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Trump news – live: Outrage over president's George Floyd comments as he says coronavirus 'gift from China'

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Attorney General Barr denies using force for Donald Trump's church stroll

Outrage quickly followed Donald Trump's comments on George Floyd during a press conference to announce 2.5m new jobs to the US economy in May, saying that he would be "looking down right now" on a great thing happening for our country.

After Trump's on-going feud with former employees, ex-chief-of-staff John Kelly fired back to support Jim Mattis and say the president would either fire or push people so hard they would resign. Hundreds of former diplomatic and military officials, meanwhile, signed a letter denouncing the show of force by soldiers on civilian protesters.

At the end of a chaotic week, Trump travelled to Maine to undo Obama-era conservation orders and allow fishing again off the coast of New England.

Coronavirus, meanwhile, is still happening, with the World Health Organisation revising its guidance on face-masks and the CDC projecting more than 127,000 deaths by 27 June.

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Hello and welcome to The Independent's rolling coverage of the Donald Trump administration as it struggles to react to the coronavirus outbreak and George Floyd protests.

Joe Sommerlad5 June 2020 09:40
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Trump's ex-chief of staff drawn into bitter row with former defence secretary

With the coronavirus and George Floyd protests still raging, Donald Trump has continued to row with ex-staff over growing criticism of his leadership, insisting he fired then-secretary of defence Jim Mattis in December 2018 and rebuking his former chief of staff John Kelly for suggesting the general resigned.

Mattis - who did resign by choice in opposition to the president’s abrupt announcement that he planned to withdraw US troops from Syria after declaring the battle against Isis won, prematurely in Mad Dog’s opinion - broke his customary silence to attack the president in The Atlantic on Wednesday.

Mattis said he was “appalled and angry” about this week’s events - which has seen mass demonstrations in cities across all 50 states over ten nights following the police killing of Floyd in Minneapolis - saying Trump is the first president in his lifetime who is trying to divide the country rather than unite it. 

He took aim at Trump's call to deploy troops to "dominate" the protests and said the situation is the “consequence of three years without mature leadership.” 

After the president lashed out at Mattis on Twitter, insisting he had sacked him, Kelly added fuel to the fire, telling The Washington Post: “The president did not fire him. He did not ask for his resignation. The president has clearly forgotten how it actually happened or is confused. The president tweeted a very positive tweet about Jim until he started to see on Fox News their interpretation of his letter. Then he got nasty. Jim Mattis is an honourable man.”

Now, Trump says Kelly had no real knowledge of the matter as he was not in his “inner circle” (odd for a chief of staff) and, furthermore, “was totally exhausted by the job, and in the end just slinked away into obscurity”.

The former Celebrity Apprentice host also doubled down on his firing claim.

It's a good thing there’s nothing else going on so that this important historical footnote could be cleared up.

Joe Sommerlad5 June 2020 09:55
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President lashes out at Alaska Republican senator, vows to endorse against her

Trump also reacted angrily to GOP senator Lisa Murkowski after she seconded General Mattis’s concerns about his handling of the recent civil unrest, threatening to back any rival who would run against her: “Get any candidate ready, good or bad, I don’t care, I’m endorsing. If you have a pulse, I’m with you!”

Murkowski, who enjoys a reputation as a Republican rebel despite bottling her chance to vote for the president’s impeachment in February, had admitted on Thursday she is struggling to decide whether she can support Trump’s bid for re-election, saying she was “thankful” for Mattis’s words, which were “true, and honest, and necessary and overdue”.

“Perhaps we're getting to the point where we can be more honest with the concerns that we might hold internally, and have the courage of our own convictions to speak up,” she said.

On backing Trump in November (she didn’t in 2016), Murkowski told reporters on Capitol Hill: "I am struggling with it. I have struggled with it for a long time."

"He is our duly elected president. I will continue to work with him... but I think right now as we are all struggling to find ways to express the words that need to be expressed appropriately."

When her comments got back to Trump, he erupted like Vesuvius after a night on the lagers:

Here’s Griffin Connolly's report.

Joe Sommerlad5 June 2020 10:10
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Trump shares lawyer's letter describing protesters as 'terrorists'

Also on Twitter, the president shared a letter from "Super Star" White House lawyer John Dowd to Mattis in which he disparaged the activists opposing police brutality as “terrorists” and “idle hate filled students”.

“The peaceful protesters near Lafayette park were not peaceful and are not real. They are terrorists using idle hate filled students to burn and destroy,” Dowd wrote to Mattis, in language that is unlikely to soothe the national mood. 

In the letter, the attorney noted that George HW Bush used active duty military during the 1992 Los Angeles Riots and argued the current protests warrant military intervention because of the lack of action from Democratic mayors and governors. 

“President Trump has countless cities and some snowflake governors and mayors wetting themselves in the use of force to protect innocent lives and property,” Dowd wrote. 

Tough guy. Probably spends his free time telling people at barbecues that Mark Wahlberg is underrated.

Joe Sommerlad5 June 2020 10:25
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Mitt Romney expresses anxiety about 'politically-motivated' GOP probes

Like Murkowski, the Republican senator for Utah has backed Jim Mattis, calling his 650-word contribution to the national debate “stunning and powerful” and applauding the general as an “American patriot… whose judgement I respect”.

Romney, whom Trump still loathes for voting with his conscience in the Senate in favour of his impeachment over the Ukraine affair four months ago (feels like 100 years ago), has meanwhile being reluctantly voting along party lines with the Senate Homeland Security Committee as it obliges the president with an “Obamagate” investigation.

He warned chairman Ron Johnson yesterday, however, that he is concerned about the panel’s motivations but is content to go along with it all for now to “pursue additional information” on the president’s conspiracy-laden concerns about the activities of the Obama-era Justice Department and FBI in 2016.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is simultaneously conducting an investigation of its own into Robert Mueller’s Russia probe under Lindsey Graham, which postponed a vote on subpoenas yesterday during a tense session in which Nebraska Republican Ben Sasse remarked: "Can we get a sense of how long we're going to be here? With all due respect, I don't think anybody in private ever disagrees with me when I say that it's bullshit the way people grandstand for cameras in here… 90 per cent of our committees are about people trolling for soundbites."

Graham hotly refuted that charge and later added his voice to the Mattis furore, addressing the general directly on Fox News to say: “You're missing something here, my friend… You’re missing the fact that the liberal media has taken every event in the last three and a half years and laid it at the president's feet.”

Griffin Connolly has this report on Romney’s unease.

Joe Sommerlad5 June 2020 10:45
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George Floyd family to lead march on Washington in late August

The deceased’s family has announced it will lead a march on Washington, DC, to mark the 57th anniversary of Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s most famous speech and “restore and recommit to that dream” of the civil rights era. 

The 28 August demonstration was announced during a memorial for Floyd in Minneapolis on Thursday by Reverend Al Sharpton, who delivered an impassioned eulogy calling on the country to “get your knee off our necks” before an eight-minute and 46-second silence, scheduled to match the amount of time a local police officer pinned Floyd to the ground, ultimately causing his death.

Many cities saw a tenth night of demonstrations on Thursday although heavy rain helped quell much of the alarming scenes of confrontation and vandalism we've seen in the last week as tempers cooled.

Here’s Justin Vallejo’s report.

Joe Sommerlad5 June 2020 11:05
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Twitter disables Trump video tribute to George Floyd over copyright complaint

The president's battle with the social media giant continues, following its move last week to fact-check two of his tweets making unsubstantiated claims of mail-in voting fraud and placing a warning label on other saying it was "glorifying violence."

The offending clip on this occasion is a collection of photos and videos of protest marches and instances of violence in the aftermath of Floyd's death with Trump speaking in the background.

"We respond to valid copyright complaints sent to us by a copyright owner or their authorised representatives," a Twitter representative said, explaining the decision to take it down.

The three-minute 45-second video was uploaded on Trump's YouTube channel and tweeted out by his campaign on 3 June. It is still on YouTube and had garnered more than 60,000 views and 13,000 likes.

Trump has pledged to introduce legislation that may scrap or weaken a law that shields social media companies like Twitter from liability for content posted by their users.

Here's Andrew Griffin with more details.

Joe Sommerlad5 June 2020 11:25
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Joe Biden says ‘10-15 per cent’ of Americans are ‘not very good people’ and being courted by Trump

The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee made the remark in an online town hall event with black supporters on Thursday, the comment intended to place him in diametric opposition to the president who saw "very fine people" among the neo-Nazis and white supremacists engaged in violent clashes in Charlottesville in 2017.

 

Here's Andrew Naughtie on what else the candidate had to say as he pursued a message of unity.

Joe Sommerlad5 June 2020 11:45
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Nancy Pelosi demands answers from Trump on 'increased militarisation' as his war of words with DC mayor continues

The president continued to lash out at the George Floyd protesters on Twitter last night...

...as the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, wrote to him to express her concern about the "increased militarisation" towards demonstrators that threatens to "increase chaos", saying it’s scary to see troops deployed on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and demanding answers regarding the number of badgeless law enforcement officials being ferried in from other jurisdictions to support DC.

The self-described "law and order" president's war of words with Washington's mayor, Muriel Bowser, over control of the streets meanwhile continues apace.

Joe Sommerlad5 June 2020 12:05
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Trump told to ‘check rhetoric at the door’ on Maine factory visit

Maine's Democratic governor is urging Trump to watch his tone during a visit to the state today to showcase a company that makes specialised swabs for coronavirus testing.

And the sheriff in the state's most rural county is urging those expected to protest Trump's visit - and those who support him - to behave themselves as demonstrations continue over the death of George Floyd.

Governor Janet Mills, a Democrat, this week urged the Republican president to "check the rhetoric at the door and abandon the divisive words" during his visit.

"I hope he will heed this call and appeal to the best in all people and lead us with courage and compassion through this difficult time," she said on Thursday.

During a call earlier this week with governors, Mills told the president she was concerned about "security problems for our state" if Trump visited because of his harsh remarks about handling demonstrators. The president said her remarks only made him more determined to come, adding, "she just doesn't understand me very well."

Mills has said she will be working during Trump's visit and the local paper isn't being any more welcoming:

Trump's first visit to Maine since taking office will take him to Guilford, population 1,500, home to Puritan Medical Products, one of only two major companies producing a special type of swab needed to ramp up coronavirus testing. The other is in Italy.

More than 350 workers in Guilford have been working long hours since the pandemic began.

"There is pressure. There's always not enough. There's always not enough. You're always working to provide the extra capacity that's needed," co-owner Timothy Templet said. "We're doing our best to supply the needs. It's critical that our country is taken care of."

The Trump administration is providing $75.5m (£59.9m) through the Defense Production Act for Puritan to double production to 40m swabs a month and the company plans to open a second production site by 1 July.

Trump is also scheduled to meet with members of the commercial fishing industry in Maine earlier in the day. He's set to fly into Bangor, where a group of demonstrators has pledged to have a presence, in the afternoon.

"It's not the right time for him to be coming to our state," said Marie Follayttar, director of Mainers for Accountable Leadership, which is helping organise the demonstration.

Normally, Friday's events would make for a friendly visit for Trump in a congressional district that awarded him an electoral vote in the 2016 election.

In Maine, the nation's whitest state, there were four consecutive days of demonstrations over the Floyd killing. Earlier in the week, more than 1,000 people gathered in Portland, stopping traffic, setting trash cans afire and pelting police with objects. More than 30 people have been arrested.

All four members of Maine's congressional delegation, including Republican senator Susan Collins, have been critical of Trump's actions this week.

Piscataquis County sheriff Robert Young said he's spoken to organisers of a planned demonstration during Trump's visit and said their "motives and intent are good."

"They want to speak for social change and are heartbroken by what they see happening to their country," he said.

As for the president’s weekend, he’s been forced to cancel a weekend of golfing at his Bedminster resort in New Jersey, which, frankly, is the least you’d expect from him right now.

AP

Joe Sommerlad5 June 2020 12:25

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