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Trump Blames Media and Protesters for Low Turnout at Tulsa Rally

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  • Only 6,200 people attended President Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma Saturday, at a venue that could hold 19,000. 
  • Some credited the low turnout to the fact that K-pop fans and TikTokers had registered for thousands of free tickets, though others pointed out that the event was first-come-first-serve, so registering for tickets would not result in someone being denied a seat, but may have caused Trump to overestimate attendance.
  • The Trump campaign blamed the low turnout on media coverage of the coronavirus and violent protesters blocking the entrance to the arena.
  • Numerous reports said that the protests near the arena were small and peaceful, and while a gate was briefly closed due to protesters trying to enter the rally, it was reopened quickly and no one was turned away.

Tulsa Rally

President Donald Trump held his first campaign rally Saturday since the coronavirus pandemic escalated in March. However, the nation’s largest indoor gathering in months, held in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was met with much smaller crowds than the Trump campaign had anticipated. 

The event, which has been highly controversial, got off to a rocky start when the Trump campaign announced that six people on the campaign team staffing the event had tested positive for coronavirus, seeming to support warnings of public health officials that the rally risked becoming a virus super-spreader.

The inopportune timing of the rally comes as both Tulsa and the state of Oklahoma as a whole are seeing significant spikes in coronavirus cases. On Thursday, just two days before the rally, Oklahoma reported its highest single highest day of confirmed cases. The state broke that record again on Sunday.

Despite the fact that numerous public health officials in Tulsa pleaded with Trump to cancel the rally, he pushed ahead with his plans. Leading up to Saturday’s events, Trump and his campaign officials repeatedly said that they expected a massive turnout— both at the rally itself and the overflow crowd outside the arena.

Last week, Trump himself said in a tweet that nearly one million people had requested tickets to attend the event.

But as the rally began, pictures and videos that showed that thousands of empty seats in Tulsa’s 19,000-seat BOK Center quickly began making the rounds on social media. 

Later, a spokesperson from Tulsa Fire Marshal’s Office told reporters that less than 6,200 people had showed up, not including campaign staff and media, meaning almost two-thirds of the seats were empty.

There were very few people outside the arena too. By early afternoon, the area was so empty that the campaign ended up scrapping plans for both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence to address an overflow audience.

TikTokers and K-pop Fans Reserve Seats

Once pictures of the empty rally started going viral, numerous TikTok users and K-pop fans took to social media to say that they were partially responsible for the low turnout. 

Both groups claimed to have registered potentially hundreds of thousands of tickets for the Trump rally as a prank after the Trump campaign’s Twitter account posted a tweet on June 11 asking people to sign up for free tickets using their phones.

K-pop fan accounts started sharing the information with their followers and telling them to register but not show up. The trend also spread on TikTok, with videos of people telling their followers to do the same raking up millions of views.

The topic trending on Twitter Saturday, with users and and media crediting those two groups for the low turnout. 

“You just got ROCKED by teens on TikTok who flooded the Trump campaign w/ fake ticket reservations & tricked you into believing a million people wanted your white supremacist open mic enough to pack an arena during COVID,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter.

Others, however, have said that it is unlikely the prank actually denied people any seats, because entrance at the rally was first come first serve, and not based on tickets. 

While those individuals agree that TikTokers and K-pop fans registering for the free tickets likely caused Trump to overestimate how big his crowd would be, it is unclear exactly how big of an impact they had on actual turnout.

Trump’s campaign manager Brad Parscale also pushed back on those claims in a statement Sunday, where he explained that the rallies are first come first serve and that the tickets those groups registered for were basically just the equivalent of an RSVP.

“Leftists and online trolls doing a victory lap, thinking they somehow impacted rally attendance, don’t know what they’re talking about or how our rallies work,” he said. “Registering for a rally means you’ve RSVPed with a cellphone number and we constantly weed out bogus numbers, as we did with tens of thousands at the Tulsa rally, in calculating our possible attendee pool.”

Trump Campaign Falsely Blames Protesters

Parscale and other members of Trump’s campaign also blamed protesters and media coverage of the coronavirus for low turnout.

“Radical protestors, fueled by a week of apocalyptic media coverage, interfered with @realDonaldTrump supporters at the rally,” he tweeted. “They even blocked access to the metal detectors, preventing people from entering.”

But numerous reports have said that there were only scattered protests in the areas near the arena, and most of the larger protests that day took place in other parts of the city. Tulsa police also said the few protests that were outside the arena were largely peaceful.

While there were reports of a few altercations, nothing escalated. 

As for the claims that protesters blocked Trump supporters from entering the arena, it was reported that one small group of protesters tried to enter the rally, prompting security officials to shut down one of the gates. However, reporters on the ground said that police told them that the gate was only closed briefly and no one was turned away.

Tulsa police did say they arrested one woman at the request of the Trump campaign for blocking access to the rally, but MSNBC reporters, who were there and filmed the incident, say the woman was not blocking access.

The now-viral clip from MSNBC shows a woman wearing a shirt that says “I can’t breathe” seemingly just sitting on the ground in a line of people. The woman can be heard telling police “I have a ticket,” before she was forcibly removed.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (Politico)

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NY Attorney General Says Investigation of Trump Business Found “Significant Evidence” of Fraud

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The state attorney general’s office accused the former president and his family business of falsely inflating the value of assets and personal worth to lenders, the IRS, and insurance brokers.


New York Attorney General’s Filing

New York Attorney General Letitia James announced late Tuesday she had “significant evidence” that former President Donald Trump and the Trump Organization “falsely and fraudulently” misrepresented the value of assets “to financial institutions for economic benefit.”

The allegations mark the first time James has made specific accusations against Trump and his business. They come as part of a nearly 160-page filing asking a judge to order the former president — along with Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. — to comply with subpoenas for the investigation after the family sued James to block her from questioning them.

The filing claims that Trump and the company inflated the value of six properties, including several golf courses and Trump’s own penthouse in Trump Tower, on financial statements to obtain favorable loans, tax deductions, and insurance coverage. 

The document adds that many of the financial statements were “generally inflated as part of a pattern to suggest that Mr. Trump’s net worth was higher than it otherwise would have appeared.”

James outlined several specific examples, such as a financial statement where the value of Trump’s Seven Springs estate in Westchester was boosted because it listed seven mansions on the property worth $61 million that did not actually exist.

That resulted in Trump receiving millions of dollars in tax deductions on that property, as well as another in Los Angeles.

In another notable instance, the attorney general’s office said that the $327 million value of Trump’s penthouse in Trump Tower was calculated off a financial statement that falsely reported his home was nearly triple its actual size.

While the statement claimed the apartment was 30,000 square feet, Trump had signed documents stating it was actually 10,996 square feet.

Alleged Direct Involvement

The allegation regarding the apartment is especially significant because it directly ties Trump himself to the accusations of financial wrongdoing. It is also not the only instance where Trump was implicated.

The filing additionally asserts that Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg — who was indicted last summer on multiple criminal charges relating to the business’ tax dealings — implied the former president was involved in finalizing the false valuations. 

According to the documents, Weisselberg “testified that it was ‘certainly possible’ Mr. Trump discussed valuations with him and that it was ‘certainly possible’ Mr. Trump reviewed the Statement of Financial Condition for a particular year before it was finalized.” 

Another top Trump Organization executive also testified that he was under the impression Trump reviewed the statements before they were finalized.

While the filing provides less direct links to Trump’s children, it does detail their involvement. Specifically, it alleges that Ivanka Trump rented an apartment at Trump Park Avenue and was given an option to buy it for $8.5 million, despite the fact that the property was valued at $25 million.

It also connected Donald Trump Jr. to some of the properties flagged by claiming investigators found evidence he “was consulted” on the Statements of Financial Condition.

Response

Citing these connections, James argued in a series of tweets Tuesday that it is necessary for her inquiry to question Trump and his two children on their alleged involvement.

“We are taking legal action to force Donald Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., and Ivanka Trump to comply with our investigation into the Trump Organization’s financial dealings,” she wrote. “No one in this country can pick and choose if and how the law applies to them.”

The former president has not yet addressed the matter, but a Trump Organization attorney representing Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump responded by arguing the subpoenas violate the constitutional rights of the family and that the filing “never addresses the fundamental contentions of our motion to quash or stay the subpoenas.”

In a statement Wednesday, the Trump Organization denied James’ allegations as “baseless” and accused her of trying to “mislead the public yet again.”

As far as what happens next, James’ office has said it “has not yet reached a final decision regarding whether this evidence merits legal action.”

Because James’s investigation is civil, she can sue Trump, his company, and his children, but she cannot file criminal charges. However, her probe is running parallel to a criminal investigation into the same conduct led by the Manhattan district attorney, who does have that power.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (The Wall Street Journal)

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Judges Uphold North Carolina’s Congressional Map in Major GOP Win

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The judges agreed that the congressional map was “a result of intentional, pro-Republican partisan redistricting” but said they did not have the power to intervene in legislative matters.


New Maps Upheld

A three-judge panel in North Carolina upheld the state’s new congressional and legislative maps on Tuesday, deciding it did not have the power to respond to arguments that Republicans had illegally gerrymandered it to benefit them.

Voting rights groups and Democrats sued over the new maps, which were drawn by the state’s Republican legislature following the 2020 census.

The maps left Democrats with just three of North Carolina’s 14 congressional seats in a battleground state that is more evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. Previously, Democrats held five of the 13 districts the state had before the last census, during which North Carolina was allocated an additional seat.

The challengers argued that the blatantly partisan maps had been drawn in a way that went against longstanding rules, violated the state’s Constitution, and intentionally disenfranchised Black voters.

In their unanimous ruling, the panel — composed of one Democrat and two Republicans — agreed that both the legislative and congressional maps were “a result of intentional, pro-Republican partisan redistricting.”

The judges added that they had “disdain for having to deal with issues that potentially lead to results incompatible with democratic principles and subject our state to ridicule.”

Despite their beliefs, the panel said they did not have a legal basis for intervening in political matters and constraining the legislature. They additionally ruled that the challengers did not prove their claims that the maps were discriminatory based on race.

Notably, the judges also stated that partisan gerrymandering does not actually violate the state’s Constitution. 

The Path Ahead

While the decision marks a setback to the plaintiffs, the groups have already said they will appeal the decision to the North Carolina Supreme Court.

The state’s highest court has a slim Democratic majority and has already signaled they may be open to tossing the map.

There are also past precedents for voting maps to be thrown out in North Carolina. The state has an extensive history of legal battles over gerrymandering, and Republican leaders have been forced to redraw maps twice in recent years.

A forthcoming decision is highly anticipated, as North Carolina’s congressional map could play a major role in the control of the House in the 2022 midterm elections if they are as close as expected. 

See what others are saying: (Politico) (The New York Times) (The Wall Street Journal)

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Biden Administration Says Private Insurers Will Have to Cover 8 At-Home Tests a Month

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The policy will apply to all the nearly 150 million Americans who have private insurance.


New At-Home Testing Policy

The Biden administration announced Monday that private health insurers will now be required to pay for up to eight at-home rapid tests per plan member each month.

Under the new policy, starting Saturday, private insurance holders will be able to purchase any at-home test approved by the FDA at a pharmacy or online. They will either not be asked to pay any upfront costs or be reimbursed for their purchase through their provider.

The move is expected to significantly expand access to rapid tests that other countries have been distributing to their citizens free of charge for months. 

According to reports, nearly 150 million Americans — about 45% of the population — have private insurance. 

Each dependent enrolled on the primary insurance holder’s account is counted as a member. That means a family of four enrolled on a single plan would be eligible for 32 free at-home rapid tests a month.

Potential Exemptions

All tests may not be fully covered depending on where they are purchased. 

In order to help offset costs, the Biden administration is incentivizing insurance providers to establish a network of “preferred” pharmacies and stores where people in the plan can get tests without paying out of pocket.

As a result, health plans that do create those networks will only be required to reimburse up to $12 per test if they are purchased out of that network, meaning people could be on the hook for the rest of the cost.

If an insurer does not set up a preferred network, they will have to cover all at-home tests in full regardless of the place of purchase.

During a briefing Monday, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said tests should be “out the door in the coming weeks.”

“The contracts [for testing companies] are structured in a way to require that significant amounts are delivered on an aggressive timeline, the first of which should be arriving early next week,” she added.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)

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