- 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)
As Unemployment Claims Rise, CA Officials Report Inmates Collected Millions in Benefits
- Unemployment numbers spiked for the second week in a row, marking the highest amount of new claims made since early October with 778,000 people filing. Over 20 million Americans are still collecting some kind of joblessness aid.
- Experts say this will only get worse as COVID cases continue to rise and states impose more restrictions. However, unlike during the spring shutdowns, struggling Americans and small businesses will likely not have any help from the federal government.
- Meanwhile, law enforcement officials in California reported that tens of thousands of inmates received upwards of $1 billion in unemployment benefits as part of a scam that officials described as “the most significant fraud on taxpayer funds in California history.”
Unemployment Numbers Spike
Another 778,000 Americans filed for unemployment this week, the Department of Labor reported Wednesday, marking the highest spike since early October and the second week in a row that new claims have risen.
According to experts, this data signals that the massive coronavirus spikes the U.S. has seen in recent weeks are slowing the economy once again. On Wednesday, the country reported a record 2 million new cases in the same two weeks that joblessness claims also went up, bringing the official case count to more than 12.6 million Americans infected and over 260,000 dead.
As the COVID-19 spikes continue, and with more state and local governments imposing new restrictions on public gatherings, limiting hours and operations for restaurants and bars, and temporarily closing down some businesses entirely, economists say this situation will get worse before it gets better.
Unlike the first wave of shutdowns this past spring, it seems almost certain that struggling Americans will have to weather these latest closures without any help from the government.
Already, many of the programs that gave trillions of dollars to unemployed Americans and small businesses under the CARES Act have expired, and most of the few remaining programs will run out soon.
That is especially concerning when it comes to unemployment benefits. According to a recent report from the progressive think tank The Century Foundation, unless Congress and the White House sign off on a deal to extend key programs, roughly 12 million Americans will lose these benefits entirely the day after Christmas.
But after months of deadlock, any hopes for a new stimulus package petered out when the election came around. Democratic leadership is reportedly attempting to restart those talks, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said he wants to approve some kind of bill before the end of the year.
However, it remains unclear how all the problems that had deadlocked the lawmakers for months during the earlier negotiations will be resolved in time.
Inmate Unemployment Fraud
Meanwhile, states are still continuing to struggle with distributing unemployment benefits to jobless Americans.
On Tuesday, a task force lead by nine district attorneys across the state of California reported in a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) that tens of thousands of prison and jail inmates — including more than 100 people on death row — have collected hundreds of millions of dollars in unemployment benefits as part of a scam that the officials say “appears to be the most significant fraud on taxpayer funds in California history,”
According to the task force, between March and August, inmates housed in every single California prison and in jails throughout the state filed 35,000 claims totaling at least $140 million in benefits, though the alleged crimes could total as much as $1 billion.
In most cases, officials said that the payments were given out in the form of prepaid debit cards sent to friends or family on the outside who would then later deposit the proceeds to inmate accounts.
In some cases, the joblessness benefits were sent directly to the jails and prisons. Sometimes the inmates used their real names, but other times, they used fake names and fake Social Security numbers.
In fact, prosecutors were tipped off to some of the cases by listening to inmates recorded phone calls, where they bragged about how easy it was the game the system.
As far as how such widespread fraud could happen, law enforcement officials blamed California’s Employment Development Department, which has been swamped with processing more than 16.4 million unemployment claims since March, resulting in a massive backlog of unfilled claims that, according to reports, has totaled upwards of more than 1.6 million people at times.
However, the task force also said that part of the problem was due to the fact that unlike at least 35 other states, California does not have the technology to crosscheck inmate rosters against unemployment claims.
In their letter, the officials called on Newsom to crack down on the rampant fraud and provide “significant resources” to do so.
Newsom, for his part, responded in a statement by calling the fraud “absolutely unacceptable,” and ordering the Office of Emergency Services to create a task force to help the prosecutors with their investigation.
However, as The New York Times pointed out, Newsom had already formed a “strike team” a few months ago to help the state’s employment department speed up claims and address other issues, including fraud at correctional facilities.
The district attorneys were still forced to form their own task force with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation after the reports of fraud in the employment department continued and the “strike team” failed to uncover the large amounts of fraud the other groups had seen.
Currently, it is unclear how Newsom’s new task force is different from the largely unsuccessful “strike team.”
These problems also go beyond unemployment. There have been frequent reports of CARES Act funding being misused, including by people using small business loans to buy luxury cars, as well as large companies or businesses connected to President Donald Trump Trump and members of Congress improperly receiving funding.
As Congress considers another much-needed stimulus package, these issues of transparency and accountability have now become paramount.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NBC News) (USA Today)
COVID-19 Cases Expected To Surge After Thanksgiving
- With coronavirus cases already on a steep rise in the U.S, experts are warning that Thanksgiving travel and gatherings will likely make things worse. Canada, for example, saw a jump in cases after its citizens celebrated the holiday last month.
- Surgeon General Jerome Adams said that Americans should hold out for a vaccine, which is on the horizon, and be safe this Thanksgiving.
- A family in Texas is also waring against gathering, saying they learned how dangerous it is the hard way. After celebrating a birthday together, all 15 people who attended the party tested positive for the virus.
- On top of this experts are also warning against thinking a negative test clears you for socialization. In reality, you can test negative for the virus and still have and transmit it.
Warning From Surgeon General
As Thanksgiving looms closer, warnings against family gatherings are being echoed by experts and everyday people alike.
Health officials have been vocal about the threat the Thanksgiving holiday poses when it comes to the coronavirus. The U.S. has seen 12.4 million cases and lost 257,000 lives to the virus, and cases have been on a steep increase this month. The CDC has already warned against travel and experts have said that based on the spike Canada saw after its October Thanksgiving, America is set to go down a similar, or even worse path.
“I want the American people to know that we are at a dire point in our fight with this virus by any measure,” U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said Monday on Good Morning America. “Cases, positivity, hospitalizations, deaths. We’re seeing more Americans negatively impacted than ever before.”
Adams said that with a vaccine on the horizon, Americans should just wait out this homestretch and stay put for the holiday.
“I’m asking Americans, begging you, hold on just a little bit longer,” he said. “Keep Thanksgiving and the celebration small and smart this year.”
Family in Texas Urges Caution
Health officials are not the only ones preaching this advice. In Arlington, Texas, a family that has lived the consequences of gathering without regard for public health is urging people to not make the same mistake as them. The Aragonez family celebrated a birthday earlier this month indoors without masks or distancing. Now, all 15 people who attended tested positive for the virus.
“We feel guilty for gathering,” members of the family said in a video encouraging caution. “All this pain that my family is feeling, this loneliness, this sickness, this longing to be healthy could have been prevented.”
“Please don’t be like my family and ignore the CDC guidelines,” one person said. “By staying apart we can fight this virus together.”
While most cases in the family were mild, one person was hospitalized for over a week.
“One moment of carelessness has cost us a month of peace, has cost us sleep, has cost us laughs, has cost us a lot of money,” one family member told the Washington Post.
Testing Negative is Not Enough
Many have still forged on with their gathering plans under the false idea that if everyone tests negative before attending, they are in the clear to socialize. However, experts warn this is far from the case.
Just because a person tests negative does not necessarily mean they do not have the virus. Tests are not 100% accurate and it can take days or even a week to test positive for the virus after exposure. Not to mention, people could come into contract with the virus between their test and the family event.
“A negative result is a snapshot in time,” Dr. Paige Larkin, a clinical microbiologist at NorthShore University HealthSystem in Chicago explaining to the New York Times. “It’s telling you that, at that exact second you are tested, the virus was not detected. It does not mean you’re not infected.”
While it might slightly minimize the risk of spread, it certainly does not eliminate it. More than anything, it gives people a false sense of security that they have a free pass to go wherever and see whoever they want, despite the fact that it still poses a large health threat.
See what others are saying: (New York Times) (Washington Post) (Associated Press)
Over 1 Million People Traveled Through U.S. Airports Friday, Despite COVID-19 Warnings
- Over 1 million people traveled through U.S. airports on Friday, marking the second-highest single day of airport traffic since the coronavirus pandemic began.
- The new record comes despite the fact that the CDC has issued a warning against travel for Thanksgiving, encouraging people to stay home instead because COVID-19 cases are already on a steep rise.
- In Canada, cases spiked after the country celebrated their Thanksgiving holiday in October.
- While cases were already increasing in the country, contact tracing has linked outbreaks to holiday gatherings, which likely accelerated the speed of spread.
Cases and Travel Both Increase
The upcoming Thanksgiving holiday is expected to worsen the already increasing coronavirus outbreak in the United States.
Currently, the country has seen over 12.3 million cases and lost more than 256,000 lives to this virus. On Friday, the U.S. broke its record for new cases in a single day, reporting 198,500 cases. The daily average has reached 171,462 cases a day and roughly one-quarter of all cases in the U.S. have come from just the month of November.
These circumstances paint a grim picture of what could come after all of the traveling and large gatherings that are expected to happen over the holiday, even after repeated warning against doing so.
In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned against traveling and advised that “postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others this year.”
The CDC told travelers to ask themselves questions, like if cases are high in their home or destination, if their method of travel makes social distancing difficult, and if there are travel restrictions in their area. If the answers to any of those questions are yes, people should “consider making other plans, such as hosting a virtual gathering or delaying your travel.”
Despite these warnings, air travel is on the rise in the country. On Friday, more than 1 million people passed through airports, marking the second-busiest day of air travel since the pandemic began. While this is 1.5 million people less than the same day last year, the travel surge troubles health officials who fear the virus could spread as people gather with their families.
Case Spike After Canada’s Thanksgiving
All the U.S. has to do is look to its neighbor to the North in order to find out just what kind of impact Thanksgiving can have on coronavirus cases. Two weeks after Canada’s Thanksgiving in October, the country saw a spike in cases. While cases were already on the rise at the time, experts believe that holiday gatherings contributed to and accelerated the spread.
“Cases were indeed increasing already, but we definitely saw an increase in the rate of transmission after Thanksgiving. And we know that Thanksgiving is important for a couple of reasons. One is through contact tracing data,” Dr. Laura Rosella, an associate professor and epidemiologist at the University of Toronto told CBS News.
Contact tracing in the country showed a significant transmission from household gatherings stemming from Thanksgiving.
“One local health unit that reported about 12 people being infected because of a Thanksgiving gathering,” Rosella explained.
“It’s not the only reason the cases are increasing, it’s not the only setting in which transmission is occurring, but definitely when people gathered indoors it did transmit COVID.”
Still, people are more likely to feel safe with their family, no matter how high the COVID-19 risk actually is. Superspreading weddings are among the strongest examples of this, as numerous have led to significant outbreaks because couples thought it was safe to gather with friends, family, and other people they trust.
“Many people don’t believe that you can actually catch it from your family and friends. They feel safe when they are around people that they know,” Karen Potts, the director of the Adams County Health Department in eastern Washington explained to NBC News. “And I think that’s why this sort of event happens. People just feel safe, and they go to the event, and it just spreads so rapidly.”
One August wedding in Maine, for instance, was liked to 177 coronavirus cases and 7 deaths. Many of those cases include people who did not attend the wedding. In fact, none of the deaths traced back to the wedding were attendees.
An October wedding in Cincinnati led to 32 of the 83 guests getting COVID-19, including grandparents of the bride and groom. In Washington, a 300 person wedding earlier this month has led to 17 people getting the virus so far.