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Trump spots a silver lining, ignores pandemic's ever-darkening cloud

White House chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow with

White House chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow with President Donald Trump at a briefing Thursday. Credit: AP / Evan Vucci

The sunshine boy

Four states — Arizona, California, Florida and Texas — reported a combined 25,000 new confirmed coronavirus cases Thursday. The infection curve rose in 40 of the 50 states. The nation's daily total of at least 55,220 exceeded that of the deadliest days of April and May. The governor of Texas, for the first time, ordered the mandatory use of face masks.

Also on Thursday, President Donald Trump said the pandemic is "getting under control" and “the crisis is being handled.” As states such as California, Texas, Florida go into reverse on reopening moves, Trump insisted: "We're opening it up, and it's opening up far faster than anybody thought even possible, and more successfully." Those new virus eruptions? "Temporary hot spots," Trump said.

The occasion for Trump's remarks in the White House press briefing room (he took no questions) was a record rebound of 4.8 million jobs in June, according to Labor Department data. He declared the economy is “roaring back.”

But the gains appeared to be fleeting. The data is based on the week ending June 12, before the new resurgence of infections. People who got rehired are losing work again as states reimpose restrictions, The Washington Post reported. At least 4 million private-sector workers have had their pay cut during the pandemic, twice as many as the number who saw their wages reduced during the Great Recession.

Though Trump has predicted a "rocket ship" recovery, a new report from the Congressional Budget Office forecast the damage from the coronavirus plague will last even longer, with the U.S. unemployment rate staying above pre-pandemic levels through the end of 2030.

The president is still hoping for enough of an economic recovery in the next four months to buoy his sagging reelection prospects, The New York Times reported. But Republicans have become exasperated with Trump's unwillingness to take the easiest steps to confront the crisis, such as promoting mask-wearing.

Trump's opponent, Joe Biden, offered a sober view on the economy and damning one on Trump's crisis management. “We’re still down nearly 15 million jobs, and the pandemic is getting worse, not better,” Biden said in a video message. “Today’s report is positive news and I’m thankful for it — for real,” the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee continued. “But make no mistake, we’re still in a deep, deep job hole because Donald Trump has so badly bungled the response to coronavirus.”

COVID-19 lands 9-9-9 guy in hospital

Herman Cain, a candidate in the 2012 Republican primaries, attended Trump's June 20 rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in his role as a co-chair of Black Voices for Trump. He's now hospitalized in Atlanta with the coronavirus. Just a coincidence? No one is sure.

At least eight Trump advance-team staffers who were in Tulsa tested positive for the coronavirus, and others from the campaign staff went into quarantine, as did dozens of Secret Service officers. Social distancing guidelines were ignored in a failed effort to give a Trump a full house at the arena. Many went maskless, including Cain, who is 74 and as a cancer survivor is at higher risk of serious or deadly complications.

A post from the editor of Cain's website said, "We honestly have no idea where he contracted it. I realize people will speculate about the Tulsa rally, but Herman did a lot of traveling the past week, including to Arizona where cases are spiking." Cain learned Monday that he had tested positive and entered the hospital on Wednesday. A Trump campaign spokesman said Cain did not come into contact with the president in Tulsa.

Cain, former CEO of Godfather's Pizza, enjoyed a brief surge of popularity in the 2012 campaign for his gimmicky 9-9-9 tax reform plan but dropped out amid sexual harassment allegations, which he denied.

Coronavirus surge in military

COVID-19 cases in the U.S. military shot up more than 41% in June among service members, dependents and Defense Department civilians and contractors in what Pentagon officials said was a reflection of the coronavirus surge in hot spot states, reports

Among service members alone, the number of cases nearly doubled over a month to 12,521 as of Wednesday from 6,396 on June 1.

Janison: Never a role model

Trump has pivoted to a mask-friendlier stance this week, if not mask advocacy. "I'm all for masks. I think masks are good," Trump told Fox Business on Wednesday. Trump's messaging for months has suggested otherwise, even leading to catty online speculation that he disregarded his own administration's guidance because he didn't want a face covering to mess up his bronzing, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.

It fits Trump's distinctive style of refusing to lead by example. For years, he demonized undocumented immigrants as a criminal-infested group that took American jobs. But his businesses hired them, as well as foreign temporary visa holders. 

First lady Melania Trump famously leads a campaign against cyberbullying. The president, however, has used Twitter to call various people "lowlifes," "scum," "wackos," "little," "weak," "crazy," "nervous," "goofy," "shifty," "sleepy," "Dumbo," "wild," "deranged," "animals" and "brain dead," to name a few. 

"Law and Order!" tweets the president, who pardons his political supporters and acquaintances convicted of crimes. 

Others in government are constrained by conflict-of-interest laws and ethics rules. Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump's White House presence shows how unconcerned Trump is about nepotism. He never really distanced himself from his businesses either globally or locally, and he is the first president since the 1970s to refuse to voluntarily disclose his taxes.

Dems to Trump: You didn't protect troops

The two top Democrats in Congress said Thursday that any threats to U.S. troops must be pursued “relentlessly,” rebuking Trump after they received a classified briefing about intelligence that Russia offered bounties for killing U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Trump was “soft” on Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump has called reports of the U.S. intelligence assessments a “hoax,” while administration officials say they're unverified. The president hasn't said whether or how the U.S. will respond to Russia.

“Our armed forces would be better served if President Trump spent more time reading his daily briefing and less time planning military parades and defending relics of the Confederacy,” Pelosi and Schumer said in a joint statement.

Trump and the White House repeatedly have insisted that the president wasn’t verbally briefed because there was a dispute on the strength of the bounty intelligence. The Associated Press notes it’s rare for intel to be confirmed without a shadow of doubt before it is presented to senior government decision-makers.

Keeping up with the Conways: Next generation

You're probably familiar by now with Washington's top political family feud. Kellyanne Conway is a senior counselor to Trump and his fierce defender. Her husband, conservative lawyer George Conway, is working feverishly with anti-Trump Republicans to make him a one-term president.

Now their 15-year-old daughter, Claudia, has gotten into the fray, and politically she's turned out to be Daddy's girl. Her TikTok videos with anti-Trump, pro-Black Lives Matter messages have gone viral, USA Today reports. She has 40,000 followers and got hundreds of thousands of views.

"I know a lot of my friends are so informed, and I think they wouldn't be if it weren't for social media, which is why I think using one's platform for good and for the education of others is so, so important, especially in our day," the teen said.

"My dad is pretty supportive of it, you know, my mom, she's always taught me to stand up for what I believe in," Claudia said. The teen said she and her mom have political arguments but also maintain a "best friend" relationship.

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 Supreme Court won't let House Democrats get access to secret grand jury testimony from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation before the November election. The justices agreed on Thursday to hear the Trump administration’s appeal of a lower court order for the material to be turned over. That makes a decision unlikely before 2021.
  • The latest Monmouth University national poll shows Biden leading Trump by 12 points, 53% to 41%. Half of the nation’s electorate says they have ruled out voting for Trump in November, while 4 in 10 say the same about Biden.
  • For the second month in a row, Biden raised more money than Trump. The Biden campaign and the Democratic National Committee late Wednesday reported that they raised a combined $141 million in June, for a total cash haul of $282.1 million in the second quarter. Trump and the Republican National Committee reported collecting a combined $131 million in June and $266 million in the quarter.
  • Democratic ad makers believe they are getting their best response from swing voters with messages that connect doubts about Trump's leadership to current crises like the pandemic, Politico reports. That “really made concrete for people the ways in which his leadership has direct consequences on them and their loved ones," said Nick Ahamed, analytics director at Priorities USA. Using Trump’s own words against him often tests well, the strategists say.
  • Kellyanne Conway said the president isn't to blame for people not wearing masks because no one is recommending it. "I don't think they're not wearing masks because the president of the United States is not wearing a mask. They're not wearing a mask because nobody's saying ‘Put the mask on,’ ” she told reporters Thursday. Federal health officials and, lately, Vice President Mike Pence and the GOP governors of Texas and Florida are pushing mask use.
  • Trump is set to hold a high-dollar dinner at a private residence near Fort Lauderdale in coronavirus-stricken Florida next week to raise money for his campaign and the RNC, The Washington Post reported.
  • The chief federal law enforcement officer for Long Island, Eastern District U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue, has been named to a high-ranking post at the Justice Department headquarters in Washington, Newsday's Robert E. Kessler reports. Mark Lesko, Donoghue’s chief assistant, is expected to replace him, at least on an interim basis. CNN reports that Seth DuCharme, a veteran of the Brooklyn-based office and a former top aide to Attorney General William Barr, is being considered for the job.
  • Who could carry the banner of Trumpism after Trump? Politico reports that Republican strategists, conservative commentators and former Trump campaign and administration officials are talking up a 2024 run by Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who serves up a stew of anti-immigrant nationalism, economic populism and America First isolationism.

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