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The Morning Dispatch: Will Congress Act on Police Reform?
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The Morning Dispatch: Will Congress Act on Police Reform?

Plus, long lines and broken voting machines plague the Georgia primary.

Happy Thursday. Let’s get right to it.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • As of Wednesday night, 1,999,900 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the United States (an increase of 14,230 from yesterday) and 112,895 deaths have been attributed to the virus (an increase of 906 from yesterday), according to the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 Dashboard, leading to a mortality rate among confirmed cases of 5.7 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 21,467,820 coronavirus tests conducted in the United States (419,637 conducted since yesterday), 9.3 percent have come back positive.

  • The GOP has tentatively decided to move the bulk of its 2020 national convention from North Carolina to Jacksonville, Florida, according to the Washington Post. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper had refused to promise coronavirus restrictions will be lifted in time for large crowds to attend the event in late August.

  • The Federal Reserve made clear it is unlikely to raise interest rates through at least 2022, keeping them between 0.0 and 0.25 percent for at least two years. U.S. consumer prices fell in May for the third straight month, and the Fed released forecasts showing a more gradual economic recovery: 9.3 percent unemployment at the end of 2020 and 6.5 percent unemployment at the end of 2021.

  • New polls show an unprecedented increase in public support for the Black Lives Matter movement. In the last two weeks, American voters’ support for the movement increased almost as much as it had over the course of the past two years.

  • The White House has informed John Bolton—former national security adviser under President Trump—that his upcoming book contains classified material. The book—which reportedly includes additional information about Trump’s dealings with Ukraine over which the impeachment saga hinged—has already been shipped to warehouses and is set to be published on June 23.

  • Despite Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and Defense Secretary Mark Esper saying they were open to the idea, President Trump objected on Tuesday to the renaming of military bases currently named after Confederate generals, saying his administration will “not even consider” doing so.

  • Amazon announced it would stop providing its facial recognition technology to police departments for one year, saying “governments should put in place stronger regulations to govern the ethical use of facial recognition technology.” The move comes shortly after IBM announced it was abandoning facial recognition technology entirely.

  • NASCAR announced the Confederate flag will be banned from all of its future events.

Is Congress Actually Going to Do Something on Police Reform?

In the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis and the weeks of anti-racism protests around the country that followed, lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle have been imbued with a renewed sense of urgency to get something done on police reform. And with public opinion surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement and existence of systemic racism shifting tectonically beneath our feet, the political will might be there for the two parties to come to an agreement.

House Democrats were first out of the gate in unveiling their proposal—with calls from their progressive base to “defund the police” ringing in their ears—and it decidedly did not defund the police. The Justice in Policing Act would reform qualified immunity, ban religious and racial profiling, federally prohibit chokeholds and no-knock warrants in drug cases, create a national registry for police misconduct, institute racial bias training, and make lynching a federal crime.

Though the Democrats’ bill has more than 160 cosponsors in the House, a senior Republican aide told us its proposed ban on no-knock raids and chokeholds has ruffled some feathers within the Senate GOP. “The House Dems want to essentially federalize police tactics,” the source texted. “That’s got some big federalism challenges.”

And although Rep. Justin Amash and Ayanna Pressley’s legislation abolishing qualified immunity officially became tripartisan when Republican Rep. Tom McClintock signed on as a cosponsor (Amash is a Libertarian now), most of the GOP is not on board, and White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany reiterated yesterday that any reduction in immunity is a “non-starter” for President Trump because it “would result in police pulling back.”

As for the GOP alternative, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters Tuesday that “the best way for Senate Republicans to go forward on this is to listen to one of our own who has had these experiences.” Sen. Tim Scott is heading up a police reform working group that includes Republican Sens. James Lankford, Ben Sasse, Shelley Moore Capito, John Cornyn, and Lindsey Graham. The group is looking to release official details of the plan in the coming days, and hold a vote on the Senate floor before the Fourth of July.

“A lot of the Senate actions are going to be packaged as conditions to federal grants to police forces,” a Republican aide said. Early drafts of the GOP legislation would require states receiving federal grants to collect and report data on the use of deadly force and no-knock warrants, as well as boost funding for police body cameras and codify lynching as a federal crime. The source adds that the working group is focused on ways to diversify the police recruitment pipeline as well. “We want to increase grants to recruit more minority officers from the communities that they serve.” 

Indiana Sen. Todd Young shed some more light on what to expect in the GOP legislation, telling The Dispatch it will “ensure transparency and accountability from law enforcement, while also calling for de-escalation tactics training, the use of body-worn cameras, and stronger community relations.”

The White House is also weighing an executive order to address some of these issues, though the situation remains in flux. Any executive action would come in conjunction with Congressional legislation, not as a substitute for it.

Politico reports the White House is likely to endorse whatever bill comes from Sen. Scott’s working group, which aligns with what we heard from the Republican aide. “Big question in the media is ‘will Trump agree to this?’ But the real and more immediate question is ‘will House Dems go with anything less than their package?’”

Georgia on My Mind

As the 2020 election creeps closer, an unsettling question looms larger and larger: Is America equipped to run a sound election during a time of national pandemic? The preliminary indications aren’t very encouraging.

The latest electoral misfire came earlier this week in Georgia, where Tuesday’s Democratic presidential and Senate primaries were dogged by reports of ill-trained poll workers, malfunctioning polling machines, and voters in several counties forced to wait for hours in ridiculously long lines to cast their ballots.

The voting issues also dragged out the tabulation of votes. It wasn’t until last night that Democrat Jon Ossoff—who became a national name when he narrowly lost a 2017 special House race in a once heavily Republican district—was declared the winner of the race for Senate. Ossoff broke the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff, earning for himself the chance to face off against GOP incumbent David Perdue in November. The various obstacles to reaching that conclusion, however, raised the specter of voter disenfranchisement and renewed concerns about coronavirus transmission in a state that has recently begun to reopen.

The latter concern will hopefully prove needless: A similar situation in Wisconsin earlier this year failed to result in a feared spike in COVID cases, likely because most of the lines were outdoors, where experts believe transmission to be more difficult. Disenfranchisement, however, is a trickier matter, and one which state officials will come under enormous pressure to solve before November.

Naturally, finger-pointing on the issue has been largely partisan, with state Democrats blaming the problems on the (Republican) state government and Republicans insisting the fault lay with (largely Democratic) county officials.

Democrat Stacey Abrams, who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2018, called the results “one of the most egregious examples” of voter suppression in the recent history of the state. Republican Rep. Doug Collins, by contrast, insisted it was the responsibility of the counties to set up their own election systems and complained that “especially in our metro areas, we seem to have the same problems over and over again.”

Gov. Brian Kemp acknowledged the problems with Tuesday’s election in an interview with WSB-TV in Atlanta, but dismissed critics’ claims of voter suppression. “I wouldn’t want to comment on that,” he said. “There is plenty of political party partisan rhetoric out there. Everybody wants to have secure, accessible, fair elections.”

He believes the state can improve its systems by the time the November election rolls around. “I’m not too worried,” he said. “I think there is plenty of time to fix the problems.”

Donald Trump and the Front Row Joes

The Trump campaign had been hinting for weeks that—following a brief coronavirus-mandated hiatus—the president’s famous rallies would be making their triumphant return soon. On Wednesday, we got a time and a place: June 19 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

In a piece for the site, Andrew caught up with the only people happier about the news than perhaps the president himself: A handful of Trump superfans whose nickname—the Front Row Joes—stems from their willingness to crisscross the country to catch as many MAGApaloozas as they can.

Their de facto ringleader is Randal Thom, a Minnesota man who has been religiously attending Trump’s rallies since 2015. “My first rally was in Spencer [Iowa]; we went, I was impressed. I said ‘Wow, I like this guy.’ So I decided to go to a second one, and then I said I really like him, and then by the third one all of a sudden we started seeing the same people. Started saying, ‘Hey, are you going to the next one?’”

The rally cancellations have upended the Front Row Joes’ lives more than most. But they’re not just concerned about their own enjoyment.

“I know our president needs to see his base, and the base needs to see him,” Thom said. “We love him, we do. He inspires us, and we know when we’re at that rally, our job is to inspire him. We can tell that he’s missing interacting with us. I mean, they’ve had him locked away from who he’s fighting for. Having to be around these swamp creatures, Fauci and Birx and stuff—it’s eating at him. We know that it’s eating at him.”

Worth Your Time

  • Ezra Klein has a new piece over at Vox about our changing media ecosystem, pointing to the media-related controversies of the past week as an example of the larger shifts in the way the industry works. “The media is changing because the world is changing,” he argues. “The nationalization of news has changed the nature of the audience. The local business model was predicated on dominating coverage of a certain place; the national business model is about securing the loyalties of a certain kind of person.”

  • Antifa agitators and Black Lives Matter activists have sparred with police in the Capitol Hill neighborhood in Seattle for the better part of a week. Then, “in a stunning turn of events,” Christopher Rufo reports in City Journal, “the City of Seattle made the decision to abandon the East Precinct and surrender the neighborhood to the protesters. ‘This is an exercise in trust and de-escalation,’ explained Chief Carmen Best.

Presented Without Comment

Also Presented Without Comment

Also Also Presented Without Comment

Toeing the Company Line

  • Steve, Sarah, Jonah, and David are back with the latest episode of The Dispatch Podcast. The team discusses the shifting national mood on race and criminal justice, and examines a range of different policy proposals for addressing police reform.

  • The left, led by the 2012 Obama campaign, spent years smearing Mitt Romney as an unfeeling bigot. But now that he’s turned against Trump, many progressives have suddenly developed a “strange new respect” for the Utah senator. Funny how that happens, isn’t it? Read Jonah’s newest column about it here.

  • Check out Jonah’s latest G-File (🔒) for an important discussion of human nature, and how our political understanding is often predicated on our beliefs about the human person. 

  • Tom Joscelyn’s newest Vital Interests (🔒) takes a deep dive into Trump’s recent executive order on Chinese students studying at American universities, and the very real issues that underlie it.

  • Frederick Hess and Brendan Bell have a new article on the site about how educators will face difficult decisions about students who were struggling before schools shut down, who to promote and who to hold back, and what teaching methods will work best.

Let Us Know

Everyone has that thing they love to do, a unique hobby that others might not understand but makes all the sense in the world to you. For the Front Row Joes, it’s traversing the country to line up outside mid-sized basketball arenas and hear the president speak. What is it for you?

Reporting by Declan Garvey (@declanpgarvey), Andrew Egger (@EggerDC), Sarah Isgur (@whignewtons), Charlotte Lawson (@charlotteUVA), Audrey Fahlberg (@FahlOutBerg), Nate Hochman (@njhochman), and Steve Hayes (@stephenfhayes).

Photograph by Wong/Getty Images.