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Cuomo vs. Trump in a schoolyard rumble

President Donald Trump threatened to cut funding to

President Donald Trump threatened to cut funding to states that don't reopen all schools in the fall. Credit: James Carbone

Trump demands easier test

President Donald Trump wants America to learn this lesson: The nation's schools will reopen above all else. Or else.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention drew up guidelines to help determine when and how schools could safely let students and educators return. But Trump gave them an "F" with a morning tweet: "I disagree with @CDCgov on their very tough & expensive guidelines for opening schools. While they want them open, they are asking schools to do very impractical things. I will be meeting with them!!!" He didn't elaborate on what he deemed excessive.

Within hours, Vice President Mike Pence announced the CDC will come back with revised guidelines next week. "The president said today we just don’t want the guidance to be too tough," Pence explained. CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield, on the defensive, said the guidelines aren't intended to be "used as a rationale to keep schools closed” and insisted that he and Trump were "totally aligned." So why the angry tweet? Redfield sort of shrugged and didn't answer, according to a PBS reporter.

In another tweet Wednesday, Trump threatened to "cut off funding" to schools if they do not reopen in the fall. In Albany, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said it's not Trump's call. “School reopenings are a state decision. Period. That is the law, and that is the way we’re going to proceed. It’s not up to the president of the United States,” Cuomo said. “ … We will open the schools if it is safe to open the schools. Everybody wants the schools open.”

Cuomo said Trump “poses a false choice” between health and economic priorities — and not for the first time. States that followed the president's past push to reopen are now suffering record outbreaks, he said. “That he's posed the false choice, that is one of the reasons this nation is now in the situation that it's in."

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos issued the same warning threat over federal funds Tuesday night, telling Fox News’ Tucker Carlson she was “very seriously” considering withholding taxpayer dollars from schools that refuse to open their doors. On a conference call with governors Tuesday, she said risks are part of life.

"We know that risk is embedded in everything we do. Learning to ride a bike, to the risk of getting in a space capsule and getting shot off in a rocket into space,” she said.

Souvenirs of Trump's Tulsa rally

Trump’s June 20 campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that drew thousands of participants and large protests “likely contributed” to a dramatic surge in new coronavirus cases, Tulsa City-County Health Department Director Bruce Dart said Wednesday.

Tulsa County reported 261 confirmed new cases on Monday, a one-day record high, and another 206 cases on Tuesday, The Associated Press reported. By comparison, during the week of the rally, there were 76 new cases on June 15, a Monday, and 96 on June 16, a Tuesday.

Dart had urged the campaign to consider pushing back the date of the rally, fearing a potential surge in cases.

“In the past few days, we’ve seen almost 500 new cases, and we had several large events just over two weeks ago, so I guess we just connect the dots,” Dart said. Campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh argued there were more precautions taken for the Tulsa event than for street protests, and “it’s obvious that the media’s concern about large gatherings begins and ends with Trump rallies.”

Janison: If knowledge is power ...

Trump always knows more than anyone. On the coronavirus, Trump asserts he knows more than the CDC. With North Korea, he knew better than the State Department. During a hurricane, he knew better than the National Weather Service where it would land.

When he was investigated, Trump knew better than his lawyers. On the environment, he knows better than climate scientists. On Russia and Ukraine, he knew better than the National Security Council. On hydroxychloroquine, he knew better than the Food and Drug Administration. 

On reopening schools, he again shows himself to be a sidelined agitator, writes Newsday's Dan Janison. If the CDC guidelines were as burdensome as he says, the White House could have pushed back before they were issued.

“We’re very much going to put pressure on the governors and the schools to reopen,” Trump says — as if state and local officials are not already under widespread pressure to reopen schools within the bounds of acceptable health risk. And if they decide to wait? It's because "corrupt Joe Biden and the Democrats don’t want to open schools in the Fall for political reasons … They think it will help them in November."

Biden navigates left, center

Biden will deliver a speech Thursday calling for a moderate approach toward reviving the U.S. economy that includes spurring manufacturing and encouraging innovation, but not the all-out Green New Deal or massive jobs programs championed by progressives, Bloomberg News reported.

Biden allies and supporters of former rival Bernie Sanders have coalesced on policy ideas for climate change, criminal justice reform, the economy, education, health care and immigration, according to NBC News. The health care task force, for instance, focused on ways to expand coverage through Biden’s position of building on Obamacare, rather than pursuing a single-payer system like "Medicare for All."

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Bronx), a progressive leader, said a climate task force "accomplished a great deal" — shaving 15 years off Biden's previous goal of reducing carbon emissions to a net zero by 2050. Sanders said on MSNBC that the compromise plans would make Biden the most progressive president since Franklin D. Roosevelt.

A New York Times/Siena College poll on six battleground states indicates Biden is having an easier time than some expected for winning acceptance from the Democrats' progressive wing. Former Sanders supporters backed Biden over Trump by 87% to 4%. Past backers of Elizabeth Warren are ready to vote for the presumptive Democratic nominee by 96% to zero.

Barr: Racial profiling is real

Going where Trump won't, Attorney General William Barr acknowledged in an ABC News interview Wednesday that communities of color often are policed differently from white ones.

"I do think it is a widespread phenomenon that African American males, in particular, are treated with extra suspicion and maybe not given the benefit of the doubt,” Barr said.

“I think it is wrong if people are not respected appropriately and given their due,” he added, “and I think it’s something we have to address.” He said his own thinking was reshaped by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which ignited nationwide protests over system racism and police brutality. “Before the George Floyd incident, I thought we were in a good place,” he continued. But rather than defunding police, Barr said, “we have to think about more investment in the police."

Pence aide has ethnics problem

The charms and vitality of traditional immigrant neighborhoods are lost on Katie Miller, Pence's spokeswoman who formerly held the same job for the Department of Homeland Security.

“I believe that if you come to America, you should assimilate. Why do we need to have Little Havana?” Miller, then Katie Waldman, said in a just-published interview she gave NBC News reporter Jacob Soboroff in 2018, when the controversy over migrant family separation was raging.

It's a surprising slap at a Cuban exile community that settled in Miami's Little Havana and made it a Republican stronghold for decades, though it has since become more diverse. A Republican House candidate in Miami, Maria Elvira Salazar, said, "Little Havana is the epitome of what immigrants can do for this country. It’s people like her who are blind to see it.”

Miller also told Soboroff that DHS sent her to the U.S.-Mexico border to view the separations herself “to try to make me more compassionate, but it didn’t work.” She also said, "My family and colleagues told me that when I have kids I'll think about the separations differently. But I don't think so."

Soboroff quoted from the interview in a new book, "Separated." The interview with Miller took place before she married Trump's hard-line immigration adviser, Stephen Miller.

More coronavirus news

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

What else is happening:

  • The widow of the man named in Mary L. Trump's book as having been paid to take Trump's SAT tests for him said she believes the account is false, ABC News reported. Former tennis pro and commentator Pam Shriver said her husband, Joe Shapiro, who died in 1999, was friends with Trump, but her understanding is that they first met in college. Publisher Simon & Schuster said it stands behind the contents of Trump's niece's book.
  • With statues among his new causes, the White House and campaign aides are considering displaying statues at his rallies, ABC News reports. One idea: “America’s Founding Fathers."
  • Americans’ concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, which fell substantially from April to June, are now rising again, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov survey. Now 48% are very worried, up from 36% in early June. Geographically, the worries rose most sharply in the West, to 52% from 31%.
  • Former CIA Director John Brennan, a frequent Trump target, took the insult game to a new level with a tweet Wednesday on the president's dismissiveness of disease-fighting pros: "@realDonaldTrump is our nation’s premier ultracrepidarian. He puts countless lives at risk with musings motivated solely by his personal political agenda, not America’s best interests." We looked it up. An ultracrepidarian "is a person who criticizes, judges, or gives advice outside the area of his or her expertise."
  • A pair of 7-2 Supreme Court decisions on religious rights came down on the Trump administration's side. One found that employers with religious or moral objections do not have to help provide insurance coverage for contraceptives under the Affordable Care Act. The other shields religious schools from discrimination suits by teachers.
  • Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a key witness in Trump's impeachment, said he is retiring from a 21-year military career. His lawyer said Vindman has endured a "campaign of bullying, intimidation, and retaliation" spearheaded by Trump, including reports the White House would thwart a promotion that was due.
  • Kanye West spoke to Forbes magazine for four hours about his announced plan to run for president. He said he'll create a "Birthday Party" because "when we win, it’s everybody’s birthday.” The entertainer and fashion designer said a Ye White House would be modeled on Wakanda, the fictional country of comics and movie superhero "Black Panther." He added he's down on Trump because "I caught wind that he hid in the bunker.”

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