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A brother’s testimony, and new virus worries. It’s Thursday, and this is your politics tip sheet.
Where things stand
Democrats in the House heard heartfelt, impassioned testimony yesterday from Philonise Floyd, George Floyd’s brother, and several experts on criminal justice and restorative justice. “I’m here to ask you to make it stop,” Philonise Floyd told members of the Judiciary Committee, in the first round of hearings as the Democrats push a sweeping police overhaul bill. Republicans have sought to delay the bill, pledging to unveil one of their own within days.
“I am asking you, is that what a black man’s life is worth? Twenty dollars?” Philonise Floyd said, referring to the counterfeit $20 bill that his brother was said to have used just before he died at the hands of the Minneapolis police. “This is 2020. Enough is enough. The people marching in the streets are telling you, enough is enough.”
Voter support for the Black Lives Matter movement has undergone a big spike since the protests began, new survey data collected over the past two weeks shows. Some of the most pronounced increases were among middle-aged Americans and those with higher educations.
Military officials had just begun to express a new level of openness to removing Confederate names from Army bases — but then President Trump shot that idea down. “These Monumental and very Powerful Bases have become part of a Great American Heritage,” he wrote. “Therefore, my Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations.”
In the Senate, representatives of public schools across the country told the Education Committee that they needed additional money to safely reopen in the fall, amid a possible resurgence of the coronavirus. School leaders are already outlining sometimes-ambitious plans to welcome more than 50 million students back to school nationwide. They anticipate procuring 50 million masks; staffing schools with additional nurses, aides and counselors; and maintaining social distancing by staggering classes.
The virus continues to spread, though slightly less quickly than earlier in the spring. But on both sides of the aisle, in both houses of Congress, legislators appear to have turned their attention away from virus relief — at least for the time being.
Trump, meanwhile, appears ready to hit the campaign trail again. The White House announced that his first rally since the start of the outbreak will take place in Tulsa, Okla., on June 19. That’s a week from Friday. Officials close to the campaign said it was unlikely attendees would be asked to observe social distancing or wear masks.
The announcement is laden with (unstated) historical resonances: Trump will be effectively restarting his in-person presidential campaign on Juneteenth, an unofficial holiday celebrating African-Americans’ freedom from enslavement. Tulsa also has a particular significance in black history, as the site of arguably the most violent and destructive white mob violence against African-Americans in the early 20th century, exactly 99 years ago this month.
“Gross abuse of prosecutorial power:” That’s how a judge described the Justice Department’s decision to drop charges against Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, who had pleaded guilty to perjury.
John Gleeson, a former mafia prosecutor and federal judge, issued a 73-page brief yesterday condemning the decision, which had been prompted by William Barr, the attorney general. The judge in the case, Emmet Sullivan, will now decide whether to order the department to proceed with prosecution or pursue some other course. Meanwhile, an appeals court is reviewing a Justice Department motion to bypass Sullivan and drop the charges immediately.
Brian Benczkowski, the head of the Justice Department’s criminal division, who had signed the filing asking Sullivan to dismiss charges, is leaving the administration. He said he had planned the move months ago, in conversations with Barr.
Benczkowski was confirmed in 2018 despite Democratic concerns about his work for Russia’s Alfa-Bank, which the F.B.I. linked to the Trump Organization during the 2016 campaign. In his tenure at the criminal division, Benczkowski prosecuted cases around the opioid crisis and used data analytics to alter the division’s approach to investigating fraud and other abuses.
Philonise Floyd told members of Congress that watching the video of his brother’s death felt like “8 hours and 46 minutes.”
What Americans miss right now (sports) and are worried about (health, of course)
In New York City, restaurants and stores began to reopen this week after the mayor lifted parts of a broad shutdown order. In many Southern and rural states, reopening started more than a month ago.
But even now, three months in, the coronavirus crisis continues to rob us of many of the social conventions and gatherings that used to give us grounding.
A Monmouth University poll released yesterday tells us that going to sporting events is one thing most Americans say they miss. The public remains deeply divided over whether to reopen, but there’s broad agreement that with the advent of summer, it would feel good to attend a game.
Roughly six in 10 Americans said they missed being able to go to live sporting events at least a little bit, according to the Monmouth poll. That held true across party identification, education and income levels (though, unsurprisingly, the wealthiest Americans were the most likely to say they missed being able to attend a sports event). Women were eight percentage points less likely to say so than men, but a majority still did.
With a few months’ perspective on the lockdown routine, Americans also expressed an awareness that even when self-isolation is done in the name of health, it can have unhealthy consequences. In a Fairleigh Dickinson University poll released yesterday, 54 percent of Americans expressed concern that they or a loved one might see their health endangered because the pandemic had prevented them from getting care for other health problems.
But when it comes to whether Americans think their local officials should reopen for business, the slimmest majority are still not ready to go that far. Fifty percent of people, according to a CNN poll out yesterday, said that based on the current situation, they weren’t ready to return to their regular routine. Forty-nine percent said they were. The partisan differences were stark: While 73 percent of Republicans said they were ready to go back to the old routine, just 23 percent of Democrats did.
And while some states have had a drop in cases, others are experiencing a surge. Fourteen states and Puerto Rico this month have reported new weekly highs in cases, according to a Washington Post analysis.