Days before President Trump's first rally in over three months, on June 20 in Tulsa, city officials and politicians are worried, as the number of COVID-19 cases in Tulsa County rise to record levels, according to CBS News campaign reporters Musadiq Bidar, Nicole Sganga and political unit associate producer Eleanor Watson. While Trump supporters lined up with their lawn chairs and umbrellas outside the BOK Center in Tulsa, the city's Republican mayor said he will not be attending President Trump's rally on Saturday. "I would love for some other city to have tried this first," Mayor G.T. Bynum said at a press conference Wednesday. "But the president chose this city, and so it falls on us to set that standard moving forward," Bynum added. Bynum said hosting the President will be a "tremendous honor" for his city and he will greet Mr. Trump at the airport but will spend the rest of the day with the police officers protecting the city.
Mr. Trump has dismissed concerns about the risk surrounding his return to the campaign trail, blaming the news media for "trying to Covid Shame us on our big Rallies." Trump campaign officials say masks and hand sanitizer will be distributed at the rally upon entry to guests, though the use of neither will be mandatory. Attendees will be required to pass a temperature check. Campaign sources familiar with the rally planning say there are no plans for social distancing within the arena, which holds over 19,000. "When you come to the rally, as of any event, you assume a personal risk," White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters, Wednesday. "That is just what you do. When you go to a baseball game, you assume a risk. That's part of life, it's the personal decision of Americans as to whether to go to the rally or whether not to go to the rally."
This week, the director of the Tulsa Health Department, Dr. Bruce Dart, even expressed concern about the ability to keep President Trump safe from the coronavirus. On Wednesday Dr. Dart said he would like to see the rally postponed. Dr. Dart said individuals coming together without taking proper precautions makes it easier for the virus to transmit, leading to "a definite possibility of seeing increased infection and increased death from those infections." Mr. Trump announced nearly 1 million people had requested tickets to attend the "comeback" rally, Saturday, though some who have registered for the rally say they're virtually trolling him.
Click here to read more about the president's upcoming rally in Tulsa.
FROM THE CANDIDATES
Joe Biden made the short trip out to Pennsylvania from his home in Delaware today, first meeting with a round table of small business owners before delivering an at-times fiery speech accusing President Trump of having "waved a white flag" in the battle against the coronavirus pandemic, reports CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin.
"Donald Trump's failure to fight the coronavirus with the same energy and focus that he uses to troll his enemies on Twitter has cost us lives and is putting hope for an economic recovery at risk," remarked Biden, who called on the president to answer "basic questions" about his COVID-19 response. Biden also decried Trump's return to campaign rallies in spite of CDC guidance, where supporters have been asked to waive liability over COVID-19, and declared the president was "failing even the most basic test of leadership" in not wearing a mask. The former vice president's visit comes as Democrats have cautiously celebrated another round of polls leading Trump nationally by a double digit margin and in several key swing states. It also marks Biden's 23rd day not taking questions from press on the trail since returning to in-person campaigning on Memorial Day.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP
President Trump's former national security adviser John Bolton alleges in a new book that Mr. Trump pushed Chinese President Xi Jinping in trade negotiations to agree to purchase American agricultural products in order to boost Mr. Trump's political standing with U.S. farmers and help him win reelection. In an excerpt of Bolton's book, "The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir," published by The Wall Street Journal, Bolton condemns what he calls the "incoherence" of the president's trade policy and his focus on winning a second term.
CBS News Digital politics reporter Grace Segers says the excerpt was published minutes after stories about the memoir's contents appeared in The New York Times and Washington Post, both of which said they had obtained copies of the book ahead of its June 23 release. The longtime conservative foreign policy hawk describes a meeting with Xi and Mr. Trump on June 29, 2019, in Osaka, Japan. Bolton says Xi told Mr. Trump "that some (unnamed) American political figures were making erroneous judgments by calling for a new cold war with China." Bolton writes, "Whether Xi meant to finger the Democrats or some of us sitting on the U.S. side of the table, I don't know, but Trump immediately assumed that Xi meant the Democrats. Trump said approvingly that there was great hostility to China among the Democrats."
He continues, "Trump then, stunningly, turned the conversation to the coming U.S. presidential election, alluding to China's economic capability and pleading with Xi to ensure he'd win. He stressed the importance of farmers and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome." Bolton writes that he was prevented from reprinting Mr. Trump's exact language due to the administration's review of the book, meant to ensure that no classified information was included. "I would print Trump's exact words, but the government's prepublication review process has decided otherwise," Bolton writes.
The Justice Department on Tuesday filed a federal lawsuit against Bolton, arguing the book contained classified material and should not be published. "Trump's conversations with Xi reflected not only the incoherence in his trade policy but also the confluence in Trump's mind of his own political interests and U.S. national interests," Bolton says in his book, according to the excerpt in the Journal. "I am hard-pressed to identify any significant Trump decision during my White House tenure that wasn't driven by reelection calculations."
However, Bolton also condemns House Democrats for their handling of the impeachment inquiry late last year, accusing them of being too narrowly focused on Mr. Trump's dealings with the Ukrainian president. Mr. Trump was impeached on counts of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in December, although he was acquitted of both in February. "Had Democratic impeachment advocates not been so obsessed with their Ukraine blitzkrieg in 2019, had they taken the time to inquire more systematically about Trump's behavior across his entire foreign policy, the impeachment outcome might well have been different," Bolton writes.
Democrats argued that Mr. Trump abused his power by asking the Ukrainian president to investigate Joe Biden, a political rival, and his son. Bolton refused to testify as part of the House inquiry, and was not called to testify at the subsequent impeachment trial. Democrats have accused him of cynically withholding pertinent knowledge of the president's actions to boost his book sales. "I have seen the reports that John Bolton is claiming the House should have impeached Trump for other matters. Well, thank you John Bolton for being the firefighter that shows up to the building that's already burned with the fire hose and saying, 'I'm here to help,'" Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell told reporters on Wednesday afternoon. The memoir is being published by Simon & Schuster, a division of ViacomCBS.
The sole black congresswoman on Joe Biden's vice presidential vetting committee, Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester from Delaware, said she "respects" the calls for the former vice president to choose a woman of color as his running mate. During an "All in Together" live stream earlier this week, the close friend and honest adviser to Biden said she is bringing her experience as a black woman into the vice presidential vetting process. The congresswoman also revealed Biden more than a year ago told her he decided he was going to a choose a woman as his running mate, if he successfully became the nominee. CBS News campaign reporter Bo Erickson spoke with some of those who know Blunt Rochester best and looked at her record which seems especially relevant to the protests for greater racial equality throughout the country. Biden last week shied away from publicly committing to choose a diverse woman, recently insisting to anchor and managing editor of "CBS Evening News" Norah O'Donnell that the death of George Floyd and the nationwide protests have not drastically changed his calculus on picking a VP.
Facebook is launching a Voter Information Center ahead of the 2020 election, according to CBS News political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice. The center will include info on how to register to vote and request an absentee ballot, as well as have reminders about when requests need to be made by, upcoming deadlines and what voters will need to take with them to the polls.
It will become available later this summer at the top of people's Facebook and Instagram feeds. Facebook estimates between now and election day about 160 million people will see the information about how to vote in the U.S. The new center comes as Facebook sets a goal to register four million people to vote this year. Meanwhile, over the next few weeks, another feature is being rolled out that allows users in the U.S. to turn off political ads on both Facebook and Instagram if they choose. It applies to social issues, electoral and political ads from candidates, Super PACS and other organizations that have the "paid for by" disclaimer.
At the same time, in an effort to increase transparency, Facebook announced it will be keeping the "paid for by" political disclaimers up on ads shared by a user. Previously, those disclaimers did not appear after an ad was shared by someone, creating confusion. Now Facebook says those disclaimers will remain even when ads are shared on the platform. The new efforts come amid increased pressure from both sides of the aisle on how the social network handles voting misinformation and political messaging ahead of November's election.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced on Wednesday that schools will be able to resume in-person learning in phase 4 of the MI Safe Start Plan, according to CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster. Most of Michigan is in phase 4 of the 6 phase plan right now, while some northern areas are further along in phase 5. Whitmer says more details about how schools operate will be released later this month, but says there will be strict safety measures in place.
"Our intent is to resume in-person instruction and to do so in a way that is safe, but also to make sure that as we get back to school, we return to learn, that we have very clear guidance to what the minimum expectations are," Whitmer told reporters. "Some schools will be able to do things, even in more aggressive ways, others will need some help just to get to the minimum expectations, but bringing down class size we know is a possibility." Whitmer also called upon the federal government to step up and provide more resources for states struggling with tightened budgets due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Separately, Whitmer said she plans to extend Michigan's state of emergency, which allows her to issue executive orders in response to the pandemic. She said any attempt to "strip away" the powers of the governor during the crisis is "irresponsible" and "dangerous."
On the 5th anniversary of the Mother Emanuel AME Church shooting in Charleston, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina is calling on the Senate to pass the Enhanced Background Checks Act, which in part, would grant the FBI more time to complete background checks before guns can be transferred from federal firearms licensees to an unlicensed person.
On June 17, 2015 nine people were gunned down during bible study by a white supremacist gunman, who used a gun that he shouldn't have been able to obtain. CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell reports that the House passed H.R. bill 1112 in 2019, to address the loophole that allowed the Charleston shooter to get a gun but the Senate hasn't made any actions regarding the act since March 2019. In a Post & Courier opinion piece Wednesday, Clyburn called it "inexcusable" that the Senate hasn't taken up the bill.
"While the man responsible for pulling the trigger languishes on death row, the system that allowed him to get that gun remains in place," Clyburn wrote. "The U.S. House of Representatives has taken critical steps to restructure that system by strengthening our gun laws, but the need for these changes and their life-saving potential have been ignored by the Senate and actively opposed by the White House, putting gun industry profits before the people."
The nine lives lost during the tragic shooting included Clementa Pinckney, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Cynthia Graham Hurd, Susie J. Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, DePayne Vontrease Middleton, Tywanza Kibwe Diop Sanders, Daniel Lee Simmons Sr. and Myra Singleton Quarles Thompson. Clyburn asked what the president and Majority Leader McConnell plan to do to prevent a tragedy like this from re-occurring: "President Trump and Majority Leader McConnell, will you act to save others from the same fate?"
The Wisconsin Elections Commission on Wednesday approved a letter and absentee ballot request form that will be sent to about 2.7 million voters for the November election, reports CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster. Wisconsin has tried to improve its voting process after a record number of people voted absentee during the April election, including more than 60% of votes cast by mail. Wisconsin already had no-excuse absentee voting, but the surge of absentee and mail voting in April created major backlogs for clerks as people rushed to request absentee ballots in the days leading up to the election. Other battleground states, including Michigan and Ohio, are sending absentee ballot requests to all registered voters, but Wisconsin excluded some voters from the mailing.
IN THE HOUSE
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo endorsed 31-year incumbent Eliot Engel on Wednesday, marking another national political figure that has waded into next week's most competitive House primary in New York's 16th. In his endorsement Cuomo noted Engel's seniority and said, "We need the Federal Government to provide critical assistance if we are going to recover. In order for that to happen, we need Congress members who can TRULY deliver for New York State, and do it quickly."
Engel's challenger, Jamaal Bowman, has gotten the progressive wing of the party to coalesce behind him through endorsements from Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley and Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro reports the Bowman campaign released an internal poll Wednesday showing them ten points ahead of Engel, and leading with the undecided voters. The poll also found that 56% of black decided voters supported Bowman, while 10% supported Engel.
IN THE SENATE
Vice President Mike Pence is fundraising for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, according to multiple direct mail letters sent to potential supporters. CBS News Campaign Reporter Musadiq Bidar says in one of the fundraising letters, Pence writes that McConnell's re-election battle will be "against the entire Democrat Party and liberals in all 50 states."
The vice president writes that Democrats are making McConnell their number one target and "are already plotting their negative attack campaign, and they're going to rake in HUGE money from liberals all over the country who can't stand the way Mitch McConnell keeps fighting and winning in D.C."
Pence warns that the "fights against the liberal socialists are only going to get more intense," adding that the Republican Party cannot go into those fights "without Mitch leading the way in the Senate." The fundraising plea asks supporters for their "most generous campaign donation," and suggests amounts ranging from $35 to $1,000. McConnell is being challenged by several Republican candidates during next week's primary but none are in serious contention of toppling the long-time Senator. CBS News political unit associate producer Eleanor Watson says on Wednesday morning, the McConnell campaign debuted a TV ad touting praise the president has heaped on McConnell. The ad also features footage of McConnell alongside Mr. Trump at rallies.