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Trump on stage in Tulsa. Photo: Nicholas Kamm /AFP/Getty Images

President Trump ended his three-month hiatus from the campaign trail by plunging straight into the culture wars.

Why it matters: Trump is trying to tie former Vice President Joe Biden to demonstrators taking down statues across the country.

  • "Two days ago, leftist radicals in Portland Oregon ripped down a statue of George Washington," Trump said mid-speech.
  • "If Biden is elected he will surrender to these mobsters."
  • "If you burn the American flag, you go to jail for one year."

Between the lines: On stage, Trump called COVID-19 the "Kung-flu."

  • In mid-March, the president was asked about an allegation that a member of his staff had used the term "Kung flu" and while he didn’t condemn the term, he has not used it in public. At the time, he said he didn’t think it would put Asian-Americans at risk of being blamed for the virus.
  • Later in March, he took to Twitter to warn against blaming Asian-Americans and said “it is very important that we totally protect our Asian America community in the United States.”

The big picture: Masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 were scarce and couldn’t be seen on the supporters behind him.

  • "You are warriors," Trump told the crowd.
  • Trump demanded that schools open in the fall. "Kids are much stronger than us," he said.

At one point in the speech Trump said he'd asked officials to "slow the testing down," complaining that high testing rates were to blame for America's high number of confirmed cases.

  • Biden's campaign issued a statement calling Trump's remarks on slowing down testing "appalling." However, White House officials told reporters soon after the president made the comments that Trump was joking.

Reporters traveling with the president said that BOK Center, with a capacity of 19,000, was far from sold out. And the campaign cancelled a planned outdoor rally.

The big picture: Trump's revamped stump speech, given one day after Juneteenth, was directed at his base. He is showing no signs — and no inclination — of trying to unify the country.

  • Much of his speech was a compilation of his pre-COVID greatest hits, with a few new lines. He did victory laps on his judicial picks and his decision to kill Iran's military leader Qassem Soleimani.
  • But he hinted at his recent setback on the Supreme Court: "It's almost like we are a minority court."
  • Then quickly pivoted to a novel legal argument that his side emerged victorious on the DACA ruling and lost on a mere technicality. "We actually won on DACA," before acknowledging that "It would have been nice if he had won it."

Trump had an extended defense of his stage performance at West Point, insisting that he was wearing slippery leather soles, not the sticky rubber ones that were sported by his military escort.

  • He claimed he used two hands to sip his water to avoid spilling on his expensive tie.

The bottom line: Trump seemed to spend as much time focusing on Democratic mayors and governors as he did on Biden.

  • It's a hint that he plans to run against protestors in Seattle and Portland and then force Biden to defend them. "Joe Biden is not the leader of his party," he said. "Joe Biden is a helpless puppet of the radical left."

Editor's note: This article has been updated with the Biden campaign's comments.

Go deeper

Progressives bide time for a Biden victory

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Progressive Democrats want to beat President Trump so badly that they're tabling their apathy about Joe Biden — organizing hard to get him into office, only to fight him once elected.

Why it matters: That's a big difference from 2016, when progressives’ displeasure with Hillary Clinton depressed turnout and helped deliver the White House to Trump.

Sep 28, 2020 - Technology

Exclusive: Where Trump and Biden stand on tech issues

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Getty Images photos: Win McNamee and Saul Loeb/AFP

Joe Biden has laid out a more concrete tech agenda whereas President Trump has focused on tax cuts and deregulation while criticizing tech firms for anti-conservative bias. That's according to a side-by-side analysis of the two candidates' tech records by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation shared exclusively with Axios.

Why it matters: The tech industry needs to prepare for either four more years of Trump's impulsive policy approach or for a Biden administration that's likely to be critical of tech but slow to take action.

Sep 28, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Biden campaign ad targets Trump on income tax payments

Combination images of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and President Trump. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images/Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's campaign team released an ad on Twitter late Sunday in response to the New York Times' explosive report on President Trump's income tax contributions.

Why it matters: The ad and accompanying tweet stating how much tax American workers like nurses and teachers pay compared to the $750 in federal income taxes the NYT said Trump paid in 2016 and again in 2017 marks the first official response by the Biden campaign to the report, which Trump called "fake news." The ad comes ahead of the first presidential debate on Tuesday.

Go deeper: