Jun 21, 2020

Axios AM

Happy Father's Day! Thank you, Dad, and to all the dads in my life who make me wiser, healthier and happier — to say nothing of what they do for their own young people!

🎬 On tomorrow's "Axios on HBO" (11 p.m. ET/PT):

  • Alexi McCammond interviews Stacey Abrams about President Trump, police reform, the election, voter rights and more. See a clip.
1 big thing: Trump's Tulsa fiasco
Photo: Evan Vucci/AP

His campaign claimed President Trump was "obviously kidding" when, during last night's return to the campaign trail, he took a crowd-pleasing swipe at the benefits of COVID-19 testing.

  • But a pandemic doesn't make a great punchline.

Why it matters: Joe Biden pounced, kicking off a head-to-head general election campaign after the three-month basement hiatus.

  • Watch for the Biden campaign to push that line into ads.

In claiming that he has "done a phenomenal job" with the virus, Trump told a smaller-than-expected crowd in Tulsa at a "Great American Comeback" rally, after 109 days of shutdown:

  • "[T]esting is a double-edged sword. ... Here's the bad part. When you do testing to that extent, you're gonna find more people, you're gonna find more cases. So I said to my people: 'Slow the testing down, please.'"
  • The comment reflected Trump's obsession with top-line metrics like the Dow, but failed to acknowledge that widespread testing — enjoyed inside the White House — is the key to a robust reopening.

Biden tweeted: "Speed up the testing."

  • The Biden campaign followed up with a "Statement on Donald Trump Admitting He Ordered the Slowing of COVID-19 Testing," calling his remark "an outrageous moment that will be remembered long after tonight’s debacle."
President Trump, in reenacting his ramp trouble, said he had been wearing leather-bottomed shoes, which are "not good for ramps." Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Trump spoke for nearly two hours, including a nine-minute spoof of coverage from his West Point commencement address last weekend that showed him getting a hand navigating a ramp, and using two hands to hoist a glass of water.

  • Trump mocked the coverage as suggesting he might have Parkinson's.
  • Trump pointed at the cameras in the back ("these fakers") and theatrically threw up his hands: "I'll let you know if there's something wrong, OK?"

The written parts of Trump's speech laid out his team's intended contrast with Biden — casting the former vice president as a 40-year creature of the Washington establishment who has failed to solve any of the problems he complains about.

  • But those lines were drowned out by Trump's unscripted grievances against his critics and the mainstream media.
2. Dems claim prank on 1 million RSVPs
Photo: Evan Vucci/AP

Trump advisers told Axios they're bracing for presidential recriminations over the lackluster crowd — by the Tulsa Fire Department's count, 6,200 in an arena that holds 19,000.

  • News coverage of the rally, planned as a Trumpstock cultural phenomenon, focused on the crowd, which didn't provide the throngs the campaign had planned for an overflow area.
  • A massive "Mobile Stage" had been built for separate remarks by President Trump and Vice President Pence on their way in.
  • Those drop-bys were scrapped.

The campaign tweeted that over 1 million tickets had been requested.

  • This morning's front pages are sure to aggravate Trump ... N.Y. Times: "Trump's Plan For a Big Rally Sputters Badly" ... WashPost: "Hot words, empty seats" ... L.A. Times: "Trump's return to stump underwhelms."

Matt Drudge, whose homepage remains a significant driver of buzz in conservative circles (Trump sometimes gets Drudge printouts in his clip packet), uncorked this savage take:

Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale tweeted:

  • "Radical protestors, fueled by a week of apocalyptic media coverage, interfered with @realDonaldTrump supporters at the rally. They even blocked access to the metal detectors, preventing people from entering."
  • Reporters on the scene said they saw no such interference.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted back at Parscale: "Actually you just got ROCKED by teens on TikTok who flooded the Trump campaign w/ fake ticket reservations."

  • CNN reported last week: "Mary Jo Laupp, a 51-year-old grandmother living in Fort Dodge, Iowa, appears to have helped lead the charge on TikTok ... when she posted a video encouraging people to go to Trump's website, register to attend the event — and then not show up."
Via Twitter

Tim Murtaugh, Trump 2020 communications director, said in a statement that the Tulsa rally "attracted over 4 million unique viewers across all of the campaign’s digital media channels."

  • "The live-streamed pre-rally shows drew an audience of more than 2.5 million unique viewers by themselves. These numbers don’t even include television viewers" for the rally, carried in full by Fox News and C-SPAN.
3. A personal tale: What the virus has done to us

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

We have pandemic hair. Distressed skin. Emotional turmoil and existential fear about the gruesome drumbeat of news. And we're sitting around in our shabby wardrobes feeling lonesome from the requisite social distancing.

  • But managing editor Jennifer Kingson writes from Manhattan: There is hope!

Let's talk about our bad habits:

  • We are carbo-loading beyond belief, indulging in "emotional eating.'
  • Our faces are a mess. We have "maskne" — blemishes related to the trapping of oil against the skin behind our face masks — and we're piling on skin-care remedies because we're bored and need to do something. (Right?)
  • We're grumpy, not getting enough sleep, drinking too much, missing our friends and colleagues, sick of seeing ourselves on Zoom.

And then there's rosacea! The red blood vessels that come to the surface of the face when you have, like clients of Manhattan aesthetician Jaime Carson, been spending too much quality time with booze and cupcakes.

  • "What I've been seeing is a big increase in wine drinking and sugar consumption, which causes breakouts and lowers your immunity," Carson tells Axios.

Our prescription: Take a walk, have something wonderful for lunch, call your best friend.

  • Self-care — like getting good amounts of sleep and engaging with other people —can help, advises Dr. Joshua Morganstein of the American Psychiatric Association.
  • Limit the amount of "disaster media" you consume.
  • Use your social support networks, including faith groups and 12-step communities, to beat back any feelings of being overwhelmed and revive your personal inventory of hope.

Share this story.

4. Pics du jour: More statues toppled
Photo: Travis Long/The News & Observer via AP

Protesters lynch a figure pulled from a Confederate monument at the North Carolina State Capitol in Raleigh on Friday, which was Juneteenth.

Photo: Travis Long/The News & Observer via AP

A statue of Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes, author of "Don Quixote," was vandalized in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.

Photo: Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group via AP

Workers paint over graffiti yesterday after a statue of Francis Scott Key, who wrote the lyrics for the national anthem, was toppled from its pedestal in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.

Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

The Robert E. Lee Monument on Richmond's Monument Avenue is now covered in paint.

5. Trump says "You're fired!" to his second Manhattan prosecutor
Geoffrey Berman arrives at his office yesterday. Photo: Kevin Hagen/AP

Two defiant Manhattan federal prosecutors, one Democrat (Preet Bharara) and one Republican (Geoffrey Berman), have met the same fate under President Trump:

  • Both were fired on a Saturday after refusing to go quietly on a Friday night, AP's Larry Neumeister and Eric Tucker write.

Berman, who had tweeted defiantly Friday night that he'd stay in the job even after the administration announced his replacement, was slapped down yesterday in a letter from Attorney General Bill Barr:

  • "Unfortunately ... you have chosen public spectacle over public service," Barr wrote. "Because you have declared that you have no intention of resigning, I have asked the President to remove you as of today, and he has done so."

At dinnertime, Berman tweeted that he will leave office, "effective immediately."

  • Berman's second in command, Deputy U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss, is now acting U.S. attorney.

Read Barr's letter.

6. AOC v. MCC in Tuesday primary
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez votes early in the Bronx yesterday. Photo: Caitlin Ochs/Reuters

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has spent nearly $400,000 on ads in the week before her primary this Tuesday, Alexi McCammond reports from Advertising Analytics data.

  • Why it matters: Some view this as a sign of AOC being nervous as her opponent, former CNBC anchor Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, continues to pump in resources.

Lauren Hitt, AOC’s communications director, said: "We feel very comfortable. It would be difficult for someone to close the gap."

  • "We don’t take anything for granted. We can afford to be extra safe."
7. How Pride spread across the globe
Courtesy of The New York Times

Today's New York Times includes a 10-page special section marking the 50th anniversary of the first Pride march, held in New York City on June 28, 1970.

"The event — officially known as the Christopher Street Liberation Day March — was spearheaded by a group of activists ... for the first anniversary of the Stonewall uprising," David Kaufman writes.

  • "The march’s route covered about 50 blocks and drew just a few thousand participants. Though the numbers were small, marches in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles that year eventually led to hundreds of Pride parades."

Explore the special report.

8. 1 song to go
Photo: Legacy Records via AP

A never-before-heard solo version of the late Aretha Franklin's riveting and powerful collaboration with Mary J. Blige about faith and race, 2006's "Never Gonna Break My Faith," arrived on Juneteenth, AP reports.

  • The lyrics resonate for us:
You can lie to a child with a smiling face/Tell me that color ain't about a race. ...
My Lord, won't you help them to understand/That when someone takes the life of an innocent man/Well they've never really won, and all they've really done/Is set the soul free, where it's supposed to be.

Listen: 4-min. YouTube.

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