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Politics

Trump praises 'overwhelming force' and 'domination' in DC morning after peaceful protest broken up for photo op

Official White House Photo by Joyce N. BoghosianBy JORDYN PHELPS and BEN GITTLESON, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- It was a made-for-TV moment.

President Donald Trump, Bible in hand, posing in front of the historic St. John’s Church a block from the White House Monday night, the day after the church’s basement apparently was set on fire by protesters.

It came at a cost.

Demonstrators who had been peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights in protesting the death of George Floyd and racial injustice in policing were pushed back, forcibly, with the use of flash-bangs and tear gas to make way for the president.

But the morning after the photo-op, which has been roundly criticized, Trump found no cause for regret as he posted on Twitter with his praise for the night’s events, that included the presence of hundreds of law enforcement and National Guardsmen in front of the White House.

"D.C. had no problems last night,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Great job done by all. Overwhelming force. Domination.”

The president directly congratulated himself for what was a quieter evening than those over the weekend in both the nation’s capital and Minneapolis, writing: “Thank you President Trump!”

 

D.C. had no problems last night. Many arrests. Great job done by all. Overwhelming force. Domination. Likewise, Minneapolis was great (thank you President Trump!).

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 2, 2020

 

But even as the president congratulated himself, many others found cause for condemnation.

The bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington said she was “outraged” by the president’s use of the historic episcopal church as a backdrop after breaking up the peaceful demonstration

The Rev. Mariann Budde, the diocesan bishop who oversees St. John's Church, said on ABC's Good Morning America that the president's photo-op was "as if it were spiritual validation and justification for a message that is antithetical to the teachings of Jesus and to the God of justice."

Trump on Tuesday morning also visited the Saint John Paul II National Shrine in Washington to lay a wreath in honor of the former Pope's 100th birthday and later was to sign an executive order the White House said would "advance international religious freedom."

Just before he arrived, the Catholic Archbishop of Washington, Wilton D. Gregory, the nation's most senior African American bishop, issued a blistering statement along the same lines as his Episcopal counterpart, saying the Shrine, which he does not oversee, was also being "misused" by Trump.

"I find it baffling and reprehensible that any Catholic facility would allow itself to be so egregiously misused and manipulated in a fashion that violates our religious principles, which call us to defend the rights of all people even those with whom we might disagree," Gregory said.

"Saint Pope John Paul II was an ardent defender of the rights and dignity of human beings. His legacy bears vivid witness to that truth. He certainly would not condone the use of tear gas and other deterrents to silence, scatter or intimidate them for a photo opportunity in front of a place of worship and peace," he said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday also condemned the night's event, expressing dismay that police "came out and beat" protesters to clear the way for the president.

"What is that? That has no place and it's time for us to do away with that," said Pelosi.

Noting how Trump, as he stood in front of St. John's Church, held up a Bible, held up her own copy of the Bible in front of cameras and read several passages from the book of Ecclesiastes calling for healing.

Pelosi said President Trump "has the responsibility to heal" and used the moment to highlight the stark contrast between Trump's own words about the national protests vs what the presidents before him have said.

"We would hope that the president of the United States would follow the lead of so many other presidents before him and be a healer-in-chief, and not a fanner of the flame," Pelosi said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Biden addresses nationwide Floyd protests, condemns Trump church photo op in Philadelphia speech

Drew Angerer/Getty ImagesBy JOHN VERHOVEK and MOLLY NAGLE, ABC News

(PHILADELPHIA) -- Following a week of nationwide unrest and protests following the death of George Floyd, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and former vice president Joe Biden delivered an emotional speech Tuesday morning in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, condemning President Donald Trump, and addressing what he describes as a “wake-up call” for a country upended by racial upheaval.

“‘I can’t breathe.’ ‘I can’t breathe.’ George Floyd’s last words. But they didn’t die with him. They’re still being heard. They’re echoing across this nation,” Biden said.

Biden, who held his first in-person campaign event in over two months Monday in Wilmington, Delaware, hearing from members of the African American community about their priorities in the wake of Floyd’s death, also emphasized that the protests, coupled with the disproportionate impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on minority communities, highlight the need to address systemic racial injustices.

“They speak to a nation where too often just the color of your skin puts your life at risk. They speak to a nation where more than 100,000 people have lost their lives to a virus and 40 million Americans have filed for unemployment -- with a disproportionate number of these deaths and job losses concentrated in the black and minority communities,” he said.

The Democrat took direct aim at President Trump, following a night defined by the decision to use tear gas to push back peaceful protestors near the White House so that Trump could walk to the historic St. John’s Church nearby and pose with a Bible alongside senior members of administration.

“When peaceful protestors are dispersed by the order of the president from the doorstep of the people’s house, the White House — using tear gas and flash grenades — in order to stage a photo op at a noble church, we can be forgiven for believing that the president is more interested in power than in principle,” Biden said.

"More interested in serving the passions of his base than the needs of the people in his care,” Biden added. “For that’s what the presidency is: a duty of care — to all of us, not just our voters, not just our donors, but all of us.”

“The president held up the Bible at St John's Church yesterday. I just wish he opened it once in a while. Instead of brandishing it. If he opened it he could have learned something. They're all called to love one another as we love ourselves, it's really hard work. But it's the work of America,” Biden said, adding that Trump has “no interest” in doing that work.

“In addition to the Bible, the president might also want to open the U.S. Constitution once in a while. If he did he'd find a thing called the First Amendment. And what it says, in the beginning, it says: 'The right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition their government for redress of grievances. That's kind of an essential notion built into this country. Mr. President, that's America. That's America,” Biden added.

He said that while no person can promise to be a perfect president, the former vice president pledged to try to unite the country and “heal the racial wounds.”

"I promise you this. I won’t traffic in fear and division. I won’t fan the flames of hate. I will seek to heal the racial wounds that have long plagued this country – not use them for political gain," Biden said. "I’ll do my job and take responsibility. I won’t blame others. I’ll never forget that the job isn’t about me. It’s about you. And I’ll work to not only rebuild this nation. But to build it better than it was."

The focus on President Trump’s exploitation of division has long been a focus for Biden in his presidential campaign, launching his run with a video that focused on the events of Charlottesville in 2017 as the catalyst prompting his third run for the White House.

“That’s when we heard the words of the president of the United States that stunned the world, and shocked the conscience of this nation. He said there were 'very fine people on both sides.' Very fine people on both sides?” Biden said in the April 2019 video launching his campaign.

"With those words, the president of the United States assigned a moral equivalence between those spreading hate, and those with the courage to stand against it. And in that moment, I knew the threat to this nation was unlike any I had seen in my lifetime,” Biden continued.

During a roundtable on Monday with mayors from major American cities, Biden described the widespread protests as a manifestation of “justifiable” anger, but urged those protestors to refrain from violence and looting, which he argues overshadows their main message.

“We need that anger. We need that to tell us to move forward. It helps us push through this pain and reach the other side to hopefully greater progress, equality and inclusion,” Biden said. “But we're also seeing a justifiable public outrage and protests turned to acts of needless destruction in cities across the country, which are not justified.”

“I think we all agree that the act of protesting should never be overshadowed by the reason we're protesting. It shouldn't drive people away from a just cause that a protest is meant to advance, but violence is endangers lives, it guts local businesses, it is no way forward,” he added, speaking with the mayors of Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles and St. Paul.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


POLL: 27% unlikely to be vaccinated; Republicans, conservatives especially

ABC NewsBy STEVEN SPARKS and GARY LANGER

(NEW YORK) -- Unpersuaded by more than 100,000 pandemic deaths in the United States, 45% of strong conservatives, four in 10 Republicans and nearly as many evangelical Christians say they’d be unlikely to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, even for free.

Overall, 27% of adults in an ABC News/Washington Post poll say they definitely (15%) or probably (12%) would not get the vaccine. Among them, half say they don’t trust vaccines in general, while nearly a quarter don’t think it’s needed in this case.

[ CLICK HERE TO SEE THE FULL RESULTS FROM THE POLL ]

A plurality definitely would get vaccinated (43%) and 28% say they probably would. The net, 71%, is much higher than the adult vaccination rate for the standard seasonal flu -- 45% in the 2018-19 flu season, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (with a wide range by state, from 34 to 56%). It’s much lower than the 2017 child vaccination rates for polio and measles/mumps/rubella, 93% and 92%, respectively.

A mix of groups express less interest in getting vaccinated -- 46% of Republican women, 45% (as noted) very conservative Americans, 40% of Republicans and 37% of evangelical Christians.

Across the spectrum, 90% of Democratic men say they definitely or probably would get the vaccine, as would 81% of Democrats overall, and as many liberals in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates.

Interest is higher, although not overwhelmingly high, among seniors -- 77% -- compared with all other adults, 69%.

The overall result is similar to other recent surveys (by Fox News, ABC/Ipsos, Pew Research and CNN) in which 23 to 33% of adults have said they would not get vaccinated or would not be likely to. By contrast, in a November 2009 ABC/Post survey, many more said they likely would not get vaccinated against the swine flu, 66%.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Crowded primaries set to come to a close Tuesday, as the election cycle begins again

3dfoto/iStockBy MEG CUNNINGHAM, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- With the presidential primary all but wrapped, attention is turning to down-ballot races across the country where outside spending has made its mark and as candidates adapt to campaigning from home.

A number of competitive primaries are coming to a close on Tuesday in states which delayed their voting due to the pandemic. Indiana, New Mexico and Iowa are facing crowded Republican stand-offs, while the party as a whole searches for a path to winnow the Democratic House majority come November.

In Montana, Republicans and Democrats are facing a race for the state’s at-large House district, a Senate seat and the governor’s mansion. While no ultra competitive primaries are underway out West, Tuesday’s vote will be a test of enthusiasm in the state.

In Indiana’s 5th Congressional District, which sits northeast of Indianapolis, a packed Republican race has ensued a brawl to replace retiring Republican Rep. Susan Brooks.

The anti-tax Club for Growth endorsed state Sen. Victoria Spartz, a Ukrainian immigrant who often refers to her time in the Soviet Union on the trail, saying she has experienced “firsthand the dark side of socialism.”

Club for Growth has spent $461,138 on the race and bundled $56,686, putting up at least three ads attacking who they see as her main opponents, former Marion County prosecutor Carl Brizzi and Beth Henderson, who brands herself as a “pro-life, pro-2nd Amendment, and pro- Trump conservative.”

In the final days of the race, Henderson launched an ad, which floated a veiled attack on Spartz’s immigration status, saying at the end of the ad “I was born in the U.S.A., and I’m running for Congress.”

Spartz’s campaign, in a statement addressing the ad, says the reaction from voters to her story has been positive, and they feel it inspires voters.

“Victoria Spartz came to the United States legally, became a citizen, built successful businesses, served in the State Senate and raised a family. She really has built the American Dream in Indiana. Voters appreciate her story and understand that she shares their values and will defend our way of life,” campaign spokesperson Tim Edson said.

In the same district, Democrats appear to have rallied behind Christina Hale, their nominee for lieutenant governor in 2016. The district is increasingly trending blue, but still looks to be safely in Republican hands come November.

Further north in the state, in Indiana’s first congressional district, a 14-way Democratic primary is going down for the safely blue seat in an effort to replace retiring Rep. Peter Visclosky. Former Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott is one of the top fundraisers and has the endorsement of former presidential contender Rep. Seth Moulton. McDermott is leaning on his experience as a long-term mayor in the crowded primary in an effort to elbow out his competitors.

National Latino groups, including the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s BOLD PAC, have rallied behind state House Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, who would be the first Latina elected to the Indiana Congressional delegation.

In an interview with ABC News, Candelaria Reardon said the coronavirus pandemic has changed the campaign trail -- but has illuminated some of the kitchen table issues which should be a centerpiece of the race.

“I think you're seeing the glaring glaring holes in our healthcare system, and they've been certainly laid bare in front of everybody,” she said. “And people are very concerned about that. People are also very concerned at the lack of leadership from the top, and how this has really shown that President Trump and this administration were totally unprepared for this crisis and unprepared to lead.”

One of the larger challenges for the race, her campaign manager said, was the fast switch to an expanded vote-by-mail process in Indiana, and making sure potential constituents have the resources they need to cast their ballots.

“We have done a lot of digital content with regard to where you can get a ballot, how to get a ballot, whether it's dropping off absentee applications to people, we've really been engaged in making sure that people know that there is a safe way to vote,” Grigsby Crawford, Candelaria Reardon’s campaign manager, said.

In Iowa, candidates have been at work connecting with voters in an effort to get out the vote amid the pandemic. Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District, a narrowly blue seat, is home to a competitive primary between Republican state Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks and former Illinois Rep. Bobby Schilling.

Miller-Meeks is a part of the National Republican Campaign Committee’s “Young Guns” program, and has aligned herself with President Donald Trump on the trail.

Her campaign has hit on Schilling, who recently announced he was undergoing cancer treatment, alleging his wavering support for Trump in a Facebook video posted to her campaign’s page.

According to a spokesman, the Miller-Meeks campaign feels that drawing the comparison between her dedication to Trump and his agenda is a strong playbook for winning the district.

“We have seen that the district, as you know, went for the president and his support remains very strong here in the state,” Eric Woolson, her campaign spokesperson, said. “It has been very important to do in the primary, certainly.”

The same motif -- drawing on apparent “anti-Trump” stances -- has appeared in a competitive Republican primary in New Mexico, where oil executive Claire Chase and former state Rep. Yvette Herrell are running for the Republican nod in the state’s second congressional district, a swing seat currently held by Democratic Rep. Xochitl Torres Small.

Defending Main Street PAC, a Republican-aligned outside group, dropped $100,000 for an ad buy in late May against Herrell, calling her an “anti-Trump” liberal, after she allegedly attended an invitation-only fundraiser with "Never Trump" Republicans, according to the ad.

In a statement, Herrell said that voters in the second district aren’t buying into the attacks coming from outside groups on her campaign.

“We feel very good about our campaign as we head into the homestretch. We're focused on the issues that matter to the people of New Mexico's Second District, like our critically important energy and ag industries, as well as safely reopening our economy so our small businesses and rural communities can survive,” Herrell said in a statement to ABC. “New Mexicans aren't buying the desperate and false attacks on my character, and we are in a strong position to earn the nomination and take back this district in November."

Meanwhile, Herrell released an attack ad on Chase, an oil executive, calling out her alleged "never Trump" views, reading Facebook posts supposedly made by Chase which show disapproval for the president.

Democrats also waded into the Republican primary. Democratic women’s PAC Emily’s List’s Women Vote sent mailers boosting Herrell ahead of the primary.

The attacks have been a preview of what is to come as the general election moves into view. The primaries, nonetheless, primed election officials and campaigns alike as to what the race could look like in November if coronavirus continues to hang over the country.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Police used tear gas, pushed back peaceful protesters for Trump church visit

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty ImagesBy BEN GITTLESON and JORDYN PHELPS, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Police reinforced by National Guard troops forcefully pushed back protesters outside the White House Monday evening to clear a way for President Donald Trump to visit a church, just minutes after he said he wanted a military show of force against violent protests gripping the country.

As television cameras showed live images of Trump's quick stop at the historic St. John's Church, where a small fire caused damage to its basement during protests the night before, the president posed with a Bible and with senior members of administration. Moments before, police had cleared largely peaceful demonstrators from the area, using tear gas and beating some with batons and shields, including at least one news photographer.

The dramatic escalation, 15 minutes before a nighttime curfew was due to go into effect, came soon after D.C. National Guard troops were deployed near the White House.

As the protesters were being cleared from the area, Trump came to the White House Rose Garden to call himself the "law and order" president, saying "domestic terrorism" was to blame for the unrest.

"As we speak, I am dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel and law enforcement officers to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults and the wanton destruction of property," he said. "We will end it now."

He called on governors to use their National Guard military police units to "dominate the streets" and threatened to deploy the active duty military if governors failed to use the National Guard more forcefully.

He said he may invoke the 1807 Insurrection Act, which permits a president to deploy military inside the U.S. to deal with civil disorder.

Following his remarks in the Rose Garden, Trump and his aides walked across Pennsylvania Avenue to pose before cameras at the church, holding a Bible.

"We have the greatest country in the world, we're going to keep it nice and safe," he said, expressing resolve that the country is coming back but did not otherwise engage in reporter questions.

Attorney General Bill Barr, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien and White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany joined the president for a group photo.

He then began the walk back to the White House after just a minute or so in front of the church, his daughter Ivanka trailing him.

Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde issued a response to the president's visit to the church: "The President just used a Bible and one of the churches of my diocese as a backdrop for a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus and everything that our church stands for. To do so, he sanctioned the use of tear gas by police officers in riot gear to clear the church yard. I am outraged."

In a tweet, Arlington County Board Member Libby Garvey said that officers from the northern Virginia city were recalled from Washington.

"Appalled mutual aid agreement abused to endanger their and others safety for a photo op," she wrote.

Contacted by ABC News, Garvey said about 40 Arlington police officers had been in Washington as part of a mutual aid agreement with the U.S. Park Police serving as backup to help keep people safe.

In a statement Monday, the Arlington County Board said, "At the direction of the County Board, County Manager and Police Chief, all ACPD officers left the District of Columbia at 8:30 tonight. The County is re-evaluating the agreements that allowed our officers to be put in a compromising position that endangered their health and safety, and that of the people around them, for a purpose not worthy of our mutual aid obligations."

New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday just after Trump spoke, "What the president did was call out the American military against American citizens, just so he could have a photo op of him walking to the church."

"It was just for photo opportunity. I mean it is it is amazing calling out the American military for a photo opportunity. That's what it was. I mean it was shameful," Cuomo told CNN. "It was really, truly shameful."

A White House spokesman said in a statement that law enforcement forces pushed people in order to enforce Washington's 7 p.m. curfew.

"The perimeter was expanded to help enforce the city's 7 p.m. curfew in the same area where rioters attempted to burn down one of our nation's most historic churches the night before," Judd Deere, a White House deputy press secretary, said. "Protesters were given three warnings by the U.S. Park Police."

But most protesters were largely peaceful, and law enforcement began moving on them 15 minutes before the curfew even started, according to ABC News' Rachel Scott. Minutes earlier, Trump had declared himself an "ally" of peaceful protesters.

"I am your president of law and order and an ally of all peaceful protesters," he said in the Rose Garden.

Several truckloads of D.C. National Guard military police had arrived near Lafayette Park Monday evening where large groups of protesters had fought with police for the past three nights. At one point on Friday, the protests prompted officials to have Trump taken to a bunker below the White House for his protection.

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley and Barr were seen walking near the police line in Lafayette Park as military vehicles were stationed nearby.

A U.S. official said that active duty Army military police units from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, were preparing to be on standby in the Washington, D.C. area Monday night.

The National Guard troops are going to be protecting national monuments, the White House, property and infrastructure, the official said, and not all D.C. Guard troops will be armed.

Earlier, as the White House geared up for another night of protests outside its gates, Trump lashed out at governors for their handling of demonstrations over George Floyd's death, emphasizing instances of rioting and looting that marred overwhelmingly peaceful protests across the country.

As his press secretary cited Martin Luther King Jr.'s support for nonviolence, Trump shared a message from Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., who suggested unleashing a U.S. Army air assault division on those carrying out "anarchy, rioting, and looting."

"100% Correct," the president wrote.

Rather than focus on protesters' grievances -- such as systemic racism and police brutality -- Trump has increasingly turned his focus to squelching the civil unrest that has accompanied the national demonstrations and has taken a hardline stance to restoring order.

He has said, without offering evidence, that much of the rioting that has wracked American cities over recent nights has been carried out by supporters of the amorphous "antifa" movement -- a loose group of people who define themselves as anti-fascist. He tweeted Sunday that the U.S. would designate the group a terrorist organization, but the White House did not say Monday under what legal authority it would do so, nor did it explain how it could prosecute its members as terrorists.

The president told the nation's governors on a call Monday that they need to "dominate" over the ongoing situation of unrest and has related the situation to a military conflict.

"You have to dominate, if you don't dominate you're wasting your time," Trump said, according to a recording of the call obtained by ABC News. "They're gonna run over you, you're gonna look like a bunch of jerks. You have to dominate."

He said at another point: "It is a war in a certain sense and we're gonna end it fast."

In a surprising statement, the president told the governors he was putting Milley, his top military adviser, "in charge" of the response to the domestic protests. The president did not explain what he meant by putting Milley "in charge."

McEnany did little to clarify the president's meaning except to tell ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl that the federal government would be deploying "additional federal assets" and that Milley would play a role in a "central command center" to coordinate the responses on the local level.

McEnany also sought to downplay the meaning of the president's call for governors to "dominate" the streets, saying the president's interest in calling for greater National Guard activation is not to squelch protests but to allow for them to proceed peacefully.

"When those lines are overwhelmed, law enforcement gets on the defense so what the president has said is he wants to dominate the streets with National Guard, with the police presence and what studies have shown ... that when there is an overwhelming National Guard presence it actually deescalates the situation and causes less civil unrest. So Gen. Milley has really been on point in talking about the National Guard. The effectiveness and ensuring that they are utilized to great effect across the country," she said.

The White House has maintained an "elevated security posture," with staffers on Monday discouraged from coming in and advised to hide their badges, according to an email sent to staff Sunday night.

In a series of tweets since late last week, Trump has fanned the flames of division by threatening to sic "vicious dogs" on protesters outside the White House -- evoking ugly images of dogs used on African Americans in the 1960s -- and writing, "when the looting starts, the shooting starts." The latter, made famous by a Miami police chief in the 1960s, was roundly condemned for its racist history.

Over the weekend, the entire DC National Guard was called up to assist with maintaining order, and a mix of law enforcement agencies -- among them Washington's Metropolitan Police Department, the Secret Service, and U.S. Park Police -- pushed back protesters near the White House.

Other federal units have joined, as well, including riot teams from the Bureau of Prisons and a Federal Bureau of Investigation hostage rescue team, a senior Department of Justice official said Monday.

Trump on Monday said in his call with the governors that Washington would be "under much more control" because "we're pouring in and we're going to pull in thousands of people."

"We're going to clamp down very strongly," he said, later adding, "We're going to do something that people haven't seen before."

He did not elaborate.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Tuesday primaries, amid dual crises, restart election transformed by coronavirus

liveslow/iStockBy KENDALL KARSON, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- In the middle of dual crises confronting the country, voters in eight states and the nation's capital head to the voting booth on Tuesday -- for the single-biggest day of voting since the onset of the coronavirus -- restarting a primary season thrown into disarray after states postponed their contests, and injecting some new energy into a transformed campaign trail.

The presidential primary and down-ballot contests come not only amid the unprecedented circumstances of a pandemic, but as the nation remains gripped by unrest and protests, fueled by anger and frustration over systemic racial issues compounded by the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after being pinned down by a white Minnesota police officer.

Voters in Indiana, Maryland, Montana, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota and the District of Columbia are holding presidential contests, although the primaries for both parties are already settled with two presumptive nominees in former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump. Iowa, the first state in the country to hold a presidential contest with its caucuses on Feb. 3, is set to hold down-ballot primaries for the U.S. Senate and four U.S. House seats, among other lower-profile races.

The voting will be an early preview of how states attempt to run elections if the virus continues to be a risk in the fall.

But the primaries are also taking place against the backdrop of widespread clashes between police and protesters, as some leaders, including those on the frontlines of the protests, are urging Americans to vote to impel meaningful change on racial injustice.

"If you want change in America, go and register to vote. Show up at the polls on June 9th. Do it in November. That is the change we need in this country," Keisha Lance Bottoms, the mayor of Atlanta and one of the women in contention to be Biden's running mate, said during a Friday night press conference as her city fell into turmoil.

One day before the primaries, former President Barack Obama, in a lengthy Medium post, refuted the suggestion that voting alone is not enough to satisfy a weary electorate's nationwide calls for reform.

"I’ve heard some suggest that the recurrent problem of racial bias in our criminal justice system proves that only protests and direct action can bring about change, and that voting and participation in electoral politics is a waste of time. I couldn’t disagree more," Obama wrote.

"If we want to bring about real change, then the choice isn’t between protest and politics. We have to do both. We have to mobilize to raise awareness, and we have to organize and cast our ballots to make sure that we elect candidates who will act on reform," he continued.

The contests also come as the messages from those at the top of the ticket could not be more different.

In the last week, as the president chose to stoke longstanding racial divides rather than trying to comfort a hurting community in a series of tweets, his November rival pushed for unity.

"We are a nation in pain, but we must not allow this pain to destroy us. We are a nation enraged, but we cannot allow our rage to consume us. We are a nation exhausted, but we will not allow our exhaustion to defeat us," Biden said in a statement released over the weekend.

Amid the multiple days of demonstrations in city streets, local election officials are being forced to make some 11th hour adjustments to adapt to the ongoing protests.

In Philadelphia, Gov. Tom Wolf announced on Monday he is extending the deadline for voters to return mail-in ballots by one week, until Tuesday, June 9 in six counties: Allegheny, Dauphin, Delaware, Erie, Montgomery and Philadelphia.

The move comes after Mayor Jim Kenney said during a press briefing Monday that the city asked for "the state's assistance in making sure our polling places were secure" and "for an extension of the deadline for mail in ballots." Philadelphia has been under curfew for three straight nights.

"These actions are appropriate and much needed," Kenney said.

In Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser instituted a curfew through Tuesday night starting at 7 p.m., but clarified that it does not apply to voters, poll workers or election officials and volunteers participating in the election.

In Baltimore, a spokesperson for the city board of elections said they "cannot" predict what the protests will look like on election day or what the impact may be, but at least one ballot drop box closed early on Monday and was moved to a different location. The other locations for drop boxes in the city are set to reopen at 6 a.m. on Tuesday.

In Iowa, although a spokesperson for Paul Pate, the secretary of state, told ABC News in an email that there are no last-minute changes to adapt to the protests, in an earlier email, the spokesperson noted that county election officials "are working with local law enforcement" and "there are procedures and plans already in place preparing for a variety of scenarios" without providing specific details.

Voters heading to cast their ballots on Tuesday are also facing an alternate reality due to the coronavirus -- one in which election officials abruptly changed their blueprint for running elections to adjust to social distancing and other state and federal guidelines.

Of the seven states and the nation's capital with primaries for the top of the ticket on June 2, more than half are delayed contests that were initially scheduled in April and May -- reflecting the volatility brought on by the coronavirus.

All of the states holding elections are relying on and expanding their vote-by-mail apparatus to adapt to the shifting public health conditions, even as Trump attempts to cast doubt on the integrity of mail-in voting.

Before the pandemic, six of the states holding presidential contests allowed for no-excuse absentee voting. In late March, Indiana's elections board ordered the expansion of access to absentee mail-in voting to all voters in the Hoosier state -- without requiring an excuse. Election officials have spent weeks and months preparing for the one day of contests -- second only to Super Tuesday -- which look far different from only a few months ago.

In interviews with election officials across the country, most moved quickly to prepare their staff and voters for the changes that the coronavirus placed on voting. Some states, like Rhode Island and Montana, have instituted changes to their voting system in recent years which have widely expanded vote-by-mail procedures. Others, like Pennsylvania and Indiana, are working around the clock to prepare voters and elections officials for the massive influx of absentee ballot requests.

Across geographies and party lines, secretaries of states, local election boards and candidates themselves have given a strong endorsement of the absentee voting process, encouraging voters to request their ballots through applications in states which require them.

But the contests, and the massive mail-in vote effort across each of the states, could serve as a harbinger for what is potentially ahead in the fall if the coronavirus outbreak persists.

In South Dakota, an upper Midwest state that saw the highest number of COVID-19 cases per capita for the region in mid-April but currently has one of the lowest fatality rates in the country, election officials are confident the Tuesday primaries will run smoothly.

"Since we didn't change the laws, we're just utilizing some of the tools we already have," said Steve Barnett, the Republican secretary of state in South Dakota. "A lot of people are taking advantage of absentee voting."

But in Philadelphia, the largest city in Pennsylvania where there will be only 190 in-person polling places this election, a dramatic decrease from the 831 in last November's municipal election, Commissioner Lisa Deeley told ABC News she is "extremely worried" over the influx of absentee ballots just for the primary, which only portends concerns expected in November when turnout is far higher.

"The numbers that we've seen this primary are pretty incredible and we know that there's much more activity in the general election," she said, adding that after Tuesday's election is over, local election officials will be convening a working group to figure out a plan for processing returned ballots for the general election.

"We all hope, as everybody does, that we’re somewhat back to normal by November, but to risk that we're not, it would really create an issue for us. We could see 400,000 to 500,000 applications in an election like that," she said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Senate Republicans keep mostly quiet on Trump's comments on George Floyd protests

drnadig/iStockBy ALLISON PECORIN, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Shortly after several truckloads of D.C. National Guard troops arrived near Lafayette Park, where large groups of protesters had fought with police for the past three nights, President Donald Trump addressed the nation in the Rose Garden, calling for a military show of force against those who are violently protesting the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.

"As we speak, I am dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel and law enforcement officers to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults, and the wanton destruction of property," Trump said Monday. "We will end it now."

Just as the president concluded his commentary in the Rose Garden on Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tweeted a video clip of his earlier floor speech.

"I have fought for civil rights and the First Amendment. I completely support Americans' rights to peaceably protest and be heard," McConnell tweeted. "Our nation cannot deafen itself to the anger, pain, or frustration of black Americans. Our nation needs to hear this."

During McConnell's speech on the Senate floor Monday afternoon, he strongly condemned the violence that led to Floyd's death before addressing protesters and saying he hoped that the federal government is prepared to "stand in the breach" if state and local authorities are unable to subdue demonstrators.

"I hope state and local authorities will work quickly to crack down on outside agitators and domestic terrorists and restore some order to our cities," McConnell said. "And if state and local leaders cannot or will not secure the peace and protect citizens and their property I hope the federal government is ready to stand in the breach."

It is unclear if McConnell was suggesting sending in the military to back up officers. A McConnell aid declined to elaborate when asked for more information about the comment.

But absent in McConnell's remarks was any commentary on the president himself. He has not spoken on the nature of Trump's tweets or his public remarks surrounding Floyd's death and the ensuing protests, marking a pattern among his Republican colleagues of commenting on the protests, but not on the president's rhetoric.

Senate Republicans including Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and John Cornyn, R-Texas, have also condemned violence perpetrated by the protesters without mentioning any of the statements made by the president.

Over the weekend, Trump's tweets and comments were increasingly criticized by Democrats and some community leaders who have said Trump's response to the protests, which are occurring in cities across the country, has been damaging and lead to further unrest.

On Friday, Trump tweeted, calling protesters "THUGS" and wrote that "when the looting starts, the shooting starts," appearing to suggest violence against the demonstrators. The tweet was labeled by Twitter as "glorifying violence."

Trump later said his comments had been misconstrued.

"Frankly it means when there's looting, people get shot and they die," he said.

In the days since, Trump tweeted that if protesters breached the White House fence they would be greeted by "vicious dogs" and "ominous weapons."

Perhaps the most direct Republican response to Trump's comments came Sunday from Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., who on Monday night, following the president's remarks in the Rose Garden, said he supported the president's statement.

"We need to hear more like that from the president because frankly, the country rallies around our chief executive when he speaks about bringing the American family together," Scott said. "So, I thought what he said in the Rose Garden was important, it was powerful, and it was necessary."

On Sunday, Scott told Fox News' Chris Wallace that the president's tweets were "not productive" and said that he spoke with Trump and discussed "constructive ways to have a dialogue with the nation."

Scott is the only black Republican serving in the U.S. Senate. This is not the first time he's spoken to Trump following a moment of racial tension in the country -- the two also spoke after protests of a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia lead to 28 injuries and one death in 2017.

Scott was one of the first Republicans to comment on Floyd's death, tweeting last week that he believed the Minneapolis police officer involved should be arrested.

One of a few other Republican voices to be critical of Trump's tweets was Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., who told reporters that Trump's message could be tweaked.

"I do think some of his tweets have not been helpful, and it would be helpful if he would change the tone of his message," Tooomey said.

And Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, tweeted about Trump's tweets on Saturday.

"What happened to George Floyd is absolutely tragic and we should all demand that those responsible be held accountable so that justice is served. While we are justifiably outraged over Mr. Floyd's death, burning and looting stores and homes is not the answer," Murkowski tweeted. "Nor is the suggestion of further violence. All of us – from local residents and authorities to the President – need to focus on de-escalating the situation in Minneapolis and tackling the issues peaceful protestors are demonstrating about across this country."

Perhaps the most notably quiet voice on Trump's language is Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

On Monday morning, Graham tweeted in defense of the use of force to subdue protesters who have turned violent.

"I am confident those responsible for Mr. Floyd's murder will be brought to justice through the Rule of Law," Graham tweeted. "However, it is now time to bring the Rule of Law to bear on the rioters and agitators who are destroying communities and corrupting the tragedy of Mr. Floyd's murder. The lawlessness we see on the streets is not the answer and I fully support the use of federal forces, if necessary, to restore order."

ABC News reached out to Graham's office on Friday to ask if the senator had any response to Trump's controversial tweet, which was labeled by Twitter as "glorifying violence," but did not receive a response.

In the past, Graham has defended the president for other remarks that have been criticized as being racially insensitive.

In 2019, in the throws of an impeachment investigation, Trump tweeted likening his treatment to that of a "lynching." While the tweet received push back from a number of Senate Republicans, including Scott and McConnell, Graham came to the president's defense.

"This is a lynching in every sense," Graham said in October. "This is un-American."

Graham, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced Friday that his committee will hold a hearing on police brutality.

"We intend to shine a bright light on the problems associated with Mr. Floyd's death, with the goal of finding a better way forward for our nation," the statement says.

Despite Graham's silence on this matter, he did speak out about another racially divisive matter in May by former Vice President Joe Biden.

During an event last month, Biden was met with criticism for telling black voters "you ain't black" if they voted for Trump.

Sen. Graham tweeted that the comment was "truly offensive." Scott, and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, also criticized Biden for the remark, which he has since apologized for.

Cruz has also not spoken directly to Trump's tweets, instead criticizing Twitter for placing warning labels on the tweets alongside Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Why DOJ officials say labeling antifa as a terrorist group is 'highly problematic'

YinYang/iStockBy MIKE LEVINE, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- As fits of violence overshadowed peaceful protesters seeking justice for George Floyd, the black man who died after being kneed on the neck by a Minneapolis police officer, President Donald Trump has claimed that the radical left-wing group antifa is driving the violence.

"The United States of America will be designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organization," Trump tweeted on Sunday.

Just hours later, Trump's chief spokesperson, Kayleigh McEnany, vowed on Fox News that -- under a "law and order" president like Trump -- antifa "will be prosecuted as" a "domestic terrorism entity."

But senior officials from within the Justice Department, which would prosecute any such cases, have publicly warned against designating any U.S.-based groups as terrorist organizations, with one senior official telling Congress that such a move would be "highly problematic."

"Both sides of the aisle would share (the concerns)," Bradley Wiegmann, a top attorney in the Justice Department's National Security Division, told the House Homeland Security Committee during a hearing last year.

In particular, current and former government officials have repeatedly worried that officially designating a U.S.-based group as a terrorist organization could have significant First Amendment consequences.

The First Amendment protects the rights of Americans who like spewing "hateful speech" and "assembling with others who share the same hateful views," so "unless an organization engages solely in unprotected activity, such as committing crimes of violence, any designation of a (U.S.-based) organization as a terrorist organization … would likely run afoul of the First Amendment," Mary McCord, the former head of the Justice Department's National Security Division, told a House panel in January.

Such free speech concerns aren't implicated when dealing with groups based abroad, such as ISIS or al-Qaida. After all, foreigners outside of the United States are not protected by the First Amendment.

"Designating domestic groups as 'domestic terrorist organization' and picking out particular groups that you say disagree with their views and so forth is going to be highly problematic, in a way that's not when you're designating al-Qaida or ISIS or an international terrorist organization," Wiegmann said last year.

In promising to designate antifa as a terrorist organization and to pursue prosecutions, the Trump administration has not made clear what statutes it might use or how it would actually define an antifa member.

FBI Director Chris Wray underscored the complexities during testimony before Congress last year.

"For us, antifa (is) more of an ideology than an organization," he said. "We don't think of antifa so much as an organization."

When it comes to ISIS and other international groups designated as terrorists, U.S. terrorism statutes make it a crime to provide them with "material support" -- such as money or even one's own person. That's how so many Americans who fled the United States to join ISIS in Syria or elsewhere were eventually charged and arrested by the FBI.

But no such "material support" statute exists for a U.S.-based group.

After last year's deadly assault inside a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, many Democratic lawmakers called for certain white supremacist groups to be designated as domestic terrorist groups. At the time, Justice Department officials explained their concerns.

In many cases, though, federal authorities have used other U.S. laws, including weapons-related charges and hate-crime statutes, to prosecute so-called "domestic terrorists."

In a statement Sunday addressing the unrest sparked by Floyd's death in Minneapolis, Attorney General Bill Barr said, "The violence instigated and carried out by antifa and other similar groups in connection with the rioting is domestic terrorism and will be treated accordingly."

Barr's statement did not say that antifa would be designated as a domestic terrorism organization.

Nevertheless, antifa followers, white supremacists and other "domestic terrorists" can currently face terrorism charges if they use or attempt to use a homemade bomb.

Federal terrorism statutes make it a crime for anyone -- affiliated with a group or not -- to use or attempt to use a weapon of mass destruction, including an explosive device.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Melania Trump calls for peaceful protests, doesn't mention underlying causes

Official White House Photo by Andrea HanksBy BEN GITTLESON, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Without mentioning why people are protesting, first lady Melania Trump has added her voice to those condemning violent protests and calling for peace.

The first lady tweeted Monday morning that she was "saddened to see our country & communities being damaged & vandalized" and asked "everyone to protest in peace," while making no mention of any of the underlying reasons causing people to peacefully protest.

Saddened to see our country & communities being damaged & vandalized. I ask everyone to protest in peace & focus on taking care of one another & healing our great nation.

— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) June 1, 2020

She gave her first public comments on the demonstrations on Friday, tweeting her condolences to George Floyd's family and again calling for protests to remain peaceful.

"Our country allows for peaceful protests, but there is no reason for violence," she wrote. "I've seen our citizens unify & take care of one another through COVID19 & we can't stop now. My deepest condolences to the family of George Floyd. As a nation, let's focus on peace, prayers & healing."

While Melania Trump has been absent from public views for days, it's somewhat typical for the private first lady. The New York Times reported she "opted not to travel to Florida for the rocket launch" on Saturday amid the nation's unrest.

"One person briefed on the events said the first lady, anxious about the protests, made the decision at the last minute, but another person briefed on what took place disputed that," the Times reported.

ABC News confirmed New York Times reporting that President Donald Trump was rushed to an underground bunker at the White House on Friday as hundreds of protesters gathered outside the White House, but it is unclear if the first lady and the couple's 14-year-old son, Barron, joined him.

A more public former first lady Michelle Obama shared a string of tweets about Floyd's death on Friday, writing in part, "Like so many of you, I'm pained by these recent tragedies. And I'm exhausted by a heartbreak that never seems to stop. Right now it's George, Breonna, and Ahmaud. Before that it was Eric, Sandra, and Michael. It just goes on, and on, and on."

"Race and racism is a reality that so many of us grow up learning to just deal with. But if we ever hope to move past it, it can't just be on people of color to deal with it," she added.

Like so many of you, I’m pained by these recent tragedies. And I’m exhausted by a heartbreak that never seems to stop. Right now it’s George, Breonna, and Ahmaud. Before that it was Eric, Sandra, and Michael. It just goes on, and on, and on. pic.twitter.com/lFWEtTzVT8

— Michelle Obama (@MichelleObama) May 29, 2020

Following the death of Floyd in police custody last week, protests in Minnesota spread across the country. Some have resulted in vandalism and destruction of property, with many cities issuing curfews in response.

The president, in a call with the nation's governors on Monday, ramped up rhetoric against demonstrations, telling state leaders, they must "dominate" out-of-control protests, calling on law enforcement to get "much tougher" and blaming unrest erupting across many communities squarely on "the radical left."

Unlike his wife, the president did not voice support for peaceful protests.

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Meal sites in Chicago, Philadelphia closed Monday

iStock/Rimma_Bondarenko(CHICAGO) -- BY: SOPHIE TATUM

Two of the cities rocked by violent protests this weekend – Chicago and Philadelphia – have temporarily closed meal pick-up sites. Both programs said they hoped to reopen the sites on Tuesday, and Chicago Public Schools announced it would still deliver meals to families who need it.

"USDA is monitoring the situation closely and providing technical support to states, schools, and program operators as needed," a USDA spokesperson said. "We are committed to ensuring kids in all communities are fed during these challenging times."

Chicago Public Schools said on its website it has “served millions of grab-and-go meals to families,” since schools were temporarily closed amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chicago Public Schools announced on Sunday it would temporarily suspend grab-and-go meal sites Monday because of “the evolving nature of activity across the city.” CPS says it’s provided more than 12 million meals since in-person learning was suspended because of the health crisis.

“While meal sites are closed today, all previously scheduled meal deliveries will be completed. To sign up for delivery going forward, please contact 773-553-KIDS,” Chicago Public Schools tweeted on Monday morning.

Chief Executive Officer of CPS, Janice Jackson, said it’s their goal to open the grab-and-go meal sites on Tuesday.

“We have food on hand to be delivered to students and families if they are in need,” she said, adding that they are closely monitoring the situation.

On Sunday, the city of Philadelphia also said in a tweet it was closing food and meal sites on Monday, but would reopen Tuesday.

On Philadelphia’s government website, a message says, “to ensure everyone’s safety at this time, all food and meal sites will be closed on Monday, June 1.”

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Trump says he is mobilizing 'heavily armed' military to stop protests

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- BY: BEN GITTLESON and JORDYN PHELPS

In a dramatic escalation of a national crisis, National Guard troops were deployed near the White House Monday evening hours after President Donald Trump said he wanted a military show of force against violent protests gripping the country.

Shortly after, Trump came to the White House Rose Garden to call himself the "law and order" president, saying "domestic terrorism" was to blame for the unrest.

"As we speak, I am dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel, and law enforcement officers to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults, and the wanton destruction of property," he said. "We will end it now."

He called on governors to use their National Guard military police units to "dominate the streets" and threatened to deploy the active duty military if governors failed to use the National Guard more forcefully.

He said he may invoke the 1807 Insurrection Act, which permits a president to deploy military inside the U.S. to deal with civil disorder.

Before Trump spoke, tear gas and flash bangs were used to clear what appeared to be peaceful protesters in Lafayette Park across the street from the White House and near St. John's Church, which protesters set fire to briefly Sunday night.

Trump and aides then walked across Pennsylvania Avenue to pose before cameras at the church, holding a Bible.

"We have the greatest country in the world, we're going to keep it nice and safe," he said, expressing resolve that the country is coming back but did not otherwise engage on reporter questions.

Attorney General Bill Barr, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien and press secretary Kayleigh McEnany joined the president for a group photo.

He then began the walk back to the White House after just a minute or so in front of the church, his daughter Ivanka trailing him.

"What the president did was call out the American military against American citizens," New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday just after Trump spoke, "just so he could have a photo op of him walking to the church."

"It was just for photo opportunity. I mean it is it is amazing calling out the American military for a photo opportunity. That's what it was. I mean it was shameful," Cuomo told CNN. "It was really, truly shameful."

Several truckloads of DC National Guard military police had arrived near Lafayette Park where large groups of protesters had fought with police for the past three nights, at one point on Friday causing officials to have Trump taken to a bunker below the White House for his protection.

A U.S. official said that active duty Army military police units from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, were preparing to be on standby in the Washington, D.C. area Monday night after three days of violent protests.

The National Guard troops are going to be protecting national monuments, the White House, property, and infrastructure, the official said.

Not all DC Guard troops will be armed, the official said.

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley and Barr were seen walking near the police line in Lafayette Park as military vehicles were stationed nearby.

Mayor Muriel Bowser Monday afternoon declared a curfew beginning at 7 p.m. until 6 a.m. Tuesday.

The curfew time roughly coincided with the dispersal of the protesters and Trump's walkover to the photo op at the church.

"During the hours of the curfew, no person, other than persons designated by the Mayor, shall walk, bike, run, loiter, stand, or motor by car or other mode of transport upon any street, alley, park, or other public place within the District," the mayor's order said.

Earlier, as the White House geared up for another night of protests outside its gates, President Trump lashed out at governors for their handling of demonstrations over George Floyd's death, emphasizing instances of rioting and looting that marred overwhelmingly peaceful protests across the country.

As his press secretary cited Martin Luther King Jr.'s support for nonviolence, Trump shared a message from Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., who suggested unleashing a U.S. Army air assault division on those carrying out "anarchy, rioting, and looting."

"100% Correct," the president wrote.

Rather than focus on protesters' grievances -- such as systemic racism and police brutality -- Trump has increasingly turned his focus to squelching the civil unrest that has accompanied the national demonstrations and has taken a hardline stance to restoring order.

He has said, without offering evidence, that much of the rioting that has wracked American cities over recent nights has been carried out by supporters of the amorphous "antifa" movement -- a loose group of people who define themselves as anti-fascist. He tweeted Sunday that the U.S. would designate the group a terrorist organization, but the White House did not say Monday under what legal authority it would do so, nor did it explain how it could prosecute its members as terrorists.

The president told the nation’s governors on a call Monday that they need to “dominate” over the ongoing situation of unrest and has related the situation to a military conflict.

"You have to dominate, if you don't dominate you're wasting your time," Trump said, according to a recording of the call obtained by ABC News. "They're gonna run over you, you're gonna look like a bunch of jerks. You have to dominate."

He said at another point: "It is a war in a certain sense and we're gonna end it fast.”

In a surprising statement, the president told the governors he is putting Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley, his top military adviser, “in charge” of the response to the domestic protests. The president did not explain what he meant by putting Milley “in charge.”

Press secretary McEnany did little to clarify the president’s meaning except to tell ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl that the federal government would be deploying “additional federal assets” and that Milley would play a role in a “central command center” to coordinate the responses on the local level.

McEnany also sought to downplay the meaning of the president's call for governors to "dominate" the streets, saying the president's interest in calling for greater National Guard activation is not to squelch protests but to allow for them to proceed peacefully.

“When those lines are overwhelmed, law enforcement gets on the defense so what the president has said is he wants to dominate the streets with National Guard, with the police presence and what studies have shown... that when there is an overwhelming National Guard presence it actually deescalates the situation and causes less civil unrest. So Gen Milley has really been on point in talking about the National Guard. The effectiveness and ensuring that they are utilized to great effect across the country,” she said.

Some advisers have pushed the president to deliver an address to the nation about the worst civil unrest Americans have seen in decades. Trump has so far resisted, with no plan for remarks from the Oval Office, the setting for many momentous speeches during times of crises in previous presidencies.

McEnany on Monday pointed to Trump's scripted remarks about Floyd and the protests that he delivered during a trip to Florida for a space shuttle launch. She disputed the notion the president has stayed silent.

"What I would note is that continual statements, as he has made day and day and day and day again, they don't stop anarchy," she told reporters at the White House. "What stops anarchy is action, and that's what the president is working on right now."

For three days, peaceful protests like those nationwide have ended yards from the White House, and each night the gatherings have devolved into clashes with police. On Friday, the White House went on lockdown, and the U.S. Secret Service whisked Trump to an underground bunker to shelter in place, according to senior sources familiar with the matter.

The White House has maintained an "elevated security posture," with staffers on Monday discouraged from coming in and advised to hide their badges, according to an email sent to staff Sunday night.

In a series of tweets since late last week, Trump has fanned the flames of division by threatening to sic "vicious dogs" on protesters outside the White House -- evoking ugly images of dogs used on African Americans in the 1960a -- and writing, "when the looting starts, the shooting starts." The latter, made famous by a Miami police chief in the 1960s, was roundly condemned for its racist history.

Few Republicans have spoken out aside from the Senate's lone black Republican, Tim Scott, of South Carolina, who called Trump's tweets "not constructive."

"I do think some of his tweets have not been helpful," Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Penn., said Monday. "It would be helpful if he changed the tone of his message."

Over the weekend, the entire DC National Guard was called up to assist with maintaining order, and a mix of law enforcement agencies -- among them Washington's Metropolitan Police Department, the Secret Service, and U.S. Park Police -- pushed back protesters near the White House.

Other federal units have joined, as well, including riot teams from the Bureau of Prisons and a Federal Bureau of Investigation hostage rescue team, a senior Department of Justice official said Monday.

Trump on Monday said in his call with the governors said Washington would be "under much more control" because "we're pouring in and we're going to pull in thousands of people."

"We're going to clamp down very strongly," he said, later adding, "We're going to do something that people haven't seen before." He did not elaborate.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Trump, Barr tell governors to ‘dominate’ streets in response to unrest

Official White House Photo by Tia DufourBy KATHERINE FAULDERS, JUSTIN FISHEL and ALEXANDER MALLIN, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- In a call with the nation's governors Monday, an angry President Donald Trump told state leaders they must "dominate" out-of-control protests, calling on law enforcement to get "much tougher" and blaming unrest erupting across many communities squarely on "the radical left."

The president and Attorney General William Barr used the word "dominate" nearly a dozen times in describing how law enforcement should posture themselves.

"You have to dominate, if you don't dominate you're wasting your time," Trump said, according to a recording of the call obtained by ABC News. "They're gonna run over you, you're gonna look like a bunch of jerks. You have to dominate."

"You have to know what you're dealing with," the president told the nation's governors. "And it's happened before, this happened numerous times and the only time it's successful is when you're weak and most of you are weak."

Trump said they were making a mistake by letting looters destroy property and called for arresting and prosecuting those captured on camera, saying they should be put in jail for 10 years.

"Law enforcement response is not gonna work unless we dominate the streets, as the president said, we have to control the streets," Barr added in his own set of remarks. "We have to control the crowds and not to react to what's happening on the street and that requires a strong presence."

A senior DOJ official said Monday that Barr directed the Bureau of Prisons to send riot teams to Miami and Washington, D.C., to assist in crowd control efforts. Around midnight Sunday, Barr dispatched the FBI’s elite Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) to assist D.C. police. The official said DOJ will “maximize federal law enforcement presence in D.C. tonight.”

Barr told the governors that DOJ has information of instigators who are "looking for secondary targets and cities where they can go and overwhelm the police forces," which he said was a reason for all states collectively to show a strong response to protesters.

"That’s why it’s so imperative we can’t play whack-a-mole with these people," Barr said. "We have to take out the professional instigators and the leadership group and the way to do that is to start with a strong statement in the major cities.”

President Trump on the call accused many of the governors of being slow to call for federal help like the National Guard in their states.

"Why you're not calling them up I don't know -- but you making a mistake and making yourselves look like fools."

"These are terrorists," President Trump said of the protesters. "Antifa and the radical left."

In his opening remarks, he made no mention of George Floyd, the African American man killed in police custody last week in Minneapolis, and did not address the protesters concerns about racial inequality.

At one point, Trump compared the government's mobilization in response to the protests so far as similar to a war-like posture.

"It's like we're talking about a war which it is a war in a certain sense, and we're going to end it fast so be tough," Trump said.

While many of the governors on the call avoided directly criticizing the president over his response to the protests, Illinois Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker confronted Trump over his recent rhetoric, saying he was in many cases making the situation "worse."

"I've been extraordinarily concerned about the rhetoric that's been used by you," Pritzker said. "It's been inflammatory and it's not okay for that officer to choke George Floyd to death, but we have to call for calm. We have to have police reform called for."

Pritzker added, "the rhetoric that's coming out of the White House is making it worse. People are feeling real pain out there. And we've got to have national leadership in calling for calm and making sure that we’re addressing the concerns of the legitimate peaceful protesters. That will help us to bring order."

Trump shot back, defending his comments made thus far about Floyd and attacking Pritzker over his response to the spread of coronavirus in Illinois.

"I don't like your rhetoric much either because I watched it with respect to the coronavirus and I don't like your rhetoric much either," Trump said. "I think you could have done a much better job, frankly, but that's okay we know we don't agree with each other."

Democratic Maine Gov. Janet Mills similarly used the call to express concern over reports that Trump might visit her state later this week.

"I am very concerned that your presence may cause security problems for our state," Mills said. "We don’t have them yet so I’m concerned about that."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Former President Barack Obama puts out guidelines to 'get to work' amid George Floyd protests

Mark Makela/Getty ImagesBy ALEXANDRA SVOKOS, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Former President Barack Obama published a piece on Medium on Monday addressing the protests nationwide following the death of George Floyd -- and, specifically, how he thinks people can move forward to "sustain momentum to bring about real change."

"Ultimately, it’s going to be up to a new generation of activists to shape strategies that best fit the times," he wrote. "But I believe there are some basic lessons to draw from past efforts that are worth remembering."

His message overall stressed the importance of voting and participating in politics, particularly at the local level, where decisions on ground-level criminal justice and police practices are formed.

The "bottom line," he wrote, is that "if we want to bring about real change, then the choice isn’t between protest and politics. We have to do both. We have to mobilize to raise awareness, and we have to organize and cast our ballots to make sure that we elect candidates who will act on reform."

The nation's first and only African American president began by acknowledging that "the waves of protests across the country represent a genuine and legitimate frustration over a decades-long failure to reform police practices and the broader criminal justice system in the United States," noting that most people demonstrating have been "peaceful, courageous, responsible, and inspiring." He also noted that "police in cities like Camden and Flint have commendably understood" that the protesters "deserve our respect and support."

He also addressed the violence that has broken out at protests in several cities, although the exact root of that violence has been disputed, especially as it differs between locations.

In his post, Obama requested people "not excuse violence, or rationalize it, or participate in it."

From there, Obama addressed the importance of participating in politics and voting in every election, saying that "the elected officials who matter most in reforming police departments and the criminal justice system work at the state and local levels."

He said reform agendas will vary from place to place but should be tailored to each community and that it's up to organizers to educate themselves of what strategies work best.

"The more specific we can make demands for criminal justice and police reform, the harder it will be for elected officials to just offer lip service to the cause and then fall back into business as usual once protests have gone away," he wrote.

Obama concluded his letter by acknowledging the pain in America, amid protests and a pandemic.

"I recognize that these past few months have been hard and dispiriting -- that the fear, sorrow, uncertainty, and hardship of a pandemic have been compounded by tragic reminders that prejudice and inequality still shape so much of American life," he wrote. "But watching the heightened activism of young people in recent weeks, of every race and every station, makes me hopeful."

He said the next moment in American history can be "a real turning point" if "we can channel our justifiable anger into peaceful, sustained, and effective action."

I wrote out some thoughts on how to make this moment a real turning point to bring about real change––and pulled together some resources to help young activists sustain the momentum by channeling their energy into concrete action. https://t.co/jEczrOeFdv

— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) June 1, 2020

The post also linked up to a toolkit developed by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, based on a task force on policing Obama formed while at White House, and also to resources at the Obama Foundation, he said, "to help young activists sustain the momentum by channeling their energy into concrete action."

This is the second time the former president has written something on the nation's unrest in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd.

"This shouldn't be 'normal' in 2020 America," Obama wrote in a statement posted to Twitter Friday. "It can't be 'normal.' If we want our children to grow up in a nation that lives up to its highest ideals, we can and must be better."

My statement on the death of George Floyd: pic.twitter.com/Hg1k9JHT6R

— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) May 29, 2020

President Donald Trump, meanwhile, has taken a different approach, facing some criticism for failing to address and unify the nation as protests grew over the weekend.

Hours before Obama issued a statement Friday, Trump tweeted about the protests in Minneapolis, saying that "thugs are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd" and, referencing the military, that "when the looting starts, the shooting starts." The tweet was flagged by Twitter as "glorifying violence."

Trump on Sunday blamed "ANTIFA" for the protests turning violent and said he would label it as a terrorist organization, although his authority to deem a domestic group a terror organization remains unclear.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Hesitancy to resume activities marks reopening challenges: POLL

Nattakorn Maneerat/iStockBy GARY LANGER and STEVEN SPARKS

(NEW YORK) -- With two-thirds of Americans worried about a second wave of the coronavirus, a new ABC News/Washington Post poll finds nearly 6 in 10 people are unready to resume their pre-pandemic activities, underscoring continued public unease as the nation seeks a return to normalcy.

Impacts of the pandemic are vast. Seventy-nine percent in this national survey say their lives have been disrupted. Fifty-nine percent report severe economic impacts in their community -- up from 43% two months ago. Among those employed before the pandemic began, 24% have been laid off or furloughed.

[ CLICK HERE TO SEE THE FULL RESULTS FROM THE POLL ]

For all that, 57% say it's more important to try to control the spread of the virus than to try to restart the economy. And as states move to reopen, most people are hesitant. Asked if they're willing at this time to go to stores, restaurants and other public places the way they did before the pandemic, 58% say it's too early for that.

That result reflects concerns about becoming infected. Sixty-three percent remain very or somewhat worried they or someone in their immediate family may catch the coronavirus. (It was 69% in late March.) And 68% in this poll, produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates, are worried about a possible second wave of infections.

Greater worries are associated with reluctance to resume normal activities. Among people who are very worried about a second wave -- 1 in 3 Americans -- 91% say it's too early to return to public places as they did before the pandemic. Reluctance also is higher among people living in counties with more diagnosed cases, among other groups.

Worries rise in some groups. Eighty-one percent of Hispanics and 75% of blacks are worried they or a family member might catch the disease, for example, compared with 58% of whites.

Further demonstrating the extent of the pandemic, 42% of Americans now know someone personally who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, up nearly fourfold from 11% in late March. That rises to 54% among blacks and the same among those in the Northeast. It also peaks among higher-income and more-educated adults, possibly reflecting disparities in health care access.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Trump adviser blames left-wing for violence despite warning pointing to both sides

ABC NewsBy ADAM KELSEY, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- As nationwide protests over the weekend turned violent in response to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, President Donald Trump's national security adviser continued to place blame solely on the far left, despite a report from the Department of Homeland Security that finds extremist groups across the ideological spectrum are attempting to exploit the demonstrations.

In an appearance on ABC's This Week Sunday, Robert O'Brien echoed statements from Trump and Attorney General William Barr pointing to a militant left-wing group, claiming, "it's the violent antifa radical militants that are coming out under cover of night, traveling across state lines, using military style tactics to burn down our cities."

But the administration's own intelligence shows that far-right groups and even white supremacists are also attempting to take advantage of the unrest.

"The Department of Homeland Security, which reports to you, has put out intelligence notes over the weekend warning that domestic terrorists from the far-right and the far-left -- both -- are looking to exploit this," ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos said to O'Brien. "It's not just antifa and the left, they're saying they're worried about the far right as well."

"Everything I've seen … and the reports we're receiving is that this is antifa, they're crossing state lines, and we've seen this happen before," O'Brien responded. "We'll keep our eyes open for anyone else that wants to take advantage of the situation, whether it's domestic or foreign. But right now, I think the president and Attorney General Barr want to know what the FBI has been doing to surveil, to disrupt, to take down antifa to prosecute them."

Stephanopoulos pointed to a warning to law enforcement this week in which federal authorities flagged incendiary messages sent Wednesday by a racially motivated group that "incited followers to engage in violence ... by shooting in a crowd."

"You said you haven't heard about any other incitement from the right, but the DHS warning that went out this week noted specifically that the white supremacist extremist telegram channel was inciting the violence as well," Stephanopoulos said. "They're saying it is both sides that are inciting violence from the outside."

Still, O'Brien insisted the images of destruction, violence and vandalism that played out live on television over the weekend were the fault of left-wing extremists.

"I think the actual perpetrators of the violence, the ones that are on the street that are burning down minority-owned businesses and restaurants who have already suffered through this terrible COVID situation and are at risk of losing their business and now they're seeing them burn to the ground, those are antifa radical militants," O'Brien responded.

"Look, I condemn all extremists on the right or on the left, but the ones who are out on the streets throwing the Molotov cocktails and attacking our police -- who are acting, you know, for the most part with restraint and heroically -- you know, that has to stop," he continued.

Stephanopoulos also asked O'Brien about the role the president's rhetoric is playing in stoking unrest across the country, including an inflammatory tweet Friday morning stating, "when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Twitter flagged the message with an unprecedented advisory stating that it "violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence."

"Does the president -- should he be taking responsibility for those tweets, as well?" asked Stephanopoulos.

"The reason he uses Twitter is to get directly to the American people -- I think what he said about those tweets is that he wants to deescalate violence and doesn't want people looting," O'Brien said, after earlier noting that he was with Trump when the president first viewed the video of Floyd's death and that Trump immediately tweeted a demand for an investigation.

Stephanopoulos later probed O'Brien about the evidence that "foreign adversaries" are attempting to exploit the unrest, referring to a tweet by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Saturday in which he said he was "seeing VERY heavy social media activity on #protests & counter reactions from social media accounts linked to at least 3 foreign adversaries."

"Sen. Rubio is spot on. And I've seen a number of tweets from the Chinese today that are taking some sort of pleasure and solace in what they're seeing here," O'Brien said.

He also delivered a message about the difference between the U.S. and its adversaries.

"I want to tell our foreign adversaries, whether it's a Zimbabwe or a China, that the difference between us and you is that that officer who killed George Floyd, he'll be investigated, he'll be prosecuted and he'll receive a fair trial," O'Brien said.

"There's a difference between us and you, and when this happens, we'll get to the bottom of it. We'll clean it up. It's not going to be covered up," he added.

When asked whether the officers who witnessed Floyd's arrest and failed to act should also be prosecuted, O'Brien called it "an absolute outrage."

"I can't imagine that they won't be charged. I don't want to pre-judge anything, but what we saw was horrific, and to have stood by and allowed that to happen is, you know, shows a lack of humanity," he said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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