Where Things Stand: The Defiance Strategy

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WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 21: U.S. President Donald Trump walks to Marine One prior to departing the White House May 21, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Trump is scheduled to visit a Ford manufacturing plant that is cur... WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 21: U.S. President Donald Trump walks to Marine One prior to departing the White House May 21, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Trump is scheduled to visit a Ford manufacturing plant that is currently producing ventilators in Michigan. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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May 22, 2020 12:57 p.m.

Today, he’s forcing the city of Baltimore to host him, against officials’ will.

Yesterday he refused to wear a mask for most of his tour of a Michigan Ford plants and can’t seem to stop himself from publicly feuding with female officials in the state.

It’s not unlike this mercurial president to air his defiance for all to see. And the President’s had issues with the heavily Democratic city of Baltimore for some time, long before Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) passed away. But what is the game plan with Michigan?

The through line here is this ongoing effort to defy the rules his own administration thrust upon the country mere weeks ago and ignore the advice of experts about pandemic safety will all soon become political staples of his reelection messaging. But Michigan is a swing state, led by a Democratic governor who, despite the outsized local protests against her social distancing orders, has presented a measured strategy for reopening.

It’s clear he’s acting out to seize on the support of those dramatically unhappy with the governor’s social-distancing orders. And there’s been plenty of reporting and pundit speculation over the emergence of mask-wearing as the next, great political divider.

But he’s not doing himself any favors if the goal is to, in fact, sway those Michigan voters on-the-fence about a Joe Biden presidency or those who still have rational concerns about the virus’ very real, very lingering threat. Especially those voters who work at the Ford plant, who risk their lives each day to help mass-produce ventilators for U.S. hospitals. It’s hard to imagine they don’t at least believe in-part that the pandemic is still a thing.

But maybe assumptions about the existence of a strategy is giving the President too much credit.

Here’s more on that and other stories we’re following today:

What The Investigations Team Is Watching

Kate Riga is writing about Sen. Chuck Grassley’s (R-IA) latest attempt to ask the White House to explain Trump’s decision to fire the watchdog for the State Department. Grassley doesn’t often break with Trump, but has a record of attempting to hold the administration accountable when inspectors general are fired abruptly.

Tierney Sneed is looking into new bipartisan calls for the release of the transcript of a call between former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and former Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak. Flynn’s contacts with Kislyak were at the center of the case against Flynn for lying to the FBI.

What The Breaking News Team Is Watching

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly ordered State Department officials to come up with a reason for the emergency declaration he had invoked to make the infamous billion-dollar arms deal with Saudi Arabia without Congress’ approval. As Kate Riga reports, the State Department has offered up a new excuse for the secretary’s actions. We’ll keep following this story as it unfolds.

Trump bashed Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel late last night after she criticized him for refusing to wear a mask during his visit to a Ford plant in the state. “Do nothing A.G. of the Great State of Michigan, Dana Nessel, should not be taking her anger and stupidity out on Ford Motor–they might get upset with you and leave the state, like so many other companies have–until I came along and brought business back to Michigan,” Trump tweeted. This is just the latest in the President’s string of attacks against female officials in the state.

Embattled Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) vowed to stay in the race for her seat despite all the scrutiny over her eyebrow-raising stock dump she and her husband right after a private Senate briefing on the impending COVID-19 pandemic. “Not only am I not dropping out, but I’m gonna win,” she told Politico. Just last week Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), embroiled in his own stock dump scandal, stepped down as the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee while he is under investigation.

If You Read Anything On COVID-19 Today, Read This

What’s behind that dumb meme that claims disability law exempts you from having to wear a mask at Costco? Matt Shuham digs in. As discontent with mask requirements spreads online, protesters have found solace in an odd little print-out that claims the Americans with Disabilities Act and HIPAA, the medical privacy law, shield them from their local grocery store’s mask rule. Legal experts tell TPM the flier is ridiculous.

Earlier reporting on COVID-19 related right-wing misinformation:

Coming Up

11:30 a.m. ET: Trump held a ceremony for veterans and prisoners of war at the White House.

1:00 p.m. ET: Trump will hold a press briefing.

2:00 p.m. ET: The White House press secretary will hold a press briefing.

Yesterday’s Most Read Story

The Flynn Dismissal Fiasco Has Somehow Gotten Even Messier — Tierney Sneed

What We Are Reading

‘Tiger King’ Star Joe Exotic’s Legal Team In Washington Lobbying For Presidential Pardon — Julius Young

Alison Roman, Bon Appétit, And The ‘Global Pantry’ Problem — Navneet Alang

The Department Of Veterans Affairs Must Remove Hate Symbols From National Cemeteries — Eric K. Ward

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