Trump Vows to Veto Defense Bill Over Amendment to Rename Military Bases Named After Confederates

President Donald Trump vowed to veto a $740 billion defense spending bill unless Congress drops a proposed amendment to rename U.S. military bases named after Confederate leaders.

As the country faces ongoing social unrest over the death of George Floyd, the public debate continues on whether Confederate figures deserve to be publicly honored with statues or major instillations bearing their names. Amid these calls for racial justice, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has proposed an amendment for the Defense Authorization Bill that would require the names of Confederate leaders to be completely scrubbed from several military bases over the next 3 years.

Trump has repeatedly defended monuments honoring Confederates in recent weeks, and on Tuesday night, he used his racially-charged insult for Warren again while promising to veto the bill if her amendment gets through.


Trump threatens protesters ahead of Tulsa rally

President Donald Trump threatened to crack down on protesters expected to show up at his campaign rally in Tulsa, Okla., on Saturday, the first such event since the coronavirus pandemic sidelined his campaign schedule.

“Any protesters, anarchists, agitators, looters or lowlifes who are going to Oklahoma please understand, you will not be treated like you have been in New York, Seattle, or Minneapolis,” Trump tweeted on Friday. “It will be a much different scene!”

Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, said Trump was referring to “destructive” protesters, noting that buildings have been burned, looted, and vandalized during recent demonstrations against police brutality.

“These things are unacceptable,” she said. “And we will not see that in Oklahoma.”

The president’s tweet came hours after Tulsa mayor G. T. Bynum imposed a curfew, citing expected rally crowds of more than 100,000, planned protests and the civil unrest that has already erupted in the city and around the nation this month.

Trump drew widespread and bipartisan criticism for his last interaction with protesters, when U.S. Park Police and other law enforcement agencies used force to clear Lafayette Square near the White House so the president could pose with a Bible in front of the historic St. John’s Church.

The latest threat also drew fire.

William Kristol, former editor of The Weekly Standard, posted on Twitter that the constitutional right “of protesters are the same in Tulsa as elsewhere in the US. So are the 1A rights of Trump supporters. It’s up to OK and Tulsa authorities to follow the law and protect all citizens. But what Trump’s doing is inciting his followers to extra-legal action.”

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., accused Trump of “threatening peaceful protesters standing up for justice.”

[USA Today]

Trump says he will “not even consider” renaming bases named for Confederate leaders

President Trump tweeted Wednesday that he will “not even consider” renaming the 10 U.S. military bases that are named after Confederate leaders.

Why it matters: A spokesperson for Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said on Monday he’s open to a “bipartisan discussion” about renaming the military bases and facilities that are named after Confederate leaders, including Fort Bragg and Fort Benning.

  • The debate comes as the Navy and Marines have moved to ban the display of Confederate-era symbols.
  • A number of states and cities around the country have also taken steps to remove Confederate-era symbols amid racial unrest over the police killing of George Floyd.

What he’s saying: “It has been suggested that we should rename as many as 10 of our Legendary Military Bases, such as Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Fort Hood in Texas, Fort Benning in Georgia, etc. These Monumental and very Powerful Bases have become part of a Great American Heritage, and a history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom,” Trump tweeted.

  • “The United States of America trained and deployed our HEROES on these Hallowed Grounds, and won two World Wars. Therefore, my Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations.
  • “Our history as the Greatest Nation in the World will not be tampered with. Respect our Military!”

The bottom line: White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said at a press briefing Wednesday that Trump would not sign any potential legislation — including the National Defense Authorization Act — that includes language to change the names of U.S. forts.


Trump says voting by mail will ‘lead to the end’ of the Republican Party

On Thursday evening, in an all-caps tweet, President Donald Trump once again attacked early voting — this time going so far to say that it could “lead to the end of our great Republican Party.”

Contrary to Trump’s claim, studies have shown that voting by mail does not actually benefit one party over the other.

Indeed, some solidly Republican states, like Utah, make extensive use of mail-in ballots, as do some swing states Republicans frequently win like Florida — where the president himself cast a mail-in ballot.

[Raw Story]

Trump Steps Up Attacks on Mail Vote, Making False Claims About Fraud

President Trump on Wednesday escalated his assault against mail voting, falsely claiming that Michigan and Nevada were engaged in voter fraud and had acted illegally, and threatening to withhold federal funds to those states if they proceed in expanding vote-by-mail efforts.

The president inaccurately accused the two states of sending mail ballots to its residents. In fact, the secretaries of state in Michigan and Nevada sent applications for mail ballots, as election officials have done in other states, including those led by Republicans.

The Twitter posts were the latest in a series of broadsides the president has aimed at a process that has become the primary vehicle for casting ballots in an electoral system transformed by the coronavirus pandemic.

As most states largely abandon in-person voting because of health concerns, Mr. Trump, along with many of his Republican allies, have launched a series of false attacks to demonize mail voting as fraught with fraud and delivering an inherent advantage to Democratic candidates — despite there being scant evidence for either claim.

“Michigan sends absentee ballots to 7.7 million people ahead of Primaries and the General Election,” the president tweeted Wednesday morning. “This was done illegally and without authorization by a rogue Secretary of State. I will ask to hold up funding to Michigan if they want to go down this Voter Fraud path!”

An hour later he made a similar threat against Nevada, saying the state had created “a great Voter Fraud scenario” and adding “If they do, ‘I think’ I can hold up funds to the State.”

Mr. Trump’s outbursts come as the White House and his re-election campaign are confronting polls showing the president trailing his Democratic rival, Joseph R. Biden Jr., both nationally and in key swing states.

The White House did not respond to requests for comment or elaboration.Mr. Trump has often made threats about cutting off funding to states but has not always followed through. He has threatened in the past to withhold federal funds to sanctuary cities. Last month, he said he wanted Democratic states to give him “sanctuary-city adjustments” in exchange for federal financial relief. He has not yet followed through on the threat.

Michigan’s secretary of state, Jocelyn Benson, quickly clarified on Wednesday that the state is not mailing ballots to all Michigan voters. On Wednesday she began mailing ballot applications to all registered voters.

“I was notified about the tweet this morning and it caught me off guard because it of course was inaccurate,” Ms. Benson, a Democrat, said in an interview. “It is nothing different from my Republican colleagues in other states are doing. It boggles my mind, that this, which is completely within my authority, would in any way be seen as controversial.”

Ms. Benson said she has already spent $4.5 million in federal CARES Act funding to mail voters ballot applications, which are also available online. She had previously sent absentee ballot applications to all voters for the state’s local elections on May 5.

Michigan voters who apply for absentee ballots for the August statewide primary for House and Senate races may also opt in to receive ballots for the November general election.

The president’s attack on Nevada is particularly confounding, given that the state’s effort to switch to a nearly-all-mail election was made by Secretary of State Barbara K. Cegavske, a Republican. Democrats have sued Ms. Cegavske to block her effort to close nearly all of the state’s in-person polling places for the June 9 primary and mail ballots to all registered voters.

“If it has not become apparent yet, Donald Trump makes stuff up,” said Marc Elias, the Democratic elections lawyer who is suing Ms. Cegavske to require more in-person polling places to remain open. “So I don’t think he has a particular objection other than someone has told him that he is losing in Michigan and in Nevada so today he decided to tweet about Michigan and Nevada.”

Ms. Cegavske’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

The president is scheduled to visit a Ford Motor plant that is manufacturing ventilators in Ypsilanti, Mich., on Thursday. This is his first trip to the state since January, and comes at a time when his campaign advisers are increasingly concerned about his chances there. Mr. Trump’s tweets a day ahead of the trip were seen as unhelpful to boosting his political standing in a critical state, and his political opponents immediately pounced on it.

Georgia’s Republican secretary of state and municipal officials in Milwaukee have also said they will send vote-by-mail applications to registered voters in hopes of easing stress on in-person voting locations. In Wisconsin, the state’s bipartisan election commission is meeting Wednesday to decide whether to mail ballot application forms to all registered voters and more than 200,000 people who are eligible to vote but not registered.

Some state Republican parties have been actively encouraging their supporters to vote by mail. In Pennsylvania, another state that recently passed a law to move to no-excuse vote by mail, the state Republican Party has set up an online portal that helps voters understand the new law.

Many states, including Michigan and Wisconsin, also allow voters to make online requests to have absentee ballots mailed to them.

The president himself, along with the first lady, Melania Trump, voted by mail in Florida’s presidential primary in March.

Mr. Trump has long falsely asserted that absentee voting and vote by mail is rife with fraud, applying that argument into his constant complaints of “rigged elections” when he or his supported candidates are losing.

He has been casting doubts on mail voting since his first run for the presidency in 2016. During a rally in Colorado — one of the five states in the country that votes completely by mail — Mr. Trump implied without evidence that it was easy to vote twice.

Recently, Mr. Trump has been lashing out at both vote by mail and absentee voting, at first raising his allegations in April in a tweet and later decrying a decision in California to mail ballots to every voter for November as a “scam.” But the president has also been inconsistent on the issue: on the same day that he criticized the decision in California, he encouraged voters to mail in their ballots for a local congressional race.

Election experts noted that the process Mr. Trump criticized was actually a protective measure against voter fraud.

“A ballot application is returned to state officials who ensure that the information on it is accurate and the person applying for a ballot is entitled to get it,” said Richard L. Hasen, a professor at University of California, Irvine, who specializes in election law. “So it’s a safeguard.”

Mr. Hasen said that the broadsides from Mr. Trump follow a pattern of lashing out against expanding access to voting, even as there remains no evidence to support his claims.

“Trump seems to think that anything that makes it easier for people to vote is going to hurt him,” Mr. Hasen said, “and he’s consistently expressed the view that anything that makes it easier to vote leads to voter fraud when there is absolutely no evidence to support that claim.”

Though Mr. Trump did not specify which funds he was threatening to withhold from states during a pandemic, election officials and Democrats in Congress have been clamoring for more money to help hold the November elections safely.

But the money that has already been appropriated through the Help America Vote Act and the CARES Act is already “out the door” and on the way to states, according to election officials; there is no way for Mr. Trump or his administration to hold up those funds.

Mr. Elias, the elections lawyer, said Mr. Trump could seek to withhold other funds but predicted such a move would be invalidated by the courts.

“The president does not have authority to withhold funding to a state based on the idea that people in the state may vote,” he said.

Mr. Trump’s attacks on mail voting have come largely in states with little history of large numbers of people casting absentee ballots, like Wisconsin. But he has not addressed mail voting in states where it has long been popular, such as Florida and Arizona, and often used to great success by Republican campaigns. Nor has Mr. Trump denigrated mail voting in the five states — Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington — that conduct elections entirely by mail.

[The New York Times]

Trump Retweets Claim the Media is Inflating Coronavirus Mortality Rates to ‘Steal the Election’

President Donald Trump kept up his tweeting overnight by including a claim that the media is exaggerating the lethality of the coronavirus in order to “steal the election.”

After Trump stormed over The New York Times“Noble” PrizesFox News, people who don’t get his “sarcasm,” and everything else making him angry, he went on a binge of retweeting his supporters. One of the more interesting posts he decided to promote was this one from John Cardillo.

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Trump repeatedly talked down the seriousness of the disease even as it continues to ravage the county. More than 50,000 Americans have been reported dead from the virus.

Trump also has an extensive history of attempts to delegitimize elections in case they don’t go his way.


Trump claims he will temporarily suspend immigration into US due to coronavirus fears

President Donald Trump said late Monday night he will sign an executive order temporarily suspending immigration to the United States as the nation battles the health and economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

“In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!” he tweeted.

It’s unclear what mechanism he will use to suspend immigration, how long such a suspension could last or what effect this will have on the operation of US border crossings and on those who already hold green cards.

The White House declined to provide further information on the executive order Monday evening.

The tweet comes as the administration seeks to reopen parts of the country from the coronavirus shutdown through a phased approach, but it’s also a continuation of the President’s 2016 campaign promise to slow immigration.

Trump has repeatedly touted his decision to halt travel from China and Europe as a means of blunting the spread of coronavirus in the United States.

The tweet also comes hours after Trump directed Admiral Brett Giroir, the assistant Health and Human Services secretary for health, to provide an update on border wall construction after he briefed reporters on coronavirus testing.


Trump: Some governors have gone too far on coronavirus restrictions

President Trump on Sunday said he believes some governors have “gone too far” in imposing restrictions meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Trump told reporters at a White House briefing that he did not have an issue with the protesters who have flouted social distancing guidelines to voice displeasure with the restrictions, which have shuttered businesses and spiked unemployment.

“Some have gone too far. Some governors have gone too far. Some of the things that happened are maybe not so appropriate,” Trump said. “And I think in the end it’s not going to matter because we’re starting to open up our states, and I think they’re going to open up very well.”

“As far as protesters, you know, I see protesters for all sorts of things,” he added. “And I’m with everybody. I’m with everybody.”

The president initially declined to specify any particular governor he thought had gone too far before knocking Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D), suggesting the latter deserved to be protested for signing new gun laws.

“If you take Michigan, there were things in Michigan that I don’t think they were necessary or appropriate. Everyone knows that,” the president said. “I think the governor of Michigan — we’re getting along very well — but I think the governor of Michigan probably knows that.”

Whitmer has seen her name floated as a possible vice presidential pick, which may have made her a bigger target for Trump.

Trump has in recent days sympathized with protesters who turned out by the hundreds in states across the country, flouting the same social distancing guidelines the White House has put in place to stamp out the virus that urge Americans to avoid gatherings of 10 or more people.

The president on Friday threw his support behind protesters in Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia who held demonstrations to oppose stay-at-home orders and other restrictions meant to curb the spread of the virus, calling to “LIBERATE” those states. All three are run by Democratic governors.

Small protests have formed in recent days in Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, Minnesota, Texas and Florida, with others planned for the coming week. Some demonstrators have waved Trump flags or worn apparel bearing the president’s name.

Trump said the protesters he’s seen in press coverage are showing a “love of our country.”

State leaders have expressed concern that Trump’s call for liberation could foment civil unrest and encourage the demonstrations. Public health experts have warned that the large gatherings could further spread the virus, extending the need for social distancing. 

The coronavirus has infected more than 755,000 people in the U.S. as of Sunday night, according to Johns Hopkins University data, and killed more than 40,000.

The White House’s phased approach to reopening the U.S. economy calls for governors to make the final determination on when they can lift social distancing guidelines. But Trump’s continued acceptance of the protests threatens to incite further animosity toward state leaders. 

Vice President Pence said during Sunday’s briefing that Americans should “heed your state and local authorities.”

The president has been adamant about the need to reopen the economy, which has been a central tenet of his reelection campaign. But he insisted on Sunday that the lifting of restrictions would prioritize safety.

“There are a lot of great things happening, and we’re going to start to open our country,” he said. “It’s like a beautiful puzzle.”

[The Hill]

Donald Trump Threatens to Close Congress Unilaterally

At his coronavirus press conference on Wednesday, President Donald Trump issued a stunning threat-slash-promise-slash-constitutional fantasy. Complaining that Democrats were blocking his judicial appointees, the president said that the Senate should either end its current pro forma session and come back to Washington amidst a pandemic to approve his appointees or officially adjourn so that he can make recess appointments. “The Senate has left Washington until at least May 4,” Trump said. “The Constitution provides a mechanism for the president to fill positions in such circumstances, the recess appointment it’s called. The Senate’s practice of gaveling into so-called pro forma sessions where no one is even there has prevented me from using the constitutional authority that we’re given under the recess provisions. The Senate should either fulfill its duty and vote on my nominees or it should formally adjourn so that I can make recess appointments.”

“If the House will not agree to that adjournment,” he continued, “I will exercise my constitutional authority to adjourn both chambers of Congress. The current practice of leaving of town while conducting phony pro forma sessions is a dereliction of duty that the American people cannot afford during this crisis. It is a scam what they do.”

Trump is likely referencing Article 2, Section 3 of the Constitution, which provides that the president can “on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper.” Does he have the power to actually do this, though? According to this 1964 article from the New York Times the Senate Parliamentarian issued an opinion in that year, regarding presidential authority to adjourn Congress: “The answer is yes—but only under, certain unusual circumstances. These conditions are so limited that a President has never exercised the power to adjourn Congress.”

The clause as written seems to require that the president can only force the Senate to adjourn “in Case of Disagreement between them,” which suggests that it operates in cases where the House and Senate disagree about a date for adjournment. But the House and Senate have already agreed on a date: Jan 3, 2021.

Trump, it seems, needs Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and a majority of Senators to come back to Washington to adjourn the Senate, which would then trigger a disagreement with the House of Representatives, as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi would presumably then refuse to adjourn. On Wednesday, McConnell’s office said that he had spoken with Trump about the recess appointment question, but also indicated that he would not be altering Senate rules to get Trump his appointments. If McConnell were to adjourn along a party-line vote—possibly blowing up the filibuster in the process—theoretically, Trump would then adjourn the two disagreeing bodies. Recess appointments under this scheme would last only until January of 2021, but it would still be an unprecedented power grab. As historian Michael Beschloss tweeted, “Wilson, Taft and FDR were all urged to adjourn Congress and all refused.”

“They know they’ve been warned and they’ve been warned right now,” Trump said. “If they don’t approve it, then we’re going to go this route and we’ll probably be challenged in court and we’ll see who wins.”

Indeed, if Trump did manage to get Senate Republicans to go along with this plan, one wonders what the conservative-controlled Supreme Court might do. In 2014, the Supreme Court validated the legitimacy of holding pro forma sessions for the purpose of preventing recess appointments in NLRB v. Noel Canning, but that case did not involve the use of this unprecedented mechanism by a president. It would be challenged on a number of fronts.

“It is unclear that we have an extraordinary occasion in the sense that the Framers were using it,” University of Richmond School of Law Carl Tobias told me in an email. “It is not surprising that the provision has never been invoked, because no president has ever found the existence of an extraordinary occasion that warranted exercise of this power, even [though] the [United States] had the Civil War and two declared World Wars, while the House and Senate have always been able to agree on a time to adjourn.”

It’s possible that the move is also just intended as a feint to distract from Trump’s disastrous response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the spiraling economy. “Trump desperately wants to change the subject—away from the pandemic he’s so badly handled that’s killing Americans and toward this,” Georgetown Law professor Josh Geltzer told me. “It’s important to explain why he is out of step with American constitutional traditions. But it’s also important not to let him change the focus at this critical time.”

Ultimately, the real concern is that someone has advised President Trump that he has the power to adjourn Congress and he’s building an argument for it; his White House Counsel and Justice Department are doubtless crafting the fanciful legal scaffolding right now. As is often the case when the president makes broad claims about untested constitutional authority, the worry is less that he will adjourn Congress tomorrow, and more that he is recreationally floating insane notions, bolstering them with in-house analysis, and laying the groundwork for emergency powers he may someday seek in earnest. It’s happened before and there is no reason it can’t happen again.


Trump accuses governors of ‘mutiny’ as tensions mount over reopening

President Donald Trump compared strain between himself and a group of governors to the film “Mutiny on the Bounty,” as tensions mounted over when and how to reopen economies amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“A good old fashioned mutiny every now and then is an exciting and invigorating thing to watch,” Trump said in a tweet. “Especially when the mutineers need so much from the Captain,” he added.

Trump addressed his comments to the “Democrat Governors,” after a group of six eastern states on Monday said they would jointly develop a plan to reopen the region’s economies and schools. After the announcement, Massachusetts, which is led by a Republican, joined the effort.

The governors of California, Oregon and Washington announced similar plans. Those states are led by Democrats.

Monday, Trump asserted he had authority to open states, a claim that drew fire from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, among others.


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