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Wake Up To Politics - August 31, 2020

It’s Monday, August 31, 2020. Election Day is 64 days away. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.

Shootings in Kenosha, Portland shake up presidential race

After months of being defined by the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 presidential campaign has swerved into new territory as both candidates seek to address worsening incidents of violence taking place throughout the United States.

As protests against police violence have grown again since the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last week, a series of violent clashes have broken out between racial justice demonstrators and pro-police counterprotesters. Three people have been killed in these skirmishes in recent days: two in Kenosha last Tuesday and one in Portland, Oregon, on Saturday.  

A 17-year-old, Kyle Rittenhouse, has been charged with homicide in the Kenosha shooting; he traveled to the demonstrations as part of a self-described citizen’s militia attempting to assist police officers and protect local businesses. No suspect has been named in the Portland shooting, although the victim was reportedly affiliated with a right-wing group.

These episodes of fatal unrest come on the heels of the Republican National Convention last week, during which President Donald Trump and his allies made urban violence a key theme as they hope to boost his standing in the 2020 campaign. “The more chaos and anarchy and vandalism and violence reigns, the better it is for the very clear choice on who’s best on public safety, and law and order,” White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said in an interview Thursday.

Trump posted 167 tweets or retweets this weekend, many of them focused on the violence in Portland and the leadership of the city’s Democratic mayor, Ted Wheeler. “The big backlash going on in Portland cannot be unexpected after 95 days of watching and incompetent Mayor admit that he has no idea what he is doing,” Trump said in a tweet on Sunday. “The people of Portland won't put up with no safety any longer. The Mayor is a FOOL. Bring in the National Guard!”

Throughout the RNC, speakers bashed Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden for his failure to mention the recent unrest in his convention speech the previous week. Biden issued a statement Sunday addressing the clashes in Portland: “I condemn this violence unequivocally,” he said. “I condemn violence of every kind by any one, whether on the left or the right. And I challenge Donald Trump to do the same.”

Biden also accused Trump of inciting the violence by “fanning the flames of hate and division in our society”; he will elaborate on this point in a speech in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, later today. According to his campaign, Biden’s remarks will “lay out a core question voters face in this election: are you safe in Donald Trump’s America?” This theme — incorporating both coronavirus and recent protests — is a direct rebuttal of the speech delivered last week by Vice President Mike Pence, who warned voters that “you won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America.”

Following Biden’s remarks in Pittsburgh today, Trump is slated to travel to Kenosha on Tuesday as the city continues to grapple with unrest. Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, penned a letter to the president on Sunday urging him not to visit the state. “I am concerned your presence will only hinder our healing,” Evers wrote. “I am concerned your presence will only delay our work to overcome division and move forward together.”

According to the White House, Trump still plans to make the trip.

Intel officials halt election security briefings

The nation’s top intelligence agency told Congress on Saturday that it would no longer provide in-person briefings on election security to lawmakers.

John Ratcliffe, the Director of National Intelligence, wrote in a pair of letters to House and Senate committees that his office would still provide written updates but was halting the verbal briefings in response to congressional leaks.

In a joint statement, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called the move a “shocking abdication of [the DNI’s] lawful responsibility to keep the Congress currently informed, and a betrayal of the public’s right to know how foreign powers are trying to subvert our democracy.” Schiff told CNN on Sunday that his panel may subpoena intelligence officials to testify before his panel on foreign election interference ahead of the November election.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), the acting chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, urged Ratcliffe to continue providing briefings on election security but criticized the “grotesque criminal misconduct” of lawmakers who had leaked information from previous sessions. “Congressional oversight of intelligence activities now faces a historic crisis,” Rubio said, noting the “legal obligations” intelligence officials have to brief lawmakers and members of Congress have not to divulge classified information. “I have witnessed firsthand how this delicate balance has been destroyed,” he added.

The decision by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to halt in-person election security briefings for Congress comes after the agency’s top counterintelligence official warned Americans earlier this month about “covert and overt influence measures” by China, Russia, and Iran to “sway U.S. voters’ preferences and perspectives, shift U.S. policies, increase discord in the United States, and undermine the American people’s confidence in our democratic process.”

Coronavirus: The latest

NBC: “The U.S. has surpassed 6 million coronavirus cases as the country struggles to reopen schools and rebuild its economy as the pandemic rages with no end in sight.”

“The number of coronavirus cases topped 6 million Sunday, according to NBC News data collected from health departments nationwide. The country has recorded more than 183,000 deaths due to the virus since the outbreak gained global attention in February.”

Washington Post: “One of President Trump’s top medical advisers is urging the White House to embrace a controversial ‘herd immunity’ strategy to combat the pandemic, which would entail allowing the coronavirus to spread through most of the population to quickly build resistance to the virus, while taking steps to protect those in nursing homes and other vulnerable populations, according to five people familiar with the discussions.”

“The administration has already begun to implement some policies along these lines, according to current and former officials as well as experts, particularly with regard to testing.”


All times Eastern.

President Donald Trump will have lunch with Vice President Mike Pence at 1:15 p.m. and meet with Attorney General William Barr and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf at 3 p.m.

The House and Senate are on recess.

The Supreme Court is on summer recess.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden will deliver remarks in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, “on whether voters feel safe in Donald Trump’s America and offer a different vision for a better future in Joe Biden’s America” and attend a virtual fundraiser.

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