The Trump campaign is forging ahead with its Tulsa rally on Saturday, decrying “leftist” plaintiffs who want to stop the event as Oklahoma posted its highest single-day tally of coronavirus cases and worrying trends continued across the South and West.
The president’s surrogates said life is full of risks and that Mr. Trump’s detractors are desperate to stop him from speaking to supporters despite little pushback to anti-racism protests that featured massive gatherings.
“As in any event, you assume a personal risk. That is just what you do. When you go to a baseball game, you assume a risk. That’s part of life,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said. “It’s a personal decision of Americans as to whether to go to the rally or whether not to go to the rally.”
Campaign manager Brad Parscale said liberal opponents will “do anything to stop him, even suing to prevent people from hearing from their president.”
“Despicable. It won’t work,” he tweeted.
The event will be the first major campaign rally since the pandemic took off in the U.S. in March. More than 117,000 Americans have died and 2.1 million have been infected.
Oklahoma recorded 228 COVID-19 cases Tuesday — its highest daily total to date and part of a broader spike in cases across the Sun Belt.
Arizona, Texas, Florida and South Carolina are of particular concern, as hospitalizations and use of intensive-care units increase with the number of cases.
A Tulsa judge denied a local bid to keep Mr. Trump from visiting the BOK Center, an indoor venue that is considered by experts to be less safe than an outdoor venue since fresh air allows unlimited dilution of viral particles.
The campaign hasn’t announced any change but is considering areas near the venue that would allow the president to “address even more people.”
White House officials said masks will be provided at the door but wearing them will be optional.
“People are going to go if they feel comfortable going. So we always tell people, ‘Here’s the guidance — feel comfortable, don’t feel comfortable,’” White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said. “We also know that people don’t want to be locked down forever. We see them peacefully protesting. We see folks doing many things.”
The Trump campaign said more than 50 surrogates are eager to campaign for Mr. Trump Saturday, including Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, U.S. Sens. James Inhofe and James Lankford of Oklahoma, and other Republican allies in Congress, including Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas.
The White House and reelection team defended Mr. Trump’s decision to restart campaigning as his presumed opponent in November accused him of surrendering in the face of the virus.
Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden said Mr. Trump ignored the virus for too long and is walking away from the response before the job is done.
“Donald Trump’s failure to fight the coronavirus with the same energy he uses to troll his enemies on Twitter has cost us lives,” Mr. Biden said in a speech Wednesday.
Mr. Biden said cases are still rising in 21 states, so the U.S. needs to bolster its ability to test and trace the contacts of infected Americans. He said Mr. Trump is failing to be the “wartime” leader he claims to be.
“Unlike any other wartime leader, he takes no responsibility. He expresses no leadership. Now he is just flat surrendering the fight,” Mr. Biden said. “Instead of leading the charge to defeat the virus, he just basically waved a white flag and retreated.”
The virus was discovered in Wuhan, China, in December. Since then, it has swamped the globe.
States that were slammed early in the pandemic are reporting good metrics. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said 17 deaths from COVID-19 were reported Tuesday, the lowest tally since it started keeping track.
“The only way I could feel better is if that number ever becomes zero,” said Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat. “This is great, great news compared to where we’ve been.”
In a recent op-ed, Vice President Mike Pence said fears of a second wave of infections were overblown, citing national progress overall.
“In the past five days, deaths are down to fewer than 750 a day, a dramatic decline from 2,500 a day a few weeks ago — and a far cry from the 5,000 a day that some were predicting,” he wrote in the Wall Street Journal.
“The truth is that we’ve made great progress over the past four months, and it’s a testament to the leadership of President Trump.”
On Capitol Hill, Mr. Trump’s trade negotiator said Wednesday the U.S. will enforce major deals the administration struck before the pandemic.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said the administration will closely monitor Mexico’s labor standards when the U.S.-Mexico-Canada goes into force July 1. Enforcement is a key priority for House Democrats who demanded improvements to the deal so that shoddy labor practices to the south do not undercut American workers.
“We will take action early and often when there are problems,” Mr. Lighthizer told the House Ways and Means Committee.
Mr. Lighthizer said leading Chinese officials have publicly said they plan to buy the farm products they said they would as part of a phase-one trade deal, despite upheaval from the virus.
“I expect them to live up to the agreement,” Mr. Lighthizer said. “They have indicated they will.”
• Alex Swoyer contributed to this report.
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Mass anti-Lukashenko rally planned after Belarus police crackdown |NationalTribune.com
Tens of thousands of opposition supporters marched in the Belarusian capital of Minsk on Sunday despite authorities deploying a heavy police presence. The protest came a day after officers detained hundreds of demonstrators at a women’s march in the capital. Military trucks and vehicles have rolled into the centre of Minsk as anonymous hackers leaked…
Tens of thousands of opposition supporters marched in the Belarusian capital of Minsk on Sunday despite authorities deploying a heavy police presence.
The protest came a day after officers detained hundreds of demonstrators at a women’s march in the capital.
Military trucks and vehicles have rolled into the centre of Minsk as anonymous hackers leaked what they said was the personal data of more than 1,000 police officers in retaliation for a crackdown on anti-government demonstrations.
The protest movement calling for the departure of longtime President Alexander Lukashenko has been holding mass rallies every week since his disputed election win on August 9.
The latest opposition protests began at 11:00 GMT on Sunday with the opposition calling on social media for demonstrators to gather in central Minsk as well as in other cities.
People holding red-and-white protest flags gathered at the “March of Justice” that occupied the whole of a central avenue and walked towards the heavily guarded Palace of Independence, where Lukashenko has his offices.
They held placards with slogans such as “Cowards beat up women” and “Get out!”.
Riot police in black balaclavas sporadically detained protesters carrying flags and signs at the start, while some people took shelter in a shopping mall and in a fast-food restaurant to escape arrest.
Belarusian opposition news sites posted video and photos of the military convoy driving into central Minsk and bringing rolls of barbed wire with it.
The protest comes after riot police cracked down on peaceful female demonstrators on Saturday who had come out wearing shiny accessories for a so-called “Sparkly March”. Police dragged protesters into vans, lifting some women off their feet and carried them.
Belarusian interior ministry spokeswoman Olga Chemodanova said on Sunday police detained 415 people in Minsk, and 15 in other cities, for breaking rules on mass demonstrations. She said 385 had been released.
Chemodanova warned Belarusians they could face criminal charges for organising such protests.
The number of detentions on Saturday was far higher than at a similar protest last week, prompting the opposition’s Coordination Council to warn of a “new phase in the escalation of violence against peaceful protesters”.
Among those held was one of the most prominent faces of the protest movement, 73-year-old activist Nina Baginskaya, although she was later released.
Police data leaked
The aggressive police tactics prompted an opposition Telegram channel – Nexta, which has more than two million subscribers – to publish what it said was a list of the names and ranks of more than 1,000 police.
“As the arrests continue, we will continue to publish data on a massive scale,” said a statement on the messaging app on Saturday evening. “No one will remain anonymous even under a balaclava.”
Protesters have sought to expose the identity of police officers who appear at demonstrations in plain-clothes or in uniforms without insignia or name badges, trying to pull off their masks and balaclavas.
The government said it would find and punish those behind the data leak.
“The forces, means and technologies at the disposal of the internal affairs bodies make it possible to identify and prosecute the overwhelming majority of those guilty of leaking personal data on the Internet,” said Chemodanova.
In power since 1994, Lukashenko was officially declared the winner of last month’s polls with 80.1 percent of the vote. The opposition, however, alleges fraud and considers opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who has taken shelter in Lithuania, to be the real winner.
In a video clip, Tikhanovskaya urged her fellow Belarusians to continue fighting for a country in which it is worth living in the so-called “March of Justice”.
“Every week you show yourself and the world that the Belarusian people are a force,” the 38-year-old said.
Tikhanovskaya is set to meet European Union foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday as the EU prepares sanctions against those it blames for rigging the election and the violent crackdown on protesters.
Authorities have jailed many of Tikhanovskaya’s allies who formed the leadership of the Coordination Council, or driven them out of the country.
One of her campaign partners, Maria Kolesnikova, has been imprisoned and charged with undermining national security.
Lukashenko has dismissed opposition calls for his resignation and sought help from Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, who has promised law enforcement backup if needed and a $1.5bn loan.
Palestinians rally against Bahrain-Israel normalisation |NationalTribune.com
Palestinians in Gaza burned pictures of Israeli, American, Bahraini, and United Arab Emirates leaders on Saturday in protest against the two Gulf countries’ moves to normalise ties with Israel. Bahrain on Friday joined the UAE in agreeing to normalise relations with Israel, a move forged partly through shared fears of Iran but one that could…
Palestinians in Gaza burned pictures of Israeli, American, Bahraini, and United Arab Emirates leaders on Saturday in protest against the two Gulf countries’ moves to normalise ties with Israel.
Bahrain on Friday joined the UAE in agreeing to normalise relations with Israel, a move forged partly through shared fears of Iran but one that could leave the Palestinians further isolated.
The Gaza protest, attended by a few dozen people, was organised by the ruling group Hamas.
“We have to fight the virus of normalisation and block all its paths before it succeeds to prevent it from spreading,” said Hamas official Maher al-Holy.
Demonstrators set fire to images of US President Donald Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, and the UAE’s Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
While the United States, Israel, the UAE, and Bahrain hail the diplomatic moves as a significant step towards peace and stability in the Middle East, the Palestinians see it as a betrayal.
They fear a weakening of a long-standing pan-Arab position that calls for Israeli withdrawal from occupied territory and acceptance of Palestinian statehood in return for normal relations with Arab countries.
Despite a deep political rift going back to 2007, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Palestinian Authority (PA) has a limited rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and his Hamas rivals have been united against the Gulf states’ move.
In the West Bank, Secretary-General of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Saeb Erekat said the diplomatic push will not achieve peace if the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not resolved first.
“The Bahraini, Israeli, American agreement to normalise relations is now part of a bigger package in the region. It isn’t about peace, it is not about relations between countries. We are witnessing an alliance, a military alliance being created in the region,” Erekat said.
Iran, meanwhile, said on Saturday that Bahrain’s move meant it would be complicit in Israeli policies that threatened regional security, Iranian state television reported. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said Bahrain would face “harsh revenge” from its own people and the Palestinians over the Gulf state’s move.
Turkey also condemned the deal saying it undermined the Palestinian cause and would “further embolden Israel to continue its illegal practices … and attempts to make the occupation of Palestinian territories permanent”.
Bahrainis opposed to their government’s agreement to establish diplomatic relations with Israel vented their frustration on social media on Saturday, underlining the complexities of the Gulf’s rapprochement with Israel.
The hashtags #Bahrainis_against_normalisation and #NormalizationIsBetrayal were trending on Twitter after Trump announced the deal late on Friday.
Bahrain, a Sunni-ruled kingdom with a large Shia population, shares with Israel a deep enmity towards Iran, and relies on the United States, which stations its Fifth Fleet on the tiny but strategic archipelago.
Palestinians carry placards during a protest in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Saturday [Said Khatib/AFP]
Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani said the deal represented a historic step towards achieving peace in the Middle East, but the PA and the Hamas condemned it as “another stab in the back” by an Arab government.
Unlike the UAE, opposition to normalisation runs deep in Bahrain, which has a history of open politics even if it has been suppressed over the past 10 years.
Former MP Ali Alaswad wrote it was “a black day in the history of Bahrain”.
The kingdom – a small archipelago located between regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran – has been hit by waves of unrest since 2011, when security forces crushed Shia-led protests demanding reforms.
Opposition group Al-Wefaq criticised the normalisation deal.
“The agreement between the despotic regime in Bahrain and the Zionist occupation government is a total betrayal of Islam and Arabism and a departure from the Islamic, Arab and national consensus,” it said on Twitter.
Other anti-normalisation groups, based in Bahrain and abroad, expressed their anger in statements sent to media calling the deal “shameful”.
Sari Nusseibeh, a former top PLO official, said the Palestinian leadership was “very upset”.
“But I don’t think they are more upset than in the past about the Arab world in general. Palestinians have always complained that the Arab world has not stood behind them as they should have,” said Nusseibeh.
The Palestinian cause had already become less central as the region has been rocked by the Arab Spring upheavals, the Syria war, and the bloody onslaught by the armed group ISIL (ISIS).
At the same time, hostility has deepened between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
“There have been all kinds of problems in the Arab world – disputes, revolutions, civil wars, tensions between different Arab countries,” said Palestinian analyst Ghassan Khatib. “Palestinians are now paying the price for the deterioration in Arab unity.”
The PA maintains the validity of the so-called “Arab consensus” and rejects the notion that it is isolated. That consensus has long held that Arab states will only normalise ties if Israel meets a number of conditions.
One demand is for Israel to withdraw from the territories it occupied in the Six-Day War of 1967.
Another is to agree to a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, and a third to find a just solution for the millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants.
“We hope that the Arab countries will remain committed to this consensus,” said Jibril Rajoub, a senior Palestinian official, adding straying from it “will lead to nothing”.
“Those who are violating the Arab consensus … will be isolated” in the long term, he warned.
Palestinians condemn the normalisation of ties between Israel and Bahrain in Gaza [Mahmud Hams/AFP]
One Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, shared the view that at the moment “the Palestinians don’t really have a way out”.
“They are also stuck because of those who want to support their cause, whether it is Turkey or Iran.”
Iran already has relations with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and slightly cooler ties with the PA.
The Palestinian cause has also received backing from Turkey, a regional power increasingly at odds with Israel and that militarily backs a rival faction in the Libya war to the UAE and Egypt.
“Turkey does have an ambition to lead this cause and is pointing to the hypocrisy of both Arab states and the West for not emphasising this issue enough,” said Gallia Lindenstrauss of Israel’s National Institute for Security Research.
Rajoub insisted: “We are not ignoring any country. Turkey is a regional superpower, it’s an Islamic country and we are on good terms. We’ll keep cooperating with everybody.”
But Khatib argued the Palestinians should keep their distance. “It’s not wise for the Palestinians to be caught within the regional tensions and competition between regional superpowers,” he said.
“If you side with Iran, you’ll lose Saudi Arabia. If you side with Turkey, you’ll lose someone else. It’s better for the Palestinians to keep a safe distance from these different regional superpowers.”
Republicans rally around Donald Trump at RNC convention
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — President Trump on Monday basked in the adoring glow of the Republican National Convention and declared: “Success brings unity.” Mr. Trump coined the maxim shortly after the convention’s unanimous vote to nominate him for another four-year term, in effect completing the transformation of the Republican Party into the Party of Trump. The president…
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — President Trump on Monday basked in the adoring glow of the Republican National Convention and declared: “Success brings unity.”
Mr. Trump coined the maxim shortly after the convention’s unanimous vote to nominate him for another four-year term, in effect completing the transformation of the Republican Party into the Party of Trump.
The president told delegates in the Charlotte Convention Center, which is locked down as a precaution against the novel coronavirus, that he had not only united the party but also brought Americans together through prosperity, which would return under his leadership.
“We have to win. Our country is counting on it,” the president said.
The scene — beyond the strangeness of the quarantine of the convention hall — reflected a party in lockstep with Mr. Trump in a way that was unimaginable four years ago.
His most vocal Republican opponents from 2016 either have converted to Trumpism, been banished to the political sidelines or embraced Democratic nominee Joseph R. Biden.
“Donald Trump is his own party,” convention delegate and former Rep. Lou Barletta told The Washington Times after announcing Pennsylvania’s backing of the president on the convention floor.
Mr. Barletta, one of the first members of Congress to endorse Mr. Trump in 2016, said this year’s convention will show that the enthusiasm is stronger and the party more solidified.
“You saw the unity today. He’s gotten every delegate’s vote, and people who I know were not supportive of the president in 2016, I saw their enthusiasm for him today,” he said. “He’s won those over who doubted he could do what he said he could do.”
The roll call vote and the president’s hourlong speech kicked off a four-day convention that will showcase Mr. Trump’s successes and his promise to beat COVID-19 and restore the pre-pandemic economic boom.
The convention will culminate Thursday night with Mr. Trump’s acceptance of the nomination.
The president’s speech Monday broke with tradition. The chosen nominee usually makes only a brief appearance, often just waving and making no remarks.
Mr. Trump couldn’t resist revving up the crowd.
“As usual, he did a great job of energizing his base. He’s kind of larger than life in the room,” said Edmund H. Driggs, a Charlotte City Council member at the convention.
Democrats have attempted to argue that Republicans are divided. They highlighted former Republican officeholders who are backing Mr. Biden this year, but those Republicans are the exceptions, not the rule.
“I don’t think that those voices will be any more significant than they were in 2016. These folks were all against Donald Trump four years ago,” said Charlie Gerow, a Republican Party strategist and senior official with the American Conservative Union.
Mr. Trump did have opponents during the primary, including former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld and former Rep. Joe Walsh of Illinois. Between them, they won only one convention delegate, which Mr. Weld claimed in Iowa. Mr. Trump won more than 2,300.
Presidents Obama and Clinton lost more delegates than that in their 2012 and 1996 reelection primaries.
Even after the Republican contest was over and Mr. Weld and Mr. Walsh dropped out, voters kept showing up, Mr. Gerow said. He pointed to his home state of Pennsylvania as proof. More than 1 million Republican voters showed up for a coronavirus-delayed primary in June, despite having no substantial contested races on the ballot.
“You can only chalk that up to one thing. There was enthusiasm for Trump,” Mr. Gerow said.
He also counts himself as a convert, having not been a big fan of Mr. Trump in 2016.
“I’m all in,” he told The Times.
The unity contrasts sharply with the 2016 Republican National Convention, when a ruckus broke out on the floor after delegates tried to force a divisive showdown over rules that prevented some states from voting for non-Trump candidates.
Ken Cuccinelli, then a delegate from Virginia, threw down his credentials and stormed out. He is now Mr. Trump’s No. 2 man at the Department of Homeland Security.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who gave a speech to the 2016 convention without endorsing Mr. Trump, is one of the president’s biggest backers this year.
Mr. Trump’s rally-style speech to the delegates previewed the messaging of the convention.
During the convention’s prime-time speeches, the themes of fighting for law and order, individual freedom and economic prosperity dominated remarks.
Some of the stars from the Trump orbit who took the stage were Nikki Haley, former ambassador to the United Nations, Donald Trump Jr. and Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina.
“President Trump and Republicans are fighting for the values that have defined our country from the beginning — liberty, justice, equality — and our convention is going to celebrate everything that makes America the greatest nation on Earth,” said Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel.
Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican, said the presidential election is about “who can preserve the values, principles and institutions that make America great.”
“Don’t believe me? Look at what’s happening in America’s cities — all run by Democrats. Crime, violence, mob rule. Democrats refuse to denounce the mob,” he said. “And their response to the chaos? Defund the police, defund Border Patrol, defund the military. And while they’re doing all of this, they’re also trying to take away your guns.”
In his impromptu afternoon speech, the president pledged to fully fund police and promote school choice, expand urban opportunity zones and plant an American flag on Mars.
Faulting the Obama-Biden administration for neglecting NASA, he said the space agency “had grass growing through cracks in its runways” when he took office.
“We’re going to the moon. We’re going to Mars. We’ll be the first on Mars,” Mr. Trump said.
He also made a pitch for the support of Black and Hispanic voters, boasting of record-low unemployment numbers before the coronavirus crisis.
Mr. Trump accused Democratic governors of keeping states such as North Carolina in coronavirus shutdown mode to inflict economic damage ahead of the Nov. 3 election, and he predicted that the state will reopen everything after voting is complete.
“On Nov. 4, it will all open up,” he said. “They want to make our numbers look as bad as possible for the election.”
⦁ Stephen Dinan reported from Washington.
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