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Why 2022 may bring a new peak of US political instability

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All year, the principal question looming over the 2022 campaign has been whether Democrats could defy political gravity.

As we’re nearing the end, the answer appears to be: no, or at least not entirely.

Midterm elections have almost always been bad for the party holding the White House, and they have been especially bad when most Americans are dissatisfied with the economy and the president’s performance. Those conditions are present in force now, with polls showing that most Americans disapprove of how President Joe Biden has handled crime, the border, and especially the economy and inflation. Pessimism about the economy is pervasive. Historically such attitudes have generated big gains up and down the ballot for the party out of the White House – in this case, the Republicans.

That may be how the election ultimately turns out, especially in House and state legislative races where the individual candidates are less well-known, and many voters are likely to express dissatisfaction with the country’s direction by voting against the party in power. The president’s party, in fact, has lost House seats in all but three midterm elections since the Civil War. If there is a surprise in the House, it’s less likely to come from Democrats maintaining their majority than the Republicans exceeding the average 26 seat midterm gain for the party out of power since World War II.

But Democrats have remained unexpectedly competitive in the higher-profile Senate and gubernatorial races by focusing attention not only on what Biden has done, but what Republicans might do, with power. Many of these statewide contests have become a “double negative election”: while most voters in the key states consistently say they disapprove of Biden’s job performance, most also say they hold negative personal views about the GOP candidates, many of whom were propelled to their nomination by support from Donald Trump. If Democrats hold the Senate, or hold their own in the top governor races, a principal reason will be the large number of voters who viewed GOP nominees as unqualified, extreme (particularly in their desire to ban or restrict abortion), a threat to democracy, or all of the above. The same dynamic could also save some House Democrats in districts where Biden has fallen well below majority support.

So many races are so close – within the margin of error in public polls – that the results Tuesday could range from a true red wave to a Democratic sigh of relief. The scary precedent for Democrats is that in wave years almost all of the close races often tip in the same direction – toward the party out of power. A reason for Democratic hope is that in the final surveys, their candidates are consistently running better among all registered voters than among those the pollsters consider most “likely” to vote. That means the party could outperform expectations if even slightly more of its key constituencies (particularly young people) show up than pollsters anticipate – an outcome that groups such as the powerful union Unite Here is trying to achieve with 1,000 canvassers knocking on doors each day in Arizona, Nevada and Pennsylvania. “We are in the battle every place,” says Gwen Mills, the union’s secretary-treasurer. “All of [these races] are within the margin of effort.”

If Republicans take back either chamber this week, it would mark the fifth consecutive election in which a president who went into a midterm with unified control of government had it revoked by the voters. That happened to Donald Trump in 2018, Barack Obama in 2010, George W. Bush in 2006 and Bill Clinton in 1994.

No president, in fact, has successfully defended unified control of Congress through a mid-term since Jimmy Carter in 1978 – and he was insulated by the huge Congressional margins Democrats had amassed after Watergate, as well as his party’s strength in what was then still a “solid South” for Democrats. (The sole asterisk on this pattern is that Republicans under George W. Bush regained unified control of Congress in the 2002 midterm held a year after the September 11 attacks after a party switch by a Republican senator in early 2001 flipped control of the chamber to Democrats and broke the GOP’s unified hold on Congress.) A Republican takeover of either or both chambers would extend one of the defining trends of modern politics: Neither party has held the White House and Congress for more than four consecutive years since 1968. That’s a stark departure from most of the 20th century when each side, at different times, cemented lasting control for as long as 14 consecutive years.

No matter what happens Tuesday, most experts don’t anticipate either party shattering this fragile modern stand-off to establish a lasting edge. “I don’t see either side getting a durable advantage,” says Gary Jacobson, a professor of political science emeritus at the University of California at San Diego. “They are highly polarized parties, and they are very closely balanced overall.”

From that angle, Republican gains Tuesday would simply continue a long-standing tendency toward instability in our political system, with the initiative rapidly shifting back and forth between the parties. But the election could also ratchet that instability to a combustible new level. The strong tide behind Republicans virtually guarantees victories for some, maybe many, of the hundreds of candidates who have embraced Trump’s lies about the 2020 elections and signaled that they will seek to tilt the electoral rules toward the GOP or simply deny future wins by Democrats. Some of those candidates, if they lose this week, seem likely to emulate Trump after 2020 and refuse to concede, claiming fraud. (Arizona GOP gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake and Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin have each suggested as much already.) The most important legacy of this week’s voting may be the beachhead inside the electoral system it will likely establish for Republican officeholders untethered to America’s democratic traditions as we have known them.

In more conventional political calculations, Tuesday’s results seem likely to resurface debates, that had somewhat receded during the Trump years, over the structural electoral challenges Democrats face in the battle to control Congress.

The modern period of Congressional elections arguably began in 1994, when Republicans captured both the House and Senate in the backlash against Bill Clinton’s chaotic first two years. That ended an era in which Democrats had held the House majority for 40 consecutive years, and controlled the Senate, usually by wide margins, for all but six years over that long span.

Since 1994, though, Republicans have controlled Congress more often than Democrats. The GOP has held the Senate for about 16 and a half years (counting the roughly half year before the party switch cost them their majority in 2001) and Democrats for only about 11 and a half years. The imbalance in the House has been even more lopsided: Republicans have held it for 20 of these past 28 years, and Democrats for just eight. Especially ominous for Democrats is that if they lose the House on Tuesday, it would mark the second consecutive time they have surrendered their majority only four years after regaining it. (The previous case came when they were swept from the majority by the Tea Party uprising in 2010, just four years after they recaptured the chamber in 2006.) By contrast, Republicans held the House for 12 consecutive years from 1994 through 2006, and then for eight from 2010 through 2018.

What makes this disparity especially striking is that it has come even as Democrats have won the popular vote in seven of the past eight presidential elections since 1992 – something no party has done since the formation of the two-party system in 1828. (No Republican candidate has reached even 51% of the presidential popular vote since 1988.) These results clearly suggest the modern Democratic electoral coalition, on a nationwide basis, is larger than the Republican coalition. And yet, Republicans, more often than not, have controlled the Congressional majorities in this era anyway.

Aggressive GOP gerrymanders partly explain that difference in the House. But that doesn’t fully explain the GOP’s House advantage and it isn’t a factor at all in the party’s Senate edge. Instead, the Republican Congressional success largely reflects geographic and demographic limitations of the Democratic coalition that almost certainly will be evident again this week.

Tuesday’s election is likely to remind Democrats again that they are competing in too few places to establish a durable majority in Congress. In the House, Republicans have established such an overwhelming hold on rural and exurban districts that Democrats must win a very high share of urban and suburban districts to reach a majority. In a good year, like 2018, Democrats can meet that test. And even now, the continued resistance of college-educated suburban voters to the Trump-era Republican Party has provided Democrats a chance to hold down their losses in white-collar districts. But ceding so many rural, exurban and small-town seats leaves Democrats too little cushion to lose some of their suburban seats – as they inevitably will when discontent over the economy, and secondarily crime, is this high even in those places.

If anything, the Democrats’ geographic challenge is even greater in the Senate. A dominant trend in modern US politics is that both parties are winning virtually all the Senate seats in states that typically support their presidential candidates. The challenge for Democrats is that, despite their repeated victories in the popular vote, slightly more states reliably lean Republican than Democrat in presidential races. Democrats already hold 39 of the 40 Senate seats in the 20 states that voted against Donald Trump both times (Susan Collins in Maine is the only exception). But 25 states voted for Trump both times, and they provide Republicans an even larger Senate contingent, with the GOP holding 47 of their 50 seats. Democrats have squeezed out their precarious 50-50 Senate majority only by capturing eight of the ten seats in the five states that flipped from Trump in 2016 to Biden in 2020 (Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona and Georgia).

This geography is what makes this week’s Senate elections so crucial to Democrats. This year’s key races are occurring almost entirely in states that Biden won, albeit mostly narrowly, with Democrats defending seats in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, New Hampshire, Colorado and Washington, and targeting Republican-held seats in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. (With longer odds, Democrats have also mounted serious challenges to Republicans in Ohio and North Carolina, two states that twice voted for Trump.) Given that map, Democratic strategists recognize it’s critical for the party to expand, or at least maintain, its Senate margin now.

After this year, the Senate terrain will rapidly become more foreboding for Democrats. In 2024, they will be defending all three of the seats they hold in the two-time Trump states (Sherrod Brown in Ohio, Joe Manchin in West Virginia and Jon Tester in Montana), as well as seats in half a dozen other swing states that could go either way in a presidential contest (including Arizona, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan.) If most of the toss up Senate races fall to the Republicans on Tuesday, those gains, combined with the 2024 map, could put the GOP in position to dominate the upper chamber throughout this decade. “If Republicans take the Senate, I don’t see in our immediate lifetime how Democrats are going to take back” the majority, says Doug Sosnik, a senior White House political adviser to Bill Clinton.

Much of the Democrats’ Senate problem is rooted in the constitutional provision that provides two Senate seats to every state. That magnifies the influence of sparsely populated, rural and strongly Republican interior states. There’s no political repositioning that is likely to provide Democrats a realistic chance any time soon to win Senate seats in Wyoming and Idaho or North and South Dakota.

But many Democratic strategists argue that the party must expand its map in the Senate by finding ways to attract more non-college and non-urban voters, especially with white people, but across racial lines, in at least a few more states. That list of potential targets includes places like Ohio, Iowa and Florida where Democrats competed much more effectively as recently as under President Barack Obama. Rebuilding the party’s competitiveness in those states could take years and likely require a significant change in its positioning and message.

Jim Kessler, executive vice president for policy at the centrist Democratic group Third Way, points out that while the party’s modern coalition of young people, racial minorities and college-educated whites has allowed it to effectively contest the presidency, it doesn’t represent a winning majority in enough states to reliably hold the Senate. “When you look at the electoral college, college educated [and diverse] America is close to enough to elect you president,” Kessler says. “But it is not close to getting you a majority in the Senate.”

Tuesday’s election could also demonstrate the reemergence of a second demographic challenge for Democrats in the battle for Congress, what analysts in the past have called the “boom and bust” nature of their electoral coalition. The biggest remaining uncertainty for Tuesday’s election may be how many young people, who polls show continue to back Democrats in large proportions, turn out. Usually, turnout falls more for young people than for older generations between presidential and midterm elections (hence the “boom and bust” risk). But in 2018, robust youth turnout helped power the Democratic gains.

Large-scale polls focused particularly on young adults (such as the Harvard Institute of Politics survey) have found them expressing levels of interest comparable to 2018. Yet their participation in early voting has been lackluster, and several recent national surveys (such as CNN’s poll last week) found their engagement lagging. If turnout among young adults disappoints on Tuesday, it will strengthen those Democrats who argue the party must prioritize regaining ground among middle-income, middle-aged voters, especially those without college degrees. (That includes non-college Latinos, particularly men, who may continue to drift away from Democrats at least somewhat this week.) The sharpest post-election debates among Democrats are likely to revolve around whether the party must embrace more conservative approaches on crime and immigration, two issues Republicans wielded to powerful effect, in order to earn a second look from more non-college educated voters across racial lines.

History says that a bad result on Tuesday need not panic Democrats about 2024 (though, in practice, it probably will). Midterms have not had much value forecasting the result of the presidential election two years later. Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush had relatively good first-term midterms and then lost their reelection races. The president (or his party) did lose the White House two years after bad midterms in 1958, 1966, 1974 and 2018. But Harry Truman in 1948, Ronald Reagan in 1984, Bill Clinton in 1996 and Barack Obama in 2012 all won reelection, usually convincingly, two years after stinging midterm losses. Alan Abramowitz, an Emory University political scientist who has built models that project presidential outcomes based on economic and public opinion data, says the results of the midterm add literally no predictive value to the forecasts.

The 2024 presidential election will begin almost immediately after Tuesday – probably before all the last votes are counted. Though midterm gains are the rule for the party out of power, Trump is likely to interpret GOP victories as a clarion call for his return; aides say he could announce a 2024 candidacy as soon as this month. White House officials believe Biden is certain to run if Trump does because he views the former president as an existential threat to American democracy. On Election Day 2024, the combined age of these two men will be nearly 160 years. Polls show that one of the few areas of broad public agreement is that most Americans do not want either to run again.

Yet, long before any newly elected officials take office, or any gavels in Congress change hands, the first consequence of Tuesday’s bitterly fought election may be to place America more firmly on the path toward exactly such a rematch. And this time, such a confrontation could occur with the electoral machinery in decisive states under control of Trump allies who share his willingness to tilt or even subvert the system. Whatever storms rattle the political system this week, the real tempest won’t arrive until 2024 – and it may bring the greatest strain on the nation’s fundamental cohesion since the Civil War.

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Is Ivanka Trump plotting a return to politics

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If you’re a woman freaking out about the imminent possibility of another Trump term, don’t despair quite yet. Yes, Project 2025 is hoping to turn the US into a Christian nationalist country. Yes, JD Vance, Donald Trump’s running partner, has been primed for the job by Peter Thiel, a man who has mused that women having the vote is problematic. Yes, experts are raising the alarm that “a Trump-Vance administration will be the most dangerous administration for abortion and reproductive freedom in this country’s history.” But it’s not all doom and gloom: there may well be a beacon of light and female liberation coming into the White House as well. Signs suggest Ivanka Trump is considering a return to politics. Ladies and gentlewomen, the patron saint of female empowerment may selflessly serve us once again!

To be clear: the younger Trump hasn’t explicitly said that she’s interested in another go at being Daddy’s special adviser. In fact, she’s spent the last few years getting as far away from politics as possible. A renaissance woman, Trump has sold everything from handbags to shoes to real estate – but her most valuable product has always been herself. The former first daughter has always been very careful about protecting her personal brand. And, for a while, that meant staying well clear of her father.

With Donald Trump now formally the nominee, it can be hard to remember just how bad things looked for the former president a couple of years ago. After an underwhelming performance by GOP candidates in the 2022 midterm elections, a lot of Trump’s former acolytes started turning on him. High-profile Republicans complained that Trump was a drag on the party. Even the New York Post, once Trump’s personal Pravda, thought he was a joke: “TRUMPTY DUMPTY”, a post-midterm front page crowed. And then, of course, there were Trump’s mountains of legal problems. A lot of people wrote Trump off.

Ivanka was noticeably not by her father’s side during his hours of need. The moment that Donald got kicked out of the White House, Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, followed him to Florida but kept a safe distance from the political goings on at Mar-a-Lago. Can’t have an insurrection ruining one’s image, after all.

A company called College Hunks Hauling Junk helped them clear out their DC mansion and the pair decamped to Miami’s “Billionaire Bunker”. They didn’t go empty-handed, of course. The couple reported between $172m and $640m in outside income while working in the White House and Saudi Arabia gave Kushner’s private equity firm $2bn to invest. Enough to keep them busy for a while.

For a long time, Javanka stayed fairly under the radar. Ivanka Trump would pop up in headlines now and again in Fun-loving Mother and Caring Philanthropist mode. Behold, a flattering headline about Ivanka helping deploy medical supplies and meals to Ukraine! Look: here’s an Instagram slideshow of the whole family skiing! Now here’s a fun picture of the Javanka family at the flashy Ambani wedding!

A cynic might say these carefully curated images were designed to humanize Trump and erase her messy political past. Aiding this was a consistent drip-drip of mysterious sources telling the press that Javanka had no desire whatsoever to return to politics. Even this year, when Donald Trump became the presumptive nominee, media “sources” kept insisting that the former first daughter wanted nothing to do with the White House. “She is very happy, living her best life,” a source told People in March. “She left politics totally in the rearview mirror and so this time around, even if her dad is the leading Republican candidate, she basically doesn’t care. She told him when he said he was going to run again that she didn’t want to be involved.”

Mary Trump, the woman who has made a career out of being Donald Trump’s disgruntled niece after a legal battle over her inheritance, has been blunt about why Ivanka seems to have retreated from politics. “I think Ivanka made very clear that she doesn’t get enough out of [her relationship with her father] any more,” Mary Trump told CNN at the end of May. “She’s barely been heard from for months; she could not be bothered to show up at [her father’s] trial [over falsifying business records].”

As the election inches closer, however, Ivanka seems to have reassessed the value of her relationship with her father. In early May, the media outlet Puck reported that she was “warming to the idea of trying to be helpful again … She’s not like ‘Hell no’ any more”. A similar report from Business Insider soon followed: according to a “friend of Ivanka”, the entrepreneur wasn’t ruling politics out. A spokesperson for the couple told Puck that this was all nonsense but rumours of a political comeback kept mounting.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, Ivanka jumped back into the spotlight with an appearance on Lex Fridman’s highly influential podcast. (Fridman has more than 4 million subscribers on YouTube.) In this she opened up about how working at the White House was “the most extraordinary growth experience of my life” and how privileged she was to have been asked by her father to help so many people. During the conversation, she also carefully recapped some of (what’s she’s claimed as) her key achievements in the White House, such as boosting the child tax credit. It wasn’t so much an interview as it was a hype project by a friend. It felt lot like it was teasing Trump’s return to political life should her dad be re-elected.

So, after years in the Floridian wilderness, has the Maga Princess officially returned to the family fold? It’s a tad too early to tell but it increasingly looks that way. As one would expect, Trump has spent the last few days close to her father after the attempt on his life: she’s very much thrown herself into the role of doting daughter again.

And while Ivanka has been absent from the Republican national convention so far, she and Jared are expected to be at Donald’s side on Thursday when he formally accepts the party’s nomination. And if that happens and images of Ivanka standing next to her father hit the headlines, it won’t just be a celebratory photoshoot – it’ll be a preview of Trump’s second term.

 

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Are assassination attempts getting more common?

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“There’s no place in America for this kind of violence,” President Joe Biden said on Saturday, following the shooting at a Donald Trump rally in Pennsylvania that left the former president hurt and killed an audience member.

But the fact is, this type of violence has a long history in American politics: Four US presidents have been killed in office and virtually all of them, in the modern era, have been targeted by assassination plots of varying levels of seriousness.

Along with the general atmosphere of political turmoil of recent years — Trump himself, Covid, police violence and the resulting protests, January 6 — attacks targeting public officials of both parties in the US also seem to be becoming more common.

Recent examples include the 2017 shooting by a left-wing extremist at a Republican Congressional baseball practice that critically injured Rep. Steve Scalise; the Donald Trump supporter who sent mail bombs to more than a dozen prominent Democrats in 2018; a right-wing militia’s plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2020; the abortion rights supporter who attempted to kill Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh at this home in 2022; and the QAnon adherent who attacked Paul Pelosi, husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, while attempting to target her, in 2022.

That violence is having a clear impact on how American politics is conducted. Spending on security by House and Senate campaigns increased by 500 percent between 2020 and 2022, according to the Washington Post.

Nor is this just an American phenomenon: There’s been a global wave of recent assassinations as well. The UK has seen two members of parliament killed in recent years: Jo Cox, a Labour MP murdered by a right-wing extremist days before the Brexit vote in 2016, and David Amess, a Conservative MP fatally stabbed by an Islamic State supporter in 2021. Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro survived a stabbing during his campaign for president in 2018. In 2021, Haitian Prime Minister Jovenel Moïse was assassinated by mercenaries.

Last year saw the killing of Ecuadorian presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio, and former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. In January of this year, South Korean opposition leader Lee Jae-myung survived being stabbed in the neck, while Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico was shot and nearly killed in May. In Mexico, where political violence is rampant on a scale far beyond most other countries, at least 36 candidates seeking offices throughout the country were killed ahead of the country’s recent elections, according to the New York Times.

Then there are the numerous alleged plots targeting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The growing threat of assassination

Despite all that, it’s difficult to say for sure if political killings are on the rise. There’s a data problem: Assassinations are still relatively rare compared to other forms of political violence — violent protests, terrorist bombings — and attempts that succeed in killing their target, or even come close enough to succeeding, are even rarer.

But there is some data to suggest they’re getting more common. According to the University of Maryland’s Global Terrorism Database, which includes incidents of political violence from 1970 to 2020, the number of assassination incidents around the world fell dramatically from more than a thousand per year in the early 1990s to less than 100 per year in 1999, then started to creep up again, jumping to more than 900 in 2015. This trend has roughly corresponded with a global uptick in international armed conflict, which also dipped through the 1990s before rising more recently.

Threatened acts of violence have increased even faster. In the United States, the Capitol Police reported 9,625 threats against members of Congress in 2021, compared to just 3,939 in 2017.

What could be driving this trend? Political violence researcher Rachel Kleinfeld of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace argues that political violence, including assassinations, becomes more common in countries where there are highly competitive elections that could shift the balance of power, where partisan politics becomes a dominant social identity, and where there are weak institutional constraints on violence. All of those reasons fit the US now, which is why Kleinfeld suggests the country is particularly vulnerable to a surge in political violence.

Kleinfeld also notes that a difference between today’s political violence and previous periods where it was common — such as the 1970s, the high point of terrorist violence within the US with more than 1,470 attacks compared to 214 in the decade following 9/11 — is that today’s perpetrators are more likely to not belong to any formal organization, but rather to self-radicalize via online engagement.

The Georgetown University terrorism researchers Bruce Hoffman and Jacob Ware argued in an article published two years ago that political assassination is becoming more common around the world in part to the emergence of so-called “accelerationism” — the deliberate effort to foment political chaos or societal collapse in order to accelerate political transformation — as a more prominent strategy for extremists. They write, “For extremists seeking to sow chaos and speed up some cataclysmic societal collapse, high-profile politicians provide an attractive target” because they personify the political order these extremists are trying to tear down.

Previous waves of political violence happened in eras when security was more lax and politicians more accessible. Think of John F. Kennedy’s open motorcade in Dallas, which no president would think of doing today. But Hoffman and Ware also note that even as politicians and governments invest more in security, new technologies are making assassination attempts easier. Consider the homemade gun used to kill Abe, which the assassin put together with parts and instructions he found online, or the attempted assassination of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro using explosive drones in 2018.

In an email to Vox, Hoffman said that the attempt on Trump “does fit into the trend … where attacks on elected officials are becoming more commonplace and, dare one say, even accepted as a norm in our politically polarized/divided country.”

What comes next

Political violence is a phenomenon that tends to feed on itself. Attacks create justifications for more attacks, leading to long periods of violence, such as Italy’s infamous “years of lead,” from the late ’60s through the ’80s, when assassinations, kidnappings, and bombings by right-wing and left-wing extremist groups were disturbingly common.

Another very inconvenient fact about political assassinations is that when successful, they often accomplish their political goals, if not always in ways the assassin might intend: The murder of Abraham Lincoln and his replacement by pro-states rights Southerner Andrew Johnson utterly changed the course of post-Civil War Reconstruction. The right-wing Israeli who killed Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, in the wake of the historic Oslo Accords, dealt a serious, perhaps fatal, blow to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The killing of Abe led to a dramatic political reckoning in Japan with the assassin’s primary target: the controversial Unification Church.

We still don’t know the specific motivations of the shooter who attempted to kill Trump, or what impact the event will have on the upcoming election or American politics generally. But it’s safe to say the impact, whatever the gunman’s intentions, would have been far greater if he had adjusted his aim by just a few inches.

When the stakes of political contests start to seem existential, and political violence of all kinds more permissible, an increase in assassination attempts — in the US and abroad — seems almost inevitable.

 

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July 14, 2024, coverage of the Trump assassination attempt

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Pesident Joe Biden gave an Oval Office address Sunday — a rare form of presidential remarks reserved for the most solemn times — and urged Americans to unite and take the temperature down on politics following an assassination attempt on former President Donald Trump during a campaign rally in Pennsylvania.

Here’s what else to know:

Biden’s speech: The president condemned political violence and said “disagreement is inevitable and American democracy is part of human nature, but politics must never be a literal battlefield or, God forbid, a killing field.” He warned against the normalization of this violence and urged Americans to step out of their political silos “where we only listen to those with whom we agree, and where disinformation is rampant, where foreign actors fan the flames of our division to shape the outcomes consistent with their interests, not ours.”

Trump’s movements: The former president said on Truth Social that he is going to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on Sunday for the Republican National Convention after initially considering delaying his trip. After the assassination attempt at the rally in Butler, Pennsylvania, on Saturday, Trump flew to Newark, New Jersey, and spent time with his daughter Ivanka at his golf club in Bedminster, sources told CNN. The Secret Service said Sunday that there are no plans to tighten security plans for the RNC, saying it is confident in the plans that are in place.

What happened at the rally on Saturday: Trump’s rally speech in Butler, Pennsylvania, Saturday evening began just as it had at dozens of rallies previously – his attendees chanted “USA! USA!” and the former president clapped and pointed to faces in the crowd before taking the lectern. About 150 yards to the north, a gunman was climbing onto the roof of a building outside the rally security perimeter. He had an AR-style weapon with him. Six minutes into the former president’s speech, the gunman took aim at Trump and squeezed the trigger. Here’s a timeline.

Gunman was spotted: A local police officer saw the gunman on a rooftop during campaign rally but was unable to engage him, Butler County Sheriff Michael Slupe told CNN on Sunday. Slupe said that Butler Township officers received calls about a suspicious person outside the perimeter of the rally and went looking to find that person. He said the initial calls that came in did not indicate the suspicious person had a gun.

New investigation details: The shooter, 20-year-old Thomas Matthew Crooks, had no prior contacts with the FBI and had not been previously on its radar or databases. Investigators are struggling to understand his motives. Crooks used an AR-style 556 rifle purchased legally by his father, FBI officials said, and one of the things that investigators are still looking to understand is how Crooks gained access to his father’s firearm. He also had “rudimentary” explosive devices in his car, an official said.

About the shooter: A former classmate and co-worker told CNN they remember Crooks as “the sweetest guy.” The colleague said Crooks was “not a radical” and never expressed any political views at work. “It’s hard seeing everything that’s going on online because he was a really, really good person that did a really bad thing. And I just wish I knew why,” the colleague said.

Congress: House Speaker Mike Johnson on Sunday called for the country “to get back to civility” and said he hasn’t gotten a “satisfactory answer” yet from US Secret Service on the “security lapse” at Trump’s Pennsylvania rally.

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