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On Politics: Putting a Stamp (or Not) on Vote-by-Mail – The New York Times

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Good morning and welcome to On Politics, a daily political analysis of the 2020 elections based on reporting by New York Times journalists.

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  • In-person voting during a pandemic can be hazardous. Need evidence? Look to Wisconsin, where studies have linked last month’s elections to a rise in coronavirus infections. That’s why Michigan yesterday joined other states — including some controlled by Republicans — that are sending applications for absentee ballots to all registered voters in their congressional primaries and the general election. And it’s why Nevada, which has a Republican secretary of state, has moved to an almost entirely vote-by-mail election and will send ballots to all active registered voters in its primary.

  • The shift toward mail voting has angered President Trump, who has said in the past that giving voters easy access to the ballot would threaten Republicans’ electoral chances. Yesterday he unleashed a series of tweets falsely accusing Nevada and Michigan of illegally supporting voter fraud, and he threatened to withhold election funding unless they cut back on vote-by-mail plans. He referred to a “great Voter Fraud scenario” in Nevada that would let people “cheat in elections,” and in a since-deleted post he incorrectly said that Michigan was sending “absentee ballots to 7.7 million people.” (The state is sending applications, not ballots; Trump later corrected his tweet and backed off his threat to hold back funding.)

  • As he draws a hard line against expanding vote-by-mail, Trump has also sharpened his attacks on the Postal Service, saying it has been mismanaged and pushing to constrain its funding. Like his recent tensions with the widely trusted Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those attacks may not resonate with most Americans: Gallup polling has consistently shown the post office to be the country’s most popular federal agency. But the president’s arguments may find a receptive ear in Louis DeJoy, a Trump ally and longtime Republican donor who will take over as the United States’ postmaster general next month. The Postal Service’s board of governors voted this month to elevate DeJoy, a North Carolina businessman, despite his having no experience in the post office or postal work. Trump has pushed the Postal Service to charge large companies — like, say, Jeff Bezos’ Amazon — far more for deliveries, and his administration has actively prevented Congress from sending emergency funding to the struggling agency.

  • Joe Biden called out Trump yesterday for ousting a string of government watchdogs, and he said Republicans in Congress had failed to stand up to the president. “That used to be a hobbyhorse for Republican senators,” Biden said. “They were strongly, strongly, strongly supportive of these independent inspector generals.” He then asked: “Why aren’t they speaking up about this?” Biden spent decades in the Senate before becoming vice president, and he singled out his former colleague Charles Grassley, who has long made government transparency a signature issue. (A Grassley spokesman responded in a tweet saying the senator had “demanded answers.”) One of the inspectors Trump has removed is Glenn Fine, who was set to oversee the trillions in coronavirus-related stimulus funding that Congress passed in March. Biden said that if elected president, he would install a new inspector general “on Day 1” to ensure stimulus money was “spent fairly and transparently.”

  • The C.D.C. released detailed guidelines for reopening public accommodations and businesses over the weekend — but it’s almost as if nobody was supposed to notice. The Trump administration shot down the agency’s originally proposed guidelines, saying they could slow the economic recovery and impinge on religious liberty. Last week, the C.D.C. put out a pared-back set of checklists for various establishments to use as they moved toward reopening; it didn’t release one for religious institutions. Then reports arrived this week, belatedly, that the C.D.C. had released a 60-page document, longer than the original rejected guidelines, that proposes reopening in “a three-phased approach” aimed at “reducing community mitigation measures while protecting vulnerable populations.” The guidelines similarly steer clear of addressing religious institutions, and they do not mention a mechanism for enforcement. “The phased approach,” they state, “can be implemented statewide or community-by-community at governors’ discretion.”


Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Trump at a coronavirus meeting with Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas and Gov. Laura Kelly of Kansas at the White House on Wednesday.


Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, has been in hot water since last week, when reports emerged that he had asked the president to fire a government watchdog who was investigating him for possible misuse of government funds.

Yesterday Pompeo stood before reporters to defend himself, saying it was “patently false” that his request had been intended to quell the investigation — which was in its final stages when Steve Linick, the State Department’s lead inspector general, was dismissed last week.

Linick has since been locked out of his office, despite regulations stipulating a 30-day grace period for terminated inspectors general, meant to allow Congress to raise objections. Democrats in both houses of Congress have begun an investigation.

Pompeo said yesterday that he wished he had pushed for Linick’s firing even sooner, but he did not offer any explanation for why he had wanted him gone.

Linick was reportedly investigating whether Pompeo had used government resources to pay for personal expenses, as well as the Trump administration’s decision to defy Congress in selling arms to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

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An NBC News investigation released this week found that Pompeo had held about two dozen private dinner parties on the federal government’s dime, convening chief executives, political operatives, Supreme Court justices and diplomats. State Department officials have reportedly raised concerns internally about whether the events, referred to as “Madison Dinners,” had more to do with Pompeo’s political ambitions than with department business.

The department’s Foreign Affairs Manual prohibits the “use, or allowing use, of U.S. government funds, property or other resources for unofficial proposes or for private benefit.”


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Join us today at 11 a.m. as we discuss how, from retailers to oil drillers to gyms, the economic toll from the Covid-19 crisis is forcing companies across sectors into restructuring mode or outright bankruptcy. And industries bound for consolidation will test the limits of antitrust regulations. What’s the outlook for distressed companies and their workers? How will the corporate landscape be remade? We’ll field these questions.

Special guests are Sapna Maheshwari, a business reporter covering retail; and Michael de la Merced, a DealBook reporter covering Wall Street and finance. The hosts are Andrew Ross Sorkin, the DealBook founder; and Jason Karaian, the DealBook editor.

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View: As fear of defeat rises, Trump ups politics of division – Economic Times

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By Bhairavi Singh

President Donald Trump is fighting a pitched battle with his own people, five months before the U.S. goes to polls. Trump is facing an unprecedented backlash, first for his erratic response to the coronavirus and then for his strongman approach to protests that have erupted over the death of George Floyd.

In the world’s oldest democracy, there has been a long history of racism but Trump’s response has been like no other president’s. In over ten days, America — which was looking to recover from the pandemic and its economic fallout — has been plunged into chaos with the president’s outbursts merely fueling more violence and division. Republican lawmakers in an election year have little choice other than to stay silent or actively promote Trump’s line.

At least four latest opinion polls in America, including one by rightwing network Fox News, show Trump clearly trailing Joe Biden. The latest Post-ABC poll of registered voters showed the presumptive Democratic nominee ahead 53% to 43%, a clear 10 per cent points, whereas it was a dead heat just over two months ago.

But that hasn’t stopped Trump in his tracks. He has always seen his political rise beholden to his hawkish policies and his abrasive attacks on critics, and he is not likely to change tack with just months to go for the polls.

Trump started the week, four days after Floyd was killed, with a tweet which called protesters ‘’thugs’’, and adding that ‘’when the looting starts, the shooting starts’’. It was subsequently taken down by Twitter for violating its policy against promoting violence. Since then, Trump has called the protesters ‘’rioters, looters, arsonists’, provoking more people to come out and protest in city after city. More than 10,000 people – no mean number – have been arrested over the course of a week and eight have died in police action or violence. But protests have continued in cities despite a night curfew.

Over these days, rights groups have slammed Trump, his former aides have spoken up against him, former presidents have shown dismay, military veterans have warned of consequences of involving the forces in civilian action, and his own daughter Tiffany has supported protesters on social media. But has that stopped Trump? No.

Earlier this week, Trump’s former defense secretary James Mattis issued a statement against treating American cities as ‘’battlespaces” saying the “use of military against its own civilian population, militarizing our response, sets a conflict- a false conflict between the military and the civilian society’’. Truer words could not have been spoken. A vibrant democracy like America bringing out troops to guard cities against its own people is without precedent. Mattis’ statement was followed by Trump’s own defence chief Mark Esper publicly saying he was not in favour of using the military to quell protests.

On June 1st, true to character, Trump announced he was talking to state governors to bring in the military. Since then several Republican states have agreed to the measure. The National Guard was sent to Washington, while its mayor warned that ‘’out of state troops must leave’’ the country’s capital. Three Democrat states of New York, Delaware and Virginia refused to use the National Guard to support the police.

The Floyd protests have shown deep divisions within the Republican party, the Centrists and the police force. For the Republicans, it’s a peculiar situation. The GOP is nervous about Trump’s handling of the Floyd protests- they want him to play a more compassionate note. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican senator recently supported Mattis’ statement as “true, honest and necessary”, while Tim Scott, another Republican called Trump’s church visit a photo op. However, many top Republican faces, like Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell, chose to stay silent.

White supremacy transcended from racism to segregation over the years, but its weaponisation for political gains has now led to a dangerous tipping point. Already African Americans and other minorities there were disproportionately hit by the coronavirus and its economic aftermath. Trump’s mismanagement has redefined those divisions — white, black, Hispanic, Muslim, extreme left, extreme right. America’s response to this crisis would carry a larger message to the rest of the free world.

(Bhairavi Singh has been a television journalist for 12 years, she covers foreign policy and current affairs)

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OPINION | Alberta premier targets Ottawa in pivot to pre-pandemic politics – CBC.ca

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This column is an opinion. For more information about our commentary section, please read this editor’s blog and our FAQ.


Pandemic? What pandemic?

Watching Alberta politics these days is like riding a time machine into the past when COVID-19 didn’t exist or into a future where it’s been conquered. Or perhaps we woke up in a parallel universe.

Because Alberta politics is beginning to act as if the pandemic suddenly disappeared.

Last week, Premier Jason Kenney called the COVID-19 virus the flu, as in, “an influenza of this nature,” even though it’s a coronavirus that’s more contagious and more deadly than the flu and has no vaccine. He also announced — without first informing Alberta’s chief medical officer — that he would let the province’s public health emergency lapse June 15.

This week, he announced he’d like to fast-track phase 2 of the business reopening (that includes movie theatres and libraries).

But, most tellingly of all, he resumed his heated attacks against the federal Liberal government.

If nothing else, this signals a return to normality for Kenney who is no longer pleading for more pandemic financial relief from Ottawa.

Kenney once again on offensive

After 10 weeks of biting his tongue and smiling through gritted teeth whenever he talked kindly about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the federal Liberals, Kenney is once more on the offensive.

And there was no better target for him than the recent federal ban on 1,500 “assault-style” firearms.

On Wednesday, Kenney held a news conference with Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer where they wrapped themselves in the Alberta flag while taking shots not only at the federal government but at Central Canadians.

“While some people in faraway places like Toronto may not understand the reality, hundreds of thousands of Albertans simply use firearms as a part of everyday life,” said Kenney, who explained he was “defending law-abiding Albertans against a federal attack against their rights as law-abiding firearms owners.”

Not to be outdone in the outrage department, Schweitzer promised to stand up for “an Alberta-made justice system.”

“(Albertans) don’t want policy developed in downtown Toronto, they want policy developed right here in Alberta,” said Schweitzer, who added: “We’re going to have more Alberta and less Ottawa in our justice system.”

Picking fights with Ottawa

We haven’t heard the “more Alberta, less Ottawa” trope much the past 10 weeks as the Kenney government took what might be called a “less Alberta, more Ottawa” approach to emergency financial help.

But now the Alberta government is pivoting with all the subtlety of a dog running on linoleum suddenly trying to change direction. 

It’s clumsy but for Kenney it means he’s getting back on track. He’s picking fights with Ottawa, taking potshots at “faraway places like Toronto,” focusing on his rural base of support, and once again pushing an Alberta-first agenda that could include setting up an Alberta provincial police force and Alberta pension plan.

“Stay tuned for the Fair Deal panel (report),” Kenney said this week when asked if he’s in favour of cutting ties with the RCMP. Kenney has said the Fair Deal report will be coming out when the pandemic is over. You have to wonder if in Kenney’s mind this means “tomorrow.”

Kenney also said he is “seriously considering” launching a legal challenge against the federal government’s gun ban.

Never mind that firearms fall under federal jurisdiction.

Time machine to Klein days

Here’s where the time machine seems to have taken us back to the days of former premier Ralph Klein. Klein made something of a career launching lawsuits, or threatening legal action, against the federal government on a host of issues including the GST, social transfer payments and, coincidentally, the gun registry.

Klein’s legal fights were the political equivalent of tilting at windmills but he knew that for a populist politician winning was not crucial; it’s the donning of the armour and the spurring of the steed.

This is political theatre and Kenney is such a master at it he should have his own show at the Edmonton Fringe Festival (if only the festival hadn’t been cancelled because of the pandemic).

Kenney would also like to put the pandemic behind him because it hasn’t given him a popularity boost, unlike just about every other political leader in the country.

An Angus Reid poll about premiers released last week ranked Kenney as second last, with a 48-per-cent approval rating, whereas Ontario’s controversial Doug Ford, for example, enjoyed 69 per cent approval.

This week, a poll by Research Co. indicated that 56 per cent of Albertans said their province would be better off with a different premier in charge, the highest level of disapproval in the country.

Consequently, Kenney has dusted off his Captain Alberta cape that had sat forgotten the past 10 weeks, perhaps under a mound of applications for federal aid. He is proudly wearing it into battle once more against the Trudeau Liberals.

The pandemic might not be over medically, but in Kenney’s mind it seems to be over politically.

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Trudeau takes a knee at anti-racism protest on Parliament Hill – CBC.ca

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made an appearance at an anti-racism protest on Parliament Hill today, showing up unannounced to hear speeches from activists demanding fairer treatment from police for minorities.

Trudeau joined the large crowd in kneeling for eight minutes and 46 seconds — which is how long a Minneapolis police officer held down George Floyd with his knee on his neck before he died. The African-American man died while in police custody on May 25; all four officers at the scene now face charges.

Protesters in other cities have asked police officers to kneel to show respect for black people who have been killed in police custody. Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders also took a knee during a protest in that city today.

Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick launched the kneeling gesture some years ago by dropping to one knee during the national anthem to protest violent police treatment of African-Americans. His critics accused him of showing disrespect for the anthem and the American flag.

Trudeau tried to blend into the crowd Friday — but TV cameras and the RCMP security detail made his presence known to the roughly 4,000 activists gathered around the Centennial Flame on the lawn at Parliament Hill. Trudeau told his security detail to stop pushing people as he made his way closer to the stage where the speakers were addressing the crowd.

Trudeau initially was met with chants of “Stand up to Trump!” and “Go away!” from some in the crowd. The yelling died down as local black leaders started speaking about their calls for an end to racial injustice at home and abroad.

WATCH | Justin Trudeau takes a knee during anti-black racism protest

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made an appearance at an anti-racism rally on Parliament Hill in Ottawa Friday. He was met with chants of “Stand up to Trump!” from the crowd and kneeled for eight minutes and 46 seconds to remember George Floyd. 1:47

The Trump chant was a reference to the prime minister’s reluctance to condemn U.S. President Donald Trump by name over his handling of the protests.

Trudeau was asked this week to respond to the president’s threat to deploy active duty military personnel on protesters in U.S. cities — a question that Trudeau answered after a 21-second pause.

The prime minister clapped Friday as the assembled speakers chanted “black lives matter” and called on those in power to do more to address systemic racism.

Someone in the crowd handed the prime minister a T-shirt with that slogan emblazoned on the front.

Trudeau was accompanied by Families Minister Ahmed Hussen, a Somali-Canadian who has spoken out about the racism he has faced in Canada.

“I think it’s powerful when you have the head of government taking a knee and clapping when people say ‘black lives matter,'” Hussen said. “It’s incredibly powerful for him to come and be part of this.”

The crowd on hand for the Parliament Hill protest was a multi-racial cross-section of the city, something Hussen said gives him “a lot of hope in the future.”

WATCH | Ahmed Hussen says the PM’s action were ‘pretty powerful’

Families Minister Ahmed Hussen spoke with reporters after attending the anti-racism rally on Parliament Hill with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau June 5. 1:29

After the speeches, the protesters moved down Wellington St., which runs right in front of the Prime Minister’s Office in downtown Ottawa.

NDP Jagmeet Singh also took part in similar anti-black racism protests in Toronto. He marched with the activists to that city’s Nathan Phillips Square.

“We need to be heard. People need to be heard,” Singh said in a video post on his Instagram page. “People want justice, they want systemic change and an end to racial profiling.”

Watch: The Power Panel discusses Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s attendance at a protest against anti-black racism and his government’s record on that issue:

The Power Panel discusses Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s attendance at a protest against anti-black racism and his government’s record on that issue. 8:57

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