Game of thorns
Reporters assembled in the White House Rose Garden late Tuesday afternoon for what was billed as a news conference by President Donald Trump. It started normally enough with an announcement on sanctions to punish China for its Hong Kong crackdown.
But then he shifted his focus to how Joe Biden's "entire" career was "a gift to the Chinese Communist Party." From there, the president drifted into a disjointed, kitchen-sink attack, often untethered to facts, on anything and everything Biden.
There were the charges, never substantiated and now familiar from Trump's impeachment drama, about the business activities of Biden's son Hunter in Ukraine and China. He accused Biden of wanting to "abolish police," "abolish prisons" and "abolish the suburbs."
And Trump offered a new claim, spun from the climate plan his Democratic opponent unveiled earlier in the day that calls for net-zero carbon emissions from buildings. "That basically means no windows, no nothing," Trump claimed.
The 54-minute meandering melange of blasts and boasts would be par for the course at a Trump rally, where the crowd's cheers provide the punctuation between his pinballing riffs. But this amounted to a campaign speech from the White House and to no one's applause. The Rose Garden is a setting that presidents have traditionally considered off limits for direct and extended political attacks, The Washington Post wrote.
The Biden campaign struck back with a “fact-check” email blast to reporters while the president was still talking, accusing Trump of failing to “get tough on China’s government when it mattered most” during the early days of the coronavirus outbreak. “Donald Trump is busy trying to rewrite his miserable history as president of caving to President Xi and the Chinese government at every turn,” the email said.
When he ran out of oppo, Trump took a few questions and derided polls showing him running around 10 points behind Biden, insisting a “silent majority” backs him and doesn't always want to admit its support for him to pollsters. He said pro-Trump boat parades on the Intracoastal Waterway in Florida and biker rallies are better indicators of his popularity.
Mary Trump: He's not up for this
Freed by a court to speak about her new book, the president's niece Mary L. Trump said that when she visited her uncle in the Oval Office three months after his 2017 inauguration, she thought the job's demands were already overwhelming him.
"He already seemed very strained by the pressures … and I just remember thinking, ‘He seems tired. He seems like this is not what he signed up for,’ ” she told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos on Tuesday. What would she tell the president if she was back in the Oval Office today? "Resign," Mary Trump responded. (Watch an excerpt.)
She said that, after being “perverted” by the family’s deep-seated “issues," her uncle was destined to become a man “utterly incapable of leading this country, and it’s dangerous to allow him to do so.”
“I saw firsthand what focusing on the wrong things, elevating the wrong people can do — the collateral damage that can be created by allowing somebody to live their lives without accountability,” she said. “And it is striking to see that continuing now on a much grander scale.”
Her book, published Tuesday, is "Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man."
Janison: Virus infects all politics
National politics, like much in American life, becomes a hostage of the pandemic with no end in sight, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are under public pressure to agree by next month on another massive federal coronavirus-spending infusion.
The White House and McConnell are discussing financial incentives to push schools to reopen while shielding health care firms and employers from litigation related to the virus.
The conduct of the November election could be affected, not only in terms of turnout and mail-in ballots but because of fiscal strains on counties across the U.S. According to a joint project by USA Today Network and Columbia Journalism Investigations, county election clerks will face extra hassles getting poll workers and counting operations in place.
Trump ineffectively blames exploding coronavirus case numbers on expanded testing, as if the sometimes-fatal virus isn't actually spreading.
Cross fingers, wear masks
As bad as it is, the pandemic could get worse when the next flu season arrives and the coronavirus hasn't gone away, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.
"The fall and the winter of 2020 and 2021 are going to be the probably one of the most difficult times that we experienced in American public health," Dr. Robert Redfield said during a webinar with the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Dr. Anthony Fauci saw hopeful news from the results of a study of an experimental coronavirus vaccine developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc. The vaccine induced the desired immune response for all 45 people evaluated. “This is really quite good news,” Fauci told The Wall Street Journal. "The study, small numbers as it may be, are pretty clear that this vaccine is capable of inducing quite good [levels] of neutralizing antibodies," said Fauci, who believes a vaccine could be available sometime next year. A 30,000-person study for efficacy is set to begin later this month.
Some of the president's allies, taking cues from Trump's pot shots at Fauci, are trying to discredit him. Stephen Moore, a conservative economist who informally advises Trump, told the Daily Beast he was working on a memo to "go after" the top infectious disease expert, listing when he's been wrong over his four decades in public health. Moore planned to give it to Trump.
The word from other Trump allies: Stop. "We don't have a Dr. Fauci problem," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). "We need to be focusing on doing things that get us to where we need to go … I think any effort to undermine him is not going to be productive, quite frankly."
Trump backs down on foreign students
The Trump administration on Tuesday rescinded rules announced last week that would have required international students to leave the United States if their colleges offered only online courses in the fall because of coronavirus concerns, reports Newsday's Laura Figueroa Hernandez.
The initial rules, unveiled by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, were widely denounced by colleges and universities across the country. More than 200 higher education institutions signed on to support a lawsuit challenge by Harvard and MIT. The judge hearing the case announced the settlement during a teleconference hearing.
Biden plan: $2T to get greener
Biden released a $2 trillion plan Tuesday aimed at combating climate change and spurring economic growth in part by overhauling America’s energy industry, The Associated Press reported. The goal is entirely carbon pollution-free power by 2035.
Biden described the economy as in “crisis” because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but he said it offers “an incredible opportunity, not just to build back to where we were before, but better, stronger, more resilient and more prepared for the challenges that lie ahead.”
The proposal doesn’t include specifics on how it would be paid for. Senior campaign officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss strategy said it would require a mix of tax increases on corporations and the wealthy and deficit spending aimed at stimulating the economy.
Dug in on race
In an interview with CBS News, Trump said he didn't believe that Blacks were more likely than whites to be killed by police, and he saw no reason to take offense from the Confederate flag.
Trump agreed that the police killing of George Floyd was "terrible." But when correspondent Catherine Herridge asked why African Americans are dying at the hands of law enforcement, he responded: "So are white people. So are white people. What a terrible question to ask. So are white people, more white people, by the way. More white people." (Here's a video clip.)
Various studies have shown that Black people are 3 to 3.5 times more likely than whites to be killed by police.
Herridge pressed the president on whether he understood why the Confederate flag "is a painful symbol for many people because it's a reminder of slavery." He answered: "Well, people love it and I don't view — I know people that like the Confederate flag and they're not thinking about slavery."
Trump continued, "I just think it's freedom of speech, whether it's freedom of speech, whether it's Confederate flags or Black Lives Matter or anything else you want to talk about." Two weeks ago, after New York City announced plans to paint "Black Lives Matter" on the street in front of Trump Tower on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, Trump complained it would be "denigrating this luxury Avenue" with a "symbol of hate."
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:
- Republicans are now planning to move outdoors next month for three nights of the party's convention in Jacksonville, Florida, The New York Times reported. It remains unclear how many will be allowed to attend — or will want to. The city is hot, humid and often stormy in August, more so than Charlotte, North Carolina, the original site the party mostly abandoned because it couldn't assure Trump a packed arena.
- With 18 million Americans unemployed, Ivanka Trump is promoting an ad campaign to encourage the jobless and people unhappy in their careers to go out and "find something new." A companion website provides links to training and other resources. The rollout was bashed on social media as being tone-deaf and inadequate for the times, The Associated Press reported.
- Pelosi told CNN on Tuesday she would "absolutely" be willing to forgo the House's August recess to reach a deal with the Republican-led Senate for another coronavirus relief package. McConnell said Monday that negotiations will begin once the GOP completes its own package next week.
- Is Kanye West in or out? New York magazine reports the billionaire music star took early steps to get himself on the ballot in some states and hired a campaign pro, but then apparently pulled back, at least in Florida. A poll of voters found he'd get 2% while Biden would beat Trump by 9 points. With no Ye, Biden would lead by 8 points in the Redfield & Wilton Strategies survey.
- How far will Donald Trump Jr. go for his dad's campaign? How about by belittling his 14-year-old half brother? "In all fairness, Joe Biden is not capable of debating Barron Trump let alone Donald Trump," the president's eldest son tweeted.
- Trump got his revenge against his former attorney general, Jeff Sessions, for recusing himself from the Russia investigation. Alabama Republican voters, at Trump's urging, snuffed out Sessions' attempt to reclaim his old Senate seat and gave the nomination to former college football coach Tommy Tuberville, who will face Democratic incumbent Doug Jones.