- President Donald Trump visited Kenosha, Wisconsin on Tuesday amid continuing unrest over the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
- Local leaders had asked Trump not to come in fear that his presence might increase tensions and violence, but Trump claimed it could increase enthusiasm as well as love and respect for the country.
- Notably, said he would not meet with the family of Jacob Blake during his visit, in part because of disagreements over whether or not lawyers should be present.
- Trump has also caught attention for his recent remarks about police being under siege because of some officers “choking” under pressure.
Trump Visits Kenosha
President Donald Trump visited Kenosha, Wisconsin on Tuesday despite calls from local leaders for him to postpone his visit.
While in Kenosha, the president met with law enforcement and toured businesses damaged by the riots that broke out after the police-involved shooting of 29-year-old Jacob Blake. Notably, he said he would not meet with Blake’s family.
Last week, it was reported that Trump had called Jacob Blake’s mother, Julia Jackson, in the aftermath of her son’s shooting, but she had missed it. Jackson later apologized.
“Had I not missed your call, maybe the comments that you made would have been different. And I’m not mad at you at all,” she said in an interview on CNN. “I have the utmost respect for you as the leader of our country.”
When asked during a press conference Monday why he would not be meeting with Blake’s family, Trump said that he had spoken to the family’s pastor about scheduling another call.
“I thought it would be better not to do anything where there are lawyers involved,” he said. “They wanted me to speak, but they wanted to have lawyers involved, and I thought that was inappropriate, so I didn’t do that.”
Blake’s lawyer, Ben Crump, also confirmed that Trump had in fact reached out to Jackson’s pastor to arrange a conversation with her, but the president refused to have the call if the legal team was monitoring.
While Blake’s mother seemed to be open to talking to Trump, other members of his family were not. During an interview with CNN on Monday, his uncle, Justin Blake, said that Jacob’s father “has no interest in speaking with President Trump.”
“President Trump is a racist who stokes racial tensions,” he added. “He has been stirring racial tensions since he got in the White House. Why, as Jacob’s uncle, would I want to talk to him? Our focus is on Jacob and healing the community.”
“We don’t need more pain and division from a President set on advancing his campaign at the expense of our city,” he added. “We need justice and relief for our vibrant community.”
Wisconsin Officials Urge Trump Not to Come
Like Justin Blake, many others have argued that Trump had planned the visit was a political stunt to create division for his own political gain.
During a speech on Monday, Democratic nominee Joe Biden claimed that Trump was intentionally stoking racial divisions to help his re-election chances.
“I look at this violence and I see lives and communities and the dreams of small businesses being destroyed,” he said. “Donald Trump looks at this violence and he sees a political lifeline.”
Many also pointed to the fact that Trump only chose to meet with police and visit businesses damaged by riots, but that he did not talk to Blake’s family or community members. Others additionally said that Trump’s intentions are clear from the rhetoric he had been using leading up to his visit.
“Trump has recently sought to turn the violence in Kenosha and elsewhere to his political advantage,” The Washington Post reported. “The president has blamed rioting and looting on Democratic lawmakers, including Evers, and accused Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden of supporting the lawlessness, though Biden has repeatedly condemned destructive protests.”
The Post also noted that Trump has praised the armed civilians who have gone to Kenosha, even after one of them shot and killed two people and injured a third.
As a result, many leaders and Kenosha locals argued that Trump’s visit will not help, and will only make things worse.
“You look at the incendiary remarks that the President has made, they centered an entire convention around creating more animosity and creating more division around what is going on in Kenosha,” Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes said in an interview with CNN over the weekend.
“So, I don’t know how given any of the previous statements that the President made that he intends to come here to be helpful. And we absolutely don’t need that right now.”
Because of those concerns, when Trump first said he would visit, top leaders in Wisconsin and Kenosha directly asked him to not come.
On Sunday, Gov. Tony Evers wrote a letter to the president, “I, along with other community leaders who have reached out, are concerned about what your presence will mean for Kenosha and our state.”
“I am concerned your presence will only hinder our healing. I am concerned your presence will only delay our work to overcome division and move forward together.”
Evers later added that he was concerned that an in-person visit from Trump that comes at a time when the community is working on recovery efforts would “require a massive re-direction of these resources to support your visit at a time when it is critical that we continue to remain focused on keeping the people of Kenosha safe and supporting the community’s response.”
Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian also made similar remarks to reporters over the weekend.
“Realistically, from our perspective, our preference would have been for him not to be coming at this point in time,” he told NPR. “All presidents are always welcome and campaign issues are always going on. But it would have been, I think, better had he waited to have for another time to come.”
In addition to politicians, locals in Kenosha also expressed similar concerns, like Shad DeLacy, a business manager, who told the Post that he could not see any benefit of Trump coming.
“I don’t know if him coming here is going to help anybody, to be honest with you. Kenosha needs a break. We straight-up need a break,” he said. “It’s too late for a unifying message, for him to give us any comforting words. I don’t see him coming here and putting people at ease.”
Trump and Others Defend Visit
However, there were also plenty of people who supported Trump’s visit. In a statement, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) condemned Gov. Evers for asking Trump not to come.
“President Trump provided decisive leadership and offered support for Kenosha that Gov. Evers initially rejected,” he added. “Instead, the governor and his lieutenant governor made statements, leapt to conclusions, and have participated in rallies that have done more to incite than calm the situation.”
Others have also expressed optimism that Trump’s visit would bring in aid to the city, which has requested $30 million to rebuild after the destruction.
According to reports, 23 Kenosha County Supervisors also wrote a letter to the White House welcoming Trump and saying they hope he would bring in more federal assistance.
Trump Press Conference
Trump, for his part, echoed those sentiments when asked during Monday’s press conference if he thought his presence would exacerbate tensions or increase violence.
“Well, it could also increase enthusiasm and it could increase love and respect for our country. And that’s why I’m going, because they did a fantastic job,” he said.
He was also later asked if he would condemn the actions of people like the Kenosha shooter.
“We’re looking at all of it. And that was an interesting situation,” he said. “You saw the same tape as I saw. And he was trying to get away from them, I guess; it looks like. And he fell, and then they very violently attacked him. And it was something that we’re looking at right now and it’s under investigation. But I guess he was in very big trouble. He would have been — I — he probably would have been killed. But it’s under investigation.
When asked if private citizens should be taking guns into these situations, he said he thinks law enforcement should take care of everything, but he went on to claim that America need to give police their respect back, saying the country has taken it away because some have made mistakes or “choked.”
Trump also made similar remarks the same day in an interview with Fox News’ Laura Ingraham. There, Ingraham asked Trump if he believes it’s dangerous to be a police officer today.
“The police are under siege because of things — they can do 10,000 great acts, which is what they do, and one bad apple, or a choker, you know, a choker. They choke,” he said. “Shooting the guy in the back many times. I mean couldn’t you have done something different. Couldn’t you have wrestled? You know, I mean, in the meantime, he might have been going for a weapon, and, you know, there’s a whole big thing there, but they choke. Just like in a golf tournament, they miss a three-foot putt –”
“You’re not comparing it to golf? Because of course that’s what the media would say,” Ingraham interrupted.
“I’m saying people choke,” he responded. “People choke and people are bad people. You have both.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (CNN) (The New York Times)
Florida Breaks Its Record for New Daily COVID-19 Cases and Hospitalizations
The Sunshine State now accounts for 20% of all new COVID-19 cases nationwide.
Florida Becomes COVID Epicenter
Florida reported 10,207 COVID-19 hospitalizations on Sunday, marking its largest single-day count to date. The grim record comes just one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data showing that the state had counted 21,683 new infections Friday, its highest record of daily cases since the start of the pandemic.
Florida has become the new epicenter of the most recent U.S. outbreaks driven by the delta variant. The state now accounts for one out of every five new cases, and the weekend numbers are highly significant because they surpass previous records that were logged before vaccines were readily available.
Notably, Florida’s vaccination rate is actually the exact same as the nationwide average of 49% fully vaccinated, according to The New York Times tracker. In fact, Florida’s rate is the highest among the top 10 states currently reporting the most COVID cases.
While Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has encouraged Florida residents to get vaccinated, he and the state’s legislature have also made it much harder for local officials to enforce protections to mitigate further spread.
DeSantis Bars Masking in Schools
On the same day that the state reported its highest cases ever, DeSantis signed an executive order banning school districts from requiring students to wear a mask when they go back to school later this month.
The move directly contradicts guidance issued by the CDC last week, which recommended that everyone inside K-12 schools wear a face covering.
DeSantis, for his part, has repeatedly claimed the spikes are part of “seasonal” increases driven by more people being indoors and air-conditioning systems circulating the virus. Still, he argued also Friday that he did not think masks were necessary to prevent children from transmitting COVID in the classroom, where they are inside with air conditioning.
At the same time, last week, Florida reported more than 21,000 infections among children younger than 19.
Florida is not the only state that has banned schools from requiring masks. In fact, many of the states suffering the biggest spikes have done the same, including Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas — which all currently rank among the top 10 states with the highest per capita COVID cases.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (Axios)
Biden to Mandate COVID Vaccines for Federal Workers as CDC Changes Masking Guidance
News of the efforts came on the same day that the U.S. reported more than 100,000 new daily COVID cases for the first time since February.
Federal Vaccine Mandate
President Joe Biden will announce Thursday that all federal employees must get vaccinated against COVID-19 or consent to strict testing and other safety precautions, White House officials told reporters Tuesday.
Earlier in the day, Biden said he was considering the requirement but did not provide any more information.
While the officials also said the details are still being hashed out, they did note that the policy would be similar to ones recently put in place by California and New York City, which respectively required state and city workers to get the jab or submit to regular testing.
Also on Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated their guidelines to recommend that Americans who live in areas “of substantial or high transmission,” as well as all students and teachers, wear masks indoors regardless of their vaccination status.
Delta Causes Spikes, But Vaccines Still Prove Effective
The renewed COVID mitigation efforts come as the delta variant is driving massive surges all over the country.
Coronavirus cases have quadrupled throughout July, jumping from a weekly average of 11,799 on the first day of the month to 63,248 on Tuesday, according to The New York Times tracker. Tuesday also saw new daily infections topping 100,000 for the first time since February, with more than 108,000 reported, per The Times.
While the vast majority of new infections are among people who have not been vaccinated, there have also been increasing reports of breakthrough cases in people who have received the jab.
Those cases, however, do not mean that the vaccines are not effective.
No vaccine prevents 100% of infections. Health officials have said time and time again that the jabs are intended to prevent severe disease and death, and they are doing just that.
According to the most recent data for July 19, the CDC reported that only 5,914 of the more than 161 million Americans who have gotten the vaccine were hospitalized or died from COVID-19 — a figure that represents 0.0036% of vaccinated people.
While safety precautions may be recommended for some people who have received the vaccine, many media narratives have overstated the role breakthrough cases play in the recent spikes. As New York Magazine explains, it is imperative to understand these new mask recommendations are not happening because the vaccine is not effective, but because not enough people are getting the vaccine.
“Because breakthrough infections have so often made the news due to their novelty, that can create a perception of more cases than are actually happening — particularly without more robust tracking of the actual cases to provide context,” the outlet wrote.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNBC)
Wisconsin Police Deny Planting Evidence in Viral Video, Release Their Own Body Cam Footage
The footage police released shows that during a search, officers found a corner tear from a plastic bag inside a backseat passenger’s pocket. An officer then discarded it into the car after determining that it was empty.
Viral Video Appears To Show Officer Planting Evidence
The Caledonia Police Department in Wisconsin has responded to a viral cell phone video that appears to show an officer planting a small plastic baggie inside of a car during a traffic stop.
The now-viral footage was posted to Facebook by a man who goes by GlockBoy Savoo.
The user, who also filmed the clip, wrote in his post’s caption that the officer did this “just to get a reason to search the car” and said the cop didn’t know he was being recorded by the passenger.
Police Shut Down Accusations With Their Own Footage
After that video spread across social media, many were outraged, calling the Caledonia police dirty for seemingly planting evidence. All the outrage eventually prompted the department to announce an investigation Saturday.
Within hours, the department provided an update, claiming that officers didn’t actually plant any evidence or do anything illegal.
Police shared a lengthy summary of events, along with two body camera clips from the incident. That statement explained that the driver of the vehicle was pulled over for going 63 in a 45mph zone.
Two passengers in the backseat who were then spotted without seatbelts were asked to identify themselves and step out of the car. During a search of one passenger’s pockets, an officer pulled out “an empty corner tear” from a plastic baggie.
Police claim the corner tear did not contain any illegal substances, though they said this type of packaging is a common method for holding illegal drugs.
In one body cam clip, an officer can be heard briefly questioning the backseat passenger about the baggie. Then, that piece of plastic gets handed off to different officers who also determined it as empty before the officer in the original viral video discarded it into the back of the car.
The officer can also be seen explaining where the plastic came from to the passenger recording him.
“Aye, bro you just threw that in here!” the front seat passenger says, as heard in his version of the events.
“Yeah, cause it was in his pocket and I don’t want to hold onto it. It’s on their body cam that they took it off of him…I’m telling you where it came from, so. It’s an empty baggie at the moment too, so,” the officer replies.
The department went on to explain that while it would discourage officers from discarding items into a citizen’s car, this footage proves that evidence was not planted.
Authorities also noted that no arrests were made in this incident and the driver was the only one issued a citation for speeding. The statement added that since four officers were present at the scene, police have more than six hours of footage to review but they promised to release the footage in full in the near future.