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Wake Up To Politics - June 5, 2020

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Breaking: Unemployment rate falls in surprise report

The U.S. unemployment rate fell to 13.3% in May, the Labor Department announced this morning, an unexpected economic improvement amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The jobless rate remains high by historical standards, but the drop from 14.7% in April was a surprise to many economists, some of whom had forecasted a jump to 20%. Instead, the economy added 2.5 jobs in May, just one month after losing a record 20.7 million.

President Donald Trump immediately celebrated the jobs report in a stream of tweets, calling it “incredible” and “a stunner by any stretch of the imagination.”

The report suggested that the economy is beginning to recover from the shutdowns caused by the coronavirus, as the nation reopens and jobs return.

--- Programming note: Trump announced a 10 a.m. Eastern Time press conference to discuss the report.

Trump relents on troops in D.C.

After ordering active-duty troops from the 82nd Airborne Division to come to Washington, D.C., amid civil unrest earlier in the week, President Donald Trump agreed Thursday to allow them to return home.

According to the New York Times, Defense Secretary Mark Esper attempted to send some of the 1,600 troops home on Wednesday, only for Trump to “order him to reverse course during an angry meeting” later in the day. The president then “acquiesced” on Thursday and the decision was reversed again; 700 soldiers have already begun to head back to Fort Bragg in North Carolina, while the remaining 900 “could begin withdrawing” as early as today.

Although the active-duty troops never actually deployed in Washington (only remaining on alert on the outskirts of the city), they quickly became a flashpoint in rising tensions between President Trump and senior leaders at the Pentagon.

Scrambling to salvage the military’s apolitical reputation after the president threatened to deploy troops to quell protests nationwide, Esper went public with his opposition to using the military in such a manner. Active-duty troops, he said Wednesday, “should only be used as a matter of last resort and only in the most urgent and dire of situations.”

Esper’s comments were reportedly echoed inside the administration by Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In public, he received backing from a “who’s who” of ex-military brass: former Defense Secretary James Mattis, former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen and Martin Dempsey, former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan John Allen, and former Marine Commandant Robert Neller, among others.

Each of these generals and admirals penned statements opposing the deployment of U.S. troops to quash domestic protests and criticizing the use of teargas against demonstrators near the White House — marking, as the Times wrote, a turning point in President Trump’s relationship with senior military leaders.

After entering office by stocking his Cabinet with ex-military leaders — “my generals,” he called them — Trump attacked two of them in tweets on Thursday. Mattis was “no good,” he declared; after his former chief of staff and four-star Marine general John Kelly defended Mattis to the Washington Post and contradicted Trump’s claim that the Pentagon chief had been fired, the president went after Kelly as well.

Trump’s current defense secretary is also on the outs: according to Politico, Esper’s “future is in question” after publicly challenging Trump’s call for active-duty troops to be deployed as White House aides “gossip” about potential replacements.

One possibility, as reported by Politico? Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), who announced his full-throated backing for using the military to “restore order to our streets” in a New York Times op-ed that has caused a firestorm at the newspaper. (A Times spokesperson said Thursday that the piece was published after a “rushed editorial process” and “did not meet our standards.”)

Meanwhile, in Washington, even as the 82nd Airborne Divison returns home, the number of National Guard troops in the capital is set to rise to 4,500 as various governors have deployed their forces to D.C. at Esper’s request.

As a result, the capital has become increasingly militarized — including by federal officers from an unidentified agency — while the White House itself has transformed into a fortress, after a large perimeter of fencing was expanded Thursday.

Clashing with the president, Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser has called for all federal law enforcement officers and National Guard forces to be removed from the capital. “Stand with DC now,” she tweeted Thursday, “or later wonder how it happened to your state.”

The Rundown

Lawmakers offer police reforms: “In the wake of the death of George Floyd and other Black people at the hands of police, U.S. Representatives Ayanna Pressley and Justin Amash announced Thursday they have introduced a bill that would end the principle of qualified immunity, in which police officers are shielded from lawsuits in the course of doing their jobs as long as they don’t violate the law.” (Boston Globe)

--- House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) “noted three areas that were ripe for swift bipartisan action: ensuring the right training is in place; enhanced oversight and audits of officers who have obtained reports for misusing force; and making it easier to remove bad officers.” (Roll Call)

2020 Central: “Campaign staffers working on the presidential campaigns of Donald Trump and Joe Biden have been targeted with online attacks coming from Iran and China respectively, Google said, in a sign that the meddling four years ago in the U.S. presidential election by Russia could be pursued more widely this time.” (Wall Street Journal)

--- “President Donald Trump’s re-election effort is set to resume in-person campaigning next week for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic sidelined their massive ground game operation nearly three months ago.” (ABC News)

--- “Why Some Democrats Worry About the Whiteness of Biden’s Inner Circle” (New York Times)

GOP senator backs Mattis over Trump: “Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski on Thursday said she is ‘struggling’ with whether to support President Trump in the next election amid his handling of the unrest following George Floyd’s death in the custody of the Minneapolis Police Department, while backing former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ condemnation of the president as ‘necessary and overdue.’” (Fox News)


*All times Eastern

President Donald Trump will hold a news conference at 10 a.m. on the May jobs report He will then travel to Bangor, Maine, to participate in a roundtable and proclamation signing on commercial fishermen at 2 p.m., and to Guilford, Maine, where he will tour Puritan Medical Products at 3:30 p.m. and deliver remarks at 4 p.m.

The House and Senate are not in session.

The Supreme Court is not in session.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden will deliver remarks in Dover, Delaware, on the May jobs report and broader economic situation at 12:15 p.m.

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