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With dead people on both sides, Trump and Biden cast blame

Supporters of President Donald Trump in a vehicle

Supporters of President Donald Trump in a vehicle parade to Portland, Ore., on Saturday. Credit: AP / Paula Bronstein

Red, blue and blood

President Donald Trump plans to visit Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Tuesday to meet with law enforcement and look over damage from recent rioting. The state's Democratic governor, Tony Evers, appealed to him to stay away, saying "I am concerned your presence will only hinder our healing."

The president on Sunday "liked" a tweet praising the 17-year-old charged with fatally shooting two protesters last week. "Kyle Rittenhouse is a good example of why I decided to vote for Trump,” the tweet said. There was no sign that Trump's stop in Kenosha visit will include any gesture of sympathy for Jacob Blake, the Black man shot in the back by police in the incident that sparked the unrest.

"GREAT PATRIOTS," Trump tweeted Sunday about a caravan of his supporters who rode through Portland, Oregon, on Saturday to wave his campaign banners and taunt counterprotesters, firing on them with paintball guns and pepper spray. After the parade, there was a fatal shooting Saturday night in downtown Portland of a man described by the leader of a far-right pro-Trump group as a supporter.

"The only way you will stop the violence in the high crime Democrat run cities is through strength!" Trump tweeted. He warned on Twitter that if "the incompetent mayor" of Portland, Ted Wheeler, doesn't "get control of his city … we will go in and take care of matters." 

Trump didn't say how, but on Friday, he threatened during a New Hampshire rally to invoke the Insurrection Act to put the military in cities. Wheeler hit back at Trump. "It's you who have created the hate and the division," the mayor said at a Sunday news conference. "What America needs is for you to be stopped so we can come together as one America," Wheeler said.

Democrats up to and including presidential nominee Joe Biden condemned Trump for stoking tensions amid worsening street battles between left and right. Biden issued a statement asserting that Trump is “recklessly encouraging violence.” Referring to the Portland killing, Biden said, "I condemn this violence unequivocally. I condemn violence of every kind by anyone, whether on the left or the right. And I challenge Donald Trump to do the same."

Biden is headed for the Pittsburgh area on Monday for a speech that will contend Trump has made America less safe by mishandling the pandemic and continuing "to fan the flames of division and encourage chaos in our cities, rather than trying to calm tensions and heal this country," a campaign news release said. For more, see Newsday's story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez.

Trump inching up?

The first batch of national polls since the conventions suggest Trump may have gained a little, but not a lot, while Biden remains ahead.

A Yahoo News/YouGov poll released Sunday showed Biden leading 47%-41%, a 6-point edge. Four weeks earlier, the Biden margin was 9 points. 

Biden's lead also was 6 points in a Morning Consult poll — 50%-44% — compared with a 10-point lead before the Republican convention.

However, an ABC News/Ipsos poll measured Trump's favorability at 31%, losing 1 point over a week.

A USC Dornsife poll showed Trump slipping, behind by almost 14 points as of Saturday, compared with a 10-point deficit on Aug. 17.

Janison: Four more years of … this?

Trump faces a unique election challenge, writes Newsday's Dan Janison, in persuading voters he would solve problems that have emerged or worsened in this first term: the coronavirus pandemic, the economic collapse, racial issues, violent protests and an uptick in urban crime.

On one level, this requires Trump skirting blame for crises on his watch. On another, he must create the caricature of an imaginary future Biden record. Both are low-road campaign tactics with results to be determined.

The GOP's "law and order" message of today does resound, but only to the degree it is directed against local and state Democrats who are outside Trump's constitutional reach. He can try to make the case that progressives seem uninterested in forceful crackdowns. Practically, however, reelecting Trump won’t displace those officials or policies. 

If Biden is elected, however, the path to either peace or justice is just as hard to see. What changes will he negotiate or impose that achieve either goal?

Intel chief runs interference for Trump

Democrats cried foul after the nation’s top intelligence official told Congress that his office will no longer give in-person election security briefings on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers called the move by the Trump administration an attack on the public’s right to know about foreign interference in the upcoming presidential election.

Trump said Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe made the decision to provide only written briefings because the administration “got tired” of the intelligence leaking from Congress, specifically accusing Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.). It was unclear how written-only assessments would create a barrier to leaking.

Schiff called the leaking allegation "a falsehood." He and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the decision a “betrayal of the public’s right to know how foreign powers are trying to subvert our democracy.” A statement from Biden said it shows that Trump is “hoping Vladimir Putin will once more boost his candidacy and cover his horrific failures to lead our country through the multiple crises we are facing.”

The move indicated a further blurring, if not erasure, of lines between intelligence and Trump's political interests. Richard Grenell — who preceded Ratcliffe as acting national intelligence director, now advises the Republican National Committee and spoke at Trump's convention last week — tweeted, "We are guarding against political manipulation from Congress." Note the "we."

Russia, Russia, Russia? No, just Russia

The Justice Department secretly took steps in 2017 to narrow the Russia investigation, focusing on the election interference and any links to the Trump campaign but stopping short of a full examination of Trump's decadeslong personal and business ties to Russia, former Justice Department and FBI officials told The New York Times.

Some career FBI counterintelligence investigators thought Trump's ties to Russia posed such a national security threat that they took the extraordinary step of opening an inquiry into them. After the Russia probe was turned over to special counsel Robert Mueller, then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein nixed the deeper look without telling the bureau, all but ensuring it would go nowhere.

A bipartisan report by the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee alluded to curious associations and allegations, and questions about finances, that never were fully explored. Also unanswered is how that history may have influenced his current approach to Russia and refusal to criticize or challenge the Kremlin’s increasing aggressions toward the West.

Andrew McCabe, who became acting FBI director after Trump fired James Comey, said he had pushed the wider investigation. “It was first and foremost a counterintelligence case,” he said. “Could the president actually be the point of coordination between the campaign and the Russian government? Could the president actually be maintaining some sort of inappropriate relationship with our most significant adversary in the world?” McCabe said he was never informed that Rosenstein set narrower boundaries.

The episode is included in a book by Times reporter Michael Schmidt, "Donald Trump vs. The United States: Inside the Struggle to Stop a President," which is due for release Tuesday.

The authoritarian inside

Former White House chief of staff John Kelly confided in others that Trump wanted to behave like an authoritarian and that the president repeatedly had to be restrained and told what he could and could not legally do, according to another preview of Schmidt's book posted by Axios.

Trump offered Kelly the FBI director's job the day after he fired Comey. But if he took it, the president told Kelly, he would have to be loyal to him and only him. Kelly replied that he would be loyal to the Constitution and the rule of law, but he refused to pledge his loyalty to Trump, the book says.

Kelly said having to say no to Trump was like "French-kissing a chain saw."

More coronavirus news

See a roundup of the latest pandemic developments from Long Island and beyond by Newsday's reporting staff, written by Scott Eidler. For a full list of Newsday's coronavirus stories, click here.

What else is happening:

  • Biden's running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, rejected the suggestion from former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley's GOP convention speech that the Democratic ticket regards America as a "racist country." In a TV interview with Miami's WPLG, Harris said, "No, that is not our nature, but we can never overlook the history of racism in America … we need to confront the realities of it [racism], but always with the goal of aspiring to be everything that we hold dear. Which is a unified country."
  • Trump is still facing skepticism in the suburbs, including from 2016 supporters, after a convention that tried to humanize him and demonize Biden to make those voters feel comfortable to support reelection, The Associated Press writes.
  • Repulsed by Trump's behavior? The president's daughter-in-law Lara Trump said the campaign is trying to "remind women, look, don't think about what this president has said or the way he delivers a message specifically. Look at what he's actually done for this country." She was interviewed on "Fox News Sunday."
  • Trump stepped up his attacks on niece Mary L. Trump for her unflattering book about him. He tweeted that she is "unstable" and "who was now rightfully shunned, scorned and mocked her entire life." He also got in an advance shot at Bob Woodward, who has a book due out Sept. 15, as a social pretender.
  • An 89-item Sunday morning barrage of Trump tweets and retweets before he went golfing included a grossly false claim from a QAnon supporter that the real death toll from the coronavirus is around 9,000 — not the official count of nearly 183,000 — and a call from right-wing actor James Woods to put New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in jail for nursing home coronavirus deaths. (Twitter took down the tweet with the phony death toll for false information.)

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