Now, Klausutis is asking Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey to delete Trump’s posts that disparage his wife’s memory and impugn his marriage. “I'm asking you to intervene in this instance because the President of the United States has taken something that does not belong him — the memory of my dead wife – and perverted it for perceived political gain,” Klausutis writes in a three-page letter. “I would also ask that you consider Lori's niece and two nephews who will eventually come across this filth in the future. They have never met their Aunt and it pains me to think they would ever have to about her this way. My wife deserves better.”
A Twitter spokesman emailed this response: “We are deeply sorry about the pain these statements, and the attention they are drawing, are causing the family. We've been working to expand existing product features and policies so we can more effectively address things like this going forward, and we hope to have those changes in place shortly.”
After news of the letter broke, Trump defiantly doubled down with more tweets on the subject:
Angry at the tenor of commentary on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Trump has callously beat this drum since November 2017. The Post’s Fact Checker unit gave Four Pinocchios to Trump’s claims earlier this month about Klausutis’s death. “We wish we had more to give,” said Sal Rizzo.
On the eve of Memorial Day, as the death toll from the novel coronavirus neared 100,000 in the United States and he prepared to hit the golf course for a second consecutive day, Trump took a few minutes to again pose questions: “So a young marathon runner just happened to faint in his office, hit her head on his desk, & die? I would think there is a lot more to this story than that? An affair?” On Saturday, Trump urged his followers to “keep digging.” Last week, the president posted: “Did he get away with murder? Some people think so.”
As he pushes to quickly reopen the country amid the worst public health crisis since 1918 and worst economic crisis since 1933, Trump has ratcheted up his invective on Twitter against an array of perceived enemies. This is a tactic the president has often used successfully in the past to change the subject when he is facing scrutiny and bad press for his job performance.
Scarborough was in Washington at the time of her death. Police said there were no signs of foul play. (Read the medical examiner’s report for yourself.)
Mika Brzezinski, Scarborough’s co-host and wife, took four minutes to read the entire letter aloud on their show.
“I know all too well how much T.J. has suffered and how much his family has suffered,” Scarborough said when she was done. “It’s unspeakably cruel, whether it’s the president or whether it’s people following the president. These are not public figures, nor have they ever been public figures. Every time they spread these lies, they’re hurting the family.”
Klausutis, now 52, explains in his letter that his wife had an undiagnosed heart condition, which caused her to fall and hit her head on a desk, leading to her death after they had been married four years. “I have mourned my wife every day since her passing,” he writes. “I’m a research engineer and not a lawyer, but reviewed all of Twitter's rules and terms of service. The President's tweet that suggests that Lori was murdered – without evidence and contrary to the official autopsy — is a violation of Twitter's community rules and terms of service. An ordinary user like me would be banished from the platform for such a tweet but I am only asking that these tweets be removed.” He also asks for disparaging tweets from the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., to be deleted.
Kara Swisher, who first reported news of the letter this morning, argues that Twitter should take down Trump’s tweets about Klausutis. “The company tends to be hands-off when a Trump controversy erupts, relying on a tenet that he is a public figure and also that it cannot sort out what is truth and a lie and is therefore better off letting its community argue it out. While that might work when it comes to some issues, it has broken down here,” Swisher writes in a column for the New York Times. “Another solution being discussed inside Twitter is to label the tweets as false and link to myriad high-quality information and reporting that refute the tweets’ sinister insinuations.
“Sources told me that after initial hesitance in dealing with Mr. Trump’s tweets about Ms. Klausutis, the company has accelerated work on a more robust rubric around labeling and dealing with such falsehoods,” she added. “Again, top company executives hope that this placement of truth against lies will serve to cleanse the stain. I think this is both naïve and will be ineffective — most people’s experience tracks with that old axiom: A lie can travel halfway around the world while truth is still getting its shoes on. In the digital age, that would be to the moon and back 347 times, of course, which is why I am supportive of the suggestion Mr. Klausutis makes in his letter to simply remove the offending tweets.”
Social media companies have been struggling with how to police misinformation disseminated widely on their platforms after it was revealed that Russian trolls used them to spread falsehoods during the 2016 election. But they have been inconsistent in their response, and some tech strategists are concerned about being accused of anti-conservative bias if they crack down too hard.
Willie Geist, a member of the “Morning Joe” crew, said the president is “showing no humanity” whatsoever. “How sad and how sick and how sorry I am that T.J. had to sit down and compose that letter about a wife he lost in her 20s,” he said on the show. “If you want to come after us and our show, like you have for four years, that’s fine. We ignore it. We get on with our lives. But you’re talking about someone who still grapples everyday with the passing of his wife.”
The federal response to the coronavirus
Trump and Biden commemorated Memorial Day. Only Biden wore a mask.
“Memorial Day 2020 offered an array of contrasts as some Americans sheltered in their homes, others flocked to beaches and pools, and the nation’s political leaders honored generations of war dead,” Ellen Nakashima reports. “The disparate approaches played out as the country’s reported death toll from the coronavirus edged closer to 100,000. Trump took part in a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery and later gave remarks at Fort McHenry in Baltimore to honor those who have given their lives in wars past and those fighting today on the front lines of the pandemic. … Biden emerged from his home for the first time since mid-March to lay a wreath at the Delaware Memorial Bridge Veterans Memorial Park.”
Quote of the day
“It feels good to be out of my house,” Biden said. (Sean Sullivan)
Trump said he is no longer taking hydroxychloroquine.
“Trump said he had ‘just finished’ taking a two-week course of the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine, the medication he has vigorously promoted as a preventative or curative treatment for the coronavirus, even as evidence piles up that the drug may cause more harm than good,” NBC News reports. “‘Finished, just finished,’ he said in an interview that aired on Sinclair Broadcasting on Sunday. ‘And by the way, I’m still here.’" Meanwhile, the World Health Organization announced a pause on its trial of the drug for treating the virus, citing fears of its side effects, per Tim Elfrink.
Democratic congressional leaders blasted the administration’s testing plan.
“House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. and Washington Sen. Patty Murray said the administration ‘still does not have a serious plan for increasing testing to stop the spread of the virus,’” the AP reports. “[An] 81-page document from the Department of Health and Human Services says, ‘State plans must establish a robust testing program that ensures adequacy of COVID-19 testing, including tests for contact tracing, and surveillance of asymptomatic persons to determine community spread.’ … The Democratic lawmakers, who released the HHS report along with their joint letter, said it ‘confirms that President Trump’s national testing strategy is to deny the truth that there aren’t enough tests and supplies, reject responsibility and dump the burden onto the states.’”
Trump threatened to pull the Republican convention out of North Carolina.
“Accusing North Carolina’s Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, of being in a ‘shutdown mood,’ Trump — in a string of early-morning Memorial Day tweets — pressured Cooper to guarantee that ‘we will be allowed full attendance in the Arena’ in Charlotte by the late-August convention,” Seung Min Kim and Sean Sullivan report. “Trump continued: ‘If not, we will be reluctantly forced to find, with all of the jobs and economic development it brings, another Republican National Convention site.' … Cooper, through aides, declined to strike back forcefully at Trump’s tweets on Monday. … The morning tweet was backed up by the Republican National Committee and Vice President Pence, who in a Fox News interview on Monday mentioned Georgia, Texas and Florida as potential alternate venues for the convention."
Some seniors in Florida are souring on Trump.
“The state ranks as one Trump must almost certainly win to insure his victory, while Biden has other paths to the White House. Yet for months, Biden has been more popular than Trump with seniors,” Jenna Johnson and Lori Rozsa report. “In Florida, more than 80 percent of the 2,000-plus people killed by the virus have been over age 65 … Even as the state has begun to reopen, most seniors have remained hidden in their homes at the urging of their doctors or their adult children and grandchildren. Most no longer gather with others to dine, play cards, enjoy golf or the pool, or discuss politics. …
"Tom, a 74-year-old retiree and Republican-leaning independent living in northeast Florida, vacationed in Hong Kong and Vietnam in January. When he landed at the airport in Los Angeles in early February, no one took his temperature or asked where he had been traveling, which was standard procedure in other countries. ‘January and February were totally wasted by Trump. Totally wasted,’ he said, asking that his full name not be used for fear of receiving retaliation from nasty online trolls or scorn from his Republican neighbors and golf partners. ‘To Trump, in my opinion, the virus is nothing more than an inconvenience to him and his political ambitions. And he doesn’t really care.'”
The front lines
The meat industry is trying to get back to normal, but workers are still getting sick.
“Tyson Foods, the largest meat processor in the United States, has transformed its facilities across the country since legions of its workers started getting sick from the novel coronavirus. It has set up on-site medical clinics, screened employees for fevers at the beginning of their shifts, required the use of face coverings, installed plastic dividers between stations and taken a host of other steps to slow the spread. Despite those efforts, the number of Tyson employees with the coronavirus has exploded from less than 1,600 a month ago to more than 7,000 today,” Taylor Telford reports. “Meat companies have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on measures such as protective gear, paid leave and ventilation systems since they were forced to shut dozens of plants that were among the top coronavirus hot spots outside urban areas. But the industry has still experienced a surge in cases, and some companies say they are limited in just how much they can keep workers separated from one another. Only a portion of the labor force has gone back to work — some workers kept away on purpose — and the nation’s meat supply remains deeply strained as barbecue season gets underway.”
The Agriculture Department and the Justice Department are investigating whether the industry is fixing or manipulating prices. “Supermarket customers are paying more for beef than they have in decades during the coronavirus pandemic. But at the same time, the companies that process the meat for sale are paying farmers and ranchers staggeringly low prices for cattle,” Politico reports. DOJ is investigating the four largest American meatpackers— Tyson Foods, JBS, National Beef and Cargill — while the USDA is investigating the beef price fluctuations. A bipartisan chorus of state attorneys general called for these investigations earlier this month.
Latinos are getting hit hard because many live in crowded housing and work in essential jobs.
“Latinos, who make up about 10 percent of the population in the District, Maryland and Virginia, make up about a third of the coronavirus cases in the region,” Antonio Olivo, Marissa Lang and John Harden report. “The disparity is not unique to the capital area. Latinos young and old are contracting the virus at alarmingly high rates in places such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, although the fatality rate for their community is significantly lower than that of African Americans. … Experts cite many explanations: Latinos are a dominant presence in service industry jobs, leaving them unable to ride out the pandemic from home. … Outside of work, avoiding the virus can be nearly impossible, either because Latino families are more likely to live in multigenerational homes or because many take on multiple roommates to manage the Washington region’s high housing costs. Efforts to slow the virus’s spread are tangled with complications, public health experts say, including language barriers, economic stressors, limited resources and, in some cases, a slow response from local governments.”
Holiday gatherings sparked concerns.
In Ocean City, Md., visitors thronged the boardwalk and only some wore masks. Beaches from coast to coast saw dense crowds, including visitors to the Tampa area along Florida’s Gulf Coast that forced authorities to close parking lots. In Houston, partygoers packed into a club’s swimming pool area on Saturday, a day after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) eased restrictions on bars and restaurants. New York, the state hit hardest by the virus, marked the day with car convoys and small ceremonies instead of its traditional parades. (Ellen Nakashima)
- Demonstrators at a rally in Kentucky hung an effigy of Gov. Andy Beshear (D) as they protested his stay-at-home restrictions. Protesters carried guns, waved “Don’t tread on me” flags and called the pandemic “one of the biggest shams in world history.” (Courier Journal)
- Missouri officials issued warnings after videos surfaced of partygoers crowding a Lake of the Ozarks pool bar over the holiday weekend. St. Louis’s county executive issued a “travel advisory," urging “those who ignored protective practices to self-quarantine for 14 days or until testing negative for COVID-19.” (Post Dispatch)
- The Colorado restaurant that lost its license after it defied a statewide shutdown order by packing its dining room with customers on Mother’s Day is suing state officials. The restaurant’s owners allege that Gov. Jared Polis’s (D) statewide restrictions have been based on “fluctuating, often inaccurate projections” of the death toll. (Katie Shepherd)
- Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) said a high school pool party fueled a spike of coronavirus cases in the state. “I don’t think we’re going to say you can’t invite anybody over to a pool in the backyard of your home. I think you have to exercise discipline and make sure you have the right constraints in place. And so, it’s education,” he said. (AP)
- California released new guidelines for religious services, limiting church capacity to 25 percent. The 13-page document doesn’t obligate churches, mosques, temples and other houses of worship to resume in-person activity, but it does set more restrictions for those who do, including requiring fever screenings and asking practitioners to use hand sanitizer and wear face masks. (Los Angeles Times)
- The number of Minnesotans needing ICU beds climbed to a record high over the holiday weekend, straining the state health system. (Star Tribune)
- The New York Stock Exchange will reopen today after a two-month closure. Traders must wear masks, avoid public transportation and follow new social-distancing rules. (WSJ)
- Former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said the increase of hospitalizations because of the virus is probably due to reopening measures. “I’m concerned that there are people who think that this is the all-clear,” he said. “We’re going to need to live differently until we get to a vaccine.” (Lateshia Beachum)
Hypocrisy watch in Michigan: One set of rules for the powerful. Another for the rest of us.
The owner of a Northern Michigan dock said the husband of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) wanted his boat placed in the water before the holiday weekend, even as Whitmer told residents to stay home. The company’s Facebook post, which is no longer visible to the public, has drawn the attention of Republicans, who said the governor’s family may not be following her guidance for the rest of the state. A Whitmer spokeswoman did not deny the allegations, saying only that the governor will not respond to “every rumor that is spread online.” (Detroit News)
Many Americans felt compelled to honor our fallen heroes in person.
“Arlington National Cemetery was closed to all but family members… The National WWI Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Mo., streamed its bell-tolling ceremony and other events online. There were prayers delivered on Facebook and video tributes to the fallen shared on Twitter,” Susan Svrluga reports. “But in Washington, with its iconic memorials, such as the Wall listing the names of more than 58,000 people who died for their country during the Vietnam War, many came to remember — in person. For some, the pandemic served to crystallize the idea of shared sacrifice and the weight of all those losses. … ‘We have to come,’ said Rob Wilkins, retired from the U.S. Air Force and president of Rolling Thunder Washington D.C. ‘It was never a question.’"
“He died at war. The pandemic gave me time to grieve.” Marine Corps veteran Kelsey Baker reflects on losing her partner, Diego Pongo, in Iraq just as the contagion closed down America. “On March 8, 2020, he and Marine Capt. Moises Navas were killed by enemy fire while navigating harsh mountainous terrain in northern Iraq. It took upward of six hours for backup forces to recover him, my sweet man, and they sustained multiple injuries themselves,” she writes in an essay for the New York Times. “More than two months later, the pandemic has paused everything, including Diego’s funeral. His body is waiting at Dover Air Force Base until he can be delivered to Arlington National Cemetery for burial with full military honors. When that eventually happens, his family will fly to Arlington, Va., to say goodbye. They will also come to collect his belongings, my gentle reminders that he’s not yet entirely gone. The virus has disrupted so much, but it has at least slowed down time enough for me to try to understand what was lost, and what I gained from knowing Diego.”
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) empowered local leaders to continue their shutdowns. They wish he hadn’t.
“Montgomery County rushed to create its own data dashboard last week, so elected leaders could justify to constituents why they remain stuck in a coronavirus shutdown. In Anne Arundel County, local officials secured their own virus tests, contact tracers and protective equipment, skeptical the state would provide enough,” Erin Cox reports. “Leaders in Maryland’s largest jurisdictions say they were left high and dry when [Hogan] allowed them to decide when they ‘felt ready’ to ease pandemic-related social distancing restrictions … Several counties are scrambling to buy additional tests, masks, gowns and other personal protective equipment before they ease restrictions.”
- D.C. is “back on track” for a gradual reopening after a possible blip in new cases, Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) said. Bowser said she will wait until Wednesday to decide whether to move to Phase 1 of the city’s reopening on Friday. Officials say that the D.C. region is expected to have enough testing and tracing capacity to contain the virus in July, per Robert McCartney.
- Virginia reported 1,483 new cases, a record single-day number that topped the previous high of 1,229 new cases on May 21. The new cases were mainly in the Washington suburbs, but area leaders said they’re planning on transitioning to Phase 1 of reopening at the end of this week. (Rachel Chason and Julie Zauzmer)
- Georgetown men’s basketball coach Patrick Ewing, 57, is at home recovering after testing positive for the virus, his son said. (Scott Allen)
A celebration turned into a tragedy in Kentucky.
Fleming County High School in Flemingsburg, Ky., held a staggered, 13-hour graduation on Saturday, from 8 a.m. until 9 p.m., so that that each graduating senior could come on campus with up to six members of their family to receive their diploma. Dalton Barnett’s mother, Nancy, wore a shirt to the ceremony that said: “Senior Mom: Some people wait their entire lives to meet their inspiration. I raised mine. Class of 2020.” Dalton planned to join the military. As they left the ceremony, a pick-up truck collided with the family’s car as Nancy made a left turn – killing her and her husband, Lyndon. She was 53. He was 56. Dalton, 18, and his brother Michael, 26, are being treated at the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington, according to the Herald Leader.
Hold the ones you love tightly because you never know when they’ll be taken away from you. Or when you will be taken away from them. Every day we have here is a blessing.
The foreign fallout
The world has a bad case of quarantine fatigue.
Tokyo lifted its state of emergency today. “Somewhere in this crowded, sprawling city of 37 million people, the coronavirus is still lurking. But life must go on. On Monday, Japan lifted the state of emergency over the greater Tokyo area, effectively ending the country’s soft lockdown. New infections have slowed to a trickle and hospital beds have been freed up. There is, finally, light at the end of the tunnel,” Simon Denyer reports. “Now Japan is getting ready for what it’s calling a ‘new lifestyle,’ an idiosyncratic attempt to restart daily life without provoking another increase in infections. … For reasons that still aren’t entirely clear, Japan has officially recorded only 16,000 infections and 800 deaths. Although low rates of testing mean many cases were missed, the country has had a fraction of the numbers seen in the West.”
Italy’s nightlife came raging back. “On Monday, as images of nightlife played on Italian TV, a chorus of politicians warned that the country had gotten reckless and risked backsliding in its fight against the coronavirus,” Chico Harlan and Stefano Pitrelli report. “The governor of the country’s northern Veneto region, Luca Zaia, shared a video on social media showing images of people shaking hands, having drinks with masks worn like necklaces, before cutting away to an image of somebody in a hospital bed. ‘Covid-19 is fought in hospitals,’ the message said at the end, ‘but above all outside.’”
- “Car factories are starting back up in Brazil and Mexico. Train service is restarting across much of India. Mining companies are reopening in Peru,” the Journal reports.
- Dubai will reopen cinemas, health clubs and gyms, Crown Prince Hamdan bin Mohammed said, despite a tide of new cases across the gulf region that shows little sign of slackening. (Paul Schemm)
- Nonessential shops will reopen in England as Prime Minister Boris Johnson continues lifting restrictions. (Jennifer Hassan)
- Denmark is allowing couples separated by international borders to reunite under one condition: They must prove that their relationship is legitimate, perhaps with photos or love letters. (Antonia Farzan)
- The energy minister in Alberta, Canada, said the pandemic is a “great time” to build pipelines because large group protests are banned. (Farzan)
China tested 9 million people in Wuhan in 10 days.
“On Friday alone, the city said it tested 1.47 million people—more than three times the number on the busiest day of testing in the U.S.,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “The aggressive mass-testing regimen was ordered after authorities said a handful of coronavirus cases had been discovered in a residential compound this month. The plan to test all of the city’s 11 million people—the initial goal was to do so within just 10 days—was greeted with doubt from some skeptics … While falling slightly short of its ambitious target of testing everyone in the city, Wuhan was nonetheless able to test so many people so quickly by adopting an approach known as ‘sample pooling’ … Using sample pooling, Wuhan authorities collected samples one by one from citizens, and then processed five to 10 of them at once in a single nucleic-acid test. By bundling multiple samples, Wuhan was able to immediately clear all of the citizens included in one test—as long as the test came out as negative—thereby significantly cutting the number of total nucleic-acid tests required.”
- Africa remains the least-affected continent in the world, the WHO said. It just has 1.5 percent of the world’s reported cases. However, the various efforts to combat the disease in the continent have endangered food supply chains and disrupted essential health services, including vaccination efforts for other diseases. (Paul Schemm)
- Indonesia is deploying hundreds of thousands of soldiers and police officers to ensure that people wear masks and practice social distancing. (Antonia Farzan)
Germany's contact tracing effort outpaces those in the U.S. and U.K.
“As the United Kingdom and the United States scramble to hire teams of contact tracers, local health authorities across Germany have used contact scouts … since they confirmed their first cases early this year,” Loveday Morris and Luisa Beck report. “Epidemiologists say the effort has been essential to the country’s ability to contain its coronavirus outbreak and avoid the larger death tolls seen elsewhere, even with a less stringent shutdown than in other countries. Germany has experienced about 10 coronavirus deaths per 100,000 people. … Germany aims to have five contact tracers for every 25,000 people — or about 16,000 for its population of 83 million. … Germany’s effort is decidedly low-tech. Privacy concerns — which run strong in Europe and particularly deep in Germany, with its not-so-distant memories of fascism and communism — have limited the potential of contact-tracing apps. So the tracing is largely a case of calling the recently diagnosed patient and asking his or her movements.”
- The White House said foreigners who have visited Brazil in the last 14 days will be barred from entering the U.S. starting Wednesday, two days ahead of schedule. (Antonia Farzan)
- More than 200 workers tested positive for the virus at a textile plant in Guatemala after the company failed to institute measures to safeguard worker’s health. (Farzan)
- Santiago Baten-Oxlaj, a 34-year-old Guatemalan migrant held by ICE in a South Georgia detention center died from the virus. CoreCivic, the private corrections company that operates ICE detention centers, said 51 of its employees who work at that facility have tested positive for the virus. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
The Sword of Damocles hangs over Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“A rift within his family, a collapsing economy and rising tensions with his key ally Russia lay bare the fragility of his regime,” Liz Sly and Asser Khattab report. “Cracks are starting to appear in the once-united front presented by loyalists who stood by Assad throughout his battle to crush the opposition. A rare eruption of criticism in Russian media outlets has drawn attention to his dependence on foreign allies — Iran as well as Russia — for his survival. Most important, an imploding economy is driving Syrians into poverty on a scale unprecedented in recent history. … The stirrings of a new rebellion in the southern province of Daraa speak to the potential for a fresh insurgency in areas that have been recaptured by the government.”
Social media speed read
Fox News’s Brit Hume mocked Biden for wearing a face mask. Trump retweeted this post, sparking backlash from the left.
Trump, who claimed a “bone spur” to avoid service in Vietnam, attacked Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.), a Marine veteran, over Memorial Day weekend. The congressman responded:
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), an Air National Guard pilot, marked the day:
So did Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), who lost her legs when her helicopter was shot down over Iraq:
Videos of the day
This minute-long rendition of “Taps” in an otherwise empty ceremony is deeply moving:
Trevor Noah shared some good news:
And, to draw your attention away from the pandemic for a moment, Hasan Minhaj took a look at the current state of the marijuana industry: