- Texas Democrats canceled three campaign events on Friday citing “safety concerns ” after a convoy of Trump supporters surrounded a Biden-Harris tour bus.
- In one dramatic moment, an SUV carrying at least one campaign staffer and a truck with pro-Trump flags briefly collided into one another. While local law enforcement did not issue any traffic violations, the FBI is now investigating the incident.
- President Donald Trump criticized the FBI investigation on Sunday, calling his supporters “patriots” and claiming that the convoy was “protecting” the tour bus, even though those supporters claimed the goal was to run the bus out of Texas.
- “Folks, that’s not who we are,” Democratic challenger Joe Biden said in response to Trump’s comments. “We are so much better than this. We’re so much better than this. It’s not who we are.”
Biden Tour Bus Surrounded in “Trump Train”
President Donald Trump is defending his supporters who formed a convoy around a Biden campaign tour bus in Texas on Friday. In a Twitter post on Sunday, he called those supporters “patriots” and criticized the FBI for launching an investigation into the stunt.
“In my opinion, these patriots did nothing wrong,” the president wrote. “Instead, the FBI & Justice should be investigating the terrorists, anarchists, and agitators of ANTIFA, who run around burning down our Democrat run cities and hurting our people!”
As the situation began to unfold Friday afternoon, some supporters in the caravan promoted the stunt on social media, with many dubbing it the “Trump train.”
“Trolling is FUN!!” one post reads. “Join us in #SanAntonio to escort the Biden Bus coming through San Antonio. We are on the bridges & will intercept at Walters/I35!!”
In a subsequent video, a number of vehicles can be seen surrounding that bus, many of them sporting Trump campaign flags. According to a campaigner who spoke to people on the bus, those Trump supporters began honking their horns and shouting,
The Biden campaign has also claimed that multiple trucks pulled in front of the bus and tried to slow it down.
In another video, a woman in that convoy calls the stunt “hilarious” and says that it is running the tour bus out of Texas. Moments later, she expresses pure shock when she sees an SUV and a truck directly behind the tour bus colliding into each other briefly.
Neither of those vehicles reportedly pulled over, and it is still unknown what prompted them to run into each other; however, it has since been confirmed that the SUV was a staff member vehicle with the Biden campaign.
While neither Democratic candidate Joe Biden nor running mate Kamala Harris were on the tour bus, Texas Congressional candidate and former state senator Wendy Davis (D) reportedly was.
Following the incident, Texas Democrats canceled three campaign events that had been scheduled for Friday, citing “safety concerns.”
What are Trump and Biden Saying?
Tariq Thowfeek, Texas communications director for the Biden campaign, immediately condemned the “Trump train” incident.
“Rather than engage in productive conversation about the drastically different visions that Joe Biden and Donald Trump have for our country,” he said, “Trump supporters in Texas [Friday] instead decided to put our staff, surrogates, supporters, and others in harm’s way.”
According to The Texas Tribune, Texas GOP Chairman Allen West was dismissive of the incident.
“It is more fake news and propaganda,” he said. “Prepare to lose… stop bothering me.”
Naomi Narvaiz, another Texas GOP official, told the Tribune, “We decided we would jump on 35 to show support for our president. I didn’t see anyone being overly aggressive.”
“We sent the @JoeBiden @KamalaHarris bus out of Hays [County]!” Narvaiz said on Twitter. “Your kind aren’t welcome here!”
On Saturday, Trump endorsed the “Trump train,” saying on Twitter: “I LOVE TEXAS!”
On Sunday, he also spun the story a much different way in front of his supporters while at a campaign rally.
“Did you see the way our people, they were, ya know, protecting this bus… because they’re nice. They had hundreds of cars. Trump! Trump! Trump and the American flag,” he said.
To be clear, there is no evidence that this convoy was aiming to protect the Biden bus. In fact, many of those supporters have outright claimed themselves that they were trying to run this bus out of town.
Following Trump’s comments, Biden himself addressed the situation, saying at an event in Pennsylvania, “Folks, that’s not who we are. We are so much better than this. We’re so much better than this. It’s not who we are.”
FBI Now Investigating “Trump Train”
As far as the collision from that incident goes, Hays County Sheriff Gary Cutler, a Republican up for re-election this year, said that the Biden campaign failed to notify his office it would be passing through the county. Because of that, Cutler said law enforcement was not prepared for any possible confrontations,
“The planning of this was questionable,” he said of the Biden campaign.
Cutler’s response has drawn wider criticism, especially as Democratic officials argue that the “Trump train” was the one creating a dangerous situation.
No police or sheriff’s departments in the area has filed any traffic violation citations; however, as of Saturday, the FBI now says it’s investigating the collision, but so far, no other details have been released.
See what others are saying: (The Texas Tribune) (The New York Post) (USA Today)
Senate Democrats To Introduce Voting Rights Bill This Week
Republicans are expected to block the legislation, but Democratic leaders hope the GOP’s unified opposition will lay the groundwork to justify getting rid of the filibuster.
Voting Bill Set for Floor
Senate Democrats are officially set to advance their voting rights bill this week, with a procedural vote to start debate on the legislation scheduled for Tuesday.
The move comes as an increasing number of Democrats and progressive activists have begun to embrace a more watered-down version of the bill proposed by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), the sole Democrat who opposed the initial proposal on the grounds that it was too partisan.
While Democrats have spent the weekend hashing out the final details of compromise on Manchin’s bill, which he has touted as a more bipartisan compromise, Senate Republicans have still broadly rejected it.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who previously opposed the initial For the People Act as too far-reaching, called Manchin’s alternative proposal “equally unacceptable” and predicted that no members of his party will vote in favor.
The legislation is all but guaranteed to fail in the chamber, where it will require all 50 Democrats and at least 10 Republicans to overcome the filibuster.
However, bringing the bill to the floor still has major utility for Democrats because it will lay the groundwork for the party to justify scrapping the filibuster entirely.
Pathway for Filibuster Reform
Specifically, if Manchin agrees to some form of the bill which Republicans then filibuster, Democrats can say they had the to votes to pass the legislation if the filibuster were removed.
That, in turn, would bolster the Democratic argument that bipartisanship cannot be a precondition to taking actions to secure our democracy if it relies on reaching common ground with a party that they believe is increasingly and transparently committed to undermining democracy.
It would also give more ground to the Democratic claim that the GOP is abusing existing Senate rules to block policy changes that have gained wide public support following the Jan. 6 insurrection and amid the growing efforts by Republican governors and legislatures to restrict voting access in their states.
As a result, if Republicans block the legislation along party lines, Democratic leaders hope that could change objections to scrapping the filibuster voiced privately by some members and publicly by Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Az.).
This is especially true for Tuesday’s planned vote, because it is just a vote to proceed to debate, meaning that if Republicans filibuster, they will be preventing the Senate from even debating any efforts to protect democracy, including Manchin’s plan which he crafted specifically to reach a compromise with the GOP.
Whether a full party rejection would be enough to move the needle for Manchin and the other Democrats remains to be seen. Any successful overhaul of the contentious Senate rule would not only be incredibly significant for President Joe Biden’s agenda, but also for the precedent it could set.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Reuters) (USA Today)
McConnell Says He Would Block a Biden SCOTUS Nominee in 2024
The Senate Minority Leader also refused to say whether or not he would block a hypothetical nominee in 2023 if his party overtakes the chamber’s slim majority in the midterm elections.
McConnell Doubles Down
During an interview with conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt on Monday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) threatened to block a hypothetical Supreme Court nominee from President Joe Biden in 2024 if Republicans took control of the Senate.
“I think in the middle of a presidential election, if you have a Senate of the opposite party of the president, you have to go back to the 1880s to find the last time a vacancy was filled,” he said. “So I think it’s highly unlikely. In fact, no, I don’t think either party if it controlled, if it were different from the president, would confirm a Supreme Court nominee in the middle of an election.”
McConnell’s remarks do not come as a surprise as they are in line with his past refusal to consider former President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the court in February 2016 on the grounds that it was too close to the presidential election.
The then-majority leader received a ton of backlash for his efforts, especially after he forced through Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation just eight days before the 2020 election. At the time, McConnell argued the two situations were different because the Senate and the president were from the same party — a claim he reiterated in the interview.
McConnell also implied he may take that stance even further in comments to Hewitt, who asked if he would block the appointment of a Supreme Court justice if a seat were to be vacated at the end of 2023 about 18 months before the next inauguration — a precedent set by the appointment of Anthony Kennedy.
“Well, we’d have to wait and see what happens,” McConnell responded.
Many Democrats immediately condemned McConnell’s remarks, including progressive leaders who renewed their calls to expand the court.
“Mitch McConnell is already foreshadowing that he’ll steal a 3rd Supreme Court seat if he gets the chance. He’s done it before, and he’ll do it again. We need to expand the Supreme Court,” said Sen. Ed Markey (D-Ma.).
Some also called on Justice Stephen Breyer, the oldest SCOTUS judge, to retire.
“If Breyer refuses to retire, he’s not making some noble statement about the judiciary. He is saying he wants Mitch McConnell to handpick his replacement,” said Robert Cruickshank, campaign director for Demand Progress.
Others, however, argued that the response McConnell’s remarks elicited was exactly what he was hoping to see and said his timing was calculated.
The minority leader’s comments come as the calls for Breyer to step down have recently grown while the current Supreme Court term draws near, a time when justices often will announce their retirement.
On Sunday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) was asked if she thought Breyer should leave the bench while Democrats still controlled the Senate. She responded that she was “inclined to say yes.”
With his latest public statement, McConnell’s aims are twofold here: he hopes to broaden divisions in the Democratic Party between progressives and more traditional liberals, who are more hesitant to rush Breyer to retire or expand the court, while simultaneously working to unite a fractured Republican base and encourage them to turn out in the midterm elections.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CNN) (The Hill)
Gov. Abbott Says Texas Will Build Border Wall With Mexico
The announcement follows months of growing tension between the Texas governor and President Biden over immigration policies.
Texas Border Wall
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced during a press conference Thursday that the state would build a border wall with Mexico, extending the signature campaign promise of former President Donald Trump.
Abbott provided very few details for the border wall plans, and it is unclear if he has the authority to build it.
While some of the land is state-owned, much of it belongs to the federal government or falls on private property.
Even if the state were able to build on federal ground, private landowners who fought the Trump administration’s attempts to take their land through eminent domain would still remain an obstacle for any renewed efforts.
During his term, Trump built over 450 miles of new wall, but most of it covered areas where deteriorating barriers already existed, and thus had previously been approved for the federal project.
The majority of the construction also took place in Arizona, meaning Abbott would have much ground to cover. It is also unclear how the governor plans to pay for the wall.
Trump had repeatedly said Mexico would fund the wall, but that promise remained unfulfilled, and the president instead redirected billions of taxpayer dollars from Defense Department reserves.
While Abbott did say he would announce more details about the wall next week, his plan was condemned as ill-planned by immigration activists, who also threatened legal challenges.
“There is no substantive plan,” said Edna Yang, the co-executive director of the Texas-based immigration legal aid and advocacy group American Gateways. “It’s not going to make any border community or county safer.”
Abbott’s announcement comes amid escalating tensions between the governor and the administration of President Joe Biden.
Biden issued a proclamation that stopped border wall construction on his first day of office, and has since undone multiple Trump-era immigration policies. Abbott, for his part, has blamed Biden’s rollback of Trump’s rules for the influx of migrants at the border in recent months.
Two weeks ago, the governor deployed over 1,000 National Guard members and troopers from the Texas Department of Public Safety to the border as part of an initiative launched in March to ramp up border security dubbed Operation Lone Star.
Last week, Abbott issued a disaster declaration which, among other measures, directed the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to strip the state licenses of all shelters that house migrant children and have contracts with the federal government.
The move, which federal officials have already threatened to take legal action against, could effectively force the 52 state-licensed shelters housing around 8,600 children to move the minors elsewhere.
During Thursday’s press conference, Abbott also outlined a variety of other border initiatives, including appropriating $1 billion for border security, creating a task force on border security, and increasing arrests for migrants who enter the country illegally.
“While securing the border is the federal government’s responsibility, Texas will not sit idly by as this crisis grows,” he said. “Our efforts will only be effective if we work together to secure the border, make criminal arrests, protect landowners, rid our communities of dangerous drugs and provide Texans with the support they need and deserve.”