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Trump in Kenosha: Stop talking about racism

President Donald Trump's supporters and Black Lives Matter

President Donald Trump's supporters and Black Lives Matter protesters on Tuesday in Kenosha, Wis. Credit: AP / Morry Gash

The answer: More 'law and order'

President Donald Trump brought his campaign message of confrontation and crackdowns instead of reconciliation to the violence-scarred city of Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Tuesday. He blamed “domestic terror” and "Democrat-run cities" for the unrest and making no nod to the cause of racial justice that drove protests.

Joined at a roundtable event by an all-white panel of law enforcement officers, Trump ripped "reckless far-left politicians" who "continue to push the destructive message that our nation and our law enforcement are oppressive or racist … Actually, we must give far greater support to our law enforcement.”

The only African Americans present were James Ward and Sharon Ward, who said they were pastors for Jacob Blake's mother, Julia Jackson. Blake, a Black man, was shot several times in the back by a Kenosha police officer on Aug. 23, sparking protests that spun off violence. When a reporter asked the Wards whether they believed police violence was a systemic issue, Trump interrupted: “I don’t believe that. I think the police do an incredible job and I think you do have some bad apples.”

Later, a reporter asked Trump: "Do you believe systemic racism is a problem in this country?" His answer: "You just keep getting back to the opposite subject. We should talk about the kind of violence that we've seen in Portland and here and other places."

Trump was asked if there is a need for "structural change." He replied, "The people of Kenosha ... want to see law and order. That's the change they want."

Trump aides believe that his tough-on-crime stance will help him with voters and that the more the national discourse is about anything other than the coronavirus, the better it is for the president, The Associated Press reported.

Before flying to Kenosha, Trump told reporters outside Joint Base Andrews that he would like to heal America’s racial wounds. The president suggested his messaging was helping to accomplish that, “because I’m about law and order.”

Bullets and bogeys

In Kenosha, and in an interview aired Monday night with Fox News host Laura Ingraham, Trump allowed there were possible instances in which police used excessive force, but the president framed them as often mistakes made without malice. He even likened those cops to a golfer who muffs a putt.

“They can do 10,000 great acts, which is what they do, and one bad apple or a choker — you know, a choker. They choke,” Trump told Ingraham. He seemed to agree, without specifically mentioning Blake, that shooting a suspect multiple times in the back looked extreme. “I mean, couldn’t you have done something different? Couldn’t you have wrestled him?” he wondered. 

And then, Trump said of such officers: “They choke just like in a golf tournament. They miss a 3-foot putt.” Ingraham jumped in to try to nudge Trump off the golf analogy. “You’re not comparing it to golf, because of course that’s what the media would say,” she said. “I’m saying people choke. People choke,” Trump responded.

He repeated that in Kenosha. He said, "You do have some bad apples … every once in a while, you'll see something. And you do have the other situation, too. They're under this tremendous pressure, and they don't handle it well. They call it choking."

Antifa snakes on a plane?

A planeload of men in black with antifa rioting kits as carry-ons to spread mayhem long-distance? If Trump's story sounded like a woolly conspiracy theory resembling those in the hoax hatcheries on Facebook, it's because it did.

Three months ago, a post from a man from Emmett, Idaho, that went viral said, "At least a dozen males got off the plane in Boise from Seattle, dressed head to toe in black,” and one had “a tattoo that said Antifa America on his arm.” Supporters of the QAnon conspiracy cult passed it on.

Here's what Trump told Ingraham in their interview: "We had somebody get on a plane from a certain city this weekend, and in the plane it was almost completely loaded with thugs, wearing these dark uniforms, black uniforms, with gear and this and that.” When Ingraham asked for more information about the flight, the president said, "I'll tell you sometime." He then alleged the people headed to Washington to disrupt last week's Republican convention.

He repeated the story to reporters Tuesday before leaving for Kenosha, only in his second version, the plane — "filled up with the looters, the anarchists, rioters, people looking for trouble" — was flying from Washington. His source? Someone who was on the plane and "felt very uncomfortable."

How would such a group would get past TSA and flight crews with rioter gear? How did his source make them out as looters — did they grab all the Terra Chips? U.S. security officials said they could not confirm such an incident, Reuters reported. Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said more vaguely and less colorfully Monday that the Justice Department was investigating whether people are funding travels by other people to take part in protest.

Trump also told Ingraham that Joe Biden was being controlled by “people that are in the dark shadows … people that are controlling the streets.”

Trump stokes health rumor on himself

Trump on Tuesday rushed out denials of supposed media reports that he had been taken to the hospital for treatment of a "series of mini-strokes." What made that extra strange is that there have been no such reports by any widely followed media outlet.

An upcoming book by New York Times reporter Michael Schmidt raised questions about Trump's unannounced trip to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center last November, but the passage shed no light on the reason. A few Trump critics — including Joe Lockhart, who was a press secretary for former President Bill Clinton — have speculated from time to time about mini-strokes but offering no direct evidence, just conjecture. Now Trump, seemingly unwittingly, has amplified those suspicions.

“It never ends! Now they are trying to say that your favorite President, me, went to Walter Reed Medical Center, having suffered a series of mini-strokes,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Never happened to THIS candidate - FAKE NEWS." He was backed up in a statement Tuesday afternoon from White House physician Dr. Sean Conley. Seeking to redirect doubts to Biden, Trump's tweet said: "Perhaps they are referring to another candidate from another Party!”

Trump's tweet didn't end the conversation — it propelled it, on cable news and social media. The top headline for much of Tuesday on the Drudge Report blared: "TRUMP DENIES MINI-STROKE SENT HIM TO HOSPITAL." The link below it said: "VIDEO: DRAGGING RIGHT LEG." (The video, from July, does not show any clear impairment.) It's a turnabout from 2016, when Drudge was awash with unfounded stories about Hillary Clinton's health, matching spurious claims that candidate Trump was making about her.

In sum, Trump's pushback to the non-report on Tuesday didn't appear to be a strategic masterstroke.

Swinging away

A poll of 11 swing states by Morning Consult shows Biden with the advantage in all of them except Texas and Ohio. Since the Democratic and Republican conventions, Biden's lead grew significantly in Arizona, Michigan and — despite the Kenosha violence — Wisconsin. 

But Trump has made up some ground in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Florida.

Politico that reports Minnesota, which narrowly went Democratic in 2016, has surprisingly become a battleground as Trump looks to offset feared electoral losses elsewhere in the Midwest. The president has poured campaign staff into the state, and now Biden has put up ads there.

Biden included Minnesota in a list of battleground states he said he wants to visit — travel that suggests the state, while leaning his way, is far from a lock.

Biden campaign swimming in cash

Biden's presidential campaign is expected to announce its record-breaking fundraising in August of more than $310 million, CNN reported. Big contributors from Wall Street and Silicon Valley ponied up, according to The New York Times.

Biden’s sum laps what is believed to be the previous monthly record of $193 million, set by Barack Obama in September 2008, the Times said. Biden entered 2020 at a big disadvantage with Trump. The gap has been closing, not only because of improved fundraising but also a reduction in expenses during the coronavirus-forced lull in live campaigning. 

The Trump campaign has not announced its August fundraising total but has said it raised $76 million over its four-day convention last week.

More coronavirus news

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

What else is happening:

  • Trump pressed the commissioner of the Big Ten football conference, Kevin Warren, to "immediately" launch a full football season, declaring on Twitter that it would be “good (great!) for everyone." It would be good in Midwest battlegrounds for Trump, who accused Democratic lawmakers, without evidence, of seeking to hold up the college football season. A statement from the Big Ten, which called off the fall season because of the pandemic, said play would return "at the appropriate time, in the safest and healthiest way possible."
  • A federal appeals court on Tuesday temporarily blocked Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. from obtaining Trump's tax returns while the president's lawyers continue to fight a subpoena seeking the records. The three-judge panel scheduled a hearing for Sept. 25.
  • Public tours of the White House, halted nearly six months ago because of the pandemic, are set to resume Sept. 12 with new health and safety policies in place. All guests over age 2 will be required to wear a face covering and practice social distancing.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services is bidding out a more than $250 million contract to a communications firm as it seeks to “defeat despair and inspire hope” about the coronavirus pandemic, Politico reported. The timing, two months before the election, raised eyebrows, but a former senior Obama HHS official said there seemed to be legitimate aims, such as winning public acceptance for vaccines.
  • Facebook and Twitter said they uncovered a scheme by a Russian internet troll group involved in 2016 election interference to target Americans again — in this case, to target left-wing audiences and steer them away from Biden.
  • Federal prosecutors are preparing to charge longtime GOP fundraiser Elliott Broidy, who raised millions for Trump in 2016, in connection with efforts to influence the U.S. government on behalf of foreign interests, The Washington Post reported.

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