*** Attorney General Bill Barr has apparently now thought better of his high profile role in the clearing of Lafayette Park on Monday. It’s not clear to me that he ever publicly took credit for ordering the operation. But the White House said he did and that seems to have been the message coming out of the Department of Justice. Now he tells the AP it wasn’t him, even though he agreed with the decision. He says Park Police were already in the process of clearing the area when he arrived.
“Watching what Trump has been able to do to our city just in the last few days makes me truly terrified about what the next six months could bring. We know how he reacts when he feels disrespected and powerless; will the District bear the brunt of his rage and need for dominance?” TPM Reader AL checks in from the District of Columbia …
There’s been some dispute about whether Trump cast murdered African-American civilian George Floyd as applauding from heaven about today’s job report or Trump’s success dominating cities and guaranteeing rights. He was riffing enough that both interpretations are possible. But I think Trump’s noting that today was a “great day” that Floyd was happy about was clearly a reference to the jobs report which was the subject of Trump’s appearance today.
Trump imagines George Floyd celebrating new jobs report from heaven: "Hopefully, George is looking down right now in saying this is a great thing happening for our country. A great day for him, a great day for everybody." pic.twitter.com/CYBfh1hTSy
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) June 5, 2020
Before we get too far into the day I want to review information that has come out about the situation in Washington, DC and the President’s attempt to militarize the city in response to protests near the White House. As I noted last night, all the National Guard troops in the city or en route appear to be from states with Republican governors: They come from Utah, South Carolina, Tennessee, Missouri and Florida. What we learned yesterday is that the administration had been refused troops by governors in New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Virginia.
We should have more on this shortly. But it seems we have another case where anti-Antifa hysteria led members of one community in Washington state to go full feral and create a harrowing Deliverance type situation for a multi-racial family from Spokane who was looking to go camping. While stopping off to purchase camping supplies at Forks Outfitters in Forks, Washington, the family was confronted by “seven or eight carloads” of people demanding to know if they were with Antifa. This appears to have been in response to widespread rumors fanned in right wing media that “antifa” was sending formations into suburbs to loot subdivisions and rural homes. After the family decided to flee, they were then pursued by two of the vehicles with passengers apparently carrying automatic weapons. Camping that night the family heard gunfire and power saws down the road from there campsite and decided to leave. But soon they found that that self-styled anti-Antifa warriors had trapped them by cutting down trees to block the only road they could leave by. Local Facebook pages were lit up with reports about the success against Antifa. A group of high schoolers rescued the family by clearing the trees and the local Sheriffs department is now investigating.
Late Update: Here’s Kate Riga’s full report.
Very unexpected jobs news this morning. According to the BLS report out this morning, the economy added 2.5 million jobs in May and the unemployment rate actually ticked down slightly to 13.3%. That’s of course mind-boggling high by any normal standard. But I don’t think anyone expected it to be falling. It’s hard to say what the consensus was but many were expecting that unemployment would at least briefly be over 20%.
There’s a lot of troubling but clarifying information coming out tonight about the military deployments in Washington, DC. Reporting from the Times suggests what has seemed apparent by inference, which is that the White House and the Pentagon have spent recent days in a tug of war over the deployment of regular Army combat forces into DC. The Pentagon has resisted but President Trump has insisted, apparently wanting to keep them at least just outside the city as an ongoing sign of strength. This afternoon he appeared to finally relent and agree to allow them to return to their home bases.
There’s another dynamic I’ve noticed that has gotten little explicit attention.
TPM Reader TC chimes in from the world of medical research …
I’m a health researcher and deeply involved in similar work- aggregating data from large electronic health record databases. Many large medical centers care for ~1M patients per year, but even with all the COVID cases, one needs to aggregate ‘like with like’ data across multiple databases. There are standard informatics and statistical reasons to do this. So the overall methods are actually similar to several large national projects currently being stood up by NIH, CDC and PCORI, among others.
A few days ago I flagged that that big hydroxychloroquine study published in The Lancet was becoming a major and substantive controversy. The questions raised about it went well beyond critical questions of interpretation or how one structures a proper study or review to questions verging on accusations of fraud.
Today The Lancet officially retracted the study. This was followed a short time later by The New England Journal of Medicine retracting a separate study that was not about hydroxychloroquine but relied on data from the same company, Surgisphere.
A Surreal Scene In D.C.
- What President Trump thought would be a stirring photo-op descended into a gruesome spectacle Monday evening after police tear-gassed peaceful protesters demonstrating in Lafayette Park near the White House. All so President Trump could stroll over to St. John’s Episcopal Church to awkwardly pose with a Bible.
- Religious leaders condemned Trump’s photo-op at the historic church. A priest who was booted from the church’s property ahead of Trump’s appearance said the President “turned holy ground into a battleground.”
- Trump’s photo-op fiasco was followed by a night of unrest in the nation’s capital, with military helicopters hovering low to the ground in an attempt to disperse crowds of protesters. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq War vet and combat pilot, expressed alarm at the show of force. The use of military helicopters is now under investigation.
- The protests, it’s worth remembering, have spread across the country over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. This week, Minnesota Attorney General upgraded charges against one of the officers involved in Floyd’s death. Attorney General Keith Ellison also charged the other cops involved.
Esper In The Hot Seat?
- Defense Secretary Mark Esper notably broke with Trump on Wednesday, saying that he did not not support invoking the Insurrection Act to deploy military forces on American streets to quell unrest.
- In an interview with NBC News on Tuesday, Esper said he thought Trump was taking a group of administration officials to see a vandalized bathroom, not St. John’s church.
- Esper’s comments reportedly are not sitting well with the White House, leading to speculation that he may be the next Trump official on the chopping block.
- White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany did not exactly give Esper a rousing defense on Wednesday, saying “As of right now, Secretary Esper is still Secretary Esper” She added that if Trump loses confidence in Esper, the press will be “the first to know.”
Trump’s Former Defense Secretary’s Scathing Statement
- Gen. James Mattis, President Trump’s former defense secretary, issued a scathing statement Wednesday evening condemning Trump’s photo-op. Trump, predictably, lashed out at his former aide on Twitter.
- One of Trump’s staunchest congressional allies, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), came to the President’s defense Thursday and railed against Mattis’ statement. “It is so fashionable to blame President Trump for every wrong in America,” Graham said in an appearance on Fox News.
- Former White House chief of staff John Kelly, himself a retired Marine general, defended Mattis in an interview with the Washington Post on Thursday.
I’ve come to the conclusion that the outside is overrated. There, I said it. I know it’s June and I know summer is just getting started, but why spend your days sweating it out in the humid, hazy outdoors when you can be inside with the A/C pumping? I’m a homebody, so maybe that’s what’s underlying my opinion here.