The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Power Up: Americans divided on anti-crime strategy as crime rates spike

with Tobi Raji

Good Friday morning. We've almost made it. Have a wonderful July 4💥; we're off next week so we'll see you on 7/12. This is the Power Up newsletter – thanks for waking up with us. 

The people

CRIME & REFORM:Concern over crime has reached the highest point in four years amid a spike in killings in big cities and an uptick in violent crime, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll released Friday, and the percentage of Americans who say crime in the United States is ‘extremely serious’ has reached its highest point in two decades,” our colleagues Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and Scott Clement report

“The poll also finds that a sizable majority believe racial discrimination still exists in the country and say they hope that communities can find solutions to crime beyond putting more police officers on American streets, such as providing economic opportunities to people in low-income communities.” 

  • “The poll reflects a larger debate — raging in city council chambers, activist circles and even the White House — about whether the nation can mitigate a troubling recent spike in violent crime and still make progress on the police reforms that gained momentum after George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer.”

“A 59 percent majority of Americans believe crime is an ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ serious problem in the U.S., according to the Post-ABC poll, an increase from 51 percent in Gallup polling last fall and the highest level since 2017," per Cleve and Scott. "The sentiment crosses party lines, though worries are higher among Republicans than Democrats. Anxiety about local crime is far lower but has also grown, with 17 percent saying crime in their area is extremely or very serious, up from 10 percent last fall.” 

  • “The Post-ABC poll finds a 55 percent majority of Americans who say increasing funding for police departments would reduce violent crime, with views diverging sharply by party and race.”
  • Still: “Despite the clear worries over crime, the poll shows that many Americans have internalized some of the equity concerns, in policing and other matters, that have arisen during the sometimes fractious debate over systemic racism that spilled protesters into American streets over the past year or more.”
  • “Clear majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents believe crime would be reduced by funding economic opportunities in poor communities, although partisans disagree on most other approaches. More than 8 in 10 Democrats and nearly 7 in 10 independents say social workers helping police defuse situations would reduce violent crime, while just over 4 in 10 Republicans agree. And while roughly 8 in 10 Democrats say stricter enforcement of existing gun laws would reduce violent crime, that drops to about half of independents and about one-quarter of Republicans.”

🚨: “Americans give Biden negative ratings for how he has handled the issue of crime, according to the poll, with 38 percent approving and 48 percent disapproving, while a sizable 14 percent offer no opinion.” 

  • “Biden’s negative numbers do not necessarily translate to a Republican advantage on the crime issue, since 35 percent of Americans say they trust the Democrats to do a better job on crime, 36 percent trust Republicans more and 20 percent volunteer that they trust neither party on the issue.”

TRUMP'S INNER CIRCLE CHARGED: Former president Trump's fate has yet to be determined following charges by the Manhattan district attorney's office on Thursday against the Trump organization for running a 15-year “scheme to defraud” the government. 

Though his company and chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, were charged with a number of financial crimes, including criminal tax fraud, falsifying business records, and grand larceny, Trump himself was not charged. 

New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. (D)have been investigating Trump's company since 2018, gathering millions of pages of records and subpoenaing documents from a broad array of Trump's business partners and vendors,” our colleagues Shayna Jacobs, David A. Fahrenthold, Josh Dawsey, and Jonathan O'Connell. 

  • But while their investigation has been broad, Thursday's indictments were deep and narrow — focused only on the Trump Organization's alleged efforts to evade taxes on executive pay.”
  • Carey Dunne, a prosecutor working for Vance, said at an arraignment hearing that Trump had “personally signed ‘many of the illegal compensation checks,’” according to Shayna, David, Josh and Jonathan. “The charging documents said Weisselberg orchestrated the scheme with ‘others’ from the company but did not say who.” 

“Whether charges that his company evaded taxes by hiding payments to employees will do any political damage to Trump is unclear as he teases another presidential run in 2024 and looks to play a starring role in the 2022 midterm elections,” our Josh Dawsey writes. “He has retained the strong support of the Republican Party through a series of potentially damaging episodes, including bragging of sexual assault on tape, being impeached twice and spreading falsehoods about the 2020 election that served as fuel for the mob that attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6.” 

  • “But Trump weathered those political storms by fighting back with the power and the staff of the White House behind him as well as a Twitter account that could immediately set the news agenda for the day. Those resources are now gone, testing Trump’s ability to turn allegations against him into political rallying cries. Current and former advisers also said that Trump was often most disturbed by threats to his businesses as opposed to political showdowns.”

From the courts

SCOTUS WRAPS UP TERM BY GUTTING VOTING RIGHTS ACT: “The Voting Rights Act sustained another blow at the Supreme Court on Thursday, as the justices took a narrow view of when state voting practices can be held to violate the rights of minorities,” Politico’s Josh Gerstein and Zach Montellaro report.

  • “In a pair of high-profile cases from Arizona, the justices split 6-3 along ideological lines, with the majority concluding that a disparate impact on minority groups would typically not be enough to render voting rules illegal under the act.”
  • “The decision was among the most consequential in decades on voting rights, and it was the first time the court had considered how a crucial part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 applies to restrictions that have a particular impact on people of color,” the New York Times’ Adam Liptak writes.
  • “The landmark law, widely hailed as the most effective piece of civil rights legislation in the nation's history, was reauthorized five times after its original passage in 1965, but for all practical purposes, all that is left of it now is the section banning vote dilution in redistricting based on race, and the ban on intentional discrimination, which generally applies to only the most egregious forms of discrimination,” NPR’s Nina Totenberg writes. 

Liberal Justices Elena Kagan, Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor dissented against the majority opinion. “If a single statute represents the best of America, it is the Voting Rights Act. It marries two great ideals: democracy and racial equality,” Kagan writes. “If a single statute reminds us of the worst of America, it is the Voting Rights Act. Because it was — and remains — so necessary.”

  • “What is tragic here is that the Court has (yet again) rewritten — in order to weaken — a statute that stands as a monument to America’s greatness, and protects against its basest impulses.”
  • “This Court has no right to remake Section 2,” Kagan writes. “That law, of all laws, deserves the sweep and power Congress gave it. That law, of all laws, should not be diminished by this Court.”

Breyer watch: 

In the agencies

DOJ HALTS FEDERAL EXECUTIONS: “Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday issued a moratorium on federal executions, ordering a review of death penalty policy changes made during the Trump administration,” our Post colleagues Devlin Barrett and Amy B Wang report.

  • “The Department of Justice must ensure that everyone in the federal criminal justice system is not only afforded the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States, but is also treated fairly and humanely,” Garland said in a memo addressed to the department. “That obligation has special force in capital cases.”
  • “Serious concerns have been raised about the continued use of the death penalty across the country, including arbitrariness in its application, disparate impact on people of color, and the troubling number of exonerations in capital and other serious cases,” Garland said.

At the Pentagon

U.S. TROOPS DEPART BAGRAM AIR BASE: "The U.S. military has vacated its most significant airfield in Afghanistan, three defense officials said, underscoring that the Pentagon expects to complete its withdrawal from the country within days after 20 years of war," our colleague Dan Lamothe reports.

  • "The departure from Bagram air base, about 45 miles north of Kabul, ends the U.S. military presence at Afghanistan’s most significant airfield. It has long been used to launch strike aircraft against the Taliban and other militant groups, and was once the headquarters for U.S. Special Operations troops in the war."

On the Hill

CHENEY TO THE STAGE: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Thursday that Rep. Liz Cheney, an outspoken critic of former president Donald Trump, will serve on a select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob,” our colleagues Felicia Sonmez and Marianna Sotomayor report.

  • “Pelosi (D-Calif.) also tapped Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) to chair the 13-member panel … [and] announced six other appointees: Democratic Reps. Zoe Lofgren (Calif.), Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), Pete Aguilar (Calif.), Stephanie Murphy (Fla.), Jamie B. Raskin (Md.) and Elaine Luria (Va.).”

BRITNEY’S DAY ON THE HILL: “Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Ma.) and Robert P. Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) want more federal oversight of the country’s guardianship system following Britney Spears’ emotional testimony about her conservatorship,” per Time Magazine’s Abigail Abrams.

  • “The lawmakers are calling on the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice to provide information about data the agencies collect on the prevalence of guardianship in the U.S., any efforts the agencies have made to protect people under guardianship and ways Congress can improve federal collection of guardianship data.”

Several GOP lawmakers have also joined the effort to bring Spears to Washington. 

  • “You have been mistreated by America’s legal system. We want to help,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) wrote in a letter to Spears on Wednesday. “The United States Congress should hear your story and be inspired to bipartisan action. What happened to you should never happen to any other American.”
  • “Gaetz said he and fellow Republican Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), Burgess Owens (Utah) and Andy Biggs (Ariz.) have been following her conservatorship battle with ‘deep concern’ and stand with the pop star,” per Politico’s Brittany Gibson.

Outside the Beltway

SPECIAL REPORT: Our Post colleagues tell us about the shattered lives of Champlain Towers South.

  • “For so many, survival or likely death came down to a single number: their condo unit … Some survived because they were not in the building that night. Others escaped with little more than the clothes on their backs. But roughly 160 people — those so far confirmed dead and those still missing — disappeared under the crushing dune of rubble.”
  • “I was afraid I was going to be crushed,” Maria Iliana Monteagudo told our colleagues. Monteagudo, 64, ran down six flights of broken stairs that evening as the building collapsed. “I kept going, screaming: ‘God, help me, please help me. I want to see my sons, I want to see my grandsons, I want to live.’”

Here’s the latest from Surfside: “After a 15-hour hiatus, the search-and-rescue effort at Champlain Towers South Condo resumed Thursday evening, just as Biden boarded a plane and concluded his visit to South Florida,” the Miami Herald’s Douglas Hanks, Bianca Padró Ocasio, Martin Vassolo, David Ovalle and Alex Harris report.

  • “Biden’s visit, a week after the building collapsed, included visits with first responders and grieving families as well as a brief stop at one of the memorial walls. He and first lady Jill Biden laid a bouquet of white flowers next to several saint candles. They held hands while they looked at the photos of some of the faces of victims and missing persons.”
President Biden on July 1 pledged federal assistance and offered comfort to the families of those killed and missing in the Jan. 24 condo collapse in Surfside. (Video: Reuters)
  • “I spoke with one woman who just lost her husband and her little baby boy and she didn’t know what to do,” Biden said, “and to watch them, they’re praying and pleading, ‘God, let there be a miracle.’”
  • “It’s bad enough to lose somebody. But the hard part, the really hard part is to not know if somebody survived,” he said.

Another body. “Late Thursday, Miami-Dade Police identified the 17th victim as Magaly Elena Delgado, 80. Rescuers have so far recovered the bodies of 18 people, and say another 145 remain missing,” per the Miami Herald.

  • “The massive rescue effort — featuring specialized emergency workers from around the country and as far away as Mexico and Israel — had been continuing around-the-clock, through stifling heat and frequent rainstorms. But work stopped early Thursday morning after authorities voiced new, urgent concerns that the remaining structure of the 12-story Champlain Towers South could topple.”
  • “The news added to the somberness of Biden’s visit, as most experts increasingly think the chances of finding any additional survivors in the rubble are exceptionally small.” our colleagues Meryl Kornfield, Sean Sullivan, Aaron Gregg and Tim Craig report.
  • “The Miami area also was shaken by the news that auditors reviewing the stock of condo buildings have identified serious problems that could threaten the stability of high-rises across Miami-Dade County.” 

In the media