Jun 20, 2020

Axios AM

😎 Good Saturday morning, and welcome to summer: Today is the summer solstice (5:43 p.m.ET), the longest day of the year.

1 big thing ... Exclusive poll: Trump voters oppose protests
Data: SurveyMonkey online poll of 6,275 U.S. adults, June 12-16. Margin of error: ±2 points for full sample; ±3 points for 2,121 Trump 2016 voters. Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

President Trump's 2016 voters enthusiastically stand with him — and against the Black Lives Matter movement, a new Axios/SurveyMonkey poll finds.

  • Just 26% of 2016 Trump voters say they support the demonstrations vs. 62% of Americans overall, David Nather and Margaret Talev write.
  • 73% of Trump supporters oppose demonstrations vs. 36% of all Americans.

Trump supporters' views of Black Lives Matter are the reverse of the overall sentiment:

  • While 62% of Americans (and 91% of Biden supporters) hold a favorable view of the movement, 63% of those who voted for Trump in 2016 hold an unfavorable view.
  • 77% of Trump supporters say the police haven't used enough force in responding to looting and vandalism, compared to 46% of Americans overall.

The unpopularity of "defund the police" may be partly because of the name:

  • Asked whether they support reducing police funding to increase support for services like housing and mental health — without using the phrase "defund the police" — Americans oppose it more narrowly, 51% to 47%.

The bottom line: The survey finds that 91% of Trump's 2016 voters plan to stick with him.

  • 70% of Americans who plan to vote for Trump say they're excited.
  • Just 46% of Biden supporters say they'll be excited to vote for him.

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2. Trump to Axios: Expect "wild evening" in Tulsa
An armed woman sells T-shirts near the site of tonight's rally in Tulsa. Photo: Goran Tomasevic/Reuters

President Trump told Jonathan Swan in an Oval Office interview yesterday that masks are "a double-edged sword" because people handle them unhygienically: "They grab them. They hold them."

  • "I see a guy who walks in ... grabs a mask, puts it on the desk," Trump continued. "Then you're supposed to say: Oh, isn't it wonderful!"

Trump said that, contrary to warnings of his own government, he won't wear a mask at tonight's Tulsa rally "not as a protest, but I don't feel that I'm in danger."

  • "You know how many people I've met," Trump said. "I've met a lot, a lot of people. And so far, here I sit, right? Here I sit."
  • Everyone who meets with Trump, including Swan, is tested beforehand.

Talking later about China's renewed trouble with coronavirus, Trump said:

  • "It's hard to stop it. It's the most contagious virus anyone's ever seen."
  • "I could look at you, and all of a sudden you have the virus. Or vice versa."

Trump stood by his tweet from earlier in the day that conflated demonstrators and lawbreakers: "Any protesters, anarchists, agitators, looters or lowlifes who are going to Oklahoma please understand, you will not be treated like you have been in New York, Seattle or Minneapolis. It will be a much different scene!"

  • Trump told Swan: "That's got to be the least controversial of my tweets."

Read more from Swan's interview in his Sunday newsletter, Sneak Peek. Sign up here.

3. Standoff as Trump tries to fire prosecutor
Geoffrey Berman announces charges against Jeffery Epstein on July 8, 2019, in New York. Photo: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

Hmm ... I wonder what night it is!

  • It's 9:14 p.m., and a Justice Department press release pops up in my inbox: Geoffrey Berman — the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, who happens to be overseeing prosecutions of President Trump's allies, including Rudy Giuliani — is "stepping down."
  • Sure enough! It's Friday night — perfect for purges.

Attorney General Bill Barr said in the release that he was "pleased to announce that President Trump intends to nominate Jay Clayton, currently the Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, to serve as the next United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York."

But the "stepping down" part, it turns out, didn't fully capture the moment.

  • Berman tweeted at 11:14 p.m. that he learned of his ouster from the press release: "I have not resigned, and have no intention of resigning ... I will step down when a presidentially appointed nominee is confirmed by the Senate."

The upshot, per the N.Y. Times: "The clash focused new attention on the efforts by Mr. Trump and his closest aides to rid the administration of officials whom the president views as insufficiently loyal."

Tweet of the day ...

4. Pics du jour: Juneteenth in America
Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

A rainbow appears behind the Lincoln Memorial as Lisa Fitzpatrick begins Juneteenth, commemorating the end of slavery in America, with a sunrise walk.

Photo: Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

New murals line Atlanta streets after the police killing of Rayshard Brooks.

Photo: Lawrence Bryant/Reuters

Tulsa City Council member Vanessa Hall-Harper poses in front of a monument to the 1921 Black Wall Street massacre.

5. New overnight: D.C.'s only Confederate statue sacked
Photo: Maya Alleruzzo/AP

Protesters toppled the only statue of a Confederate general in the nation's capital and set it on fire on Juneteenth, the day marking the end of slavery.

  • In Judiciary Square, cheering demonstrators jumped up and down as the 11-foot statue of Confederate general Albert Pike, dedicated in 1901, wobbled on its high granite pedestal before falling backward, AP reports.
6. More from Trump interview: Esper, Milley "should be proud" of photo op
President Trump walks to St. John's Church with Attorney General William Barr (left), SecDef Mark Esper (over Trump's left shoulder) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley (camo). Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

During Jonathan Swan's interview in the Oval Office yesterday, President Trump declined to say he retains full confidence in Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and said Esper and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley should have been "proud" to join him on the now-infamous walk across Lafayette Square.

  • "I personally think they should have done it differently," Trump told Axios in an interview Friday in the Oval Office. "I think they should be proud to walk alongside of their president for purposes of safety."

Why it matters: Despite initial indications that he accepted their pushback, Trump remains irked by his top military leaders' public statements.

  • Esper told colleagues he felt deeply uncomfortable being drawn into the photo op at St. John's Episcopal Church, and Milley publicly apologized for his participation: "I should not have been there."
  • Trump's first defense secretary, James Mattis, was so appalled by the episode that he denounced Trump as threat to the Constitution.

During yesterday's interview, Trump initially said of Esper and Milley: "I don't think they broke with me. ... I think they should do what they want to do."

  • But the president soon pivoted to say: "I would have handled it differently."
  • He said he understood that their responses appeared to be prompted by their desire to adhere to "exact, strict" regulations, but that "if I were in their position I would have done it somewhat differently."
  • "On a regulatory basis and under regulation, perhaps they're right," Trump said. "But they would also have been right to say we're proud to walk alongside our president ... I know the regulation even better than they do."

Asked if he could say with his hand on his heart that he retains full confidence in Esper, who is Trump's fourth defense secretary in three years, the president replied: "Well, I don't have to go hand on heart. But ... if and when I don't, you're going to hear that. You'll be hearing about it."

  • Asked whether he considered firing Esper — as Axios and others reported — Trump hesitated and chose not to directly deny it: "I really wasn't focused on it, because I have many things that I do focus on very much."

Share this story. ... More scoops in Sneak Peek.

7. "Not so fast" for return of sports
Screenshot: CNN

Friday was not a good day for sports, Axios Sports Editor Kendall Baker writes:

  • Nick Watney tested positive for COVID-19 and withdrew from the weekend’s PGA Tour event.
  • The Blue Jays and Phillies shut down their spring training facilities following outbreaks.
  • Clemson became the latest university to announce a flurry of positive tests among athletes and staff (including 23 football players).

Why it matters: Considering the NBA shut down in March over one positive test, and leagues and schools are now starting up again with hundreds of cases, there’s reason to be concerned about the viability of sports this summer and into the fall.

The other side: Our knowledge about the virus has changed a lot since March, with improved testing and tracing, and a greater understanding of preventative measures and transmissibility, among other things.

  • The vast majority of athletes have not tested positive, and there are protocols in place for when someone does.

The bottom line: The return of sports amid a pandemic is complicated, to say the least, and requires extensive planning to mitigate risks.

  • But even the best laid plans will still likely result in positive tests.
  • So the fate of sports in 2020 could come down to leagues’ ability to contain the virus, rather than avoid it altogether.

🐦 P.S. Tweet from a WashPost sports columnist:

Sign up for Kendall "Peloton Maestro" Baker's weekday newsletter, Axios Sports.

8. Soldiers airlift "Into the Wild" bus
Photo: Sgt. Seth LaCount/Alaska National Guard via AP

An Alaska National Guard Chinook airlifted an abandoned bus out of the wilderness because it was endangering tenderfeet lured by Jon Krakauer’s 1996 book “Into the Wild" and Sean Penn’s movie of the same name in 2007.

  • Christopher McCandless hiked to the bus located about 250 miles north of Anchorage in 1992, and the 24-year-old Virginian starved when he couldn’t hike back out because of the swollen Teklanika River, AP writes.
Photo: Sgt. Seth LaCount/Alaska National Guard via AP

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