview with Axios on HBO. “And for my part, I’d be happy to see Michael Flynn again.”

Two of the Trump campaign officials said Flynn’s fall from grace — he was one of the first senior Trump aides charged in connection to the Russia probe — did not give them pause about inviting him to assist the campaign in some capacity.

One of the officials said he would be an ideal addition to the campaign’s payroll if Biden taps Flynn’s predecessor, Susan Rice, to be his running mate. Rice, President Barack Obama’s final national security adviser, is one a number of women Biden is considering for vice president. Trump and Republican lawmakers accuse Rice — without evidence — of committing a crime by leaking the identities of senior Trump associates picked up as part of U.S. intelligence-led surveillance of foreign officials.

Flynn “would be our No. 1 draft pick to open President Trump’s rallies if Joe Biden actually picks Susan Rice,” the campaign official said, adding that Flynn could “discuss his own experience with the deep state that Biden and Rice would do everything to protect.”

Kyle Cheney contributed to this report.

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Harmeet Dhillon: Roger Stone was victim of political prosecution — Trump right to commute his prison term

President Trump’s Friday night commutation of the unjust 40-month prison sentence given to Roger Stone for convictions of lying to Congress and witness tampering was necessary to correct a grave injustice and abuse of power.

Now — at long last —   the tragedy of Stone’s wrongful and politically motivated indictment, trial, conviction, sentencing and the rejection of his appeal is nearly over. This is a prosecution that should have never happened, and one that was motivated entirely by ego, politics and hatred of President Trump.

The saga began with a predawn SWAT team raid on Stone’s Florida home, televised by a gleeful CNN crew that — by an amazing “coincidence” – happened to be on the scene. It looked like a bad made-for-TV movie about the takedown of an armed and dangerous terrorist leader of the caliber of Usama bin Laden — when, in fact, Stone was unarmed and posed no danger to anyone.

GREGG JARRETT: TRUMP RIGHT TO COMMUTE ROGER STONE’S SENTENCE – STONE COMMITTED NO CRIME, WAS FRAMED BY MUELLER

Thankfully, President Trump has now acted in the interests of justice so that the 67-year-old Stone — who is not in the prime of good health — has been able to avoid a potential death sentence due to his vulnerability COVID-19 if he were imprisoned. Ironically, our prisons are being emptied of dangerous criminals at the very same time that the harmless Stone was about to be committed to life-threatening confinement.

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I say the Stone’s ordeal is only nearly over —  and not finished —  because the next chapter will inevitably be a chorus of Trump-hating partisan Democrats fulminating impotently about the president’s “abuse of power” and demanding “answers” and an investigation.

Maybe the Democrats will even launch a fresh impeachment attempt against the president in the House of Representatives. Why not? It beats working. And it could give Democrats tons of free publicity leading up to the November election.

You can bet that Democrats eager to make Trump a one-term president will issue campaign-fodder denunciations of his act of charity in commuting his once-adviser’s excessive sentence. We could have the television on mute and yet know exactly what all the players will say.

The melodramatic and false Democratic claims are by now familiar because we’ve heard them so many times. “Russian collusion! Treason! Betrayal! Obstruction!”

What exactly did Roger Stone do to merit 40 months in prison — a sentence longer than some drug dealers, killers, human traffickers, rapists, and robbers receive?

Stone maintains his innocence, but was convicted of all seven counts charged in the indictment against him — obstruction of justice, false statements, and witness tampering – relating to his alleged 2016 campaign communications with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

Prosecutors working for anti-Trump Special Counsel Robert Mueller were under intense pressure to deliver on the hyped Russia collusion narrative in what is tantamount to an attempted coup against the preside

In the end, the Stone prosecution had nothing to do with justice.

The prosecutors seized on Stone’s contradictory statements about contacts with Assange as a thread they could unravel to lead them back to the prize of proving that the Trump campaign somehow colluded with Russia to defeat Hillary Clinton. Any port in a storm, it seems.

In truth, the Mueller investigation came up empty, other than persecuting Roger Stone, former Trump campaign head Paul Manafort, a couple of clueless low-level campaign volunteers, and a passel of conveniently absent and unreachable alleged Russian spies.

Manafort remains in prison because he was convicted of crimes that have nothing to do with his role in the Trump campaign. Aside from those unrelated convictions, the greatest crime of Stone, Manafort, campaign volunteer George Papadopoulos and others was that they had the audacity to back outsider Donald Trump in his 2016 presidential campaign. The nerve!

The prosecution was meant to send a message – not so much to witnesses that they shouldn’t lie to Congress or obstruct justice, because if that were the case former Obama Director of National Intelligence James Clapper would be behind bars right now.

No, the prosecution of Trump supporters was meant to send a message to conservatives: if you dare support Trump, you will be targeted with a no-holds-barred and merciless political prosecution.

And indeed, many got the message. To this day the abhorrent treatment of Stone, Manafort and others incidentally caught up in a rigged witch hunt starring Special Counsel Robert Mueller has caused many talented Republicans to sit on the sidelines rather than play any role in the Trump administration or reelection campaign.

Who wants to risk prison, the blackening of their good name, or bankruptcy caused by enormous legal defense costs for supporting your favored candidate for president?

Piling onto the unjustified prosecution and abuse of government resources was a federal judge, Amy Berman Jackson, whose sentencing hearing condemning Stone to three years and four months in prison was replete with personal attacks against Stone and the president.

The judge abandoned all pretense of impartiality when she complained about alleged threats Stone had made against her on social media in his typical flamboyant, exaggerated fashion (before she muzzled him with a gag order). Since when have we allowed the alleged victim of wrongdoing to judge the allegation and hand out a prison sentence to the alleged perpetrator?

Most laughable was the stentorious pronouncement that Stone should have received more punishment for “witness tampering” — angry texts by Stone to a longtime friend, Randy Credico about Credico being a “rat” for talking to prosecutors and about the disputed substance of his testimony.

These texts are not a modicum of propriety. But jail time? In a justice system where former FBI officials Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, James Comey and other perverters of justice walk free? From a judge who refused to properly resolve patent juror bias issues by no less than the jury foreman who clearly lied during jury selection?

Even “victim” Credico himself asked the court not to send Stone away for the trash-tweet texts. No victim, no harm – no problem! The court threw the book at him anyway, pitilessly.

In the end, the Stone prosecution had nothing to do with justice. It was about politics, public shaming, and a peculiar inside-the-Beltway set of self-referential rules: watch your back and watch who you support, because WE, the establishment, are watching YOU.

We all know why Stone was persecuted for the same type of behavior Obama administration officials and Hillary Clinton campaign operatives have skated free for. It was because Stone supported Trump, plain and simple. This is the type of prosecution we see in newly-minted “democracies” or in tin-pot dictatorships. That’s not America — at least, it shouldn’t be.

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President Trump’s act of mercy won’t give Stone and his family their last two years back, or their millions of dollars in legal fees and lost income, or their good name or peace of mind. But it will give them back some dignity, and some respite from the baying hounds.

I can hear the shrieking from the mainstream media and the left ringing in my ears. But let’s put President Trump’s commutation into context, shall we?

President Barack Obama pardoned over 200 convicts and granted clemency to nearly 2,000 — the most of any president since Harry Truman. Obama’s clemency grants extended to major drug dealers, traffickers, embezzlers, money launderers, fraudsters, killers and more.

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President Trump has been far more selective about exercising his clemency power. Rather than releasing dangerous violent criminals, he has acted against unjust political prosecutions that targeted his supporters.

Trump’s act of mercy for Stone – a former campaign supporter who stepped up and was loyal when many others have not been — strikes a note of grace and decency and serves the interests of justice.

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Republicans tap top fundraiser in mad scramble for convention cash

Convention fundraising typically occurs over a span of two years. But after Trump clashed with North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper over his refusal to allow a full-fledged convention, Republicans launched a new multi-million-dollar drive in order to pull off a separate event in a different state.

The party had raised nearly $37 million for the Charlotte convention, about $7 million of which was unspent. But the Charlotte-based committee charged with organizing the convention refused to allow the remaining funds to be transferred to Jacksonville.

Republicans now find themselves in a squeeze and are reaching out to big donors and corporations. They say they hope to capitalize on Miller’s longstanding relationships with major givers.

Miller, a lobbyist who has bundled millions of dollars for Trump’s reelection campaign, has close ties to the president’s political orbit. In February he was photographed at the Super Bowl with Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale and the president’s sons, Eric and Don Jr.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to be able to help the city of Jacksonville host the 2020 Republican National Convention. Personally, I am looking forward to promoting the president’s home state and showcasing to the world his strong leadership and vision for America for the next four years,” Miller said in a statement.

Katie Walsh and Brian Ballard, two other fundraisers linked to the president, are also helping raise money.

Party officials are sweating to meet the late August deadline, though they insist they’re confident they’ll get there. There is immediate pressure to brief donors on convention plans and to ensure that fundraising commitments quickly materialize with actual checks.

At the same time, organizers are confronting ongoing questions about the safety surrounding the event. Several Republican senators have said they won’t attend, citing concerns over the coronavirus.

“Well, I think the convention is a challenging situation. And a number of my colleagues have announced that they’re not going to attend, and we’ll have to wait and see how things look in late August and determine whether or not you can safely convene that many people,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday.

With coronavirus cases rising in Florida, Republicans say they are still deliberating how the event will unfold and what precautions will be implemented.

During an interview with Gray Television this week, Trump acknowledged that cases were “spiking up a little bit” in the state but predicted they would “go down.”

“Look, we’re very flexible,” he said. “We can do a lot of things, but we’re very flexible.”