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Trump Throws Fuel on the Fire

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Trump talks tough, Biden gets a push, and the nationwide protest movement continues. It’s Tuesday, and this is your politics tip sheet.

  • President Trump has promised a harsh crackdown on protesters demanding racial justice. After resisting calls to try to calm the public over the weekend, he chewed out governors yesterday afternoon during a conference call, then gave a speech at the White House in which he declared himself “your president of law and order.” Speaking in the Rose Garden, just steps from nearby Lafayette Park, where a legion of demonstrators was gathered, Trump pledged to use harsh military tactics to stamp out the protests, which began last week when a black man, George Floyd, died after a white police officer pinned his neck. Trump acknowledged that “Americans were rightly sickened and revolted” by Floyd’s death, but he quickly turned his attention toward condemning the often nonviolent, sometimes bloody protests. He called them “not acts of a peaceful process, but acts of terror.”

  • “I am mobilizing all available federal resources, civilian and military, to stop the rioting and looting, to end the destruction and arson, and to protect the rights of law-abiding Americans, including your Second Amendment rights,” Trump said. He demanded that cities and states “establish an overwhelming law-enforcement presence until the violence has been quelled,” and said that if they failed to quell the protests he would send in the U.S. military to “quickly solve the problem for them.” After the address, he headed to nearby St. John’s Church, which was set ablaze over the weekend, to pose for photographs with members of his administration. On the way, law enforcement officers — some mounted on horseback — used tear gas and flash grenades to forcefully scatter the protesters who had peacefully assembled between the White House and the church. The Episcopal bishop who oversees the church told The Washington Post that she was “outraged” by the conspicuous display of force. She accused Trump and the police of “clearing with tear gas so they could use one of our churches as a prop.”

  • On his call with governors earlier in the day, Trump upbraided them for failing to stop the violence in their states. Urging the governors to send protesters to jail “for long periods of time,” he added: “It’s a movement. If you don’t put it down, it will get worse and worse. The only time it’s successful is when you’re weak, and most of you are weak.”

  • Joe Biden struck a vastly different posture on Monday morning, appearing at a black church in Delaware to offer support — and mostly, he said, to listen. For most of his time there, Biden stood at the front of the church, mask-clad and taking notes, as local leaders told him about their concerns. “Over the eight years you were vice president, there were lots of successes, but the African-American community did not experience the same economic opportunity and upward mobility that they did in the ’90s,” Darius Brown, a Delaware state senator, told Biden. “We’re here not only to love you but to push you.”

  • Biden seemed ready to be pushed that afternoon, when he participated in a virtual round table with four mayors whose cities have been jolted by demonstrations. Linking the racially disparate effects of the coronavirus with the rising protest movement, he sounded more receptive to demands for radical change than he did to cracking heads. “I hope collectively we can keep the pressure up, because I don’t think this can continue without the public, across the board, just rising up,” he told the mayors of Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles and St. Paul, Minn., according to Axios. Since the Floyd protests began, Biden has generally expressed support for the movement while taking pains to condemn looting and violence.

  • There is just one man standing between Michael Flynn and a get-out-of-jail-free card — and his job is getting harder. That person is Emmet Sullivan, the federal judge who refused last month to let the Justice Department swiftly drop its charges against Flynn. A former national security adviser and Trump ally, Flynn had already pleaded guilty to lying under oath before the government sought to end its case against him. But rather than immediately signing off on that request, Sullivan assigned a former judge to present arguments against the government’s decision. On Monday, responding to a challenge from the Justice Department, a lawyer for Sullivan submitted a 36-page brief arguing that the court should not “short-circuit this process.” A three-judge panel will now decide whether to let him proceed with his review, or to let Flynn go free.

President Trump walked past graffiti on his way to St. John’s Church on Monday.

We haven’t been hearing much lately from Anthony Fauci, who as the nation’s top infectious disease expert had been the face of the federal government’s effort to contain the coronavirus. Even before protests rippled through the country last week, Trump had cut down on his interactions with Fauci, focusing instead on pushing governors to reopen their economies.

“My meetings with the president have been dramatically decreased,” Fauci told STAT, a publication devoted to health journalism, in an interview published on Monday.

“We used to have task force meetings every single day, including Saturday and Sunday,” Fauci said. “As you probably noticed,” he added, “the task force meetings have not occurred as often lately.”

But he sounded cautiously optimistic, expressing confidence that a vaccine could be developed by the start of next year. He explained that the government was working with pharmaceutical companies to expedite the process by taking costly, experimental measures that would not typically be used in a normal search.

“The initial data look very promising from the neutralizing antibody standpoint,” he said, explaining that a number of different companies were developing vaccines.

Last week, speaking to CNN not long after Trump announced that he was taking the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure against the virus, Fauci was unequivocal: “The scientific data is really quite evident now about the lack of efficacy for it,” he said.

New York Times Events

Join us today at 11 a.m. Eastern as our journalists try to make sense of the harrowing headlines of recent days, with cities erupting in protest over George Floyd’s death three months after Ahmaud Arbery, a black man, was chased by white men in Georgia and killed. And all of this is playing out against a tragic backdrop: the coronavirus pandemic, which has disproportionately affected African-Americans.

Our panelists are three journalists who report from the front lines, and we’ll have video from The Times’s acclaimed Visual Investigations team.

Bring your questions for John Eligon, a national correspondent covering race; Audra Burch, a national enterprise correspondent; and Richard Fausset, the Atlanta bureau chief. The host will be Jamie Stockwell, a deputy National editor.

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