with Brent D. Griffiths

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Thousands of people gathered on May 27 for a second night of protests in Minneapolis over the death of George Floyd, who died in police custody. (Nick Clausen/The Washington Post)

The Campaign

NOT JUST CORONAVIRUS: The recent spate of killings of African Americans has put racism and police violence in the spotlight at a crucial point in the 2020 race. 

A viral video capturing a white Minneapolis police officer kneeling on the neck of a handcuffed father of two, George Floyd — who cried out that he could not breathe and later died — sparked public outrage and major protests even as a pandemic dominates the national discourse. The incident — which the FBI and Minnesota law enforcement are investigating comes amid widespread outrage over the death of Ahmaud Arbery, a young black jogger in Georgia who was shot by white men who followed him with guns and Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old EMT killed in her own apartment as Louisville officers were executing a drug warrant for a man who did not live there. 

The racial pain also comes as President Trump is trying to make inroads with black voters, and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden is counting on their support to put him in the White House. And Democratic voters who had a diverse primary field from which to choose may turn up pressure on Biden to pick a person of color as his number two to ensure their concerns get heard. 

Trump called Floyd's death a “very, very sad event” and tweeted last night that he asked “for this investigation to be expedited.”  

Biden condemned the “horrific killing” of Floyd and called for “an independent Department of Justice civil rights investigation,” our colleague Sean Sullivan reports. 

  • “Watching his life be taken in the same manner, echoing nearly the same words of Eric Garner more than five years ago — ‘I can’t breathe’ — is a tragic reminder that this was not an isolated incident but a part of an ingrained systemic cycle of injustice that still exists in this country,” Biden said during a virtual campaign event on Thursday with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D). 
  • Biden commended Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and the police department for acting swiftly to fire the four officers involved in Floyd's death but said that “they have to be more fully accountable.”
  • “We have to get to the root of all this. You know, we have to ensure that the Floyd family receive the justice they’re entitled to,” Biden added. “And as a nation … we have to work relentlessly to eradicate these systemic failures that inflict so much damage on not just one family, one community, but on the people of color all across this nation.”

Some Trump allies are encouraging the president to do more in the wake of the killings. Darrell Scott, a pastor and the head of the Trump campaign's National Diversity Coalition, told Power Up he's calling for “some type of federally mandated police reform” program. He wants Trump to consider new ways to prevent and curtail the use of “excessive force” by officers. 

  • “I'm pro law and order and the president is pro-police,” Scott added. “We have to be sympathetic to all parties involved in beginning to have this dialogue.” (The White House and Trump campaign declined to comment on Scott's suggestion.)

Biden's posture on police reform as a key part of his criminal justice reform proposal received praise from advocates who stress the need for federally-mandated standards and data collection on policing throughout America. The former vice president has proposed a $300 million Community Oriented Policing Services program to reform police departments around the country, in tandem with empowering the DOJ to “to root out unconstitutional or unlawful policing.” 

  • “There is a very important role of federal government to play in creating national standards on best practices on public safety,” Monique Dixon, the deputy policy director at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, told Power Up. “Especially when you look at training as it relates to the use of force and the importance of de-escalation. So the federal government can set standards and guidance that state and local law enforcement agencies should adopt. And we’ve worked really hard to encourage the previous administration and this administration to create a national standard and incentives for state and local governments to follow these standards.”

Veep watch: Biden, who recently apologized for his comments that African Americans considering voting for Trump “ain't black,” said last night that he hopes to name his running mate around August 1. Voters may see this as another chance for Biden to prove, as he said last week, that he would never “take the African American community for granted.” 

  • There are women of color under consideration, and they're women from every part of the country so a lot of really qualified women that are ready to be president, Biden told CNN's Dana Bash earlier this week. 

“It’s really important that people who may be a part of this administration are bringing a lot of personal and professional experience to these topics, Vanita Gupta, the former head of the Justice Department's civil rights division under President Obama, told Power Up. “It matters to have and be able to bring that breadth of experience to inform this crucial work and to inform how the DOJ and the White House will engage on these issues,” said Gupta, and  now runs the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. 

  • “Elective representation in America should represent the people of America and right now it does not,” Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) responded during a town hall when asked if there should be a woman of color on the ticket with Biden.

The protests may also disqualify other contenders currently being vetted for the Veep-stakes: “We are now a nation reeling from a global pandemic that is disproportionately affecting African Americans. We are also a nation where videos from Brunswick, Ga., New York City and Minneapolis show in vivid and horrifying color the racism and brutality that blacks have faced since, well, 1619. And the situation in Minneapolis only serves to highlight why [Minnesota Sen. Amy] Klobuchar as Biden’s running mate would be a bitter pill for black voters to swallow,” The Post's opinion writer Jonathan Capehart argues. 

  • Radio host Charlamagne Tha God went even further after his headline-making interview with Biden: “I think that would be suicide for Joe Biden’s campaign,” he said of Klobuchar as a potential pick.
  • “If he did that, especially at this moment, after the comments that he made … He would be a fool not to put a black woman as his running mate,” he told our colleagues Annie Linskey and Sean Sullivan.

The attacks may raise the stakes for the president, too, whose efforts to court black voters this cycle have largely fallen flat:Nearly every week this spring, President Trump’s reelection team has held one of the most peculiar events of the 2020 online campaign: ‘Black Voices for Trump Real Talk.’ It’s a dizzying effort by Mr. Trump’s black advisers to put their spin on his record,” the New York Times's Annie Karni reported this week. 

For an hour on a live stream, three black Republicans tried to portray [Biden] as a racist, while ignoring decades of racially divisive behavior by Mr. Trump, from his remarks on the Central Park Five to birtherism to Charlottesville … [Trump's] advisers often highlight the administration’s work on criminal justice reform and financial support for historically black colleges and universities as twin planks of their appeal."

  • But: “ The campaign’s chief pitch to black voters going into the 2020 presidential election — a lower unemployment rate among African Americans — has eroded in the past few months. And the Trump campaign has a lot to ignore in terms of comments from its own candidate, and  has, in the past, made remarks widely seen as racist; over the Memorial Day weekend, the president promoted posts from a racist and sexist Twitter feed.” 

The People

100,000 DEAD: “One hundred thousand Americans dead in less than four months,” Marc Fisher reports. “The death toll from the coronavirus passed that hard-to-fathom marker on Wednesday, which slipped by like so many other days in this dark spring, one more spin of the Earth, one more headline in a numbing cascade of grim news.”

  • Chilling stat: “Nearly three months into the brunt of the epidemic, 14 percent of Americans say they know someone who has succumbed to the virus.”

The people we've lost: “Some were well-known, and many were unsung. All added their stories, from all walks of life, to the diversity of the American experience,” our colleagues write in their running collection of obituaries. 

TRUMP DID NOT MARK THE GRIM MILESTONE: “Trump has spent his life in thrall to numbers — his wealth, his ratings, his polls. Even during the deadly pandemic, he has remained fixated on certain metrics — peppering aides about infection statistics, favoring rosy projections and obsessing over the gyrating stock market,” Ashley Parker reports of the normally numerate president.

  • His most direct comments were in a pair of tweets: “For all of the political hacks out there, if I hadn’t done my job well, & early, we would have lost 1 1/2 to 2 Million People, as opposed to the 100,000 plus that looks like will be the number,” he wrote. “That’s 15 to 20 times more than we will lose.”

Biden struck a far different tone: The former vice president released a solemn video message shortly after the news broke. He said, “There are moments in our history so grim, so heart-rending, that they're forever fixed in each of our hearts as shared grief. Today is one of those moments.” 

At The White House

TRUMP TO SIGN ORDER THAT COULD PUNISH TECH COMPANIES: “Trump is preparing to sign an executive order [today] that could open the door for federal officials to try to penalize Facebook, Google and Twitter for the way they moderate content on their sites …,” Tony Romm and Josh Dawsey report.

  • The president and his allies are fuming over Twitter's fact-check of his tweets: The social media giant added a label to Trump's tweets for the first time on Tuesday after he continued to spread inaccurate information about mail-in voting. He later tweeted that the decision was tantamount to election interference.

What may come today: “Trump’s directive chiefly seeks to embolden federal regulators to rethink a portion of law known as Section 230, which spares tech companies from being held liable for the comments, videos and other content posted by their users.”

  • Even an order will not be the final step: “The executive order has gone through multiple iterations in recent years, and it may still change … Even so, it would be up to the FCC and the FTC, two independent agencies operating outside the president’s Cabinet, to determine exact courses of action once Trump signs it.”

On The Hill

THE FRACAS OVER FISA: “An effort to pass a significant surveillance overhaul package collapsed, falling victim to presidential tweets, opposition from the Justice Department and the fracturing of a fragile coalition among liberals, moderates and conservatives,” Ellen Nakashima and Mike DeBonis report.

House Democratic leaders had to pull the bill at the last minute: “They have not determined when — or whether — the legislation might be revived,” our colleagues write.

House Republicans quickly reversed their support: GOP leadership instructed their members to vote no. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), who previously supported the bill, was among those who backtracked on their support amid Trump's promise to veto it.

  • The breakdown: "The pulling of the bill to reauthorize a number of national security powers under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act came a day after the president tweeted his disfavor, ostensibly on grounds that it fails to address what he calls “the greatest political, criminal, and subversive scandal in USA history,” our colleagues write. 
  • But the president doesn't appear to have his facts straight: “While he has never explicitly spelled out what he means, Trump has blasted the FBI for its flawed surveillance of a former campaign aide, Carter Page, and accused the government without evidence of spying on Trump Tower during the campaign,” our colleagues write. “None of the now-expired authorities the bill sought to revive were at issue in Page’s surveillance, which the Justice Department inspector general roundly criticized in a December report as having been conducted on the basis of applications riddled with errors and omissions.”

Outside the Beltway

THE UNLUCKIEST GENERATION: “After accounting for the present crisis, the average millennial has experienced slower economic growth since entering the workforce than any other generation in U.S. history," Andrew Van Dam reports.

  • The pain is only just beginning: “Millennials will bear these economic scars the rest of their lives, in the form of lower earnings, lower wealth and delayed milestones, such as homeownership." 

Millennials never recovered from the Great Recession: “Thanks to the Great Recession, the average millennial lost about 13 percent of their earnings between 2005 and 2017,” our colleague writes of study conducted by Census Bureau economist Kevin Rinz.

  • No generation took a similar hit: “That’s worse than Gen X’s 9 percent setback and almost double the 7 percent loss faced by baby boomers. By the end of the period, baby boomer earnings had recovered, even as millennials remained well below where they should have been.”

And they certainly weren't ready for another crisis: “This recession steamrolled younger workers just as millennials were entering their prime working years — the oldest millennials are nearing 40 while the youngest are in their mid-20s,” our colleague writes. “Millennial employment plunged by 16 percent in March and April this year, our calculations show. That’s faster than either Gen X (12 percent) or the baby boomers (13 percent).”

Being the most diverse generation also means millennials are more vulnerable: “Millennials are the most educated, most diverse generation in history — at least until zoomers pass them. Those distinctions come with burdens,” our colleague writes.

  • Education status is a big divider: “It’s part of trend of more marginalized groups falling behind. Millennials with a college degree aren’t far behind previous generations in terms of wealth, [Ana Kent, a policy analyst at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis] found, but their less-educated peers have a bit more than half of the wealth they’d expect at this stage, based on previous generations.”

In the Media


Pompeo says U.S. should end special treatment of Hong Kong amid Beijing's clampdown: “Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's declaration could pave the way for [Trump] to impose on Hong Kong some of the same economic penalties that he wielded against China over the past two years,” David J. Lynch reports. The secretary said “he had notified Congress on Wednesday that Hong Kong no longer enjoyed the full range of political freedoms that China had promised residents when it regained control of the trading center from Great Britain in 1997.”

  • Unrelated sanctions for China are headed to Trump's desk: The House of Representatives “passed legislation calling for sanctions against Chinese officials for the detention and torture of Uighur Muslims in the country’s western region of Xinjiang …," CNBC's Tucker Higgins reports. “The legislation was approved by a vote of 413-1 after passing overwhelmingly in the Senate earlier this month.”

Some Republicans tell Trump to cease with his debunked Scarborough conspiracy theory: McCarthy, the top House Republican, sidestepped questions about whether the president was “debasing his office” by continuing to spread a baseless conspiracy about MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, a former former Republican congressman from Florida who retired from politics in 2001, John Wagner and Paul Kane report.

  • But other lawmakers have had enough: “We’re in the middle of a pandemic. He’s the commander in chief of this nation. And it’s causing great pain to the family of the young woman who died,” Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), the No. 3 House Republican, told reporters.
  • Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) expressed concern for Timothy J. Klausutis, the widow of Lori Klausutis, who worked in Scarborough’s Florida office and died in 2001. Klausutis himself has implored Trump to stop pushing to reopen the “cold case.”

Failure to launch … for now: “The beginning of NASA’s next chapter of space exploration will have to wait until the weekend. Space officials postponed the launch of a crewed SpaceX rocket en route to the International Space Station because of problematic weather around Kennedy Space Center in Merritt Island, Fla., and a tropical storm brewing off the coast of the Carolinas,” Jacob Bogage and Christian Davenport report.