July 1, 2020
Coronavirus, the Russia bounty scandal, and the upcoming election continue to dominate America’s news.
Today, there were 52,788 new reported infections in the country, topping 50,000 for the first time. Right now, the seven-day average of new confirmed cases is the highest it’s ever been, and 45 states have seven-day averages of new infections higher than the previous week. June saw more than 800,000 new cases, bringing the total number of cases in the United States to more than 2.6 million.
But even with statistics like this, tonight on the Fox News Channel, Trump once again said that the economy was recovering strongly, and suggested that the coronavirus would go away on its own. He said: “I think we’re gonna be very good with the coronavirus. I think that at some point that’s going to sort of just disappear, I hope.” (The coronavirus will not just disappear.)
Trump ludicrously claimed to Fox Business just now that “I think we’re gonna be very good with the coronavirus. I think that at some point that’s going to sort of just disappear, I hope.” (The virus will not disappear on its own.) pic.twitter.com/ZkLtjKUEDu
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) July 1, 2020
More news dropped today about the Russia bounty scandal, including the information that bounties on American and allied soldiers ranged up to $100,000. National Security Adviser Robert C. O’Brien blamed Trump’s CIA briefer for not bringing the information to the president’s attention, although sources confirm it was, in fact, written in the President’s Daily Brief in February. While O’Brien did not mention a specific name, he used the pronoun “her.” Trump’s usual briefer is Beth Sanner, a CIA analyst with more than 30 years of experience. Earlier, officials claimed that Trump missed the significance of the coronavirus at first because of her, as well, saying that she had downplayed the dangers of the virus when she briefed him about it on January 23. But Sanner has an excellent reputation as a briefer, and former intelligence officers familiar with Trump’s intelligence briefings say he cannot absorb anything that does not reinforce his worldview.
Trump continued to insist that the scandal isn’t real. He told an interviewer on the Fox News Channel that he had not been briefed on it because there was no consensus on the intelligence, and that he believed it was a hoax. On Twitter, he started the day by saying: “The Russia Bounty story is just another made up by Fake News tale that is told only to damage me and the Republican Party. The secret source probably does not even exist, just like the story itself. If the discredited [New York Times] has a source, reveal it. Just another HOAX!” He followed up with: “Do people still not understand that this is all a made up Fake News Media Hoax started to slander me & the Republican Party. I was never briefed because any info that they may have had did not rise to that level….”
Congress, however, wants answers, and so far they have not been forthcoming. Tomorrow, CIA Director Gina Haspel and Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe will brief the Gang of Eight: the top Democrats and Republicans from both the House of Representatives and the Senate, as well as the chairs and ranking minority members from both the House and the Senate Intelligence committees. The Gang of Eight is sworn to secrecy, and normally, it is only engaged under extraordinary circumstances when the president wants to limit access to information, as when a covert action is underway. Normally, the president is required to share information about intelligence with the congressional intelligence committees.
And then there is the upcoming election. Today Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who is overseeing Trump’s campaign, moved long-serving campaign aide Michael Glassner from the position of chief operating officer to a different role in order to bring in Jeff DeWit, who had held the position in 2016. This move was in response to the Tulsa rally, and seems to assign Glassner the blame for that disaster. Such a shake-up at this point in an election year signals that the campaign team is nervous.
For his part, Trump is throwing his weight behind his base. On Tuesday night, he tweeted that he was considering scrapping a fair housing rule designed to combat racial segregation.
In 2015, President Barack Obama announced new rules to clarify the 1968 Fair Housing Act. That act required government not simply to stop outright discrimination, but also to dismantle existing segregation and foster integration instead, but this latter part of the law’s charge really never got off the ground. The Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule was designed to remedy that lack. It sets out a framework for local governments, States, and public housing agencies to look for racially biased housing patterns and to report the results. This will call out, for example, places where zoning laws bar affordable housing, a policy that appears to be race-blind, but which in practice excludes low-income families of color. The AFFH rule also requires towns to set goals which must be tracked over time.
Even while the rule was under discussion, opponents claimed it was an experiment in “social engineering” that would destroy white suburbs. “Let local communities do what’s best in their communities, and I would predict we’d end up with a freer and fairer society in 20 years than we have today,” Rick Manning, the president of Americans for Limited Government told Emily Badger of the Washington Post. “Far freer and fairer than anything that would be dictated from Washington.”
The Trump administration has already delayed enforcement of the AFFH rule, and had proposed to water it down. But last night Trump went after it altogether in a clear appeal to the white suburban voters he has been losing, and whose support he so badly needs in 2020. “At the request of many great Americans who live in the Suburbs, and others, I am studying the AFFH housing regulation that is having a devastating impact on these once thriving Suburban areas. Corrupt Joe Biden wants to make them MUCH WORSE. Not fair to homeowners, I may END!”
The Trump campaign today also reinforced its use of Nazi imagery. It offered for sale an “America First” t-shirt with a design reminiscent of the Nazi Iron Eagle widely understood to be a symbol of hate. Like the use of the triangle symbol that harked back to the Nazi tag for political prisoners, this image is close enough that it cannot be missed, but different enough that Trump supporters promptly insisted that people calling out its use are overreacting. On Twitter, conservative Tom Nichols, a professor of international affairs at the U.S. Naval War College said:
I’ve been pretty hard on people who make the Nazi comparisons around here, but Christ, even *I* saw this one right away. This is not some standard American eagle, this is a Trump graphics guy thinking he’s being clever and trolling the world by saying “mayyyybe it’s close.” https://t.co/bm6gWLVSgl
— Tom Nichols (@RadioFreeTom) July 2, 2020
As Holocaust scholar Waitman Beorn notes, the Trump campaign’s appropriation of Nazi images speaks to Trump’s white supremacist base. But as media critic Parker Molloy noted about the previous controversy, issuing these images is also a cheap and easy way to command media attention without having to pay for it.