The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Power Up: Trump tries to sweep the coronavirus pandemic under the rug as cases surge

with Brent D. Griffiths

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At The White House

LAW AND DISORDER: Mass protests are still happening, President Trump's campaign rallies are about to resume, and people are packing into restaurants and bars again — you'd be forgiven for mistakenly forgetting the United States is still in the throes of a pandemic that has killed at least 113,000 Americans. 

Cases are spiking as states reopen, but the Trump administration's containment strategy has all but disappeared. Media appearances and briefings by public health officials and members of the White House's coronavirus task force have been dramatically scaled back, the president still refuses to wear a mask and has mainly spoken about the virus to cheer on the country's economy or invoke a politically expedient narrative. During his commencement speech at the U.S. Military Academy over the weekend, the president likened the coronavirus to a military enemy that “came to our shores from a distant land called China.” 

And the Trump campaign has showed little concern for safety at Trump's planned campaign rally Saturday in Oklahoma and at the Republican National Convention in August, which it moved to Jacksonville, Fla., to allow for a robust crowd. When registering for tickets in Tulsa this weekend, rally attendees were required to agree they will not hold the Trump campaign liable if they get sick at the BOK Center.

  • “I think it’s an honor for Tulsa to have a sitting president want to come and visit our community, but not during a pandemic,” Bruce Dart, director of the Tulsa city and county health department, told the Tulsa World. “I’m concerned about our ability to protect anyone who attends a large, indoor event, and I’m also concerned about our ability to ensure the president stays safe as well.”
  • “A large indoor rally with 19 to 20,000 people is a huge risk factor today in Tulsa,” Dart added.
  • “You see actually very few masks in Oklahoma now,” Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) told CNN's Jake Tapper after he was asked if he'd wear a mask to Trump's upcoming rally. He added his state was “far ahead of the rest of the country” in controlling the virus, even though cases in Tulsa and across the state have spiked in the past week.
  • It's also protests against racial injustice: “The spontaneous protests around the country are going to lead to additional spread. Certainly holding a large political rally will as well. That's in an indoor space. It's a confined space,” former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Scott Gottlieb told CBS News's Margaret Brennan. 

Moreover, contact tracing efforts one of the most powerful tools available for tracking transmission are lagging. Experts believe states now seeing a rise in deaths in states reopened before staffing up in this area. “ … Contact tracing failed to stanch the first wave of coronavirus infections, and today’s far more extensive undertaking will require 100,000 or more trained tracers to delve into strangers’ personal lives and persuade even some without symptoms to stay home. Health departments in many of the worst-affected communities are way behind in hiring and training those people,” according to our colleagues Frances Stead Sellers and Ben Guarino. “Across the country, the efforts to ramp up are vast and varied.”

  • For example: In Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey (R) reopened the state before local health departments had trained its new army of contact tracers, said Will Humble, former director of the state’s health department,” Frances and Ben report.

And the administration is still receiving criticism for the lack of consistent federal guidance that has resulted in uneven responses at the local level: 

  • “It’s critical, based on my conversations with epidemiologists, that people widely wear masks, that we have good testing and contact tracing,” Robert Kaplan, one of the 12 regional heads of the federal reserve system, told Brennan yesterday. “The extent we do that well will determine how quickly we recover,” he continued. “We’ll grow faster if we do those things well. And right now, it’s relatively uneven.”

New numbers: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mortality forecasts projected  by July Fourth, “there will likely be between 124,000 and 140,000 total reported covid-19 deaths” in thee United States.  And cases are rising “particularly in the Sun Belt and the West,” according to the New York Times's Julie Bosman and Mitch Smith. 

  • “Hospitals in Arizona have been urged to activate emergency plans to cope with a flood of coronavirus patients. On Saturday, Florida saw its largest single-day count of cases since the pandemic began. Oregon has failed to contain the spread of the virus in many places, leading the governor on Thursday to pause what had been a gradual reopening. And in Texas, cases are rising swiftly around the largest cities, including Houston, San Antonio and Dallas,” Bosman and Smith report.
  • “I’m very concerned about it,” Mayor Eric Johnson (D) of Dallas told the Times, noting many residents have stopped wearing masks and are no longer social distancing. “They’ve been asked for quite some time to not be around people they love, and that they want to spend time with. Wearing a mask is not pleasant. And I think people are tired.”
  • Texas:The number of people in Texas hospitalized from the coronavirus hit a record high of 2,287 on Sunday, an increase from the previous record of 2,242 cases on Saturday,” CBS News's Caroline Linton reports. “The state has continued to move forward with its reopening plan, with restaurants being allowed to increase capacity to 75% and almost all businesses allowed to operate with 50% capacity on Friday.” 
  • Arizona:Arizona has emerged as one of the country's newest coronavirus hot spots, with the weekly average of daily cases nearly tripling from two weeks ago. The total number of people hospitalized is climbing, too,” NPR's Will Stone reports.
  • Perhaps, Arizona will be a warning sign to other areas, Katherine Ellingson, a University of Arizona epidemiologist, told Stone. We never had that consistent downward trend that would signal it's time to reopen and we have everything in place to do it safely.
  • Florida: On Sunday, “Florida halted its three-day run of single-day highs for positive COVID-19 cases reported and the day’s positive test rate slid down toward the overall positive test rate,” the Miami-Herald's David Neal reports. “Still, the 2,016 confirmed new novel coronavirus cases in Sunday’s update represented the second-largest single day total for the state. South Florida accounted for 740 of the new cases (36.7%), but four of the six new deaths.”

Over the weekend, coronavirus task force official Anthony S. Fauci told the Telegraph's Nick Allen the pandemic is far from over: 

  • We were successful in suppressing the virus in cities where there were major outbreaks New York, Chicago, Detroit, New Orleans, Fauci said. But we're seeing several states, as they try to reopen and get back to normal, starting to see early indications [that] infections are higher than previously.
  • The question is will they have the capability to do the appropriate and effective isolation, and contact tracing, to prevent this increase from becoming a full blown outbreak? I'm concerned it's happening. I hope the individual states can blunt that. It [the virus] could go on for a couple of cycles, coming back and forth. I would hope to get to some degree of real normality within a year or so. But I don't think it's this winter or fall, we'll be seeing it for a bit more.
Video shows how the June 12 fatal shooting of Rayshard Brooks, 27, at an Atlanta Wendy's unfolded and how protesters and officials have responded. (Video: The Washington Post)

Outside the Beltway

KILLING OF BLACK MAN IN ATLANTA SPARKS NATIONAL OUTRAGE: “Atlanta’s top prosecutor said his office will decide this week whether to bring charges against the police officer who shot Rayshard Brooks, a black man whose killing outside a Wendy’s on Friday sparked a fresh wave of protests against police violence in the Southern city and added fuel to nationwide anger over racial injustice,” Felicia Sonmez, Hannah Dreier, Brittany Shammas and Haisten Willis report.

  • What happened: “According to a preliminary report by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, officers were dispatched Friday night to a Wendy’s in Atlanta on a complaint about a man parked and asleep in the drive-through. The officers performed a sobriety test on the man, later identified as Brooks. When Brooks failed the test, officers attempted to put him in custody. The response escalated, and Brooks grabbed an officer’s stun gun and began running away. Video of the encounter appears to show Brooks turning back toward the officer and pointing the Taser at him, at which point the officer is seen drawing a weapon from his holster and firing at Brooks," my colleagues report.

An autopsy found Brooks died from gunshot wounds of the back: “His cause of death: gunshot wounds of the back,” an investigator from the medical examiner’s office told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Ty Tagami.

  • The city's police chief resigned and one of the officers involved has been fired: “The police department has fired [Garrett] Rolfe, the officer who shot his gun, and pulled the other officer, Devin Brosnan, off street patrols. Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields resigned Saturday," my colleagues report.
As nationwide protests over police violence persisted June 14, lawmakers from both parties spoke about what changes could come. (Video: The Washington Post)

On The Hill

GOP POLICING BILL TO COME WEDNESDAY: “Senate Republicans are planning to release a police reform proposal on Wednesday that addresses officer misconduct, training and tactics, and a system for local departments to better report cases in which officers’ actions result in serious injury or death, two of the legislation’s authors said," Karoun Demirjian reports.

GOP Sens. Tim Scott (S.C.) and Lankford are leading the effort: They both endorsed a chokehold ban on Sunday. “But while Scott stressed on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ that both chambers of Congress and the White House ‘want to tackle the issue,’ it is not clear whether such a ban will appear in the GOP bill,” our colleague writes.

  • A repeal of qualified immunity, which shields federal officials from personal liability when performing their jobs, is also not in the Republican proposal: “The president sent the signal that qualified immunity is off the table. They see that as a poison pill on our side,” Scott said on CBS's “Face the Nation.” “So we’re going to have to find a path that helps us reduce misconduct within the officers. But at the same time, we know that any poison pill in legislation means we get nothing done. House Democrats do have a change to qualified immunity in their bill, which would  make easier to sue officers who ‘recklessly’ violate civil rights, whether or not they did so with intent.

The Floyd family was most excited about changing that:

What is in the bill: “… Lankford said the GOP’s ‘focus is on basic things like transparency, police records, employment records, making sure that future departments can see what’s happening, body cameras’ and ensuring that the FBI has access to those records when someone dies in police custody or is seriously injured," our colleague writes.

Inside the Beltway

OFFICIALS CHALLENGE LAFAYETTE SQUARE EXPLANATION: “During the nearly two weeks since authorities charged at peaceful protesters to push them from D.C. streets — about 30 minutes before [Trump] walked through the area for a photo op — his aides, the attorney general and federal law enforcement officials have sought to shield the president from political fallout with a simple defense: One scene, they say, had nothing to do with the other,” Aaron C. Davis, Carol D. Leonnig, Josh Dawsey and Devlin Barrett report.

A half dozen sources challenged that story line: Federal law enforcement, D.C. public safety agencies and the National Guard sources said “they had no warning that U.S. Park Police, the agency that commanded the operation, planned to move the perimeter — and protesters — before a 7 p.m. citywide curfew, or that force would be used,” our colleagues write.

  • Key quote: “We heard that there was going to be an unscheduled presidential movement,”  D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham, whose agency did not take part in the operations, told our colleagues. “Just a few minutes later, our teams on the ground learned [chemical] munitions were going to be used. The munitions were deployed minutes later.”

The Campaign

VEEP WATCH: “Joe Biden’s search for a running mate has advanced to the next phase as his campaign conducts more extensive reviews of some prospects, including at least several African American women …,” Sean Sullivan reports.

The updated shortlist: Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.), former national security adviser Susan E. Rice and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, all of whom are black, are being seriously considered, Sean says. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who is white, is also in that group, as is New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who is Latina. They have all progressed to the point of more comprehensive vetting or have the potential to do so.

  • Harris stands out among the group: She is the only black woman in America who is currently either a U.S. senator or a governor, and she ran for president against Biden in the Democratic primaries. Several top Biden allies said this past week that they increasingly view Harris as the best fit to be Biden’s running mate. They believe the senator from California, a former state attorney general, could appeal to the party’s activist wing as well as its professional class, helping Biden meet a challenging moment of upheaval on race.”

The pool remains fluid: “Some close Biden allies suggested other contenders could also face the more intensive vetting process,” our colleague writes. 

  • Those whose stock has fallen for now: Sen. Amy Klobuchar, over her record as a local prosecutor as activists claim she was too tough on people of color and not tough enough on police. Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams has drawn skepticism from some Biden advisers over her lack of experience.
  • In the conversation: Sens. Tammy Duckworth (Ill.), Tammy Baldwin (Wis.) and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “Duckworth is a Purple Heart recipient who lost both her legs in the Iraq War and is Asian American,” our colleague writes. “Baldwin hails from a crucial state [Trump] won in 2016 and was the first openly gay person elected to the Senate. ”

In the Media


Wall Street is in for another rough day: “Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 914 points, implying a drop of nearly 1,000 points at the Monday open. S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 futures also pointed to Monday opening declines for the two indexes,” CNBC's Yun Li reports.

There's something about Mary … Trump: “[Trump’s] niece, his deceased brother’s daughter, is set to publish a tell-all book this summer that will detail ‘harrowing and salacious’ stories about the president, according to people with knowledge of the project,” the Daily Beast's Lachlan Cartwright reports. “Mary Trump, 55, the daughter of Fred Trump Jr. and Fred Trump Sr.’s eldest grandchild, is scheduled to release Too Much And Never Enough on August 11th, just weeks before the Republican National Convention.”

  • The Beast says Mary Trump will reveal she was the main source for the Times's Pulitzer-winning expose on his taxes: One of the most explosive revelations Mary will detail in the book, according to people familiar with the matter, is how she played a critical role helping The New York Times print startling revelations about Trump’s taxes, including how he was involved in “fraudulent” tax schemes and had received more than $400 million in today’s dollars from his father’s real estate empire."
  • There goes the Supreme Court seat: “Details of the book are being closely guarded by its publisher, Simon & Schuster, but The Daily Beast has learned that Mary plans to include conversations with Trump’s sister, retired federal judge Maryanne Trump Barry, that contain intimate and damning thoughts about her brother, according to people with knowledge of the matter,” the Beast reports.

Virginia congressman ousted a year after preforming same-sex wedding: “Freshman Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-Va.), who drew criticism from within his party for presiding over a same-sex wedding, lost the GOP nomination to challenger Bob Good, a former Liberty University fundraiser who describes himself as a ‘biblical conservative,'" Jenna Portnoy reports. “Riggleman is the first of 73 candidates endorsed by [Trump] this cycle to lose an election, marring the president’s undefeated record.”

  • Analysts say Democrats could now flip the seat: “Independent analysts at the Cook Political Report and the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics moved predictions for the general election early Sunday from the ‘likely Republican’ to ‘leans Republican’ column.”