with Brent D. Griffiths
Breaking: President Trump tweeted early Friday that Minneapolis demonstrators who set fire to the city’s Third Precinct were “THUGS” – suggesting military intervention and warning that there would be “shooting” if looting continued. Twitter soon after flagged his tweet for “glorifying violence”:
The latest on coronavirus from the United States:
HOT (MASK) ISSUE: President Trump's disdain for mask-wearing is now an official 2020 campaign stance: Days after President Trump ridiculed presumptive nominee Joe Biden for wearing a face covering on Memorial Day, his campaign last night blasted the former vice president and specific reporters as “mask-shamers” who “keep getting caught breaking their own rules.”
And the Republican National Committee's letter to North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) outlining coronavirus safety protocols it would take at an in-person August convention in Charlotte did not mention whether attendees would be required to wear masks, which federal health authorities strongly recommend for gatherings where it's impossible to social distance. One possible reason: “Trump has been determined, Republicans in contact with him say, to hold a large-scale convention without an audience filled with masked people,” our colleagues Josh Dawsey and Annie Linskey say.
But making masks a symbol of the culture war, however, is not a battle that most Americans seem to want to partake in — or even some of the president's top Republican allies. And it might not sit well with voters, especially independents on the fence.
- By the numbers: Even a majority of Republicans support face coverings for public health reasons: “A poll this month by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 89 percent of Democrats and 72 percent of independents report wearing a mask every time or most of the time when they leave home, compared with 58 percent of Republicans,” our colleague Michael Scherer noted this week.
- There's broad public support for Trump leading by example: “Three recent public polls have found that between 64 and 72 percent of the public says Trump should wear a mask. Between 38 and 48 percent of Republicans say Trump should do so.”
The Biden camp sees it as an opportunity: “To the amazement of Democrats, the president has consistently put himself on the unpopular side of a not particularly divisive issue: whether to wear a mask while in public spaces” our colleague Dave Weigel writes.
- “It’s the Trump administration’s own recommendation,” Biden digital director Rob Flaherty told Weigel about wearing a mask. “The idea that we’re going to be on our back foot on something people support? We think it’s a great opportunity for the VP to lean in. ”
- Biden this week called Trump “an absolute fool” for mocking face coverings: “Presidents are supposed to lead, not engage in folly and be falsely masculine,” Biden said Tuesday. “It reminds me of the guys I grew up with playing ball. They would walk around with a ball, but they didn’t like to hit very much.”
Biden changed his Twitter profile picture to drive the point home:
He also hassled The Post's TikTok star Dave Jorgenson for not wearing one.
The divides between Trump and the stances of other Republicans played out publicly all week.
There was a stark visual contrast even with members of Trump's family: White House advisers Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner were pictured with face masks on their trip to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also took a different tact than Trump earlier this week by pitching younger Americans on the “obligation” to protect others in public by wearing a face covering.
- “There’s no stigma attached to wearing a mask. There’s no stigma attached to staying six feet apart,” McConnell said at an event in Kentucky.
- “Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), who faces a tough reelection fight, has added “#wearyourmask” to his Twitter handle, after photographing himself earlier the month wearing a mask in an airport as part of an appeal for the public to ‘remain vigilant,’” Scherer reported of the intra-party divide.
- Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), "a member of the Republican leadership who is running for reelection this year, shared a photo of himself in a mask Monday, asking others to adopt the practice,” per Michael.
- “Wearing a face covering is not about politics — it’s about helping other people,” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) tweeted this week.
And staff at the White House are largely adhering to the recommendations issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It's a well-followed practice on Capitol Hill, too: “All GOP senators wear masks when they are around the Capitol, on the Senate floor and into their lunch meetings — except Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), who has recovered from a coronavirus infection and considers himself immune,” Scherer notes. “While speaking at hearings and on the Senate floor, they follow a standard set by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), removing the masks only to speak formally … In the House, a minority of conservative lawmakers, most visibly Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), have embraced the symbolism of refusing to wear a mask.”
- More from the anti-mask contingency: Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) told CNN's Manu Raju that a mask was a “bacteria trap” and “part of the dehumanization of the children of God.” He claimed that without the ability to “smell through that mask … you're not stopping any sort of a virus.”
- That's not what the science says: “There's clear scientific evidence now by all the droplet experiments that happened and that others have done to show that a mask does prevent droplets from reaching others,” Deborah Birx, the White House's coronavirus task force response coordinator, said of measures to protect against spreading the novel coronavirus infection during an interview with Fox News' Chris Wallace.
The enforcement of facial coverings is becoming actual policy in some states — and in some cases, turning into legal battles.
In New York, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) issued an executive order “authorizing businesses to deny entry to people without face covering comes as outbreak-related restrictions on shops are beginning to loosen, though not yet in New York City,” the Associated Press's Karen Matthews and Michael Hill report.
- “I think this will reduce conflicts,” Cuomo said during a news briefing. “Look, it’s one thing if you don’t wear a mask and you’re walking down the sidewalk. You don’t wear a mask and you walk into a small retail store, and now you’re exposing people,” he said.
- Demands for people to wear masks have sparked violence and threats in many places.
In San Francisco, Mayor London Breed (D) announced a beefed-up mask policy that will “begin requiring nearly everyone to wear a mask when they're not at home — including runners, people on bicycles and in general anyone who is within 30 feet of another person not in their household,” per NBC News's David Ingram.
- “The 30 feet (10 yard) distance is used here to give people adequate time to put on a Face Covering before the distance closes and the people are within six feet of each other,” per Breed's executive order.
There are businesses taking the opposite route — such as Kevin Smith of the Liberty Tree Tavern in Elgin, Texas, who reopened his bar this week. “'Sorry, no mask allowed,' read the poster taped to the front door of his bar Friday. ‘Please bare with us thru the ridiculous fearful times,’" per The Post's Teo Armus.
Images of people with — and without — masks is now a social statement. “The meaning we give to these masks matter,” Liz Bucar, a professor of religion at Northeastern University, told our colleague Robin Givhan about society's sartorial shift.
- “If you are wearing a mask to protect yourself from others, you are forming a habit of fear. Every time you put a mask on, every time you see someone else wearing one, you will reinforce this fear,” Bucar continued. “But if you are wearing the mask to protect others, wearing it will create a feeling of connection to those in your community … You’ll see others wearing masks as a sartorial sign that they are willing to sacrifice some freedom and comfort for the common good.”
Givhan herself, The Post's fashion critic, noted that as of Memorial Day, the mask is now the single accessory that can define the presidency.
- “For some on social media, the question of the day was whether Biden looked presidential in his mask. Did he look strong and capable or did he look weak and fearful? The answer depends on how one defines the role of the president in challenging times.”
- More: “If one believes that a president presides over an inanimate brand — a version of America that is little more than chest-thumping, cheerleading, love letters to Wall Street and empty boasts about exceptionalism — then a mask is decidedly off message. But if a president’s role is to lead a fearful, confused populace, if his task is to remind a nation of its proven capacity to coalesce in difficult times — to sacrifice and move forward — then a mask is not a muzzle. It’s a powerful, evocative rallying cry.”
Outside the Beltway
MINNEAPOLIS IS BURNING: “Thousands of protesters poured into the streets of downtown Minneapolis and demonstrations spread into surrounding areas on as buildings burning — including a police department’s precinct offices — and as violent skirmishes with police continued,” Holly Bailey, Jared Goyette, Sheila Regan and Tarkor Zehn report from the city.
- This is the third day of unrest: “'Say his name!' protesters chanted late Thursday night, as police officers in riot gear lowered their face masks and gripped their batons, preparing to move toward the crowd. ‘George Floyd!’” Video shows one officer kneeling on Floyd's neck while he in handcuffs on Monday night as he cries “I cannot breathe.” Floyd later died. Four officers involved in the incident were fired.
The Minnesota National Guard has been called in: “Gov. Tim Walz (D) has called in reinforcements — the first time the Minnesota National Guard has been activated for a civil disturbance in 34 years. More than 500 Guard members have been activated and sent to Minneapolis, St. Paul and other communities,” the Star Tribune's Reid Forgrave reports.
More on Trump's tweet about possible retribution and attack on the city's mayor: The president's reference to “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” is a possible nod to the late Miami Police Chief Walter Headley whose utterance of the phrase in 1967 sparked outraged among local and national black leaders. In a different message, Trump referred to Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey (D) as a “very weak Radical Left Mayor.”
- Frey fired back that Trump doesn't know what leadership means: “We are strong as hell. Is this a difficult time period? Yes, but you better be damn sure that we're gonna get through this,” Frey, who appeared visibly angered when read Trump's tweets, told reporters in an early Friday morning news conference. Frey also defended his decision to allow police to evacuate the precinct office hours before protesters set it ablaze by saying it was “just bricks and mortar.”
- More from Twitter on its decision to label Trump's tweet:
We've taken action in the interest of preventing others from being inspired to commit violent acts, but have kept the Tweet on Twitter because it is important that the public still be able to see the Tweet given its relevance to ongoing matters of public importance.— Twitter Comms (@TwitterComms) May 29, 2020
This is sure to bring more reaction today: The social media giant's decision to label two of the president's tweets earlier this week enraged Trump – and sparked an executive order to rein in tech companies.
At The White House
TRUMP GOES SOCIAL: “Trump signed an executive order that could open the door for the U.S. government to assume oversight of political speech on the Internet, a broadside against Silicon Valley that a wide array of critics derided as a threat to free speech,” Tony Romm and Elizabeth Dwoskin report.
What it means: “The new directive seeks to change a federal law that has spared tech companies from being sued or held liable for most posts, photos and videos shared by users on their sites. Tech giants herald these protections, known as Section 230, as the bedrock of the Internet," our colleagues write. "But Trump repeatedly has argued they allow Facebook, Google and Twitter to censor conservatives with impunity — charges these companies deny.”
- Complaints about political bias will be channeled to the Federal Trade Commission: The White House has tasked the agency “to probe whether tech companies’ content-moderation policies are in keeping with their pledges of neutrality. The order additionally created a council in cooperation with state attorneys general to probe allegations of censorship based on political views. And it tasked federal agencies with reviewing their spending on social media advertising.”
But it's not that simple: “Trump’s order may prove difficult or impossible to enforce, experts said even before the president had signed it,” our colleagues write. “Internally, some Silicon Valley leaders viewed the policy as a political move that might not withstand legal scrutiny. Still, they expressed an early openness to challenging the executive order in court …"
- The message the president sent was clear: “The order marks the White House’s most significant attempt to rein in the tech giants after years of threats to do so from Trump and his top deputies.”
In the Agencies
ADMINISTRATION MISHANDLED DISTRIBUTION OF VIRUS DRUG: “The first tranche of 607,000 vials of the antiviral medication remdesivir … was distributed in early May — in some cases to the wrong hospitals, to hospitals with no intensive care units and therefore no eligible patients, and to facilities without the needed refrigeration to store it, meaning some had to be returned to the government,” Yasmeen Abutaleb, Josh Dawsey, Lena H. Sun and Laurie McGinley report.
- Reports about the delays were shared with top White House officials: “The government’s initial distribution in the first week of May was so problematic that White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx shared fallout from state health and hospital officials with senior staffers on the task force. State officials had expressed anger and frustration that the government initially decided which hospitals to send the drug to without consulting them.”
Doctors said any delay or reduced availability of the drug is potentially catastrophic: Remdesivir is the only approved treatment for covid-19 patients. Drugmaker Gilead Sciences donated the initial vials to the government.
- Key quote: “The fact that we’d be so incompetent in our distribution of this that we’d … inefficiently distribute the one therapy we have is stunning. How can we make that mistake? What are you working on that’s more important than this?," Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute and a practicing physician told our colleague.
Inside the Beltway
THE DMV BEGINS REOPENING: “For the first time in nearly two months, Washingtonians will be able to dine at a restaurant (outside seating only), get a haircut and shop curbside from stores deemed nonessential. Indoor worship services will be capped at 10 people, and gyms, pools and day camps will still be shuttered,” Fenit Nirappil, Emily Davies and Ovetta Wiggins report.
- What else happens today in the District: Parks, fields, dog parks and tennis courts are reopening, but playgrounds remain closed. If you're a little lost or want more information, Fenit Nirappil has compiled a guide.
- Reminders: You still must maintain six feet of distance from others and masks are still required to enter most businesses. You also have to wear a mask to ride Metro and starting today to enter either Reagan National or Dulles airports.
There are a total of 4,219 deaths and just under 100,000 cases confirmed in the region:
What about NOVA?: “Northern Virginia, the city of Richmond and rural Accomak County will join the rest of the state in a partial reopening [today] and all public beaches in the state will also reopen, though Virginians everywhere will also be required to start wearing face masks in public spaces," Antonio Olivo reports.
- What will be open: “Restaurants, cafes and taverns equipped for outdoor dining and retail stores are allowed to open at half capacity, as are barbershops, beauty salons and other personal grooming operations if their customers first make an appointment. Providers and customers inside grooming operations will be required to wear masks, so no beard trimming or lip waxing … Churches, mosques, synagogues and other houses of worship can also operate at half capacity."
- Reminder: You still must maintain six feet of distance from others. If you're a little lost or want more info, check out the rest of Antonio's guide.
What about Maryland?: “Maryland’s two largest D.C. suburbs will begin to lift shutdown restrictions Monday,” Antonio Olivo, Rachel Chason, Rebecca Tan and Laura Vozzella report of Montgomery and Prince George's county.