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The Morning Dispatch: Send In the Feds?
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The Morning Dispatch: Send In the Feds?

Plus, karma finally catches up with Steve King.

Happy Wednesday. Defense Secretary Mark Esper tried to distance himself yesterday from President Trump’s Monday night photo op in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church, telling NBC News, “I didn’t know where I was going.” He has a point: Do any of us really know where we’re going?

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • As of Tuesday night, 1,831,821 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the United States (an increase of 20,461 from yesterday) and 106,180 deaths have been attributed to the virus (an increase of 1,015 from yesterday), according to the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 Dashboard, leading to a mortality rate among confirmed cases of 5.8 percent (the true mortality rate is likely much lower, between 0.4 percent and 1.4 percent, but it’s impossible to determine precisely due to incomplete testing regimens). Of 17,757,838 coronavirus tests conducted in the United States (417,156 conducted since yesterday), 10.3 percent have come back positive.

  • Just days after President Trump’s pledge to sever U.S. ties with the World Health Organization in response to its mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis, new information revealed Beijing’s restriction of crucial information from the U.N. agency at the onset of the outbreak. Sources show that three Chinese labs decoded the genome a full week before the sequence was leaked to the public by an unofficial source.

  • Though they’re largely a formality at this point, Joe Biden cleaned up in seven Democratic primaries across the country yesterday, leaving him just short of the 1,991 delegates he needs to clinch the party’s nomination. The former vice president also delivered his first formal public speech since the beginning of the pandemic on Tuesday, accusing President Trump of fanning “the flames of hate” and turning the country “into a battlefield.”

  • As the coronavirus recession grows, millions of Americans have found themselves without jobs—and, crucially, without unemployment benefits. According to Bloomberg calculations, between March and the end of May, the Treasury shelled out $146 billion, falling short of the massive $214 billion needed, based on the number of unemployment findings.

  • Wait, aren’t we supposed to be social-distancing and avoiding large gatherings? Amid concerns that the protests and riots could trigger outbreaks of COVID, and while mayors and local health departments encouraged demonstrators to wear masks and avoid shouting, an open letter initially written by infectious disease experts from the University of Washington supported the protests: “White supremacy is a lethal public health issue that predates and contributes to COVID-19.”

  • President Trump announced via Twitter his decision to pull the Republican National Convention from Charlotte, North Carolina, due to potential coronavirus restrictions on the event’s capacity. An RNC spokesperson, however, clarified that the “official business” of the convention will remain in Charlotte, while the celebration of Trump’s nomination will be relocated to another city.

  • A new Reuters/Ipsos poll found 64 percent of American adults were “sympathetic to people who are out protesting right now,” compared with 27 percent who were not. Less than a quarter of respondents believed violence was an appropriate response.

Send In the Feds?

Widespread demonstrations and defiance of citywide curfews persisted on Tuesday, with daily protests now being reported in at least 140 cities throughout the United States. Violence from both police officers and rioters continues to be a feature of the demonstrations, but reports from many of the major metropolitan areas indicate that last night saw a decrease in looting and physical violence from the preceding weekend.

Some of this decrease is likely the result of a bolstered law enforcement presence in many of the major cities, with thousands of National Guard soldiers being deployed in at least 23 states to provide backup to overwhelmed city police departments. Local authorities throughout the country have also begun to enforce curfews, which were extended until the end of the week in major cities like New York.

Law enforcement in Washington, D.C., has become increasingly militarized in the past 24 hours, with military vehicles rolling into the center of the city, soldiers at major locations, and a new black chain-link fence being erected to keep protesters from entering the blocks closest to the White House.* But thousands of protesters still descended on the city on Tuesday, many of whom said they were responding to President Trump’s controversial decision to forcibly remove demonstrators for a photo op the day before. The largest DC crowd seen since the beginning of the protests gathered in the park across from the White House on Tuesday evening, remaining well beyond the 7 p.m. curfew. Protestors largely dispersed by nightfall without any major confrontations with police in the area.

But despite the relatively peaceful tone in the nation’s capital, the death toll from countrywide protests continued to climb on Tuesday. Although the specific number is still unclear, the AP reported Tuesday night that several more people had been killed in protest-related violence throughout the day. The confirmed deaths Tuesday include David Dorn, 77, a retired police officer who was shot and killed by looters breaking into a pawn shop in St. Louis, Missouri, and an unidentified man who was shot and killed by the owner of a gun shop while allegedly attempting to rob the store in South Philadelphia.

Amid the ongoing unrest, President Trump continues to mull the possibility of taking a more direct role in restoring order by invoking the Insurrection Act, which would give him broad latitude to direct federal troops to specific cities to support civilian police.

“The president has extremely broad powers to send troops to states, and he is not required to wait for a request from a governor,” Barbara McQuade, a law professor at the University of Michigan, told The Dispatch. “I read these statutes as permitting troops to enforce state law and to go even further to ‘suppress’ ‘domestic violence’ that is hindering the law if the state is unable or unwilling to protect it.”

Over at the site this morning, Andrew has a piece walking through the powers the relevant laws give the president, and how the primary check on their exercise is not legal, but political. Give it a read.

If You Come at the King, You Best Not Miss

In the midst of some of the largest and most widespread anti-racism protests in a generation, Rep. Steve King—the Iowa Republican who was stripped of his committee assignments in January 2019 when he said in a New York Times interview, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization—how did that language become offensive?”—lost to a primary challenger, state Sen. Randy Feenstra.

We wrote to you last week about the possibility. Rather than dwell on King’s inflammatory rhetoric—which after 18 years in Congress was mostly baked in—Feenstra targeted King’s ineffectiveness, highlighting for voters the impact of King’s lack of committee assignments. “He basically rendered himself kind of useless to the district and the needs of the district,” Iowa GOP strategist David Kochel told us.

Feenstra defeated King 46 percent to 36 percent, running up the score in Sioux County—his home—83 percent to 14 percent.

“I am truly humbled by the outpouring of support over the past 17 months that made tonight possible,” Feenstra said, claiming victory. “I thank Congressman King for his decades of public service.”

In a video posted to his Facebook page, King said he called Feenstra to concede the race, but added that his loss stemmed from “an effort to push out the strongest voice for full-spectrum constitutional Christian conservatism that exists in the United States Congress.”

The result was welcome news for the Republican establishment, which had tired of having to answer for King’s bigotry. Hours after King’s “white supremacy” comments were published in January 2019, Rep. Liz Cheney tweeted, “These comments are abhorrent and racist and should have no place in our national discourse,” and the House moved quickly to censure him.

He was a weak candidate, too. King held onto his seat in 2018 by just 3.3 percent—despite Donald Trump winning the congressional district by 27.1 points in 2016—and would not have been a lock against the Democratic nominee, J.D. Scholten, in November. Sen. Joni Ernst is up for re-election this year, and King’s presence on the ballot could have been a drag on her chances against Democrat Theresa Greenfield. “It certainly can’t help that he runs so far behind the ticket,” Kochel warned last week. “It may not be determinative for any other candidates, but it’s definitely not a positive.”

King will leave Congress in January, with the only enacted piece of legislation on which he was chief sponsor being a bill to rename a post office. But his impact on our politics will continue to reverberate for years to come. As Politico’s Tim Alberta noted last night, King played a pivotal role in blocking bipartisan immigration reform that passed the Senate back in 2013. 

Worth Your Time

  • Ross Douthat’s Tuesday New York Times column takes a look at the urban progressivism that has dominated our country’s major metropolitan areas for the better part of a half-century. The chaos and riots that followed George Floyd’s death, Douthat argues, expose the contradictions in the left-liberal approach to city governance, revealing “how the Democratic coalition’s distillation into a metropolitan formation, a liberalism of the ‘global city,’ has created deep pressures inside the liberal coalition, fissures that can widen with the right cascade of shocks.” This crisis of the liberal city is one of legitimacy: by virtue of the fact that the urban Democratic coalition is “an alliance of highly educated urbanites, service workers and the underclass, inhabiting the same geography but very different social spaces,” its institutions lack the ability to hold the city’s population together in a shared social fabric. As a result, Douthat writes, the liberal city lacks the sense of collective identity that usually serves to instill a sense of obligation and mutual respect in its citizenry, leading to a declining confidence in “the liberal coalition’s claim to represent order against Trumpian chaos or political competence against right-wing fecklessness.” 

  • By now, many of you have probably come across the widely circulated video of law enforcement officers attacking an Australian camera crew during its broadcast of the Washington, D.C., Black Lives Matter protests. The past four days have witnessed the exceptionally widespread, but all too familiar, targeting of journalists by law enforcement. A poignant Philadelphia Inquirer column by reporter Kristen A. Graham details her unprovoked arrest and brief detainment in Philadelphia, despite her conspicuously displayed press credentials. Several other recent encounters are documented by Jon Allsop in the Columbia Journalism Review. Across the country, journalists are taking rubber bullets, reporting through tear gas, and being pepper-sprayed by officers in their efforts to cover the protests diligently. To Allsop, these disproportionate responses by law enforcement reinforce the urgent necessity of criminal justice reform. “It’s hard to imagine a better reminder of our role here than the particularly widespread abuse of journalists that we witnessed this weekend,” he writes. “Whether that was a product of the geographical scale of the protests, Trump-inspired brazenness, the fact some of the abuses were captured on camera, or something else entirely.”

  • Have a listen to Will Hurd:

Presented Without Comment

Also Presented Without Comment

Also Also Presented Without Comment

Toeing the Company Line

  • For even more on the question of using the military to help shore up law enforcement during our moment of national turmoil, check out David’s excellent new French Press on the subject. He argues that police are ill-equipped to solve a crisis that is, after all, a national referendum on bad policing. By contrast, the U.S. military “is trusted now in large part because it learned from failures past,” like the urban combat it visited on U.S. cities during previous anti-riot deployments. The newly deployed military will “bring overwhelming presence, and that overwhelming presence is likely to decrease the need for overwhelming force.”

  • Alec’s latest Fact Check examines Joe Biden’s recent claim that if President Trump had “listened to guys like [him]” back in January, 45,000 to 60,000 more Americans would be alive today. Biden did write an op-ed warning about the coronavirus in late January, but he did not advocate for shutting down the country then. His campaign continued to hold events until March 10.

  • Also on the site today, Danielle Pletka explains that our withdrawal from the Open Skies treaty in May is not that big of a deal. “[L]ike too many such accords, Open Skies was little more than paper—superseded by technology, ignored or abused by the parties it was most intended to constrain, and constraining the United States in ways detrimental to national security.”

Let Us Know

Today marks five months until Election Day. It’s easy to think these protests—or the pandemic, or impeachment, etc.—will be top-of-mind for voters, but there’s a long way to go until November. Five months ago today your Morning Dispatchers stayed up all night and wrote to you about President Trump’s killing of Qassem Suleimani. Remember that guy?

Do you think the defining issue of the 2020 election has come to light already, or will today’s news seem like a distant memory come November 3?

Reporting by Declan Garvey (@declanpgarvey), Andrew Egger (@EggerDC), Sarah Isgur (@whignewtons), Alec Dent (@Alec_Dent), Nate Hochman (@njhochman), and Steve Hayes (@stephenfhayes).

*Correction, June 3, 2020: An earlier version of this newsletter erroneously stated that tanks were deployed into D.C. as part of the effort to curb unrest following the day’s protests. In fact, the military vehicles that entered the city were HEMTT tanker trucks.

Photograph by Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times.