Trump visits private golf course as US battles rapid surge in coronavirus cases

Donald Trump visited one of his own private golf courses in Virginia on Saturday as America continued to see fallout from a rapid surge in coronavirus cases. The trip came a day after the US president said he would stay in Washington DC to “make sure law and order is enforced” amid ongoing anti-racism protests.

The president has been frequently criticized for the scale of his golfing habit while in office. CNN – which tallies his golfing activities – said the visit to the Trump National course in Loudon county, just outside Washington DC, was the 271st of his presidency – putting him at an average of golfing once every 4.6 days since he’s been in office. His predecessor, Barack Obama, golfed 333 rounds over the two terms of his presidency, according to NBC.

The visit comes as the number of confirmed new coronavirus cases per day in the US hit an all-time high of 40,000, according to figures released by Johns Hopkins on Friday. Many states are now seeing spikes in the virus with Texas, Florida and Arizona especially badly hit after they reopened their economies – a policy they are now pausing or reversing.

Trump has been roundly criticized for a failure to lead during the coronavirus that has seen America become by far the worst hit country in the world. Critics in particular point to his failure to wear a mask, holding campaign rallies in coronavirus hot spots and touting baseless conspiracy theories about cures, such as using bleach.

On Friday night Trump tweeted that he was cancelling a weekend trip to his Bedminster, New Jersey golf course because of the protests which have rocked the capital, including taking down statues of confederate figures.

“I was going to go to Bedminster, New Jersey, this weekend, but wanted to stay in Washington, D.C. to make sure LAW & ORDER is enforced. The arsonists, anarchists, looters, and agitators have been largely stopped,” he tweeted.

Trump’s latest visit to the golf course put him in the way of some opposition. According to a White House pool media report: “A small group of protesters at the entrance to the club held signs that included, ‘Trump Makes Me Sick’ and ‘Dump Trump’.
A woman walking a small white dog nearby also gave the motorcade a middle finger salute.”

It is not yet known if Trump actually played a round of golf. But a photographer captured the president wearing a white polo shirt and a red cap, which is among his common golfing attire.

[The Guardian]

Trump claims Bolton was against a coronavirus shutdown, but had already left months before

Jim: Later in the interview, President Trump brings Bolton back up himself. Here’s the exchange.

Mr. Bender: You’ve talked about holding China accountable for coronavirus. Do you think they sat on that information about the virus in order to tank other economies around the world?

Mr. Trump: They did something because if you look, they had very little outbreak, although now they seem to have an outbreak in Beijing, which is interesting, as of yesterday. But everybody knew they had it. I acted very early. I closed our country to China.14

By the way, Bolton disagreed. He thought we shouldn’t do it, okay? He didn’t think and you know, I was in a room full of people. You were there. And of the people, I don’t know of anybody that thought I should do it. That was a decision I made because I was seeing and hearing that China has a big problem.

Bolton and Trump had a very public blow-up and Bolton either quit or was fired months before Trump partly closed traffic from China. Perhaps confused as a result, Bender asks a follow-up:

Mr. Bender: Did you consult with Bolton on coronavirus?

Mr. Trump: No. I lost respect for Bolton’s intellect fairly early in the process.

Perhaps the president’s memory is faulty, or perhaps he’s just making things up.

[National Review]

Trump relaunches attack on 75-year-old protester who suffered fractured skull

Martin Gugino, the 75-year-old protester who suffered a fractured skull after being shoved to the ground by police in Buffalo, has once again become the target of President Donald Trump’s ire.

As flagged by CNN fact checker Daniel Dale, Trump told the Wall Street Journal this week that Gugino was a “professional agitator” who had put himself in harm’s way when he confronted officers during a protest against police brutality.

“I don’t like to see people hurt,” the president said. “But he put himself right into the midst of the soldiers. These police, they meant business. They were walking and he puts himself right there. And you could tell they knew him. They knew him. But he’s had a long history. Too bad he had to get hurt.”

Gugino is a longtime antiwar activist in the area, though there is no evidence that he is part of antifa or that he deliberately provoked police into shoving him to the ground, as the president has alleged.

Gugino is recovering from his wounds in an undisclosed location, as his attorney said this week that he has received several death threats since a video of him cracking his skull on the sidewalk after being shoved by an officer went viral.

[Raw Story]

Trump says he made Juneteenth ‘very famous’

President Trump said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that he made Juneteenth, the annual holiday commemorating the end of slavery, “very famous” by originally scheduling a campaign rally on the date.

“I did something good: I made Juneteenth very famous,” Trump told the Journal in an interview Wednesday, referencing the news coverage of the planned rally that was moved to a later date. “It’s actually an important event, an important time. But nobody had ever heard of it.”

Trump was widely criticized for scheduling the rally on June 19 in Tulsa, Okla., the site of one of the bloodiest acts of racial violence in 1921, with many critics charging that it was a racially insensitive decision.

Trump eventually postponed the rally, acknowledging “many” of his African American friends and supporters had reached out asking him to change the date.

Juneteenth has been a day to mark the end of slavery in the United States for more than 150 years and is recognized as a holiday in 47 states and the District of Columbia.

Trump told the Journal that a black Secret Service agent informed him of the meaning of Juneteenth. He also claimed he polled those around him and none had heard of the annual holiday. Trump was surprised to learn from an aide during the interview with the Journal that the White House put out a statement marking the occasion last year.

“Oh, really? We put out a statement? The Trump White House put out a statement?” Trump said. “OK, OK. Good.”

Trump’s Tulsa rally is scheduled to take place on Saturday evening, marking his first campaign rally since March. It is expected to draw a substantial crowd to Tulsa’s BOK Center, raising concerns about the potential for the event to spread the novel coronavirus. The campaign plans to conduct temperature checks and distribute masks and hand sanitizer to attendees.

The Trump campaign’s announcement of the rally coincided with nationwide protests over the police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man. Trump’s handling of and rhetoric on the demonstrations has also come under sustained scrutiny in recent weeks.

Trump, who signed an executive order Tuesday to incentivize police reform, acknowledged in the Journal interview that there is “some” systemic racism in the United States but asserted that the country had made substantial progress in rooting out racism from its institutions.

“I’d like to think there is not” systemic racism, Trump told the Journal. “But unfortunately, there probably is some. I would also say it’s very substantially less than it used to be.”

[The Hill]

Twitter labels video tweeted by Trump as ‘manipulated media’

Twitter labeled a video tweeted by President Donald Trump on Thursday night as “manipulated media” because it attributes to news media a nonexistent story on race.

The video depicts a fake CNN headline that states, “TERRIFIED TODDLER RUNS FROM RACIST BABY,” as a Black toddler runs ahead of a white toddler in the same direction and ominous music plays.

The video then displays the words, “WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED,” and shows the original clip of two children running toward each other on a sidewalk before embracing as Harry Connick Jr.’s version of the Carpenter’s “Close to You” plays.

“AMERICA IS NOT THE PROBLEM,” the video proclaims. “FAKE NEWS IS.”

“IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING,” it says. “ONLY YOU CAN PREVENT FAKE NEWS DUMPSTER FIRES.”

The video of the toddlers went viral on social media last year. On CNN it was presented as what it was — a look at a friendship between two toddlers, identified as Maxwell and Finnegan.

“With all the racism and hate going on I just think it’s a really beautiful video,” Maxwell’s father, Michael Cisneros, said in a video CNN posted online and labeled as being from WPIX television in New York City.

CNN responded Thursday night to Trump’s post, saying on Twitter, “CNN did cover this story — exactly as it happened. Just as we reported your positions on race (and poll numbers). We’ll continue working with facts rather than tweeting fake videos that exploit innocent children. We invite you to do the same. Be better.”

The video tweeted by Trump appears to be watermarked Carpe Donktum, a Trump-supporting creator who has made other manipulated content. It comes as Trump faces criticism over his response to weeks of protests over the in-custody death of George Floyd.

[NBC News]

Trump Praises Scientists for Developing AIDS Vaccine That Doesn’t Exist

President Donald Trump on Tuesday falsely suggested that scientists have developed a vaccine for AIDS, the late stage of HIV infection in which the virus badly damages the immune system.

“They’ve come up with the AIDS vaccine,” Trump said during a press conference on police reform, referring to scientists. “As you know, there’s various things, and now various companies are involved.”

Trump later appeared to backtrack those comments, saying, “AIDS was a death sentence, and now people live a life with a pill. It’s an incredible thing.”

The White House did not respond to CNBC’s request for comment on Trump’s statement.

It’s possible Trump was referring to daily antiretroviral drugs, which have proved very effective in controlling HIV, a disease that was considered a death sentence nearly 40 years ago. Left unchecked, the virus progresses into AIDS, an advanced form of the disease.

People at risk of HIV can also now take prevention medication, also known as pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP. PrEP can reduce the risk of infection by at least 74% in people who take the drug consistently, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Roughly 1.1 million people in the U.S. are currently living with HIV, and nearly 40,000 Americans become infected with the virus each year, according to government data.

Last year, Trump’s pledged to end the HIV epidemic in the United States by 2030, a goal that public health advocates have cheered and sought for years.

The comment came as the U.S. also works to develop a vaccine for the deadly coronavirus, which has infected more than 2.1 million Americans and killed at least 116,341, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. 

Earlier Tuesday, Trump administration officials said the coronavirus vaccine will be provided free of charge to Americans who can’t afford it. 

[CNBC]

Trump makes baseless claim about man, 75, shoved by police: ‘Could be a set-up?’

Donald Trump has claimed a 75-year-old man who was hospitalized when police shoved him to the ground at a protest in Buffalo could be “an antifa provocateur” and suggested the incident “could be a set-up”.

Two Buffalo police officers were charged with assault after video showed them pushing Martin Gugino, a slightly built septuagenarian and longtime peace activist, with enough force that he violently struck his head on the sidewalk.

The New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, responded to Trump’s claims, which were offered without evidence, on Tuesday, describing the president’s behavior as “cruel and reckless”.

“The man is still in the hospital & the president is disparaging him,” Cuomo said.

The incident has been held up as an example of aggressive policing at George Floyd protests across the country and has triggered outrage across the US and overseas.

Trump, however, claimed – without offering any evidence – that Gugino may have been attempting to infiltrate police scanners. The president also seemed to suggest Gugino had exaggerated the force used by police.

“Buffalo protester shoved by Police could be an ANTIFA provocateur,” Trump said on Twitter.

“75 year old Martin Gugino was pushed away after appearing to scan police communications in order to black out the equipment. I watched, he fell harder than was pushed. Was aiming scanner. Could be a set up?”

Gugino’s attorney, Kelly Zarcone, told WBFO News on Tuesday that the 75-year-old has been taken out of intensive care but is “still hospitalized and truly needs rest”.

“Martin has always been a peaceful protester because he cares about today’s society,” Zarcone said.

“We are at a loss to understand why the president of the United States would make such dark, dangerous and untrue accusations against him.”

Trump tagged One America News Network, a far-right conservative news network, in the tweet. Shortly before Trump’s post, OANN ran a segment which made near identical claims to Trump.

OANN, which has spread multiple conspiracy theories, cited the Conservative Treehouse, a conspiracy theory website, as its source.

The Conservative Treehouse, which is among the news sites listed in FactCheck.org’s “misinformation directory”claimed over the weekend that Gugino “was attempting to capture the radio communications signature” when he was shoved to the ground by the police.

During the 2016 presidential election the Conservative Treehouse peddled the conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton might have cancer. It has also spread conspiracy theories about student David Hogg, who survived the Parkland school shooting and has become a prominent gun control activist.

“The president is tweeting conspiracy theories about the Buffalo incident based on no evidence, no proof,” Cuomo said.

“Was the blood coming out of his head staged? Were our eyes lying to us? No.”

Cuomo added: “It’s cruel and reckless.”

The two Buffalo officers who pushed Gugino were charged with second-degree assault. All 57 members of Buffalo police’s emergency response team resigned from the team in an apparent show of support for their two colleagues.

Trump announced he would designate antifa – the term stands for anti-fascist – as a terrorist group at the end of May. Experts said the proposal is unworkable, and have said there is no actual antifa organization to be defined in such terms.

In reality, antifa relates to a broad spectrum of leftwing groups which are opposed to fascism and the far right.

Trump has often embraced conspiracy theories, most notoriously his pushing of “birtherism” – the completely false and racist theory that former president Barack Obama was not born in the US.

[The Guardian]

The Guardian]

Donald Trump Rips Drew Brees For Kind Of Apologizing

Right-wing culture warriors have pounced on Drew Brees’ apology for a half-decade of misconstruing Colin Kaepernick’s protests of police killings. On Thursday, Ted Cruz complained that the NFL had gotten too liberal and had banned the pledge of allegiance. On Friday, the president played the hits that started in 2017 when he called Kaepernick a “son of a bitch.”

“I am a big fan of Drew Brees. I think he’s truly one of the greatest quarterbacks, but he should not have taken back his original stance on honoring our magnificent American Flag,” Donald Trump tweeted. “OLD GLORY is to be revered, cherished, and flown high…We should be standing up straight and tall, ideally with a salute, or a hand on heart. There are other things you can protest, but not our Great American Flag – NO KNEELING!”

With police brutality dominating the headlines again after Minneapolis PD killed George Floyd, Brees was asked in an interview how he’d react if more NFL players started kneeling again. “I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America,” the New Orleans quarterback said.

At this point, it seems fair to say that no one cares that Kaepernick’s protests had nothing to do with the flag, and were very specifically about the police. Trump and his ilk have opportunistically attacked a black person who was using a massive platform to criticize the police. Now, they claim that even changing your mind is beyond the pale.

[New York Daily News]

Trump tweets a letter calling protesters ‘terrorists’

President Donald Trump tweeted out a letter Thursday that referred to a group of protesters as “terrorists,” following their violent ouster from a park near the White House earlier this week.

The letter is signed by Trump’s former lawyer John Dowd and addressed to “Jim” in a probable reference to former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. It lambasted the former Pentagon chief after he called out Trump on Wednesday for threatening a military response to protests that have engulfed cities across the country. In his letter, Dowd referred to a group of protesters who were violently forced out of Washington’s Lafayette Square on Monday as “terrorists using idle hate … to burn and destroy.”

“They were abusing and disrespecting the police when the police were preparing the area for the 1900 curfew,” the letter said.

The White House did not immediately respond when asked whether Trump views the protesters as “terrorists”.

Protesters had gathered in the park to express their outrage at the death of a black Minnesota man, George Floyd, at the hands of a white police officer, with video showing a largely peaceful — if tense — demonstration. Police charged into the protesters about 30 minutes before the city’s 7 p.m. curfew, throwing chemical irritants and hitting protesters and journalists with shields and rubber bullets.

Trump later walked out of the White House through the cleared area for a photo-op in front of St. John’s Epsicopal Church across from the square.

Mattis joined a symphony of condemnations, which came from both parties, characterizing the episode as a grotesque abuse of power.

“Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath [to defend the Constitution] would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens — much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside,” Mattis wrote in a statement to journalists on Wednesday.

On Thursday, several protesters and the Washington, D.C., chapter of Black Lives Matter sued Trump, along with other law enforcement leadership they identified as leading the Monday clash, accusing them of violating the protesters’ rights to free assembly and freedom from unreasonable seizure.

Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which is among the organizations representing the plaintiffs, decried Dowd’s letter as “abhorrent and a completely false characterization of the peacefully assembled demonstrators who were dispersed through state-sanctioned violence at the hands of government officials.”

“It is remarkable,” Clarke said in a statement to POLITICO on Thursday night, “that President Trump objects so vehemently to those speaking out against racial and police violence while embracing gun-toting activists who take siege of government buildings and violent white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville.”

[Politico]

Trump says he went to White House bunker for ‘inspection,’ not because of protests

President Donald Trump said Wednesday he went to an underground bunker at the White House last week to inspect it, not because of security concerns over protests outside the executive mansion’s gates.

Trump dismissed as “false” reports that the Secret Service rushed him into the bunker Friday night as protests inspired by the death of George Floyd escalated across the street.

“I went down during the day, and I was there for a tiny little short period of time,” he said during an interview with radio talk-show host Brian Kilmeade. “It was much more for an inspection. There was no problem during the day.”

Multiple news outlets – including CNN and The New York Times – reported that Trump was briefly moved to the White House’s underground bunker Friday night as a precaution while tensions escalated in Lafayette Park, across the street from the White House. 

Trump went down to the bunker at the behest of the Secret Service in an abundance of caution, said one official familiar with the incident, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters. The official said he was only in the bunker for a short period of time.

Asked by Kilmeade if the Secret Service told him he needed to head to the bunker, Trump said, “No, they didn’t tell me that at all. They said it would be a good time to go down, take a look because maybe some time you’re going to need it.”

Trump also claimed he went to the bunker during the day before the protests escalated.

“There was never a problem,” he said. “We never had a problem. Nobody ever came close to giving us a problem. The Secret Service, it does an unbelievable job of maintaining control in the White House.”

The bunker reports preceded Trump’s much-criticized walk from the White House to nearby St. John’s Episcopal Church on Monday.

Trump wanted to pay his respects to St. John’s, which suffered minor damage when it was burned by protesters Sunday, but he also wanted to leave the White House grounds to prove he was not “in the bunker” because of the protesters, said one official who requested anonymity to discuss the president’s communications strategy.

Critics hammered Trump for the St. John’s visit because police used smoke canisters, pepper spray and shields on protesters in Lafayette Park, clearing a path for the president to walk to the historic church.

Church officials protested that Trump did not call them about his plans to visit the church. Mariann Budde, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, which includes St. John’s, said she was outraged by the use of force to get people out of the way for a photo op.

Trump defended his visit to the church, saying he did not ask law enforcement officials to clear out Lafayette Park in advance.

“I didn’t say, oh, move them out – I didn’t know who was there,” he said.

Trump called his visit to St. John’s “very symbolic” and said “many religious leaders loved it.”

“Why wouldn’t they love it?” he said. “I’m standing in front of a church that went through trauma, to put it mildly.”

[USA Today]

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