WASHINGTON – Republican senators were split on President Donald Trump’s decision Monday to push back protesters from an area surrounding the White House so he could visit a historic church across the street to take a photo with a Bible.
“I’m against clearing out a peaceful protest for a photo op that treats the Word of God as a political prop,” said Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., in a statement. While there is no right to riot or destroy property, he said, there is a “fundamental — a Constitutional — right to protest.”
The split reaction from Republicans came after another day of protests in the nation’s capital and across the country over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in the custody of Minneapolis police May 25. Former police officer Derek Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death.
During a Monday speech, the president threatened to send the military if cities and states did not put an end to violent protests. As he spoke from the White House, police outside forcibly removed protesters gathered in Lafayette Square with riot shields, flash bangs and chemical agents. A few minutes later, Trump walked through the park and posed for photos with a Bible outside St. John’s Episcopal Church, which suffered slight damage after it was set on fire by protesters late Sunday night.
Many Democrats criticized the event as a stunt while some GOP lawmakers joined them in condemning Trump’s actions.
Sen. Tim Scott, the Senate’s sole black Republican, said he did not approve of the move.
“As it relates to the tear gas situation and the Bible… it’s not something that I thought was helpful or what I would do without any question,” he told Politico. “If your question is: Should you use tear gas to clear a path so the president can go have a photo op? The answer is ‘no.'”
Even close confidants of the president, such as Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., also questioned the decision.
“I don’t know what the point the president was trying to make,” he said. “Trying to restore order is a good thing. Attack on a church is a terrible thing. I don’t think it advanced the ball one way or another.”
But other Republicans applauded the president, arguing it sent a message to the rest of the country that the president was going to restore order and keep Americans safe.
“I thought what the president did in visiting the church was not only appropriate, it was needed,” Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., told reporters. “It sent a message to the American people that its government is going to protect the innocent.”
‘Most of you are weak’:Trump rails at the nation’s governors, urges crackdown on violence
Some Republicans pointed to violence that has broken out in recent days, including in front of the White House, and accused protesters of provoking authorities.
“They know that the police have to move forward on them. That will trigger the use of tear gas. And it plays right into the imagery that they want,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. “That was provocation that was created deliberately for national television.”
House Democrats are demanding information about the chain of events that led to peaceful protesters being forcibly removed from the park.
Rep. Bennie Thompson, who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, asked the director of the Secret Service to appear before the committee to brief them on the incident, writing that he was “stunned, disturbed, and furious at the sight of federal authorities tear-gassing peaceful protesters.”
Asked Tuesday whether the president’s conduct merited censure, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said he believed it did warrant such a move but noted the full Democratic caucus had not discussed taking that step. Censuring Trump was discussed last year in the House as an alternative to impeaching him, but Democrats ultimately decided against censure, which is a formal statement of disapproval.
“It is certainly an action worthy and appropriate to censure and to criticize. It was a terrible act,” Hoyer said on a call with reporters Tuesday. “It was an act indicating the total lack of understanding and empathy with the anger and frustration and cry for justice that was being put out simply to facilitate a photo op obviously designed for political purposes, not designed to bring the country together.”
Trump’s Tulsa rally: Lighter-than-expected crowds and other takeaways
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump held his first campaign rally since March in Tulsa, Oklahoma Saturday following days of speculation about the impact the event would have on spreading the coronavirus and how large the crowd would be.
The president used the opportunity to brag about his coronavirus response while downplaying its current threat, slam the media and some of his Democratic rivals, as well as to defend confederate statues.
Here are some of the takeaways from Trump’s rally:
Smaller crowd in attendance, majority did not wear mask
Trump’s rally to revive his campaign during the coronavirus pandemic boasted a smaller crowd than his usual campaign events, with much of the upper sections of the 19,000-seat BOK Center stadium remaining empty.
An overcrowd event outside was cancelled and broken down by Secret Service before the president started speaking inside, due to low attendance.
Prior to the event, the Trump campaign had boasted one million tickets were requested, and Trump predicted there would not be an empty seat.
Trump’s campaign blamed the low turnout for the rally, as well as the scratched event, on “radical protesters” as well as members of the media, who they claimed “attempted to frighten off the President’s supporters.”
Journalists on the ground have refuted seeing large numbers of individuals turned away because of rowdy protesters.
Trump, who often kicks off his campaign rallies by crowing about the size of the crowd, was forced to use his high stakes rally to explain why turnout was less than expected.
Echoing a line from his campaign manager, Trump blamed the smaller than expected crowds on media coverage leading up to the event, and blamed protesters for his decision to not deliver expected remarks at the scheduled outdoor overflow event.
“You are warriors,” Trump told the crowd, suggesting that they had turned out despite the coverage leading up to the rally. “I’ve been watching the fake news for weeks now. And everything is negative. Today it was like, I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Additionally, the majority of attenders did not wear masks despite the campaign handing them out. However, they were not enforced. Several U.S. lawmakers in attendance did not wear masks, as well.
‘I did a phenomenal job’
Trump shrugged off the looming threat from the coronavirus, despite several states reporting record-high numbers of cases and hospitalizations in the past few days, including Oklahoma.
Local health officials had called for the rally to be postponed out of concern about the spread of the virus.
He continued to boast of his administration’s response to the pandemic, and again blamed China for spreading the virus.
“We – I – did a phenomenal job with it,” Trump declared.
Trump said he told his administration, “slow the testing down, please” reiterating his argument that higher test numbers led to higher case counts.
He imitated a doctor talking about a 10-year-old with “sniffles” who would conclude “that’s a case!”
The president said the governor of New Jersey told him only one person under the age of 18 died, which the president said shows that young people have a “great immune system”
“Let’s open the schools please!” he said.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and a member of the president’s coronaivrus task force, said earlier this week while more testing does result in more cases, the recent surge in some states “cannot be explained by increased testing.”
The president at one point also called COVID-19 the “kung flu” and the “Chinese virus.”
“It’s a disease without question,” Trump told the audience. “I can name 19 different versions of names. Many call it a virus, which it is. Many call it a flu. What’s the difference?”
Public health officials have discouraged terms that associate a pandemic with a place. Trump frequently used “Chinese virus” in the early weeks of the pandemic but stopped using it as frequently.
One of his own advisers, Kellyanne Conway, in March called reports of a White House official referring to the coronavirus as the “kung flu” as “highly offensive.”
COVID-19 deaths neared 120,000 Saturday in the U.S.
‘Demolish our heritage’: Trump defends Confederate statues
Trump’s rally, just a day after Juneteenth and located in a city with the site of one of the worst race massacres in US history, defended confederate monuments around the country.
Trump claimed the left and protesters only desired “to demolish our heritage” as demonstrators have been tearing down confederate statues following weeks of protests over racial injustice.
Protesters continue to target historical symbols of the Confederacy. Late Friday, protesters in Washington, D.C., and in Raleigh, North Carolina, toppled statues.
The protests were sparked by the killing of George Floyd, a Black man whose neck was pinned under the knee of a white police officer for nearly nine minutes in May.
Trump barely spoke about race, and did not mention Floyd.
Trump targets Democratic politicians and critics
Trump used his rally to hit back at some of his Democratic critics, including DC Mayor Muriel Bowser and congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar.
The president swiped at Bowser for the Black lives Matter demonstrations in Washington, D.C, and Ocasio-Cortez for her environmental views.
Bowser responded, tweeting that there’s “a lot of empty room” in Trump’s head, “just like tonight’s half empty Tulsa arena.”
Trump called Omar a “hate-filled America-bashing socialist” whose goal is to make America “just like the country from which she came, Somalia. No government, no police, no safety, no nothing.”
Omar, a representative from Minnesota, fled Somalia as a refugee and has been a citizen since she was 17. Her father died from COVID-19 a few days ago.
Miami Dolphins great Jim Kiick dies at 73
Jim Kiick, one-third of what NFL Network called “The Perfect Backfield” and one-half of the Dolphins’ legendary “Butch and Sundance” tandem with Larry Csonka, died Saturday.
He was 73.
The Dolphins on Saturday evening announced the death of Kiick, who in recent years battled memory issues and resided in an assisted living facility.
His daughter, Allie, an accomplished tennis player, on Thursday wrote a post on social media saying she’d been informed that her father was “declining rapidly.” For months, she was not permitted to visit his room because of the coronavirus pandemic, although it’s unclear if Kiick was tested for the disease.
“I miss my dad,” she wrote. “Every time I see him, he says, ‘I miss you.’ It’s pretty hard when you’re sitting on the outside of the glass and you can’t do anything to cheer him up. He’s lost the spark in his eyes as would anyone in his situation.”
Although Kiick was overshadowed by his best friend, Csonka, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and Mercury Morris, a dynamic 1,000-yard rusher, he will forever be ingrained in Dolphins history, both for his skill on the field and escapades off it.
Without him, the 1972 perfect season and 17-0 record might never have happened. Kiick scored the winning touchdown in all three of that team’s postseason victories.
The Dolphins were trailing 14-13 with five minutes remaining in their first playoff game, against the visiting Cleveland Browns. After driving to the Cleveland 8-yard line, the Dolphins would have been expected to turn to Csonka or Morris but instead ran a trap up the middle that Kiick converted into a touchdown and a 20-14 victory.
It was a moment of pride for the three members of the backfield, who contended that the celebration of the TD, with Morris running off the bench to Kiick, personified the selflessness of the entire team. Before that season, coach Don Shula had made a calculated gamble by giving more playing time to Morris despite knowing how close (and effective) the Csonka-Kiick tandem had been.
“He’s the first person that jumped on me, congratulated me,” Kiick told the Palm Beach Post in a 2017 interview. “It just showed we were about the team and not about individual statistics or who scored the winning touchdown or who didn’t.”
Kiick also scored the winning touchdown on a 1-yard run in the 14-7 victory over Washington in Super Bowl VII to complete the 17-0 season.
Kiick scored the winning touchdown on a 3-yard run with 7½ minutes left in the AFC championship game, a 21-17 victory over Pittsburgh.
The Dolphins drafted Kiick in the fifth round in 1968 out of Wyoming. His seven-year rushing total of 997 yards fails to do justice to his value to Shula as a versatile complement to the bullish fullback Csonka. Kiick caught 221 passes for 2,210 yards and totaled 31 touchdowns from scrimmage.
Before Kiick, Csonka and receiver Paul Warfield jumped to the World Football League, signaling the end of the Dolphins’ dynasty after the 1974 season, Kiick and Csonka literally rode the streets of South Florida as celebrities. A legendary clip in Dolphins history shows Kiick and Csonka riding horseback along South Beach, playing to their “Butch and Sundance” personas.
“Somebody came up with the idea at Sports Illustrated,” Kiick said. “They put a deal together, we rode horses down Collins Avenue in Miami and it just blew up from there. Butch and Sundance was a big deal.”
Adding to the legend: Kiick and Csonka were often glib on the obvious question of which one was Butch Cassidy and which was the Sundance Kid.
“Same answer I tell everybody,” Kiick said. “I was the better-looking guy. Whether it’s Butch or Sundance, which was Paul Newman and Robert Redford, either way, you couldn’t lose.”
Although defensive tackle Manny Fernandez caught a small alligator during a trip to the Everglades one day, Kiick took the heat after the creature ended up in Shula’s shower, another legendary piece of Dolphins lore.
“I didn’t get an alligator. I didn’t do anything,” Kiick said. “But I was Shula’s goat and whatever he could do, he could blame me. I said, ‘Listen, I’m from New Jersey. I don’t fish and I had nothing to do with it.’ ”
Csonka once explained: “It seemed like Kiick was always the easiest one to catch up to. Me and Merc were kind of quick to be out of Shula’s way and be out of earshot.”
As for Kiick?
“He just didn’t care about getting out of the way.”
Opinion: Will Louisiana wake up now that COVID-19 has hit LSU football?
BATON ROUGE — It ain’t over, until it’s over.
The late Yankee catcher great Yogi Berra was not talking about COVID-19 when he said that in the summer of 1973. He was talking baseball as the manager of the New York Mets, who proved him prophetic as they rallied from 12.5 games out of first in the National League East in July to win the division and later advance to the World Series.
Too bad Berra is not around for a public service message where he could repeat perhaps the most famous of his multitude of Yogi-isms.
Someone needs to get that message across concerning the coronavirus pandemic that, yes, it’s still a pandemic.
“People keep talking about a second wave,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the preeminent authority on COVID-19, told the Wall Street Journal last week.
“We’re still in a first wave,” said Fauci, who has served every United States president since Ronald Reagan in 1984 and helped create President George W. Bush’s successful emergency plan for AIDS relief in 2003.
Maybe another bit of news on Saturday will get Louisianans — and everyone hopefully — to wake up and put on their masks and stop pretending it’s over, or acting out over some sense of rebellion that is more juvenile than courageous.
At least 30 LSU football players have recently been quarantined because they have tested positive for COVID-19 or have had contact with someone who did.
They are all young and in great shape, so they likely will be done with the virus in a couple of days if they have not already gotten over it. But maybe the fact that COVID-19 has now hit home in Louisiana at that most sacred part of the house — LSU Football — people will get it that it is not over.
“The reality is every Louisianan needs to do a gut check on whether he or she has been slacking off on taking proper precautions,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said on Thursday as the first wave rolled onward in Louisiana.
There were another 870 new cases and 20 deaths reported in the state on Saturday.
LSU athletic director Scott Woodward said on ESPN’s Paul Finebaum Show on Friday that people going to LSU football games at Tiger Stadium this fall may be required to wear a mask.
“This isn’t a political statement,” said Woodward, who worked with Democrat political strategist James Carville under Baton Rouge mayor Pat Screen in the 1980s. His comments echoed that of Fauci, who said this about his job:
“You stay completely apolitical and non-ideological. I’m a scientist, and I’m a physician. And that’s it.”
When Woodward wears a mask, he thinks of his elders.
“This is a health statement,” he said. “We’re trying to save lives here. I think about my parents. I think about elderly folks and people with immune systems that are compromised. We have to do these things to curtail this pandemic.”
In an interview last week with USA TODAY-Louisiana, LSU associate athletic director for health and wellness Shelly Mullenix said she expected to see several LSU football players test positive for COVID-19.
“Sure, there will be some, maybe many. It’s a pandemic,” she said as players were being tested. “We’re prepared for every scenario. We want to keep our community healthy, not just us.”
They may not have expected 30, but they were ready and swiftly quarantined everyone involved, which is sort of like applying one large mask over the football facility. The players will be fine, but they do not need to be out and about where they could infect others.
Meanwhile, the Tigerland bar circuit near campus should be off limits to all LSU football players and other student-athletes. In fact, for the time being it is not a good idea for anyone to go there.
State health officials on Friday said there was a cluster of COVID-19 outbreaks stemming from patrons at bars in and near the Tigerland area, which is where some of the LSU football players had been frequenting after just returning to campus June 9.
The first wave continues, perhaps because Phase One of the prevention plan was discontinued early this month in Louisiana. Suddenly, it was TGIPT — Thank God It’s Phase Two — throughout the state.
I saw more unmasked people than I see masked people at Mardi Gras. They were everywhere. They were in large groups in backyards. They were not social distancing. They thought it was over — or close to it.
Not a good strategy. Former LSU pass game coordinator Joe Brady would have kept his mask on and kept passing disinfectant.
It ain’t over, until it’s over. True. But forget that. We’re not even at halftime yet.
Belmont Stakes 2020: New York-bred Tiz the Law scripts storybook win amid pandemic
ELMONT, N.Y. – The starting gate was in the backstretch chute, rather than in front of the grandstand. And the sound of hooves impacting the Belmont Park track replaced the deafening roar of the crowd.
But while so much was different about the 152nd Belmont Stakes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, what’s timeless is a victory in a Triple Crown race and an emotional outcome.
And as Tiz the Law came roaring down the stretch, the New York-bred achieved both, scripting a storybook victory in the state that’s been hit harder than any other by the caronavirus, while giving himself a chance to make history after a win in what served as this year’s first leg of the series, rather than the last.
It was only fitting that Tiz the Law became the first New York-bred to win the Belmont Stakes in 138 years, going postward as the 4-5 favorite and proving himself to be the class of the field. He sat just off the pace before accelerating around the turn and drawing off for a comfortable victory in the $1 million event.
“It’s tremendous,” said Jack Knowlton, who heads Sackatoga Stable, which purchased Tiz the Law for $110,000. “We just buy New York-breds. That’s our game.”
Tiz the Law, ridden by Manuel Franco, completed the 1⅛-mile test, shortened from the traditional 1½-mile distance, in 1:46.53 in front of an empty grandstand due to restrictions related to the coronavirus.
The winning margin was four lengths. Tiz the Law paid $3.60, 2.90 and 2.60. Runnerup Dr. Post paid $5.80 and 4.20. Max Player — from the stable of Rumson, New Jersey, native George Hall — paid $5.20. The exacta paid $19.60 for $2 wagers.
Unlike the traditional three races in five weeks, Tiz the Law must now bridge an 11-week gap to the Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5. And the Triple Crown concludes on Oct. 3 with the Preakness, even though the 13 previous Triple Crown winners have been crowned in the Belmont Stakes. Tiz the Law would be the third horse since 2015 to complete the Triple Crown, joining Bob Baffert trainees American Pharoah (2015) and Justify (2018).
And with Tiz the Law emerging as such a compelling New York story, the plan is to take him to Saratoga to run in the Travers Stakes on Aug. 8 as a stepping-stone to the Kentucky Derby.
It’s the first Belmont Stakes win for the team of trainer Barclay Tagg and owner Sackatoga Stable. They finished third with Funny Cide in 2003 after winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.
From the moment Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” echoed through the grandstand as the horses made their way onto the track, Tiz the Law was all business. And then in a stirring performance he showed why he’s a threat to win the Triple Crown.
The son of Constitution has gate speed and he broke cleanly, joining the leaders immediately, then settled to sit comfortably just off the pace set by Tap It to Win on the inside, with Pneumatic in second between horses. And as he surged to the front rounding the turn before quickly opening up several lengths on the field, he showed he’s capable of going the distance.
BELMONT STAKES:All-time winners from 1867-2020
And unlike the previous Triple Crown winners, Tiz the Law will never have to prove himself at 1½-miles. But he appeared capable of handling the 1¼-mile Kentucky Derby distance.
“It looked to me like everything just worked like clockwork,” Tagg said. “That’s the way the horse likes to run, that’s the position he likes to be in. Manny knows the horse very well. We discussed it very quickly before I put him up on the horse and I felt very confident Manny would ride him that way.
“I thought it looked pretty solid when he got halfway down the lane. It’s a good feeling.”
It was the first victory for Franco in a Triple Crown race.
“I was really confident when we got the 7/8th poll. He was so comfortable,” Franco said.
It marked the third win in as many starts for Tiz the Law and fifth victory in six career starts. His wins in the Florida Derby and Champagne Stakes were the only two Grade 1 victories among the 10 starters entering the race.
“We’ve been with Barclay Tagg for 25 years,” Knowlton said, “and I keep telling everybody, Barclay doesn’t get a lot of big horses, big opportunities. But when he gets them he knows what to do.”
Stephen Edelson is a USA TODAY NETWORK New Jersey sports columnist and horse racing writer. Contact him at: @SteveEdelsonAPP; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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